Friday, November 30, 2012

Where was God then...?

Dear Rev. Know it all,

I was watching PBS the other night and I saw a frightful program about the dust bowl era. Apparently the mounds of dust towered over houses. Untold numbers of people died and were displaced. I asked the maid why didn’t they just go to their summer homes in the Hamptons for the duration, and the maid told me that there are people who do not have a house in the Hamptons. In fact, Consuelo told me there are people who are actually poor. I was shocked!  Consuelo told me that in her native Guatapeyor, there are people who envy those who have a cardboard box to live in. I considered the situation. Where was God in the dust bowl? For that matter, where is God in the midst of war and poverty? Where was God in the Holocaust ? Where was God in the great Influenza Epidemic? Where was God in the Black Death?  For that matter where has a good and loving God been through all the sorry catalogue of human history? I am a member of the high church Progressive Episcocalvilutheran Non-denominational parish of St. Jane’s. I find it has a theology that reflects my own beliefs. I went  to the church to  contemplate the question. I sat in my padded pew alone and in silence and looked for a long time at the lovely stained glass window of the beneficent Good Shepherd smiling down with its lovely pale and rosy glow. I got no answer. Diddly. Bupkus. Nada, as my dear maid Consuelo might say. Can you help me?

Ever yours,
Contessa Amanda Du Monet

Dear Contessa,

Your problem here is that you walked into the wrong building. Had you walked into a Catholic Church, at least a traditional one, you would have seen a Crucifix, not a cross, a crucifix and on it would have hung the bruised and bloody image of a Jew who died 2,000 years ago.

I have heard something dreadful about the beautiful calendar with the picture of the Good Shepherd with the fluffy little lamb slung tenderly over his shoulders that so many of us have on our refrigerators held in place with little teapot refrigerator magnets. If we knew the truth about it, we wouldn’t have it on the refrigerator. We wouldn’t have it in the house. And we certainly wouldn’t let the children see it.

It seems that sheep are not the smartest animals. They tend to wander off where wolves can get them. They run away a lot because they see what appears to be better grass over there. The shepherd has a rod and staff that give the sheep comfort (Psalm 23), and cold comfort it is. The staff has a crook at the top which is useful in snaring the sheep around the neck and dragging it back into the proper pasture. The rod is for bopping the sheep on the noggin to stop them in their tracks and knock some sense into them. The shepherd doesn’t do this because he hates them. On the contrary he loves them. A traditional shepherd knows his sheep by name. They are almost like pets.

There are some sheep who are consistent runaways. There comes a time when the shepherd, in order to keep the sheep out harm's way, must do something drastic, so the shepherd breaks the sheep’s leg, and the sheep will not run away again. In fact that sheep stays pretty close to its master for the rest of its life. That’s why you see the shepherd with the cute fuzzy little lamb slung over his shoulder in the calendar picture. The lamb has a broken leg.

Back to your original question. “Where has a good and loving God been through all the sorry catalogue of human history?”  I tell you where He’s been. He’s been hanging on that cross! “Au contraire!” I can hear you say. “We are a modern, yet Bible-believing congregation here at St. Jane’s Progressive Episcocalvilutheran church. We are told that Jesus rose from the dead, maybe even physically (We aren’t required to believe that, though we may if we want to. We aren’t required to actually believe anything.) He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father (or Mother, if you prefer, or any combination of the two). He is no longer on the cross. He died once and for all. He no longer suffers, and neither should we!”

We Catholic cave dwellers who with our ten children per family are still living in the past and inhabiting cardboard boxes in Guatapeyor, and we have an odd belief. We believe that when Jesus said “Behold, I am with you until the end of the earth,” He meant it. You asked where is God in human history, not where is God in eternity. In eternity, He lives to make intercession for us, in time He remains the timeless sacrifice of the cross to which He invites us at every single Mass offered in every true church in the world. Haven’t you noticed that when He rose from the dead He carried the cross with him? He had the mark of the nails in His hands and the mark of lance through His side. His resurrection didn’t leave the cross behind.

The crucifixion wasn’t unique. Untold thousands were crucified by the Romans among others. The cross was the very symbol of destitution in the ancient world. It was reserved for slaves and criminals. The victim of crucifixion was absolutely destitute. He was stripped even of his clothes and hung naked and ashamed suspended between heaven and earth as a sign that heaven and earth had rejected him. There he writhed in pain sometimes for days struggling to breathe until finally he could breathe no longer. 

What was so special about one particular crucifixion on a hill outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago? Jesus, the Jew who died 2,000 years ago on that cross was God, the Son of God, the second person of that One Relationship which is God, the Holy Trinity. He is the Tikkun Olam, the Broken Vessel restored. He is the visible image of the invisible God. In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus of Nazareth, not a general, not a clergyman, not a rich man but a poor carpenter betrayed by His friends abandoned by His own, murdered by an unjust and oppressive regime. That’s who we believe God is. He did not have a House in the Hamptons. The Bible says He had no place to lay His head, not even a cardboard box in Guatapeyor. What we believe is that God looked down on the mess we had made of human history and did not sit sulking on the heavenly throne, but jumped down from His lofty palace and landed squarely on a cross. 

Couldn’t He have just waved His omnipotent hand and gotten everyone off their own personal crosses? Couldn’t He, who saved others, have saved Himself and the two thieves crucified with Him?  I suppose He could have, if love was only pleasure and truth were more convenient. God came to earth not to be Santa Claus, but to be God, God who is love. Love, not luxury, is the purpose of existence. 

The coming festivities of Christmas give ample proof that many of us prefer Santa Claus to Christ. Sorry about that, but I wish the truth were otherwise. He shared our sorrows to teach us how to love. That list of miseries you mentioned, the Black death, the Influenza Epidemic the wars and sadly even the Nazi Holocaust, are soon forgotten. Jesus said that, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21) If what Jesus said is true, then this brief, and often painful, moment of time in which we are given the chance to love even  at the cost of our own lives, will soon be forgotten except for the love that we gave and that we received. The sorrow will fall away and love will be revealed in all its golden splendor. Every mother who ever wept over a child will see love that sorrow hid. Every father who has searched for a son gone astray, every spouse who has mourned, every child who has grieved, will see only the beauty of love. God seems to allow darkness only to let the light shine more brightly. No tear will be wasted. No love unrequited. So, there is your answer. Where was God? He was there all the time, inviting us to love and to be loved, because God is Love.

That’s what we believe here in the Catholic Church, but you’re welcome to go to  St. Jane’s Progressive Episcocalvilutheran Non-denominational Church. It’s a free county. At least so far.

Yours ever,
The Rev. Know-it-all

PS If you want to invite us Catholics and our noisy children to your house in the Hamptons we’d be glad to visit. And say "Hi" to Consuelo for me. I used to be in a prayer group with her. Boy, can that woman cook! Have you had her enchiladas en mole?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Are dead babies in my cola?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,  
Is it true that they are making Pepsi Cola out of aborted fetuses? I got an E mail today to that effect. Can you tell me if this is so?

A Worried Reader

Dear Worried,

I have researched this in depth for at least fifteen minutes and you can relax. They are not using aborted fetuses to make soft drinks...sort of. And anyway if there is any involvement of aborted fetuses in the food industry it is probably just one little Dutch baby who was aborted in the 1970s, and what’s one baby? No big deal. Let me explain.

There is a company called Senomyx and it is thought that they use something called HEK 293 to test and develop food additives that enhance flavor. I refer you for more to the article hereAll they may or may not be doing is using taste receptors grafted into HEK 293 to test food additives to make food yummier. HEK 293 is a line of stem cells developed from a murdered Dutch baby. HEK stand for Human Embryonic Kidney and Senomyx uses this line of cells derived from an aborted fetus in 70 of its 77 patents, so it’s probably used to test a lot of yummy food additives. 

They aren’t actually putting murdered babies into food or soft drink. They are just using one murdered Dutch baby from the 70s to test things and Holland has a lot of babies. The Muslims in Holland are popping them out like tulips in spring. So I am sure that you will relax knowing that there are most probably no actual babies in your food. It is simply that there are just a lot of little microscopic Frankenstein monsters made from the chopped up parts of a murdered Dutch child, and those little Frankenstein monster are making sure that your soft drinks and other treats are both tasty and safe.  In the 60's we hippies used to joke about better living through chemistry. In the advanced 21st century we can say , “Better living through grave robbing.....” 


Apparently we have. We just voted to keep the commercial use of dead babies legal as well as a host of other progressive ideas. Never fear if you believe that one day Human Embryonic Stem cells, murdered babies that is, will bring us wonderful new medicines. The necessary human carcasses for experimentation will continue to pile up. I haven’t heard of any great breakthrough in medicine from dead babies, but at least we have tastier diet drinks and desserts. The wonderful new medicines that have yet to materialize will help us postpone the day of our death and the sure judgment that will follow. I don’t know if there are any trials of medicines currently underway in which the cells of murdered children are actually consumed by people, but certainly if these new wonder drugs ever materialize, I imagine they will be taken either in pill form or by injection, then we will become what we currently aspire to be: cannibals, the eaters of babies. Oh Brave New World that has such people in it!

“Father, how can you talk like this. It’s beyond the bounds of good taste!” 

To which I respond in the words of the great American philosopher, Joan Rivers, “Oh grow up!” The babies were dead anyway, why not eat them? They would just go to waste. We aren’t like zombies who feast on the flesh of the living. We are merely vultures, or perhaps reptiles who are famous for eating their own offspring. Cannibalism and the eating of children are a long and honorable tradition revered in both literature and history. Perhaps you have seen Soylent Green, a movie classic in which the overpopulation problem is solved by processing human carcasses into food. 

Who has not heard of “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick” (1729) This is an essay more simply called “A Modest Proposal” In it, Jonathan Swift suggests that the Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for the rich. Most people think that Swift was writing satire, but we Americans have taken his sage advice as a good idea, albeit still on a small scale. If, however, it is moral to use dead babies for medicine and product testing, why not use them as chicken feed or dog food. Some of us are more solicitous for the well being of our pets than our children. Just compare the pet aisle in most stores to the baby food aisle. At the rate we are making moral progress in this land of the free and the home of the freebie, I am sure that we will soon see reason and stop wasting all those protein rich babies who now just go into dumpsters and land fills.

From the earliest days human beings have made good use of unwanted children. They were thrown into the fires to feed Moloch a god of the Canaanite, they were employed as slaves and still are in many places. They were sacrificed to insure good harvests to the rain god Tlaloc by Aztec priests who then ritually ate their corpses.  Why all the sentimentality about not eating them? No one wants them.  Though there is very little actual eating of babies as of this current writing, I have every confidence that, with time, that will change. 

Already the killing of children provides a handsome living, and I imagine a fine table at the best restaurants for many doctors, pharmacists and health care workers. We don’t want too many children. A minimum of offspring will give us the economic freedom and the time to drive our gas guzzlers to Starbucks and to the fast food bistros and north shore eateries, saving us the drudgery of having to put gruel on the table for 7 or 8 ungrateful brats. Even brave and progressive nuns like Sr. Margaret McBride of the Sisters of Mercy and Sr. Donna Quinn of the Dominicans, are helping the poor and the sick to be rid of unwanted babies. I imagine that with the progressive insights of such women there will be very little resistance to the take over of Catholic hospitals. Catholics will soon be obliged to pay for the killing of babies and many more people will be able to make their livings and eat well on the proceeds of the baby killing. I suppose in a certain sense this too is the devouring of babies.

So let us be honest and brave and stop referring to abortion and abortion rights and abortion clinics. Let us call it what it is: Baby Eating. Those who participate in it are Baby Eaters. People need to say quite boldly and clearly that by their vote and their tolerance they admit that people have the right to eat to eat their own babies, or the babies of those who throw their children in dumpsters. Baby Eaters. Get used to the term. We are a society that devours its young.

A postscript: It is an irony that Christians were accused of cannibalism by the Romans who also practiced abortion. The Christians spoke of eating the flesh of God born as a baby and this was one more charge heaped on the Christians who forbade abortion from the first days. The Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter5:8) 

He has convinced much of the modern world to join him in the feast. Can you hear him laughing?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did you learn anything from the elections?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

The Republican party has to get the message. Dump the association with Bible-thumpers and drop the pious moralizing. If they ever hope to win another election they need to pay attention to single women and young people and moral progressives.  Forget all that medieval morality nonsense. That’s what the election was really about!

Lee Bertarian

Well, what happened the on election day? There are lots of pundits who have egg on their faces today, Nov. 7, 2012. Apparently, the looming probability of economic collapse didn’t matter to voters. The fact that the current government spends  $$$TEN (10) BILLION DOLLARS$$$ while we take in only $$$six billion$$$  everyday didn’t bother the majority of voters one little bit. What bothered the voters was the perceived association of a certain political party (which will go unmentioned for fear of the government thought police and tax assessors) with traditional Judeo-Christian values. I am not sure that party really is Christian, but it seemed smart at the time to appear Christian. The election was not about the economy. It was about sex and work.

Sigmund Freud was a strange little man, but as the saying goes, even the clock that is broken is right twice a day. Freud said something that I think is actually reasonable and useful in deciphering what happened at the election. He defined mental health as the ability to love and work. If Freud is right, The US of America took a major step toward becoming the ME of America on election day. Citizens of ME demand that the government give them what they want and make no restrictions regarding the consequences of sexual couplings, even if those consequences are living and breathing children. It will guarantee my right to kill them, if I deem it necessary. Our sexuality is no longer directed toward love defined as the giving of life. Our economic life is less and less associated with productive work. Pleasure and leisure are the order of the day, not Freud’s “love and work.” We have rejected sanity, at least by Freud’s definition, and this is the inevitable result of a nation that voted not against a particular party, but against God as we Children of Abraham have known Him these 4000 years. (Mind you, I am not baptizing either party. The above unmentioned party will now probably come to its senses and reject pro-family, pro-life issues in the hope of winning elections. So, a pox on both their houses.) 

We didn’t begin to reject the tedious and overly strict God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on Nov. 6th 2012. That was already happening by the 1950's and long before that. In fact, I heard someone say that Nov. 6, 2012 was the inevitable result of April 6, 1917 when the US entered World War I on the side of England, Russia and France. Why would one think that? Empire! That’s why! America ceased to be the republic the founders envisioned when it entered the wars of imperialism, the war with Mexico in 1846, the War between the states ending in 1865, the war with Spain, 1898. Having driven the indigenous people off the land, we proceeded to expand in what we called “Manifest Destiny”.  It was our destiny to conquer territory, to bring Protestantism and the American system of government to all the world. Now we are the world’s police and we consider it our duty to bring democracy and condoms to all the little nations of the world. We are experiencing the narcissism and decadence that seem inevitably to result from empire. Christ is not King! We have no King but Caesar! We are an imperial nation and like all empires the bubble eventually bursts.

In January 1917, Germany opened unrestricted submarine warfare and, at about the same time, invited Mexico to join the war as allies in return for which the Germans would help Mexico recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico, California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona which America had taken less than a century before. We forget that the southwest had been part of another sovereign country for three centuries until we took it away from them in a war (1846-1848) denounced by no one less than Congressman Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant (later General) Ulysses S. Grant, who later said, “I was bitterly opposed to the measure and, to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” 

He also believed that the later Civil War was punishment for United States aggression against Mexico. This is not as far fetched as it seems. The conquest of Mexico and the incorporation of Texas and Northern Mexico into the United States were very much supported by southern slave owners who wanted to create “an empire for slavery.” It can be argued that the dispute over the expansion of slavery in the new territories led, at least in part, to the American Civil War. Grant and Lincoln thought so.  Thus it was war that begot war and our lust for acquisition and empire brought us into the Great War, Acts I and II. There really weren’t two World Wars. There was simply a 20-year armistice between the two halves of the Great War. There was never a treaty of peace between the Allies and the Axis. Pope Benedict XV offered to help negotiate a peace, but the Allies didn’t want peace. They had victory. Who needed peace?  Pope Benedict was cut out of the peace treaty negotiations after the First World War and the Second World War flowed from the harsh terms forced on the Axis powers as naturally as blood flows from an open wound.

Why all the history? I’m getting there.

People say there are no atheists in fox holes. That is not true. Studies indicate that fox holes are the birthing rooms of atheism. Soldiers who see death and other barbarities wonder about the goodness of an all-powerful God, forgetting all the while that God does not do these things. Men do them to one another despite God’s best efforts. A lot of boys who went to the trenches as Sunday school graduates came back as hardened men who often believed in nothing but what they could see, touch and own. Europe lost its faith in the trenches of the first war. The greedy decadence of the roaring 20's and the subsequent economic collapse of the Great Depression were sure to follow. 

The second half of the Great War, fought from 1936 to 1945, produced a second crop of soldiers who came back home as materialists saying, “My kids will not suffer the way I did.” And thus were born the fabulous fifties when American consumerism exploded with tract housing, big cars and a religion of convenience. The pill made it possible for Mr. and Mrs. America to have just 2 or three kids on whom they could lavish all that they had been denied by two world wars, punctuated by economic depression. The greatest value of this country became not honor, not country, not God. The ruling principle of this country became, “Gimme.” (That’s Chicagoan for “Give Me.”) The greatest generation, so-called, gave way to the most narcissistic generation (the baby boomers, of whom I am one) who gave birth to the entitlements of the Gimme generation.

We have just had an election that, I believe is the result of that series of wars. People did not vote the economy. They did not vote for the good of the country. They voted for themselves. There is a video on You Tube in which a woman very eloquently states her preference for one candidate because of her gratitude for the cellular phone and other social services that his government had provided her. I am not endorsing one candidate over another. That point is now moot. Another example: a popular African-American  comedian made a very humorous video pointing out how a certain unlikely candidate should have been very acceptable to Caucasian Americans because, among other things, he supports same-sex marriage. His opponent did not support such unions, at least not in this election. One candidate was in favor of abortions. The other candidate was opposed to abortions. Well, most abortions....  No candidate had the nerve to really stand on traditional moral principles because they all know what most clergymen are afraid to admit, lest it embarrass. 

America is no longer a Christian country. One conservative commentator made the point on election night that the country has significantly more people now who claim to be non-religious. He asked the question “What else can we expect from a country that has rejected God?”  I do not say this to mean that one candidate was God’s man and the other not. That is ridiculous. One candidate promised to force the Catholic Church to provide the means of recreational sex and early abortions to its employees and the other candidate would allow for the murder of some children in the womb if that murder would benefit to the child’s mother. Catholics and all Christians were presented with two candidates and made to pick between the lesser of the evils. Perhaps it is time to found a Christian Democratic Lobby that would enroll people like the AARP does in order to ask the candidates, “What will you do for me if WE ALL vote for you?” 

It would scare the daylights out of the politicians if ever there was a political organization that could really speak for those who still hold traditional Christian values. Heck, we could even call it the Judeo-Christian Democratic lobby. I know a lot of Jews with whom I have more in common than I do with some of those who pretend to be Catholic. I, like the prewar bishops and priests of Germany am not allowed to be political. De facto, I have an uneasy Concordat with the state like the Concordat the Vatican signed with Nazi Germany in 1933 which promises that the clergy will keep out politics. The Nazi concordat said that if priest and bishops stayed out of politics they would not be arrested and sent to concentration camps. My unwritten concordat with the US government says that if I shut up about politics I will not be charged real estate tax on my church building nor business taxes on my collections and I will get an exemption or two from some employment insurance requirement. How generous of the government! How brave and forthright of me!  But the laity have no such restrictions, at least not yet. Is there no one who will start a Christian Democratic Party that would throw its support to the best candidate at least until it was strong enough to field its own slate of candidates?

We need to face the facts. The Christian cannot now sing “My country ‘tis of thee..” rather we sing “My country ‘twas of thee...”  We need to be Christians no matter what the consequence. We need to quit pretending that all those voters who vote for their pleasures over their conscience are Christians. Perhaps we need to start treating them at least as they are: ex-Christians. I know I will be accused of being non-pastoral for saying this. So be it. Is it non-pastoral to say that sin is sin and your current behavior will send you to hell? Or don’t we believe that anymore? Perhaps we don’t care about whether or not they go to hell, just so they come back to church for the major holidays and pretend to be believers lest Grandma and Grandpa who are major donors to the parish be offended.

As for those who still are Christian who wonder what to do in this newly foreign country, I can only quote St. Paul: “May you become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Phil 2:15) Make sure you shine. The world and the country needs light more than it has since the days of the Third Reich.

the Rev. Know-it-all

PS. Hilaire Belloc, back in the 1920's wrote an essay on the new paganism. He said that the fruits of the new paganism were total willfulness followed by gloom of despair.  In other words, when you can have everything you want you soon find out that its not worth having. I thought of this the other day when I saw a young goth whose motorcycle helmet was decorated with skulls. When willfulness replaces freedom, despair certainly does seem to follow. 

We in the Church, who really have something worth possessing, eternal life that is, will be here waiting for you when that happens, unless you succeed in getting rid of us, at least in this county, formerly the greatest on earth. (The United States is now ranked  20th in economy, 12th in entrepreneurship and opportunity, 10th in governance, 5th in education, 2nd in health, 27th in safety and security, 14th in personal freedom and 10th in social capital. I suppose with the government kicking the church out of the health care industry over abortion rights, we will soon rank with other third rate socialist countries in health care.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

On separation of Church and State...


Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

What is the correct definition of Separation of Church & State?

God bless you & thank you!
Pat Reotik

Dear Pat,

It is interesting to note that this phrase doesn’t appear in the constitution. It is a phrase taken from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist church, which I will quote in its entirety

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

   The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

So, there you have it. The first amendment of our national constitution states that the government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”  The Constitution does not mandate a separation church and state. Thomas Jefferson does. The constitution forbids the restriction of the free exercise of religion. Now for a little history...

The colonists were in revolt against a country whose king was both head of state and head of the national church. To this day no Catholic may be king of England.  The Church of England had recently fought a bloody civil war to keep a Catholic off the throne of England, reasoning that England was a Protestant country. The Anglican Church, a hybrid of Catholic ritual and Protestant theology was the ESTABLISHED religion of England. The colonies weren’t opposed to established religion as such, just to the established religion of the King of England. 

The American colonies had their own established religions. The thirteen American colonies all had some form of state-supported religion. There were tax benefits for church and clergy and religious membership in Protestant churches was necessary for voting and for being elected to the state legislatures. These were not finally removed from state constitutions until the second half of the nineteenth century. Allow me to quote the constitution of the great state of New Hampshire as it stood until 1877:

 “ No person shall be capable of being elected a senator who is not of the Protestant religion... Every member of the house of representatives... shall be of the Protestant religion...”

 The US constitution forbad the establishment of a national religion, but the states continued to establish particular religions as official state religions. Well into the twentieth century a kind of generic Protestantism was taught in the public, (or government) schools. We Catholics established our own school system to protect our children from the “protestantization” that was thought necessary to good American citizenship.

So to answer your question, the American understanding of the separation of church and state is that the US federal government may not establish a national religion and may not impede the free exercise of religion, provided my religion does not hurt another by, for instance, human sacrifice. I could stop here, but of course, will not.

There is, contrary to the constitution, a new attempt to establish a national religion. That religion is the logical outgrowth of the Protestantism which was the religion of the individual states until only recently. The founding principle of Protestantism is not as most people presume, salvation by grace through faith, and a belief in Bible alone. It is the supremacy of the individual. 

Martin Luther overthrew the papacy, and thought he would in effect be the temporary pope of a reformed Christianity. When people began to break images, deface churches and kill the aristocracy  during Luther’s brief exile in the Wartburg castle, Luther was furious. This was, after all, his revolution. He would dictate its terms. But poor Martin had let the genie out of the bottle, and it was Luther’s successor, John Calvin, who threw away the cork when he declared that the individual inspired by the Holy Spirit was sufficient for the interpretation of Scripture and that the Church was no more than the local congregation. 

These were the founding principles of the Untied States. No pope, no bishop, no king, no priest. God alone as I understand him. Every man his own pope! Let me coin a word. I shall call this American religion “autopapism.” America is the first and the greatest autopapist country, leading the world into a kind of sacred anarchy, in which people are free to be spiritual as they define it.  Sounds good, doesn’t it? 

I have nothing against autopapism, though I think it is a silly religion that will ultimately destroy the country, but that’s just my opinion, which the constitution says I am free to have. The problem is the increasing establishment of autopapism as the national religion. An established religion means $$MONEY$$, government $$MONEY$$.  Where does the government get its $$MONEY$$? Out of your pocket and mine. That means if autopapism is the established religion, it is I, a turgid Roman Catholic who believes that  the Bavarian in Rome can and should influence my thoughts and conduct, must pay for your religion. That is the nature of established religion. It takes $$MONEY$$ from the government which in turn takes its $$MONEY$$ from me. This has two ramifications. (Ramification; great word, no?)

The first ramification of the establishment of national autopapism is this: I am forced to pay for the dictates of your conscience which means I must provide you with the sacraments of autopapism, such as birth control, abortion, spousal benefits for whatever or whomever you want to marry, your sex change operation if you are so inspired by your own particular deity. I must pay for insurance for any disease that your particular religion requires you to contract. I am not asking you to pay for my candles and altar wine, nor my chanting and stained glass windows. Why should I pay for the autopapist sacraments of human sacrifice and physical mutilation that masquerade as medical necessities to which all should have access? 

The second ramification of the establishment of national autopapism this: Heaven forfend that a penny of government $$MONEY$$ go to pay for Catholic schools, but I must pay for the government (most people call them public) schools in which people are taught the only commandment of autopapism, that the only thing which cannot be tolerated is intolerance (which non-autopapists practice by definition. Non-autopapists claim that some people may not go to heaven because they do hideous things to themselves and others. The autopapist church teaches that everyone has a right to everything and that includes heaven. How dare the nasty Bavarian in Rome even think that somebody may be denied the vision of God!!! And God had better watch out, too. God, if she exists, has no right to deny me what I want or condemn me. It is a free country after all!)

There is a kind of clergy for the autopapist church and a kind of Vatican. The National Education Association claims to represent government school teachers in this country. It has a budget of about $350 Million garnered from the dues of its members. The Catholic, old fashioned Vatican has a budget of a little less ($326.4 Million in 2011). However, the dues paying members of the NEA are government employees, and the national religion of tolerance is supervised by a wing of the government, the United States Department of Education, a Cabinet-level department of the United States government. We, the purveyors of the old time religion, are not, at least in America, government employees and don’t thus far have a seat on the president’s cabinet. So you see, the old Protestantism which was the established religion of “the several states” and controlled the state schools has been replaced by its logical descendant, autopapism which still controls the schools and whose liturgy is celebrated on all the morning TV talk shows that masquerade as news. The new religion enjoys the lofty vantage point of an established national religion with its chair in the white house cabinet room and you and I must pay for it through the nose.  I am all for the separation of church and state in the present America. I wish the autopapists agreed with me.

Yours ,
the Reverend Know-it-all.