Thursday, June 1, 2017

Federal Rights Versus States Rights

In reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 Penguin publication of Alexander Hamilton I am finding unexpected insight and a better understanding of what is involved in the political struggle we continue to have in America between advocates of federal powers versus States rights. Having ploughed part way through this outstanding biography of Alexander Hamilton, I find two points of particular interest thus far: 1) Alexander Hamilton is one of our lesser known founding fathers, and 2) the precedent for Federal Rights over  States Rights readily goes all the back to the Revolutionary War.

Conservative politics generally views the racial integration initiated under Lyndon Johnson’s Federal Civil Rights bill as an encroachment upon States Rights and conservative values. Had Confederates and Dixiecrats been allowed to retain their “States Rights” grip on Congress we would still live in a segregated America, more like that of the old white-dominated South Africa than the United States of America.

History tells me most of our founding fathers understood they could not fully resolve the slave issue in their time. They recognized that it would take the passage of time and future generations to resolve it. They did not foresee Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin or the resulting demand for cheap labor to support the economy of King Cotton. Nowhere is this illustrated better than in the life of General George Washing, our first Commander in Chief.

In “the final and most radical act[s] of his life” George Washington freed his slaves. “The unfortunate condition of the persons whose labors in part I employed,” he wrote, “has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the adults among them as easy and comfortable as their actual state of ignorance and improvidence would admit; and to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born, afforded some satisfaction to my mind, and could not, I hoped, be displeasing to the justice of the Creator” (George Washington and the New Nation 1783-1793, James Thomas Flexnor. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1st ed. pp. 39-40)

That conviction, designed to please the Almighty, prompted the Father of our Country to free “all his slaves” Racial integration  was considered inevitable over time rather than a radical act of forcing federal rights over state’s rights as some believe today.

The issue of federal powers was very much at stake as early as the Revolutionary War, for without federal powers the Revolution would more than likely have been lost. Needed financial reform continued to hamper our revolution under King George. The new Congress found itself ineffective in improving the situation. A worried James Madison consequently confessed to Thomas Jefferson in a letter, “Believe me, sir, as things now stand, if the states do not vigorously proceed in collecting the old money and establishing funds for the credit of the new … we are undone” (137/Alexander Hamilton/Chernow). The revolutionary cause was at stake!

After Alexander Hamilton left General Washington’s staff, he found himself boning up on finance and working with Robert Morris, the new congressional Superintendent of Finance. Washington had faced repeated financial crises due to the Colonies acting as private individual states and financing their local militia’s while leaving Congress to pick up the empty bag that supported war efforts.

Hamilton eventually concluded that only a national Bank could resolve the issue because the Federal needs of the new Congress were continually preempted by the individual states protecting their own interests. Chernow picks up this theme:

          “Hamilton continued to stew about the Articles of Confederation, which had been
          ratified elatedly by the last state on February 27, 1781. Hamilton thought this
          loose framework a prescription for rigor mortis. There was no federal judiciary, no
          guiding executive, no national taxing power, and no direct power over people as
          individuals, only as citizens of the states. In Congress, each state had one vote, and
          nine of the thirteen states had to concur to take significant actions. The Articles of 
          Confederation promised little more than a fragile alliance of thirteen miniature             
          republics. Hamilton had already warned that if the ramshackle confederacy fostered
          the illusion that Congress had sufficient power, ‘it will be an evil, for it is unequal to
          the exigencies of the war or to the preservation of the union hereafter.’ Again,
          Hamilton appealed for a convention to bring forth a more durable government”  
          (Chernow, 157).

Chernow continues:

          “That the thirteen states would someday coalesce into a single country
          was far from a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the states had hampered many
          crucial war measures ...People continued to identify their states as their ‘countries,’
          and most outside the military had never traveled more than a day’s journey from
          their homes. The Revolution itself, especially the Continental Army, had
          been a potent instrument for fusing the states together and forging an American
          character. Speaking of the effect that the fighting had on him, John Marshall
          probably spoke for many soldiers when he said, ‘I was confirmed in the habit of
          considering America as my country and Congress as my government’ … These
          men had gotten many dismaying glimpses of the shortcomings of the Articles of
          Confederation, and many later emerged as confirmed advocates of a tight-knit
          union of the states” (Chernow/157).

Lack of funding forced General Washington to face every kind of crisis possible, including open mutiny, in which he had to take harsh action and hang several perpetrators. After leaving Washington’s staff, Hamilton converted his views into a cogently reasoned quartet of essays the  New-York Packet entitled “The Continentalist,” which became a precursor to The Federalist Papers.

Unless the Federal government was strengthened, Hamilton concluded, “the states would amass progressively more power until the union disintegrated into secessionist movements, smaller confederacies, or civil war. Commercial rivalries and boundary disputes would bring the Union to disaster. Hamilton listed what Chernow calls a “litany of powers” needed to sustain the union and avert disaster. “Only unity could wring from skittish foreign creditors the needed loans to conclude the war. He applauded “the national bank proposed by Morris, which would wed the ‘interest of the monied men with the resources of government.’ This alliance would help to prop up a shaky government.” As too much power leads to despotism, too little leads to anarchy, and both eventually to the ruin of the people” (Chernow, 157-68).

In other words, there is a rightful place of power for citizens and for states. There is also long historical precedent for the federal powers of the Union that goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Had our forefathers clung to their States Rights as fiercely as do some today, we would have failed utterly in our attempt to break free from the divine rights of King George’s Monarchy and its taxation without representation. We would still have slavery but I doubt that the cluster of petty confederacies would still be in existence.

Even more important than the strong military, was the wisdom of a national banking system. History seems to suggest that without it Alexander Hamilton, and that supporting cast of brave signers of our early Declaration of Independence would have no union today.

With this; we are far more blessed than we are cursed; but there are times when I wish BlogSpot worked more efficiently ... :-)


Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

From the Winchester Sun we learn that a 22-mile march to raise awareness of Veteran suicide will begin in Richmond, KY on Memorial Day, Monday morning at 6 a.m. and end in Winchester at approximately 5 p.m. Gathering at Whitehall, marchers will travel down KY 627 across Bypass Road, onto Lexington Avenue to Main Street and end at Sterling Street, where the Winchester VFW Post is located.

"Every penny we raise through the march will go directly to the hotline," according to Justin Williamson.

An average of 22 veterans die every day according to the 2016 report from the Veterans Affairs Office of Suicide Prevention. This is 21 percent higher than the average U. S. citizen. Donations can be made to the VFW or at

As tragic as is this senseless loss of life, the greater tragedy is how we politicize and glorify the failed politics of war. War can be deplorably gruesome as we currently see in Syria. In nearly every instance war results from failed diplomacy. Yet, we glorify war as a form of super patriotism; we exult in the economic boost it brings munitions manufacturers and gun dealers.

War most often results from someone's self-centered assertion of rights over another. Most wars remain without moral justification and should be looked upon as societal failures. The higher living standard that comes to those who profit from it should be seen for what it is - "blood money."

The effects of war often destroys the souls of men, not because those men are necessarily weak but because war is abnormal to human experience. Humanity was not created for the inhumane treatment - the intensely destructive behavior against fellow humans created in times of war. Although many return home and live seemingly normal lives most are seldom the same for war destroys families and societies and nations. War is a supreme tragedy that should be avoided at all reasonable cost, usually costing more than gained—it pays a high cost for a low return.

While WWII looked quite moral to most Americans, numerous writers and historical reporters have found the seeds for WWII first germinating in the travesty of Versailles that concluded WWI. That can be said equally of the contemporary conflict between the West Powers and the Islamic Middle East. While Hitler pulled the trigger that started the conflict; he was historically little more than a petty bully (albeit insane) and undeserving of such historical notoriety.

Consider the wisdom spoken by that early American man of wisdom we greatly admire: “After much occasion to consider the folly and mischiefs of a state of warfare, and the little or no advantage obtained by those nations who have conducted it with the most success, I have been apt to think that there has never been, nor ever will be, any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace” (The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin/Brands/620)

This is
                                                         … working for the reconciliation of all humanity ...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our Father

The year was 1865. One Sunday a visitor entered this fashionable Richmond, Virginia church. When it came time for worshippers to receive Communion, the stranger joined congregants in walking down the aisle and kneeling, as was the custom.

Simultaneously, a restless autumn breeze swept slowly across the congregation.  The sudden coolness in the atmosphere loudly whispered “How dare he!” Momentarily, stony silence reigned supreme.

Almost before the stunned congregation could regain its composure, a distinguished gentleman in the congregation stood to his feet, moved out from his pew and stepped confidently toward the altar. The old “Gray Fox”, General Robert E. Lee, knelt beside the visiting black stranger.

After spending a few moments in private prayer; Lee, without doubt the most revered leader in the whole Southern Confederacy, spoke aloud to the stunned congregation. Directing his comments to the congregation where he was a valued member, General Lee spoke softly but tersely, with measured words: “All men are brothers in Christ. Have we not all one Father?”             

The congregation was humbled. Instructed by the powerful words and the model of their beloved leader, the congregation slowly followed his example. It is amazing how much inner peace we can generate when we treat everyone we meet with the same dignity and respect that Jesus gave the people he encountered as he went about doing good.

In responding to others with that same courtesy and esteem that we like to receive; we nurture our own self-respect and we build the strong interpersonal relationships that our culture finds in such desperate shortfall today. Only then will our global community experience that level of mobility and measured technical skill it has sought but failed to find.

The Lord’s Prayer promises a breath of fresh air by teaching us how to live together harmoniously rather than with discord and dissonance. We can pray to “Our Father …” only when our prayers create sufficient standing room to include others different from us and allow them to share their needs equally with us (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV).

In praying to “Our Father in Heaven…” we can address him directly and meaningfully. In doing so, we submit our personal interests and lift our primary pursuits above and beyond our mundane and earthly relationships. By demonstrating this kind of relationship throughout our daily going-about we mentor others more effectively and we acknowledge the supremacy of his will as our Heavenly Father.

I am,
Praying always “Our Father  …”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother's Day Ramble

As I approach the beginning of my ninth decade of life, Winchester, KY is proving to be a most interesting chapter of my life. Begun on the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan almost hours after Charles Lindbergh left for Paris in 1927 in his small aircraft, my first-born had travelled through ten states and into northern Mexico by the time she was ten months old (I was 24). Since that time, her mother and I have served parish ministries as distant as South Georgia and Northern California and as different as Southwest Texas and Southern Michigan during the seventy years we have journeyed on the matrimonial highway. 

A new chapter began in 2005. I became a fulltime caregiver after Tommie had to be resuscitated a half-dozen times or more by Dr John Bradley. She levelled out after that with the Godly medicating of Dr Ted Veras, a very good heart-and-stent- specialist, and a very devout member of the Orthodox Faith. He never did a procedure on her without talking to The Father above. Of course, what makes that story even better is the fact that the Air Force discharged me in 9-47 because she had but 3-12 months left before she would die; this following Dr. Pete Lamey doing a butcher job on her in an emergency surgery in Anderson, IN and ill health forced her to leave AC after one semester.

She was a living miracle by 2012, including her first heart attack in Fort Worth in 1964 and enduring a year-long attack of rheumatoid arthritis during which she knitted 27 sweaters in that year to keep the use of her hands. She spent many an hour with tears of pain trickling down her face, but she saved her hands!  :-)

By 2012 her body held 19 heart stents and 3 kidney stents, done in Kalamazoo, MI Bronson and St Joe East Lexington, but now it was old fashioned flu! Once our dear friend Brian Andreas and heart doctor Richard Dinardo got her stabilized again in Winchester, she could not escape the flu. That resulted in our living apart for the next three years; she could not travel enough to return home. I finally closed the house and came to KY some eighteen months ago—now stuck in Winchester where I currently care for her, cover our disabled (only) daughter, and deal with a dysfunctional husband who is severely addicted to alcohol and mentally impaired as part of the bargain.

Thus  the thought I started with—the Winchester chapter of my life and its curious ambivalence about the issues of life. Winchester is the home of my beloved Greek Brother Vasilis (the former pastor known to all as “Brother Bill K”). With him and me as active as we can be, we crisscross, occasionally meet, and maintain a warm, loving relationship filled with mutual respect. Tommie and I have gathered numerous other warm-hearted friends with whom we love to interact (including our friends at 1st Church on Colby Road and the Liberty Family with Pastor Paul and Charlene et al)

I maintain a close relationship with former Pastor Steven V. Williams, President of Reformation Publishers. I walk closely beside Steve and Martha as Steve walks by faith through his own forest of personal difficulties. I would not take for any of these experiences. I do not ask for more for Tommie and me; God has brought us this far and it is far beyond what the most learned of men could offer through the years.

What I continually ponder is the ambivalence of humanity that is vainly proud of its Christian culture, as is Winchester. Kentuckians insist on decorating their license plates with the words “In God We Trust” but I look in vain for expressions of that faith when it comes to organizing our democratic government so as to share in a care system it vainly leaves for the church to fulfill as faith-based ministries of whatever kind.

Life has somehow put me in the spot of dad helping manage the affairs of a deeply depressed daughter that counts a gang rape in college as part of her resume;  two bad marriages; having her guts ground out at her work in which she highly specialized, only to be run through the pencil sharpener by a chivalrous good-ole-boy club in a governmental work force that gave the prizes to the war heroes and used the women to keep them propped up; now trying to survive almost 25 years with this current alcoholic --in a body burned out from overwork, broken down from lifelong asthma, permanently disabled and on the end of an oxygen hose  24-7 to keep her breathing and slow the hardening of her rib cage.

What I do not understand is this political structure that allows a man to leach off of other people his whole life and either refuse to comprehend responsibility or glibly avoid it while the whole community knows the man. Nobody will touch him. He is allowed to run up $80,000 in medical bills but when unable to pay, who do they go after? The spouse that refuses to throw away a bad bargain because she was not raised that way. She has a problem! She cares about people.  She has some principle (even if I disagree with her handling of it) !
Curiously, our current alcoholic delinquent has a fine hanging over his head. Local politics care only that the married spouse come up with the offender’s fine and allow him to go to traffic school. If “she does not” he goes to jail and she pays a bigger fine of $500. I see this as punishing the victim – as only for the profit of the local political administration. He spends most of his time in bed dysfunctional and drinking, when not scrounging up enough to buy another half-case of drink. Otherwise, I carry the brunt of the load—cooking, cleaning, managing.

This would all be solved if this spouse would simply divorce the offending husband and say “Enough is enough!” She had one marriage where her lawman could not keep his pants zipped up; she does not want to live alone, or divorce. I find myself wondering whatever happened to that Christian teaching that teaches “we are our brother’s keeper”. I contend that we the people are self-governing  and I find it satisfying to structure our society so that we provide safety nets for the poor, the most vulnerable etc. I once resented having it "taken from me," until I learned better in my relationship with Jesus.

Today I find it totally pagan, heathen, worldly if you like, to insist on big military expenditures (security issues) and take medical care away from millions. Health care should be a rightful expectation of every citizen. To support those who have and reject those who have not is using our government for selfish purposes to say the very least.

Most Democrats and most Republicans will respond from out of their political platform, but the answer is in neither political party and cannot be filtered through political platforms. Yet, I look in vain for the words of Jesus when I look to this proud “Bible Belt” mentality of Clark County KY--so proud of its Christian culture that I see as nothing but a hypocritical sham (with all due respect to my world of Christian friends).

From my corner of Warner’s World,
I am
... and this is how I am reading the Winchester chapter of my life on this Mother’s day of 2017. **My mother lived a hard life of 89 years (dad was a hard taskmaster) but in her final days she taught me how to take my departure from this troubled world and I bless her memory for that special memory.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hearts of Fire

tells the stories of eight Christian women in the underground church and the valiant struggles of their costly faith.  It was written and  published by staff personnel at Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and published in 2003 under ISBN number 978-0-88264-150-08. Very appropriate for such a volume, the widowed and former Missionary to the Philippines, Gracia Burnham, wrote the Foreward.

“Either you marry or you die…  If you are a Christian there is no place for you in this city … you will die here alone”. Those parting words, spoken by Tara’s father to his sixteen-year-old pride and joy, raised only one thought in her mind: she must escape for her life. 

Beaten to the brink of death, Tara was the favorite daughter of a prominent Pakistani Muslim. She was locked into her room as a prisoner without food or medical attention when she was caught reading a Bible. She had no notion of converting to Christianity; she was only completing a research paper for her Muslim school . None of that kept her from being sent to school in the school of suffering, imprisonment, and finding God real.

In Indonesia, Adel  and the neighborhood children, along with the other Christian captives, faced death at the hands of their marauding Muslim neighbors  on a religious jihad. Amid the horrors of that imprisonment, she  found hope. Purnima  became a Christian at thirteen in her Buddhist country of Bhutan. Exiled to Nepal because of her decision to believe in Jesus, she grew up in a refuge camp and went through her own school of suffering while in prison. Although she was a child and imprisoned; she became a soul set free.

Aida of Leningrad became a voice for Russia’s voiceless, in spite of her imprisonment. Sabina, with her husband Richard, became an extraordinary witness for God’s love while serving her time in a slave-labor camp carrying rock with which to build a levy on a Danube canal project. She shared that love throughout  Richard’s fourteen and one-half years of imprisonment and while assisting Richard in the founding of the Voice of the Martyrs in America, after they were ransomed for a price and escaped to America.

Nine-year-old Ling lived in China where she became an exceptional Church Leader and  colporteur-evangelist  following her imprisonment in her Graduate School of Suffering. Gladys Weatherhead Starnes grew up in Australia, but became a missionary worker in the Mayurbhani Leprosy Home in Orissa, India as Mrs. Graham Starnes. Gladys was widowed when radical Hindu’s intentionally burned her husband and children to death in a burning building. Gladys went on to become a lifeline of forgiveness, especially when she came face to face with the convicted Hindu extremist that led the murderous assault on her family.

In 1989 two young Vietnamese refugees made it to Hong Kong. When Mai encountered God in her life, she listened for his call in her life. Leaving the protection of her brother, she gave up her pursuit of freedom in the West and returned to Vietnam and the family that had forsaken her. She heard God calling her back to Vietnam to preach Christ to people who had never heard of him and that is what she did. 

I read these stories aloud to my wife, an avid reader whose eyesight is failing. Being the wife of a retired pastor, I thought she would especially enjoy this simply-written series that recognizes how significant women have always been in forwarding the Christian mission. She and I each enjoyed the stories immensely and it became a time of bonding together as we wind down our seventy years of marriage.
I discovered, however, that a few of the stories were so graphic and abusive of women that some of the incidents mentioned caused her not to rest well after I read to her at a late hour. A very sensitive soul, she dreamed bad dreams. So, I leave that word of caution.  

For the most part, however, the book was well-written in a simple and readable format. And as it turned out, with the order in which I pursued the stories, we finished with one that was not quite as intense as some had been while still leaving us with a good taste in our mouths from a pleasant reading experience, but also leaving us with a greater awareness of some of our brothers and sisters in the faith who need our prayers

From …

both Tommie and I recommend this book for your family reading pleasure, as well as for a realistic introduction to the life some Christians face in other countries and cultures.