Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is there Separation?

Here's something I've never done before:  A guest author.

I found this recent post on a widely popular social networking site, and after reading it, had to share.  [And yes, the guest author is my very own husband, Anthony Baros.  Nepotism?  Yes, but it's my blog, which makes it my prerogative.]  Let's see if anyone's listening...

The following posting is in response to a recent article posted on titled: $1K Offered to Find "Separation of Church and State."*

Actually, the phrase "separation of church and state" is not found in the constitution and was made popular by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, in a letter to the Danbruy Baptist Association "believing with you that religion is a matter which lies... solely between man and his god, [the people, in the 1st Amendment,] 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 and state." What the 1st Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech..." Separation of church and state as it was intended was to prohibit the national government from establishing and mandating a national religion, like the Church of England, but believed that each person should be free to choose.

A person's moral standards always play a part in lawmaking and the creation of laws. It is not Christianity that enacts these laws, but it is the elected officials of the United States that propose and pass the laws that govern our country. Lawmakers are elected by the people, many, if not most, of whom do vote based upon their personal moral standard.

In recent litigation and law making, there have not been any attempts restrict a person’s freedom to not believe or to make people go to "church." There are no restrictions of freedom for what you believe or choose not to believe. A person will not get ticket, thrown in prison, not allowed to work, have to pay higher taxes, get kicked out of school, etc. because they don't go to church. I would argue that the opposite has taken place and there have been numerous attempts to limit a persons freedom and expression of religion; for example, the debates of the phrase "one nation under God" (Elk Grove v Newdow), decisions about prayer in schools (Santa Fe Independent School District v Doe), ability of Christians clubs to use school facilities with equal access as other groups (Good News Club v Milford Central School).

We are to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Each person has a right to choose. Each person is free to choose what they believe, even if that is not to believe in anything (that is still a belief). Each person has the freedom to choose not to pray or take part in the prayer. Each person can choose not to stand for the pledge or to stand and say the pledge of allegiance. However, in these debates and discussions about issues, we should be informed and knowledgeable about the foundation of our arguments, and not just assume they are correct, like the assumption that the exact phrase "separation of church and state" is in the US Constitution.

*to read the related article, go to:

Friday, October 1, 2010




What’s the first thing that comes to mind with these words?  For me, it’s stuffy old men in starched white collars and traditional all black attire.  Gigantic King James Bibles, overstuffed leather armchairs, solemnity, severity.  Aloofness.  Almost a holy distance from reality and the people who inhabit it.

May I admit that I’ve had a love/hate/scared-out-of-my-mind/love relationship with the idea of seminary?  When I first came to faith, anyone who had more time in the faith, and certainly anyone who had devoted their life to studying God’s word, was in my mind far superior in spirituality than I.  Frankly, this was true to a degree.  I was an infant, and they [whoever they were] had more experience with God, more maturity than I.  These people, with their formal religious training, were untouchable. Pious and righteous in ways I didn’t think applied to me; and I admired them from a distance.  This was the case for quite some time.  But as I grew in my faith and matured a bit, I began to realize that the same Holy Spirit who indwells the Billy Grahams and Beth Moores of my time also indwells me.  It was then that I wondered at the need for seminary.  I even scoffed at it for a period (yes, I was anti-seminary for a while), feeling that those who undertook this type of training were puffed up and rigid in their thinking.  Yet, after a measure of time and certain events too lengthy to relate here, my husband decided to go.  He loved it; he couldn’t stop talking about all that he was learning.  And honestly, these discussions reshaped my faith quite a bit.  I let go of prejudices, opened my heart to different ways of spiritual growth, revamped my study techniques, and even started reading his textbooks and listening to lectures for fun.  I eventually audited a class and couldn’t get enough.  In the end, I loved it.

During this time, I was given the opportunity to revise a curriculum that is close to my heart [a work that is still in progress].  At first, I was obstinate [a familiar theme, no?], it was a scripture based work that, frankly, worked.  But I started trying to modify it to fit the parameters I thought I’d been given. I met with individuals I greatly admire to get their take on it.  And one day, as I was plugging away, the severity of what I was trying to do accosted me.  This was God’s word that I was attempting to use for a specific purpose.  What if I got it wrong?  What devastation could follow?  My work ground to a halt.  I was petrified of inadvertently hurting someone with my inaccurate, inexperienced use of the sword of the Spirit.

That’s when it dawned on me: I don’t need theological education for my personal study.  But if I ever want to apply God’s word to other people’s lives, I’d better know for certain what I’m doing.  Much like training for battle, anyone can pick up a sword and learn to use it on their own.  But on the battlefield, if my only tactic is to wildly flail about, I will eventually wound my brethren.  To fight or lead effectively requires training.  Such training can come from multiple different sources: a seasoned warrior [mentor], a group of soldiers further along than I, or a school which specializes in technical training.

I picked all three.

At the inception of my training, I was strongly admonished by a dear professor regarding the extreme importance of using God’s word accurately, appropriately, and for His glory.  It was during this particular lecture that I slunk down in my chair, feeling the weight of her words on my chest.  I don’t really want that responsibility.  I’m afraid of it.

So do I now think that seminary [the specialized training to which I am subjected myself] will launch me into superior knowledge of the scriptures and God?  Hardly.  I will merely train with new [to me] tools and gain experience in the life of a follower of Christ.  I will be stretched and challenged by life-long teachers; encouraged and strengthened by the faith and insight and testimony of fellow students.  Hopefully through this process, I am better able to recognize my presuppositions and mistakes; and quicker to revised and correct them.  I pray that I leave more humble than I came in; knowing a bit more [while realizing how little that “more” really is] of our unknowable God.