Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

The Final Letter, as Sent:

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

“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.

Continue reading Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

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“Your dirt removes my blindness, your pain becomes my peace…”

Truly humble lyrics from an astoundingly poignant and truthful song in which the singer states “Convinced of my deception, I’ve always been a fool … If I was not so weak, If I was not so cold …. I would be frail.”

The astounding picture of transparency, contrition, and repentance painted by this song reflects the heart and soul of the lyricist.

It’s lyrics like these that make it kind of unbelievable when the same person turns around in a moment of, I guess, boredom on a long flight, and says “I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. … I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Equally amazing is the utter lack of surprise I feel when reading stories about christian figures spouting such ludicrous nonsense in regards to sexual immorality and perversion. Not simply because people are, always have been, and always will be corrupt and seeking to replace or destroy God at their very core, regardless of the religious title or stance they hold. But because the way that the Scriptures themselves have been mutilated and twisted, misinterpreted, manipulated, and in most cases, flat out rejected or neglected. Such behavior will naturally lead to false perceptions and ideas that contradict Scripture itself. Those people that condone such actions are in no better a position spiritually than the fornicators and perverts themselves!

We’re even specifically warned of such people by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5

11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.”

DO NOT EVEN EAT WITH SUCH PEOPLE!!!!
I’m sure most of us who might read that would go “yeah, cast ’em out, and leave them to their own destruction!” Yet, we fail to realize that we are not only part of the problem that causes such mindsets, we are likely taking part in an equally evil act by condemning them without examining our own actions.

I guess my question is this: What is really the cause of such distorted and blatantly arrogant/ignorant beliefs of the “spiritually” minded christians of today?

Even a look at Hebrews 5 gives us insight to the fact that this same dilemma occurred even as early as Paul’s day.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

Now, it’s important to note that most mainstream translations of this passage break it up into two separate sections (cuz you know, the translators know what it’s really saying better than anyone else). In the NIV verse 11 is preceded by a heading that says “Warnings against falling away.” This is especially curious because there is no actual mention of falling away in the passage that follows that header. Instead, it’s an admonition, which basically says “We should go on about this, but you don’t seem to care so it’s hard to try to explain.” The next few verses shows the author basically ridiculing the readers by accusing them of being immature in their faith because they refuse to study the Scripture (of great importance is the fact that the Scriptures that would have been referenced was the Hebrew tenakh, as it was the only “scripture” available at the time.) and rely instead on someone else teach it to them.

12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature,who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Anyone who relies on their pastor or “leader” to explain the scriptures to them and keep reminding them to repent is like an infant who still relies on the milk of his mother because he is too immature. This spiritual immaturity comes as a result of laziness and refusing to study the “teaching about righteousness (a.k.a. the Torah, which described how to live a holy life, through the power of Messiah). In the next chapter, the author of Hebrews goes on to say “Let’s move past this repetitive cyclic teaching of the life of Messiah and what Messiah actually did, and apply what that means for us as His followers.  Let’s move on to spiritual maturity, and not keep rehashing the overplayed albeit crucial message of repentance. It’s as if the author is saying “Yes, repentance is vital for spiritual maturity, but if you’ve repented, you will move on from those acts that lead to death (Heb.6:1) and realize that if you continually have to have repentance taught to you, you’re pretty much lost and beyond hope (Heb.6:4-8). You should know it, it’s kinda the foundation of everything we’re talking about. If you don’t get that much, you’ll never grow. Let’s move on.”

Modern christianity has built such an “anti-old testament/Torah” foundation, that it really just utterly fails to surprise me when I read the article about the lead singer of Jars Of Clay supporting gay-marriage and basically throwing out the authority of the scriptures on matters such as homosexuality.

“I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

Yeah. While it certainly cannot be applied as a blanket statement in regard to most self-proclaimed Christians, not many who claim to be christians in this nation actually do care about what the Bible considers to be wrong, they just fear the backlash that would come with saying it so bluntly. Ironically, while many likely share your sentiments, Mr. Songwriter, they don’t realize it.

I’m reminded of a story  I read almost a year ago about a teen who claims to be both a christian and a practicing homosexual. This teen thought it was a good idea to bring his Bible to Show-and-tell one day, and boldly rip out the first two-thirds of the pages (coincidentally — or maybe not — that’s the part that contains the dreaded and horrible law given as a form of slavery to the unsuspecting suckers called the Jews by the mean and angry “god of the old testament” that so many try to distance themselves from while still trying to grasp at all the good things He can give them, interestingly enough).

And why shouldn’t he? The bipolar attitude that the modern church carries toward the old testament of “this still stands, but that verse there, the next one, that is done away with, but the next one still stands, because Paul said so” is a dangerous and contagious one that has spread the world over.

Take for instance Leviticus 20:18:

18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.”

Try telling any given christian couple that they’re not supposed to have sex while she’s on her period, and you’ll likely get laughed at, and probably a reference to some letter of Paul’s that says we’re no longer under law. Yet, if  you tell them that they’re not supposed to have sex with each other’s parents, or with their pets, you’ll likely receive a blank stare because “everybody knows that’s a sin.” Yet, the paradox remains, those particular things supposedly fall under the category of “sexual immorality” along with the other things that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians. Why doesn’t the instruction in Lev. 20:18 fall under that? Most people will probably tell you it’s because of the division of moral, civil, and ceremonial law that “exists” in the Torah, and how only the moral laws still stand.

Read this and tell me where you see that division:

9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head. 10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. 11 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 12 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. 13 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you. 15 “‘If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he is to be put to death, and you must kill the animal. 16 “‘If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 17 “‘If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.” 18 “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people. 19 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the sister of either your mother or your father, for that would dishonor a close relative; both of you would be held responsible. 20 “‘If a man has sexual relations with his aunt, he has dishonored his uncle. They will be held responsible; they will die childless. 21 “‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.”

I guess I missed the division there. So, verse 9 is ceremonial or civil, verses 10-17 are moral and still stand, verse 18 is civil or ceremonial and no longer applicable, but then we switch back to moral in verses 19-21 and those still apply? What? Where does it say that? The only distinction I see is in verse 7-8:

7 “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am YHVH your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am YHVH, who makes you holy.”

Maybe, instead of trying to rationalize, justify, explain, preach, manipulate scripture, or quote Paul in order to get rid of these things we just don’t think we should be responsible to do, we should realize that if we truly believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,  the only reason we should ever need to do or not do something is contained in that simple phrase “because I said so”:

Because I am YHVH, the LORD your GOD.

Leviticus 20:23-24:
“You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am YHVH your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” (emphasis mine)