Archive for the ‘Sects’ Category

Today, a PDF document (3 p.) is described discussing Federal legislation that provides necessary legal protections for people of faith who seek to live out their spiritual commitments in daily life.  Nearly unanimous bipartisan support was garnered within both houses of Congress for this law addressing restoration of religious liberty.  A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (called Employment Division v. Smith) made it more difficult for religious believers to challenge laws that constrained their ability to live out their faith.  In that case, Native Americans were fired from their jobs because they used peyote as part of their religion.  The RFRA was intended to affirm and buttress the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees the free exercise of religion.  Twenty states are reported as having adopted their own versions of RFRA, and another eleven states have similar provisions in place provided by state court decisions.  RFRA is reported as supplying a balancing test when the government attempts to restrict the free exercise of religion.  In general, RFRAs help people of minority faiths who cannot secure legislative exemptions for specific practices maintained among themselves.

 

THE KINGS SPEAR:  I am continuing to review documents posted in the “Bishop’s Advocacy Activity on Religious Liberty” page at the Internet site of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB).  The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty has published a “must read” PDF document on the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [http://usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Why-the-Religious-Freedom-Restoration-Act-Works.pdf].

The Federal law enacted in 1993 under Bill Clinton is described using a Q&A format that presents the following six questions:

1. Does RFRA provide a “license to discriminate” against gay people?

2. What are the safeguards built into RFRA?

3. Why is any RFRA necessary at all?

4. Since there is already a federal RFRA, why do states need their own?

5. Who really benefits from RFRAs?

6. What is the impact of RFRA on current debates over “same-sex marriage” and laws prohibiting “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”
discrimination?

See Why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Works/The Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, April 07, 2015.

 

THE GOLDEN ARROW:  And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together:  and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.  Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.  But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.  For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you:  because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.  And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.  But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest:  for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.  And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.  And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.  (Acts 28:  17-24, KJV)

 

THE DOUBLE DAGGER: Human Law, Divine Favor? (03/23/2015); The American Covenant? (03/03/2015); On Christians Being Inclusive? (07/16/2014); War and Peace (07/17/2014); Separation of Church and State (07/04/2014); The Point of Wisdom? (07/05/2014); Holiday Displays? (12/07/2012); An Attack Upon Creation? (12/08/2012); The Crux of the Matter (10/26/2012); Women Ordained to Minister? (10/27/2012)

 

There is far more to be said, correctly applied, and spiritually understood.  (For example, members of minority faiths in the U. S. (e.g., Baha’i, Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs) and those operating family-owned businesses must have further protection through the law when their beliefs continue and promote practices in opposition to state or local antidiscrimination laws.  Their legitimate conscientious objections may appear as expressions of “unjust discrimination,” yet, are exactly what is intend when America speaks of religious freedom protected by strong law.)  Even so, I trust this fragment will be useful.  Be it unto you according to your faith.

THE BLACK PHOENIX
Washington, DC

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      Sins of ignorance, the misuse of freedom, and widespread spiritual confusion are the focus of today’s presentation. Also, there is more on cults.

THE BATTLE AXE: On Cults (08/30/2012)—Religious sects are different from cults. Sects are products of schism within an orthodox body, and therefore maintain great continuity with traditional beliefs and practices. Cults are held to arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices. Because cults may feature the use of devices associated with traditional religion (such as dogma, imagery, language formulas, and ritual drama), these relatively small groups may be labeled as believers at the forefront of new religious movements. For many the core issues in the discussion of cults are merely the “sensational” aspects described in the media: (1) their reliance upon intimidation; (2) their adoption of paramilitary models with stockpiling and use of weapons for self-defense; (3) their use of “mind control” techniques; and (4) their finish through mass suicide. Cults generally lack the comprehensive doctrine, history, sacred purpose, and spiritual benefit provided through the church created by Jesus Christ. At best, cults fulfill intense, yet, temporary emotional, psychological, and social needs.

THE GOLDEN ARROW: And the man Micah had a house of gods, and he made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel: but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17: 5-6, King James Version)

THE DOUBLE DAGGER: On Cults (08/30/2012); On Religious Items (08/29/2012); Set Free To… (03/27/2012); Bad Knowledge? (02/05/2011); Responsibility? (01/25/2011)

      One of the most startling accounts of mankind’s need for divine presence and a holy ministry to dispel spiritual confusion is recorded in the Book of Judges, Chapter 17. There, a man named Micah, a descendant of Joseph, from the tribe of Ephraim, resolves a dispute with his mother. When 1100 pieces of her silver were taken from her, she began to call down curses upon the thief, not knowing, her son was the person responsible. When he “confesses” and restores the money, his mother is pleased, and calls to Jehovah for a blessing upon her son. More than this, she dedicates the silver to Jehovah to be used to make a graven image. The molten image is then displayed in a chapel or shrine along with teraphim (small idols representing gods believed to protect ones household gods), and an ephod, (a holy garment to be worn only by those anointed as priests, and a feature in the regalia of the high priest).

      More than simply an account of a dysfunctional family (where a son steals from his mother’s purse to buy cigarettes or marijuana), or an incidence of flagrant idol worship among the covenant people, we are given a description of sins that result through ambition, including one man’s desire to establish his own household as an independent worship unit. Many factors are important to explaining how this could come about: (1) there was no central authority (a king) to enforce uniform obedience to covenant law throughout the many regions and local areas; (2) Levites had no authority except when serving at the Tabernacle. The Levites were dispersed in their cities, suburbs, and fields, going to the Tabernacle only occasionally as scheduled for their service; (3) the priesthood and those of the Tabernacle were both too far away (i.e., remote), and the focus of sacrificial service did not permit continual oversight upon developments within the twelve tribes; (4) the people were ignorant of the law, and were not regularly instructed, or given correction regarding even the most basic commandments forbidding idolatry; and (5) the tradition of Judges sent by GOD (usually following visitations) did not focus upon declaring divine law, or administering ordinances and statutes associated with the covenant so much as upon the deliverance and survival of Israel when threatened by the enemies of GOD.

      When a young Levite, who had left the portion donated to his family in Judah appeared in the hill country of Ephraim, Micah offered to exalt him as father and priest, to provide him with priestly regalia, to give meals and housing, and to pay him 10 pieces of silver per year. Next, Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. The account concludes: Then said Micah, Now know I that Jehovah will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest (Judges 17: 13).

      Those who assume, like Micah, that we may bargain for, buy, control, and possess divine blessings, or purchase the holy provisions for deliverance, redemption and salvation from GOD using our material goods, operate in gross spiritual confusion. When every man does “what is right in his own eyes,” rather than conform to faith as spirit-content imparted from GOD, he becomes blind to the extreme, yet subtle workings of his own appetite, desire, fantasy and imagination. Rightly understood, “religious liberty” means strictly conforming to models given by GOD, and dutifully performing sacred tasks that are assigned. Micah may have had no deliberate intent to challenge GOD, to disobey, or rebel; and Micah was overjoyed to have finally secured for himself and his own household a believer’s most coveted condition and tool, a direct access to Jehovah GOD. However, in ignorance, Micah and all the others had behaved as lawless and irreverent, thoroughly violating the covenant and its primary laws.

      There is far more to be said, correctly applied, and spiritually apprehended. (For example, spiritual confusion appears wherever divine law, the sacred spirit, and the holy word of GOD are not consistently relied upon to have power over awareness, and to moderate discernment. Lacking all of these three in proper measure, at no time did Micah recognize that he himself was being rogue and was behaving as a renegade. While every prophet or spokesperson from GOD also had authority to offer sacrifices for sins, only the priests serving the Tabernacle (and later, Temple) were approved to make acceptable holy offerings.) Even so, I trust this fragment will be useful. Be it unto you according to your faith.

THE BLACK PHOENIX
Washington, DC