Wiretaps: Don’t Drink the Government’s Kool-Aid

by Charles Henderson

Here’s a screenshot of the front page of The New York Times, Friday, January 20, 2017 edition. Look at the headline to the left of the photograph of Trump arriving in Washington, DC for the inauguration. It reads: “Wiretapped Data Used In Inquiry Of Trump Aides.”

The article says in its lead paragraph that investigators while conducting surveillance operations intercepted telephone conversations and data (email) of the Trump presidential campaign, his staff and his associates talking with the Russians. This is how they got the goods on General Michael T. Flynn.  If the Obama White House did not authorize this surveillance and wiretapping, then who did? And why? What was their “Reasonable Cause” to justify a wiretap?

While we listen to the spin from every sector and side, one warning comes to mind: Don’t drink the government’s Kool-Aid.

Here’s the facts, Jack. Since the passage of the Patriot Act, after 9-11, most wiretaps are initiated and conducted without the benefit of a warrant. Investigators just go snooping, tap a line and then when they smell a skunk, they go for a warrant using evidence for reasonable cause to which they were led by their illegally gained information. Quite often they use the umbrella of the Patriot Act, all in the name of seeking out enemies of the American people. Yes the 4th and 5th amendments are pretty much out the window, along with the 1st Amendment and the 14th Amendment.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency/Central Security Service, Defense Intelligence Agency and even the Central Intelligence Agency (albeit illegal as it may be for the CIA to operate within US borders) spend thousands of man hours daily monitoring wiretaps, most of them dubiously conducted under the Patriot Act, and often conducted by private security contractors. Private contractors are handy when you want to deny an activity and cover up crimes, especially when the stuff you’ve done is illegal. Are you watching the HBO TV series, HOMELAND? Yes, very scary.

I know  a lot about the subject because in 2006 I was a victim of illegal wiretaps and ruthless throat cutting by a US government security contractor. And it cost me nearly everything I had, and very nearly cost me my writing career.

In 2006, I was under contract with a major New York publisher to write a nonfiction book about the war in Iraq. I had assembled a good deal of research, and had a multitude of sources, many of whom provided me information under my promise to never reveal who they are. Overall, the book was fairly benign, it just examined the war from specific operational standpoints. However, during the research, I came to know about the wanton murder of two Iraqi civilians by an American contractor. One of their supervisors simply shot the two individuals for sport. He just wanted to kill some people. He had told the three security agents with him that he was heading home the next day, and had not killed anyone on this tour. So he sport shot a man in a sedan in Baghdad, and later killed a man in a delivery van near the airport.

As I began to peel back layers in this disgusting story, I found that a reporter from The New York Times and a reporter from The Washington Post were also investigating the story. So, I contacted them and we shared information, getting to the truth of the story. At the time, American contractors in a war zone did not fall under any United States legal jurisdiction, but only faced prosecution by a host nation government, if one existed. In Iraq, the government was not interested in such prosecution, nor capable of even investigating these murders. Death lived on the streets of Baghdad then, daily. Thus the contractors operated with no legal oversight. They could sling guns and kill people, and faced no consequences. For justice sake, that needed to change, and this might help.

As I worked on my book, one day I was surprised to learn that a federal court in Herndon, Virginia had issued a subpoena to me and ordered me to surrender to the court all my computers and similar devices, all of my notes and notebooks, all recordings and notes, provide the court a complete list of all of my sources, and that I was to be deposed to answer all that I knew about the matter of the killing of the two civilians in Baghdad. I was to surrender all of this and be deposed by the attorneys for the private security contractor for whom the man who had committed the murders worked.

It was not the government investigating the murders, but the federal court helping the private security contractor put a sock in my investigation, stop me from writing my book, and silence me about the killings. The private security contractor, along with State Department had covered up the murders, and they needed everything I knew or would say buried. So they came after me.

I countered the attack with my attorneys, citing my First Amendment Rights as a journalist, and Colorado Shield Laws protecting journalists, and I refused to comply with the federal court order. This cost me a hunk of money, everything I had received in book advance, and then once it went to trial it would cost a whole lot more money that I did not have, nor had hope of having. Of courses, the private security contractor’s lawyers were going to render me dead by a thousand cuts. Drain me dry so that I couldn’t fight back. They had lots more money than I had, and they knew it.

During this time that I came under assault by the contractor, I was carrying on almost daily conversations and exchanging email with the Times and Post reporters, and with United States Senator James H. Webb.

Senator Webb was carrying out his own inquiry in relation with investigating the very dubious and questionable activities of American contractors in Iraq, and the fact that at the time they fell under no legal jurisdiction except the Iraqi government (and similarly in Afghanistan), which was in no position to pursue any murder cases. The Iraqi government was in shambles, and people were getting shot on the streets of Baghdad daily. Therefore, an American contractor in Iraq could commit cold-blooded murder and never face prosecution.

In this case, the State Department paid off the Iraqi people that needed to be paid for silence, the government contractor fired the supervisor that committed the murders, and fired the three employees who witnessed the murders. Coverup complete.

Except, one of the fired employees was angry about what he had witnessed, the cold-blooded murder, and for getting fired for seeing it happen and reporting the events up the chain of command, as he should. He wanted justice and he was talking. The man was a Marine who left active service to work for the contractor, and he knew me. So, he called me and told me every dirty detail, including their use of alcohol, illegal drugs and steroids, and how that made them all a little crazy.

After the contractor had come after me, many of my sources suddenly became distant, reluctant to answer my calls or email. I suspected that the security contractor was reaching out to everyone that might know me. My sources came to know by the grapevine that I was in the contractor’s crosshairs. So, to head off the rumor mill, I called everyone involved in my book and told them that for the time being, I would not be talking to them. Not until this nightmare had run its course.

Then the one eyewitness who was sounding off about the killings ended up dead. Hit by a car and no witnesses. Small town sheriff investigation open and shut in a day. This man had gone back on active duty with the Marine Corps, had gone home on leave with his wife, and ended up splattered afoot and alone on dark highway in the Wisconsin back country. That pretty much put an end to anyone ever saying another word. The other two eyewitnesses suddenly suffered from memory loss. If the contractor hadn’t arranged the deadly accident, it looked awfully convenient for them.

At the time that I was subpoenaed and ordered to give up my research and sources and be deposed, my colleagues at the Post and the Times went dark. Too much heat and not enough corroborating evidence for them to publish their stories. And now no witnesses. They didn’t want to be caught up in a costly lawsuit and have nothing to show for it. Also, my publisher disappeared off the horizon as soon as the word, “lawyers,” was mentioned. Good luck pal. You’re on your own. And I don’t fault anyone here. It was a lost cause now.

As we were preparing for trial, and were in the last days of discovery, where the opposing side had to reveal their evidence to me, my lawyer showed me a number of interesting documents. Private emails about the Baghdad killings exchanged back and forth between me and Senator Webb, discussing details of the events of the murders, and other information about the contractors, such as their use of narcotics, meth amphetamines, steroids and alcohol while on the job. A lot of very disturbing facts that gave us greater understanding of how reckless some of these gunslingers operated.

Now, let me be clear, I have a number of friends who worked for security contractors in Iraq, and they did outstanding work. Very much above board. We are talking about a minority of individuals, some reckless dirtbags and a company that operated at a level below the bottom of a sludge pond.

The opposing council had a whole raft of documents, and a number of items of information obtained only from telephone conversations between Senator Webb and me that were strictly private. The only way they could have obtained these documents and this information was through illegal surveillance and illegal wiretaps of my computer data streams and telephone lines.

It was hardly a day after my attorney had confronted the contractor’s lawyers with this evidence that strongly revealed that they had illegally wiretapped me, that they dropped the entire case. They signed a document that said they would leave me alone, and I was free to do anything I wanted with all the information that I had.

By then, however, the contractor knew that my sources were silent, and that I would not be writing the book, because they had succeeded in torpedoing the entire project. So they went away, their mission accomplished.

On the plus side, I never revealed my sources, and I never was deposed, nor did I ever turn over a shred of paper or a note to anyone. But I didn’t write the book either. My gracious publisher, thanks to a very caring editor, gave me a new contract for another book, and took the prior advance that I owed them for the failed book project out of the new book, which I delivered.

Meanwhile, Senator Jim Webb was furious about the obvious illegal wiretaps, and wanted serious blood. Then karma, providence and probably God stepped up. As Webb went after the government contractors in Iraq, one day a crew from Blackwater was leading a convoy out of the US Embassy in Baghdad. For some unexplainable reason, one of the Blackwater crew opened fire on a crowd of people. Hearing his shots fired the crew accompanying him lit up the whole neighborhood with gunfire. The sidewalks teamed with civilians that day, and when the smoke cleared 31 of them lay dead.

It wasn’t long after that happened that Congress passed a law that brought all American contractors operating in any combat area with US forces under the legal jurisdiction of the United States Government. We didn’t need to publish the story after all, because some reckless contractors had cut all their own throats. But to this day, the murderer of the two Iraqi civilians still walks free, and the Marine eyewitness who demanded justice is still dead.

But the moral of this story is simple: The Government can say that they didn’t tap anyone’s data streams or telephones, and no one may have ever gotten a warrant. But that doesn’t make their denials true. Especially if they hire a contractor to do the dirty work.

Wiretaps by the government, too often illegal, or under the cloudy guise of the umbrella authorizations of the Patriot Act, are a fact of life today in America. Our 4th and 5th, as well as our 1st, 2nd and 14th amendment rights have been badly eroded all in the name of public safety. And even presidential candidates are not immune to the invasive nature of our government, all in the name of national security.

Ask yourself this: If there were not wiretaps, no government agents listening in, then how did they know about the Trump campaign’s conversations with the Russians? How do they know many specific details, and how do they know the right questions to ask?

This is not to defend Donald Trump, but to say don’t drink anyone’s Kool-Aid. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was just as likely surveilled as was the Trump campaign, Bernie Sanders’ campaign and others.

 ©Copyright 2017 Charles W. Henderson 

America’s next bestselling novel, or not

by Charles Henderson

I can’t count the times I’ve heard fellow writers puzzle and pull out their hair at what to do to make their books sell. Sell well enough to pay me for all my work researching and writing the bloody beast over the past year, or two, or three? For that matter, just how does a book become a bestseller? Why not mine?

If ITerminal Impact had a good answer to those questions, I’d have a shelf of bestsellers and more coming out the chute. But the truth is, no one knows. Not even the biggest publishers in the world. And they truly want bestsellers. That’s what they live for. Every editor in New York
City spends his or her hourlong train ride to work from Westchester or Long Island
pondering that illusive dream of every author and editor.

Is it luck? Is it just landing in the right spot at the right time with the right story for the
fickle and unpredictable book buying public? Or is it a lot of effort to publicize a well written book, and to market it smartly?
Probably all of the above.

I can do nothing about luck. I don’t think luck exists anyway. I pray to God to bless me, and trust His will. I also can do nothing about what the book reviewers at all the major media want to feature, nor what the TODAY SHOW or JIMMY KIMMEL want to feature. What I can do is what I can do. And what can I do?

I can put my best efforts forth, and my limited budget, into marketing and publicizing my work. And I can coordinate everything I do with my publisher, who is supposed to be marketing and selling my new book. If I want to make money on the work, and the publisher wants to reclaim his input costs and make a profit, we’ll work together and work hard. But just how hard will a publisher work with my book, as opposed to the thousands of other titles he may have out there?

I have been published by the same major house, now evolved to Penguin Random House, since 1986, and gone through two editors there. In all the years I have written professionally, and done well too, well enough to live on my earnings, I keep coming to the same conclusion: Readers somehow find books they like and buy them, despite the worst efforts of publishers to sell them.

I say that tongue in cheek, because I know, intellectually, that my publisher really wants to sell millions of my books. However, emotionally, I can’t help but feel that their sales department lives inside a box that only contains the limited few bookstores that today exist, and no one at the publishing house and bookstores can see past shelf space. New Media has them all bumfuzzeled.

I pride myself at keeping up to date on the latest technology, and I reach out to my fans and reading audience, many fiercely loyal. However, as fast as public communications today is evolving, I have to admit that I am bumfuzzeled too.

What makes a novel or nonfiction book a bestseller? I think the media has a big part of making a book sell, but ultimately the people who read and chunk up the jing for books (print or digital) have to have a compelling reason to buy the books and make them bestsellers.

How do we build an audience? How do we get our titles to be the talk of the town? Mass marketing. Posting a notice on Twitter gets seen by our typically 200 friends, unless we are a household name. Likewise, friend count on Facebook determines the numbers of people who see your post. Unless you spend some bucks and advertise.

As an experiment, I spent $100 bucks on a Facebook post “boosting” my new novel, TERMINAL IMPACT, coming out in hardcover, audiobook and digital on November 1. In about 10 days, I have more than 4000 people who have clicked on the post and looked at it. The post takes them to the Penguin Random House webpage featuring TERMINAL IMPACT. But will that sell any books? And shouldn’t my publisher be spending the C-note instead of me?

Bang for the buck is my idea. And yes, if we want our books to sell, we have to put forth the effort to publicize them. But spend the money smartly. For each dollar, we need results. The idea is to have a million people become aware of the title, and want to look inside. Then it’s up to our wonderful writing and compelling stories to set the hook and reel that fish home. It’s a numbers game. Just like catching lots of fish, you’ve got to put out the chum, unless you land in a big school of mullet.

Now, I got a decent advance on my books, and I think that the fat advance is also a key ingredient that encourages the publisher and their understaffed sales and publicity departments to put the new title on their front burners. The more pork they have hanging in the fire, the harder they work to pull their exposed porks from the flames and sell your books.

Remember, no publisher is doing you any favor by publishing your book. They’re in it for the money. They won’t publish a page unless they think they can turn a profit with it. That brings it back to the writer’s doorstep. The book has to be super hot, compelling and a story the hungry book hogs will inhale.

Don’t buy into any publisher saying, “I’ll do you the favor of publishing this very questionable manuscript, but you have to take nothing for it, and no promises.” If you sell your book for flattery, then the few copies the publisher sells to your small circle of friends, and the marginal profit they make that is added to the thousands of other marginal books whose marginal profits makes the publisher’s nut, is all you get. Don’t work for flattery.

If the book is good enough to interest a publisher to want to print it and sell it, then I suspect another publisher out there might pay a few coins more for the privilege. A good agent knows this. Shop it around, and see what comes.

And beware, many agents today are like that lawyer we all see on TV. You know, “The Strong Arm.” He’ll get you money for your injuries, fast. “I got a hundred thousand dollars!” the paid shill says, trying to look like a customer. These lawyers work on volume business and fast settlements. A seemingly growing number of agents (like the tide of flotsam and jetsam that clogs the ebook market today) are working that same numbers game. Grab a title that might sell, show it to an editor who wants to finish a list, get a contract with a few bucks advance, and make the author feel like the newly crowned prom queen (or king).

Even though I have been with my publisher more than 30 years now, my agent of more than 30 years, shops my stuff around to the other major publishing houses. When he walks in the door, editors know they have to fight and make an honest offer to get the contract. They know they’re not doing me a favor, and they know I know it. Like the wise guys say, “It’s just business. Nothing personal.”

But when a publisher pays a lot of money up front, they are motivated to work hard at selling the book. They open every avenue that will return their investment, plus a profit. That’s how it works.

Like female hitman Irene Walker said of the Prizzi family in Richard Condon’s bestselling mafia satire (published by my publisher and edited by my first editor, and made into a great motion picture by Steven Spielberg, directed by the late, great John Huston), PRIZZI’S HONOR, “They’d eat their children before they’d part with money. And they LOVE their children!”

Keep saying to yourself what Irene told her hitman lover Charley Partanna as the publisher smiles like a used car salesman offering a “great deal,” wanting you to think it’s more than you really deserve, especially if you’re a virgin. They’d eat their children before they’d part with money. And they LOVE their children!

You want your book publicized and sold, don’t do the deal until you and your agent know it’s the deal that will commit the publisher into working hard to get back his nut and a little juice on top.

 ©Copyright 2016 Charles W. Henderson 

No Gentle Going into that Good Night

Jim and Bill Elk Hunt Nov 1999

My little brother, James Lindsay Henderson, big guy on the right in the blue shirt. During a Colorado elk hunt near Telluride. Jim now going gentle into his good night, stricken by ALS.

By Charles Henderson

“Do not go gentle into that good night,” wrote Dylan Marlais Thomas in 1951 as his father, David John Thomas, lay dying. Verses of Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night have rung in my head the past two days as my dear little brother, Jim, lies raging at the dying of his light. Stricken by ALS for the past year and a half, his light has slowly but surely faded. A cruel sickness. His life now ends, and my tears flow as my heart breaks and breaks, and I rage at the final fading of his good light.

The elder Thomas, a teacher of English literature at a local grammar school in Swansea, Wales, the town of Dylan’s birth, finally died the following year, 1952. Dylan Thomas died a year after that, November 9, 1953, after traveling to New York City in mid-October to perform engagements of poetry readings.

Thomas wrote two poems that year, 1951, described by his biographer, Paul Ferris, as “unusually blunt.” Both teamed of sorrowful life and bitter death, as death itself seemed to haunt Dylan as his father lay slowly dying, not going gentle into that good night.

“Lament,” the first poem, was a retrospect of Thomas’ own troubled, ribald life, seeing death as his destiny. Then there was “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” a nineteen-line villanelle (vallanesque) urging his dear father to keep fighting the good fight, and do not go gentle but rage, rage at the dying of the light.

Death seemed to haunt Dylan Thomas from the onset, however, he retained hope to rage against it always. One of his first works, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” he wrote in a personal notebook in April 1933, the title taken from the Bible, book of Romans, chapter 6, verse 9, “Knowing that Christ raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Dylan had befriended local grocer Bert Trick, who suggested that they write about immortality. While Trick saw his poem, “For Death Is Not The End,” published the next year in a newspaper, Thomas’s poem did not see daylight until he included it in his second book of poems, “Twenty-Five Poems,” published in September 1936, two years after “18 Poems.”

Like many great writers, mood swings and self-loathing, and a wealth of pure bullshit painted the outward character that people saw in Dylan Thomas. He enjoyed a stout ale or two, and more. Often he drank before his poetry readings, and made a show of it. Like a tweed jacket, he wore it well.

Many doubt that Thomas was nearly as drunk as he put on while shocking his audiences. Great writers can get away with murder, if the audience buys that the demon spirits have engulfed him. They pity with awe, and Dylan Thomas lapped it up, hating himself all the while, living hard and dying young.

While I lived in New York City in the 1980s, I lapped up some of the same liquor, with other aspiring writer friends. I was internationally published with a bestseller, and Vincent Sardi seated me at a front table. Fraudulent license, because I was no great writer then, but it got me good seats, and Broadway show tickets. Tommy Makem gave me the run of his Irish Pavilion on Lexington and east 57th Street, and gave me dispensation to smoke my Cuban cigars in his establishment, while on the menu, clearly printed at the bottom of each page, “No Cigar Smoking,” cautioned all clients.

One of my favorite stations for dark stout ale sat at a back booth in a saloon called The White Horse Tavern, on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village. I noticed one day, while sucking froth off my Guinness pint, a brass plaque above my head that simply read, Dylan Thomas. I pointed it out to my old dear pal, John Britt, the Mustard King from my book Silent Warrior, a man who forgot more poetry than I ever knew, and wrote great poems that few have read.

“Yeah, Dylan Thomas died here,” John said. “You didn’t know?”

“No,” I said, wanting to know more.

“Actually, he collapsed here,” the Mustard King said, smoking his cigar and sipping dark stout ale. “They took him to Belleview, I think, and he died there.”

In truth, Thomas died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he lay in a coma for five days from alcoholic encephalopathy—brain damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Scottish poet, Ruthven Todd, had introduced Dylan Thomas to the White Horse, and that “hard-yella-liquor,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald called the nectars distilled in the West Highlands and Far North of Scotland.

Thomas and Todd had gone on a bender, and Dylan returned to his digs at the Hotel Chelsea, telling friends, “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s a record!” Witnesses said Thomas had perhaps half that number.

Dylan returned to the White Horse with his lover, Liz Reitell, an attractive assistant of American poet, John Brinnin, who had brought Thomas to America for the poetry readings and headed the Poetry Center in New York, where Thomas was slated to appear in the performance, Under Milk Wood. Dylan and Liz had a racy three-week romance. The poet had many such affairs since his marriage to Irish dancer, Caitlin McNamara, in 1936, and regardless of the flings, Caitlin stuck it out.

Meanwhile, at the White Horse, continuing his binge, Thomas rode high on some drugs a doctor had injected in him, three times that day at the hotel, supposedly to help his “feeling sick.” Among the injections, thirty-two and a half milligrams of morphine sulfate.

Sex, drugs, rock and roll had not come into the American hip consciousness quite yet. Jack Kerouac still roamed free, creating the hip beatnik dream. Yet, truth be known, it was Dylan Thomas who did it first. Sex, drugs, rock and roll killed him in the White Horse Tavern that ninth November day of 1953, when Do Not Go Gentle Into That Dark Night was all the rage.

So there I sat then, in 1987, New York City, with John the Mustard King, and a stranger next to us, that turned out to be Robert Downey Jr. He was not such an Iron Man in those days, but did like the Dylan Thomas way of life.

We sat and smoked the Cuban Monte Cristo torpedoes and drank dark brown ale, and a few hard yella liquors deep into the night, or a few nights and more. The ghost of Dylan Thomas there by us, at his high backed wooden booth, putting down the shots and suds, and raging at the fading of the light.

And here I sit today, raging at the fading of the light. My little brother Jim, going into that good night.

I dedicated my new novel, TERMINAL IMPACT, to Jim, and it thrilled him. He got to read it, and I hope he liked it. He never said, before he drifted off into this final rest, my heart breaking and me raging, raging and raging against the dying of Jim’s light. (Update: Jim passed away on February 20th, 2016, two days after I originally posted this commentary. We buried him next to his son, Jody, three days later. And I continue to weep for my dear little brother, who suffered so greatly and we loved him so very, very much.)

Dylan Thomas’s poems ring strong in my mind, both the dark and the bright: Life everlasting in, “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.” Life lived to the brim in, “Lament.” But at the end of the day, it seems that “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” keeps coming round and round. Its raging verses raging and raging as the light fades.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead man naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.


When I was a windy boy and a bit
And the black spit of the chapel fold,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of women),
I tiptoed shy in the gooseberry wood,
The rude owl cried like a tell-tale tit,
I skipped in a blush as the big girls rolled
Nine-pin down on donkey’s common,
And on seesaw sunday nights I wooed
Whoever I would with my wicked eyes,
The whole of the moon I could love and leave
All the green leaved little weddings’ wives
In the coal black bush and let them grieve.

When I was a gusty man and a half
And the black beast of the beetles’ pews
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of bitches),
Not a boy and a bit in the wick-
Dipping moon and drunk as a new dropped calf,
I whistled all night in the twisted flues,
Midwives grew in the midnight ditches,
And the sizzling sheets of the town cried, Quick!-
Whenever I dove in a breast high shoal,
Wherever I ramped in the clover quilts,
Whatsoever I did in the coal-
Black night, I left my quivering prints.

When I was a man you could call a man
And the black cross of the holy house,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of welcome),
Brandy and ripe in my bright, bass prime,
No springtailed tom in the red hot town
With every simmering woman his mouse
But a hillocky bull in the swelter
Of summer come in his great good time
To the sultry, biding herds, I said,
Oh, time enough when the blood runs cold,
And I lie down but to sleep in bed,
For my sulking, skulking, coal black soul!

When I was half the man I was
And serve me right as the preachers warn,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of downfall),
No flailing calf or cat in a flame
Or hickory bull in milky grass
But a black sheep with a crumpled horn,
At last the soul from its foul mousehole
Slunk pouting out when the limp time came;
And I gave my soul a blind, slashed eye,
Gristle and rind, and a roarers’ life,
And I shoved it into the coal black sky
To find a woman’s soul for a wife.

Now I am a man no more no more
And a black reward for a roaring life,
(Sighed the old ram rod, dying of strangers),
Tidy and cursed in my dove cooed room
I lie down thin and hear the good bells jaw–
For, oh, my soul found a sunday wife
In the coal black sky and she bore angels!
Harpies around me out of her womb!
Chastity prays for me, piety sings,
Innocence sweetens my last black breath,
Modesty hides my thighs in her wings,
And all the deadly virtues plague my death!

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I love you, Jim. I look forward to seeing you again.

 ©Copyright 2016 Charles W. Henderson 

Giving to God

Cowboy Sunset Cross

by Charles Henderson

A young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered the man (Matthew 19:16-22), “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

And as so many young people will retort, the young man asked Jesus, “Which ones?”

Jesus answered him:

“Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Again as so many will argue, the young man told Jesus, “I have kept all these. What do I still lack?”

Then Jesus responded, “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Clearly, this overwhelmed the young man, as it would so many of us, and Jesus knows it too. The Scripture concludes that when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

We all can identify with that young man. We have much and do not easily give what we love away. Yes, we do love our material world, and those things that we possess. We are human, and God knows this about us. Very, very few of us give up all we own and follow Christ. We want to have our stuff, and Jesus too.

Jesus then turned to His disciples and told them (Matthew 19:23-26), “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

His disciples were astonished and asked our Lord, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

We know that eternal life with Christ comes only one way, through Christ Jesus, Himself. (Ephesians 2:8-9) “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift–not from works, so that no one can boast.”

All of us have broken many of God’s commandments. How many of us are willing to sell all that we own and give to the poor? And how many of us are willing to even come and completely follow Christ?

Following Christ means letting go of this worldly life and living in God’s will, wholly serving Jesus as our Lord, doing all that He calls us to do, and turning away from all that we want to do for ourselves.

Yes, that last part is the hardest part. Turning away from all that we want to do for ourselves, and doing all for Christ. As human beings are we even capable of it?

So, what is the least we can do? As Christians, what ought we do?

Paul says that we are slaves of Christ by our free will, our own choices, when we are saved. As slaves of Christ, the Lord owns us body and soul, and all that we have. Yet, none of us, not even the best and most righteous of us, come close to what Jesus told the young man.

God knows this, and has known it all along. Jesus knew it when He told the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and come follow Him. He was asking the humanly impossible.

However, to serve Christ we must at least give it our best efforts. And I think that this is what matters to God. We give to Him our honest best efforts, put Him first in our lives, and beg His forgiveness when we fail. And we do fail daily. Believe me.

So, you may ask, what does this best effort entail?

One thing clearly, the Holy Spirit will show you. Each day you will have choices, selfish ones and giving ones. Choices that serve God’s will and choices that serve your own desires. Believe me, you will know it when you encounter the choices. The Holy Spirit will tug at your heart, or gut. You will feel that little pull on your strings somehow, somewhere, and rather than ignoring that twist at the pit of your stomach, stop and listen to what the Lord says to you.

While the Bible does not command us to give, we know that God wants us to give. Does that make sense?

Paul repeatedly tells us that God has made each of us with talents that support and serve His will and the Body of Christ, His Church. He calls some of us as preachers and teachers, some as prayer warriors, mentors, some as musicians, some as financial managers and fund raisers; each of us different, and most of us with multiple talents. But God calls all of us to serve Him in one way or another, in all the ways that we can.

Perhaps the most troublesome subject among church-going people is the practice of Tithing and regular financial offerings. It is vital to every church that the congregation give to the church financially, so that God’s work can reach all who need Him. Today, many, many people need greatly.

Nowhere in the Bible does God command us to Tithe. He does not require us to give a dime. Yet we must give something back to God, some of what He gives to us, in order for His church to do its work and flourish.

Think about it for a moment. Consider yourself and the gifts that others give to you. Except for some greedy children at Christmas, do you command your family to give you gifts, such as on your birthday or Christmas? Yet, for most of us, our families give abundantly to us. Why do you suppose that is?

We give gifts because we love the people to whom we give them.

Same goes for giving to God. We give to Him because we love Him.

God wants us to have a joyful, giving heart. Giving not only to Him, but giving to all who need. Jesus told the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. God loves them, and that is how He gives to the poor. Through us, who love God.

gods_handsWe are God’s hands. Therefore, we do His work, and we give to His church so that God’s work can reach those who need Him.

Therefore, Tithes long ago became a standard among Christian churches.

Tithe in Hebrew means a tenth.

The practice of giving a tenth comes in many respects from the example that Jacob sets for us in Genesis 28:22, when he named the place, Bethel, or God’s House. Scripture says, “This stone I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give to me.”

This Scripture comes after Jacob, who God later names Israel, departed from his home and had received from his father, Isaac, the family inheritance, and had received Isaac’s blessing ahead of his brother Esau. Esau, in turn, went to his uncle, Ishmael, and married his daughter, Mahalath. Another story.

As the inheritor of Isaac and the covenant of Abraham, Jacob listened to his father and mother, and departed for Paddan-aram, where he would find his wives, Leah and Rachel.

And thus we have the following Scripture that tells of Jacob’s dream, God’s blessings to come, and Jacob’s vow to God:

Genesis 28:10-22 (HCSB)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.
11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place.
12 And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it.
13 Yahweh was standing there beside him, saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on.
14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it
19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear,
21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God.
22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

Some people interpret what Jacob vowed as him striking a bargain with God, and in return for that bargain he would give a Tithe or a tenth back to God of all that God had given to him. One hand washes the other. A contract with two sides.

I interpret it differently than Jacob striking a bargain with God. We do not bargain with God!

I believe that Jacob loved God, and spoke his vow as reassurance, knowing without a doubt that God will take care of him in his journey and will bring him home safely. For Jacob, this dream was the proof that God was with him, and he knew it.

Therefore, in praise of God and with a joyful and giving heart, Jacob pledged to God a tenth of all that God gave him.

Jacob realized that all that exists and all that he had inherited came from God, and that he was blessed by God. Jacob’s dream told him this! Jacob’s vow was simply him verbalizing all that he realized, largely shown him in the dream: That God was with him and would take him to this far-away land safely, protecting him, and would return him home safely. And that God’s plan for him was a great nation. His offspring would be like the dust of the earth, and would spread in all directions, and the land where he rested would be his, for his nation, Israel. God promised this to Jacob, without any bargaining.

Jacob pledged to God a tenth of all that God gave him. Jacob made this promise and gave his Tithes because he loved the Lord. Jacob praised God for His blessings. For His promises.

As I said, there are those who will argue that it was simply Jacob’s side of a bargain he struck with God. If God delivered His side of the deal, Jacob would give a tenth of all he received from then on.

I am sorry, but I choose to believe in the goodness of Jacob; that Jacob did not bargain with God but loved the Lord, and celebrated God’s love for him by giving back to God his Tithes.

Today, many Christians follow this example and give a tenth to God of all that God gives to them. That tenth, or Tithe, is the very least they give, their bottom line. It is not a limit to giving but a floor. We do not just give our ten percent, but at least give that much.

We give with a free and joyful heart. Giving because of our love of God. Tithing is one of many ways we praise God, and show Him our thanks for all He gives to us.

Another aspect of this giving is where we draw the line to base that tenth.

We know in Genesis 4 that Abel was a shepherd and Cain worked the ground. Cain presented some of the produce of the land as an offering to God, but Abel presented as an offering to God some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.

I do not know the quality of Cain’s offering of some of his produce, Genesis 4 does not describe it, but God did not find Cain’s offering favorable. However, God did find that Abel giving his firstborn pleased Him. God found favor in Abel’s offering.

Of course, God favoring Abel’s offering sparked the murder of Abel by Cain. Jealousy of brother against brother, the sin that led to murder.

From Abel we learn that God favors the firstborn, or the first fruits. We see that repeated in all offerings throughout history. God favors the first fruits. Its meaning is symbolic of the most valuable and most significant to us. Our gifts to God should have strong meaning with us. It should be a sacrifice to give them, thus they are important and put God first of all things in our lives.

Remember this? God loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, for our salvation. Jesus is our Heavenly Father’s firstborn Lamb, God’s first fruit.

Thus, in our offerings to God, giving to our church, we should consider our first fruits as offering. In modern times, many of us regard that first fruit as the gross amount of money that we earn.

What does God give us? All that we have or ever will have. From everything that we receive from God, we should consider taking His portion off the top, not the bottom.

“I can’t afford to give to the church, I am behind in my debts,” some may say.

Others may object, “If I give a tenth to the church, then I am short that much in my family budget. God needs to give me more, so I can afford to give offerings to God.”

On the opposite end of that argument we have churches that basically tax their congregations ten percent of earnings and more. Many do it. They require members to submit annual earnings statements and pledges of their Tithes. They demand ten percent. Some church leaders will say that Tithing is Scriptural Law, which simply is not true. And many in the churches honestly believe it too.

Such practices have many Christians turning away from churches, and condemning even the mention of Tithes. It causes members to begrudgingly give anything.

God wants our hearts, not our money!

God does not need our money! He created all that exists. All of it belongs to Him in the first place.

We should only give to God because of our love for Him, and our desire to serve Him in all that we can do.

For the Christian family, giving a Tithe, is often a good practice. When I was a child, I was taught to call it my “Love Offering.” And I joyfully gave! I love God!

Tithing is a good way for a family to budget its funds too. It is a sound practice for a family that projects its spending, and follows God’s will for us to be good stewards of all that He gives to us.

A tenth, in my opinion, is the least a person can give, or ought to give. And we should always give more at every opportunity. When God calls us to give, we give!

Not just giving from our money, but giving our time, our talents, our energies. Putting God first in all that we do.

We should not fear giving to God, but strive to do it. Lay not treasures on earth but in heaven. After all, the things of this earth will pass away, and burn in the furnace, but the spirit–our spirits–will live for eternity, with our Lord, Jesus!

At the end of this lesson, Jesus told His disciples:

Matthew 19:28-30 (HCSB)
28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life.
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

 ©Copyright 2015 Charles W. Henderson 

Ferguson, America victimized by haters and baiters; a very sad time for all of “We the People”

demonstrators-defy-curfew-fergusonBy Charles Henderson

RESOLVED: I will reach out in kindness and love to all people I meet. I will especially reach out to people of different ethnicity than my own, extending to them love of mankind.

This is the resolution I have made, the morning after I watched in deep sadness as the good hearted people of America fell victim to the haters and race baiters who have used an incident in Ferguson, Missouri to further agendas based on hatred and racial differences.

I will wager that the vast majority of all the people of Ferguson and of Saint Louis County, Missouri, and all across America find the violence and hatred we see streaming across our television screens, on social media, in all media, repugnant. Most people, I will wager, want peace and do love their neighbors. They want justice and freedom for all of God’s children—us.

Haters and baiters seized the opportunity to further their political agendas throughout the last three months, since that fateful day that Michael Brown, a very large and intimidating young man, stole a handful of cigars from a convenience store, encountered a policeman seeking him out, and fell to a violent death in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

I will not debate one side or the other in the matter of whether or not the officer was justified in shooting Michael Brown, but I will take a stand on what is right in America, and violence, bloodshed, rioting and hatred, especially racially motivated hatred is all very, very wrong. We are better than this!

I watched in horror as Autozone and Advance Auto and locally owned mom-and-pop businesses burned to the ground after all things of any value were looted from these stores in Ferguson, Missouri. Most of these local businesses were owned by African-American people. Good, hard-working people. People who want what is best for our nation and their community. Many African-American people worked in the chain stores too. Autozone and Advance Auto Supply. Mechanics in those businesses are mostly African-American people, and looters and haters and racist thugs stole their personal tools before burning their sources of employment to the ground.

Mechanics across the USA make a living in shops, like barbers and hair stylists, and they own their own tools of their trade. Mechanics work for years and years to earn the thousands of dollars it costs to fill professional tool boxes. Think about it. A lifetime of hard work stolen by worthless thugs who use hate as an excuse to rob and burn a community.

My heart cries out for the hard-working, good people of Ferguson and across America who chose sides in this ugly controversy. People being duped by the likes of Al Sharpton and other racists. Yes, racism lives on both sides of the street.

In 1987, while I lived in New York City, Al Sharpton made himself famous by taking up the case of Tawana Brawley, a young girl of 15 years who alleged that she was raped by three white men, one of whom was a police officer. She had been missing four days from her home in Wappingers Falls, New York, and was discovered lying seemingly unconscious and unresponsive in a garbage bag near an apartment where she had once lived. Her clothing was partially burned and torn, and her body was smeared with feces. At the hospital, medical workers rendering her aid found the words, “KKK” and “nigger” and “bitch,” written across her torso in a black substance like charcoal.

The Reverend Al Sharpton with attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason seized the opportunity to raise a racist outcry that dominated the US  and world media, demanding justice, that the police officer and other white men accused in the rape be taken to trial. The three activists vocalized their hatred of whites on all the New York media and that caught on with world attention. They pointed to the police and white people in general as the enemy of all African-Americans. During this same period, Reverend Sharpton was under investigation for embezzling $450,000 dollars from the Downtown Boys Club of New York City.

After weeks of demonstrations, news began to leak that Tawana Brawley had changed her story. She had not been raped after all, but she said she suffered other abuse. The story changed because forensic evidence did not support her allegations. As the facts began to further unravel the disturbed 15 year old girl’s story, the truth began to emerge. Fighting the truth, Sharpton, Maddox and Mason became ever more vocal, accusing the “system” of cover up and injustice.

At the end of the day, the truth finally came forth. No one raped or abused Tawana Brawley. She had run away from home, had gone to her old neighborhood, and to hide her truth of running away from home she concocted the whole terrible tale. She covered herself with feces and wrote the racists slurs across her chest and stomach, tore her clothes and burned them, and then got in the trash bag.

This poor child just needed love and positive attention from her parents, the people who are supposed to love her. She was acting out, and in her sad lie the haters and race baiters caught America afire with hatred.

People who have nothing hate people who have something. It is called envy. It is called coveting. Greedy people who have great wealth draw the consternation of the masses who have little to nothing. It is a fact of humanity since Adam. Envy, coveting, greed, motivated Cain to slay his brother, Abel.

The riots in Ferguson, Missouri and the violence and protests across America have been ignited by hatred. Hatred by a very small minority of African-American people toward everyone who is not African-American. Not just white people, but Latino and Asian and other ethnicities included. They hate authority, and they identify authority as white. In truth, authority across America is of a multitude of ethnicities. Yet the mask of this authority is white.

These ugly, violent few use lies and emotion to strike at the hearts of good people who struggle and have little, and want a better life. They tell the people that they are subjugated and live in a world of injustice. They point to the people in power, and the hatred ignites racial hatred. Like a grassfire on a windy day, the flames of hatred spread, and the people hating do not even know why they hate.

Protesters protest authority, and point at the Police. The militant, racist, Gestapo police in their eyes. In truth, the Police are the good guys who are of all ethnicities and backgrounds, who are the sons and daughters of their community, and only seek to serve and protect the good people from the evil of violent crime that grows among the poorest of America.

Today is a very sad day for us all, watching the hate and protest. Hate and protest of what? Injustice? What injustice do they mean?

Several weeks ago, a young Latino man in Rocky Ford, Colorado was out late at night, and did something that incited a policeman to chase him home. Whatever happened, and those facts have not been made public because the investigation continues, caused the policeman to apparently lose his temper. When the Latino man ran inside his home, where members of his family waited for him, rather than stopping and calling for assistance and a warrant, the policeman kicked down the door. His gun drawn, the policeman then shot the unarmed Latino man in the back and killed him.

As the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has continued its search of the facts and testimony of witnesses, building evidence of fact in the matter, based on the evidence gathered thus far, the district attorney has charged the policeman with murder. What degree and what other charges may come to light have yet to come out, since the investigation continues.

This is Justice: People in lawful authority seeking the truth and acting within the law to enforce the Rule of Law and the United States Constitution. Most importantly, enforcing and exercising the Rule of Law and the Constitution without bias and equally to all citizens. Respecting the rights of the people, regardless of gender, age, origin or ethnicity.

What can We the People do today to stop the violence, stop the racism, stop the hatred? Very simply: Love One Another.

Today, as you go out. Tomorrow as you go out. Reach out to other people. Show them a smile. Offer a friendly word to strangers. Make them feel welcome, and loved.

An open heart and an open hand with a big, sincere smile can conquer all hatred.

 ©Copyright 2014 Charles W. Henderson 

Commentary about the Presbyterian Church affirming same-sex marriage

presbyterian-gay marriage1

by Charles Henderson

Jesus gave us one Commandment–Love one another.

John 13:34-35 (HCSB)
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.
35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As such we should act toward all people with the Love that Christ commanded us. Gay and Lesbian people, like all people, must be treated with love and respect. Certainly equal rights.

Yet, when people demand that those rights violate God’s Law, I must stand with what God commands.

I know that God loves all of His children, and all of His children sin. That is why Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, died on the cross, taking all of the sins of mankind on His shoulders. Jesus’ death on the cross, and His resurrection fulfilled the Prophets and the Law.

Fulfilled means that Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but paid its debt for our sins. Therefore, we who believe in Jesus, who have Repented of our sins, who proclaimed Christ our Lord and Savior, are Justified by Christ’s sacrifice. Our sins are forgiven.

When we Repented of our sins and were thus Saved by God’s Grace for our Faith in Jesus Christ, a gift from God, and not from any good deeds that we may ever perform, we in turn strive to still live according to God’s Law, His will for us. We honor God by striving to live Righteously, and we do so because it is our nature as His believers. We live to please God.

What is a sin? Anything that we do that is against God’s will.

But when we fail in our striving to live righteously, and we all do fail, we are justified by Christ. In other words, forgiven. Because Christ fulfills the Law.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 (HCSB)
17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.”

Jesus went on during His Sermon on the Mount to reiterate God’s Law, and to amplify it, such as with adultery. If a man lusts in his heart for a woman he has thus already committed adultery. And murder, if we do things that cause injury to our brothers, hate them or hold them in contempt, it is as good as murder. We must love, forgive and not judge.

No, God’s Law still stands, but we are justified when we fall short, as Paul said in Romans 3:23 (HCSB) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But followed in Romans 3:24-26 (HCSB)
24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
25 God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.
26 ⌊God presented Him⌋ to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.”

As Christians we continue to strive to live righteously, according to what Jesus said: Matthew 6:33 (HCSB)
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

Therefore our faith is not believing in Jesus and being free to go out and freely commit sins as we like, and live in sin, but that when we repented of our sins and were born again in Christ, absolved of our sins, we strive to live according to God’s will. Live righteously.

Same sex marriage is an affront to God’s will, and His will is made clear in His Word. To compromise God’s Word is to reject it.

Thus in Matthew 19, Jesus describes marriage as a union between a man and a woman, for life. God makes the man and the woman one spiritual person And what God has joined together let no man separate:

Matthew 19:4-6 (HCSB)
4 “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female,”
5 and He also said: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?
6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Jesus was talking about a man and a woman, as God planned, and according to God’s Law. For man to sleep with man or woman to sleep with woman, or man to lay down with beasts remains an “abomination” to God.

We cannot be faithful to our commitment to Christ and CHOOSE to live in sin! When we sin, we are immediately sorry; we come to God in contrition and humility and bare our sins to Him, asking His forgiveness even though we are already forgiven. For us, sin is a moment of weakness, and we are sorry for it.

What happens when we knowingly choose to embrace sin in our lives, to live in a lifestyle that we know goes against God’s Law? A godless and unrighteous lifestyle? Not a slip of the tongue or a moment of weakness, temptation getting the best of us, but knowingly making a choice that we know is against God’s will, and choosing that lifestyle.
Here is what Paul wrote to the Romans when they knew of Jesus but choose to live the Roman lifestyles that included all forms of homosexual acts and open promiscuity. Paul writes what Faith in Christ requires and gives us, and what falling from that faith to godlessness and unrighteousness brings us:

Romans 1:16-32 (HCSB)
16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.
17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.
18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,
19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.
21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
24 Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
26 This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
27 The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.
28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.
29 They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.
32 Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.”

Paul could well be writing about America today!

Considering what Paul writes in Romans 1, and especially in verses 27-32, how can any Christian church compromise what God commands and what is written in both the Old Testament and New Testament?
I am appalled at what the Presbyterian Church (USA) has done: First they have agreed to begin ordaining openly gay pastors and church leaders, people who choose to live in violation of God’s Word. Next they have chosen to embrace Same-Sex Marriage, which is clearly in violation of Scripture in both Old and New Testaments, as shown above, and in additional Scriptures than I cite here.

They become the Church of Laodicea, that Jesus describes and chides in Revelation 3:14-22. The compromised church. Lukewarm. Fallen away.

When we embrace godlessness and unrighteousness, and choose those over God’s will, then God gives us over to those degrading and dark lives, as Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-32. Such acts reject Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us. To reject Christ sends us to hell.

I believe that all people should have equal rights and equal protection under the law, but I will not compromise my faith in God, reject my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and compromise my faith to accommodate sinful lifestyles or endorse them.

With the changes that I see in the world today, and the compromises of long-held Christian values and ethics, and now I see the compromises of Christian churches to embrace sin, I am left believing that the Day of Our Lord comes soon. In Revelation, when Jesus spoke to John and revealed to John the coming of the Son of Man and the Tribulation and the end of times, Jesus told of the apostasy of the church. The falling away of the church, compromising God’s will and accepting sin as righteousness.

Such is happening today. So I keep my eyes to the clouds, and I pray for my nation and our people.

 ©Copyright 2014 Charles W. Henderson 

Vision of Yorktown

Cornwallis SurrenderDedication–This story is dedicated to the memory of Continental Army Drummer Alexander Milliner, who served in General George Washington’s Lifeguard Unit. He lived past the age of one-hundred four years, and stood as witness to the surrender of the British at Yorktown. Likewise, to the memory of Continental Army Private Lemuel Cook, a boy like Milliner, just a year older, in fact. He stood by Milliner and watched as the British soldiers stacked their arms on an open field. General Washington ordered the Continental Army to not laugh or jeer at the surrendering Redcoats. Washington said, “It is bad enough to surrender without being insulted.”

Vision of Yorktown

A Short Story

By Charles W. Henderson

For the soldier pitched to battle, glory does not exist. For him there is only survival, sacrifice and tribute. In truth, glory is a false ideal born in the minds of poets and politicians.


The sun had not yet broken over the treetops that stood distant across the broad clearing when the boy struggled to the top of the parapet. Tears filled his eyes and his throat choked with the pain of grief, knowing well what his orders meant.

A drum hung at the boy’s waist by a strap that looped over his shoulder and bore the royal crest of Major General Lord Charles Cornwallis’ army. When they had begun this fight, the strap had shown stark white across his uniform’s blue blouse; now it lay dark with black and brown stains that came from grease and soot of guns and cannons, and from tears and sweat and blood spilled in nine days of battle. Blood of soldiers who fell at the boy’s side. Good soldiers who tried to live; who the boy tried to help to live, but who died anyway. His tears, his sweat, their lives.

The drummer boy called Tom Scott, a good English name, from a family south of Kent, had accompanied Lord Cornwallis and his army of 8,300 Red Coats through much of this campaign that swept through the Carolinas, leaving a swath of destruction and death behind them, and settled in Virginia in May of 1781. By August, they had occupied the point of ground between the York and James rivers where Cornwallis hoped to establish a British naval base because of the York’s deep water and easy access to the Chesapeake Bay.

General George Washington and Lieutenant General Comte de Rochambeau, and their army of more than 17,600 French and American soldiers attacked Yorktown on October 9, after the French fleet had successfully turned away the British ships in the Chesapeake, leaving Cornwallis’ army cut off.

Washington’s Colonial Artillery bombarded Cornwallis’ forces for four days. Finally, on the night of October 14, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hamilton led a small force of Continental soldiers on a surprise attack and began the land battle that turned the cleared farm fields below the parapet where drummer boy Tom Scott now stood into a crucible of flesh, bone and blood.

This morning of October 17, 1781, the crispness of fall in the wet air accented the sun which bled a sky filled with red that matched the crimson field below where young Tom stood. The crack of gunfire and the haunting cries of wounded and dying men stole any sense of peace that might have otherwise existed at that moment.

The lad’s uniform–a blue jacket and red trousers–which hung twisted and loose over his small, immature frame, had torn at most seams and bends, and across every panel of its woolen cloth carried dark stains from the battle. He had skinned his hide at most of his joints, and he ached as badly as any man twice his thirteen years of life. Yet as he began to rap two wooden sticks over the goat skin stretched across the head of his drum, beating out a signal that sent every British soldier’s heart sinking in final relief, he stood not as a boy but as a man. A soldier. A veteran of war. He felt what those who carried the muskets and fought the bayonet attacks and fell wounded under the exploding artillery shells felt: Beaten.

A dirty, bruised and scarred, battle-weary lad whose face had yet to show hair more coarse than a kitten’s stood at the top of the parapet, above his general and beside an officer who waived a white piece of cloth tied to his saber, and beat out the order to cease fire.

The fighting began to subside, and in the distance, as he continued to rap, rap, rap the loud but depressing signal from his drum, the boy could hear cheers shouted from the Colonial Army’s lines. For all of them knew that this battle, and this American Revolution had come to its end.

The boy stared straight out across the battlefield, his vision blurred by tears that tracked through the dirt that covered his face while the lieutenant at his side who waived the white cloth stepped down the front of the parapet and then stood at attention while two Colonial soldiers blindfolded the officer and led him away. The boy watched and continued to beat his drum as the men disappeared behind the distant trees to deliver Lord Cornwallis’ proposal to meet with Washington and discuss British surrender.

Yet despite the joy that this boy’s rap, rap, rapping on a goat-skin drum brought to the victors, and the significance that it meant, there still remains this mournful picture of a gaunt and dirty youngster, wearing a tattered uniform. He stands atop a parapet, beating his drum while below him, scattered across acres of tilled and cleared land lay the bodies of the dead and dying. Their blood filling the furrows. Their last gasps, moans and cries of pain, the music that accompanies the boy’s drum, reminds British, French and American alike that their’s is the price that has been paid for what has been gained and lost here.

As the sun turned from red to gold to yellow and the day grew bright, and the boy stepped from that parapet. As the last British soldier laid down his arms while his officers cried like school boys at the sight. As he sailed home, grew old and told of the war. And as generation after generation continued to tell of it, this vision of the last horrible moment of the last great battle of the American Revolution remains.


Copyright 1988 by Charles W. Henderson

Fifty-years after President Kennedy’s death

By Charles Henderson


Today marks 50-years since President John Fitzgerald Kennedy died from two gunshot wounds from bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald’s rifle. Oswald shot three times, missing once. That day in Dallas, Texas changed America forever. Sadness unlike any other in history shrouded the people of the United States and much of the world.

Where were you when Kennedy was killed? Maybe people asked that question after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination too. When a President means a lot to the people, the event of his murder etches itself indelibly in our minds. Where was I?

Artesia, New Mexico, one time-zone west of Dallas. I had celebrated my 15th birthday on August 26, 1963, and we were now anticipating Thanksgiving holidays. I sat in the backseat of Tommy Burkhart’s 1958 Chevrolet Bel-Air two-door hardtop coupe. We roared down 13th Street in Artesia, driving past Zia Junior High School, going to get lunch at Tommy’s house, listening to KBIM AM radio from Roswell, the nearest station that played rock-and-roll, when the news broke. President Kennedy has been shot.

Even unruly 15-year old boys’ hearts jumped. Stunned at the news. All us in that car, Tommy and me, Bill Mays and Wesley Jones, exclaimed our anguish. Even kids our age took the news hard. Deeply hurt.

A friend of mine said today, that during Kennedy’s time as President of the United States he liked most Democrats. I think that most people who vote conservative today, registered Republicans like Ronald Reagan, strongly supported John F. Kennedy. I know that I did. I loved him as our President. He had great courage and profound leadership, and when he spoke to the nation it was with grace and identity. We Americans knew him. He was one of us. We trusted him, and we revered him.

John F. Kennedy stood apart yet with us. A war hero, awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor. He had stood nose to nose against the Russians, holding America’s ground with unflinching courage and a determined will. He was America’s President.

PresidentJFK_1385120421222_1297771_ver1_0_320_240Last Sunday, long-time CBS News correspondent and anchor, Bob Schieffer, commented that the day President Kennedy died America lost its innocence. I can appreciate that sentiment. The days of Kennedy were good days for many Americans. However, I have to disagree that it was the day that America lost its innocence. I believe that it was the day that America awakened to its ugliness.

Schieffer might call it innocence, but that is not it. We were oblivious to the pain that people suffered. In America there existed many different worlds, and while they overlapped, most people saw little past their own small world.

My world was safe. White people in a small New Mexico community. We never locked our doors. Everyone went to church on Sundays. Family values were strong. Innocence? Perhaps, but blind innocence. And were people really that blind? Or did they just have it good in the white middle class world and did not want those “other people” messing it up?

Yes, I remember those days quite well. If a person was white and middle classed, life was innocent and good. It seemed. Yet we had in the coal towns of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee and western North Carolina and West Virginia the most abject of poverty one can imagine.

The coal companies enslaved these people, who owed their souls to the Company Store. Mostly white, uneducated and wretchedly poor. Coal companies paid their workers with Script, not cash. Script was only good at the Company Store. Life depended on the coal company. John F. Kennedy fought to break those chains of slavery. He fought to bring the Appalachian poor into the 20th Century. Part of his presidential campaign was fought on that impoverished ground. When Kennedy died, he had broken the company chains but left the people adrift and Lyndon B. Johnson did precious little to help them. Hardly anything innocent about the strife of those poor people.

In my innocence, I recall singing songs at grade school like “Old Black Joe,” and reading the classic Mark Twain novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. In those unrevised editions we read in elementary school, Jim was not simply Jim but Nigger Jim. Aunt Polly’s slave that ran away, and Huck Finn went with him. While Mark Twain objected to slavery and wrote about Jim with great sympathy, he used the words, “Nigger” and “Negro” and “Nigra” and “Coloreds”  without second thought. And use of that objectionable word and associated words that causes such great pain and represents the most deplorable aspect of American history was common place in my young world too.

My mother taught me from birth that all people are God’s beloved children, regardless of color or birth. Jesus loves us all. All the little children.  She taught all of her children to see people as people, not us and them. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King spoke of a dream that reflected those ideals. I share his dream today. As a nation we could desire nothing greater.

I will never forget my first painful encounter with bigotry. In my hometown we had few people of African origin. My parents, as well as my Aunt Winnie and Uncle Owen Hensley had a strong friendship with one such African-American family. Billy and Lillie Belle Johnson. They had a son and two daughters, Billy Junior, Jo Ella and Amanda.  Billy worked at the school system as a custodian and Mrs. Johnson worked at various jobs. They were wonderful people. Gifted with wonderful musical talent. Jo Ella could sing like an angel.

My mother taught piano lessons, and had worked a trade agreement with Lillie Belle. Mrs. Johnson came to our home for piano lessons, and Amanda, who was my age, played with me in our backyard. We were small children and had a great friendship going. Until one day.

Some older boys who lived nearby saw Amanda in my backyard with me, and started calling her names. They made fun of her color. They threw rocks at both of us. I will never forget the pain I felt, and my anger, because it hurt little Amanda Johnson much worse than me. Horrible names to call such a sweet little girl. My playmate. My friend. It taught me a life-long lesson.

Mrs. Johnson stopped coming for piano lessons after that day.

I also recall at about that same time in my life, going to spend summers with my Grandmother Henderson. She lived in a small town in southern Oklahoma, surrounded by her sisters and other extended family of not just hers but my grandfather’s too. There were no black families in that small town. They were not accepted there. They had their town and the white people had our town.

Again, I was oblivious of it. I did not see the pain or poverty, secure in my white world. Yet, segregation became real to me one day as my grandmother and my Aunt Margaret, along with my cousin Ida Nell went shopping in Wichita Falls, Texas. There at Woolworth’s department store I went to get a drink from a water fountain. A store clerk stopped me and pointed to a sign above the fountain. It read, “Colored.” Then he led me to the other fountain that had a sign above it that read, “White Only.”

I began to notice more signs. Not just in Woolworth’s but everywhere in Wichita Falls. I asked my grandmother about it and she told me that’s just the way some people are. She reminded me that in the eyes of Jesus we are all the same. That’s the way we need to be, she said.

One of the greatest changes in America, a change that I believe made America better, were the first steps to break the walls of segregation that President Kennedy initiated.  He and his brother, the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, heard the voice of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King.

Under the leadership of President Kennedy, and carried forward after his death by Bobby Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, the American people began to awaken to the ugliness and stupidity of racism and bigotry. It was not simply a matter of passing laws requiring Civil Rights, but a change in outlook and attitude drawn through the chaotic decades of the 1960s and 1970s.

When Kennedy died America’s innocence did not die. America was not innocent. America was complicit and blind. The changes that took place caused pain and upheaval.

Corporate greed took us to war in Viet Nam, and America bled and suffered even more in the division of the nation.

Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll undermined the strong system of family values, and damaged America to this day. No it was not the music, nor the free sex, nor even the illegal drugs themselves, but the attitudes that they bore with them, disregard of principles, loss of values and morals, and the increasing denial of God. Lies, deceit and personal greed prevailed, and took over every aspect of life, business and government.

Americans went to party and not to church. Divorce became easy and common.

A lot of goodness in America did die with President Kennedy, a victim of the awakening of America to its ugliness.

Today, we look around and see a much better America. Civil Rights have come light years ahead. Kennedy would be proud. Yet we have a long way to go in order to return America to its once high values where a family could leave the doors to its home unlocked without worry.

 ©Copyright 2013 Charles W. Henderson 

Betrayal of the Old Retired Military Veteran

Bend OverBy Charles Henderson

Betrayal by the United States Government of its Retired Military Veterans just keeps getting worse. I spent more than two decades in the United States Marine Corps, and when I retired in 1993 with full benefits for myself and my wife and other dependents if I had any, we were guaranteed full medical benefits for life.

I enrolled in Tricare Prime, an unpleasant surprise just before retirement, because the Department of Defense had decided that Military Retirees ought to at least pay some sort of premium for medical benefits since the DOD saw fit to farm out medical care coverage of Active Duty and Retired Military to civilian medical care insurance companies. A way of saving money. So, I went from nothing to paying a small premium for annual coverage for my whole family. My last premium that I paid this year, yes this year, and that is important to remember, was $413.00. It provided for hospitalization, doctors visits, medicines, the whole ball of wax basically.

I tuned 65 years old this year, August 26. In May, I received a letter announcing to me that on August 1, 2013 I would no longer have military medical benefits through Tricare Prime. I would be moved to Tricare for Life. I am ordered to enroll in Medicare Part A, which I had already paid for with my decades of Medicare Taxes, and Medicare Part B, which requires an adjustable premium, based on how much the Medicare eligible recipient earns in the tax year. Some unlucky souls can pay as much as $246.00 per month, and the lowest of the low end is $105.10 per month.

Hold on a minute,” I protested. “What about my guaranteed Medical Benefits for Life that I earned by risking my life and limb for my country for more than two decades? How come I am now getting hosed for Part B medical coverage, which only covers seeing a doctor, and covers only me, for the tune of $630.60 every six months, or $1261.20 per year, when I paid $413.00 per year for myself and my whole family, and that covered everything!!!?”

Sorry, but you got “hosed” by President Bill Clinton in 1997 when he declared the “Peace Dividend.” Part of that “Peace Dividend” was Clinton kicking all honorably retired U. S. Military Retirees out of Tricare Prime–robbing them of their earned benefits–and forcing them into Medicare Part A and B. And they pay the Medicare Premiums! It is as if the Retired Military Member never served a day.

Oh, Tricare for Life works as a “supplemental” insurance, in case Medicare A and B don’t quite get it all. Almost the same as nothing.

I took this to Congressman Doug Lamborn, our United States Representative for the 5th Congressional District of Colorado. He offered me sympathy and agreed, that it was not right. It is the “Age Penalty” tax charged to all military retirees when they turn 65. Even if you do not collect Social Security–which I do not collect–we still pay the stinking premium or we get no medical care at all.

The cause I took up was for Congressman Lamborn to author a bill, an amendment to the Military Authorization Act for this coming budget, or maybe even next year, and give back to all Military Retirees aged 65 and older who were robbed by President Bill Clinton in 1997, by the same Military Authorization Act of that year. I would think that a Republican Congressman would jump at the chance to do something righteous for the Retired Military Veteran. After all, we gave the best parts of our lives to this nation!

Congressman Lamborn said he would look into it. A staff member in Washington, DC, name Keith, called me. I expressed my frustrations, and he sympathized with me. I proposed that instead of penalizing Military Retirees when they turn 65, keep them in the Tricare Prime program, let them keep paying the same premiums that all Active Duty and Retired Military under 65 years of age pay. And have Medicare Taxes, which all the military active and retired pay, and have paid for decades, transferred to the Department of Defense for the supplementation of Tricare benefits. Yes, he said that sounded like a good idea.

Then, Keith called me back. He said he had words with the Veterans Administration, which has absolutely NOTHING to do with retired military medical care, but everything to do with disabled veterans care (and I am 30-percent disabled) and the Veterans Administration Disability Medical Benefits earned by Disabled Veterans is not affected. My brother who is fully disabled from Agent Orange disability, gets full medical benefits, doctors office visits and all medications with zero premiums to pay and because he is Disabled under VA, he does not use his Medicare A or B or anything, nor does he have to pay.

At any rate, Keith called back and said he spoke to the VA about the issue (I smell a lie) and that there is nothing that Congressman Lamborn can do at this time.

“Don’t you see,” said Keith, “during this time of sequestration, Congressman Lamborn cannot go to Congress and ask them to fund something? Not when we are cutting everywhere else.”

I tried to argue that it is not asking for additional funding of anything, but simply giving back what Bill Clinton robbed from Retired Military Veterans, and stop them from getting Penalized for Being Old!!!

Very quickly I realized it was useless. The politicians give us lip service, and little else. They proclaim how they stand up for our Military Warriors, but in truth they cut our bloody throats!

Only days after I had my kiss off from Keith, I saw in the news that Department of Defense had given Full Benefits—Medical and the whole nine yards—to gay married members. They also extended other services and benefits, costing millions more.

I felt the hose slide in deeper.

On August 1, I enrolled in Medicare Part A and B. The woman who enrolled me at the Social Security Administration said that in a few months I would get a bill for the first quarter premiums. Oh, and by the way, when I enrolled, as I sat in the Social Security Administration outer waiting area, waiting my turn into the bureaucratic termite mound that is the SSA office, I counted 200 people waiting with me. All there regarding their Social Security Benefits. Most of the people were young, in their 20s and 30s. For the most part they looked like they lived in boxes somewhere, dressed in baggy pants, tattoos, flat billed caps, chains, heavy smokers. There were two people visibly disabled, and they were both in their late middle ages, not young or able bodied at all. There were 10 people, I counted them, who looked like they were in their 60s or older, Social Security eligible ages. The rest were young, appearing able bodied, and scummy looking, there to get disability benefits, I am sure. Oh, and all of them had cell phones. Yes, cell phones. Part of the free benefits given deadbeats who choose to not work these days.

Anyway, the Social Security Administration representative that I saw told me I would get a bill that would cover the first quarter of my Part B coverage in about three months. October, I thought.

Today, in the mail, I received my Medicare Part A and/or Part B premium bill, covering 08/01/2013 to 12/31/2013, and the amount is $524.50. It is due no later than 09/25/2013.

The top on my bottle blew its cork. The hose just went in all the way.

My first thoughts were of Congressman Doug Lamborn, and his words of encouragement to me. And then Keith came to mind. Then I looked at the bill once more.

It covers just me, and only covers me going to the doctor. What a rip-off. What a hose job! Yes I feel thoroughly betrayed.

I retired in 1993 with the belief that I had medical benefits for myself and my family for life. I had put my life at stake and that was one of my rewards. Solid medical care. I did not have to worry!

Think again. They robbed me four years after I retired and did not even have the decency to tell me that the train was coming. They don’t tell anyone. When someone is sticking a knife in your back, they don’t tell you about it before they do it.

Nobody cares that most military retirees live only 20 years after retirement. That means that most don’t even draw Social Security and most never use Medicare Part A or B. I am one of the retirees askew who have survived 20 years beyond my retirement. Yes, this year, on July 1, 2013 I was 20 years retired from the Marine Corps. Still alive.

But darned if I am not angrier than ever. Totally betrayed by the country that I spent the best part of my adult life defending. Defending at risk of my life and my limbs.

Congressman Lamborn, come election time, don’t come asking for my support. Nor should you ask for the support of any other Military Veteran. You aided and abetted the screwing we all got.

 ©Copyright 2013 Charles W. Henderson 

Landmark Freedom of Religion Case Set Before the Supreme Court

constitutionToday, 85 members of the United States Congress filed an Amicus Brief before the United States Supreme Court in support of religious liberty, as part of the biggest case that addresses the First Amendment’s rights affording Freedom to Worship in more than a half century.

Among those penning his name to this brief is Colorado 5th District Congressman Doug Lamborn. I applaud and support Congressman Lamborn in this case.

I pray that the Supreme Court will be guided by the original intent of the writers of the Constitution, guaranteeing all people the Freedom to Worship and the Freedom to Not Worship, as they so choose. It is a matter of Free Will. While no one should be forced or coerced to pray, likewise no one should be prohibited from praying.

Impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in this matter will be significant. It may well open the door for expressions of faith and freedom to pray to return to school graduations, football games and other public events.

The case is the Town of Greece (New York) v. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens. The Amicus Brief just filed, signed by the 85 members of the US Congress, can be read at the following link:


Ken Klukowski, J.D., director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council (FRC) filed the Amicus Brief  before the US Supreme Court for the 85 members of Congress in support of the Town of Greece, the petitioners.

“It is likely that the town of Greece will prevail before the U.S. Supreme Court in this case, and a victory for them will be a victory for all Americans of faith and for the Constitution itself,” Klukowski said in a statement to the Press. “Given that the Court has looked approvingly to legislative prayer dating to the Founding, it is likely that the Court will not only affirm prayer but significantly strengthen the religious liberty rights of Americans in public life and the public square.”

The Respondents, Galloway and Stephens, held that the town council holding prayer before they met in session violated the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause.” They said that holding prayer established a religion by the State. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the use of public prayer before town meetings in the Town of Greece, New York violated the First Amendment’s clause that prohibits an establishment of religion.

The Town of Greece, New York included all faiths and non-faiths, including Wiccans and atheists, in their town meetings’ opening procedures, affording all people the opportunity to express their faith, and to not participate in those expressions of faith. Wiccans were given opportunity to express faith. Atheists were also given the floor to disavow faith in God if they chose.

In my opinion, such is exactly what Thomas Jefferson and the other authors of the Constitution of the United States had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment in 1789 and presented it within the Bill of Rights before the first assembly of Congress. The Government of the United States should not require a person to have faith, nor should they require a person to not have faith. Thus they wrote:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Where the Town of Greece, New York may well prevail before the United States Supreme Court, and thereby win back for the people their freedom to pray, is that the Town of Greece did nor force nor coerce anyone to participate in any prayer or expression of religious faith. Affording the People free will to choose to exercise their religious faith or to not participate is key.

Praying before a football game, praying before a city council meeting, praying at the opening of a session of Congress does not make any kind of law establishing any religion. Making a law that respects the “establishment of religion,” is to say that the government picks a faith, like King Henry VIII did when he established the Church of England, and requires all citizens to be members of that faith.

Yet, even King Henry could not eliminate other faiths, and that led to bloody purges by his heirs–Bloody Mary re-establishing Catholic faith and Elizabeth I then killing them. Our founding fathers recognized this and wished to avoid such horrors.

Religious faith should be free will, just as God has given us, His children, Free Will. God gives us the freedom to make our own choices, even whether to believe in Him or to not believe in Him. Likewise our Constitution mirrors this logic.

Thomas Jefferson called the established churches of his time the “Anti-Christ.” And their dogmas (often judgmental, hate filled and murderous) a dung hill. Jefferson was impassioned that We the People should have the Freedom to worship as we wish, without a dogmatic dictatorship ordering us our faith. Therefore, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

But, so very important in the same sentence is “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

Free exercise thereof means that We the People should and have the Right to pray and exercise our faith anyplace we wish and at anytime we wish. Therefore, Prayer at a football game, asking God to protect our players and to instill good sportsmanship, is appropriate. Prayer before a city council meeting, asking God to guide the wisdom of the elected officials, is appropriate. Prayer before the opening of a Congress is appropriate. And all are protected under the clause “…the free exercise thereof….”

The idea of a separation of Church and State is the notion expressed by Thomas Jefferson that there should be a “wall of separation between the church and the state.” He certainly did not intend that to ban faith from government, but to keep religious dogma from dictating to government, as it did in England.

In 1963, the Abington School District v. Schempp case before the United States Supreme Court held that a child could not be forced to pray or to participate in prayer when prayer was said over the intercom. This is reasonable and consistent with the Constitution. The key operative here is, Forced. Likewise, Torcaso v. Watkins in 1961 similarly held that an elected official could not be forced to affirm that he or she believed in God or had any faith. Again correct, and the key operative is also the word, Forced. This is also consistent with Jefferson’s ideal of the wall of separation. The fact that these people were being FORCED to accept or affirm Faith, or being FORCED to participate in prayer did violate their Constitutional freedom to choose to not affirm faith or to not pray. It is the exercise of Free Will. Just as forcing a person to pray denies their free will, so does prohibiting them the exercise of prayer equally denies free will.

However, threats of lawsuits by atheist groups, often hand in hand with the ACLU, intimidate school boards to deny people freedom of religion and free expressions of their faith. These anti-God zealots have today distorted the correct interpretations of religion being forced upon people to that of merely the presence of religious expression violating the ideal of the wall of separation.

When the National Anthem is played or the US flag enters a room, people stand in respect and cover their hearts. They do so freely. They are not FORCED to do it.

The same Constitutional Freedom of expression that allows us to stand or not stand in respect of the National Anthem or Flag, based on the Free-Will logic, applies to public prayer. No one is FORCED to pray, they are FREE to not pray.

And that is the key element in the Supreme Court decisions respecting prayer and the wall of separation, which is NOT part of the Constitution, but is accepted as the logic behind the First Amendment guaranteeing the People Freedom to pray or not pray, as they wish.

 ©Copyright 2013 Charles W. Henderson