Fr. Frog and the Church
(or, the Sermon on the Pond)

Fr. Frog was one of those "peskypalians" for many years (although "Anglican" would be a better term since much of the Episcopal Church in the US has gone off the politically correct deep end of the liberal dock), although he has worshiped with friends of many different denominations over the years and he tries very hard to practice and live the Christian faith.  Since the Episcopal Church has for the most part embraced the feminist/liberal cause and forgotten the Gospel, and my former parish hired a full-time practicing homosexual priest who openly "edits" the bible to suit his views, I had no choice but to leave the Episcopal Church.  There were no conservative Episcopal churches, or Anglican churches, within an easy commute from where I live, so I am currently serving as the Deacon at a local Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) which puts me in mind of a "German Anglican" church.

As a Christian, some folks have been shocked to find that Fr. Frog believes in self reliance and self responsibility, especially in matters of personal protection. He's even been known to "go armed" (flippered??) at times. (Of course he does so in accordance with local, state, and constitutional laws, his being a law abiding citizen and all that.) These poor misguided folks get flustered and try to convince Fr. Frog that skill at arms, fighting back against evil, or having an interest in weaponry is wrong. They claim that Christians should never engage in mortal combat or the like, and above all never kill anyone. They base their beliefs on a narrow and distorted view of what Christianity is all about.

First of all, contrary to some people's ideas, Christianity is NOT a pacifistic religion but rather one that teaches that if at all possible you should live at peace with others. ("If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."--Romans 12:18.) In verse 19 of that chapter the passage goes on to tell us not to take revenge which is retribution after the fact, but it does not prohibit self protection at the time evil strikes. In Romans 12:20 we are told to try to prevent evil by kindness ("...if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.") Yet even this passage gives no prohibition against preventing or stopping a lethal attack.

Yes, we are to do good. Yes, we are to avoid evil things. Yes, we are to treat others as we would want them to treat us by showing love, compassion, forgiveness, and patient tolerance to all. However, no where are we told to do nothing when confronted with an evil attack which would bring harm to ourselves or others.

The passage from Luke 11:21-22, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder" tells us that we must be ever vigilant against those who would do us evil and be prepared with our weapons to defeat them."

If one reads the scriptures one is also familiar with the passage in Luke 22:35-38 in which Christ tells His disciples to arm themselves; "And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing." Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end." So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."

In this passage, the Lord is making a statement to His disciples moments before His betrayal by Judas. He is informing His people that they will not enjoy the same degree of provision and protection after His death as they have in the past. He is informing them that they will have a much greater responsibility in providing for their own needs and protection to the extent that they should take their money bag and knapsack and obtain a sword so that they might protect themselves. Some have argued that the Lord must have been speaking figuratively, but there is absolutely nothing in this or any other passage that indicates this.

People also often misquote the passage from Matthew 5:38-41 (and also Luke 6:29), "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile." If this passage in fact proscribed any form of resistance to any form of attack, the logical conclusion would be that if someone attacked and raped your wife that you would then have to offer the attacker your daughter. Absurd, isn't it?

The main key to this passage is in the phrase "strikes you on the cheek" which is used instead of  "strikes you." In biblical times the phrase "strike the cheek" referred to a verbal insult or a literal slap of the cheek, and not a harmful physical attack. In those days, (as in some modern cultures) a verbal insult was frequently responded to with a violent response especially if it dealt with one's family or parents. What is being taught here is that we are not to respond to mere words with violence.

An additional guideline is offered in the part about our "coat being taken" and going the extra mile.  It was the custom during the Roman occupation for a soldier to pick a person at random and force them to carry their field pack and equipment for some distance.  In addition,  in the process of having the equipment carried it was common for the soldier to relieve the person of their cloak and/or tunic for the soldier's comfort.  By carrying it further than custom demanded one served as a witness to Christ's love for others and the presumed non violent action of theft of property does not warrant a lethal response, since property is of much less value than a life.  However, no where are we told not to respond to a violent assault.  

Some people also take out of context the passage from Matthew 26:51 in which Christ states, "...that he who takes [or lives by] the sword shall perish [die] by the sword."  Truer words have never been spoken. However, this is not an injunction against the use of lethal force in personal protection, but is rather an injunction that whoever makes it his normal course of living to use violence for the sake of violence, or against others for gain or unjust reasons is doomed to eventually die in the same manner that he does to others.

The teaching of this passage must be taken in the true context of the story unfolding around it. Christ is speaking specifically to Peter just after the incident in which Peter cuts off the right ear of the slave of one of the high priests who has come out with a mob to seize Jesus. (Peter, by the way, appears to have been quite proficient with the personal weapon of the day, the sword. Peter's proficiency is apparent because he did a little move that takes quite a fair amount of swordsmanship, that is he cut off only the right ear, and did it across on the opposite side of the man’s head facing him. This is implied because the sword was traditionally used right-handed.)

Why did Peter do it? Because he could see they were out numbered and under attack by an hostile and armed mob. Peter, not knowing the true purpose of what was about to unfold--Gods plan of salvation for us through Christ--most likely believed that it might be possible protect Christ and to frighten the mob off with a show of great martial ability. The Lord chastened him by telling him that He could produce a legion of angels to defend Himself if it were necessary, but that it was written that He should go to fulfill the Father's will, and that Peter's reliance on the sword at this time was not appropriate.

Another way of coming to understand the meaning of the "live by the sword-die by the sword" passage is the realization that there will come a time when Christ will come again to reign upon the earth and at that time there will be no need for weapons. If we go back to the original Greek of the New Testament the word used in this passage for "perish" is apollumi {ap-ol'-loo-mee} which is generally translated as to "abolish," to give over to eternal misery, or to render useless.

If a person is given to spending all his time in the study of or use of weaponcraft, (or for that matter driving race cars, making money, or strictly secular pursuits) while neglecting his duty to serve God and others, there will come a time when those skills will no longer be of use to that person. As a consequence of this kind of behavior, that person will not have stored up spiritual treasures in heaven and will stand before God empty, having devoted his life to following only the things of the world, without giving heed to the spiritually important things. At that time neither weapons, nor skill at arms, nor money, nor anything else earthly will be of value, so it could be said that person has "perished."

Another part of scripture often quoted incorrectly is the Sixth (Fifth by some translation's counting) Commandment which is commonly given as "Thou shall not kill." If we go back to the original Hebrew we find that the word used is ratsach {raw-tsakh'} which is translated as murder (the unjustifiable taking of a human life) and not the words katal {kah-tal'} which is translated as simply "kill,"or muwth {mooth} which is translated as "to be put to death" or "executed." Thus, "Thou shall do no murder," is the correct translation. If we look in the Old Testament we can find countless examples of lethal force being used with God's blessing. As an example, David didn't turn his cheek to Goliath but rather correctly killed him to prevent further harm to the Israelites. This translation is further corroborated in the New Testament in Matthew 5:21, Mark 10:19, and Luke 18:20 where Christ refers to the Sixth Commandment. In the original Greek texts the word used in these passages is phoneuo {fon-yoo'-o} which is the word for "murder."

Another interesting thought to ponder is that we, made in God's image, are His and that as His creation we are in fact a temple to Him. Desecration of God's temple is a heinous offense and is not to be accepted or tolerated. Numerous examples of what happens to desecrators can be found in the scriptures. As His people, we have a duty to prevent the desecration or destruction of His "temple" by those who do not follow His commandments.

Although difficult for some of modern mankind to fathom, it was once widely believed that life was a gift from God, and that to not defend that life when offered violence was to hold God's gift in contempt, to be a coward and to breach one's duty to one's community. A sermon given in Philadelphia in 1747 unequivocally equated the failure to defend oneself with suicide:

"He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no authority for that purpose, when he might
preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek the continuance
of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature to defend itself."

The same sentiments are also echoed directly in scripture in James 4:17. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." 

Even the early church fathers agreed on this

"Without doubt one is allowed to resist against the unjust aggressor to one's life, one's goods or one's physical integrity; sometimes, even 'til the aggressor's death... In fact, this act is aimed at preserving one's life or one's goods and to make the aggressor powerless. Thus, it is a good act, which is the right of the victim."  [There are three conditions under which legitimate self-defense must lie] "That he who is the target of the force is an aggressor and an unjust aggressor...  That the object of the defense is an important good, such as the life, physical integrity or worthy goods... [and] That defensive violence is proportionate to aggression." [Under these conditions,] "One is also allowed [not required] to kill other people's unjust aggressor." -- Thomas Aquinas, Dizionario ecclesiastico ("Ecclesiastic dictionary", UTET, 1959)

All of the above and numerous other examples in scripture and church history all boil down to a simple teaching: Unless in danger of physical harm, do no violence to others. Attempt to live peaceably among humanity by setting an example of love, service, and kindness, but do not cower when danger threatens you. Remember, that there is a proper time and place for everything and that it is much easier to serve Him, to witness, and help others when you are alive.

Violence begets violence? You bet! When someone offers lethal violence to you or yours the proper and scriptural response is an immediate and overwhelming violent response.

By the way.  A little known statistic.  A study of the 1979 - 1985 National Crime Survey by David Kopel of the Wall Street Journal showed that when a victim does not defend himself, the criminal succeeds 88% of the time and the victim is injured 25% of the time and when the victim resists with a gun the criminal's success rate drops to 30% and the victim is injured only 17% of the time.  Interestingly these statistics are no longer included in the published annual surveys.  (Gee!  I wonder why?)

Some people claim that Christianity is a socialist religion, as Christians are instructed to share and to help the less fortunate.  These folks miss the whole point.  Socialism is the forced or coerced redistribution of the fruits of the labors of others, while the Christian shares out of love. 

We are not ordered to give up what we have worked for.  We are encouraged to help those less fortunate when possible, but we are not required to let them live on the dole and reap benefits the rest of the people work for, nor are we required to give to them at the cost of our own welfare.  Holy scripture refers to the care and feeding of "widows and orphans;" in other words those who are helpless.  We are under no obligation to help (nor continue to help) those who are capable of working but who refuse to do so and who fail to avail themselves of opportunities to help themselves to a better position in life.  No one is entitled to anything they do not try to work for. 

"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." -- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10

Amen
(Here endith the sermon.)

Now if you don't agree with the above that's just fine! You are entitled to your own feelings and personal beliefs. However, please don't send me hate mail or ridiculous ravings because you won't change what I know to be the truth, and I don't have the time to argue with you. If I should ever, God forbid, get into a lethal situation again, I at least know that there is an extremely good chance that when it's over that I will still be around to serve Him.


Church and State

One of the most tiresome pieces of rhetoric floating around these days is the notion of a "constitutional separation of church and state." Anyone can read the Constitution, but in this age of interactive media and TV I suppose that very few people read much of anything. If one reads the Constitution it will be discovered that the First Amendment states:

  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, ...." 

That puts it very clearly that the federal government cannot pass a law stating that a particular denomination or belief is the established or official religion of the United States, nor may it interfere with its citizens practice of their faith. To construe that to mean that government should ban all references to religion, especially the Christian faith, and all religious expressions from all "public" places, schools, and the courts,  is absolute and utter nonsense!!  

The erroneous notion of a total "separation" between the two  is based upon  the assertion that Thomas Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists proclaimed that the Constitution ensured all manner of "separation of church and state"). Whether Jefferson's comment was right or wrong is of no matter. There is no constitutional separation of church and state. Period. Read the Constitution yourself.

"To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding 
God from more and more of our institutions everyday; I say The
First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the
people of this country from religious values; it was written to
protect religious values from government tyranny." -- Ronald Reagan

"The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights." -- George Washington

Maybe if our elected representatives in congress tried reading the Constitution too, with specific emphasis on the Bill of Rights, it might help to prevent the encroachment on all of our basic liberties that has been underway for some time now. If you have never read our Bill of Rights, shame on you.

By the way, the US Bill of Rights, the first ten articles of the Constitution,  is a listing of the rights of all people granted by their Creator, and NOT privileges granted by the state to be modified or limited at the whim of some government bureaucrat. They are properly called "Articles" rather than "Amendments" since they are unalienable rights and can not be repealed or diminished by government fiat.  Click here to read them. You may be surprised.

Conversely, I do not believe that politics or "political correctness" has any place in the Church--despite the political activism demonstrated by many denominations and churches. What I believe is proper role between the "church" and "state" is that the "church" serves as the conscience of the state by keeping religious principles in the minds of the people and by promoting a moral and upright government. 

With Judeo-Christian principles pretty much having been thrown out the window by the current governments of the world it seems that they no longer respond to their "conscience." In fact they seem to try to pressure the "church" into parroting the "party line" as was done to many churches in Nazi Germany and which would then lead to a corruption of faith.  The church must be ever vigilant against this. No wonder they don't want religion and religious thought to interfere with their doings. For some additional comment on the subject click here.

It is interesting to note that those who are disparaging religion, especially Christianity, and trying to destroy religious beliefs, have in fact been creating their own "religion," the religion of the state.  They substitute the political elite for God and want all to turn to them.


Bibles

I'm often asked which version of the Bible is "best."  While some folks are seriously hung up on the King James version, it is not, in my humble opinion, the best one to use for study, because of its archaic language and phraseology. While it sounds beautiful when heard, we simply don't speak that way today, and I believe that we should worship and study in our "common" tongue for the most part.  A lot of the Old English terminology does not mean today what it use to and many terms are no longer used at all.  

I always advise interested readers to have at least three different versions of the Bible.  A formal language one like the King James or RSV, a more contemporary one like the NIV or ESV, and a paraphrase bible like Peterson's The Message.  Contrary to what some folks, especially those from some fundamentalist denominations, believe, in 60 years of reading scripture I have found very little difference in the message between the various translations and no subversive teachings.  However, the differences in wording and grammar make it much easier to understand the thoughts and teachings.

If you really want to study the Bible you should take the time to learn some Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and read things in the original tongue.


Some Footnotes

A while back I received a rather long and derogatory email from an individual, who after visiting this site berated my faith as not being "true" Christianity and informed me that only his denomination was loved by God. While I didn't deem it necessary to reply to such silliness I do think such feelings need to be addressed, so here goes. The fable of God's Duck Pond--a favorite of mine.

Among the wonderful things God has in heaven is a duck pond. (He gets immense pleasure in watching them swim about.) However, this duck pond is quite unusual. It is divided into cubicles just like an office and in each cubical are different denomination of ducks. In one cube are the Catholic ducks, some of whom are celibate and some who like to quack in Latin. In another are Baptist ducks who liked to quack their praises to God quite loudly and who generally avoid alcoholic beverages. In another are solemn Presbyterian ducks, in another are bearded Orthodox ducks, in another the Episcopalian ducks who like to swim about in liturgical procession, and in another.... (Well you get the picture.) Unfortunately, because of the height of the cubicle walls the ducks could not see each other, and they could only quack away to try to get their viewpoint across to the other ducks

However, one day all the ducks got to quacking to each other over their cubical walls about how they were God's favorite ducks and were thus so much better than those "other" ducks. Their quacking got so loud and boisterous that God couldn't hear Himself think. So He caused the rain of the Holy Spirit to start to fall. It rained and rained, and as it did the water level in the pond began to rise until all the cubical walls were under water. Finally the ducks saw to their amazement that they were all in God's duck pond. They realized that they all were all God's beloved, and forgiven equally by God and that in spite of their differences they all were trying very hard to live as God had taught them to.

The moral of the story. We should all try to live the life that Christ taught us to, as His teachings are reveal to us. No one person nor Christian denomination is better or worse than any other and the sooner we acknowledge that the sooner we will be in accord with His love. Remember that what denomination your are (Baptist/Episcopalian/Catholic/Methodist/Lutheran, et. al.) is trivial compared to what kind of Christian you are.  Practice your faith, be an example, and remember that you are loved. I have friends in many different denominations and while we may disagree on some theological fine points we all agree on God's love and salvation and His importance in our lives. It is too bad that sometimes the different denominations squabble over fine points and find it so difficult to work together. 

C.S. Lewis writing in Mere Christianity said the following about the interdenominational squabbles, "When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong, they need your prayers all the more, and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house."

In my work as a hospital chaplain I frequently encountered a curious reaction when I entered a room and identified myself as the chaplain--especially when I wore my collar. "Oh!  Well I'm a <fill in the blank>" which is often said with a tone of voice that indicates there is a thought that their denomination is "it."  My usual response was, "Well I'm an Episcopalian, we are both sinners, and God loves both of us."  I've gotten more than a few stunned looks and "....ah, um, oh, I guess so."

A challenge to you. If you have never worshiped at a church of a denomination other than your own, try it some time. If you are from a liturgical background try something simpler. If from a plain and simple background try a liturgical church. You won't explode and you won't be consigned to the bottomless pit. Ask questions, learn why they worship as they do, enjoy the different expressions of God's love, and see that we are not all that different.

A sad example of narrow mindedness occurred in my community when I lived in NJ, where a number of local churches started a chapter of the Interfaith Hospitality Network. IHN is designed to give a helping hand to families in need who are trying to recover from a short term financial or family disasters by providing temporary shelter and job/housing placement. It is strictly nondenominational. One local church refused to participate because they couldn't actively proselytize their denomination to the participants. Who do you think is truly doing God's work and showing God's love to those in need?

I also received a letter from a reader who kind of berated me (though nicely) for not heavily "proselytizing" Christianity (especially his particular flavor) more on my web site. Having been on the receiving end of some "overly enthusiastic" evangelizing over the years my reply was thus.

While we are told in scripture to "go out and proclaim the Gospel" a lot of folks have lost sight of the fact that Christ proclaimed gently and by example for the most part. Nothing turns people off to religion--any religion--faster than the in-your-face approach of people who think it is their God appointed job to annoy and harangue people to convert to their denomination by beating them over the head with a bible and flaunting their so-called piety.

More people have been brought to Christ, or brought back to practicing their faith, by seeing what Christianity can do to one's life than by bible thumping. (Besides, it's hard to learn to be loving when you have a headache from being hit over the head.) Yes, share your faith, but do it gently by being an example to others with your love and joy and not as an annoying pest. Invite them to worship with you but don't try to force them or belittle them to come. Show them how important your faith and your way of worship is to you and they will be more likely to think, "Maybe I need that something special in my life too."

"Go forth and preach the Gospel; if necessary use words." -- Saint Francis of Assisi

Another thing that bugs me is the claim by some people that they "don't need to go to church to be a "Christian" and that besides most churches are filled with a lot of people who act in a very un-Christian manner towards others."  Well, I think they totally miss the point.

Yes it is true that many churches (and I mean the body of gathered people in a denomination as well as the "business" of the church) have their cliques, nasty people, busy bodies, whiners, complainers, folks who just want to "look" holy, and political/power intrigues.  It is a simple truth that no organization of human beings escapes that for very long, given human nature.  However, that does not destroy what the church is--a gathering of the faithful.  We are enjoined in scripture to gather together with other believers to raise our voices in praise and worship, to be spiritually nourished, and to support one another in our faith.  Living alone and eating alone is not a very fulfilling way of life.

When we are gathered together, those who are truly faithful, and who do try to live as Christ taught us receive strength from each other, and as a friend said one day, "are reminded by example, of what we must not let ourselves become."

 As my dear friend, the late Fr. Dan Gerrard said at the dismissal... 

Go in peace, remember God, keep the faith, and be the church.


For a little more insight of Fr. Frog's theological views you can click here


If you would like to share your faith with Fr. Frog or to be added to his prayer list you can email him by clicking here


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Updated 2016-02-28