ANGEL'S SHARE NOW FEATURES THE 17TH CHAPTER [THE CHORUS] OF MY SEASONS FOR EVERYTHING: TALES OF A RELUCTANT PASTOR.
The Danville News
Robert John Andrews
24 February, 2017
“Taxation Relaxation Part I”
Word Count: 750
Ad hominin attacks are the ‘soup du jour’ of political discourse today. Is anybody else tired of offended folks pointing fingers at you? God bless a professional, free press! The season of insult and playground taunt is upon us. Insult isn’t intelligent debate. Winning doesn’t make you right. Losing doesn’t make you wrong.
I offer a two part series advancing a disinterested response to President Trump’s promise at the recent National Prayer Breakfast to “destroy the Johnson Amendment.” The erroneously labeled crowd of evangelicals applauded. Why erroneously? Evangelical refers to a wide spectrum of Protestant theological and social beliefs grounded in the Bible, including liberals, conservatives, the pragmatic, those central, and the rest of us who are just plain aghast, whimsical, and paradoxical.
The segment of the Christian population who chaff under this amendment deserve to be heard. Why do they seek the amendment’s destruction? Why? They decry it as an example of the intrusion of government to police the freedom of speech of pastors, a muzzling of churches campaigning for certain political candidates fearing retribution by the Internal Revenue Service revoking their non-profit status.
Credit Lyndon Johnson for enacting this law in 1954. Lyndon Johnson chaffed when running for re-election as senator from Texas. His opponent financed a non-profit organization to distribute leaflets against him. According to the IRS, the act decrees that such non-profit organizations "are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Reverse it: do you want denominations to take partisan political stands, demanding that as part of their religion their members ought vote for approved candidates?
How then does that differentiate America from the theocracy of Saudi Arabia? Destroying this Act further demeans and balkanizes the church. The litmus test of membership wouldn’t be loving Jesus. Membership would depend on how you vote, not faith. Real Christianity proclaims: Jesus first not America first. Jesus is Lord, savior.
Gooses and ganders. If the amendment is revoked, what applies to Baptists applies to Synagogues and Mosques.
The church protesting that she is above meddling in partisan politics is like a street-walker protecting her maidenly virtue. To wit: candidates invited to speak during worship; bulletin inserts listing social and moral positions of the church with checkmarks next to names of candidates who conform to the moral and social positions the church leadership think are Biblical; voter-registration during services; preachers in the pulpits endorsing particular candidates as true Christian candidates whilst avoiding naming them directly.
Nudge nudge, wink wink.
As a retired preacher, I never thought the folks in the pew wanted me to tell them for whom they should vote. What has muzzled me in the pulpit has been not the Johnson Amendment for fear of violating my congregation’s non-profit status; what has muzzled me has been me wanting to do my job. Fidelity to scripture is what has fortunately muzzled me. There is the difference between a sermon and a speech. What has muzzled me has been fear of violating the responsibility of the pulpit and the trust of my congregation.
Is a pastor’s freedom of speech abridged by the Johnson Amendment? Nonsense. We pastors talk too much as it is. What restricts pastors in the pulpit is obedience to the Word as best as we can grasp the revealed Word. Often I’ve had to express a Biblical truth I’ve found contrary to my own scruples.
Preachers must be political to the same degree that the prophets and the apostles were political, bringing Biblical perspectives to bear on current events and current moral and social concerns. That’s the preacher’s job , responsibility, privilege. With scripture as our lodestone we are obliged to question, articulate, challenge faith, personal piety, matters of social justice.
Of course, the issue that arises now is: whose Biblical truth? There are some of us preacher types who insist there is only one true inerrant Biblical truth and I congratulate them for their certitude and their eagerness to impose their certitude upon the rest of us whether we want it or not. Fact is, there is scant difference between the fascism of the right and the fascism of the left.
Let’s recall the story of the clergy visiting Abraham Lincoln who prayed for God to be on their side. Lincoln’s reply? Pray instead that we remain on God’s side.
That’s the fundamental difference the Johnson Amendment protects.
Next column: why churches should be tax exempt.
The Danville News
Robert John Andrews
At the editor’s discretion or 10 March, 2017
“Taxation Relaxation Part II”
Word Count: 750
Why are churches exempt from taxation?
Let’s destroy that silly fiction immediately. Churches aren’t exempt in dozens of ways. Churches as entities under the jurisdiction of government pay plenty toward government: fees on clearances, payroll taxes, Social security taxes, taxes on properties not exclusive for worship, in-kind subsidies in subsidizing free meeting places for Scouts, Polls, Women’s Centers, hosting public events and emergencies, parking for ceremonies .
And as valuable as churches (among other non-profits) are in bringing moral, cultural, spiritual, educational, charitable, economical benefits for the well-being of a community (imagine a town bereft of the contribution of churches), more telling is the legal rationale for non-profits to remain protected as non-profits.
Churches, along with other non-profits, simply aren’t in the business of profit. We are not commercial enterprises. Nor are we subsidized by the government. Government money doesn’t contribute to our maintenance. Voluntary donations do. Profit is not our reason for doing what we do.
The book “Why Churches Should Not Pay Taxes” by Dean Kelley argues: “Other entities, which are not in the wealth producing category to begin with…do not need to explain why they are not taxed any more than do the birds of the air or the rivers that flow to the sea. . . . [Taxing them] would be pointless, since they are not in any meaningful sense producers of wealth.”
Kelley further warns about the double-taxation that would result from the loss of non-profit status and making them taxable institutions: “To tax them again for participation in voluntary organizations from which they derive no monetary gain would be ‘double taxation’ indeed, and would effectively serve to discourage them from devoting time, money, and energy to organizations which contribute to the up building of the fabric of democracy.”
This may shock you but the real incentive fanning the desire to Trump-dump the Johnson Amendment that restricts non-profits from partisan politics is, drum roll please , money. Destroying the amendment allows congregations and denominations to take direct positions on candidates and far more than pastors talking about who to vote for. It allows the churches to become a direct ‘Political Action Committee,’ and that is just what Christ intended, right?
The removal of the Johnson Amendment allows for deductible charitable donations to churches to become conduits for fundraising for candidates. Church becomes a franchise for campaigns, selling in the temple. You could donate to the church for partisan political purposes and still claim the deduction as a charitable deduction. Shilling our souls.
Beware the unintended consequences from revoking this act The weave that is the fabric of church will unravel. Those unintended consequences get your every time. Pass the removal of the Johnson Amendment and donors will lose their tax deduction for charitable contributions.
If you intend the further trivialization of the church in the United States and increased national polarization, applaud President Trump’s promise to destroy the protection afforded non-profits by this Johnson Amendment.
The practice of the civil church, the state religion, has been tried before with dire results. Check out the imperium of the Roman church. Check out Islamic control in Iran. Check out what happened in Germany when the churches agreed to remove the cross and replace it with the swastika. Neither the church nor the cause of Christ fairs well when the church does more than kiss the hem of the king.
Talk all you want from the pulpit about for whom to vote, take all the partisan political positions you want as a local church or denomination, just be ready to lose your non-exempt status because you no longer deserve it.
The benefit of this discussion is that it brings to bear the whole reason church is church.
A proud moment in my pastorate happened during the campaign of George W. Bush versus John Kerry. My choir director and her husband Chuck were very committed young Republicans. Stacey was invited to sing patriotic selections to greet Vice-president Cheney when he visited Wilkes Barre to campaign. At the very moment Stacey was singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ another of my church members was being arrested in New York City for chanting protests against the Iraq War, with Liz ending up locked up in pens along the Hudson River with other protestors.
The following Sunday Chuck and Stacy sat in a pew behind Liz, where together they passed the peace of Christ to each other, they prayed together, took communion together, listened to scripture together, and together sang hymns of praise.
Bob promising a last one on Lincoln's Birthday: Winning doesn't make you right. Enough said.
Bob listening to the so called press conference, 16 February, 2017: not a press conference but a campaign speech pitting his public against his opponents and trying to detail how great he is and how terrible is anybody else opposed to him -- is it possible for him to say anything that isn't an insult?
Bob catching up from being away at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, 16 February, 2017: On Lincoln's birthday I watch Trump at a meeting with stalwart Republican supports boasting of himself. I hear of his plans for a rally in Florida. A man who needs so much adulation is a sad and sorry and pathetic man. I do pray for him to find some sort of higher faith and goodness to discover some sort of nobility and dignity.
Bob insistent, 16 February 2017: is anyone now surprised why he refuses disclosing his Tax forms?
Bob feeling sardonic and sad this Lincoln's Birthday, February 16: first, attacking the leakers? really? first ask is what they are leaking vital, damaging, urgent? then we can debate the morality of leaking; second, he is very good at playing the victim card and iooking the martyr and rallying his uncritical fans into a frenzy here Trump is not to blame for Trump; third, beware the vacuum when the Trump sinkhole sinks; fourth, his fans and surrogates in the news blame the Democrats for slowing the candidacy process when we should be asking why did he nominated such flawed and unqualified candidates? Let's all read today the second Inaugural Address by Lincoln.
Bob puzzled, 11 February, 2017: who gave Trump the Mussolini playbook? Putin?
Bob as frustrated as David Gergen, 9 February, 2017: Aesop must have written the fable of the frog jealous of the oxen for our pathetically desperate President. He just can't help himself when someone criticizes him. He just can't help himself from insisting on being the center of attention and the big boy in the room (calling in the airline execs so he can show off). And the frog kept inflating himself until he burst.
Bob reflective here, 8 February 2017: As I just wrote a dear friend, please don't mistake my opposition to and outrage toward the words and policies of Donald Trump as hatred for the man. Sorry my friend, John. I don't rant. I rarely fit the party line. Quite the contrary, I fervently believe Trump needs the love of Jesus. I view him a pathetic, tragic, sad, desperate, lonely man. He's never known love. Real love. Thus he doesn't know how to love. Plays will be written about him in the future about this, if we have any play-writes as good as Sophocles.
Thursday, Feb 2, 2017: Everyday I wake up to have it confirmed that Trump is an incompetent doofus, unless of course it just loves the attention even when stupid, cruel, harmful -- yes, all the more confirming him as a narcissistic sociopath. Congratulations, US, we got what we deserved, though I still feel that this can be a great awakening for true America -- only when you diagnose the infarction can you begin healing -- that's what Trump is: an infarction!
Bob again hoping against hope he isn't prophetic here and hoping against hope he is entirely unhinged and hoping his fears will be discredited - 30 January, 2017: please discredit my fears that Trump is intentionally provoking and counting on a terroristic retaliation in order to galvanize his base, incite the mob-lust, and institute forms of tyranny upon and repression of US liberties, seeking to exercise demagogic control over government.
Bob here twisting noses - 29 January, 2017: who has harmed, damaged, and destroyed more people in the United States: ISIS or casino owners?
Andrews 28 January, 2017 (ashamed) -- shame, shame, shame on the United States. Our President has learned well from Mussolini on how to destroy a nation's values, how to engender the world's disgust, how to incite and unite the terrorists. I applaud Chris Murphy challenge that do not talk about American morality if we are silent before the ant-American activities of Trump.
Bob Andrews 25 January 2017 (feeling weird): it truly its is strange. Not sure what to do but soon will. Why did we make our President someone who is so damn anti-American? We elected Mussolini, well, some of you did. Please, Congress and Courts, tell me we don't have a dictator today...
Bob chagined but hopeful, 15 January, 2017 (continuing the material beneath the column reprint): By the way, we fully recommend watching the movies Hidden Figures; except for the composite characters, historically spot on. Every boy and girl should watch this. Heck, Trump should watch it. Next: John Lewis. I think anger and frustration has gotten the best of you right now. Trust me, I understand. Still, In the spirit of MLK you need to be even more audacious: 1) INVITE TRUMP TO MEET WITH YOU IN YOUR OFFICE FOR A PRAYER MEETING AND SHARING OF HEARTS AND MINDS -- WILL HE? 2) LEGITIMATE OR NOT, HE IS THE PRESIDENT, AND THE OFFICE DESERVEES YOUR PARTICIPATION AS A LEADER OF OUR NATION -- THOUGH, WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND IS THAT YOU KNEEL IN PRAYER DURING THE OATH AND SPEECH FOR HIM AND FOR OUR NATION TO FULFILL IT'S HIGH CALLING. I WILL.
Bob incredulous on 6 January, 2017: Ah yes, just finished my Ray Bradbury -- a good tonic in a Trump world -- I love a good mystery can't stand plain foolishness -- those Russian mobsters are enjoying a new year indeed. They got their own sputnik with orange hair.
Bob full of Merry Christmas, 25 Christmas, 2016: God, I love how the Republican party is extolling Trump this Christmas Day as their4 new savior, and how they are falling on their knees but only to kiss his ass.
Bob wry perspective, 21 December, 2016: I'm no snowflake. Nor a sore loser. Hew won the electoral college, not the majority of Americans regardless how he tries to twist it oherwise. it is simply that Trump is an idiot. He may be clever, but he's terribly stupid. Berlin for example. It ain't about him. He's such a pathetic dolt, he must push himself into center stage, as if it is all about him. Yes, that makes him an ass. Leaders are servants who make sense. Puffed up peacocks strut like Mussolini and can't wait to suck the world dry to feed them. He's already doing it to those who attend those rallies. He's used them. What will happen when they see they've been duped?
Bob surreal, 10 December, 2016: Do you remember that Cold War thing? Well, as it turns out, Russia just won.
Bob contemplative, 8 December 2016: I think I intuited why Hilllary lost. The voters never felt she loved them.
Bob lament, 8 December, 2016: Trump on his way to Ohio State Univerity. I wish I could believe, I really do, I wish I could believe it is because he loves, because he cares and not because he wants credit, wants adoration, wants to be seen.
Perspective, 2 December, 2016: I can understand and appreciate opposing someone on the basis of their views or plans, their ideas and intent. A few of the Republicans objected to President Obama's policies but were willing to work and listen. Sadly, very few. Rather tough at the beginning of a term to hear that the other party's main goal is to ruin, hinder, impede, destroy everything you propose. There's an example of putting nation ahead of party, right. Don't equate then with now. I dont mind disagreeing over policies. In fact, I welcome it. What is going on today isnt this. Nor is it sore losers. It is being concerned with a president-elect's utter lack of moral character, a weak and scared man bereft of any sense of honor or integrity.
Rant, 1 December, 2016: watching the victory thank you lap speech in Ohio -- my God, thank you Trump voters for electing suich an smug ass as President. Such statesmanship, such decorum, such grace, such intelligence. What a fricking asshole. And I really am trying to pray for him to be the kind of leader we need. Prayers for him to stop lying, stop insulting, stop demanding adulation. I am so ashamed.
Whimsy, 29 November: I swear if Trump keeps this up, I'm going to end up burning a US flag and becoming Muslim...just to see what happens...
My 28 November, 2016 whimsy: Ah, what a joy to listen to our president-elect, the hypocrite-in-chief. I really can't call him an outright liar (liar-in -chief) because he's so delusional he actually believes what he says. Would someone please help him pull on his big boy pants. I swear, were I a clinician, it'd be tempted to diagnose the man we elected as a narcissistic sociopath. That's comforting, right? No doubt the Russian mob is snickering too...
For those interested int the article and Noah Zakarian's photographs from our trip to Armenia for Young Life, please take a look:
Need to reach me? Try: email@example.com
Blurb (Trump Era Day One): Well, the Russian mob is smiling. Any body interested in taking bets on how long it lasts? And who will turn on him first when he fails to bail out their lives?
Yes, I am ashamed of my country right now. Oh, I've had many reasons in the past to be ashamed of my nation, but nothing like today. We are such a laughingstock in the world of nations. But I must not give into the very kind of blame and mockery of those who voted for Trump that he would and has toward others. We must love. Trump is our creation and a judgment on our society.
Well, I had to accept the abomination of the presidencies of Reagan and Bush, I guess I will have to stomach this one. Okay, this can be fun. I began my adult life taking on fools in Government (Nixon), I can finish my career doing the same. Good thing I'm leaving the pulpit. This is a wake-up call for us to refuse to be complacent and we have been. No more racism, sexism, jingoism. Time for us to hit the streets. Too many of us counted on a weak leader to carry our water. Time for us to grab all the buckets we can carry. We must hold Trump and his voters accountable! Besides, as my wife says, intoning her English side, we get what we deserve.
And no doubt, the Democrats in Congress will treat Trump with as much collaboration, collegiality, respect, and decorum as the Republicans treated President Obama. We are reeling from the fruits of Newt Gingrich and his destruction of government by the refusal to treat the other party as equally interested in fostering the best for our nation.
Remember: it is one thing to drain swamps, it is another thing to build something there -- what, more casinos? I always have viewed casino owners no different than heroin dealers.
Remember: Trump's election will be very telling. It is about time we got honest about who America really is so we can recover who Americans are meant to be.
Blurb/Rant (November 1): My father would have still voted for Nixon, stalwart Republican that Dad was. But I am sure he and even Reagan would vomit in disgust with what the team of Trump/Bannon is doing to their party and this country. You got to believe the Russian mob is smiling.
Blurb (October 26): It sometimes takes a bump on the head for me to figure things out. One of the real benefits of Trump smarmy attitude toward women and his sleazy behavior toward women is the potential awakening of young girls to demand more respect. I know I haven't been the most respectful myself toward women. But I'm trying. It isn't the Kardashians young girls should admire, but the Hillary's, the Elizabeth Warrens, even Kellyanne Conway. Boys: take note -- you must respect girls. Girls: you just might wish to carry a razor blade wherever you go.
Blurb (October 17): Hillary: a low grade fever. Trump: an infarction. Hillary: New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning Expressing. Trump: supermarket tabloids. I'd be ashamed to vote for him. Would love to be challenged outside the voting poll. My Jersey will come out. All the vitriol (including mine) is proving the need for the Thanksgiving Service we''ve planned as an affirmation of our unity as citizens and our process of the constitutional exchnage of power.
Blurb (October 13): Very curious number one: this Republican anger at government for failing them, failing to solve their problems -- I always thought the Republicans tenet was wanting government to butt out so that we are to solve our own problems.
Very curious number two: Donald accusing Bill for being unfit for doing what Donald has done...
Bob's Blurb (October 11): So sad and so pathetic is Trump. He's also a walking disaster, but fortunately I have such confidence and pride in the United States that we will be able to learn from his candidacy and be the better for the sickness he exposes. That folks actually would vote for him strains credulity, given how un-American and un-gentlemanly he is. Without honor. He attacks Bill Clinton as being unqualified by alleging the same behavior that he actually exhibits. I don't get it. Being a pragmatic voter myself, I find those who wish to clothe themselves in garments of virtue in voting for third party candidates to be a tad prissy and holier than thou... And let's do our best to avoid being fascinated by the spiritual gymnastics of the conservative/neolithic evangelical branch in supporting him, he who contradicts everything they hold dear and sacred.
Bob Blurb: it is one thing to use the legal system to default and never pay taxes, it is another thing to still maintain a life of opulence, induilgence, and excess. My parents couldn't and didn't when their business struggled and failed. They had to sell the homestead and close the business and move in with my sister and her family. They suffered. It is one thing to point out Trump's bankruptcies and tax forms, it is another to ask why did he lack the moral character, let alone decency, to live within his means? We work, we pay, we do what we have to... he didn't and he doesn't. My father, a life-long Republican, would be ashamed about about the sycophants in the Republican party today...
Cool. My talk on 'The Other Side of the Coin -- the Life of the Danville Mill Worker' is now on Youtube, courtesy of Van Wagner.
A WORD ABOUT MY WRITINGS:
1) FINISHED IS THE SEQUEL TO NATHANIEL'S CALL CALLED NATHANIEL'S RETURN -- THIRTEEN DAYS IN THIRTEEN CHAPTERS;
2) I AM GOING TO PULL DANGEROUS CURVES TO SUBMIT A REDRAFTED VERSION OF THE STORY;
3) SOON I WILL COMPLETE MY NON-FICTION WORK ABOUT MY GRANDFATHER AND THE PAINT BUSINESS, TITLED 'GREORGE AND FLORENCE - FOREVER YOURS;'
4) MY BIGGEST HOPE IS TO PACKAGE ALL MY NOVELS AND TRY TO ENLIST AN AGENT OR A REAL PUBLISHING HOUSE, AS WELL AS SYNDICATE MY COLUMNS -- ANY HELP IS GREATLY APPRECIATED.
Nathaniel's Call available for purchase!
The paperback edition (355 pages) can be purchased from the following vendors:
Amazon at www.amazon.com
Barnes and Noble at www.bn.com for 16.52 (plus shipping)
Booklocker at www.booklocker.com
Also available at the Iron Heritage store, 316 Mill Street, Danville
Nathaniel's Call by Robert John Andrews
The Presbyterian Writers Guild has selected the Rev. Robert John Andrews, a pastor in Danville, Pa., to receive its prestigious Presbyterian Publishing Corporation First Book Award for 2014 for his novel set in the Civil War, Nathaniel’s Call.
Andrews’ book ― self-published in 2012 ― was selected from among 17 entries in a variety of genres to receive the biennial award, given in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly years to the best first book by a Presbyterian writer during the past two years. The PPC First Book Award winner is recognized at the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s General Assembly luncheon, which this year will be Thursday, June 19 in Detroit.
Jane Hines of Nashville ― retired director of communications for the Synod of Living Waters and chair of the PPC First Book Award Committee ― said, “Several genres are represented in the 17 books we received (teen science fiction, memoirs, poetry, young adult fiction, novels, journals, dissertation re-writes). We were just looking for the best writing in any category and found it in Nathaniel’s Call.”
As a Nashville-based committee comprised of Southerners, Hines added, “we don't think it will be a best-seller in Vicksburg and Richmond, but we see Nathaniel's Call as a splendid example of the art of writing.”