What Is Religious Freedom, anyway?

Think-tanker Joseph Backholm cites some of the absurdities and posturing in the controversy over the Indiana Religious Freedom act–such as Apple threatening to stop doing business in Indiana, while still doing business in Saudi Arabia where gays can be executed, and a governor banning state travel to Indiana even though his state has a broader Religious Freedom statute than Indiana’s.

But then he gets to the underlying issue:   People have different understandings of what religious freedom means.  Is it just the freedom to attend worship services?  Does it just apply to internal beliefs but not to actions?  Does it only apply to individuals and not to what those individuals do when they operate a business?  He gets into the history of the issue  and the legal precedents in a way that people on all sides of the issue need to understand.  He also shows how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has actually been used. [Read more...]

The American history wars

Back in 1994, Lynne Cheney, former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, published a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The End of History, criticizing educational standards for American History.  Now she has published The End of History, Part II, about the new Advance Placement American History exam.  See excerpts after the jump and consider the points I raise. [Read more...]

A new biography of Frederick the Wise

Concordia Publishing House has just published a new biography of Frederick the Wise, the powerful Duke of Saxony who was Luther’s protector.  I was able to read an advance copy, and it is excellent.   The book, by the multi-faceted biographer Sam Wellman, puts the reader in the middle of the life and times of late Medieval Saxony, with all of the intrigue and high-stakes politics that characterized the Holy Roman Empire. And Frederick emerges as a formidable figure, someone the Emperor relied on so much that he dared not arrest the Duke’s pet theologian.  Also, contrary to other things I had read, Frederick was very much a “Lutheran” who appreciated above all Luther’s emphasis on the Scriptures.  After the jump, a link to the book, and the endorsement I wrote for it. [Read more...]

Scientists look at Crucifixion

Scientists have been studying the mechanics, physiology, and history of crucifixion.  They have learned that it was more horrible than people had assumed.   Details and a link to some of the findings after the jump. [Read more...]

Shooting down the claims that Easter has pagan origins

Rev. Joseph Abrahamson has thoroughly refuted these claims about Easter, and yet we still keep hearing them:

There are three main things people attack about this Holy Day:

They claim that it is pagan because the name Easter is from a pagan goddess.

They claim that Easter eggs are a symbol of pagan worship, particularly of that false goddess in number 1.

They claim that the Easter bunny is a pagan symbol, the consort of the pagan goddess in number 1.

All of these claims are false.

Easter eggs, for example, come from the use of eggs in the Passover celebration and in the practice of breaking the Lenten fast against eating animal products with eggs on Easter morning.  Go here for the details about why all of these claims of Easter’s pagan origins are just demonstrably wrong.

In the meantime, ANOTHER claim has emerged–that Easter and Easter eggs come from a Persian Zoroastrian holiday named Nowruz.  Rev. Abrahamson shoots that one down too, linked and excerpted after the jump. [Read more...]

Civil War photos online

The Library of Congress has acquired thousands of Civil War photographs and has put them online.  Here is a slide show sampling.  My favorites are from the Liljenquist Family collection of individual and family portraits., which the Library of Congress is making available freely, with no copyright restrictions.

These put a human face, literally, on history and on the Civil War, and I find them very moving.  (The custom was to have a picture taken in your uniform before you set off for war, knowing that you might never be coming back.  Some of the pictures of boys still in adolescence show a fierce bravado that is belied by their baby faces.  The pictures of the men with their wives and children show both courage and sadness.)  I post one after the jump.  (Notice the emotion in this formal pose in the way the husband and wife are holding onto each other’s hands.) [Read more...]