On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

Religion of Freedom?

Recently a local newspaper carried an op-ed article titled, “In praise of our national religion” which the author maintained was the religion of freedom.

I decided to respond to the article with an op ed piece of my own. My ‘letter’ to the editor may never be seen in print anywhere but here so I wanted you to have the opportunity to read my thoughts. (The original op-ed piece can be traced to the Canton Repository, Canton Ohio July 3, 2012 by Charita Goshay. Here is my response:

3 July 2012

Dear Editor,

In response to “In praise of our national religion” by Charita Goshay in today’s Rep, I have some real difficulty with her basic foundation for her statement that “America’s only national religion is freedom.”[i] When did it become Religion of Freedom rather than Freedom of Religion?

I begin with basic definitions, the first being that ‘freedom’ is not a religion; it is a state of being. According to Wiktionary  freedom is defined as “unconstrained” “a state of free will”[ii] whereas a religion is defined by Wikipedia as “a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values.”[iii] It is because America is founded on a Judeo-Christian religion (I prefer the term faith over ‘religion’, but I will go with the vernacular), that persons in America can enjoy freedom as a state of being, a state of free will, of not being ‘constrained.’ The disposition of freedom upon those in the United States as citizens or as visitors to move about freely, worship freely and to appreciate freedom comes from our belief system. Freedom is not, in and of its self, a belief system.

I am continually frustrated by those who mount up on their straw-man arguments that America is not based on the Judeo-Christian religion (faith). I challenge anyone to show me a country anywhere in this world that celebrates and enjoys freedom as we do here in the United States but does not have some foundation in the Judeo-Christian religion.

Every pundit ascribing to any philosophy seems to get their time to be heard and so, with your permission, I would like to state a few basic proofs of my point.

The following are just a few of the almost countless examples:

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence “My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”[iv]

Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time. They therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure… are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”[v]

Too vague, you say? We don’t know these men who helped decide our nation’s birth? Okay, let’s look further.

John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it: and my body I recommend to the earth… nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mercy and power of God.”[vi]

John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”[vii] (emphasis added)

John Adams, second President: “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”[viii]

Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence: “He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.”[ix]

Patrick Henry while Governor of Virginia: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”[x]

We also have so many examples from the days of the colonies. The Rhode Island Charter of 1683: “We submit our person, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given us in His Holy Word.” Similar constructs were part of the Virginia (Jamestown) charter, the Connecticut and Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, the fore-runners of Mr. Romney followed the Mayflower Compact: “(governing) for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.”[xi]

But, of course ‘all of those are so long ago, those kinds of ideas don’t apply any more’, some might say. When President Eisenhower, in 1954, approved the addition of ‘Under God’ to the Pledge of Allegiance, he said, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future.”[xii]

Most everyone can quote John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech about ‘ask not…’  but in that same speech President Kennedy said, “And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but the hand of God… let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”[xiii]

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered yearly for his social justice and the civil rights movement. Here are Dr. King’s own words, “you can’t turn me out of the ministry, because I got my guidelines and my anointment from God Almighty.”[xiv] He believed that his direction for working on the streets of America to make a difference within the political system came from his ministry which he believed to be given to him by God.

The list is almost endless and the examples are quite clear. Why are some folks, particularly, it seems in the media, so determined to decry America’s Judeo-Christian heritage? We have so much for which to be thankful. We must remember Charles Carroll’s warning echoing back to us from the small room in Independence Hall in Philadelphia from the 18th century, “they… who are decrying the Christian religion…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”[xv] We must celebrate our Judeo-Christian heritage because it is from that heritage that we support freedom, including freedom for others to worship according to their own design. Current countries other than the U.S. that are ruled by religious, non-Christian, leaders are the antithesis to freedom, especially freedom of religion.

May America bless God this July 4th and may God bless America.


[i]Goshay, Charita “In praise of our national religion” Canton Repository 3 July 2012

[iv] Lee, Richard G. Dr., primary editor The American Patriot’s Bible – Notes and Articles, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville: 2009

[v]    Ibid.

[vi]   Ibid.

[vii]  Ibid.

[viii]  Ibid.

[ix]   Ibid.

[x]   Ibid.

[xi]   Ibid.

[xii]   Ibid.

[xiii]  Ibid.

[xv] Lee, Richard G. Dr., primary editor The American Patriot’s Bible – Notes and Articles, Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville: 2009