Balancing High Risks: Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

Balancing High Risks:  Mountain Climbing and the First Amendment

By James J. S. Johnson

When an American astronaut reverently quotes from Psalm 24, and is promptly faulted by a critic—for “violating” the so-called “separation of church and state”(1)—it is time to learn a lesson about balance, from the agility of mountain goats, adroitly ambulating alpine ascents of the Rocky Mountains.

Mountain Goat in Rocky Mountain

Indeed, mountain goats provide creation science “gems”, plus a picture of how we need balance in the political arena, where Christians are routinely shoved—and told to shut up, to avoid “offending” non-Christians.  (Of course, it is offensive to Christians when they are told to “shut up”, but since when did unbelieving critics care about “offending” Christians?)

Why are mountain goats a picture of this problem? Because safely balancing a mountain goat’s body, on steep alpine slopes—and safely balancing individuals’ civil liberties (such as an astronaut’s religious freedom and free speech rights)—are both examples of high-stakes balancing acts. To appreciate this comparison (in this introductory review of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment), mountain goats must be matched to their intended natural habitat, just as the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment must be matched to its intended political context.

A female mountain goat with two babies on a rock mountain in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Consider, first, the agility of a mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus), the sure-hoofed bovid that habituates the heights of North America’s Rocky Mountains and Cascade Range.(2)

“For those of us who admit to some fear of heights, the Mountain Goat is an animal to be admired … This shaggy animal, its back hunched in a manner somewhat suggestive of a Bison, is a master at negotiating the steepest of precipices. Mountain Goats are truly alpine creatures. They commonly rest on high-elevation snowfields and find most of their food among the plants of alpine meadows. Their hooves are structured to [optimize] balance and grip; the outer hoof is strongly reinforced and the bottom is lined with rubbery material, making the whole structure rather like a good hiking boot. These animals nonchalantly cross dizzying ledges, sometimes even at a trot.”(3)

In fact, the high-altitude dexterity of the mountain goat is so phenomenal that it routinely spends most of its time on precipitous terrain steeper than a 40o angle, and sometimes at pitches steeper than 60o!, especially during winter.(4)

Furthermore, the leg bones of the mountain goat are engineered to maximize a functional mix of precision balancing (such as perching all four hooves on a small spot), front-forward pulling power, propulsion leverage and maneuverability (for running and jumping), and stability (due to a low center of gravity) against tipping over.(4)

“A mountain goat climbs with three-point suspension. … Lifting one limb at a time [it] frequently pauses to assess the situation, tests the footing, and if needed turns back and selects a different route. Slow, sure consistency allows life on rock steeper than the angle of repose. Because they are most likely the ones to find themselves in a tight spot, kids do most of the go-for-broke climbing. Although a kid might take four or five missteps per year, it salvages the situation almost every time.”(4)

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Mountain Goat Kids Juming ©TMLee

Thus, the mountain goats are aptly designed for moving on rocky slopes. Mountain goats are instinctively careful, and they apply their characteristic agility, as they test their environment. (Indeed, when predatory cougars try to attack them, the God-given instinct of mountain goats to flee, successfully, is often implemented by their agility and speed in and up these jagged rocky slopes and precipices!)

Mountain Goats in Danger in Mountain

But without the right physical traits for maintaining balance on rugged rocks—traits which God installed on Day 6 of Creation Week—mountain goats could not thrive, as they do, upon the harsh talus slopes and felsenmeer of their high-elevation habitat.

“The [mountain goat hoofprint] track’s squarish imprint is created by the hoof’s spreading tips. The sides of the toes consist of hard keratin, like that of a horse hoof. Each foot’s two wraparound toenails are used to catch and hold on to cracks and tiny knobs. … The front edge of the hoof tapers to a point, which digs into dirt or packed snow when [it] is going uphill. In contrast to a horse’s concave hoof, which causes the animal to walk on the rim of its toenail, a [mountain] goat’s hoof has a flexible central pad that protrudes beyond the nail. The pad’s rough texture provides [skid-resistant] friction on smooth rock or ice yet is pliant enough to impress itself into irregularities on a stone. Four hooves X 2 toes per hoof = 8 gripping soles per animal. As [mountain] goats descend a slope the toes spread widely, adjusting tension to fine-tune the grip. … This feature makes them more likely to catch onto something. It also divides the downward force of the weight on the hoof so that some of the animal’s total weight is directed sideways. Because there is less net force on each downward [pressure] line, the foot is less likely to slide. Think of it as the fanning out of downward forces over numerous points of friction.”(4)

In a word, BALANCE.  God purposefully designed high-elevation mountain goats for balance, because living life among high alpine rocks is a high-risk lifestyle.

Agile Mountain Goat Jumping across River

Yet the same is equally true to balancing religious liberty rights (and responsibilities) in American society.  Legitimate needs of both “church” and “state” are deliberately balanced with the God-given personal liberty rights of individuals. Like a mountain goat perched atop a precarious precipice, safeguarding those God-given religious freedoms is no lackadaisical endeavor.  The securing of those fundamental freedoms was not (and is not) easily obtained, nor is it easy to maintain those freedoms amidst the ubiquitously power-greedy politics of both “church” and “state”.(5)

In a word, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment is purposefully designed for BALANCE.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. (5)

It is to this legal text that the “separation of church and state” concept is frequently attached. However, not all opinions are equal, regarding what that phrase of 16 words (in the First Amendment) mean. Why? Because, as a matter of honesty and valid interpretation, the real meaning of any message must be matched to the message-composer’s intent.(6)

Thus, the only legitimate understanding of the First Amendment’s meaning is the understanding that matches the meaning assigned to it by the (human) source of its words.(5),(6),(7)

Signing Document

Yet, as a text drafted by statesmen of the late 1700s (principally by James Madison, who condensed an earlier version by George Mason), the authorial intent balanced a rejection of government-“established” church organizations, with affirmation of peaceful expression of individual religious beliefs and moral values.(6)

In other words, the First Amendment anticipated that Christians may freely express their religious viewpoints, at the personal level—yet Congress shall not officially endorse (“establish”) any specific ecclesiastical organizations, such as Baptists or Presbyterians or Anglicans or Methodists. This balancing of freedom and order—free exercise of religion, without any federal sponsorship of a particular religious denomination or hierarchy—fits the overall checks-and-balances equilibrium designed in 1791.(6)

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national establishment which should give to a [religious] hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”(8)

To put it mildly, this political balancing act is neither easily obtained nor easily maintained.  But this balance was carefully planned for–intended—by America’s founding fathers. Yet now the phrase “separation of church and state” is used to force-fit an off-balanced understanding of the First Amendment.  How did that happen?

In short, the constitutional jurisprudence of America became “evolutionized”, during the late 1800s, upsetting the proper balance between religious liberty and governmental interference.(5),(6),(7),(8),(9)

“Twentieth-century jurisprudence is based on a Darwinian world view.  Life [supposedly] evolves, men [supposedly] evolve, society [supposedly] evolves, and therefore laws and constitutions [supposedly] evolve.  According to the Darwinian principle, the Constitution’s meaning evolves and changes with time. … [Thus modern judges, implementing evolutionary humanism as jurists, my disagree about what a law “now means”] — But neither the majority nor the minority [of such evolutionary law judges] deny the basic evolutionary interpretation.  They merely question at which stage of the evolutionary scale we are!  This is not the way the founding fathers viewed constitutional interpretation.  They saw the Constitution as the supreme law, and also as a covenant or contract.  The Constitution like all legal documents was viewed as a fixed document, to be interpreted according to its plain meaning.  And if its meaning was ambiguous as applied to a specific situation, it was to be interpreted according to the intent of those who wrote it, signed it, and ratified it.  James Madison expressed this view when he wrote, ‘(If) the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation … be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a faithful exercise of its powers’.”(9)

How evolutionary thinking infected American law will be reviewed, God willing, in a sequel to this introductory article.(10) Meanwhile, don’t believe it when someone tells you that the First Amendment “prohibits” an individual astronaut from reverently reading his Bible in space—or from sharing that personal fact via Facebook.(1)

And, as you appreciate the originally intended balance, designed in the First Amendment, don’t forget to thank God—for how He equipped agile mountain goats, to inhabit some of the most precarious places in the Rocky Mountains, as He exhibits (and we enjoy learning about) His creative glory and bioengineering genius.(2)

profjjsj@aol.com      ><>  JJSJ

References

(1) On April 3rd of AD2016, via Facebook, U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams said: “We finally have a quiet Sunday and I’m reading, ‘The Earth is the LORD’s and all that fills it’ in Psalm 24 and viewing this sight [referring to photographs of Earth, seen from the International Space Station].  No matter how long you’re here [in space], the grandeur strikes and the wonder never fades.”  To this posting a God-hating protest retorted, on Col. Jeff Williams’ Facebook page:  “Jeff Williams could you please leave your personal religious views out of your public posts.  You are a government employee.  In America we have a separation of church and state.  Don’t use your publicly funded position to promote personal views.  Teachers shouldn’t and neither should astronauts.  I enjoy the photos from space.  I have followed astronauts photos for over two years without religious bias in the captions.  Your post elevates (no pun intended) man’s divisiveness on Earth to Space.  Please keep it private and keep posting these wonderful scientific pictures without the religious OPINIONS.”   [ See also http://www.icr.org/article/9295.]

(2) The rope-like “backbone” ridge chain of North America’s West is called the Western Cordillera. Included in its geographic system are the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Range, the primary high-elevation range of most North American mountain goats. George Constanz, Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers: A Rocky Mountain Ecology (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014), page 215.

(3) John Kricher, A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain and Southwest Forests (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), pages 235-236. As illustrated in Job 39:1, Israel’s mountain goat is named for how this bearded climber masters its rocky alpine habitat:  ya‘alê-sâla‘   literally means “ascenders of cliff-rock”. See also Psalm 104:18a.

(4) Constanz, Rocky Mountain Ecology, pages 224-226, with quotes frompages 225-226.

 (5) U.S. Constitution, First Amendment (Free Exercise and Establishment clauses), ratified 1791. The vast majority of the world’s nations prohibit the “free exercise” for religious liberty, either by establishing a specific religion to the prejudice of others, or by persecuting theistic religions in general.  The most thorough historical analysis of the First Amendment is provided in Rector, etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511 (1892), by Justice David Josiah Brewer.  To bypass the jurisprudential relevance, of the Holy Trinity Church ruling, is to demonstrate careless misunderstanding of what the First Amendment was originally designed (and originally used) to accomplish. The balancing of civil government powers, ordained by God’s delegation, with jurisdictional limits to facilitate religious freedom, accords with relevant Scriptures, e.g., Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-4; Daniel 2:21 & 4:25—and with Israel’s separation of religious offices (tribe of Levi) from the monarchy (tribe of Judah).

(6) George Mason’s religious liberty tenet, which he had drafted (12 years earlier) for the Virginia Declaration of Rights, became the precursor for Virginia’s proposal (to Congress) to approve a religious freedom amendment for the “new” Constitution: “That Religion or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or violence, and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion according to the Dictates of Conscience, and that no particular religious Sect or Society of Christians ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.” Notably, the entire Bill of Rights (i.e., Amendments 1 through 10) limited federal government powers. Ironically, most of the Constitution’s later amendments have expanded those powers. John Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution: A Study on Christianity and the Law of the Land  (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1995), pages 71-73. See also John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 77-178, especially pages 93-112. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson (author of the phrase “separation of church and state”) was undeniably absent—in France!—during the Constitution’s drafting and early ratification (which processes prompted the Bill of Rights amendments), so his opinion of the First Amendment’s “intent” is interpretatively irrelevant.

(7) Importantly, the First Amendment’s meaning is contextually blended to the axiological fabric of the Declaration of Independence (referring to our “Creator”, “Nature’s God”, “the Supreme Judge of the world”, and “Divine Providence”), and to the Christian worldview evidenced by the U.S. Constitution’s Article VII (which refers to Jesus  Christ as “our Lord”).

(8) Eidsmoe, Institute on the Constitution, page 76, quoting Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: Hilliard, Gray & Co., 1833), vol. II, page 593.

(9) John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987), pages 391-392, quoting James Madison.

(10) The evolutionary mantra-phrase, “natural selection”, promotes animistic powers to inanimate elements of “nature”, not dissimilar from the polytheistic nature-worship of the ancient pagans.  See, e.g., James J. S. Johnson, “Norse and Germanic Mythology”, Chapter 14 in World Religions and Cults, Volume 2 (Green Leaf: Master Books, 2016, edited by Bodie Hodge & Roger Patterson), especially at pages 271-272 & 287-288.  See also, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “How Can a Mechanical ‘Cardinal’ Make ‘Selections’?”, posted at https://leesbird.com/2015/03/12/how-can-a-mechanical-cardinal-make-selections/For a thorough analysis of this “bait-and-switch” tricky-terminology problem (of “science” falsely so-called), see generally Randy J. Guliuzza’s “Darwin’s Sacred Imposter:  Natural Selection’s Idolatrous Trap”, Acts & Facts, 40(11):12-15 (November 2011), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/darwins-sacred-imposter-natural-selections/ .

Mountain Goats on Rocky Hill

 

The Adventure Continues… It is truly out of this world!

Earth_from_SpaceGolden Eagle here boys and girls…I have just flown in from a trip around the world. This beautiful planet that we call Earth is pretty big. This is a beautiful sphere of white, fluffy clouds and a mirrored surface of blue and green hues of color. There is no other planet like this one in our whole Solar System.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world (eternity) in their hearts, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

God made every thing “beautiful.” All the ugliness: the sin, the crime, the war, the disease, the storms, and the hatred comes from man’s sin and rebellion in the Garden of Eden.

Jesus Christ has come to fix every thing. He has bought back His creation, including man. He paid for everything with His precious blood that He shed on the cross for our sins. And He has gone “to prepare a place for us.”

Quartz Crystal ©WikiC

Quartz Crystal ©WikiC

This place is called Heaven. It is paved with golden streets. It has twelve gates made of pearl. It has a river that is clear as crystal. In the city, there is never night time. The foundations of the city are made or precious gems and jewels.

Emerald in the Rough ©WikiC

Emerald in the Rough ©WikiC

“The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.” Revelation 21:19-20

Faceted Beryl Morganite, 2.01ct, Brazil ©WikiC

Hey kids! The Almighty Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ is creating a city using the very best materials that an all powerful God can make. The construction materials will give off all different shades of brilliant colors and lights. This city is a beautiful diamond and best of all, this is the place where Jesus will live with all of His people forever!

Faceted Goshenite, 1.88 ct, Brazil ©WikiC

Faceted Goshenite, 1.88 ct, Brazil ©WikiC

You really do not want to miss this place.Trust Jesus as your personal Saviour. Believe that He died for your sins in your place. Believe that He is alive today up in Heaven and ask Jesus Christ to save you and forgive you of your sins.

“FOR WHOSOEVER SHALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED”

“BLESSED ARE ALL THEY THAT PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM.”

You Are On An Adventure!

All of us are on this great adventure! Did you ever wonder? Did you ever wonder why a tree can live longer than you? Did you ever wonder where you came from? Did you ever wonder why you are on planet Earth? Did you ever wonder what you are supposed to do while you are here? Did you ever wonder what will happen to you at the moment you leave this world? Did you ever wonder?

Light by Deeliah

Light by Deeliah

You and I are destined for the skies. We are destined to live forever! We are destined to continue this journey forever! Did you ever wonder about your purpose and plan in this great ongoing adventure? Did you ever wonder? In the days and weeks ahead of us we will explore the answers to these questions and so much more! For now, I will say good bye to you all from Bibleworld Adventures!!!

You Have A Purpose On Planet Earth!

Earth photo from Pixabay

Earth photo from Pixabay

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Each of us has an “expected end.” God has created each of us with different abilities and talents. We each have different likes and dislikes. We each have a unique personalities  and a unique backgrounds with respect to our upbringing. God, the Lord Jesus Christ, has a specific plan and purpose for each one of us!

Everything that takes place in our lives is preparing us for this unique adventure and journey. Your family and past genealogy has prepared you. Your education (past and present) has prepared you. Your circumstances have been directed by God to help you get involved with what God’s plan is for your life.

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:1)

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)

Jesus Christ is the Potter with power over the clay. You and I were made from the dust of the ground. Modern science teaches us that we have oxygen and carbon in our makeups. You have heard of the “carbon footprint.” We have calcium and magnesium in our bodies.

This ADVENTURE that we are on will last for eternity. You want to make sure that you are “saved.” If you understand that you are really a sinner that deserves the ‘wrath of God” because we have sinned against a Holy God, then you can be saved because God sent to us a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He paid for our sins on the cross. We simply need to believe what God says about Jesus Christ and the fact that He paid for our sins with His shed blood. Trust Him, rely completely on Him. You cannot save yourself. When once you trust Jesus Christ as your own personal Saviour, you are ready to begin this exciting journey!

You and I are destined to the skies! We are destined to live in Paradise with God forever. You have probably figured out that money, fame, fortune, and education doesn’t really satisfy. The only One that can fill out empty,voided heart is God Himself. We were created to “enjoy God forever.” If you love life, please stay with me as we journey along together! Thanks!

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Are You Personally On An Adventure?

Balloon Adventure ©WikiC

Balloon Adventure ©WikiC

Bibleworld Adventures

Hello to all of you out there! What is this Bibleworld Adventures blog about? The purpose for this blog is to help us see the big picture of life. Why are you on planet Earth? Where did you and I come from? While we are here, what are we supposed to do? Where can I find truth? What is truth? We will discuss some current events. We will discuss History sometimes, and at other times we will discuss Science. We will state right at the start that everybody makes assumptions each and everyday. When we drive our automobiles and go down the right side of the road, we expect that the other driver coming towards us will stay on his or her side of the road. When you turn the light switch on, you assume that the light in the room will come on. We will assume that the Bible is indeed the very “Word of God.” We will discuss many and varied subjects pertaining to real life situations. This blog will examine these things with an “open Bible.” Thanks for visiting this blog and please stay with me as we take this exciting adventure together!

I once had a college professor, Dr. Jim Johnson, who said that life with Jesus Christ is an “adventure.” This is so true! I remember when I was at the young age of ten or there about: I remember thinking that life on this planet made no sense whatsoever. Was I to grow up and learn things a t school? Was I to grow up and have a family and then work all of my life? Was I to eventually die and leave it all behind in 100 years or less. This made no sense then and makes no sense today apart from the Word of God, the BIBLE

God tells us in the Bible that there is a purpose for everything!

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) God has “made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world (eternity) in their hearts…I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14)

Each of you knows, down in the depths of your soul, that there is a God and there is a bigger purpose than just “me” in this vast Universe. This blog will help point us in the right direction! Each choice that we make, each action that we live out, and each thought that we think will affect our own eternity! God is eternal and He has created us with eternal souls and spirits and personalities. Good choices bring good results, bad choices bring bad results. The best choice is to accept the precious gift of “eternal life.” This means to believe and “trust” in what Jesus Christ did on the cross about 2000 years ago.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“But God commendeth (demonstrated) his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

In fact, buy a Bible and read Romans chapter five. Remember, this Bibleworld Adventures blog will use an “open Bible” concept as we continue on with our own personal adventures. We are destined for the skies and beyond to the third Heaven, which is Paradise! You and I have started on this adventurous road and we will live somewhere forever! God is eternal and He has created us in “His image,” We also will live FOREVER!

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Please read these previous articles by Golden Eagle that have been reproduced here. These can be found in the Golden Eagle section.

Golden Eagle

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