The Emancipation Proclamation – hitting the Confederacy in the wallet

[Rather than join the recent discussion on the Confederate Battle Flag* I thought I’d focus on another artifact from the Civil War: the Emancipation Proclamation.]


In the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln ordered that all slaves in Confederate controlled areas were set free. Some say Lincoln overstepped his presidential authority, arguing that slavery was allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

They’re wrong.

One of the oldest rules of war (although to say that war has rules is a bit counter-intuitive) is that armies and governments exercise dominion over captured enemy property, even private property. That is what Lincoln contemplated on September 22, 1862, when he issued this preliminary order:

That on the first day of January [1863], all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free … .

The delay from September to January was designed to allow States in rebellion, or portions of those States, to cease rebelling against the United States and take themselves out of the Proclamation’s scope. (Lincoln letter of August 26, 1863, to James C. Conkling.) The order only extended to property of those living in areas governed by the Confederacy.

A central tenet of the Confederacy and its slaveholders was that the people held in slavery were property. They objected to anyone interfering with their property rights. But just as armies appropriate property from conquered people, this order declared the necessity of terminating the property rights of those in Confederate held territory for the purpose of advancing the cause of the United States.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln “as Commander-in-Chief … and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion” issued the Emancipation Proclamation enforcing the September order:

I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

The Emancipation Proclamation (Wikimedia)

The Emancipation Proclamation

The proclamation made the war effort explicit in several places, including this invitation to join the battle:

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed forces of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

Sgt. William Carney, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1863 (Wikipedia

Sgt. William Carney, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1863

In 1864, Lincoln estimated the number of black soldiers and sailors exceeded 130,000 men, and said those who joined the Union’s cause in any way were owed what had been promised in preserving their freedom. (Lincoln letter of August 17, 1864, to Charles D. Robinson.) Lincoln’s sense of duty to the freed people was tested more than once.

Several politicians and civic leaders argued for peace with the Confederacy through compromise. Some sought reunification by reinstating the status quo on slavery before the war. Others were willing to recognize the Confederacy as a separate nation that could make its own decisions on slavery. Lincoln would have none of it, pointing out more than once that without slavery there would have been no war and with it there could be no real peace. He considered it his duty to preserve the nation, not preside over its fragmentation.

Keeping Promises

Lincoln felt his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States required every lawful effort to preserve the union governed by that constitution. He also considered himself honor-bound to keep the promises of the Emancipation Proclamation.

This sense of duty to keep your promises reminds me of Jesus’ words:

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all … . All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37.)

A paraphrase might be: “Say it if you mean it, don’t say it if you don’t mean it, and follow through on your promises.”

Jesus knew what he was talking about because it is his job to keep promises. In fact, the Bible tells us that when it comes to God’s promises Jesus is the one who keeps them all.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20.)

God promised to set people free, and did it in Jesus Christ. (Luke 4:18-21.) Just as Lincoln ordered the army and navy to take part in guaranteeing the freedom of the slaves, now we get to take part in Jesus’ ministry of freedom.

Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:35-36.)

Freedom indeed. There’s no going back.


*For those who insist the Civil War and Confederate Battle Flag were about something other than slavery, I have this response: The Civil War Was About Enslaving Black People.

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Liberals and the Love of God

Washington on liberality

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.

George Washington.

The word “liberal” had a particular meaning in Washington’s day, different from what it means in American political discussions about liberals and conservatives. Samuel Johnson defined it’s opposite “illiberal” in his 1755 dictionary as “not noble … not generous.” So to be liberal meant to be generous and noble.

As for “civil government”, Washington spoke of the protections that come from a government that serves its citizens. The rights of each person were not to be withheld capriciously or arbitrarily as happens in dictatorships and tyrannies, but to be shared and enjoyed by all liberally under equal protection of the laws.

The Bible’s Liberality

Generosity and nobility are Biblical virtues as well. After all, the Bereans are commended for being noble in their dedication to studying God’s word (Acts 17) and generosity is to be a lifestyle for Jesus’ people. (1 Timothy 6:18.)

If you want to show non-Christians that you belong to Jesus, this is the way to do it, nobly and generously. After all, this is how God brought us to himself even while we were acting in complete opposition to him.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7.)

If God can show you such generous mercy and grace, then do you have reason to show anything less to those around you who do not yet know God?

Be liberal in your generosity and nobility toward others. As Jesus said:

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8.)


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Marriage Equality and No Fault Divorce – how do you rank them?

[The United States Supreme Court last Friday extended the right to marry to same sex couples in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. In light of the nationwide reach of that ruling I wanted to update this post from the archives.]

I read a thought-provoking question on another blog:

Would anyone agree that there is a difference between

a) baking a cake you know is for a gay couple
b) baking a cake you know is for a gay couple’s wedding but not attending
c) taking professional pictures of a gay wedding, at the gay wedding
d) officiating the wedding

Is it possible and consistent that one may perform a-c as a part of his profession, but draw the line at D, and refuse to officiate on account of his religious beliefs?

I responded by asking a question borne straight from my position as a trial court judge:

Let’s choose a different situation. My understanding of the Bible says divorce is prohibited except when certain circumstances exist. Can I refuse to grant a divorce decree for a couple who meets the legal requirements for marital dissolution but who do not meet the biblical requirements?

If there’s a difference between a person disagreeing with same sex marriage performing a wedding and a person opposed to divorce dissolving the marriage of a couple that does not meet the biblical standards for divorce, I like to know what it is.

There are a number of Bible passages people rely on for their position on same sex marriage, some finding the Bible supports these marriages and others concluding it prohibits them. Some people talk about cultural norms at the time of the original Scripture writings, others talk about the timelessness of Scripture. And the funny thing is that I’ve seen people use either one of those rubrics to support and to oppose same sex marriage.

When it comes to divorce, Scripture isn’t anywhere near that malleable.

Divorce According to Jesus

On a divorce case, I check the paperwork and if the people meet the legal requirements for a divorce I grant it. I look on the decree as a judicial declaration that these people are entitled to a divorce under the laws of my state. I take this seriously and sign only those papers that meet every requirement.

Jesus takes divorce even more seriously:

 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7th Century Byzantine wedding ring depicting Jesus uniting the couple (Wikimedia)

7th Century Byzantine wedding ring depicting Jesus uniting the couple

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matthew 19:3-9.)

These theologians thought they had Scripture on their side, but Jesus set them straight: Moses’ lenient divorce law was based on the cultural circumstances of the Israelites – a nation of hardhearted people.*

Heterosexual Divorce and Same Sex Marriage

Why is it that people protesting same sex marriage aren’t out picketing legislatures to change the divorce laws? I think in large part it’s because they probably know a lot of divorced people themselves and have learned to live with the high rate of divorce in our society. Not that Christians have accepted divorce as somehow now being proper in all circumstances, but they know that loving people is more important than shunning or shaming them for their marriage status.

And since the Bible’s teachings on divorce are clear and we know how to love those who are divorced, I think it only appropriate that Christians who think the Bible is also clear in prohibiting same sex marriage treat people the same way. Love them, treat them with honor and dignity. Get to know them and enjoy their company. You cannot offer your love one way to divorced people and refuse it to same sex couples.

This started as an exercise in deciding how I should handle things at work** so let’s get back to that. What would I do if a same sex couple shows up at the courthouse with their paperwork in order? I know the answer.

I’d marry them.


*Paul continued the discussion of marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16, where he said that another ground for divorce arises when a spouse is an unbeliever and abandons the marriage. If the spouse is an unbeliever but stays in the marriage, though, Paul explicitly said there should be no divorce. What do you do if the spouse, unbeliever or fellow Christian, is an abuser? Then Matthew 18:15-17 governs and I think you can treat that person like an unbeliever who has abandoned the marriage.

**Marrying people during court hours is rare for our courthouse; most people wanting civil weddings go to the County Clerk next door. Judges can perform weddings outside court hours too and I’ve done a handful, but only for people whose weddings I would have attended anyway.


For anyone reading this post and trying to read between the lines to determine my own particular stance on marriage equality and divorce, you won’t find it. The point of the post is not to teach one way or another on marriage and divorce doctrines but to encourage you to love people who think differently on these matters than you do. Look at the issues in your own life and how much God loves you and how much grace he has shown you. Now love others with the same love God has given you, and give them grace just as God has been gracious to you.


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When Pop Stars Do Right – a lesson in P!nk

What is right to be done cannot be done too soon.

Jane Austen, Emma (vol. II, ch. 4)


Here’s how that looks in action.

Pink was in concert and stopped in the middle of a song to comfort a little girl crying in the audience. She did it in her own style, she did it without calling undue attention to herself – which is hard to do in front of a few thousand people who are all there for the sole purpose of seeing just you – and she focused on the girl and gave her the encouragement she needed. (If you haven’t clicked on the video, please do. I’ll wait.) As this article says, the girl was too shy to come up and receive Pink’s treats herself, but you can see her at the bottom edge of the video when Pink tells her, “You look beautiful.”

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:10.)

Yes, let’s.



When is the last time you acted on the opportunity to help someone you didn’t know?

When is the last time someone did this for you?


[This post is from the 2013 archives.]

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Jumping to Conclusions Hurts

This fellow seems rather earnest in his opinion:

Jumping to conclusions usually hurts someone ... either the person jumping or the one jumped on or both!

Jumping to conclusions usually hurts someone … either the one jumping or the one jumped on or both!


Why bother trying to understand others? After all, it’s easier to rest in your assumptions. Not wise, but easier:

Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2 NIV.)

And besides, once you’ve heard one side of a story is there really any reason to spend time listening to the other side?

The first to put forth his case seems right, until someone else steps forward and cross-examines him. (Proverbs 18:17 ISV.)

OK, maybe our pirate friend up there is right. No sense anyone getting hurt.

Jumping to conclusions is not allowed.


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The Punishment of Injustice

[From the archives. This first appeared as a guest post on Natasha Robinson’s blog.]


“I hear you don’t like Mexicans.” He looked Hispanic and he looked angry.

“What?” I stood at my high school locker late that afternoon, the halls empty but for me and my accuser.

“I heard you said you don’t like Mexicans.”

He leaned in, taller, stronger, threatening. It didn’t take much to be taller and stronger than me. I was a shrimpy freshman. It didn’t take much to threaten me either. I was also a wimpy freshman.

“I didn’t say that.” All I wanted was to convince this guy not to hit me. It looked like he was going to anyway. “If I said something wrong, I’m sorry.”

He still looked ready to punch me. I didn’t like getting punched. It invariably hurt and I invariably cried. Crying in high school in the 70s was not a way to lose your reputation as a wimp. Probably still isn’t.

“What are you doing?” The voice came from behind me, up over my head. It was an older student, a junior, another person who looked Hispanic. He wasn’t talking to me.

“This guy said he doesn’t like Mexicans.”

“I didn’t say that.” My voice went up a couple octaves. That’s how wimpy freshmen sound when they’re scared. But I kept going. “I told him I was sorry if I said something wrong, but I didn’t say that.”

I kept thinking how much it was going to hurt when they started punching me.

The junior said, “Leave him alone. He apologized.”

“But he …”

“It’s over. Leave him alone.”

My accuser left, then the older kid walked on. I closed my locker and walked down the empty hallway to the bike racks and went home.

Unjust Punishment

I avoided being beaten up for something I didn’t do. Not everyone does.

In Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin there’s a scene where one of the young slaves, a thirteen year old boy, is accused of mishandling a horse. His twelve year old owner is incensed and becomes violent when the young slave tries to explain:

Henrique struck him across the face with his riding-whip, and, seizing one of his arms, forced him on to his knees, and beat him till he was out of breath.

“There, you impudent dog! Now will you learn not to answer back when I speak to you? Take the horse back, and clean him properly.  I’ll teach you your place!”

Tom, older and trusted by his own master, explains that the horse was acting up on its own. The daughter of Tom’s owner, the girl Eva, hears and sees it all.

“How could you be so cruel and wicked to poor Dodo?” said Eva.

“Cruel,—wicked!” said the boy, with unaffected surprise.  “What do you mean, dear Eva?”

“But you beat him,—and he didn’t deserve it.”

“O, well, it may go for some time when he does, and don’t get it.  A few cuts never come amiss with Dodo,—he’s a regular spirit, I can tell you; but I won’t  beat him again before you, if it troubles you.”

Being punished for something you didn’t do and considering it fair because “there might be something you do wrong that could go unpunished later” for doesn’t really square the balance sheet.

Justice, Justice Shalt Thou Pursue

I put a screen saver on a computer I use at work: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.” It’s from Deuteronomy 16:20, part of a sermon Moses delivered to the Israelites on how to conduct themselves in the new land. Here’s the context:

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone … . (Deuteronomy 16:18-20.)

It’s not a bad set of instructions for me to keep in mind whenever I take the judicial bench.

It’s also not bad for us to keep in mind as we pursue God’s justice. After all, Isaiah had strong words for those who thought participating in religious rituals like fasting was all it took to follow God:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6-7.)

When Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she was doing what she could to break yokes – literal yokes that slaves wore. Her work moved a nation.

When that high school junior stood behind me and told my accuser, “It’s over. Leave him alone,” he set me free from the fear I had of being beaten up for something I didn’t do. His worked moved an accuser to walk away.

This is God’s work. As Jesus announced:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19.)

Now we get to join him in his work.

There are more captives to be set free.


[This is the second post in a two-part series on race and slavery. Part one appeared last Wednesday: When Lincoln Told Slave Owners They Should Try It For Themselves.]

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How to Win Every Argument on the Internet

Winning the Internet

One thing I’ll say for the secret to winning the Internet captured in that meme – “I assume that if someone disagrees with me it’s because they misunderstood me. If they understood me, how could they disagree?” – is that it avoids the need to argue over anything. I just assume that if anyone disagrees with my brilliance it’s because I’m misunderstood and leave it at that, moving on to another conversation. I’ll know the people in the next conversation understand me if they agree with me. If they don’t, then they are merely misunderstanding my brilliance too.

Of course, some on social media appear to think that any disagreement must be met with repeated efforts to convince the other person they’re wrong. And when I say repeated, I mean re-pea-ted. The phrase ad nauseum was made for situations like that.

I confess that I’ve ad nauseated plenty of people on the Internet.

So what are we to do? Paul gave some great Internet advice 2000 years before computers were invented.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:10, 14, 16-18.)

There it is: humility, gentleness and making the effort to bring peace to every Internet interaction. OK, so maybe that picture above doesn’t quite capture the secret to winning the Internet. But Paul sure did.


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Why the Guys in the Mechanic Shop Wore High Heels for the Photo Shoot

Asphalt &Rubber, a motorcycle industry news website, published an article about motorcycle mechanics (all men) in poses mimicking those of a model in a recent photo shoot. As the article explains, after the photographer finished shooting a female model with a Ducati 1199 Panigale motorcycle at a Portland dealership, the men who work there turned the camera on themselves. The resulting side-by-side shots will change the way you look at models, mechanics, or motorcycles, and perhaps even all three.

11th of 12 side by side model and mechanic photos (click here to see the rest)

The photos made me reflect on how we view men and woman in the body of Christ. Are we bound up in gender roles to the extent that as long as a woman is not taking on what men are supposed to do and vice versa, we are going to look the other way when it comes to excesses? That’s how some people see the modeling in those photo shoots. A female model poses awkwardly – yet seductively – in order to sell a piece of mechanical equipment designed to move a person from one location to another and that’s OK, but if a man does it then it’s not OK at all.

False Roles of Women and Men at Church

In some churches, people see women and men having such divergent and separate roles that a man taking on a woman’s “job” is looked at oddly. Relegating women to the nursery, children’s ministry, serving food and similar chores is fine. But let a man work in the nursery or kitchen and not only is his masculinity questioned, the whole order of all-things-church is threatened.

Step back a bit, though, and you will see that it’s really not OK either way. It’s not merely that men should not be discouraged from engaging in whatever work in the body of Christ they are suited for; the problem is compounded because relegating women to “women’s work” (as a friend once unfortunately called it) causes the church to see women as less valuable members than men who do “men’s work”.

Here’s a visual example. When you look at the men in that photo shoot, your first thought might be that they don’t make very good models but they might if handled differently by the photographer. When you look at the original model in that photo shoot, though, is your first thought that she could make just as good a mechanic as the men? I doubt it.

That’s what often happens in the church. When women are seen only in supposedly traditional women’s roles, no one thinks of them as also capable of the roles supposedly reserved for men – teaching, preaching, elders, leadership. Some churches won’t even let women be ushers; after all, that would mean leading a man to an open seat.

I’d rather be one of those men posing awkwardly on a motorcycle wearing ill-fitting clothes than be in leadership in a church that restricts roles for women.


[This originally appeared as a guest post I wrote for The Junia Project.]


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Manly Men Buy Girls’ Underwear – a Father’s Day post

I was 14 when I walked into the Mode o’ Day boutique and heard my Dad ask the sales clerk for girls’ underwear.

There weren’t many places to shop for clothes in our little town. The Mode o’ Day was about it unless you wanted to drive clear to the other end of town. Of course you could always drive into the big city, or as we say it The City. That’s what people where I grew up call San Francisco – The City. But driving into The City to buy clothes meant paying for parking and we didn’t have much money just then.

My Mom had died earlier that year and my Dad was taking care of us kids. I was the youngest. That meant I got taken along on a lot of errands. Grocery shopping, taking the car in for a tune up, picking up my brother from the airport when he came home on leave from the Coast Guard. Whatever it was, I went along with Dad.

That’s why I was there when he asked for girls’ underwear at the Mode o’ Day.

Christmas was coming up and Dad was trying to find stocking stuffers. Our stockings always had some treats and some practical things. My sisters were apparently going to find underwear in their stockings on Christmas morning.

Ranch Hand to City Life

Dad grew up on a ranch outside Yakima, Washington. He worked cattle from the time he could ride, and kept working cattle through high school. He and another rancher competed in local rodeos, entering the team roping events.

Then bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and America went to war. He put in for early graduation from high school and joined the Army Air Force when he turned 18 just six days after Pearl Harbor. He served with the Flying Tigers in the interior of China, and that’s a far ways from Yakima. He rose through the ranks of the enlisted men and wound up with stripes on his sleeve, being assigned as Sergeant Major of his base by the time he was 21.

Dad came home after serving his final duty in the Aleutians immediately following the signing of the peace treaty. He once told me he did it to find out what it was like. He said he found out it was cold.

He settled in San Francisco – The City. He spent his bachelor days there for the next seven years, taking a job with an airline in their mechanics shop and then finding his talents needed in the office monitoring material specifications.

Then he married. My Dad and Mom met in a boarding house. Lots of boarding houses sprung up in San Francisco following the war, and some of the best were in the up-scale neighborhood of Pacific Heights.

Mom said she first became aware of Dad because his room was above hers and she heard him drop three shoes on their floor every night. Clunk! – one shoe. Clunk! – another shoe. But it didn’t stop there because she said there was always one more Clunk! She’d go to sleep wondering who it was up there who had three feet.

They finally met face to face and she saw she had two feet. He was also three inches shorter than Mom. She wasn’t extraordinarily tall. It’s just that he stood 5 foot 3 inches on his best day. They fell in love and got married, height differential notwithstanding.

Four kids came along, me last. Then Mom got sick. It started with headaches that wouldn’t go away. Eventually the symptoms were so bad they did x-rays. There was a tumor on her brain. After 18 months of surgeries and chemo-therapy and radiation therapy and long recoveries at the convalescent hospital and home, all of which repeated themselves without a break, she died. It was Easter Sunday.

So later that year Dad went Christmas shopping. He took me along. We walked into the Mode o’ Day and he asked for girls’ underwear. I wanted to hide behind a nearby clothes rack. I’m glad I didn’t.

This ranch hand, rodeo rider, airplane mechanic and war veteran showed me what it takes to be a manly man.

Manly men buy girls’ underwear.


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Coffee Confusion


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