Why Does Gateway Church Charge for Entertainment and Pizza?

_MG_2556One of the arguments I often hear in favor of megachurches is that they offer so much more than a small church can. They have programs for every age and with all of the tithe money, they can create larger events involving more people for a larger impact. If that is true, then why charge for these events? Why not take in all of that money and then pay to give away the Gospel?
Let me take Gateway Church as a case in point.

Pizza is Extra at Gateway

Gateway Church took in about $139-million in 2016. By any measure, that is a substantial level of giving by those who believe in church. However, Gateway’s policy is to charge a fee to youth group members for their pizza at youth meetings. Members are asked to give more money to help students who can’t pay the fee. I don’t understand this from a church which takes in $139-million.

Entertainment is Extra at Gateway

Currently, Gateway Church is putting on Godspell as their summer musical production. However, tithing isn’t enough to get you a ticket. You have to pay from $10 to $26 for admission to the church to see the play. 

Gateway Church Godspell
In addition to giving your creative members something to do, this could be viewed as a community outreach. However, why couldn’t this be free to the public? Isn’t that what the funds are supposed to go for? Outreach?
There is another show I will mention but I do so not knowing if the show is a Gateway event or a Michael Jr. event (what does “organized by Gateway Church” mean?). Michael Jr. is a professional comedian who attends Gateway Church. He is planning a show at the church in September with admission prices ranging from $20 to $35. He also has some kind of formal relationship with the church and has given performances for free in the past. Perhaps, Gateway’s financial problems are worse than they are letting on.
If I was a giving unit at Gateway, I would wonder what is up. The church has funds to sponsor an inaugural gala but not a summer musical or pizza for youth group kids. I suppose the gala is one of those things that a small church can’t do, but then I don’t understand why any church should do that.
Consider the title an open question. Readers, let me know what I am missing. Perhaps Gateway is wisely spending the funds on lots of ministry. If so, it would be good for Gateway to open the books and let the members know where the funds are going. Mars Hill Church resisted that until the bitter end. It would be a shame if Gateway failed to learn from that situation.

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Gateway Church Now Pruning Senior Staff

_MG_2556Gateway Church is still pruning the vine.
I confirmed today that Associate Senior Pastor Bobby Bogard has been let go at Gateway. Bogard was the head of Gateway Network and the pastor who famously said God had given Gateway a mission to rich people. In a speech earlier this year Bogard said:

And so, as we look at our bulls eye, God has called us, to reach professional people.  That’s our bulls eye.  We’re still gonna help the down and out.  We do it every week.  We’re still gonna help single moms.  We do it every week.  We-we’re still going to uh, look and help marriages and blended families.  We’re gonna work through their issues.  But our bulls eye is the business professionals.  Matter fact, in one of our depart- we have a whole department that’s built towards reaching business people.  I’m talking about people with influence and large capacities of wealth.  That’s our bullseye because we feel like that’s something God’s graced us to do.

If it is also true as I have been told that many of Bogard’s former staff have also been let go then the Gateway Network may have some trouble hitting the bulls eye.
The website still has Bogard’s bio but I was told that there have been so many changes that the IT department is having trouble keeping up.
Two sources from the mega-church community have informed me that more layoffs and changes may be coming in October.
Gateway’s troubles may not end there. Gateway sold bonds to help finance rapid growth and some of those are going to come due over the next several months. Some of the 55-million in debt that Gateway leaders reported earlier this summer might be related to the maturity of those bonds. Alas, if the church doesn’t have the funds to make good on those commitments then there may be more pruning to come.
For more on Gateway Church, click here: Gateway Church

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The American Association of Christian Counselors Conference Features Court Evangelicals

Trump court evangelical picThe American Association of Christian Counselors hosts a regular conference in September which is often as much glitz as professional development. Contemporary Christian music artists sing (Mercy Me this year) and big name speakers speak (e.g., Eric Metaxas). There are also professional workshops and training sessions and materials to buy galore. Full disclosure, I have presented workshops at these conferences and once upon a time was on the AACC advisory board even though we rarely advised anyone about anything.
This year’s conference looks almost like a meeting of President Trump’s court evangelicals and religious defense team. Eric Metaxas is a keynoter and the leaders just added Jack Graham and Jay Sekulow. AACC owner Tim Clinton is right in the middle of the court in the image to the right.

See below for the Trump court evangelicals just added:

Jack Graham AACC
Jay Sekulow AACC
I got this information from an AACC member who is tired of how politically focused AACC has become. Although I don’t think a mass exodus is coming, I am hearing rumblings that at least some counselors have dropped membership and others are considering it.
I hope there will be a session on healthcare reform and the persistent demand of Republicans to drop basic benefits like mental health coverage which many of the AACC members rely on for their livelihood and their clients need to get treatment. I also hope there is a session on narcissism and that it is well attended.
Perhaps, Trump’s new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci can give a session on clean communication and dealing with the press. Court evangelicals would just eat that up.

Virginia Law Allowed Thomas Jefferson to Free His Slaves

There he goes again.
Nearing the anniversary of the largest pre-Civil War slave emancipation in U.S. history, David Barton is again claiming that Thomas Jefferson could not free his slaves because Virginia law did not allow it. He made the claim this week in a WorldNetDaily article out on Tuesday. Barton said:

“They [Louisiana Democrats] purportedly separated themselves from Thomas Jefferson because he owned slaves,” Barton told WND. “However, they ignored the fact that African-American civil rights leaders in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries openly praised Jefferson for his repeated efforts to abolish slavery in the United States, and even around the world. They understood a reality that today’s shallow academics and uninformed activists ignore: Virginia state law did not allow Jefferson to free his slaves, despite his desire to do so. So he worked to free all slaves throughout all of the United States. Those efforts are worthy of commendation – something Louisiana Democrats refuse to do.” (emphasis added)

Barton and the author of the article Paul Bremmer are bothered by Louisiana Democrats because they renamed their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. The LA Dems said the move reflects “the progress of the party and the changing times.”
My point is not to defend the LA Dems; they can do whatever they want with their dinner. Rather, I want to point out again that Virginia law allowed slave owners to emancipate slaves after 1782, and many slave owners did so. With the 226th anniversary of the writing of Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter’s deed of manumission coming on August 1, it is a good time for the reminder.
Virginia’s law on manumission changed the law to allow slave owners to free slaves via a deed of manumission filed at the county court house or upon the death of the owner in a will. The entire Virginia law, passed in 1782, is reproduced at the end of this post (see also the laws of Virginia;  scroll to page 39).
Robert Carter used that law to free his slaves. In his deed of manumission (linked at the end of the post), Carter said the following:

And whereas I have for some time past been convinced that to retain them [slaves] in slavery is contrary to the true principles of Religion & Justice, that therefore it was my Duty to manumit them, if it could be accomplished without infringing the laws of my Country, without being of disadvantage to my neighbors & the Community at large: And whereas the General Assembly for the Commonwealth of Virginia did in the year seventeen hundred eighty two enact a Law entitled “an Act to authorize the manumission of slaves” now be it remembered that the said Robert do under the said Act for myself my heirs my Executors & administrators emancipate from slavery all such my slaves in the aforesaid Schedule (as are under the age of forty-six years) but in a manner & form as hereafter particularly mentioned & set forth. (emphasis mine)

In his deed, Carter set in motion a process to free all 452 of his slaves over time. Some slaves were children and had to wait until they were adults or could be released to their freed parents. Others were older and required support. Adult able-bodied slaves were able to be freed the most easily. However, he and other slave owners took advantage of this law that was on the books during Jefferson’s time as a slave owner.
Laws were later changed to make it more difficult and less practical to emancipate slaves but there was a window when many slaves were freed. Given Jefferson’s lavish lifestyle and resultant debts, it might have been difficult to free his slaves but it was not because Virginia did not allow it. For some reason, Barton persists in repeating this error.
If Barton wanted to say it would have been difficult for Jefferson to free his slaves, he could just say so. Instead, he misrepresents Virginia law in

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

such a way as to remove the responsibility from Jefferson. There were times when Jefferson could have freed his slaves and other times when he would not have been able to, but it is wrong to say Virginia law didn’t allow it.
If Jefferson wanted to free his slaves so badly, why did he send slave catchers after those who ran away? Why did he buy and sell slaves? Why did he revel in the fact that slave women having slave babies increased his investment and wealth? In my book with Michael Coulter on Jefferson, we go into Jefferson as a slave owner in some detail.

For more on Jefferson, slavery, and Virginia slave laws, see the following resources.

A Challenge to WND and David Barton on Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
Kirk Cameron vs. Paul Finkelman on Jefferson and Slavery
Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part One
Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Two
Jefferson and Slavery: A Response to David Barton on the Glenn Beck Show, Part Three

Robert Carter and Virginia’s Law on Manumission

Robert Carter III: A Forgotten Hero David Barton Doesn’t Want You to Remember
More Evidence David Barton is Wrong About Jefferson and Slavery: Robert Carter’s Emancipation Deed
August 1 – Robert Carter Appreciation Day
A Deed of Manumission
Pre-1820 Virginia Manumissions (an archive of numerous records of slaves freed in Virginia during the time Barton said the laws didn’t allow emancipation)

Virginia’s 1782 Law on Manumission


An act to authorize the manumission of slaves.
I. WHEREAS application hath been made to this present general assembly, that those persons who are disposed to emancipate their slaves may be empowered so to do, and the same hath been judged expedient under certain restrictions: Be it therefore enacted, That it shall hereafter be lawful for any person, by his or her last will and testament, or by any other instrument in writing, under his or her hand and seal, attested and proved in the county court by two witnesses, or acknowledged by the party in the court of the county where he or she resides to emancipate and set free, his or her slaves, or any of them, who shall thereupon be entirely and fully discharged from the performance of any contract entered into during servitude, and enjoy as full freedom as if they had been particularly named and freed by this act.
II. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That all slaves so set free, not being in the judgment of the court, of sound mind and body, or being above the age of forty-five years, or being males under the age of twenty-one, or females under the age of eighteen years, shall respectively be supported and maintained by the person so liberating them, or by his or her estate; and upon neglect or refusal so to do, the court of the county where such neglect or refusal may be, is hereby empowered and required, upon application to them made, to order the sheriff to distrain and sell so much of the person’s estate as shall be sufficient for that purpose. Provided also, That every person by written instrument in his life time, or if by last will and testament, the executors of every person freeing any slave, shall cause to be delivered to him or her, a copy of the instrument of emancipation, attested by the clerk of the court of the county, who shall be paid therefor, by the person emancipating, five shillings, to be collected in the manner of other clerk’s fees. Every person neglecting or refusing to deliver to any slave by him or her set free, such copy, shall forfeit and pay ten pounds, to be recovered with costs in any court of record, one half thereof to the person suing for the same, and the other to the person to whom such copy ought to have been delivered. It shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit to the gaol of his county, any emancipated slave travelling out of the county of his or her residence without a copy of the instrument of his or her emancipation, there to remain till such copy is produced and the gaoler’s fees paid.
III. And be it further enacted, That in case any slave so liberated shall neglect in any year to pay all taxes and levies imposed or to be imposed by law, the court of the county shall order the sheriff to hire out him or her for so long time as will raise the said taxes and levies. Provided sufficient distress cannot be made upon his or her estate. Saving nevertheless to all and every person and persons, bodies politic or corporate, and their heirs and successors, other than the person or persons claiming under those so emancipating their slaves, all such right and title as they or any of them could or might claim if this act had never been made.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – The Delegates Adjourned until August 6

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optJuly 26, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


The delegates continued discussion about the president and approved a proposal to allot the executive a 7-year term. In this proposal, the executive would not be eligible for re-election. They also decided to remove land ownership as a qualification for holding office. The delegates reviewed their resolutions and adjourned until August 6, 1787 in order to allow the Committee of Detail to prepare the draft.

Influences on the Delegates

Delegate Mason from VA used England’s parliament as a model by suggesting the qualification enacted during the reign of Queen Anne. Mainly this involved having an estate worth 600 pounds.

Col. MASON mentioned the parliamentary qualifications adopted in the reign of Queen Anne, which he said had met with universal approbation.

Eventually the delegates debated this and determined that too many good men (they had no thought that women would be able to participate) would be disqualified by these rules.
In Madison’s notes, the end of this day’s entry summarized the resolutions up to that point. There was much that looks like the finished product but there were more compromises to come. The Committee of Detail then took the work and prepared to report the Constitution on August 6.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
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Describing Depression: An Experienced Voice

photo-1453574503519-1ae2536262ec_optAfter studying depression for three months, Christian filmmaker Ray Comfort thinks he understands the subject. After his research, he made a movie about suicide, called Exit, which is available on his website for $20. Yesterday, he told David Barton on Wallbuilders Live that after awhile the movie would be free on YouTube.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but judging from the interview, I have to question how well he understands depression.
Yesterday, I reviewed the Wallbuilders interview and found the advice offered by Barton and Comfort to be unhelpful and possibly harmful for some. For his part, David Barton said the culture promotes depression via acceptance of abortion and homosexuality. He added:

We’re promoting things that cause it we’re now saying, “Well, depression is fine therefore suicide is fine.”

I never heard anybody say that until Barton said it on his program.

Later in the interview Comfort seemed to blame lack of religious belief as a catalyst for depression. I intend to review the movie after I watch it.

What was missing in their discussion was any recognition that depression is a medical problem with a biological foundation. If anything, listeners could easily come away from that interview thinking that depression could be cured by having an evangelical belief system. Experience tells us that is not true.

Describing Depression

Depression as a concept is hard to pin down. What makes the subject difficult to grasp is that mood naturally flows between highs and lows. Sometimes are moods are depressed for no reason, but other times, there are negative circumstances which are hard to accept which gives rise to depression. Thinking through things rationally and with a long view can help to overcome those rough spots. However, suicidal thinking is most associated with chronic depression which is not a bad day or triggered by negative circumstances. This the more complex medical situation which Comfort and the Bartons don’t seem to grasp.

As I was reflecting on the Comfort interview and preparing to watch Exit, I came across the writings of a friend who experiences depression. I have permission from my anonymous friend to reproduce them here. I think they reflect and describe what it is to feel this kind of depression.

Occasionally, bouts of depression are triggered by obvious catalysts, like losing a job or loved one or some kind of overt trauma. Often, though, nothing is “wrong”. We’re not upset or sad or angry or stressed about anything particular, but our body is deploying hormones as though we’re being attacked.
It is these episodes that are most frustrating to the friends and family of people who have depression; they don’t know what to do to help because there’s seemingly nothing wrong. The victims of those moments find it doubly frustrating, as a silent, crushing dread slowly bears down on our souls, challenging us to find a name for it.

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken,” especially when there’s no obvious reason why or easy descriptors available.*

I don’t know what to do about these moments, how to describe them, or how to trace their causes. And while I can sometimes learn about them when my depression is on vacation, I’ve yet to overcome the moratorium on research it imposes when it’s at work full time.

But I know this: depression is a liar. It whispers that the world is uniquely bad in general and uniquely bad for me in particular. It tells me that the comfort of friends and annoyance of acquaintances are reinforcing, not alleviating, my problems. It inspires coping mechanisms like over sleeping, over eating, substance abuse, or other self-destructive behaviors that rob life of its joy. Depression only looks out for itself, and it lies to you to keep itself safe.

I don’t know what to do about it, and I can’t always find the energy to fight back. But depression is a liar, and it blinds me to what’s really true, noble, excellent, and praiseworthy. It’s hard, but I’m learning slowly not to fall for the lies, to hunt for companionship when I feel most lonely, and to know that what I’m feeling isn’t unique, even if I can’t describe it.

I can’t teach you anything about my depression, and I certainly don’t know anything about what you might be feeling. But we could all use a hand in the dark, particularly when there are so many cheap people offering cheap solutions to expensive problems. If you have a hand to offer, I’m sure you know someone who needs it, and if you need to take my hand, I’ll try to offer it when I’m able.

Our task is to make the whole world our hospital, to provide for the sick and bind up the wounds other people might have. Depressed people don’t know their treatment options or the extent of their diagnosis, but each of us can offer a small glimpse of healing to those who are most ill. I have nothing but thanks for those who have been my doctors, and I hope some day to repay the kindness.

Thanks to my anonymous friend for sharing these thoughts.
For depressed people, it doesn’t help to shame them because they have different beliefs or doubt God. What helps is what my friend describes: medical care, companionship, and a kind hand in the darkness.

*Inspired by C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.

Depression is Not a Culture War Battle

One does not need to be a Christian to oppose suicide. People of all religions and none view suicide as a tragedy.

During his April 21 Wallbuilders Live broadcast, David Barton had Ray Comfort on to discuss his new movie about suicide, Exit.  I intend to watch and review the movie but for now I want to advise readers to be wary. For the most part, the advice given during this episode about depression and suicide is not helpful and in fact for some could be counterproductive.

I want to start by saying that I think the guests on the program probably meant well. I especially picked up from Tim Barton that he wanted to be helpful, saying

Yeah, Rick, one of the reasons that we talked about this before here on this show is that this is something we want to do because- we don’t want to do anything that promotes obviously, this incredibly sad and really unbiblical position, that someone would want to end their life. So we want we want to promote that there’s hope, right?

Suicide is Not a Cultural War Issue

Good intentions or not, there is a troubling thread here which continues throughout the program. The hosts and the guest treats suicide like it is a culture war battle — Christians on one side and non-Christians on the other. The problem with this should be obvious. One does not need to be a Christian to oppose suicide. People of all religions and none view suicide as a tragedy.

Alas, David Barton makes depression about what he’s against and shames those who are on the wrong side.

David: You’re talking about how the culture is now present in things like suicide with the programs out there. Suicide so often stems from depression and Ray will talk about the rising depression numbers in the United States.

What’s interesting is the culture also promotes things that increase depression. For example, when you look at studies on abortion, women who have had an abortion have depression rates three to five times higher than everybody else.
You look at homosexuality. Homosexuals have depression rates three to five times higher than everybody else. So we’re even promoting things now that cause depression. We’re promoting things that cause it we’re now saying, “Well, depression is fine therefore suicide is fine.”

And it’s really not because there is a Biblical side. Depression really comes from being discontent with who you are or what’s going on. It’s not accepting yourself or not accepting the situation.

Barton confuses effects and causes. Being unhappy with oneself is most often an effect of depression. Simply advising a depressed person to accept yourself is like telling an unemployed person to save for retirement. The otherwise sound advice just increases the hopelessness.

Regarding Barton’s claims, there is evidence that depression is higher among women who have had abortion and yes, GLBT people report more depression. However, the matter of cause cannot be ascertained from these facts. Women who have abortions also have other stressors in their lives. For some, especially those who do not believe abortion is right, having an abortion may trigger depression. However, for others there is no link.

The picture with homosexuality is even more complex. The existing research does not confirm that being gay causes depression. When examining a correlation between two variables, variable A may cause variable B or vice versa. However, a third possibility exists. Another variable may effect both variable A and variable B. For instance, shark attacks and ice cream sales in a coastal town might correlate but clearly summer beach going influences both variables.

We know that women are depressed more than men. We also know from brain scan studies that the brains of gay males are more like the brains of straight females than straight males. It is reasonable to hypothesize that there might be a neurological basis for straight females and gay males to report more depression.

Barton wants to make depression about doing right and being on the right side of the culture war. I can assure Mr. Barton that Christian nationalists get depressed. Good Christians get depressed. Straights and women who have never considered an abortion get depressed. Portraying the causes of depression as being about believing the right Christian things is unhelpful and may drive some people away from getting the help they need. Worse, people who hold the “right” views but remain depressed can become even more hopeless. Over 40 years of clinical practice and teaching, I have encountered many Christians who want to give up because they do everything “right” without relief from their depression.

Ray Comfort: A Three-Month Expert

Apparently Ray Comfort is a quick study. After three months of study, he has all the answers.

So I studied it and after about three months of studying, writing a book, and doing a movie I came to the conclusion the world doesn’t know what it’s doing. They have no idea what causes chronic depression and they have no chance of a [against] suicide.

I’m bold enough to say, “We know what causes most chronic depression and we know the answer to it.” And that’s what we put in the movie. And we’re very excited. Our YouTube channel’s got 45 million views. This is a massive platform to reach the lost of the gospel. And we believe this is our best movie ever it’s called, “Exit” for obvious reasons.

The arrogance here is pretty thick. Evangelical circles are full of three-month experts. I intend to reserve judgment on the movie until I see it but I don’t have a good feeling about a person who thinks he has the subject of depression mastered after three months of study.

Atheism is to Blame or Is It?

The bottom line for Comfort in this interview (and perhaps the movie) is that atheism is to blame for increases in suicide. Comfort said:

I was reading recently where American Journal of Psychiatry said, “Religiously unaffiliated subjects, people who were Godless, had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and perceive fewer reasons for living. Particularly fewer moral objection to suicide.”

So this generation doesn’t object to suicide. So we’re going to see, I believe, a huge increase in the future and the church has got to be ready for it. That’s why we’ve created this movement to train the church so they can see what they say. We’ve also created a study guide a video study guide that goes with it.

Indeed, Comfort gets the 2004 AJP report mostly correct. Here is the abstract from that study:

OBJECTIVE: Few studies have investigated the association between religion and suicide either in terms of Durkheim’s social integration hypothesis or the hypothesis of the regulative benefits of religion. The relationship between religion and suicide attempts has received even less attention.
METHOD: Depressed inpatients (N=371) who reported belonging to one specific religion or described themselves as having no religious affiliation were compared in terms of their demographic and clinical characteristics.
RESULTS: Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.
CONCLUSIONS: Religious affiliation is associated with less suicidal behavior in depressed inpatients. After other factors were controlled, it was found that greater moral objections to suicide and lower aggression level in religiously affiliated subjects may function as protective factors against suicide attempts. Further study about the influence of religious affiliation on aggressive behavior and how moral objections can reduce the probability of acting on suicidal thoughts may offer new therapeutic strategies in suicide prevention.

At first glance, it appears that religious belief about the immorality of suicide may be a protective factor against suicide. However, this is not the only study on the subject. Consider the abstract of this 2016 study reported in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease:

We aimed to examine the relationship between religion and suicide attempt and ideation. Three hundred twenty-one depressed patients were recruited from mood-disorder research studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Participants were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Disorders, Columbia University Suicide History form, Scale for Suicide Ideation, and Reasons for Living Inventory. Participants were asked about their religious affiliation, importance of religion, and religious service attendance. We found that past suicide attempts were more common among depressed patients with a religious affiliation (odds ratio, 2.25; p = 0.007). Suicide ideation was greater among depressed patients who considered religion more important (coefficient, 1.18; p = 0.026) and those who attended services more frequently (coefficient, 1.99; p = 0.001). We conclude that the relationship between religion and suicide risk factors is complex and can vary among different patient populations. Physicians should seek deeper understanding of the role of religion in an individual patient’s life in order to understand the person’s suicide risk factors more fully. (emphasis mine)

How are we to understand the different findings? I really can’t say. However, having studied this subject for many more than three months, I can say that contradictory findings are common in this field. What we can say is that being religious and believing in God isn’t a fool proof means of preventing depression and suicidal urges. Among some groups of people, religious beliefs are associated with fewer suicide attempts whereas for other groups (notably those who are depressed), religious affiliation is associated with more attempts.

What’s the Remedy?

Although Comfort doesn’t give many details about the movie, the hints he gives implies the movie is a way to get people to make decisions to accept Christ as Savior. After acknowledging that religious people get depressed, he seems to say depression will be lifted if you just belief the right things. Again, I will wait to see, but if there is nothing in the film about getting treatment with a message that depression can be managed by competent medical care, then it will be of little value.

There is one good thing I can say about the interview. Comfort and his hosts had some negative things to say about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. While I haven’t seen the series, I don’t like what I’ve read about it.

For more information…

Suicide and the Media
Preventing Suicide Media Resources
NIH website entry on depression
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Can the Election of a President Be Fair?

a570af34_optJuly 25, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


Since the delegates appointed a Committee of Detail (see yesterday’s post), they planned to take a break beginning July 27. The committee worked through the break and hammered out a draft of the Constitution. In session, the delegates debated, then defeated a proposal to allow the Virginia plan to be printed and given to the delegates during the break. Madison was particularly active today and outlined the previously suggested methods for electing a president.  In this instance, he preferred a vote of the people.

Influences on the Delegates

Using Poland and Germany as illustrations, Madison waxed prophetic about the possibility that foreign powers might try to influence our elections.

Mr. MADISON. There are objections against every mode that has been, or perhaps can be, proposed. The election must be made either by some existing authority under the National or State Constitutions, — or by some special authority derived from the people, — or by the people themselves. The two existing authorities under the National Constitution would be the Legislative and Judiciary. The latter he presumed was out of the question. The former was, in his judgment, liable to insuperable objections. Besides the general influence of that mode on the independence of the Executive, in the first place, the election of the chief magistrate would agitate and divide the Legislature so much, that the public interest would materially suffer by it. Public bodies are always apt to be thrown into contentions, but into more violent ones by such occasions than by any others. In the second place, the candidate would intrigue with the Legislature; would derive his appointment from the predominant faction, and be apt to render his administration subservient to its views. In the third place, the ministers of foreign powers would have, and would make use of, the opportunity to mix their intrigues and influence with the election. Limited as the powers of the Executive are, it will be an object of great moment with the great rival powers of Europe who have American possessions, to have at the head of our government a man attached to their respective politics and interests. No pains, nor perhaps expense, will be spared, to gain from the Legislature an appointment favorable to their wishes. Germany and Poland are witnesses of this danger. In the former, the election of the Head of the Empire, till it became in a manner hereditary, interested all Europe, and was much influenced by foreign interference. In the latter, although the elective magistrate has very little real power, his election has at all times produced the most eager interference of foreign princes, and has in fact at length slid entirely into foreign hands.

Also in support of an election by the people, Gouverneur Morris rose to the rhetorical occasion with three creative devices — two religious and one from Greek mythology.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS was against a rotation in every case. It formed a political school, in which we were always governed by the scholars, and not by the masters. The evils to be guarded against in this case are, — first, the undue influence of the Legislature; secondly, instability of councils; thirdly, misconduct in office. To guard against the first, we run into the second evil. We adopt a rotation which produces instability of councils. To avoid Scylla we fall into Charybdis. A change of men is ever followed by a change of measures. We see this fully exemplified in the vicissitudes among ourselves, particularly in the State of Pennsylvania. The self-sufficiency of a victorious party scorns to tread in the paths of their predecessors. Rehoboam will not imitate Solomon. Secondly, the rotation in office will not prevent intrigue and dependence on the legislature. The man in office will look forward to the period at which he will become re-eligible. The distance of the period, the improbability of such a protraction of his life, will be no obstacle. Such is the nature of man — formed by his benevolent Author, no doubt, for wise ends — that although he knows his existence to be limited to a span, he takes his measures as if he were to live forever.

Because Morris invoked an image of Greek mythology, does this mean he wishes to institute a Constitution founded on mythological principles? Clearly, Morris used the idiom to communicate his meaning. Much in the same way, Morris referred to Rehoboam who became a more difficult taskmaster than Solomon. Although the accuracy of this figure of speech is questionable (Rehoboam’s changes were arguably a continuation of trends initiated by Solomon), his hearers would have understood his meaning. However, they would not be moved to even consider crafting a theocratic monarchy.
Morris’ next reference to his Christian views is a little closer to his politics. He laments the trait in humans to seek power and be shortsighted and then credits God for making human nature to be what it is.

The man in office will look forward to the period at which he will become re-eligible. The distance of the period, the improbability of such a protraction of his life, will be no obstacle. Such is the nature of man — formed by his benevolent Author, no doubt, for wise ends — that although he knows his existence to be limited to a span, he takes his measures as if he were to live forever.

Morris and Madison are notable in their repeated references to the weaknesses and depravity of human nature. It seems likely that their religious training inculcated this view and influenced their support for republican government. Given that Madison likely believed in the doctrine of human depravity, it important to see what he wanted government to do about it. In short, Madison wanted government out of religion and religion out of government. In other words, human nature could not be fixed or accommodated by joining church to state. Rather, those institutions were to be as far apart as possible. Government had to adjust to human nature but not join the church to do so.

1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – Will the President Be an Elected King?

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optJuly 24, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day).


A committee was chosen to compose the decisions made thus far into a document for consideration (Rutledge,  Randolph,  Gorham,  Ellsworth, and  Wilson). The delegates discussed against the method of choosing the chief executive and at this juncture approved appointment by the national legislature.

Influences on the Delegates

North Carolina’s Hugh Williamson advocated reconsidering much of what the delegates had already covered. He also appealed to the differences between the United States and England.

Mr. WILLIAMSON was for going back to the original ground, to elect the Executive for seven years, and render him ineligible a second time. The proposed Electors would certainly not be men of the first, nor even of the second, grade in the States. These would all prefer a seat in the Senate, or the other branch of the Legislature. He did not like the unity in the Executive. He had wished the Executive power to be lodged in three men, taken from three districts, into which the States should be divided. As the Executive is to have a kind of veto on the laws, and there is an essential difference of interests between the Northern and Southern States, particularly in the carrying trade, the power will be dangerous, if the Executive is to be taken from part of the Union, to the part from which he is not taken. The case is different here from what it is in England; where there is a sameness of interests throughout the kingdom. Another objection against a single magistrate is, that he will be an elective king, and will feel the spirit of one. He will spare no pains to keep himself in for life, and will then lay a train for the succession of his children. It was pretty certain, he thought, that we should at some time or other have a king; but he wished no precaution to be omitted that might postpone the event as long as possible. Ineligibility a second time appeared to him to be the best precaution. With this precaution he had no objection to a longer term than seven years. He would go as far as ten or twelve years.

I reproduced this section for two reasons: because Williamson referred to England as a negative example, and because this brief section illustrates the fact that the “framers” were not ideologically on the same page. His view of the executive branch was much different from what actually came to pass. They had many ideas which did not make it in the final product. To say that the Constitution was based or founded on any one source (e.g., David Barton – the Bible), is to ignore the ideological diversity in Convention.
A particularly funny moment came from Rufus King, delegate from Massachusetts. After the delegates voted to allow the national legislature to choose the president, some wanted to revisit the provision that the president could be re-elected. The reasoning was that the executive could be more independent if not looking for re-election from the legislature. Thus, some delegates wanted to limit the president to one longer term. One suggested fifteen years (up from 11), and then King suggested:

Mr. KING twenty years.1  This is the medium life of princes.

It is not clear if King was serious or if this was meant as a joke to illustrate the dangerous direction of some delegates to approximate a kind of monarch. Even if serious, in context, it made me laugh.
Pennsylvania’s James Wilson offered comments which advocated for long term service from gifted people, even into advanced age. Also unusual in this comment is a somewhat favorable reference to the Pope.

Mr. WILSON. The difficulties and perplexities into which the House is thrown, proceed from the election by the Legislature, which he was sorry had been re-instated. The inconvenience of this mode was such, that he would agree to almost any length of time in order to get rid of the dependence which must result from it. He was persuaded that the longest term would not be equivalent to a proper mode of election, unless indeed it should be during good behaviour. It seemed to be supposed that at a certain advance of life a continuance in office would cease to be agreeable to the officer, as well as desirable to the public. Experience had shown in a variety of instances, that both a capacity and inclination for public service existed in very advanced stages. He mentioned the instance of a Doge of Venice who was elected after he was eighty years of age. The Popes have generally been elected at very advanced periods, and yet in no case had a more steady or a better concerted policy been pursued than in the Court of Rome. If the Executive should come into office at thirty-five years of age, which he presumes may happen, and his continuance should be fixed at fifteen years, at the age of fifty, in the very prime of life, and with all the aid of experience, he must be cast aside like a useless hulk. What an irreparable loss would the British jurisprudence have sustained, had the age of fifty been fixed there as the ultimate limit of capacity or readiness to serve the public. The great luminary Lord Mansfield, held his seat for thirty years after his arrival at that age. Notwithstanding what had been done, he could not but hope that a better mode of election would yet be adopted; and one that would be more agreeable to the general sense of the House. That time might be given for further deliberation, he would move that the present question be postponed till to-morrow.

Gouverneur Morris then spoke against the legislative appointment with reference again to England. He also suggested that Providence wouldn’t rescue the nation from human nature.

 Nothing had been said on the other side, of the intrigues to get him out of office. Some leader of a party will always covet his seat, will perplex his administration, will cabal with the Legislature, till he succeeds in supplanting him. This was the way in which the King of England was got out, he meant the real king, the Minister. This was the way in which Pitt (Lord Chatham) forced himself into place. Fox was for pushing the matter still further. If he had carried his India bill, which he was very near doing, he would have made the Minister the king in form almost, as well as in substance. Our President will be the British Minister, yet we are about to make him appointable by the Legislature. Something has been said of the danger of monarchy. If a good government should not now be formed, if a good organization of the Executive should not be provided, he doubted whether we should not have something worse than a limited monarchy. In order to get rid of the dependence of the Executive on the Legislature, the expedient of making him ineligible a second time had been devised. This was as much as to say, we should give him the benefit of experience, and then deprive ourselves of the use of it. But make him ineligible a second time — and prolong his duration even to fifteen years — will he, by any wonderful interposition of Providence at that period, cease to be a man? No; he will be unwilling to quit his exaltation; the road to his object through the Constitution will be shut; he will be in possession of the sword; a civil war will ensue, and the commander of the victorious army, on whichever side, will be the despot of America. This consideration renders him particularly anxious that the Executive should be properly constituted. The vice here would not, as in some other parts of the system, be curable. It is the most difficult of all, rightly to balance the Executive. Make him too weak — the Legislature will usurp his power. Make him too strong — he will usurp on the Legislature. He preferred a short period, a re-eligibility, but a different mode of election. A long period would prevent an adoption of the plan. It ought to do so. He should himself be afraid to trust it. He was not prepared to decide on Mr. WILSON’S mode of election just hinted by him. He thought it deserved consideration. It would be better that chance should decide than intrigue.

The delegates then assigned a committee to attempt to resolve the differences over the executive. It seems quite clear that the delegates wanted to find a systemic way to eliminate the possibility of a bad president. History and current events have shown us that there are checks on bad presidents but nothing which can prevent them.

The 1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
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The 1787 Constitutional Convention – On the Ratification of the Constitution

photo-1467912407355-245f30185020_optJuly 23, 1787 (Click to read Madison’s notes on the day)


Today, the New Hampshire delegates,  John Langdon and  Nicolas Gilman arrived in Convention and took their seats. The delegates agreed to requiring an oath by both national and states officials to support the new governing document. They agreed to submit the Constitution to conventions of people of the states for ratification and decided to revisit the way the executive was elected. Influences on the Delegates

Influences on the Delegates

Gorham from Massachusetts tipped his hat to the clergy in his support for ratification by an assembly of the people rather than have ratification come via the elected state legislatures. He said in Convention:

3. In the States, many of the ablest men are excluded from the Legislatures, but may be elected into a convention. Among these may be ranked many of the clergy, who are generally friends to good government. Their services were found to be valuable in the formation and establishment of the Constitution of Massachusetts.

Far from proving a biblical basis for the Constitution, this statement nonetheless indicates a friendliness to participation of religiously devout people in government. Then, the clergy were friends to good government. Now, many of those who purport to be leaders among evangelicals hope to establish Christianity as a quasi-religion of the state.
Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania supported the idea of a people’s convention to ratify the Constitution since the people are the ultimate authority.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS considered the inference of Mr. ELLSWORTH from the plea of necessity, as applied to the establishment of a new system, on the consent of the people of a part of the States, in favor of a like establishment, on the consent of a part of the Legislatures, as a non-sequitur. If the Confederation is to be pursued, no alteration can be made without the unanimous consent of the Legislatures. Legislative alterations not conformable to the Federal compact would clearly not be valid. The Judges would consider them as null and void. Whereas, in case of an appeal to the people of the United States, the supreme authority, the Federal compact may be altered by a majority of them, in like manner as the Constitution of a particular State may be altered by a majority of the people of the State. The amendment moved by Mr. ELLSWORTH erroneously supposes, that we are proceeding on the basis of the Confederation. This Convention is unknown to the Confederation.

The consent of the governed is where government derives just powers. Rather than consider the Bible or Christianity as supreme authority, Morris asserted that in a republican government the people via their representatives decide.
As a reminder that the Southern states wanted to bake slavery into their Constitution cake, General Pinckney said near the end of the session on this day:

General PINCKNEY reminded the Convention, that if the Committee should fail to insert some security to the Southern States against an emancipation of slaves, and taxes on exports, he should be bound by duty to his State to vote against their report.


1787 Constitutional Convention Series

To read my series examining the proceedings of the Constitution Convention, click here.  In this series, I am writing about any obvious influences on the development of the Constitution which were mentioned by the delegates to the Convention. Specifically, I am testing David Barton’s claim that “every clause” of the Constitution is based on biblical principles. Thus far, I have found nothing supporting the claim. However, stay tuned, the series will run until mid-September.
Constitutional Convention Series (click the link)
To follow on social media, click the following links:
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