Render Unto Man

The PA House of Representatives passed H.R. 535, a resolution declaring 2012 the “Year of the Bible”. Derek Gittler argues this misuse of Civil Government is an Affront to, and a Violation of, the Conscience of every Christian, Non-Christian, and Non-Theist alike.

On 24 January the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously approved a “noncontroversial resolution” declaring 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. In its brief twenty-eight lines H.R. 535 manages to pass off vague statement as historical fact, use undefined fear as a rallying cry, tug at the heartstrings of a pathetic patriotism, and provide overly simplistic solutions to self-suggested and non-existent problems. All in all, it is a masterpiece of modern government.

And it would be completely laughable if it were not also offensive to every Christian, every non-Christian, and every non-theist alike. In passing this resolution 193-0 nearly every member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has shown a complete lack of understanding of the absolute necessity for private matters of religion to be always and forever separate from any civil authority for religion’s and liberty’s sake.

This is not to say one’s religious sentiments may not inform a Representative’s character or influence their conscience. Those sentiments most certainly will. What the Representatives may not do is use the power of civil government to promote religion or a specific religion, but that is precisely what the House has done.

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists, that famous letter which introduced the phrase “a wall of separation between Church & State” into our political discussion. But what of the Danbury Baptists? What of their initial letter? Why would a Christian denomination in a supposedly Christian nation write to the President for understanding and reassurance in the first place?

The authority of State and Federal power were delineated differently when the Danbury Baptists wrote their original letter in 1801. While the First Amendment of the United States Constitution prevented the Federal government from establishing a national religion, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that their own State of Connecticut was under no such constraint. They feared that the establishment of a State church in Connecticut would compromise their own liberty and personal safety. This was a very real fear considering that in their recent history their own State and neighboring Rhode Island were each founded to escape religious persecution in Christian Massachusetts.

The danger they saw, rightly so, was not in religion, but in the combination of religion and government and the power that combination holds. They feared those “who seek after power & gain under the pretense of government & Religion should reproach their fellow men — should reproach their chief Magistrate, as an enemy of religion Law & good order”. Those seeking power would use the cloak of religion, and the moral respect people naturally give it, to decry those with whom they disagree for their own political advantage. In this election year, the evening news is only too full of examples.

It is for the protection of religion, especially for any sect in minority, and for the protection of conscience that in these matters government must have no say and no authority, legal or moral. It is for your own religion’s sake that a separation must be jealously guarded from temporal governmental power.

In matters of private conscience, the Danbury Baptists saw these limits very clearly, that a government must have no voice, “… That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals … That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor …”

The resolution of the Pennsylvania House flies in the face of this principle, explicitly acknowledging “the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures.”

“But what is wrong with this?” you may ask. “It doesn’t prevent others from worshiping as they choose.” The problem is not only protection from majority power. The problem is also that for those who do not believe as such, our convictions “we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights: and these favors we receive at the expense of such degrading acknowledgements, as are inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”

Ultimately this resolution of the PA House of Representatives is ridiculous. No government authority can dictate the private conscience of any person. At best this is shallow politics, intended to consolidate power and position by conjuring some vague feeling of goodwill on the part of the people toward their elected Representatives with some mealy-mouthed, insincere appeal to their deepest, most private convictions. How insulting! At worst it shows the Representatives’ blatant disregard and contempt for the varied sources of morality of each individual, whether that person relies on spiritual revelation or daily experience.

Government has not the authority nor the power to determine the mind of the individual. Its only proper use is the protection of the person and property of each, limited in power such that the government itself is not a violator of those rights. That the Pennsylvania House of Representatives took it upon itself to issue H.R. 535 and declare 2012 as the “Year of the Bible” is a gross insult to the private convictions of every Pennsylvanian and every American.

The Christian scriptures instruct us to, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When our government learns that in matters of conscience they have no authority, that they have no right, that in these matters the Government must render unto man, we shall marvel at them.

Photograph by Wyoming_Jackrabbit. Used under a CreativeCommons license

Local Getaway: The Ledges Hotel

Now that the Holidays are behind us, we thought it might be nice to start sharing some ideas on how to get through the remainder of the winter months with a little excitement — or at least with a few things to look forward to. With that in mind, The Bloomsburg Daily is starting a new series, Local Getaway, to help point out some amazing places all within an easy drive of our area.

First up is a quiet stunner in Hawley, PA aptly called, The Ledges. This eco-friendly, contemporary hotel is surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery one can hope for in a small out of the way location. It is a new hotel tucked into the lower portion of the historic Hawley Silk Mill complex. Only about a two hour drive from Bloomsburg, The Ledges provides an escape that you can’t imagine exists so close to home. Approaching the property you may not expect much from the nondescript grey stone building, but walk into the lobby and you can instantly tell you are in for a treat.

You are greeted by a sparse, but well designed entry area that houses the receptionist desk and a series of glass doors leading out to an observation deck. It is when you walk through those doors that you discover why this is such a special destination.

The hotel is built into the rock at the base of a series of absolutely amazing waterfalls that cascade from well above.The sound of the water is enough of a rush, but the views push it over the top. The prices aren’t cheap, but if you are like us, you’ll have no need to leave the property for the duration of the visit. Room rates vary throughout the year, but don’t expect something for under $100.00 a night. The standard hotel rooms are a bargain, but it is in the one and two bedroom suites that you are able to really enjoy what this boutique hotel has to offer — the sight and sounds of the falls!

Our one bedroom suite was a two story unit with a spiral staircase connecting the two spaces. The ceilings were no less than 12 feet and the suite could have easily slept two couples or more. The giant windows opened onto the rushing waters below and opening them provided the most splendid view and sounds. The hotel also boasts free wifi, wonderful marble and granite bathrooms, kitchens, flat panel televisions, and room service.

The attached Glass Wine Bar and Bistro serves mostly American fare, but it is the setting that is most special. Grab a seat on the covered porch, order a couple of small plates, and a glass of wine to really take advantage of your visit. If you want to save a little money we would recommend you ask for a room with a view of the falls, pack a bottle of wine, and some things to eat and just stay in your room with the windows open. You’ll be happy you decided to come as you sit, relax, and enjoy the roar of the rushing waters below.

Ledges Hotel
A Pocono Mountains Boutique Hotel
120 Falls Avenue
Hawley, PA 18428

Photo Credit
Lobby, Image One 
Courtesy: The Ledges Hotel 

Remaining Photo Credits
Copyright: Kristin Camplese 

The View from Here: Arcus Brothers

The passing of Michael Arcus prompted me to reflect a bit on what they and the store means to us.

Growing up at 245 East Street in Bloomsburg in the 70’s and 80’s was a really amazing time. It was a world that seemed to bridge the gap between the scenes you see in movies from the 50s and 60s and the ultra protected world we have today. I was permitted to roam a gradually expanding area that started small, but grew into a freedom that let me go from Nelson Field House to BHS to the Fairgrounds on my bike. In the earliest days, I was restricted to an area that went only from College Hill to Third Street and capped off by the ally behind my house.

I attended Saint Columba School directly down the street from my house. What that meant was that by around second grade I was allowed to walk to school alone. Each morning my Mom would walk me across East Street and I would walk past Arcus Brothers. Keep in mind this is well before the building was adorned with the spray painted signs it is famous for today. Back then they had a much more subtle set of signage, urging customers to come in for “Going out for business” sales and other classics.

As I got older, I was allowed to cross East Street by myself and spent quite a bit of time hanging out with both Steve and Mike Arcus at the store. They let me play video games and would teach me about various electronics if I helped out by running the vacuum cleaner or going to get Steve a Vanilla Coke. They drove me crazy when I’d ask how much a particular Atari game was by asking me, “how much do you think it is worth?” But at the end of the day, both Steve and Mike always treated me great.

So when I heard that Mike had passed away it made me reflective on what the Arcus Brothers have meant to Bloomsburg. You can read his entire obituary online at The Daily Item. Here is a short excerpt:

Born in Danville on Sunday, Dec. 24, 1950, Michael was a son of the late Max and Vivian Simon Arcus. He attended the Bloomsburg area schools. Michael was a self-employed businessman in the Bloomsburg community for his entire working career. On May 6, 1971, with his brother, he established Arcus Brothers, Inc., which he was vice president.

In honor of Mike and the store that has dominated the imagination of so many locals and visitors, I decided it would be a nice tribute to share some recent photos of Arcus Brothers. If you feel like sharing your own memories, good or bad, of the Arcus Brothers please do so in the comments.

Remember When: School Lunches

On Thursday I was in New Orleans. I had a meeting to attend in the morning and at lunch, I was whisked away to base camp, which is what we in “the business” call the place where everyone and all the equipment is hanging out between locations. Base camp yesterday was at the Lion’s club in Algiers – a neighborhood on the west bank (also referred to as “The Best Bank” or “The Wank” depending on which side of the river you’re from) of the Mississippi. I don’t usually go to set. In my capacity as the supervising sound editor of the show, my work happens after the scenes are shot – weeks or months after in some cases. But Thursday was special: it was our crew’s holiday lunch.

As nice as the grilled ahi tuna, short ribs, salad bar, fried chicken, mac and cheese, and Chinese fried rice were that day, the fact remains that it was served from steamer trays and we stood in lines with those brown trays, collecting our food. There aren’t too many things that can bring you back to your childhood as quickly as a cafeteria. Here’s what I remember about school lunches:

When I was a kid, we didn’t have soda machines in the cafeteria. It was milk or chocolate milk. And water came from the water fountain, not in bottles.

I always looked forward to pizza days and to this day still, if the pizza I am eating is cut into squares, I want to eat potato chips with it.

Or what about tuna surprise rolls? Who would have thought that a hot dog bun filled with tuna salad and cheese, toasted, could be good? Or was that just me? Did anyone else like tuna surprise? And was tuna surprise one of the Friday lunch options? I remember we always had fish on Fridays (for the Catholics…does that still happen?) and most of the time that meant macaroni and cheese (which was very white and mushy) and breaded fish sticks.

Cole Camplese told me his favorite lunch at BHS was a new offering that appeared on the menu with great anticipation:

“I think my sophomore year they added Chicken Nuggets and it instantly became my favorite item. Mike Fritz and I talked them into selling us a la carte extras so we would end up with something like twenty or so nuggets each.

“We did have a couple of vending machines and one in particular served as Kevin Primerano’s go to lunch option: ‘Scooter Crunch Lunch.’ His famous lunch consisted of nothing more than a couple chocolate Scooter Crunch ice cream bars. He ate them so often, who wouldn’t have loved to have been the one collecting the quarters from that machine?”

What about you? What are your school lunch memories? Were you one of the lucky ones that got to leave campus to eat? What were your favorite school day lunches?

[box type=”shadow”]Photo via flickr.[/box]

Thanksgiving Recipe: Cuizoo’s Famous Balsamic Vinaigrette

SaladNo one really wants to think about a green vegetable on their Thanksgiving table — unless it is green beans smothered in cream of mushroom soup with fried onions on top. But, come on, that doesn’t qualify as a vegetable.  You know I’m right on that.

The green vegetable is simply cast aside because the other food on the table is so compelling.  And my feeling is that I can have a vegetable any other day of the year.  But my husband doesn’t agree with that idea — he thinks that a table filled with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, bread, and gravy could use a little salad. And he is probably right.  Adding a nice big salad to the mix is a welcome addition, especially when the dressing is light and cuts through the richness of the rest of the table.

This is one of my most requested recipes — which always strikes me as very odd because it is the most simple vinaigrette you can make. And whenever I try to give someone the recipe, I never have any idea about amounts because I always mix it in the same bowl and add the ingredients until “they look right.”   This is the dressing that made my friend Kevin actually like salad after a lifetime of salad hating.

There are two keys to making it right… good quality olive oil and good quality balsamic vinegar.  And if you have to choose one, pick a decent olive oil and spend a little extra on the vinegar because a bad balsamic vinegar makes a bad vinaigrette.  And when you consider that you only use about an ounce for an entire salad, a large bottle lasts for quite some time and is much more cost effective than buying most bottled salad dressing.  It’s yet another win-win-win … more reasonable, tastes better, and better for you because you control the ingredients (As you will notice, I don’t add any Potassium Sorbate or Sulfiting Agents to mine…).

And it takes all of one minute to make.

Cuizoo’s “Famous” Balsamic Vinaigrette (enough for one large salad)

3/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, chopped finely
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop garlic clove finely and place in small bowl.  Add oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and whisk well with a fork or wire whisk — until it is emulsified.  If not using dressing immediately, re-whisk before pouring over greens.

As a Thanksgiving treat, we’ve established a partnership with, Cuizoo. Cuizoo is a local food and photography blog by Kristin Camplese. For the rest of the week (and maybe in the future) The Bloomsburg Daily will be featuring recipes to help round out your table. The goal of Cuizoo is to get parents back in the kitchen and to do so in a way that makes families develop an appreciation for real food. Creative marketing has led us to believe that families don’t have time to cook, that we need processed food to provide short cuts, that cooking from scratch is hard, and that kids don’t eat vegetables. They tell us we are so busy that we don’t even have time to squeeze a lemon (so wouldn’t you rather buy some Real Lemon lemon juice-esque product?) and we are so incapable in the kitchen that we cannot make a ham sandwich for our child’s lunch (so wouldn’t you rather buy a Lunchable?). Each recipe we feature here has been carefully selected to help make your Thanksgiving even more delicious than it usually is.

Photo credit, Chris Dlugosz.