Category : History

(The Conversation) Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.”

Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman remain fearless, even when she came face to face with many challenges.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

Summerville, South Carolina, High School Coach John McKissick, winningest coach of all time, dies

McKissick influenced not only the lives of countless athletes, but also other students and coaches. That influence extended beyond the walls of the school, reaching deep into the Summerville community.

“Coach McKissick has always had a standard he holds all his players to,” Bo Blanton, a Green Wave quarterback from 1974-76, said during a 2012 interview following McKissick’s 600th coaching victory. “He requires you to perform on the field, but he also expects you to represent your high school and community in a manner everyone can be proud of. Just look at the things his former players such as Converse Chellis, George Tupper and Harry Blake moved on to do for their community and state.”

Over the years, McKissick sent countless players off to the college ranks. The players he helped reach the NFL ranks include A.J. Green, Kevin Long, Ian Rafferty, Stanford Jennings, Keith Jennings and Zack Bailey.

Read it all

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Sports, Teens / Youth

(WSJ) Melanie Kirkpatrick–Thanksgiving, 1789

It is hard to imagine America’s favorite holiday as a source of political controversy. But that was the case in 1789, the year of our first Thanksgiving as a nation.

The controversy began on Sept. 25 in New York City, then the seat of government. The inaugural session of the first Congress was about to recess when Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey rose to introduce a resolution. He asked the House to create a joint committee with the Senate to “wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

The 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

Saturday Food for Thought from Ernest Becker

I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.

–¬Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press, 1997 paperback ed. Of the 1973 original), pp. 283-284

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Philosophy, Theology

(CH) Thomas Kidd–Five Ways We Misunderstand American Religious History

Is America a “Christian nation”? When we worry about the direction our nation is heading, or celebrate when we see as a positive religious turn in American culture or politics, we are making assumptions about our own religious background as a country. Most of these assumptions are based on civics classes we took in primary and secondary school. While our assumptions claim a historical basis, there are a number of misunderstandings, some subtle and some overt, that Americans often have about their religious history. Here are five of the most common:

1. Religion had little to do with the American Revolution.

The American national Congress during the Revolutionary War was ostensibly secular, but it sometimes issued proclamations for prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving that employed detailed theological language. Whereas the Declaration of Independence had used generic theistic language about the creator and “nature’s God,” a 1777 thanksgiving proclamation recommended that Americans confess their sins and pray that God “through the merits of Jesus Christ” would forgive them. They further enjoined Americans to pray for the “enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’ [Romans 14:17].”

Some have argued that the Declaration of Independence illustrates the “secular character of the Revolution.” The Declaration was specific about the action of God in creation, however. A theistic basis for the equality of humankind was broadly shared by Americans in 1776. Thomas Jefferson did not let his skepticism about Christian doctrine preclude the use of a theistic argument to persuade Americans. Jefferson was hardly an atheist, in any case. Like virtually all Americans, he assumed that God, in some way and at some time in the past, had created the world and humankind.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had been adopted just weeks before the Declaration of Independence, had spoken blandly of how “all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights.” Drawing on the naturalistic theory of government crafted by John Locke, this first section of the Virginia Declaration made no explicit reference to God. Yet when Jefferson and his drafting committee wrote the Declaration of Independence, they made the action of God in creation much clearer. “All men are created equal,” and “they are endowed by their Creator,” Jefferson wrote. The Declaration was not explicitly Christian, but its theism was intentional. This is not to say that the founding documents are uniformly theistic. The Constitution hardly referred to God at all, save for a paltry reference to the “Year of our Lord” 1787.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture

Monday food for Thought–The Red Dean of Canterbury on Joseph Stalin

In the same general period in which Stalin was starving millions, the Rev. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, described him as “leading his people down new and unfamiliar avenues of democracy.”

.–Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, (New York: Harper and Row, 1983), p.276, used yesterday in the sermon as an illustration of blindness

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Russia

(The Point) Bad Infinity–The endurance of the liberal imagination

“In the United States at this time,” Lionel Trilling wrote in 1949, “liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” These words are strange to read today. One cannot imagine someone writing them now and, in retrospect, they suggest a dangerous hubris. And yet it is not clear that, applied either to Trilling’s time or to ours, they are wrong.

Since the global political unraveling in 2016, liberalism has lost its voice. From the “basket of deplorables” to the “#resistance” pins to the eat-pray-love liberalism of “a thousand small sanities,” public defenses of the West’s regnant political ideology ring hollow and desperate. Read the Times or the Post, listen to politicians, sit for a second and catch the mood in the airport: the absence is in the air, not just in our language. Max Weber called twentieth-century governance the “slow boring of hard boards”: they have been bored, and so are we.

To literary critics and political theorists—those whose job it is to front-run the zeitgeist—liberalism now seems not so much an opponent to battle as a corpse to put to rest. It is something to be, at most, anatomized, if not simply buried and forgotten. The new right tends toward the former: Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed, published in 2018 and blurbed by everyone from David Brooks to Cornel West, blames the very idea of America, with its manic commitment to a radical and spiritually empty freedom. For millennial socialists and fully automated luxury communists, liberalism is, instead, a kind of dad joke, a boomer blooper: faintly embarrassing and best ignored. Maybe we grew up believing in Obama, but that’s all over; now we’ve grown up and moved out.

Wake up! critics seem to say; Get Real. Liberalism is dead. All you have to do is look around: the world we live in is one our old categories can’t explain. Liberalism envisions the tools of reason—science, public debate, law—liberating individuals, tempering passions and leading, however slowly and unevenly, to a world felicitously governed, in harmony with itself. It is very hard to square such a vision with the present world, in which governments have been captured by grifters and demagogues, algorithms move markets and ambient anxiety reigns.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General

Veterans Day Remarks–Try to Guess the Speaker and the Date

In a world tormented by tension and the possibilities of conflict, we meet in a quiet commemoration of an historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. The resolution of the Congress which first proclaimed Armistice Day, described November 11, 1918, as the end of “the most destructive, sanguinary and far-reaching war in the history of human annals.” That resolution expressed the hope that the First World War would be, in truth, the war to end all wars. It suggested that those men who had died had therefore not given their lives in vain.

It is a tragic fact that these hopes have not been fulfilled, that wars still more destructive and still more sanguinary followed, that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow men.Some might say, therefore, that this day has lost its meaning, that the shadow of the new and deadly weapons have robbed this day of its great value, that whatever name we now give this day, whatever flags we fly or prayers we utter, it is too late to honor those who died before, and too soon to promise the living an end to organized death.

But let us not forget that November 11, 1918, signified a beginning, as well as an end. “The purpose of all war,” said Augustine, “is peace.” The First World War produced man’s first great effort in recent times to solve by international cooperation the problems of war. That experiment continues in our present day — still imperfect, still short of its responsibilities, but it does offer a hope that some day nations can live in harmony.

For our part, we shall achieve that peace only with patience and perseverance and courage — the patience and perseverance necessary to work with allies of diverse interests but common goals, the courage necessary over a long period of time to overcome…[a skilled adversary].

Do please take a guess as to who it is and when it was, then click and read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

(NBC) for Veterans Day 2019–Veterans With Incredible Bond Hike Together — One Carrying The Other On His Back

Watch it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Military / Armed Forces

For Veterans Day 2019–The Poem For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

Veterans Day Statistics 2019

You can find a page of 4 graphs there. There is also a research summary here and an infographic there. An excellent short summary of the history of Veterans Day may be found at this link. Finally, a link for the Veterans History Project is well worth your time exploring today. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration currently maintains 136 national cemeteries in 40 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier’s lots and monument sites (you can find more facts about the national Cemetery Administration there).

Finally, a 15 page teachers guide for Veteran’s Day 2019 may be found there.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

(NYT) Mission: Escorting Veterans Down Memory Lane

In 2004, shortly after the national World War II Memorial was completed, Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain working at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Springfield, Ohio, realized that many of the veterans he knew would never get to see it.

So he persuaded pilots at his local flying club to ferry a handful of veterans to Washington on small planes, and accompany them to the National Mall.

Jeff Miller, who owns a dry cleaning company in Hendersonville, N.C., soon added chartered commercial jets to the impromptu enterprise.

From there blossomed an entire organization, known as the Honor Flight Network, which since 2005 has carried nearly a quarter-million veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to Washington.

Read it all.

Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Military / Armed Forces, Travel

In Flanders Fields for Rememberance Day and Veterans Days 2019

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve–KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Veterans Day 2019

Governor of Nations, our Strength and Shield:
we give you thanks for the devotion and courage
of all those who have offered military service for this country:

For those who have fought for freedom; for those who laid down their lives for others;
for those who have borne suffering of mind or of body;
for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.

On our behalf they have entered into danger,
endured separation from those they love,
labored long hours, and borne hardship in war and in peacetime.
Lift up by your mighty Presence those who are now at war;
encourage and heal those in hospitals
or mending their wounds at home;
guard those in any need or trouble;
hold safely in your hands all military families;
and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion
and tranquil life at home;

Give to us, your people, grateful hearts
and a united will to honor these men and women
and hold them always in our love and our prayers;
until your world is perfected in peace
through Jesus Christ our Savior.

–The Rev. Jennifer Phillips

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Prayer List

The Royal British Legion–Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. On this day people across the nation pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave Service men and women.

Remembrance Sunday will fall on Sunday 10 November in 2019.

Read it all and make sure to look at other links on the site including the call to remember together this year.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces

(WSJ) Elisabeth Braw–The Stasi Spies in Seminary

East Germany’s Communist government opened the Berlin Wall and thus the country 30 years ago Saturday. Geopolitics and economics drove this outcome, but East Germany’s religious communities played a complicated, significant and far too often overlooked role.

The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, understood that the country’s congregations presented a major threat to the existing order. Lutherans were East Germany’s largest denomination, and many actively opposed the regime. Undermining them became a thorny task for a ruling class that disdained the brutality of the Soviet Union and its other satellites.

By 1954 the Stasi had built a Soviet-inspired agency to monitor churches, later named Department XX/4. It gradually perfected the art of subversion. The group’s officers came from the proletariat, as most top officials did. The Stasi recruited farmhands and factory workers and sent them to the Potsdam College of Jurisprudence, its officer training school.

To weaken faith communities, the department cultivated believers, including pastors, as spies….

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(OUP Blog) Heretics to demigods: evangelicals and the American founders

As political conservatism became more secular and more wedded to classical liberal principles at the close of the nineteenth century, evangelicals left behind some of these theological scruples and lent their voices to laudatory hymns to the Founders. Their approach to the Founders became less nuanced and indistinguishable from the generic civil religion espoused by political conservatives by the mid-twentieth century.

This historical backdrop helps illuminate the bizarre spectacle of best-selling evangelical author David Barton recently maintaining that Jefferson was a bona fide evangelical. In short, two developments (among other factors) help explain the evangelical change of heart regarding Founders like Jefferson and Paine. First, evangelicals came to embrace uncritically the minimalist, laissez-faire model of the state championed by many Founders. Second, theological commitments became less important to conservative Protestants as pragmatic concerns about securing and protecting their political influence prevailed.

Uncritical nationalism and partisanship have long been temptations for Christians of every sort. Still, reflecting on their past critical engagement with the Founders can bring greater clarity to how evangelicals envisage their role in the public square today and their distinctive contribution to the larger American experiment.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, Evangelicals, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Monday Food for Thought from Tony Evans–what is our Motivation for Worship?

When the American hostages came home from Iran on January 20, 1981, the first thing they did when they got off the plane was kiss the ground. No matter what star or achievement they had earned in the armed services, when they hit the ground from Iran, they bowed down. Home sweet home. Putting their clean lips on the dirty carp, they kissed it. They went down. Because they knew where they had been and they knew where they are now. You know why folks stop bowing? Because they forget where they’ve come from. They forget they have been hostages in Satan’s territory, and now they have been made free

–used by yours truly in yesterday’s All Saints Day sermon

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Theology

(NYT) Death of ISIS leader is little consolation to a changed France

The death of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was met this week with no outpouring of joy or even relief in France, even though this is the European country that suffered most from his depredations.

The reason is simple: the Islamic State’s crimes, and the fear they instilled in the national psyche, are so ingrained in France that the daily fabric of life has been inexorably altered.

As if proof were needed, within the last month, a former far-right candidate shot two Muslims who stopped him from burning down a mosque. A Muslim mother was reprimanded by an official for wearing a head scarf. And President Emmanuel Macron called for a “society of vigilance” after a Muslim employee at Police Headquarters in Paris killed four officers in a knife attack.

These recent symptoms of what some call an ongoing trauma for France demonstrate why Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death was ‘‘no more than a step,” as Mr. Macron put it Sunday in a muted reaction to the news.

Read it all.

Posted in France, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Sightings) A Recalcitrant Influence–Matthew Creighton writes about the legacy of Harold Bloom

Last week the literary world bade adieu to Professor Harold Bloom, the most prodigious and well-known literary critic of the second half of the twentieth century. Looking back over approximately fifty years of writing, we conclude that one of the recursive and unifying features of his extensive output is the insistence upon regarding sacred works as rhetorical products, along with the attunement to the theological dimensions of imaginative fiction. In creating a model of how to construe the relationship between religion and literature as modes of cultural activity, Bloom fused the insights of two formidable precursors. From the minister-cum-scholar Northrop Frye, he began to view the totality of literary creation as an organic and interconnected whole, a “great code” founded on and decipherable with the aid of Scripture. From M.H. Abrams, his undergraduate adviser at Cornell, he learned not just that poets too were preoccupied with spiritual concerns, but that every instance of poetic communication necessarily involves four components: author, text, world, and audience.

Nevertheless, we can also speak of three discrete stages of Bloom’s criticism. The first is crystallized in the oft-misunderstood book The Anxiety of Influence (1973), in which he used Freudian psychoanalysis as a method for understanding the dynamics of artistic creation. In essence, he argued that one could trace a common process whereby young poets rebel against the literary forbearers that simultaneously and paradoxically shape and nourish their artistic sensibilities, in order to carve out a space for their own originality and yearning for greatness.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Poetry & Literature

(CT) The Gospels Are Fact Not Folklore: An Interview with Craig Keener about his new book

If the gospels are comparable to other biographies in the Greco-Roman world of the first century, what does that tell us about their reliability as historical sources?

If we apply these genre expectations to the Gospels, we should affirm that, at least on average, most accounts in the Gospels reflect actual events in the life of Jesus. Now, those of us with theological commitments to the text may believe more than that, and those with ideological commitments against the text may affirm less than that, but at least this approach can get us all into the same historiographic ballpark. Most events and themes in the Gospels reflect relatively recent memory of Jesus. Thus the figure that we meet in the Gospels, despite different emphases from one Gospel to another, is the figure of Jesus.

How do we know that the gospels don’t fall into the category of mythology or a related fictional genre?

Novels and collections of mythography did not deal with real persons of the past generation or two. Most ancient novels are purely fictitious romances; the minority of novels that use historical characters are set in the distant past. Moreover, they do not cleave closely to their sources the way Matthew and Luke obviously do. Since the dependence of Matthew and Luke on prior sources shows that they clearly are interested in prior information, and since they use Mark with such confidence as a reliable source—Matthew tweaks Mark, but includes more than 90 percent of the events he reports—and since they wrote fairly soon after Mark, and were in a far better position to evaluate Mark’s reliability than are modern scholars, it seems clear that they are writing information-based works, quite different from ancient novels.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, History, Theology: Scripture

(LQ) Henry Freedland–Hell Breaks Loose: Searching for hope in a blazing world.

Around the turn of the eighth century, a sickly Anglo-Saxon monk known as Dryhthelm died in the early hours of a Northumbrian evening. Through the night his household mourned his passing. Then at dawn, as the sun returned, so did Dryhthelm, who sat up in bed with a start. All fled the undead man but his wife; she stayed, trembling in fright. “Do not fear,” he said. “I have been permitted to live among humankind once more,” and he told her what he had seen.

The journey in fleeting death had taken Dryhthelm down to a valley without end, one side of which was “terrifying with raging flames,” the other “equally intolerable owing to fierce hail and cold blasts of snow gusting and blowing away everything in sight.” Everywhere were “poor souls” who attempted to escape the intense heat by leaping into the cold and then, finding no respite, launched themselves back into the high flames to burn again. Surveying the “torture of this alternating misery,” Dryhthelm took the bilateral terror to be hell; he knew of its promised torment, its eternally unhappy agony. But his guide corrected the assumption: “Do not believe this, for this is not the hell you are thinking of.”

Dryhthelm was shaken—how could things be worse? Still farther he was led, to where the landscape grew gloomier, the covering sky even more eaten by darkness, where flames came spurting from a pit with a vile stench. He stood, “unsure what I should do or which way to turn,” unable to differentiate between the “wretched wailing” of souls and a “raucous laughter, as though some illiterate rabble was hurling insults at enemies they had captured.” Here it was at last: the infernal gloom, the precipice of damnation, the cries of suffering wretches, all the sorrowful punishments wielded by mindless, remorseless, contemptible hordes. Finally, the mouth of hell.

Dryhthelm’s story was recorded by his contemporary the Venerable Bede in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It is among the harrowing selections of the 2018 anthology The Penguin Book of Hell. Historian Scott G. Bruce, who collected the texts, gently proposes in his introduction that “the political calamities of the modern world have increased the currency of the concept of hell as a metaphor for torment and suffering.” From the “sulfurous and dark” mountain envisioned by the medieval Irish knight Tundale to the Nazi death camp Treblinka—about which the Russian writer Vasily Grossman commented that “not even Dante, in his hell, saw scenes like this”—the book traffics heavily in such horrid currency.

Read it all.

Posted in Eschatology, History, Poetry & Literature

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343

On Monday this week, the last of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th was buried. Because no remains of Michael Ragusa, age 29, of Engine Company 279, were found and identified, his family placed in his coffin a very small vial of his blood, donated years ago to a bone-marrow clinic. At the funeral service Michael’s mother Dee read an excerpt from her son’s diary on the occasion of the death of a colleague. “It is always sad and tragic when a fellow firefighter dies,” Michael Ragusa wrote, “especially when he is young and had everything to live for.” Indeed. And what a sobering reminder of how many died and the awful circumstances in which they perished that it took until this week to bury the last one.

So here is to the clergy, the ministers, rabbis, imams and others, who have done all these burials and sought to help all these grieving families. And here is to the families who lost loved ones and had to cope with burials in which sometimes they didn’t even have remains of the one who died. And here, too, is to the remarkable ministry of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, who played every single service for all 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The Society chose not to end any service at which they played with an up-tempo march until the last firefighter was buried.

On Monday, in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, the Society therefore played “Garry Owen” and “Atholl Highlander,” for the first time since 9/11 as the last firefighter killed on that day was laid in the earth. On the two year anniversary here is to New York, wounded and more sober, but ever hopeful and still marching.

–First published on this blog September 11, 2003

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Police/Fire, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

Billy Graham’s Address at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance in 2001

President and Mrs. Bush, I want to say a personal word on behalf of many people. Thank you, Mr. President, for calling this day of prayer and remembrance. We needed it at this time.

We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be. The Bible says that He’s the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles. No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock, and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tuesday morning. September eleven will go down in our history as a day to remember.

Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God. Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel plot, and to those who carried it out, that the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes. Someday, those responsible will be brought to justice, as President Bush and our Congress have so forcefully stated. But today we especially come together in this service to confess our need of God.

We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation, but today we need Him especially. We’re facing a new kind of enemy. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God. The Bible words are our hope: God is our refuge and strength; an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking now. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have. We’ve seen so much on our television, on our ”” heard on our radio, stories that bring tears to our eyes and make us all feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.

But what are some of the lessons we can learn? First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I’ve been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept by faith that God is sovereign, and He’s a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery. In 1st Thessalonians 2:7 it talks about the mystery of iniquity. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” Who can understand it?” He asked that question, ‘Who can understand it?’ And that’s one reason we each need God in our lives.

The lesson of this event is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but secondly it’s a lesson about our need for each other. What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days. None of us will ever forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, many of whom have lost friends and colleagues; or the hundreds of people attending or standing patiently in line to donate blood. A tragedy like this could have torn our country apart. But instead it has united us, and we’ve become a family. So those perpetrators who took this on to tear us apart, it has worked the other way; it’s back lashed. It’s backfired. We are more united than ever before. I think this was exemplified in a very moving way when the members of our Congress stood shoulder to shoulder the other day and sang “God Bless America.”

Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope–hope for the present, and hope for the future. Yes, there is hope. There’s hope for the present, because I believe the stage has already been set for a new spirit in our nation. One of the things we desperately need is a spiritual renewal in this country. We need a spiritual revival in America. And God has told us in His word, time after time, that we are to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way. But there’s also hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I hope not for just this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven right now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. And that’s the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.

This event reminds us of the brevity and the uncertainty of life. We never know when we too will be called into eternity. I doubt if even one those people who got on those planes, or walked into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon last Tuesday morning thought it would be the last day of their lives. It didn’t occur to them. And that’s why each of us needs to face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will now.

Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us symbols of the cross. For the Christian–I’m speaking for the Christian now–the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering. For He took upon himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, our sins and our suffering. And from the cross, God declares “I love you. I know the heart aches, and the sorrows, and the pains that you feel, but I love you.” The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ has conquered evil, and death, and hell. Yes, there’s hope.

I’ve become an old man now. And I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago, and proclaimed it in many languages to many parts of the world. Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young, who had just gone through the tragic death of his wife, closed his talk with a quote from the old hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.” We all watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass of the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of the prosperity and creativity of America. When damaged, those buildings eventually plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet underneath the debris is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that old hymn that Andrew Young quoted: “How firm a foundation.”

Yes, our nation has been attacked. Buildings destroyed. Lives lost. But now we have a choice: Whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people, and a nation, or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe that we’re in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about. And in that faith we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we’ve experienced this week.

This has been a terrible week with many tears. But also it’s been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings. And today is a day that they’re celebrating not only in this country, but in many parts of the world. And the words of that familiar hymn that Andrew Young quoted, it says, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand upon “thy righteous, omnipotent hand.”

My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom, and courage, and strength to the President, and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory. May God bless you all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, History, Terrorism

Richard John Neuhaus for 9/11–September 11th, Before and After

Fourth, after some initial sortings out, America will identify itself even more closely with Israel. Disagreements over the justice of how Israel was founded and how it has maintained itself in existence will not disappear. But the diabolical face of the evil that threatens Israel, and us, is now unveiled. Among Americans and all who are part of our civilization, it will be understood that we must never surrender, or appear to be surrendering, to that evil. Finally, the question of “the West and the rest” will be powerfully sharpened, including a greatly heightened awareness of the global threats posed by militant Islam. Innocent Muslims in this country and Europe are undoubtedly in for some nastiness, and we must do our best to communicate the distinction between Islam and Islamism, knowing that the latter is the monistic fanaticism embraced by only a minority of Muslims. But almost inevitably, given the passions aroused and the difficulties of enforcing the law among people who are largely alien in their ways, such distinctions will sometimes get lost. We can only try to do our best by those Muslims who have truly chosen our side in “the clash of civilizations.” It seems likely also that, after September 11, discussion about immigration policy will become more intense, and more candid.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Islam, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

May we Never Forget Eighteen Years Ago Today–A Naval Academy “Anchormen” Tribute to 9/11

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Music, Terrorism

The Legacy Website for September 11, 2001

This site is intended as a place to remember and celebrate the lives of those lost on September 11, 2001. It includes Guest Books and profiles for each of those lost.

It is well worth your time to explore it thoroughly today.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Remember 9/11 Prayer

From here:

Almighty God, the past year will be indelibly inscribed in our memories.

We looked with horror on the terrorist attacks of last September 11th.
But we looked with honor on acts of courage by ordinary people
who sacrificed themselves to prevent further death and destruction.

We shed our tears in a common bond of grief for those we loved and lost.
We journeyed through a dark valley, but your light has led us to a place of hope.
You have turned our grief into determination.
We are resolved to do what is good, and right, and just.

Help us to remember what it means to be Americans””
a people endowed with abundant blessings.
Help us to cherish the freedoms we enjoy and inspire us to stand
with courage, united as one Nation in the midst of any adversity.

Lord, hear this prayer for our Nation. Amen.

Posted in History, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism