Category : History

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

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

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

You can find the full text here.

I find it always is really worth the time to listen to and read and ponder it all on this day especially–KSH.

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

A Prayer for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Almighty God, who by the hand of Moses thy servant didst lead thy people out of slavery, and didst make them free at last: Grant that thy Church, following the example of thy prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of thy love, and may strive to secure for all thy children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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

Gary Saul Morson–Fyodor Dostoevsky: philosopher of freedom

On December 22, 1849, a group of political radicals were taken from their prison cells in Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Fortress, where they had been interrogated for eight months. Led to the Semenovsky Square, they heard a sentence of death by firing squad. They were given long white peasant blouses and nightcaps—their funeral shrouds—and offered last rites. The first three prisoners were seized by the arms and tied to the stake. One prisoner refused a blindfold and stared defiantly into the guns trained on them. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered as a courier galloped up with an imperial decree reducing death sentences to imprisonment in a Siberian prison camp followed by service as a private in the army. The last-minute rescue was in fact planned in advance as part of the punishment, an aspect of social life that Russians understand especially well.

Accounts affirm: of the young men who endured this terrible ordeal, one had his hair turn white; a second went mad and never recovered his sanity; a third, whose two-hundredth birthday we celebrate in 2021, went on to write Crime and Punishment.

The mock-execution and the years in Siberian prison—thinly fictionalized in his novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1860)—changed Dostoevsky forever. His naive, hopeful romanticism disappeared. His religious faith deepened. The sadism of both prisoners and guards taught him that the sunny view of human nature presumed by utilitarianism, liberalism, and socialism were preposterous. Real human beings differed fundamentally from what these philosophies presumed.

People do not live by bread—or, what philosophers called the maximalization of “advantage”—alone. All utopian ideologies presuppose that human nature is fundamentally good and simple: evil and apparent complexity result from a corrupt social order. Eliminate want and you eliminate crime. For many intellectuals, science itself had proven these contentions and indicated the way to the best of all possible worlds. Dostoevsky rejected all these ideas as pernicious nonsense. “It is clear and intelligible to the point of obviousness,” he wrote in a review of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, “that evil lies deeper in human beings than our social-physicians suppose; that no social structure will eliminate evil; that the human soul will remain as it always has been . . . and, finally, that the laws of the human soul are still so little known, so obscure to science, so undefined, and so mysterious, that there are not and cannot be either physicians or final judges” except God Himself.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Russia

George Washington’s January 1 1795 Proclamation

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment I George Washington President of the United States do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations and to all persons whomsoever within the United States to set apart and observe thursday the nineteenth day of February next as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer; and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a Nation; particularly for the possession of Constitutions of Government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order, for the preservation of our peace foreign and domestic, for the seasonable controul which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs public and private…

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

(Commentary) Adam White–The Turn Against Religious Liberty

America’s history of tolerance and accommodation, which the late Justice Ginsburg invoked at oral argument, reflected America’s constitutional institutions. When legislators representing diverse people and values meet on equal footing to debate and deliberate, the product is informed by values of toleration. The legislative process’s inherent tendency toward compromise and moderation is itself a crucial institution for the perpetuation of tolerance. But in dominance, intolerance.

And when Americans see the lawmaking power as a weapon to be won in warlike presidential elections and then wielded against one’s opponents for the four years that follow—not the shared responsibility of legislators—they too lose their capacity for tolerance and their memory of toleration.

Rebuilding that capacity, and restoring that memory, requires a return to Madison—not a “Madison’s Razor” of Rakove’s creation, but the genuinely republican constitutional institutions that Madison himself labored to help create, and the republican virtues that Madison knew undergirded those institutions.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Supreme Court

(Guardian) Guarding the apocalypse: inside the fortress of the new Lambeth Palace Library

A dangerous-looking porcupine scuttles across the bottom of a page of a medieval manuscript, amid scenes of fire-breathing dragons, bodies bubbling in cauldrons, and boats deluged by biblical floods. Known as the Lambeth Apocalypse , this 13th-century illuminated text is one of the lurid highlights of the magnificent collection of Lambeth Palace Library , the most important religious archive in the UK and the largest in Europe, after the Vatican in Rome. For centuries, this precious hoard has been kept in a series of leaky, draughty rooms in the palace, gradually filling up every cramped corner. Now, after 400 years, it finally has a purpose-built home – and it’s safe to say that, if the apocalypse ever comes to south London, this fortified building will probably survive it.

“Noah could float past in his ark and the collection would be all right,” says Clare Wright, the Scottish architect behind the £24m new library. “We’ve created a concrete bunker with more bunkers inside, all lifted up above the one-in-1,000-year flood risk level.”

As bunkers go, it is pretty refined. Clad in a sober costume of red bricks, the building stands as a proud bastion at a bend in the busy Lambeth Palace Road, its nine-storey tower poking up above St Thomas’s hospital to peer over at the Palace of Westminster across the Thames. It meets the street with a sheer redbrick cliff-face, its monolithic mass punctured only by a few tiny square windows and the steel gates of a dark grey entrance. Crowning it all is a covered terrace with the air of a rooftop lookout station. This is a public facility, but its primary purpose is clearly the security of the collection. All that’s missing are the cannons.

“Protecting the archive was our main priority,” says library director Declan Kelly. “One of our new trustees asked where the cafe and shop are going to be, but we don’t have either. There’s a little room for readers to make themselves a cup of tea and a small exhibition space, but the emphasis is on safeguarding the collection.”

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Posted in Archbishop of Canterbury, Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History

The BBC Obituary for John le Carré

John le Carré was the pseudonym of the author David Cornwell, judged by many to be the master of the spy novel.

Meticulously researched, and elegantly written, many of his books reached a wider audience through TV and film adaptations.

Le Carré stripped away the glamour and romance that were a feature of the James Bond novels and instead examined the real dark and seedy life of the professional spy.

In the twilight world of le Carré’s characters the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong was never that clear cut.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History

(LA Times) Get ready for another roaring ’20s, UCLA economic forecast predicts

“The ’20s will be roaring, but with several months of hardship first,” according to the quarterly UCLA Anderson forecast. “These next few months will be dire, with rising COVID infections, continued social distancing, and the expiration of social assistance programs.”

The forecast, which assumes mass vaccination of Americans will take place by summer, predicts that annualized growth in the nation’s gross domestic product will accelerate from a weak 1.2% in the current quarter to 1.8% in the first quarter of next year, then to a booming 6% in next year’s second quarter and consistent 3% growth each quarter thereafter into 2023.

“With a vaccine and the release of pent-up demand, the next few years will be roaring as the economy accelerates and returns to previous growth trends,” wrote Leo Feler, a senior economist with the forecast. “We expect a surge in services consumption and continued strength in housing markets to propel the economy forward.”

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Posted in Economy, History

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, House of Representatives, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Senate

Remembering Pearl Harbor

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

(RNS) Robert Putnam thinks religion could play a role in healing divisions

Given the huge decline in churchgoing beginning in the 1960s, can religion play a role in turning things around like it did at the beginning of the 20th century?

Garrett: I definitely think there’s a role for religion to play. But religion will have to be innovative in meeting the moment. We have seen some religious innovation aimed at combating the decline in churchgoing — in such things as megachurches, for example. But some of those megachurches are characterized by a theology that is highly individualistic — the prosperity gospel — the idea that God blesses the righteous with riches for themselves. That’s been used to draw people back into religion, but it’s reflective of the destructive, highly individualistic drift over the past half-century, which we chronicle in the book.

For religion to play a role in another upswing, it’s going to have to find a way to speak to a changed social landscape and to remind us our religious traditions speak directly to the situation we find ourselves in today — a situation where we need to take better care of our most vulnerable. We need to think about how we organize a society more fairly. There are great templates in every great religion for how to do this but we have to choose that religious narrative. There’s a moment here where our religious leaders have the ability to shape a religious narrative in order to inform our social problems. We’re seeing some early signs of that happening. For example, the Rev. William Barber, who is organizing “moral marches on Washington” and taking up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Putnam: King moved America from the bottom up as well as the top down. He did it above all by using the Exodus narrative. He knew it appealed well beyond the Black church he was in himself. The point is religious narratives and religious symbols have a huge power to move lots of people.

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

(CT) For Pilgrims, Thanksgiving Was a Way of Life

One of the Pilgrim Fathers’ most striking moments of thankfulness occurred the first Sunday after they reached North America. A scouting party of 16 men returned to the Mayflower with a good report about the land. The collective sense of relief spurred an impromptu worship service. As Bradford put it, “They fell upon their knees and blessed ye God of heaven.”

This scene was not an isolated incident. Bradford’s history of Plymouth references the giving of thanks no less than 30 times. The first Thanksgiving, rather than being an anomaly amid the drudgery of forging a new colony, fell within a rhythm of gratitude in the Pilgrims’ life.

Indeed, the first Thanksgiving may have been the 1621 observance of an annual English harvest festival known as Harvest Home. Some have noted this fact in attempt to deny the first Thanksgiving’s spiritual character. In actuality, it underscores the cyclical nature of thanksgiving in Plymouth colony.

Before the Pilgrims faced each day, they first turned to God in gratitude and intercession. The pattern persisted as half their company died that first winter and as crops failed the next year. Weekly, they took seriously observance of the Sabbath, making preparations each Saturday so Sunday could be spent in uninterrupted worship and rest.

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

(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.”

The congressman made special reference to the Constitution, which had been ratified by the requisite two-thirds of the states in 1788. A day of public thanksgiving, he believed, would allow Americans to express gratitude to God for the “opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”

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

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, Spirituality/Prayer

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, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(CC) Christiana Peterson–What we lost when the funeral home replaced the home funeral

At the time my house was built, people often died at home rather than in hospitals. Their families cared for the bodies. Typically, the deceased was washed and groomed by the women of the household and clothed in a simple home-sewn garment or winding-sheet, a cloth that, when wrapped around a body, made the dead resemble a mummy. Sometimes people would sew their own death shrouds.

These death rituals were carried out in community—a group of people with a history, with communal memories and rituals, who shared ways to grieve and manage the reality of death.

Today, the home has lost its place at the center of our death rituals. We no longer live near our families of origin, and our communities do not function in the ways they once did.

Death practices in the United States had changed greatly by the 1940s, when Howard Thurman gave his Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard. Thurman said that as death moved out of the home and into the hospital and the mortuary, “our primary relationship with death [became] impersonal and detached.”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Religion & Culture

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

WWII Vet Still Breaking the Mold at 102

As a Black girl growing up in the early 1920’s, Vivian Corbett never thought the world was her oyster.

“As a little girl in Oklahoma, I never imagined I would be able to do anything of any real significance,” she said.

Now, a century later, former Army 1st Lt. Vivian “Millie” Bailey will tell you there’s very little that hasn’t been significant. She commanded a segregated all-female unit during World War II and has been helping service members ever since. At 102, she continues to live life to the fullest. In fact, she just went skydiving for the first time last month near her home in Columbia, Maryland!

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

(1st Things) Stephen Barr–On The Origins Of Specious Myths

Conventional wisdom has it that science and religion have perennially been at war. This “conflict thesis,” as historians call it, can be traced to the late nineteenth century and to two influential books in particular: John ­William Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, published in 1874, and Andrew Dickson White’s two-volume History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, published in 1896.

Draper stated the thesis this way:

The history of Science . . . is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other.

What Draper meant by “traditionary faith” was Catholicism, a religion he detested. The eminent historian of ­science Lawrence Principe has characterized Draper’s book as “little more than a thinly disguised anti-Catholic rant.” For Andrew Dickson White, by contrast, the problem lay not with any particular religion, or with religion in general, but with “dogmatic theology.” “The theological method,” as he saw it, “consists largely in accepting tradition and in spinning arguments to fit it.” The history of science is “full of ­interferences” by theologians fearful of new ideas:

Religious men started, centuries ago, with the idea that purely scientific investigation is unsafe; that theology must intervene. So began this great modern war.

Of course, Draper and White did not invent the notion that scientific ideas and theological ideas can sometimes be in tension, even to the point of conflict. This had been ­obvious since at least the time of Galileo. What they did invent was the notion that there had existed two distinct and warring camps, Science and Religion (or Science and Theology), and that history was replete with clashes between them. This notion is belied, of course, by the fact that the great majority of scientists well into the nineteenth century were themselves religious. Draper and White, in addition to inventing the conflict thesis, amassed much of the evidence that has since been cited to support it. This they did by variously misconstruing, taking out of context, garbling, embellishing, distorting, and in some cases simply fabricating historical facts and events.

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Posted in Books, History, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CLJ) Michael Baxter–Religious Freedom: A Non-Partisan Principle for Hyper-Partisan Times

In the coming weeks, with Amy Coney Barrett now nominated to the Supreme Court, we are sure to hear a lot about “religious freedom.” Much of what we hear and read will link religious freedom to the conservative politics of the Republican Party. But the principle of religious freedom is by no means the sole domain of “conservative politics,” nor is it owned and operated by Republicans alone.

It is a non-partisan principle, a two-edged sword, so to speak, that cuts against and scrambles the nice, neat categories of the hyper-partisan politics of our day. This becomes clear if we look at its recent emergence onto the political scene and then at the full range of its potential applications.

The principle of religious freedom was set forth, of course, when the framers enshrined it in the First Amendment of the Constitution. There it stands as the so-called First Freedom, taking the lead among a litany of freedoms (speech, the press, assembly, and petition). It is expressed in the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This brief formulation has vexed lawyers, judges, and legal scholars ever since, as they try to balance its two clauses, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. But two centuries of legal argument took on a special urgency rather recently, when the Supreme Court handed down its notorious, much disputed Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon, v. Smith (1990).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(New Atlantis) Yuval Levin–Prudence in a Storm

Everything therefore depends on our assessment of the severity of the crisis we are living through. We are called to judge our circumstances. And that means we are called to the hard work of prudence. As Greg Weiner puts it in his magisterial study of the subject:

An essential element of prudence is thus recognizing the difference between genuine emergency and the aggrandizing rhetoric of catastrophe. Not every moment is Munich, but Munich was. A wide range of experience and circumstances is necessary to discern the difference.

Not every moment is a time of exceptional crisis, but a few moments are. And how we think about the policies our country is now pursuing ultimately hinges on whether we judge this pandemic to be such a time. Most of us are not experts in the relevant knowledge, and we must make the necessary judgment as citizens, calling on our read of the available evidence and our degree of confidence in those who claim to know — calling, in the end, upon our prudence. This doesn’t free us from the need to consider tradeoffs. On the contrary, it compels us to consider them in full, and to do so in full knowledge of the limits of our judgment.

The debunkers may be right about some important elements of our situation, and we must not forget it. But it seems awfully likely they are not right on the whole. And so we need to treat this crisis as a grave emergency, with an eye to doing what’s required to protect the most vulnerable among us and recover our safety and prosperity — precisely so that we can return to normal life, and to our vitally important debates about how best to live it.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy

(VOA) 19 Years On, Does a Post-9/11 Generation Remember the Attacks?

Nineteen years later, [Aidan] Thayer is a fifth-year undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he triple-majors in physics, mathematics and German. Thayer, despite his near-photographic memory, can only recall some scenes from the day of the attacks.

For older Americans, in contrast, 9/11 remains a vivid memory. Ten years later, 97% of Americans 8 or older at the time could remember exactly where they were when they heard the news, according to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center.

For many young people, though, 9/11 is a subject learned secondhand.

“It feels like something that we learned in history books, something like World War Two,” said Christina Liu, 22, from New York City. Liu graduated from New York University last year and will start work this month as an associated development operations engineer at Veeva Systems, a cloud computing company in California.

“It seems very distant to me, despite being an event that happened in my lifetime,” added Liu, who found she couldn’t distinguish her memories of 9/11 from her memories of a massive 2003 power outage dubbed the Great Northeast Blackout.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism

Must not Miss 9/11 Video: Welles Crowther, The Man Behind the Red Bandana

The Man Behind the Red Bandana from Drew Gallagher on Vimeo.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Police/Fire, Sports, Terrorism

One Photo Provides Insight into One Heroic 9/11 firefighter’s story: Gary Box

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Photos/Photography, Terrorism

A Prayer for 9/11 by Kendall Harmon

Almighty God and Father who wills that people may flourish and have abundance of life, be with us especially on this day when we remember such destruction, darkness, devastation, death and terror; help us to honor the memory of those whose lives were utterly cut short, and to believe that you can make all things new, even the most horrible things. Redeem and heal, O Holy Spirit, grant us perspective, humility, light, trust and grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in * By Kendall, History, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

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 America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, History, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theodicy, Theology

Andrew Sullivan on 9/11–This is what a Day Means

“This is what a day means. Like the day an archduke was shot in Sarajevo, when no one knew in the morning what the afternoon would have proved. Like the day of the first blitzkrieg into Poland, when denial in the dawn ceded to dread at dusk. Like the day in November 1963 when the same sense of numbness and grief swept through Americans in an instant. Like the beautiful September day, when a man heard a sound and looked up into the sky in curiosity and calm and saw the end of something we never truly appreciated until in one short day, it had already disappeared.”

Andrew Sullivan in the NYT, September 23, 2001

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism

Nineteen Years Later, we Remember 9/11

“The cloudless sky filled with coiling black smoke and a blizzard of paper—memos, photographs, stock transactions, insurance policies—which fluttered for miles on a gentle southeasterly breeze, across the East River into Brooklyn. Debris spewed onto the streets of lower Manhattan, which were already covered with bodies. Some of them had been exploded out of the building when the planes hit. A man walked out of the towers carrying someone else’s leg. Jumpers landed on several firemen, killing them instantly.

“The air pulsed with sirens as firehouses and police stations all over the city emptied, sending the rescuers, many of them to their deaths. [FBI agent] Steve Bongardt was running toward the towers, against a stream of people racing in the opposite direction. He heard the boom of the second collision. “There’s a second plane,” someone cried.”

–Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Random House [Vintage Books], 2006), pp.404-405

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Terrorism

(NYT) Diana Rigg, Emma Peel of ‘The Avengers,’ Dies at 82

Diana Rigg, the British actress who enthralled London and New York theater audiences with her performances in classic roles for more than a half-century but remained best known as the quintessential new woman of the 1960s — sexy, confident, witty and karate-adept — on the television series “The Avengers,” died on Thursday at her home in London. She was 82.

Her daughter, Rachael Stirling, said in a statement that the cause was cancer.

Ms. Rigg had late-career success in a recurring role, from 2013 to 2016, as the outspoken and demanding Lady Olenna Tyrell on HBO’s acclaimed series “Game of Thrones.” “I wonder if you’re the worst person I ever met,” Lady Olenna once said to her nemesis Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). “At a certain age, it’s hard to recall.”

But Ms. Rigg’s first and biggest taste of stardom came in 1965, when, as a 26-year-old veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she was cast on the fourth season of ITV’s “The Avengers.” As Emma Peel, she was the stylish new crime-fighting partner of the dapper intelligence agent John Steed (Patrick Macnee), replacing Honor Blackman, who had left to star in the James Bond film “Goldfinger.”

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Movies & Television