Category : History

George Washington’s First Inaugural Address

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Read it all.

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

Today in History

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

Harriet Beecher Stowe on her Feast Day

Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?

The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.

But to live,–to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered,–this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour,–this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.

When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs,–came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.

Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn’t he?””he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.

Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes, souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia’s letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts,that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.

–Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Poetry & Literature, Race/Race Relations

(Tablet) Robert Zaretsky–The philosophy of being good

Murdoch’s notion of the Good might seem little more than the reluctant addition of another “o” to “God”. Believers might wonder why Murdoch bothered, especially as her Platonic model did not come equipped with the standard features of the Christian model, including a personal relationship with the Maker and a warranty good for all eternity. Murdoch confessed that she herself had, at times, doubts about insisting upon the Good as our central point of reflection. Yet, she also maintained that there is something in the “serious attempt to look compassionately at human things which automatically suggests that ‘there is more than this’”.

While Murdoch acknowledged the difficulty in pinning down what this “more” is, she kept returning to the Good. Just as transcendence in religion leads to God, transcendence in morality must lead to the Good – a claim rooted not in psychology, but in reality. Convinced that goodness is a form of realism, Murdoch declares that a good person living in isolation makes no more sense than a living tree suspended in mid air. Both the tree and person need to be rooted, the one to live and the other to achieve the good. “A good man must know certain things about his surroundings, most obviously the existence of other people and their claims. The chief enemy of excellence in morality (and also in art) is personal fantasy: the tissue of self-aggrandising and consoling wishes and dreams which prevents one from seeing what is there outside one.”

Just how successful, though, was Weil at this near impossible task? As she lay dying at a sanatorium in Ashford in August 1943, her tubercular lungs fatally compromised by her refusal to eat more calories than her fellow French under the German occupation, Weil’s doctors were frustrated and bewildered. But the nurses had her full attention. “How much time do you devote each day to thinking?” she would ask them. I cannot help but wonder if she ever truly saw what those nurses were attempting to do. Namely, to keep her from a death Weil perhaps thought consoling, but the nurses certainly thought tragically pointless.

Read it all.

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

Wednesday Food for Thought–Immanuel Kant on how people treat animals can tell you who they are

Our author here goes on to speak of duties to beings that are above us and beneath us. But since all animals exist only as means, and not for their own sakes, in that they have no self-consciousness, whereas man is the end, such that I can no longer ask: Why does he exist?, as can be done with animals, it follows that we have no immediate duties to animals; our duties towards them are indirect duties to humanity. Since animals are an analogue of humanity, we observe duties to mankind when we observe them as analogues to this, and thus cultivate our duties to humanity. If a dog, for example, has served his master long and faithfully, that is an analogue of merit; hence I must reward it, and once the dog can serve no longer, must look after him to the end, for I thereby cultivate my duty to humanity, as I am called upon to do; so if the acts of animals arise out of the same principium from which human actions spring, and the animal actions are analogues of this, we have duties to animals, in that we thereby promote the cause of humanity. So if a man has his dog shot, because it can no longer earn a living for him, he is by no means in breach of any duty to the dog, since the latter is incapable of judgement, but he thereby damages the kindly and humane qualities in himself, which he ought to exercise in virtue of his duties to mankind. Lest he extinguish such qualities, he must already practise a similar kindliness towards animals; for a person who already displays such cruelty to animals is also no less hardened towards men. We can already know the human heart, even in regard to animals. Thus Hogarth, in his engravings,* also depicts the beginnings of cruelty, where already the children are practising it upon animals, e.g., by pulling the tail of a dog or cat; in another scene we see the progress of cruelty, where the man runs over a child; and finally the culmination of cruelty in a murder, at which point the rewards of it appear horrifying. This provides a good lesson to children. The more we devote ourselves to observing animals and their behaviour, the more we love them, on seeing how greatly they care for their young; in such a context, we cannot even contemplate cruelty to a wolf.

–Immanuel Kant, Lectures on Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), E.T. by Peter Heath, p. 212

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

(Churchman [1946]) Hugh Barber–The Liberal and Post-Liberal Estimate of Man

Count Leo Tolstoi wrote an interesting spiritual autobiography which he .entitled ” Christ’s Christianity.” In it he declared that most of his life had been based on belief in the
doctrine of general perfectibility. “This belief,” he says, “may be summed up in the word ‘ progress.’ Everything develops, and I myself develop as well ; and why this is so will one day be apparent.” This facile philosophy failed to provide Tolstoi with an explanation of decay and death: “There Was a time when I was myself developing, when my muscles and memory were strengthening, my power of thinking and understanding on the increase. I, feeling this, very naturally thought that the law of my own growth was the law of the universe and explained the meaning of my own life. But there came another time when I had ceased to grow, and I felt that I was not developing but drying up; my muscles grew weaker, my teeth began to fall out, and I saw that this law of growth, not only explained nothing, but that such a law did not and could not exist; that I had taken for a general law what only affected myself at a given age.” A period of despair descended upon Tolstoi when he realised that his optimistic philosophy was a psychological rationalisation of his personal experience. This disillusionment carried him forth from academic speculation into the common ways of men. From the peasantry he sought to learn the meaning of life. For the Count, and his circle, life was hollow and pointless ; for the poor, the labouring, and the humble, life had meaning. Why was this? It was, he observed, because the common, unlearned. people had that childlike faith which sustained them in happiness and peace. They did not reason ; they believed ; and through their belief they found comfort and joy.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, History, Theology

(NYT) A 1956 review by W H Auden of J R R Tolkien’s ‘The Return of the King’

To present the conflict between Good and Evil as a war in which the good side is ultimately victorious is a ticklish business. Our historical experience tells us that physical power and, to a large extent, mental power are morally neutral and effectively real: wars are won by the stronger side, just or unjust. At the same time most of us believe that the essence of the Good is love and freedom so that Good cannot impose itself by force without ceasing to be good.

The battles in the Apocalypse and “Paradise Lost,” for example, are hard to stomach because of the conjunction of two incompatible notions of Deity, of a God of Love who creates free beings who can reject his love and of a God of absolute Power whom none can withstand. Mr. Tolkien is not as great a writer as Milton, but in this matter he has succeeded where Milton failed. As readers of the preceding volumes will remember, the situation n the War of the Ring is as follows: Chance, or Providence, has put the Ring in the hands of the representatives of Good, Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn. By using it they could destroy Sauron, the incarnation of evil, but at the cost of becoming his successor. If Sauron recovers the Ring, his victory will be immediate and complete, but even without it his power is greater than any his enemies can bring against him, so that, unless Frodo succeeds in destroying the Ring, Sauron must win.

Evil, that is, has every advantage but one-it is inferior in imagination. Good can imagine the possibility of becoming evil-hence the refusal of Gandalf and Aragorn to use the Ring-but Evil, defiantly chosen, can no longer imagine anything but itself. Sauron cannot imagine any motives except lust for domination and fear so that, when he has learned that his enemies have the Ring, the thought that they might try to destroy it never enters his head, and his eye is kept toward Gondor and away from Mordor and the Mount of Doom.

Further, his worship of power is accompanied, as it must be, by anger and a lust for cruelty: learning of Saruman’s attempt to steal the Ring for himself, Sauron is so preoccupied with wrath that for two crucial days he pays no attention to a report of spies on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, and when Pippin is foolish enough to look in the palantir of Orthanc, Sauron could have learned all about the Quest. His wish to capture Pippin and torture the truth from him makes him miss his precious opportunity.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Books, History, Poetry & Literature, Theodicy

(Unherd) Peter Franklin– Is The end of woke nigh?

The question therefore is whether wokeness today is remotely comparable to the role Christianity played as Rome crumbled. Note that I’m not talking about how much wokeness owes as an ideology to the worldview that Christianity built — I’ll leave that debate to the likes of Tom Holland. Rather, I’m asking whether wokeness has the capacity to offer a unifying vision of such compelling power as to overwhelm and supersede the existing order.

And here the answer is clear: it does not.

First, wokeness is too geographically limited in scope. The impact that it’s made so far depends on conditions that apply specifically to the United States of America — especially in regard to that country’s history of slavery, segregation and ongoing racial discrimination. The global reach of social media helps to explain why the Black Lives Matter movement made waves far beyond America; but it does not change the very different context of race relations in other countries.

Even a country with as revolutionary a history as France has made it abundantly clear that American-style wokeness will not be taking root in French soil. Whether that’s expressed by the ruling establishment centred upon President Macron or a youth vote that’s shockingly skewed towards the far-Right, we English-speakers need to remember that we are not the world.

Read it all (from the long line of should-have-already-been-posted material).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General

(NPR) One Woman’s Decades-Long Fight To Make Juneteenth A U.S. Holiday

Opal Lee is 94, and she’s doing a holy dance.

It’s a dance she said she and her ancestors have been waiting 155 years, 11 months and 28 days to do.

Ever since Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, to spread the news of the Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in Confederate states. President Abraham Lincoln had signed it more than two years earlier.

“And now we can all finally celebrate. The whole country together,” Lee told NPR minutes after a landslide House vote on Wednesday approving legislation establishing the day, now known as Juneteenth, as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

President Biden signed the bill on Thursday, and Lee was standing beside him during the ceremony.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations

The 6 year Anniversary of the Mother Emanuel Church Massacre (II)–A local Newspaper Editorial

As we mark the sixth anniversary of the massacre inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church on Thursday, we’re pleased to see significant progress on a memorial that will honor the lives lost and those forever altered on that tragic day. It will be the most tangible acknowledgement to Emanuel’s victims; we hope still more is done.

The Emanuel Nine Memorial, which will completely remake the grounds around the church on Calhoun Street, promises to be one of the most important things built in the city this decade. Work on the ambitious $17.5 million project is closer than ever after the city agreed to contribute $2 million to the Mother Emanuel Memorial Foundation, which also will create an endowment to maintain the site and new initiatives to advance social justice and combat racism. Those initiatives will begin later this year, around the same time construction starts on the memorial.

The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, Emanuel pastor and co-chairman of the foundation, said he is humbled and thankful for the support the city and Charleston residents have shown, adding that the city’s contribution “will ensure that the memory of the Emanuel Nine will never be forgotten, the resilience and strength of the survivors will continue to be celebrated, and the messages of forgiveness, love and grace will draw all people together.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

The 6 year Anniversary of the Mother Emanuel Church Massacre (I)–A profile article on Chris Singleton

So Singleton asks everyone to stand, to find “someone who doesn’t look like you,” to give that person a hug and declare “I love you.”

He knows it might be awkward for many, but the statistical odds are in his favor. Nearly 5 percent of U.S. adults are coping with depression; around 11 percent are dealing with forms of anxiety, according to government statistics.

He was one of them. On June 17, 2015, when he was 18 years old, he received a phone call informing him about a shooting at Emanuel AME Church, where his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was an assistant pastor involved in Wednesday night Bible study.

His father, who struggled with alcoholism, was not around much, so it was Chris who was forced to grow up fast and care for his two younger siblings. He took his responsibility very seriously.

“I was pretending to be Superman,” he said.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Parish Ministry, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(PD) Alexander Riley–Who Knew Émile Durkheim Was a Conservative on Sex and Marriage?

Durkheim was a trenchant critic of the contractual view of marriage, in which the relationship is said to involve only the two spouses and to depend entirely on their satisfaction with each other. In his 1906 essay “Divorce by Mutual Consent,” he criticized the liberalization of divorce that many secular intellectuals then championed. Like their counterparts today, the latter argued that it was clearly in the interests of both parents—and frequently of their children—for marriage to be dissolvable by agreement of the spouses alone. Durkheim countered that such a shift potentially harms the institution of matrimony itself.

Durkheim noted empirical evidence that divorce affects suicide rates. Marriage appeared to significantly reduce the likelihood of suicide, and in the parts of Durkheim’s France in which divorce was more common, this positive effect of marriage was weaker. Although married women were less likely to commit suicide only if their marriage had yielded children, for married men the risk was less in many scenarios. Absent an exterior regulatory force or presence, Durkheim reasoned, individual men are largely ineffective at moderating their sexual energies, and they end up emotionally distressed and dissolute. The marital institution regulates their desires. However, he went on, “Regulation from which one can withdraw whenever one has a notion is no longer regulation.” By removing the judge—the representative of society, whose authority historically extends from the religious origins of the polity—from the decision-making process of divorce, contractual marriage inevitably weakens the regulatory force of marriage.

Durkheim also insisted that marriage affects parties beyond the two spouses, most obviously their children. Children so change the marital relationship that, once they exist, they alter the marriage’s purpose. In Durkheim’s view, the couple, formerly the end of the relationship, becomes but a means to the end of the family for which they are responsible. Spouses’ obligation to their children clearly invalidates a model for divorce based merely on mutual consent.

Even the partners themselves may benefit from marriages that they would rather escape out of anger or spite. Although in a few marriages disharmony between the spouses may be so great that separation is the only reasonable path, Durkheim maintained that there are many, many more “simply mediocre marriages”—exciting and joyous only in an irregular, inconstant manner—that nonetheless produce “sufficient feeling for . . . [the] duty . . . to fulfill [one’s] function.” They thereby they provide a significant social good. This argument was almost perfectly consonant with that of the Christian conservatives of Durkheim’s day. It also scandalizes most contemporary sociologists, who have moved far from the origins of their discipline.

Read it all.

Posted in France, History, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Sociology

(Deseret News) Carl Trueman–The new culture war battleground is you

Flowing from an acknowledgment of our bodily identity, we must confront our necessary dependence upon others. As bioethicist Carter Snead has argued, we humans are always characterized by dependence. As babies and children we are utterly dependent upon others. As we grow, we become less dependent to a degree, but then as we reach old age, we become more dependent once again. At no point are we ever the free-standing autonomous creatures of Rousseau’s thought experiment. And it is our bodies that are the source of this dependence, our physical constitutions that connect to others and define the nature of those connections. Acknowledging this reality should transform how we think both of ourselves and of others.
“We all exist for the sake of one another.”

“Others” do not exist for “our” satisfaction or self-actualization. Rather we all exist for the sake of one another. And that, of course, has implications for sexual morality and behavior. To those who acknowledge their bodies as who they are, not simply the raw material of self-creation, and who understand the rational, dependent nature of our life, sex can never be simply a means of personal pleasure whereby others are reduced to being mere instruments of our own satisfaction. Nor can it come to occupy a central place in how identity is understood. It is not sexual desire that defines us but the relationships of which sexual activity is a meaningful part.

None of this may make a great bumper sticker, but it has this in its favor: It is the full account of what it means to be human. Expressive individualism is a distortion, because we are not born free but rather interdependent and embodied. This may not be the modern self we want, but it’s this true self that we must ultimately confront to answer the caterpillar’s penetrating question to Alice — the question we all must confront as we look into the mirror.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Politics in General, Psychology

(Irish Times) Niall Ferguson–If you think we’ve just had ‘a year like no other’, you need a history lesson

It’s early in the morning in the Glasgow-born US citizen’s home in northern California, and we can hear his young children having their breakfast. Sun streams through the windows, but we’re cheerfully discussing war, famine, pestilence and death. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse gallop across the pages of Ferguson’s new book, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe, but he is less concerned with the proximate causes of disasters – a mutated virus, a crop failure, a military conflict – than with the ways in which societies act to increase or mitigate the deaths that ensue.

Ferguson’s title is lifted from “We’re doomed!”, the catchphrase uttered with relish by fellow Scot Private Frazer in the classic BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. “Ultimately our relationship to death is a strange one. We’re a bit in denial about it and we’re a bit obsessed with it.” We’re particularly obsessed, he says, with mass disaster. “Because the end of the world is such an interesting idea. And yet when an actual disaster happens, we act shocked and surprised.”

In part, Doom is a rebuke to the overuse of words like “unprecedented” and phrases such as “a year like no other”. It offers a sweeping compendium of the many appalling catastrophes that have befallen us throughout human history. Covid-19 seems a bit of a damp squib by comparison.

“The perception that 2020 was a year like no other was essentially based on an ignorance of history,” Ferguson says. “The 1950s saw some pandemics that were global in scale and comparable in their impact on population. It’s just that we’ve forgotten about them.” Doom specifically compares the “Asian flu” of 1957. “In terms of excess mortality, its impact was almost exactly the same as 2020.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Health & Medicine, History

Remembering D-Day–Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer on June 6, 1944

“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.–KSH.

Posted in France, History, Military / Armed Forces

Thursday Food for Thought from T H White

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn….”

–T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Posted in Books, History, Poetry & Literature, Psychology

(TLS) Marjorie Perloff reviews Louis Menand’s encyclopedic study of Cold War culture, from Pollock to Presley

Louis Menand’s panoramic portrait of the Cold War years begins with a succinct overview:

This book is about a time when the United States was actively engaged with the rest of the world. In the twenty years after the end of the Second World War, the United States invested in the economy of Japan and Western Europe and extended loans to other countries around the world. With the United Kingdom, it created the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to support global political stability and international trade. It hosted the new United Nations. Through its government, its philanthropic foundations, its universities, and its cultural institutions, it established exchange programs for writers and scholars, distributed literature around the globe, and sent art from American collections and music by American composers and performers abroad. … Works of literature and philosophy from all over the world were published in affordable translations. Foreign movies were imported and distributed across the country.

The preface continues with this reminder of the Utopian efforts of the immediate postwar era, remarking on the exponential rise in college attendance, the closing of the income gap, the absence of substantive difference between the two major political parties, and the collapse of colonial empires around the world. “Most striking was the nature of the audience: people cared. Ideas mattered. Painting mattered. Movies mattered. Poetry mattered. The way people judged and interpreted paintings, movies, and poems mattered. People believed in liberty, and thought it really meant something.”

I read these words with a shock of recognition because the years in question marked my own coming of age: I graduated from high school in 1949, college in 1953, and received my PhD in 1965. I recall only too well those days when studying literature was considered an important and valuable pursuit, when – yes – ideas mattered, poetry mattered. But I also remember the downside to which Menand turns next. Soon, he suggests, the beautiful cultural dream was fading, what with McCarthyism at home and military interference abroad, the continuing dominance of white men in all spheres of life, the widening of the income gap, the commodification of culture – and a “foreign war of national independence from which [the United States] could not extricate itself for eight years”. After the sorry tale of Vietnam, large-scale disillusionment about the character and role of the US set in, both at home and abroad, even as its assured military position and dominance of the global art world remained secure.

How and why did so momentous a change occur in so short a period? The Free World does not attempt to formulate answers to this difficult question: Menand’s narrative is more descriptive than analytic.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History

(US Navy) A Ceremony to Remember – USS Ross Sailor Reaffirms his Baptism in the Faroe Islands

Chaplain Johnson also explained that as baptism is a way of showing faith is a part of your life, doing so in the ship’s bell is also a way of showing you are part of the crew. He saw this desire from Scripp as an opportunity he was seizing to take ownership of his faith in conjunction with his commitment to the ship and crew.

Not only was the bell significant, but the place was also unique. The significance was not lost on Chaplain Johnson. “To my knowledge,” he said, “Scripp is the only U.S. Sailor to ever reaffirm their baptism in the Faroe Islands.”

Since it is a reaffirmation and not an original baptism, Chaplain Johnson said Scripp’s name will not be inscribed in the bell. However, the significance remains. On May 15, aboard USS Ross in port in the Faroe Islands and with a few close friends as witnesses, Chaplain Johnson re-baptized Scripp in a ceremony following the tradition of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America using the ship’s bell. After the baptism, he prayed over Scripp and gave him a small bottle of water from the bell as a memento.

Scripp said reaffirming his baptism in the Faroes, a place he had hardly heard of before arriving there, was unique and memorable. Though the significance of the bell and the location made Scripp’s reaffirmation unique, the tradition also has a long history connected to it.

“The bell is a way of connecting faith with life and history,” said Chaplain Johnson, “We’re connected with this long history that’s larger than ourselves.”

Read it all.

Posted in Baptism, History, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology

(CT) Tulsa Church Ledger Preserves Stories of Faith After Historic Massacre

The book might look like it’s just a list of names and numbers, but Robert Richard Allen Turner, pastor of Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, knows it’s more than that.

“It’s a ledger of our history that we still need to know today,” Turner said. “It’s a story of faith and folks who had faith in God.”

The city of Tulsa will pause on June 1 to remember the 100th anniversary of a racial massacre. In 1921, white Oklahomans killed hundreds of Black people and completely destroyed a prosperous Black community. When the violence ebbed, Greenwood Avenue—the heart of what was then called America’s Black Wall Street—was rubble. The mob had destroyed four hotels, two newspapers, eight doctor’s offices, seven barbershops, half a dozen real estate agencies, and half a dozen churches. One of the Black houses of worship that was damaged was the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, located then at 307 N. Greenwood.

The only thing left of the AME was the basement, and it too had been badly damaged. But the church decided to rebuild, and it kept a ledger of all the people who pledged to help and the money they contributed to the cause.

When Turner looks at that book, he thinks of the biblical genealogies and the Book of Numbers, where God told Moses to write down the names of the people who assisted him and to count and record the names of the people who had escaped bondage in Egypt and the descendants who went through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) The Tulsa Race Massacre 100 Years Later

Tulsa boomed in the early 1900s due to the discovery of nearby oil. Its population grew rapidly from 1,390 in 1900 to 72,075 in 1920, according to census records. Despite the strictly enforced Jim Crow laws at that time, Greenwood had become a “prosperous, vibrant” district and “an American success story,” according to historian Scott Ellsworth.

But in 1921, that success story was interrupted.

On May 31, Dick Rowland, a Black shoe shiner, was arrested for allegedly assaulting a white woman. She would eventually refuse to cooperate with his prosecution.

That night, a mob of over 1,000 white Tulsans gathered in front of the county courthouse where Mr. Rowland was being held. A boxer, Jack Scott was one of the approximately 75 other Black men who came to protect Mr. Rowland.

A fight broke out. The Black men retreated to Greenwood. The white mob organized an attack, and in the early morning hours invaded and burned Greenwood to the ground.

Read it all (and the 8 other articles as well).

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

Local Paper Editorial: Memorial Day, deeply rooted in Charleston, unites us as a nation

Memorial Day always presents those of us fortunate enough to live in (or visit) Charleston with a host of great options. Warm weather’s arrival makes beach trips appealing. Spoleto Festival USA cranks up with a host of concerts and shows. And of course, there are too many sales, special events and cookouts to mention.

But amid all the fun, we should remain mindful of this holiday’s somber roots. We should fly our flags — at half staff from dawn to noon, then high until sunset — and pause for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. to honor the sacrifices of those who have fought and died for the freedoms our nation enjoys.

One special opportunity this year will unfold at Hampton Park. After the 3 p.m. moment of silence, the Memorial Day Band Concert for Piccolo Spoleto will follow. But this Memorial Day event isn’t being held there simply because it’s a spacious, attractive park that can handle a crowd, though it certainly is. The location was chosen to emphasize a long-overlooked but recently resurrected chapter of Charleston’s history.

In essence, the park is arguably where the nation’s first Memorial Day event was held on May 1, 1865, just a few weeks after the grueling, costly American Civil War finally came to an end.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces

Exploring the Connection Between the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Memorial Day

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

A Prayer for Memorial Day

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

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

(CEN) Patrick Whitworth–A new history of the English church

Writing a history of the English Church from earliest times(200AD) until the outbreak of the pandemic last year was a project which gave pause for thought. I did it for three reasons.

Firstly, it had not been done for at least forty years. As an ordinand I read a book by the Bishop of Ripon, J.R.H Moorman, entitled A History of the Church in England first published in 1963 and ending in the post WWII era. And, a little more recently David Edwards, one-time Provost of Southwark Cathedral, had published a three-volume work entitled Christian England in 1984. His work ended with WW1. So, it seemed that it was time for a new work bringing the church’s story (by which I mean all denominations and none) up to date; and at the same time extending its remit. Like them, I kept it to the English Church, not thinking myself competent to include and write about the varied histories of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish Churches too.

The second reason was that in recent years there has been a great deal of interest in what it means to be English, connected of course with the political question of the destiny of England in or outside the EU. Much ink has been spilt on the meaning of being English, by the likes of Jeremy Paxman The English or the historian Robert Tombs The English and Their History, Andrew Marr, The Making of Modern Britain and A.N.Wilson’s Our Times . Given this upsurge of interest in being English I thought it timely to re-state the thesis that you cannot understand our history, our nation without understanding the profound influence of the church and of Christianity on it, and, to be more explicit, the teaching and life of Jesus.

Indeed, it was a monk, the Venerable Bede, who first gave the name English to the Saxon kingdoms. And over time, Vikings, Norman French, the Huguenots, the Irish and Jews would be added to the mix before 20thcentury immigration got going: while the Celts would be pushed to the West (Wales), and South West of Scotland marching with the Picts. And even now, as a nation goes to the polls (on so called Super Thursday), we can see the delineation of these ethnic groupings today. But to understand the English you must understand the history of the church in this nation: the illumination and coherence it brought to a group of warring Saxon kingdoms; as well its struggles, its sins, its failures, its aspirations and its deep divergences which can be very hard to understand. In all this we have recently been vividly helped by Tom Holland’s Dominion which demonstrates, from a shrewd and sympathetic observer, the profound and seemingly permanent shaping of our national life by Jesus of Nazareth.

The third reason for writing is that, as an historian of some academic training, I have been around the subject for fifty years since degrees in history and theology from Oxford and Durham- reading up since then some four hundred titles on English history whilst working for forty years as a stipendiary clergyman in suburban, urban, rural and Urban Priority parishes….

Read it all and you can read more about the author there.

Posted in Books, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Religion & Culture

(NYT) Marriage Records in England and Wales Will Now Include Mothers’ Names

Marriage certificates in England and Wales have traditionally left space for the names and professions of just one parent: the fathers of the couple tying the knot.

That changed on Tuesday, with couples now allowed to add mothers’ names to their official marriage record. The change corrects “a historic anomaly” and is part of a larger overhaul of how marriages are registered in the two nations, the British government said. Unions will also now be recorded in a single electronic registry instead of in registry books.

The changes are the biggest to the registration system since the Marriage Act came into effect in 1837, the Home Office said, and they have been in the works for several years. In 2014, David Cameron, then the prime minister, said the system did not reflect “modern Britain” and pledged to make modifications.

But the final stages of legislation to include both parents did not come before Parliament until last month, spurred by a larger bill that passed in 2019. The earlier bill included the changeover to an electronic marriage registry and the extension of the right to civil partnerships to all couples.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, England / UK, History, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Women

(IFYC) Musa al-Gharbi–Post-Religious America? Don’t Hold Your Breath

The chart…[in my essay] is from a new book by Robert Putnam, The Upswing. The basic pattern it reports for membership in houses of worship also holds with respect to the share of Americans belonging to labor unions, national chapter-based organizations, and even family formation. Moreover, the same ‘inverted u’ pattern observed with respect to these social bonds also plays out for trends in civic engagement, trust in institutions, political participation, cross-partisan engagement, economic equality, social mobility and more. Overall, Putnam argues, the trends observed in America today closely approximate conditions during the ‘Gilded Age’ (i.e. the 1870s through around 1900).

The book highlights how the decline of organized religion is not incidental to the other trends. The rise of the ‘social gospel’ in the late 19th century played an important role in building momentum in the formative years of the ‘upswing’ across the social, cultural, political and economic dimensions Putnam explores. Religious participation predicts increased likelihood to donate and volunteer for both religious and secular causes and organizations. It predicts higher voting and other forms of civic participation. And the erosion of organized religion in America seems to have exacerbated declines across many measures of social solidarity, equality, and engagement. However, these declines need not persist indefinitely.

In a sense it is encouraging to recognize that the United States has experienced similar levels of social anomie in the past as we are living through today, and successfully built institutions, practices and norms to pull ourselves together. This is a feat that contemporary Americans or our successors could conceivably repeat.

Therefore, America is not necessarily headed towards godlessness, on a one-way trip to secularism. If it seems that way looking at charts like the ones that opened this essay, this is because most such graphics begin near the WWII era, which was an unusual period of flourishing for organized religion in the United States. Again, it does not represent our historical norm.

Indeed, although America has returned to roughly the same level of affiliation with religious institutions as we had in 1900, even this was a significant increase over earlier periods.

Read it all.

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

John Stott on Holman Hunt’s ‘The Shadow of Death’ Painting for Good Shepherd Sunday

"Do you know the painting by Holman Hunt, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, entitled ‘The Shadow of Death’?…

Posted by Kendall Harmon on Sunday, April 25, 2021

Posted in Art, Christology, Church History, History, Theology

Ludwig Wittgenstein on why he ALMOST believed in Christ’s Resurrection

Found courtesy of Alan Jacobs there:

What inclines even me to believe in Christ’s Resurrection? It is as though I play with the thought. — If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, — what I need is certainty — not wisdom, dreams of speculation — and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: Only love can believe the Resurrection. Or: It is love that believes the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption.

Posted in Easter, History, Philosophy

(JEC) Michael Snape–‘Anglicanism and interventionism : Bishop Brent, the United States, and the British Empire in the First World War’

Brent himself stands as perhaps the ultimate example of these successful clerical migrants to the United States. Born in Newcastle, Ontario, in April 1862, Brent’s father was an Anglican
clergyman and a first-generation immigrant from England, his mother a descendant of Loyalist refugees from New York.20 Although the infusion of immigrants from Canada was smaller than the stream from Great Britain around the turn of the twentieth century, it was still considerable, as around 450,000 Canadians entered the United States in the quarter century prior to the First World War.21 While Anglicans represented a smaller proportion of the Canadian population, comprising around 15 per cent of all Canadians in 1914 as opposed to two-thirds of all Britons,22 there was already a well-established tradition of Anglican clergymen moving across the porous border between Canada and the United States in search of employment,23 a situation that brought Brent to the State of New York in 1886 while still in deacon’s orders. As Alexander C. Zabriskie emphasised in his concise biography of 1947, Brent’s move to St. Paul’s Church, Buffalo, was entirely pragmatic: with no opportunities available in the diocese of Toronto, ‘it was circumstance rather than conscience or preference that sent [Brent] there. He had not the least intention of remaining permanently under the American flag; rather he looked forward to returning to a Canadian country parish within a few years.’24 In fact, it took a further appointment, as associate rector of St. Stephen’s Mission in the slums of Boston, to persuade Brent to take out his naturalisation papers in 1891, and even then he
appears to have maintained dual citizenship.25 In the event, his years in Boston served to reinforce Brent’s links with Great Britain, for there he developed a formative relationship with the Society of St. John the Evangelist, or Cowley Fathers, a connection that would take him to England on his very first overseas trip in November 1891.26

Read it all (numbers are to footnotes in the original).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Canada, Church History, History, Military / Armed Forces, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, TEC Bishops

A look Back to 2012–Walter Russell Mead: The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore, what comes next?

Writing about the onset of the Great Depression, John Kenneth Galbraith famously said that the end had come but was not yet in sight. The past was crumbling under their feet, but people could not imagine how the future would play out. Their social imagination had hit a wall.

The same thing is happening today: The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them. But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age. The end is here, but we can’t quite take it in.

In the old system, most blue-collar and white-collar workers held stable, lifetime jobs with defined benefit pensions, and a career civil service administered a growing state as living standards for all social classes steadily rose. Gaps between the classes remained fairly consistent in an industrial economy characterized by strong unions in stable, government-brokered arrangements with large corporations—what Galbraith and others referred to as the Iron Triangle. High school graduates were pretty much guaranteed lifetime employment in a job that provided a comfortable lower middle-class lifestyle; college graduates could expect a better paid and equally secure future. An increasing “social dividend”, meanwhile, accrued in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks, more social and literal mobility, and more diverse forms of affordable entertainment. Call all this, taken together, the blue model.

In the heyday of the blue model, economists and social scientists assumed that from generation to generation Americans would live a life of incremental improvements. The details of life would keep getting better even as the broad outlines of society stayed the same. The advanced industrial democracies, of which the United States was the largest, wealthiest and strongest, had reached the apex of social achievement. It had, in other words, defined and was in the process of perfecting political and social “best practice.” America was what “developed” human society looked like and no more radical changes were in the offing. Amid the hubris that such conceptions encouraged, Professor (later Ambassador) Galbraith was moved to state, in 1952, that “most of the cheap and simple inventions have been made.” If only the United States and its allies could best the Soviet Union and its counter-model, then indeed—as a later writer would put it—History would end in the philosophical sense that only one set of universally acknowledged best practices would be left standing.

Life isn’t this simple anymore. The blue social model is in the process of breaking down, and the chief question in American politics today is what should come next.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., History