Category : History

Washington’s Birthday Documents (IV)–George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Office of the President

Washington’s Birthday Documents (III)–His circular letter to the States, June 8, 1783

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, Sir, your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble servant.

–George Washington
Head-Quarters, Newburg,
8 June, 1783.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Office of the President

Washington’s Birthday Documents (II): George Washington’s First State of Union Address

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, the general and increasing good will toward the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.

In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations and to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Office of the President

History Buzz–a Washington’s Birthday Quiz : How well do you know our chief executives?

Here are a few questions to whet your appetite:

What president and his wife were Stanford graduates?

Who is the only president to serve two terms that weren’t consecutive?

What president was born in Iowa but orphaned at age 9 and sent to live in Oregon?

What president died 10 months after his wife died of lung cancer? (He was out of office when he died.)

Read it all and see how you do.

Posted in History, Office of the President

Washington’s Birthday Documents (I): 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 History, Office of the President

(WSJ) John Miller–Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Daily Treasure’

But Lincoln certainly read the Bible and read it well. Lots of eyewitness accounts say so. More important, his rhetoric often drew from it in both obvious and subtle ways. One of his best-known lines—“a house divided against itself cannot stand”—is a plain reference to Mark 3:25 and Matthew 12:25. The famous opening words of the Gettysburg Address—“Four score and seven years ago”—echo Psalm 90:10. To explain the connection between the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the framework of the Constitution, Lincoln turned to Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” He meant that the purpose of the Constitution is to preserve the ideas in the Declaration.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address bursts with biblical quotes and allusions. “It sounded more like a sermon than a state paper,” wrote Frederick Douglass, who attended the 1865 speech. One of its lines, from the Gospel of Matthew, also shows up in “The Believer’s Daily Treasure” as the entry for May 13: “Let us judge not that we not be judged.”

Every biography involves acts of judgment, and Lincoln scholars have taken various stances on Lincoln’s faith, from claims that he was a lifelong skeptic who hid his unbelief to the more conventional view that his Christian convictions grew over time. Whatever the truth, there’s a good chance that Lincoln once read what a little devotional book offered for April 14, a simple admonition from John 5:39: “Search the Scriptures.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, History, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Parkland: A Year After the School Shooting That Was Supposed to Change Everything

In a series of interviews, nine members of the Stoneman Douglas community — students, parents, police, teachers — reflected on the past 12 months.

They did not want to relive that day. They did not want to argue about politics. They did not want to talk about the gunman’s pending trial for capital murder.


This is what they wanted to do: mourn.

In all the activity of the past year, the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, the tour across the country registering voters, the investigations, the hearings, finishing senior year, getting into college — some said they hadn’t had time to take the measure of what they had lost. As Jammal Lemy, 21, a Stoneman Douglas alumnus-turned-activist explained it, “We just had so much going on.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, History, Teens / Youth, Violence

(WSJ) Quebec Muslims Seek to Transcend Trauma of Mosque Shooting That Took Six Lives

The attack, a rare mass shooting in Canada, shocked Quebec’s Muslim community and showed that the country wasn’t immune to the sometimes violent backlashes that have accompanied growing immigrant populations elsewhere.

Two years later, many are still trying to come to terms with what happened and their place in a province where tensions over religion and assimilation persist.

Those tensions revived in Quebec’s October election. The conservative Coalition Avenir Québec won the provincial vote after a campaign in which it pledged to curb immigration and make newcomers take tests to prove their knowledge of Canadian Quebec values and French language.

The new Quebec premier, François Legault has also promised to bar certain public servants—including teachers, police officers and judges—from wearing visible religious symbols, such as the Muslim head scarf and the kippah worn by some Jewish men, and sparked criticism last week when he suggested Islamophobia didn’t exist in the province. Mr. Legault’s office later said he misspoke.

“It’s a difficult time for Muslims in Quebec,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(FA) Richard Haass–How a World Order Ends, And What Comes in Its Wake

A stable world order is a rare thing. When one does arise, it tends to come after a great convulsion that creates both the conditions and the desire for something new. It requires a stable distribution of power and broad acceptance of the rules that govern the conduct of international relations. It also needs skillful statecraft, since an order is made, not born. And no matter how ripe the starting conditions or strong the initial desire, maintaining it demands creative diplomacy, functioning institutions, and effective action to adjust it when circumstances change and buttress it when challenges come.

Eventually, inevitably, even the best-managed order comes to an end. The balance of power underpinning it becomes imbalanced. The institutions supporting it fail to adapt to new conditions. Some countries fall, and others rise, the result of changing capacities, faltering wills, and growing ambitions. Those responsible for upholding the order make mistakes both in what they choose to do and in what they choose not to do.

But if the end of every order is inevitable, the timing and the manner of its ending are not. Nor is what comes in its wake. Orders tend to expire in a prolonged deterioration rather than a sudden collapse. And just as maintaining the order depends on effective statecraft and effective action, good policy and proactive diplomacy can help determine how that deterioration unfolds and what it brings. Yet for that to happen, something else must come first: recognition that the old order is never coming back and that efforts to resurrect it will be in vain. As with any ending, acceptance must come before one can move on.

In the search for parallels to today’s world, scholars and practitioners have looked as far afield as ancient Greece

Read it all (registration necessary).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Theology

(Wa Po) This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church

Racism has been pretty easy to spot for most people. It felt like the sting of a lash on an enslaved person’s back and smelled like the charred flesh of a public lynching. Since those forms of racial oppression have become frowned upon, so the thinking goes, then we must have moved past racism.

Unfortunately, some Christians seem to believe racism is merely a relic of a bygone era.

In an admirable effort to reckon with its racial past, leaders at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary formed a commission to examine the school’s racist founding and present their findings. The history, dating back to the mid-19th century, was as honest as it was tragic. For instance, all four original founders of the seminary held slaves, and one donor who saved the seminary from financial ruin earned his wealth through convict leasing. Yet the report stopped too soon. It ended in the mid-1960s, giving the impression that racism had, for the most part, ended with the civil rights movement.

Christians who see racism as mainly a problem of the past often fail to see that they or other people of faith still hold negative views about people of certain races and ethnicities.

In a study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 54 percent of white evangelicals indicated that the country becoming majority nonwhite by 2045 would have negative effects on the nation. But 79 percent of black Protestant respondents and 80 percent of Hispanic Protestants thought this demographic change would be good for the country.

It’s easier to believe racism is a problem of the past if you think of racism strictly in interpersonal terms, truncating the definition of racism.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Patheos) Philip Jenkins writes good piece on the history of Anti-semitism in America–The American Dictator and the Lone Ranger

…[William Dudley] Pelley formed a new political-religious movement, the fascist and anti-semitic Silver Legion of America, the Silver Shirts. This was “a great Christian Army fortified by the inviolable principles of the Christ.” Pelley was the “beloved Chief,” a term which could equally well refer to his role as American Führer, or as the living Secret Chief, a not-yet-Ascended Master.

The Silver Shirts were explicitly modeled on the German Nazi Party, and Pelley claimed that he was inspired to form his movement on January 30, 1933, the day Hitler became German Chancellor. But Pelley also drew ideas and images from the popular media, as this day marked the first broadcast of the radio western series, The Lone Ranger, with its heroic Rangers and the recurrent silver themes. Pelley’s followers were also Silver Rangers, and that was the title of one of his newspapers.

Whatever the origins of the idea, Pelley now focused on the Jews as the source of most evils and problems in the world, and he offered a solution based on the formation of a Christian Commonwealth, a Christ-Democracy. Pelley became the nation’s best-known figure on the paramilitary far Right, and he inspired Sinclair Lewis’s imaginary American dictator Buzz Windrip in the 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here.

The Silver Shirts boomed in the mid-1930s, and the movement may have had up to twenty thousand members nationwide at its height in 1933-34. Support was heavily concentrated in California, Oregon and Washington, though other centers of strength were scattered across the Midwest, in Chicago, Cleveland and in the Ohio steel districts. Pittsburgh was another major center of organization, where it spawned leftist and Jewish counter-protests. Though the movement looks like a classic fascist sect, it never lost its strong occult motivation, and some adherents claimed to be less interested in the anti-Semitic rhetoric than in Pelley’s mystic revelations.

Read it all.

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

(Telegraph) Charles Moore–New allegations have rightly been thrown out, but justice has yet to be done for Bishop Bell

The Church does feel uneasy. It admits its processes were wrong. Its tone has changed. It recognises Bell’s greatness, which it previously ignored: Archbishop Welby has personally tweeted to support the building of a statue to Bell in Canterbury, a project frozen by Carol’s original allegation. But it still cannot face the obvious point that if it had applied the Carlile processes it admits it should have used it would never have found against Bell in the first place.

Trying to make some amends, the present Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, wrote to Bell’s niece last week, expressing his sorrow for having ignored the rights of the family. He added in a separate statement, however: “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited.” It reminds one of Pontius Pilate, who found no fault in Jesus, but condemned him all the same.

In our law and culture, if guilt cannot be proved, innocence must be presumed. To do this is not to “discredit” a complainant, who might not be lying, but might be mistaken about identity or confused in other ways. Memory plays strange tricks, especially about events alleged to have occurred 70 years ago.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(Church Times) Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bishop Bell’s biographer, who has been campaigning to clear Bell’s name, said on Thursday evening that the statements “show that they are clinging to the wreckage of their old position as best they can.

“It is simply self-justification, but it does indicate that they will just maintain for the sake of consistency the views that got them into such trouble in the first place.”

He questioned why, in January of last year, the Church had issued a statement and commissioned a second investigation: “What today has really exposed is the ridiculousness of what has been going on, and the foolishness of people who have real power in the Church. . .

“Many people will say that the Church was trying to control, or retrieve control, of the narrative of Lord Carlile, to shut down the critics, and create a doubt in the public mind that Bell might be a serial offender of some kind.

“They have nothing to hide behind now. It looks like a highly calculating, politicised outfit indeed.”

While parts of the Archbishop’s statement were “meaningful, welcome, and appropriate”, the reference to the Church’s “dilemma” in weighing up a reputation against a serious allegation did not exist, Professor Chandler argued….

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

(OUP Blog) Archaic and postmodern, today’s pagans challenge ideas about ‘religion’

Several people chuckled when they walked past Room 513B during the 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, held in Montréal. The title of the session within was simply “Idolatry,” held by the AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group, papers such as “Materiality and Spirituality Aren’t Opposites (Necessarily): Paganism and Objects” were presented.

The nervous laughter at the session’s title shows that even among scholars of religion, topics of polytheism and idolatry seem quaint, antique, and even trivial. Do people still even take them seriously?

Indeed, they do. Pagan religions, both newly envisioned and reconstructed on ancient patterns, are growing throughout the world. In addition, followers of these newer Paganisms, such as Wicca, Druidry, and reconstructed Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Greek, and other traditions, have begun to reach out to people attempting to maintain other indigenous or tribal traditions.

In the English-speaking world, the best-known new Pagan religion is Wicca, which is one form of Pagan witchcraft. Arguably rooted in Romantic ideas — appreciation of nature, an idealization of the “folk soul” and the countryside, a great appreciation of feminine principles — it was created around 1950 by a retired civil servant and spiritual seeker named Gerald Gardner (1884–1964). Gardner did not seek a mass movement but more of a “mystery cult” in the classical sense — small groups of initiates who would meet according to the lunar calendar to worship a goddess symbolized by the Moon and a god symbolized by (among other things) a stag or goat or the Sun, and to perform magic.

Wicca, as the British historian Ronald Hutton has noted, is the “the only religion that England has given the world.”

Read it all from 2016.

Posted in History, Religion & Culture, Wicca / paganism

For Thomas Aquinas’ Feast Day– Archbishop Michael Miller Speaks on Aquinas and Universities

Authentic Christian faith does not fear reason “but seeks it out and has trust in it”. Faith presupposes reason and perfects it. Nor does human reason lose anything by opening itself to the content of faith. When reason is illumined by faith, it “is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God”. The Holy Father observes that St Thomas thinks that human reason, as it were, “breathes” by moving within a vast horizon open to transcendence. If, instead, “a person reduces himself to thinking only of material objects or those that can be proven, he closes himself to the great questions about life, himself and God and is impoverished”. Such a person has far too summarily divorced reason from faith, rendering asunder the very dynamic of the intellect.

What does this mean for Catholic universities today? Pope Benedict answers in this way: “The Catholic university is [therefore] a vast laboratory where, in accordance with the different disciplines, ever new areas of research are developed in a stimulating confrontation between faith and reason that aims to recover the harmonious synthesis achieved by Thomas Aquinas and other great Christian thinkers”. When firmly grounded in St Thomas’ understanding of faith and reason, Catholic institutions of higher learning can confidently face every new challenge on the horizon, since the truths discovered by any genuine science can never contradict the one Truth, who is God himself.

Read it all from 2010.

Posted in Church History, Education, History, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Archbp Cranmer Blog) Martin Sewell and David Lamming-How far is Bishop George Bell’s reputation restored? When is a cloud not a cloud?

The allegations were extremely serious. Archbishop Justin is to be applauded for treating the matter so seriously: we cannot ignore the fact that the evidence in all cases was not strong. Justice is a balance: if one finds it hard to administer coolly and dispassionately, it might be an argument for placing such decisions away from the Church. A pastor’s heart is a great thing, but perhaps not in one necessarily exercising judicial decisions and commentary.

The suspicion of dual standards between the living and the dead is illustrated by the case of the former Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, who was the subject of similar allegations which were also found unreliable after investigation. Upon his retirement he received a standing ovation from General Synod, with Archbishop Justin declaring that he was “glad to thank Bishop Perham wholeheartedly for his ministry after all the investigations and inquiries had cleared him”.

The Archbishop was, of course, dealing with someone he knew; a much-liked and respected colleague. But his acknowledgment that Bishop Perham had been ‘cleared’ followed the well established rule: innocent until proven guilty. It was good to see a faithful servant of the Church vindicated, but is hard to see how that precedent differs from that of George Bell, save that one was personally known to many of those insisting ‘innocent until proven guilty’ at the time, whereas few of us will have a personal attachment to a man who died in 1958.

If there is a clear and proper distinction between the cases, it needs to be fully articulated. As things stand, the discrepancy between the cases is hard to reconcile.

It seems to us that a black-and-white approach to these matters has the considerable merit of certainty, whereas once one moves into gradations of grey we will be asking for trouble. That is why an official approach that accepts the quasi-judicial decision is probably the wisest course of action in such cases. What one thinks privately and individually is, of course, entirely a matter of conscience.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

A Statement from the Bishop of Chester, Martin Werner, on the George Bell case and the Briden report

It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain. We have also now understood much more besides, in particular about the trust that people place in us and their legitimate expectations of us as guardians of the inheritance of faith.

We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it.

For the future, we recognise how damaging and painful this has been. We have all been diminished by this case. The legitimate quest for certainty has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time. Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved. We ask those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion. Moreover, we continue to believe that the good things that George Bell did in his life will stand the test of time. His prophetic work for peace and his relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer are only two of the many ways in which his legacy will go on being of great significance to us in the Church and we hope and pray we can go on learning from what he has given to us.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(C of E) The National Safeguarding Team statement on Bishop George Bell

A ruling by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence that had been brought before the core group, the Church’s response to any safeguarding situation.

A range of people came forward with further information following the publication of a review by Lord Carlile, in December 2017, of the Church of England’s handling of an original allegation against the late bishop. The Church’s response has included an independent, thorough investigation by former Detective Superintendent Ray Galloway. This was submitted to Mr Briden. Bishop Bell’s living relatives were represented during this process.

To enable Ray Galloway to have an informed understanding of the case he also interviewed ‘Carol’, who brought the original allegation; neither he nor Mr Briden reinvestigated her claim in respect of which a civil settlement has already been made.

Read it all and take the time to read the full Briden report.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Shashi Tharoor–How Hinduism Has Persisted for 4,000 Years

The word “Hindu” denotes more than a set of theological beliefs. In many languages, French and Persian among them, the word for Indian is Hindu. Originally foreigners used it when referring to the people beyond the Indus River, which is now in Islamic Pakistan. In fact, the word Hindu did not exist in any Indian language until its use by outsiders gave Indians a term for self-definition. Many Hindus, in other words, call themselves by a label that they didn’t invent but adopted cheerfully.

“Hinduism,” then, is the name that foreigners first applied to what they saw as the indigenous religion of India. It embraces an eclectic range of doctrines and practices—from pantheism to agnosticism, from faith in reincarnation to belief in the caste system. Yet none of these constitutes an obligatory credo for a Hindu. We have no compulsory dogmas.

The religion is predicated on the idea that the eternal wisdom of the ages and of divinity cannot be confined to a single sacred book. While others might look to the heavens to find God, the Hindu looks within himself. There is no Hindu pope, no Hindu Vatican, no Hindu catechism, not even a Hindu Sunday. Hinduism does not oblige the adherent to demonstrate his faith by any visible sign. Instead Hinduism offers a smorgasbord of options to the worshiper: of divinities to adore and to pray to, of rituals to observe, of customs and practices to honor, of fasts to keep. Hinduism allows believers to stretch their imaginations to personal notions of the creative Godhead.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, History

(ABC Aus.) Stanley Hauerwas–The Only Road to Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nonviolence

Of all the silly claims sometimes made by atheists these days, surely one of the silliest is that Christianity was in no way determinative of the politics of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Just take Christopher Hitchens’s claim that, on account of King’s commitment to nonviolence, in “no real as opposed to nominal sense … was he a Christian.” Wherever King got his understanding of nonviolence from, argues Hitchens, it simply could not have been from Christianity because Christianity is inherently violent.

The best response that I can give to such claims is turn to that wonderfully candid account of the diverse influences that shaped King’s understanding of nonviolence in his Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and then demonstrate how his Christianity gave these influences in peculiarly Christ-like form.

King reports as a college student he was moved when he read Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience. Thoreau convinced him that anyone who passively accepts evil, even oppressed people who cooperate with an evil system, are as implicated with evil as those who perpetrate it. Accordingly, if we are to be true to our conscience and true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Dante Stewart–Martin Luther King Jr.: Exemplar of Hope

As I reflect on King, I am reminded of the language of Zechariah 9:12: “Return to your fortress you prisoners of hope.” He was indeed a “prisoner of hope.” To be a prisoner of hope is not the same thing as being optimistic. Life has been too realistic for that. Optimism is rooted in sentimentalism and believes in the inevitability of progress. Hope is rooted in a redemptive realism and the promise of the victory of God in Jesus. King was not naive about the realities he faced nor did he expect that good was just around the corner.

In the last book he wrote before he was assassinated, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King wrote, “The majority of White Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro,” but, he argued, “unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.” White America was willing to welcome some change, but, just as they do today, apathy and disinterest rose to the surface when the next logical steps needed to be taken. Though the real democratic spirit of some of white America resisted this tendency, these were exceptional individuals and far too small in number for widespread change to take root. It was King’s conclusion that the practical cost of change for the nation up to this point had been cheap and characterized by the ever-present tendency to backlash—realities we still live with 51 years later.

While blacks proceeded from the premise that “equality means what it says and they have taken white Americans at their word,” far too often “equality is a loose expression for improvement” and that “whites … are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance.” The hard truth was that “neither Negro nor white has yet done enough to expect the dawn of a new day.”

For King, freedom is not won by passive acceptance of suffering. It is “won by a struggle against suffering.” Standing in the chasm between disappointed cries for black power, stiffening resistance from white backlash, the darkness of Vietnam, and the pervasiveness of poverty, King appealed to our common humanity and care for the common good. He called for the full participation of blacks and whites, rich and poor, natives and immigrants, Pentecostals and Presbyterians—any who would join the struggle for freedom and community. I believe Thurman is right when he claims that King’s greatest contribution was his life, which embodied a radical discipleship and a revolutionary love.

Read it all.

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

Richard John Neuhaus: Remembering, and Misremembering, Martin Luther King Jr.

As Abernathy tells it—and I believe he is right—he and King were first of all Christians, then Southerners, and then blacks living under an oppressive segregationist regime. King of course came from the black bourgeoisie of Atlanta in which his father, “Daddy King,” had succeeded in establishing himself as a king. Abernathy came from much more modest circumstances, but he was proud of his heritage and, as he writes, wanted nothing more than that whites would address his father as Mr. Abernathy. He and Martin loved the South, and envisioned its coming into its own once the sin of segregation had been expunged.

“Years later,” Abernathy writes that, “after the civil rights movement had peaked and I had taken over [after Martin’s death] as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,” he met with Governor George Wallace. “Governor Wallace, by then restricted to a wheel chair after having been paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullet, shook hands with me and welcomed me to the State of Alabama. I smiled, realizing that he had forgotten all about Montgomery and Birmingham, and particularly Selma. ‘This is not my first visit,’ I said. ‘I was born in Alabama—in Marengo County.’ ‘Good,’ said Governor Wallace, ‘then welcome back.’ I really believe he meant it. In his later years he had become one of the greatest friends the blacks had ever had in Montgomery. Where once he had stood in the doorway and barred federal marshals from entering, he now made certain that our people were first in line for jobs, new schools, and other benefits of state government.” Abernathy concludes, “It was a time for reconciliations.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

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

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.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Religion & Culture

Harriet Beecher Stowe on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 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

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–KSH.

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

([London] Times) Crispin Blunt–Why the time has come to scrap prayers in parliament

As our society becomes decreasingly religious we have to wonder why it is that in the House of Commons procedures of the day such as lawmaking and debates start with prayers.

During this time the doors are locked while MPs stand, perform an about-turn and pray. This process is closed to the public while Anglican prayers are read — hardly conducive with the diverse elected representatives and the constituents they represent.

While religious worship occupies a strong part in some people’s lives, it should no longer play a role in the way we conduct our political affairs as an independent, open and diverse nation. In 2019 for most MPs parliamentary prayers are the price paid to reserve a favourite place on the green benches for the day, having become a de facto seat reservation system. Many MPs have found that unless they attend these prayers, whether in line with their beliefs or not, they will struggle to secure a seat.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words–Charleston, South Carolina in 1865

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Photos/Photography

(LA Times) Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin–Keep religious tests out of the Senate

A Boston politician called Brandeis “a slimy fellow” capable of using “his smoothness and intrigue, together with his Jewish instinct,” to attain power. Ex-president and future Chief Justice William Howard Taft called Brandeis “utterly unscrupulous” and “a man of infinite cunning,” warning that he “has adopted Zionism, favors the new Jerusalem, and has metaphorically been re-circumcised.”

The next Jewish nominee to the Supreme Court, Benjamin Cardozo, faced resistance as well. Justice James McReynolds — who had refused to sit next to Brandeis in official court photographs — opposed Cardozo’s nomination on blatantly anti-Semitic grounds. At Cordozo’s swearing in, in 1932, McReynolds read a newspaper during the proceedings and could be heard muttering, “Another one.”

There is a long history of judicial nominees being treated with suspicion because of their religion. It needs to stay in the past.

It would be absurd enough to interrogate a political candidate about whether she intended to impose her personal religious beliefs on the country through legislation. It is even more absurd for senators to imply that a judge, who cannot propose or enact legislation, would be incapable of setting aside his religious beliefs when interpreting our written laws.

If sitting lawmakers are allowed to make such assumptions of Catholic nominees, religious minorities could very well be next….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

(AI) Damir Marusic reviews Robert Kagan’s New book ‘The Jungle Grows back’–The Illiberal Challenge: Making Up Monsters to Destroy

The Jungle Grows Back immediately distinguishes itself from the pack by taking direct aim at the key piety that ties the standard narrative together: the idea of progress. “Unlike other cultures, which view history as a continuous cycle of growth and decay, or as stasis,” Kagan writes, “we view history as having a direction and a purpose. . . . we have come to believe that, while there may be occasional bumps and detours on the road, progress is inevitable.”

This is all a myth, he unequivocally states. The world as we know it, the international system as it is currently constructed, is a mere contingency—an historical aberration.

We have witnessed amazing progress over the past seven decades, and not just technological progress but also human progress. Yet this progress was not the culmination of anything. It was not the product of evolution, of expanding knowledge, of technological advances, the spread of commerce, and least of all of any change in the basic nature of human beings. It has been the product of a unique set of circumstances contingent on a particular set of historical outcomes, including on the battlefield, that could have turned out differently.

In other words, the liberal world order is a happy accident, the result of the liberal side triumphing in the Great Power struggle of the nuclear age. It didn’t have to work out that way. And it is precisely because of this contingency that we must prize the achievement highly. Don’t be complacent, Kagan is arguing, for it could all disappear in a heartbeat. The United States must therefore return to an expansive leadership role, one perhaps even more ambitious than the one it undertook in 1945. The rest of the book is largely Kagan making that case, and suggesting how such a newly expansive role might be shaped.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History

(1st Things) John Wilson–the Faith of PD James

That project stalled, though it did prompt a re-reading of the Dalgliesh series to date, with many Post-it notes and scrawled observations. And it led me to re-read the Paris Review interview with James that appeared in the Summer 1995 issue (issue number 135), conducted by Shusha Guppy, the Paris Review’s London editor. There are some very interesting bits in the conversation, but this extract will allow you to understand why I felt like flinging the magazine across the room:

Interviewer

I believe you are religious, so perhaps you believe in an afterlife?

James

I certainly believe in God. As a Christian one is supposed to believe in “the resurrection of the body,” but I don’t think I do. I hope the soul is eternal. I am rather attracted to the Buddhist idea of reincarnation, that we are on the up and up!

Oh, dear. I re-read the interview earlier this week, for the first time since 2001. What struck me as before was not merely the feebleness of the response, but how incongruous it seems coming from James, whom I have admired greatly for her tough-mindedness. But reading the interview in the first week of 2019, I was no longer inclined to throw the magazine against the wall. Alas, it was old history.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Eschatology, History, Religion & Culture, Theology