Blogging Update–August 18, 2017   Leave a comment

SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, is one of eight such websites I maintain.  This is the more general weblog; the other seven have narrow definitions.  All of them are always works in progress.  Since I have eight of these, I do not update all of them regularly, obviously.

I have plans to return to SUNDRY THOUGHTS more often in September, to resume the process of revising and expanding my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, with the emphasis on the month of May.  (I have already revised and expanded the Ecumenical Calendar for January through April.)  I feel free, of course, to continue to add political commentary and other reflections as well.

I have been focusing my blogging-related attention to the Psalter at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  I have been following the 30-day plan (in morning and evening installments, in The Book of Common Prayer of 1979) for reading the Book of Psalms.  So far I have drafted and posted 40 of 60 posts spanning Psalms 1-150 and gotten as far as Psalm 104.  This has been a spiritually rewarding project, one to which I anticipate returning.  I have also decided to add Psalm 151 (present in Orthodox Bibles and in the Septuagint), thereby transforming the series into the Septuagint Psalter Project, complete in 61 posts.

I have decided, for practical reasons, not to shift my attention immediately from the Septuagint Psalter Project to saints (canonized and otherwise) with feast days in May.  No, I have decided to keep my focus at BLOGA THEOLOGICA for 17 posts and to begin to write based on the now-abandoned lectionary in the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), focusing first on Advent, Christmas, and the Season after the Epiphany.

Revising and expanding the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is a longterm project, one that will probably extend into 2019 for this round alone.  The Ecumenical Calendar is always a work in progress, so work on it will end when I die or otherwise cease to be capable of updating it.  Revising and expanding the Ecumenical Calendar frequently goes hand-in-hand with updating GATHERED PRAYERS, which links into SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  When I write about a hymn writer, for example, I might add texts by him or her to GATHERED PRAYERS, link into the post SUNDRY THOUGHTS, and link that post into GATHERED PRAYERS.  Working on the Ecumenical Calendar is also an extension of my old-fashioned view of history:  Great men and women.   This project also flows naturally from my hybrid Protestant-Roman Catholic essence.  I consult Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox calendars of saints and find much that is helpful about them as I draw from them, but only I choose the people to add to the Ecumenical Calendar.  I even have room for Origen.  In fact, sometimes I find hymnals, obituaries, and historical accounts more helpful than official calendars of saints.  I also feel free to divide, constrict, merge, and expand feasts at will.

May something you, O reader, find at my weblogs prove helpful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Deplorables   1 comment

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/deplorables/

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Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without reporting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Mere Decency   2 comments

Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, it is a documented and proven reality.  Faith comes into play in the absence of confirmation or contradiction by standard means of human knowledge.  For evidence of human depravity one need to look no further than the comments sections of many websites.  Between those who post incendiary and insulting material for the purpose of stirring the pot, so to speak, and those who mean it I find many reasons for grave concern about human nature.

In contrast I praise mere decency.  One should do x because it is the morally correct course of action, not because one seeks a reward for it.  I praise the simple act of striving to live according to the Golden Rule, regardless of one’s situation and station in life.  The operative status is that of a human being with a pulse.  I extol the virtues of mere decency, regardless of whether one is a neighbor, a teacher, a student, an employee, a coworker, a boss, a private citizen, or a potentate.  I praise decency wherever it is present.  I condemn the absence of decency wherever that is a reality.  This is a matter of principle for me, as I seek, by grace, to be more decent than I am.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/in-praise-of-mere-decency/

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Regarding Voting and Futility   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the State of Georgia, Modeled after the Confederate First National Flag, Banner of a Treasonous Cause, Whose Cornerstone was Chattel Slavery, Allegedly Commanded by God

Image in the Public Domain

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Of Political Futility and the Right to Complain

I seek to be an informed voter.  I seek out information about candidates and their policy positions.  I also study a sample ballot days before I vote.  If I can find audio or video of a debate, I pay attention.  Some of the time all the candidates disappoint me, as in the case of the races for the Board of Education in Laurens County, Georgia, in 2004.  I recall that none of the candidates, based on how they constructed sentences and conjugated verbs, sounded properly educated.

I take the responsibility of voting seriously.  Yet I do not harbor any delusion that my vote matters most of the time.  The reality of politics in Georgia (statewide and in the case of the Congressional district in which I reside) means that my vote is irrelevant most of the time.  The gerrymandering of Athens-Clarke County means that my votes for candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives mean nothing.  (Aside:  I oppose gerrymandering at all times and places; the practice depresses voting and discourages political moderation and legislative bipartisanship.)  With regard to presidential elections, the combination of the Electoral College and the reality of politics in Georgia means that I might as well not vote for a slate of electors, although I do.  My vote, I know, is futile.  My vote is usually meaningless when there is a political contest.  Much of the time, however, candidates run unopposed.  Nobody’s vote matters then.

Writing and calling my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., is likewise futile.  I know this from experience; a brick wall would be more responsive than the staffers who write the non-responses I receive.  I recall receiving only one genuine response from Congressional staffers as long as I have been writing and calling Senators and Congressman.  I remember that, some years ago, I contacted an office of Senator Zell Miller and wrote that his position on a major national issue was contrary to the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.  I also recall that a staffer called me at home and asked if I wanted to add to my statement; I did not, I remember.  I do, however, give credit where it is due; such a call is not a canned non-response.

I continue to vote.  For now, at least, it gives me the right to complain legitimately, if nothing else.

I favor a vigorous republic (which is what we have, not a democracy; read the Constitution of the United States) with an engaged, well-informed populace, the end of nakedly partisan efforts to suppress voting, the dedication to recognizing objective reality, and the reality of real political contests as the rule.  That sentence, alas, does not describe political reality in the United States of America in 2017.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Feast of James Montgomery (April 30)   1 comment

Above:  Statue of James Montgomery

Image Source = Mick Knapton

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JAMES MONTGOMERY (NOVEMBER 4, 1771-APRIL 30, 1854)

Anglican and Moravian Hymn Writer

James Montgomery was one of the greatest English hymn writers, by quality of those texts as well as the quantity of them–more than 400.  The Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923) included 52 of his hymns–certainly an impressive count.

James Montgomery, born on November 4, 1771, at Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, was one of several sons of John Montgomery, the only Moravian minister in Scotland.  Our saint, who started writing poetry at the age of 10 years, studied at Bracehill, a Moravian settlement in Ireland, where his family had settled in 1776.  A few years later the parents left their sons behind, in the care of the Moravian Church, and became missionaries to Barbados, where they died.  Young James continued his education at Fulneck Seminary, Fulneck, England.  He was, however, a bad student, so school officials apprenticed him to a baker.  Montgomery ran away from the baker and fled to Mirfield in 1787.  There he got a job in retail, but became bored with that position.  So it came to pass that he left that job and relocated to Wath, near Rotherham, and went to work in another store.  That position did not satisfy Montgomery either, so he left for London.  In that city he searched in vain for someone to publish his poetry.  In 1792, however, he did find a job he liked–assistant to one Jospeh Gales, an auctioneer, a bookseller, and the publisher of the Sheffield Register.

Montgomery was, by the standards of Tory politics, a revolutionary; so was Gales.  Our saint approved of the storming of the Bastille, favored the abolition of slavery and of the slave trade, and was concerned about the plight of child laborers.  He was a radical who did not shrink from challenging conventions and institutions.  In the wake of the French Revolution the administration of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger clamped down on dissent (even that of the peaceful variety) and suspended the writ of habeas corpus.  There was, therefore, no freedom of speech or of the press for a time–all in the name of national security, a poor excuse for suppressing civil liberties.  Gales fled the country rather than go to prison for having published certain articles and editorials.  Montgomery assumed leadership of the newspaper, which he renamed the Sheffield Iris.  For 31 years, until 1825, he edited the publication.  Twice he went to prison for political reasons.  The first term was due to a text in praise of the storming of the Bastille.  The second period of incarceration followed the printing of details of a riot at Sheffield.

Montgomery, who helped to found the Eclectic Review in 1825 and contributed to it frequently for years, lectured on poetry at Sheffield and at the Royal Institution, London.  Our saint, who left the Moravian Church for The Church of England, returned to the Unitas Fratrum in 1812.  As an Anglican, Montgomery promoted the congregational singing of hymns, as opposed to the traditional metrical Psalms.  (Congregational hymn singing displaced metrical Psalms in Anglicanism in the 1800s.)  Our saint also encouraged foreign missions and worked with the British Bible Society.  Some of his hymns were parts of these evangelistic efforts.

Some of Montgomery’s notable hymns were:

  1. “We Bid Thee Welcome in the Name of Jesus” (for the ordination and installation of a minister),
  2. “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed,”
  3. “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Gates of Brass,”
  4. “Angels, from the Realms of Glory,” and
  5. “O Bless the Lord, My Soul.”

Major works of our saint, awarded (by a Whig government) a royal pension of 200 pounds–that is, 17,400 pounds, adjusted for inflation to 2016 currency, measured according to the retail price index–per annum in 1833, included:

  1. Prison Amusements (1796),
  2. The Ocean (1805),
  3. The Wanderer of Switzerland (1806),
  4. The West Indies (1810),
  5. The World Before the Flood (1812),
  6. Greenland, and Other Poems (1819),
  7. Songs of Zion (1822),
  8. The Christian Psalmist (1825),
  9. The Pelican Island (1827),
  10. Collected Poems (1841), and
  11. Original Hymns (1853).

Montgomery died in his sleep at his home on The Mount, Sheffield, on April 30, 1854.  He was 84 years old.  A large public funeral followed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

James Montgomery and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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