Feast of Justin Heinrich Knecht (December 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  Justin Heinrich Knecht

Image in the Public Domain



German Lutheran Organist, Music Teacher, and Composer

Justin Heinrich Knecht comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Above:  Map of the Duchy of Württemberg

Image in the Public Domain

Knecht, born in Biberach, Duchy of Württemberg, on September 30, 1752, became a capable musician and composer.  As a young man, he received a classical education at Esslingen.  Our saint also studied organ, violin, oboe, flute, and trumpet there.  Then Knecht continued his study of organ performance under one Herr Kraemer in Biberach.  Our saint became one of the greatest German organists of his time.  Knecht worked as a professor of literature in Biberach from 1771 to 1792.  In 1792, He became the municipal music director and the organist at St. Martin’s Church, Biberach, which Lutherans and Roman Catholics had shared since 1548.  For the rest of his life, our saint taught music, pioneered the writing of program notes, and wrote about musical theory.  In 1806-1808, Knecht lived and worked in Stuttgart, the royal capital.  After two years of conducting the royal court and theater orchestra, our saint returned to Biberach.  Perhaps Knecht felt unqualified for his royal appointment.  Maybe he tired of a toxic work environment.  Perhaps both reasons informed our saint’s decision.  Anyway, Knecht lived and worked in Biberach until he shuffled off his mortal coil.

Above:  St. Martin’s Church, Biberach

Image Source = Google Earth

William Gustave Polack, The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, Second Edition (1942), 533, notes that Knecht

was one of the great organists of his time.

Fred L. Precht, Lutheran Worship Hymnal Companion (1992), 672, describes Knecht as

a brilliant organist.

Albert C. Ronander and Ethel K. Porter, Guide to the Pilgrim Hymnal (1966), 196, noted that:

Knecht’s contemporaries regarded him as one of the best musicians of the day.  As an organist he had only one rival….

Yet, according to the same source:

…his compositions lacked vitality and originality.

Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952), 748, notes that Knecht

excelled as an organist but ranked much lower as a composer.

I leave any evaluation of Knecht’s skill as a composer to you, O reader.  Recordings of some of his compositions are available on YouTube.

In 1799, Knecht and Lutheran minister Johann Friedrich Christmann (1752-1817) prepared a hymnal, Wirtembergisches Land Gesangbuch, a.k.a., the Württemberger Choralbuch, published in Stuttgart.   Knecht composed 97 of the 266 hymn tunes.  Some of our saint’s hymn tunes included:

  7. KOCHER;
  9. ST. HILDA, a.k.a. ST. EDITH;
  10. VIENNA, a.k.a. RAVENNA; and

Knecht composed both sacred and secular music.  He set Psalms to music and composed settings of other liturgical texts.  Our saint wrote operas, operettas, chamber works, orchestral works, chamber works, piano works, and organ works, too.  These have long since fallen into obscurity.  Yet recordings of some of them have become available via YouTube:

  1. Cantabile in D Minor;
  2. Concerto for Horn in D Major;
  3. Dixit Dominus (1800);
  4. Freu Dich Sehr O Meine Seale;
  5. Fugue in C Minor;
  6. Handstück in Galanten Stil;
  7. Le Portrait Musical de la Nature, a.k.a. the Pastoral Symphony (1783);
  8. Organ Sonata in C Major;
  9. Prelude in B-Flat; and
  10. Die Aufenstehung Jesu, Ein Tongemälde.

Knecht, aged 65 years, died in his hometown on December 1, 1817.

Knecht’s legacy, at least with regard to hymn tunes, seems to survive primarily in hymnals of denominations with a strong German heritage.  In the United States of America, his means, primarily, the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum), the United Church of Christ, and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  Some contemporary hymnals of other denominations include at least one of Knecht’s tunes, but an institutional, Germanic heritage increases the probability of doing so.








Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Justin Heinrich Knecht)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

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

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26






Feast of George Hugh Bourne (December 1)   3 comments

Above:  Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, by John Constable

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

George Hugh Bourne comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Bourne was a priest in The Church of England and the son of an Anglican priest.  The father was R. B. Bourne, serving at St. Paul’s Cray, London, England, on November 8, 1840, when our saint debuted.  G. B. Bourne grew up with at least one sibling, Elizabeth.  Our saint studied at Eton then at Christ Church College, Oxford (B.A., 1863; B.C.L., 1866; D.C.L., 1871).  He, ordained to the diaconate in 1863, joined the ranks of priests the following year.

Bourne served as the Curate of Sandford-on-Thames from 1863 to 1865.  During this time, he translated Pange lingua gloriosi corporis from Latin into English as “Of the Wondrous Body, O My Tongue Be Telling.”  This translated hymn was one of the texts in Lyra Eucharistica, Second Edition (1864).

Bourne served at St. Andrew’s College, Chardstock, starting in 1866.  He was the headmaster (1866f) then the warden (1874f).  Sometime during our saint’s tenure, St. Andrew’s College transferred to St. Edmund’s College, Salisbury.  In 1867, Bourne composed a hymn, “O Christ, the King of Human Life,” for the wedding of his sister, Elizabeth, to Allan Webb (1839-1907), soon to become the Anglican Bishop of Bloemfontein, South Africa.  Also, in 1874, our saint contributed at least two texts to Seven Post-Communion Hymns (1874), for use in the chapel at St. Edmund’s College, Salisbury.  One text was “O Christ Our God, Who With Thine Own Hast been.”  However, “Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor,” usually sung to BRYN CALFARIA, has become a hit.

I know Bourne’s name because of “Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor.”  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  This is our saint’s most popular hymn, ranked by inclusion in hymnals, over time.  This is a text that that made its U.S. debut in The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Bourne served faithfully in a succession of positions.  He was the chaplain to this brother-in-law, Allan Webb, from 1879 to 1898.  Webb was the Bishop of Bloemfontein (1870-1883) then the Bishop of Grahamstown (1883-1898), in South Africa.  He retired in 1898.  From 1901 to 1907, Webb served as the Dean of Salisbury, England.  Bourne doubled as sub-deacon at the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Salisbury Cathedral) from 1887 to 1901.  Starting in 1901, our saint served as the cathedral’s treasurer and a prebendary there.  (“Prebendary” was an honorary title.  A prebendary held a prebend, an endowment in land or a pension, given to a cathedral for the support of a secular priest or a regular canon.)

Bourne, aged 85 years, died in Salisbury on December 1, 1925.





Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

George Hugh Bourne and others, who have composed and translated 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








Twelve Years of Blogging   4 comments

Above:  12

Image in the Public Domain


I created this weblog on July 27, 2009.

Today, therefore, at the beginning of my thirteenth year of being a blogger.

Little of the oldest content of SUNDRY THOUGHTS remains; I have put the vast majority of that content out of its misery.  I had little idea of what I was doing with this weblog, or how to do it, in the summer of 2009.  I have improved with time and practice, as one should strive to do in any endeavor.

Since July 27, 2009, I have spun off seven more weblogs from SUNDRY THOUGHTS and spun one of those back into its parent.  I have, of course, changed my mind regarding certain issues (some of them in the realm of theology).  I have not, however, undertaken to alter the germane posts.  No, I have decided to treat my weblogs as journals, documenting my thoughts as they were, at the time.  Harlan Ellison, one of the greatest writers (especially in science fiction) said on the Sci-Fi Channel in the middle-late 1990s that consistency requires one to be as uninformed as one was the previous year.  I have concluded that he was correct.

My next project here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS will be “new” saints with feast days in December.  I intend to return to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days soon.  One ecclesiastical jurisdiction or another recognizes a few of my “new” saints for December.  However, most of the names on my list come from hymnals, mainly The Hymnal (1941), of the old Evangelical and Reformed Church.  Reading about the lives of hymn writers reveals some fascinating and useful stories.





Posted July 28, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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A Strong Bias for the Practical   5 comments

Above:  Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

Words and intentions interest me.  Indeed, words have power; the Epistle of James, for example, reminds us of that truth.  Intentions are relevant in many legal matters.  As much as words and intentions interest me, actions interest me more.  Therefore, I prefer to do something then say that I have done it, rather than proclaim my intention to do something, learn that I cannot do it, then announce that, sorry, I would have done it, except for circumstances beyond my control.

I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  Our local bypass is, informally, the Loop, for the obvious reason.

One evening, years ago, I was driving on the Loop.  Ahead of me was a vehicle that had its right turn signal on as it passed successive exits.  The right turn signal remained on between exits, too.  As I neared my exit, I activated my right turn signal then exited the Loop.  That other vehicle, with its right turn signal still on, remained on the Loop, without turning.  By the time I exited the Loop, I had ceased to believe the right turn signal.

As I drive, I pay attention to turn signals, of course.  However, I pay more attention to where vehicles go.  Some drivers turn without using turn signals, too.  I believe what people do.  I do not always believe what they say.

Consequences are about as practical as anything can be.  I recall that, years ago, there was a certain state representative from Athens who sponsored anti-abortion legislation.  (I dislike abortion as much as the next person who tries to respect the image of God in each human being.  I also recognize that certain strategies are more effective than others, while others are ineffective.)  I also recall that this legislation triggered another law–the law of unintended consequences.  I remember that this state law interfered with the malpractice insurance of certain health care professionals.    I also recall that the state representative refused to apologize for this unintended consequence.

May all of us live according to mutuality, compassion, respect, and love.  May we say what we mean, mean what we say, and try to avoid the law of unintended consequences.  May our words and actions not belie each other.  And, when we do trigger the law of unintended consequences, may we be remorseful.  Then may we act accordingly.




Posted July 23, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

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COVID-19, Vaccinations, Moral Responsibility, and Mutuality   3 comments


I admit without reluctance that my theological and spiritual frame of reference comes from Judaism and Christianity.  I am a Christian–a left-of-center Episcopalian, to be precise.  I, as a Christian, stand on the spiritual shoulders of Jews, my elder siblings in faith, to borrow a term from Pope John Paul II.  Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament teach the ethics of mutuality.  Whatever one person does affects others.  When people live together in community and society, they are responsible to and for each other.  They have a moral mandate to look out for each other.

As I write these words, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives.  All of the deaths attributable to the virus to this point have been preventable.  Likewise, all the deaths attributable to this virus from this moment forward also (will) fall into the category “preventable.”  I suspect that the official death count is low, compared to reality.  The actual death count may remain unknown.  Regardless of what the actual death count will be and whether it turns out to be relatively low, relatively high, or accurate, it will be too high and entirely preventable.

The bad news continues.  The Delta Variant accounts for most new diagnosed cases in the United States of America.  The Lambda Variant, from Peru, is now in Canada.  The absurdity of vaccine hesitancy in the United States of America is obvious in the context of desperation for effective vaccines in most of the rest of the world.  Few or no vaccines are available in many countries, and many delusional Americans remain hesitant.  The current surge in Delta Variant cases in the United States is almost entirely among the unvaccinated.  Many Americans can easily get vaccinated, at no cost to themselves, and do not do so.  They endanger the rest of us, as well as themselves.

Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.  This is a law of the universe.

My version of mutuality is openly Theistic.  It exists in the context of complete human dependence on God.  Nevertheless, even an intellectually honest atheist can grasp that whatever he or she does affects others, and vice versa.  Mutuality, divorced from Theism, makes sense, from the perspective of enlightened self-interest.  Sin and human psychology, however, predispose people to act against their self-interest and the common good.

I really dislike needles.  Nevertheless, I dislike preventable diseases more.  I can, from time to time, sit in a pharmacy or a health clinic, turn my head, close my eyes, and endure injections of life-saving vaccines.  I have done so.  I intend to do so again, as necessary.

I really dislike wearing face masks.  Yet I carry one with me whenever I go out in public.  I also wear a mask inside any store.  I do so without complaint, for I understand the importance of the common good, especially during a pandemic.  I yearn for the day that wearing face masks in public will not be necessary.

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is a delusional and morally irresponsible position.  (For that matter, vaccine hesitancy any time it endangers anyone is morally irresponsible.)  I refer not to those who are too young for vaccination, lack access to an effective vaccine, and must forgo vaccination due to medical issues.  I refer to those who can get vaccinated and choose not to do so.  They are candidates for the Darwin Awards.  They also endanger the rest of us, including the fully-vaccinated.

I am one of the fully-vaccinated.  I have a record of my two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.  I assume that a booster shot will eventually be necessary.  So be it.  Why would a booster shot not be necessary eventually?  I recall having to get revaccinated against various diseases.  Anyhow, my status as a fully-vaccinated person means that I carry much protection against COVID-19 within my body.  No protection is 100 percent, though.  Just as my decision to get fully vaccinated protects others, the decisions of many other people to get fully vaccinated protects me.  Likewise, the decisions of many other people not to get vaccinated or to get partially vaccinated endangers me.

I have strong opinions about such people.  The unfiltered version of those opinions is not fit for repetition on this weblog.

My message to all people regarding face masks is:  Wear masks when doing so is necessary and proper.

My message to all people who are fully-vaccinated is:  Thank you!  Thank you very much!

My message to all who people who can get fully vaccinated yet refuse to do so is:  What the hell is your damage?  Certain politicians and medical professionals have to be diplomatic in this matter.  I do not, and am not.




Posted July 21, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Coronavirus/COVID-19

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Confessions of a Detail-Oriented Geek and Pedant   3 comments

I am a geek and a pedant.

I have been a geek since early childhood.  I have also been detail-oriented and pedantic for as long as I can remember.  I have become more pedantic as I have aged.  I have, for example, developed the nearly-irresistible urge to hurl a copy of any edition of The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) at anyone who says,

The fact that….

And don’t get me started on ‘impact” (as a verb), “impacted,” and “impacting,” in the absence of physical contact.  The only people who have impacted me have punched me.  That was a long time ago, fortunately.  Many people have affected and influenced me, though.

Beginning a thought with, “so,” also annoys me.  Properly, “so” continues a thought.

One of my grandmothers taught English for nearly four decades.  She has continued to influence me beyond her grave.

I, as a geek, enjoy learning more about the topics of my geekiness.  Some of these topics are science fiction-related.  The Internet is replete with science fiction podcasts, most of which are not worth my time.  My two major complaints are:

  1. The hosts swear too much, and
  2. The hosts do not do their homework.

I may learn that I know more about the topic of the podcast episode in question than the hosts.  Then I know that continuing to listen to that podcast constitutes a waste of my time.  I can easily look up when an episode or serial aired in first run, for example.  I can also check to see who played which role.  Yet many podcast hosts do not bother to look up such details before recording.   Speaking out of one’s knowledge is superior to speaking out of one’s ignorance.  Podcasts in which the hosts say,

I don’t know,

too many times do not hold my attention.

I used to listen to a certain podcast about Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine.  I stopped listening to one episode about a minute after it started.  One host asked the other one if the main aliens were the Bajorans or the Pajorans.  (The answer is the Bajorans.)  Finding the answer to that question prior to recording was easy, but one of the hosts did not make the minimal effort to do so.

I do not object to an occasional, well-placed curse word.  Sometimes such language is appropriate and accurate.  However, when profanity becomes verbal wallpaper, the laziness of frequent cursing becomes evident.  And my mother raised me better than to swear as often as many people do.

My background as an educator informs my procedural bias for checking facts.  I know the importance of speaking as accurately as possible as often as possible.  I grasp why keeping one’s facts straight and one’s chronology in order is vital.  I bring this mindset to my hobbies, predictably.




The Present, the Past, the Future, Truth, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Yesterday was July 1–Canada Day.

Today is July 2, the actual anniversary of the declaration of the independence of thirteen rebellious colonies from the British Empire in 1776.  The Second Continental Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later.  On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote enthusiastically to his wife Abigail that July 2 would become a great holiday.

During the last year or so, Canada has been confronting proverbial demons from its past that affect its present and future.  Canada has been wrestling with its shameful record of cultural and physical genocide of the First Nations, at residential schools, in particular.  The reputation of the already-troublesome (and corrupt) Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891), one of the founders of Canada, the first Prime Minister of Canada, and one of the founders of the system of residential schools–has come under critical scrutiny, to state reality mildly.  Some portion of Canadian society, especially on the Right, has not taken this well.

Down here, in the United States of America, we, as a population, have been experiencing similar turmoil in relation to institutionalized racism, police brutality, and other negative marks on our past and present.  Some portion of our populace, especially on the Right, has not taken this well, hence hostility to Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s Canada Day Address from yesterday struck a chord with me:

Today, we celebrate our country and everyone who calls it home. We also reflect on everything we have accomplished, and look forward to what more we have to do.

The pandemic has changed our daily lives, taught us hard lessons, and kept us apart. But through this challenge and crisis, Canadians were there for each other. We all – young and old – made personal sacrifices to help keep our communities safe and healthy. We put signs in our windows and banged pots and pans for our front-line health care workers. We ordered takeout and shopped at our local small businesses. And once vaccines became available, we got our shots as soon as possible, so our communities could return to normal.

Hope, hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect. These are the values that Canadians have shown in the face of the pandemic, and today we should celebrate those values and what we’ve overcome. But while we acknowledge our successes, we must also recognize that, for some, Canada Day is not yet a day of celebration.

The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada. We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past. And we must recognize that here in Canada there are still people who don’t feel safe walking the streets of their communities, who still don’t have the same opportunities as others, and who still face discrimination or systemic racism in their daily lives.

While we can’t change the past, we must be resolute in confronting these truths in order to chart a new and better path forward. Together, we have a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous peoples. But if we all pledge to do the work – and if we lead with those core values of hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect – we can achieve reconciliation and build a better Canada for everyone.

What makes Canada special is not the belief that this is the best country in the world, but the knowledge that we could be. And whether it’s finishing the fight against COVID-19, tackling the climate crisis, or walking the path of reconciliation, I know there is no challenge too great, if we face it together. Because the progress we’ve made as a country didn’t happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.

This Canada Day, let’s recommit to learning from and listening to each other so we can break down the barriers that divide us, rectify the injustices of our past, and build a more fair and equitable society for everyone. Together, we will roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that is necessary to build a better Canada.

From my family to yours, happy Canada Day.

I am from the Deep South, the heart of the former Confederate States of America.  The lie of the Lost Cause thrives, sometimes under official protection of state governments.  Quoting pro-slavery documents, such as the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis, the Cornerstone Speech of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, and the secession declarations of states does not change the minds of many people, committed to the lie of the Lost Cause.  My family tree includes at least on Confederate Army veteran from Virginia and at least one Confederate state senator from Georgia.

The state senator from Fort Gaines, Georgia, was also a deacon in the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, and a slaveholder.  During the Civil War, the State of Georgia conscripted slave labor to build up and maintain fortifications.  The state also promised to pay the slaveholders for the slaves’ work.  (Nobody paid the slaves, of course.)  The state senator was one of the affected slaveholders.  A letter he wrote to Governor Joseph Brown has survived.  In this correspondence, the state senator complained that the state was delinquent in paying him for his slaves’ labor.  I read the text of the letter in a book about the Civil War in southwest Georgia and southeast Alabama.

I sympathize with the slaves, not the state senator.

Most opposition to facing the past honestly stems from discomfort with the implications of doing so.  If many of our ancestors were total bastards, what does that make us?  We like to think ourselves as good people.  We also like to think our ancestors as good people.  Many of them were good people.  Many of them were also vile racists, imperialists, slaveholders, and other types of sinners.  If any nation or society is to move forward, toward a more just nation or society, it must acknowledge its past–positive and negative–honestly.  It must stand on the ground of objective reality and admit to the better angels and the demons of the past and present.  Only then can the nation or society move forward into a better, more just future.

Happy belated Canada Day!  Happy birthday, U.S.A.!  May we admit that recognition of the truth must precede reconciliation and progress toward justice.  May we recognize the truth, reconcile, and progress toward justice.  That will work toward the common good.  That will be patriotic and moral.




Academic Freedom, Part II   8 comments

And Social Justice, Too

Eric Blair, who wrote as George Orwell, was a prophet.  Some recent news stories have proven that the anti-intellectual and totalitarian tendencies of which he wrote in 1984 (1948) thrive in the United States of America.

Sadly, these tendencies have thrived here since before the founding of the U.S.A.  Anti-intellectualism has long been a feature of certain varieties of Evangelicalism and all forms of fundamentalism.  Richard Hofstadter, a great historian, wrote Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966).  Religious historian Mark A. Noll, himself an Evangelical Presbyterian, wrote a scathing critique, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  As for totalitarianism, some portion of the population has always preferred to obey orders from a dictator, whatever that person’s title is.

Two issues concern me, for the purposes of this post.

One is Critical Race Theory (CRT).  CRT hits the proverbial nail on the equally proverbial head.  Institutionalized racism is a part of the past and the present of the United States of America.  I can point to examples, starting with the colonial period, for I am a student of American history.  CRT holds water, so to speak.  I wish that it did not, but wishing that reality is different does not make it so.  CRT has become a target for the racist part of the Right Wing in the U.S.A.  Teaching CRT in public institutions of learning is now illegal in some states, including Tennessee.  Tennessee is a state with a shameful record of violating academic freedom.  One may recall that Scopes “Monkey Trial” (1925) was in Tennessee, which, at the time, outlawed the teaching of Evolution in public schools.

I am not suprised that CRT is a hot potato in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  This is a denomination founded in support of slavery in 1845.  This is a denomination once known as the religious wing of the Ku Klux Klan.  This is a denomination historically associated with White Southerners, most of whom, most of the time, have been unapologetic racists.  I wonder how many of the anti-CRT Southern Baptist leaders and followers have read and taken to heart and mind the message of Hebrew prophets, who denounced systemic injustice.

To outlaw the teaching of a legitimate and germane academic or scientific theory is to violate academic freedom.  As I have written, remaining on topic is a reasonable expectation and sound pedagogy.  One should, for example, teach biology in a biology course.  Likewise, CRT applies in history and various social sciences.  So be it.

To state CRT in Augustinian terms, racism is the original sin of the United States of America.  That sin remains in the present tense and influences social, economic, and political institutions.

To state CRT in Niebuhrian terms, racism defines the social, political, and economic climate and institutions which define our collective lives.  Racism infects almost everything.  And, whenever, we, individually or collectively, try to redress the sin of racism and its consequences, we may wind up accidentally furthering racism, despite ourselves.

The other issue is the new law regarding alleged indoctrination in public colleges and universities in Florida.

Recently, in the context of signing this bill into law, Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in favor of critical thinking and against liberal “indoctrination.”  He signed into law a bill mandating an annual survey of the political opinions of faculty and students at public colleges and universities in that state.  The explicit threat was that, if the proportion of opinions was too critical of DeSantis and his conservative camp, the state may reduce funding.  Regardless of the minutae about whether answering the survey is mandatory or optional, the bill has crossed the line into Orwellian territory.  The law inspires self-censorship and quashes freedom of academic expression.

DeSantis and his supporters mistake objectivity to mean agreeing with them, and “biased” to mean disagreeing with them.  This attitude that, “I am right, anyone who agrees with me is objective, and anyone who disagrees with me must be biased,” is old.  I recall hearing it frequently from conservative callers into open-lines segment on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal years ago, before I cut the cord.  In reality, we are all biased.  Those who agree with me are biased in the same way I am.  An honest researcher or academic acknowledges his or her biases and tries to be as honest and accurate as possible, as far as the evidence goes.

On the bright side, my home state of Georgia is no longer the most embarrassing state in the Union.  Florida and Tennessee have knocked us down the list.  That is cold comfort, though.  It is like repeating a Southern saying:

Thank God for Mississippi.

We’re not first in the high school dropout rate or last in the prevention of rickets!  Woo hoo!

I pray for the day that more of our state governments resume making good policy and cease to embarrass us and trample the noblest American traditions.

I come from a particular perspective.  I recall growing up as one of the marginalized, bookish people in the rural, conservative, and anti-intellectual communities in which I grew up.  I recall growing in United Methodist parsonages full of books.  Yet I also recall my father, who should have been my natural partner in intellectual and theological exploration, shutting me down.  That still disappoints me about him.

I stand left of the center in 2021.  This is an average score; I am very liberal on some counts, quite conservative on others, and moderate on others.  Some people may be surprised to learn what some of my political and theological opinions are.  So be it.  But I refuse to censor myself in the matter of which of these I express in an academic or ecclesiastical setting.  I am who I am.  I may change my mind again about certain issues; I reserve the right to do so.  Then I will be who I will be.  And I will not censor myself then either.

Consistently, though, I stand for academic freedom. within the context of remaining on topic and remaining based in available evidence.  This is non-negotiable.




Human Depravity   6 comments

Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, it is a matter of proven fact.  I do not need faith with regard to any matter I can prove or disprove, objectively.

I come from a particular theological context.  I am a Christian–a Western Christian, not an Eastern Orthodox Christian.  (Original sin is not a doctrine in Eastern Orthodoxy.)  I am, to be precise, a left-of-center Episcopalian.  I am an Anglican in the inclusive, collegial sense of that word, not the recent, Donatistic, homophobic sense of “Anglican.”  I am a fan of the Enlightenment, without being uncritical of its excesses.  I am Neo-Orthodox.   I stand at the conjunction of Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism.  I am too Roman Catholic to consider myself a Protestant and too Protestant to “cross the Tiber.”  I hold that sacred music in Western Christianity achieved its pinnacle in Roman Catholicism during the Counter-Reformation.  I take the Roman Catholic doctrine of the “seamless cloth” to its logical, most inclusive conclusion; hence I support equal protection under the law for anyone with a pulse.  I do not know how best to enact that principle, and suspect that the effectiveness of certain government actions with regard to abortion is extremely limited.  I am, without apology, an intellectual who accepts science.  I consider Evangelicalism and all varieties of fundamentalism too narrow, and universalism too broad.  I describe myself as a liberal, despite the Right Wing’s demonization of that word.  Politically, I stand generally to the left, but sometimes lean to the right.  The Left Wing is, in most respects, consistent with my Judeo-Christian values.  Elements of both the Left and the Right alarm and appall me.  In 2021, in the United States of America, the Right Wing terrifies me, especially with its increasing embrace of authoritarianism and unfounded conspiracy theories.

The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the dark side of human nature.  I belong to that throng which looks on in horror and disbelief as widespread denial of objective reality continues to manifest in people.  Enlightenment ideas about human rationality and nobility meet their match in this context.  More than a quarter of the Republican Party accepts aspects of the QAnon movement, according to a recent poll. I do not know how anyone could have continued to deny the reality of the pandemic well into the pandemic last year, or to do so today.  Yet many people have, and do.  Many people and certain governments have shunned–and continue to shun–basic human consideration in public health policy, somehow politicized.

Why do innocent and good people suffer?  Usually, they do so because of their malicious and/or oblivious neighbors and governments.

Evidence for human depravity abounds.  I do not need to have faith to accept the reality of human depravity.  No, I need merely to pay attention.  What else am I supposed to think when members of the United States Congress refer to insurrectionists from January 6, 2021, as tourists and block a bipartisan commission?  What else am I supposed to think when certain state governments, embracing lies, restrict voting rights and, in Orwellian terms, speak of enhancing the security of elections?

May God save us from ourselves and each other.




The COVID-19 Pandemic: Vaccines and Face Masks   10 comments

As an old saying goes, there is good news and there is bad news.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate much of the world.  The United States of America is faring better than most nation-states, but a portion of our population eligible for vaccination refuses to get vaccinated.  I do not understand these people.  I do not want to understand these people.  The Biden Administration deserves high praise for taking the pandemic as seriously as is necessary and proper.  Leadership matters.

Given the recent changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding face masks, I have altered my habits slightly.  I, fully vaccinated, do not wear masks outdoors as often as I used to do.  If nobody else is around outdoors, for example, I wear no face masks.  I still wear two face masks outdoors sometimes, though.  And I still wear two face masks inside stores.  Children younger than twelve years old are not eligible for vaccination yet.  Many people who are at least twelve years old have medical conditions that mean they should not get vaccinated yet.  Mutuality guides my thinking.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  My rights stop at someone else’s nose, so to speak, just as the other person’s rights stop at my nose.  I accept my responsibility to protect not only myself but others.

The sooner more people accept their responsibility and act accordingly, the sooner this pandemic will end.  Then we can put away our face masks while obeying the demands of moral accountability to each other and God.




Posted May 17, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Coronavirus/COVID-19

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