Archive for July 2018

Legislating Morality   2 comments

Above:  Principles of the Prohibition Party, 1888

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-07977

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You can’t legislate morality.

That argument is objectively false.  First, a review of law-making reveals many examples of explicit appeals to morality in legislative proposals, many of which have become laws.  I argue that if someone has done something, doing it must be possible.  Second, all acts of legislation are examples of legislating morality.  One might legitimately question many of the moral codes informing much legislation, but the existence of those moral codes is objective reality.

In the United States of America perhaps the example most frequently cited to support the objectively false claim that one cannot legislate morality is the prohibition of liquor (1920-1933).  (Interestingly, the Eighteenth Amendment (1920) to the Constitution barred the manufacture, sale, and transportation of liquor, but not the consumption of it.  One could theoretically drink it legally so long as one did not purchase, manufacture, or transport it.  There were also exceptions in the law for sacramental wine, a large loophole.)  The failed experiment of Prohibition, rooted in morality, nativism, and xenophobia, actually serves best as an example of the law of unexpected consequences more than anything else.  I posit that, in the 1920s and 1930s, the most enthusiastic supporters of Prohibition were the bosses of organized crime, men profiting beyond the most extravagant dreams of avarice from opportunities the law created.

The real questions, then, are when legislating morality is more effective, when it is less effective, and when it is ineffective.  One might point (correctly) to the formal end of race-based chattel slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment (1865) to the Constitution of the United States of America as both necessary and morally correct.  Likewise, one might also point to all expansions of civil rights, from women’s suffrage to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Voting Rights Act (1965) to fair housing laws and beyond.  Whenever discrimination is part of the law, part of the remedy must also be part of the law.  But to what extent?  The answer to that question can be difficult to discern.  Furthermore, although laws by themselves cannot change attitudes, they can change actions.  The change in actions can alter attitudes eventually.

Ultimately we in our societies–especially in the global West–need what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking on April 4, 1967, called

a radical revolution of values.

We need to value people more than property, wealth, and, for lack of a better word, things.  We need to move beyond lip service to that proposition and change attitudes for the better, and therefore improve society.  If we do that, the need to legislate morality will decrease.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Bloggers Support Bloggers Award   Leave a comment

Image Used with Permission

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I thank Valerie Cullers for nominating me for this award.  Now I pay it forward.

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Rules:

  1. Thank the one who has tagged you for this challenge and link that person’s blogsite.
  2. Add the official photo in your page.
  3. List at least 5 bloggers you like. (Suggestion: You can list up 3 bloggers that you’ve known for a long time and you can also list up 2 newbies or more. It’s up to you though!)
  4. In 5 sentences or above, give a short description about why you love the blogger.
  5. Tag atleast 3 bloggers to do the challenge.
  6. Put #bloggerssupportbloggers in the Tags section so whenever a blogger is looking for new blogs to read, it will be easier to find.

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My Nominees:

Vanishing South Georgia

Brian Brown maintains several photographic weblogs about Georgia.  Given that I grew up mostly in South Georgia, this is one I visit most often, for I recognize more places in it than in Vanishing Coastal Georgia and Vanishing North Georgia.  His photographic posts have enriched my life for years.

Valerie Cullers

Valerie Cullers’s posts invite readers to consider issues from a Christian and thoughtful, positive angle.  She definitely contributes to the volume of positive content on the Internet.

Roses in the Rubble

Virginia offers a variety of wonderful content, from photographs of turtles to lists of excellent movies.  She seeks to inspire beauty and creativity in people, so they will leave the world better than they found it.

Book ‘Em, Jan O

Jan Olandese is a retired Episcopal priest.  The content of her weblog ranges from ghost stories to witty haiku.  She also puns well.

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I tag Brian Brown, Virginia, and Jan Olandese to carry on the Bloggers Support Bloggers Challenge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted July 29, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with

Proper Levels of Sensitivity   3 comments

Above:  A Scene from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

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Or, Neither Be a Snowflake Nor Excuse and Facilitate Snowflakism in Others

Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.

Certain statements are always beyond the pale.  These statements are those intended to degrade other human beings.  Reasons for degrading others include race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.  Anyone who crosses that line deserves strong condemnation.  Nobody should ever tolerate such statements.  One might, on occasion, quote them (as in academic work; try writing a biography of a segregationist politician without quoting racial slurs, for example) or mock them (as in Blazing Saddles).

Above:  Men Reluctant to Give Land to the Irish; from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

Some works of art age better than others based on this standard.  For example, Blazing Saddles (1974) depicts unapologetic racists as fools and idiots.  The movie stands the test of time as a masterpiece that argues against bigotry.  We who watch the movie laugh at those ensnared by their own learned racism.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) is also a classic, but Mickey Rooney’s performance as an Asian man makes me cringe.  On the other hand, the movie does boast Audrey Hepburn and a cat.  How can I dislike a movie with Audrey Hepburn and a cat in it?

Above:  Holly Golightly and Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

A Screen Capture

I am sensitive, but not hypersensitive.  Life is too short (however long it might feel in real time) for me to spend it being hypersensitive, either about what others do and say or what I do or say.  No, I aim for a proper level of sensitivity on both sides of the equation.  I find Birth of a Nation (1915) offensive, for the seminal movie does glorify the first Ku Klux Klan.  The work is inherently racist, but it is also a landmark of cinema and a document of sorts of racial attitudes in much of the United States half a century after the end of the Civil War.  I have no regrets about having watched it from beginning to end once, for historical interest, or in having shown clips in classes, for educational purposes, with context.

The guiding principle for me in these matters is respecting the dignity of every human being, a value built into the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  This principle explains why, for example, I oppose abortion except in extenuating cases (while I argue that changing minds and making alternatives to abortion easier is a more effective, and therefore, better strategy than outlawing the procedure) as well as homophobia and discrimination against homosexuals.  Whether one places the label “left” or the label “right” on a position regarding respecting the dignity of all people does not matter to me.  Respecting the dignity of every human being is a principle that leads me to refrain from dehumanizing those who are different from me in one or more ways.

That does not mean, however, that I can ever get through day without doing something to offend someone, given that some people take offense more easily than others, and often at matters certain others consider inoffensive.

I am, for example, sufficiently pedantic to insist on always using the words “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” in the plural.  One can be inclusive in the present tense, often by writing or speaking in language that makes one sound educated.  “One” and “one’s” are gender-neutral pronouns, after all.  One might also remain in the singular and substitute the definite article (“the”) for a gendered pronoun.  One can, when one sets one’s mind to the task, identify several strategies for being inclusive in the singular without wrecking the English language.  Alternatively, one might use “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” correctly by switching to the plural forms of words.  Or one might accept the tradition of using masculine pronouns as the inclusive default position and go about enjoying one’s day.  All of the above are feasible options.  I refuse to distort the English language, of which I am quite fond, because of the hypersensitivity of others.

Some people take offense at even the most respectful and polite disagreements.  I have experience with this, usually in the context of teaching.

In late 1991, in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I was at a transitional point in my life.  I was a freshman in college.  I was also turning into an Episcopalian.  I was, for the time being, still a United Methodist, though.  My father was the newly-appointed pastor of the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  One Sunday morning I was teaching the adult class.  There were two visitors, a married couple, Independent Baptists from Savannah, Georgia.  One half of that couple was a child of a member at Sumner.  During the course of that Sunday School lesson the visitors decided that my position on a particular theological point was lax.  Courteously I said,

I disagree.

I learned later in the week that I had offended–upset, really–them.  If these individuals were not prepared to take a polite, respectful “I disagree” well, how did they cope with daily life?  Did they associate most days only with people who agreed with them completely?

I have also offended students with the Joe Friday strategy–

Just the facts.

(Watch Dragnet, if you dare.  The acting was consistently and purposefully bad, but the two series were popular culture touchstones.)  In World Civilization I courses, for example, I have recited facts of ancient comparative religion.  This information has disturbed some students, who have mistaken me for one hostile to Judaism and Christianity, and who have taken grave offense at me.  To quote an old saying many of a younger generation might not understand,

Their tapes were running.

Those who took offense at me were not listening to what I was saying.  No, they were listening to what they thought I was saying.  They were reacting not to me, but to others who had criticized Christianity on false grounds.  In contrast, years ago, when I wrote an article I submitted for publication at an online theological journal with a conservative Presbyterian orientation, I recited many of the same facts about ancient comparative religion, but with no negative response or reaction.  The editors checked my facts and published my article.  They read what I wrote.  They also understood I was not hostile to the faith.

At one of the universities I attended there was a professor who specialized in Latin American history.  One day years ago he taught about human rights violations centuries ago that were matters of policy in the Roman Catholic Church.  An offended parent of an offended student called the department chair to complain.  The professor’s material was factually accurate; he cited examples Holy Mother Church has acknowledged frankly and for which it has formally apologized.  The two offended Roman Catholics (student and parent) took offense more easily and quickly than the institution they defended.

No ideological, political, or religious camp has a monopoly on snowflakism.  If one is to criticize snowflakism while remaining intellectually honest, one must criticize it consistently, without regard for left-right distinctions.

I have a strategy for dealing with that which would ruin my day needlessly:  I ignore it.  If I do not want to hear a speaker on the campus where I work, I do not attend the event.  If I do not want to watch a program or a movie, I avoid it.  Life is too short not to enjoy it properly.

I affirm all I have written in this post thus far as I add to it the following statement:  I understand why many people are hypersensitive.  I understand that many people’s formative experiences have included unapologetic, intentional insults, degradation, and contempt from others.  I understand that many people have felt oppressed because they have experienced a degree of oppression.  I understand that experiences have conditioned them.  I accept that one should acknowledge the unjust realities of many people’s lives and make no excuses for the inexcusable.

I also return to my original thought in this post:  Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.  Something I do (or have done) today is offensive to somebody, somewhere.  The same statement applies to you, O reader.  Our duty is to do our best to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  That kind of love seeks to build people up, not to tear them down.  It respects in words and deeds the dignity inherent in them.  So may we act accordingly.  May we neither cause legitimate offense not take offense wrongly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

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The Multiverse of Star Trek   1 comment

Above:  The Parallel Terok Nor in Through the Looking Glass (1995), an Episode of Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine

A Screen Capture

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With Kvetching about Star Trek:  Discovery

The multiverse internal to Star Trek has been an established fact since the original series (1966-1969).  Aside from the Prime Timeline, in which the series and movies (except perhaps Star Trek V:  The Final Frontier, 1989) existed through Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001) and Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), visual Star Trek has offered parallel universes also.  In the original series viewers saw an antimatter universe in The Alternative Factor (1967) and an evil universe in Mirror, Mirror (1967).  Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine (1993-1999) included occasional sequels to Mirror, Mirror.  The multiverse was essential to the plot of Parallels (1993), an episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation (1987-1994).  Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005) must have played out in a parallel universe, given the problems of reckless discontinuity with all the Star Trek series produced prior to it.  And all the Star Trek movies since 2009 have occurred in a parallel universe, probably the same one that includes Star Trek:  Enterprise.  Beyond that, there is no way the opening minute or so of Star Trek (2009) played out in the Prime Timeline.

Star Trek:  Discovery (2017-) allegedly occurs in the Prime Timeline–to be precise, between The Cage (1964) and Where No Man Has Gone Before (1965), the two pilot episodes of the original series.  That official claim is malarkey.  The starships in Star Trek:  Discovery (STD is an appropriate abbreviation.) are too large.  The technology is inconsistent with the original series.  The uniforms are wrong.  The U.S.S. Enterprise in STD is much too big, as well as visually inconsistent with the original series.

As Doug Drexler argues, Star Trek is a period piece.  One can respect the look of the original series, as Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek:  Enterprise did.  One need not reinvent the wheel, as STD does.

There is a simple way to avoid pretending that discontinuity between STD and the rest of Star Trek does not exist:  acknowledge the obvious, which is that STD occurs in a parallel universe, perhaps its own.

I despise STD for its own demerits.  I would despise STD for its own demerits, even if pretending to be in the Prime Timeline were not one of them.  The sturn und drang behind the scenes creates an identity crisis for the series.  The political progressiveness is fine; I am a liberal, and toleration is an inherent element of Star Trek.  Nevertheless, is STD about exploration or war?  I ponder the trailer for the second season and wonder if STD is trying to ape The Orville while becoming about exploration and continuing to make a mockery of the Prime Timeline.  STD reminds me of SeaQuest, a series NBC aired under two titles for three seasons in the 1990s.  I remember the identity crisis of that series, each season of which might as well as have been a separate series.

At least The Orville respects Star Trek.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Devotion for Independence Day (U.S.A.) (July 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

God and Country–God First and Foremost

JULY 4

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I realize that one might arch an eyebrow over the timing of this post, inside the month of July 2018 yet after July 4.  There is a good reason for the timing, though; I am updating ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, for which I wrote a new July 4 post.  This slightly altered version of that post replaces my older July 4 post here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

KRT

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Thirteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  The Double-Barreled Cannon, Downtown Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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In early August 2005 I moved to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to commence a doctoral program in history.  That degree program became a victim of an academic abortion–not the kind of last resort, to save the life of the mother, so to speak.  Or perhaps it was a case of academic euthanasia.  Either way, that was then, not that I have ever excused the nefarious actions of one professor in particular who accidentally did me a favor.  (At least there was grace in the accidental favor.)  My degree program died, but I remained in town and integrated into St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church.  The professor has destroyed himself, not that I have ever felt the desire to gloat.

I am responsible for the kind of person I am, after all.

As I approach the end of my thirteenth year and the beginning of my fourteenth year in Athens-Clarke County, I stand amazed at my longevity in one place.  I recall my formative years, a portion of which I moved every two years on average.  I can date events from that time in my life according to the house (usually a United Methodist parsonage) in which I lived.  Now I find myself having resided in one town for nearly thirteen years and at one address for nearly eleven years–a substantial proportion of my life so far.  I enjoy having roots.

One day the time to leave Athens-Clarke County might come.  If so, departure will be the correct decision; I will move toward opportunity and not flee from unpleasant memories.  I am in no hurry to depart from Athens-Clarke County, though.  This is home, after all.  It makes me a better person, and I seek to make it a better place.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

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My Ninth Anniversary of Blogging   4 comments

Above:  The View from My Computer’s Camera, at Its Regular Station, My Desk, July 20, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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A MESSAGE FIVE DAYS EARLY, BUT THAT IS FINE

On July 27, 2009, when I created this weblog, I had almost no idea what I was doing.  I have, however, learned and improved with practice and the passage of time.  One weblog has spun off seven more, each weblog being a separate, dedicated channel.  I have deleted most of the oldest posts here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS and made plans to replace some others.  I have decided, however, to leave a few intact–perhaps edited also–but intact.

Social media, although useful in many ways, seems especially prone to devolving into a cesspool of ignorance, snap judgments, lies, and Too Much Information (TMI) that will haunt many people in the future.  The Internet does not forget, especially when forgetting and plausible deniability are functions of grace.  Who among us does not have skeletons in his or her closet?  There should be a statute of limitations on the great majority of them.  Besides, whenever we judge others, we also judge ourselves.  One needs to know how to use social media wisely, and how to use it in moderation.  A weblog functions in much the same way and carries the same caveat.  I have many thoughts; I express some of them.  I express few of those online.

Speaking of cesspools, much of the content on the Internet is wretched.  For evidence, look no further than comments sections at many websites.  Human depravity is, for me, not an article of faith.  No, I need no faith to affirm that for which I have a plethora of objective evidence.  One of my goals here and at my other weblogs is to express myself in ways that build up that which is good and noble, and to do so in language that, at worst, carries a rating of PG-13, but usually PG or G.  I seek to avoid contributing to cultural, social, spiritual, and political toxicity, although I am not afraid to express myself in direct terms.  It is just that I refuse to read like a George Carlin routine.

In conclusion, O reader, I express my wish for you during the coming 370 days:  May God’s best for you be your daily reality.  May you recognize that God’s best for you is your daily reality.  According to the standard of God’s best for you, may you be better off on July 27, 2019, than you are today.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

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Posted July 22, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with

Feast of Athol Hill (September 5)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of Australia

Image in the Public Domain

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ATHOL HILL (SEPTEMBER 5, 1937-MARCH 9, 1992)

Australian Baptist Biblical Scholar and Social Prophet

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[Jesus] comes time and again and calls us to follow him, offering a fresh start in the life of discipleship.  The options don’t vary, but the choices continue.

–Athol Hill

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Athol Hill comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the revised edition of Cloud of Witnesses, edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday.

Hill was a renowned scholar of the Bible, the New Testament in particular.  He was also a Christian so committed to following Jesus completely that he was too radical for the comfort of the conservative establishment of the Baptist Union of Australia.  Hill, when accused of being a Marxist, replied that he was not, for Karl Marx was too conservative.  Not surprisingly, Hill was the defendant in a heresy trial.  He was not always diplomatic.  Hill also recognized the existence of differing interpretative traditions within the Bible.  The most controversial aspect of his faith and practice was his radical commitment to service to the poor and other vulnerable people.  Passages from the Gospels that affirmed the divinity of Jesus, Hill argued, also challenged Christians to shake off middle-class and upper-class complacency, and to engage in complete discipleship.

Hill, born in Wauchope, New South Wales, Australia, on September 5, 1937, took Jesus seriously.  Our saint, a former retail manager, pursued theological studies.  He studied at, in order:

  1. New South Wales Baptist College, Macquarie Park, New South Wales, Australia;
  2. Spurgeon’s College, London, England, United Kingdom;
  3. The University of London, London, England, United Kingdom (Bachelor of Divinity, 1965);
  4. Rüschlikon International Baptist Seminary, Prague, Czechoslovakia; and
  5. The University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland (Master of Arts, 1967; Doctor of Theology, 1971).

In 1971 Hill started his new job teaching at the Baptist Theological College of Queensland, Brisbane.  Quickly he became persona non grata at the conservative institution.  When he and 20 students opened a coffee-house in Brisbane they made contact with the counterculture in that city.  The coffee-house led to a communal residence then to an intentional community, the House of Freedom.  Hill taught at the Methodist Training College, Brisbane, in 1973-1974, but he and his wife Judith had to leave the city for greener pastures in Melbourne in 1975.

From 1975 to 1992 Hill worked at Whitley College, The University of Melbourne.  He was the Dean of Students from 1975 to 1979 then Professor of New Testament from 1979 until his death in 1992.  In Melbourne the Hills found urban congregations moving to the suburbs.  The Hills disapproved of this.  They founded an intentional community, the House of the Gentle Bunyip (1975-1996), named after a creature from aboriginal mythology.  A bunyip found his dignity and identity when he met another rejected bunyip.  As Hill explained,

The search for identity is the quest for community.

The House of the Gentle Bunyip became a means of ministering to the homeless, those suffering from schizophrenia, the sick, the elderly, and the young of Melbourne.  Sometimes, out of idealism, members of the community attempted to do too much at once, but they learned from their mistakes.  Disagreements and personality struggles–in other words, human nature–also afflicted the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

Hill’s commitment to radical discipleship led him to place himself at risk for others.  In the 1980s the U.S.-supported government of El Salvador, a brutal regime that tortured and killed many of its citizens and targeted elements of the Church for violence, fought a war against Communist guerrillas during one of the proxy conflicts that were part of the Cold War.  (The Cold War made for morally indefensible international bedfellows.)  The national police had arrested, detained, and tortured a Salvadoran Baptist minister who had been helping poor people.  Hill flew from Australia to El Salvador to confront the chief of the national police.  The colonel who led that agency was a man who had no compunction about ordering the tortures of people, so Hill was taking an extreme risk.  The scholar asked the colonel why the national police had arrested the Salvadoran Baptist minister.  The colonel accused the minister of being a Communist.  The scholar asked the colonel if helping the poor was always a crime in El Salvador.  Fortunately for Hill, he was persuasive that day; the colonel freed the minister and signed a document permitting the Salvadoran Baptist community to continue to aid the poor without fear of reprisal.

Hill died suddenly of a heart attack on March 9, 1992.  He was 54 years old.  Around the world admirers mourned him.

We Christians–especially we very churchy Christians raised and steeped in the faith–experience the temptation to become bogged down in our comfortable pews, to borrow a term.  We are not necessarily bad, but we risk domesticating the Gospel and losing touch with those with whom one should be in touch.  We need people like Athol Hill to kick us in our complacency as we sit in our comfortable pews.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athol Hill,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of E. F. Schumacher (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cover of Small is Beautiful (1973)

Fair Use

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ERNST FRIEDRICH SCHUMACHER (AUGUST 16, 1911-SEPTEMBER 4, 1977)

German-British Economist and Social Critic

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I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.

–E. F. Schumacher, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 388

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Ernst Friedrich Schumacher joins the ranks of holy people at this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997).  The date for Schumacher in that volume is September 7, but, given Schumacher’s death on September 7, 1977, the feast day of September 4 works better.

Schumacher, once a committed atheist, developed an interest in religion, which influenced his economic opinions.  The power of Roman Catholicism, with mysticism, Thomism, and social teaching encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and St. John XXIII, eventually grounded Schumacher, who joined Holy Mother Church in 1971.

Schumacher was German yet did much work in England.  The native of Bonn, born on August 16, 1911, moved to England as a Rhodes Scholar in the 1930s.  He remained as an “enemy alien” sent to work on a farm in the north of England during World War II.  After the war Schumacher worked (in Germany) as an economic advisor to the British Control Board then (in England) for two decades as the chief economist and head of planning at the British Coal Board.

These experiences transformed Schumacher into a radical, prophetic figure.  He wrote two seminal books, Small is Beautiful:  Economics as if People Mattered (1973) and A Guide for the Perplexed (1977).  Our saint proclaimed materialism to be an inferior religion, one that defines growth, efficiency, and production as the ultimate standards of value, ignores the spiritual side of people, and sets society on a course for disaster.  One essay in Small is Beautiful was “Buddhist Economics,” which, according to Schumacher, he could have just as easily called “Christian Economics,” except that

no one would have read it.

In that essay, based partially on his experience as an economic advisor to the Burmese government, Schumacher condemned Western economic priorities such as the stimulation of greed and envy, as well as the encouragement of waste and short-term thinking.  Instead he encouraged the Buddha’s idea of “right livelihood,” or the dignity of work, the alleviation of suffering, respect for beauty, the reduction of desires, et cetera.  In A Guide for the Perplexed our saint wrote that society needs “metaphysical reconstruction,” because our technological answers do not help us answer the question,

What am I to do with my life?

He wrote that, if human civilization is to survive, it needs to change its logic of

a violent attitude to God’s handiwork

and replace it with reverence.

Schumacher, who influenced the language of the modern ecological movement, was touring in Switzerland when he died of a heart attack on September 4, 1977.  He was 66 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant E. F. Schumacher,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Joseph and Mary Gomer (September 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sierra Leone, 1951

Image Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951), 94

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JOSEPH GOMER (JULY 20, 1834-SEPTEMBER 6, 1892)

husband of

MARY GREEN GOMER (DIED DECEMBER 1, 1896)

U.S. United Brethren in Christ Missionaries in Sierra Leone

This feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Orlo Strunk, Jr., In Faith and Love (1968), a U.S. Methodist Sunday School resource for adults.  The volume profiles 11 people, including the then-recently deceased St. John XXIII, listed under this other name, Angelo Roncalli.  The book contains a biography of Joseph Gomer, but I extend this feast to include Mary Green Gomer, whose story comes bound up with that of her husband.  Unfortunately, little information about her is available.

The Gomers were the first African-American missionaries the former Church of the United Brethren in Christ (one of the predecessors of The United Methodist Church) commissioned.  For more than two decades the Gomers worked as missionaries in Sierra Leone, building the first successful relationship between Christianity and the people of Shenge, Sherbro Island, and laying the foundation for faith in members of generations alive today.

Joseph Gomer seemed like an unlikely choice for missionary work.  He, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 20, 1834, grew up on a farm near Battle Creek, Michigan.  He attended school with white youth, but had to endure racist insults daily.  At the age of 16 years Gomer left home and moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he found a job in a furniture store.  In the Windy City our saint also joined the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.  During the Civil War he served as a cook in the U.S. Army.  After the war, on a steamboat from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Dayton, Ohio, Gomer met Mary Green, a widow traveling with her adolescent daughter to home in Chillicothe, Ohio.  The couple had become engaged to marry before the steamboat docked in Dayton.  That year they married in Third United Brethren Church, Dayton.  Joseph worked as a foreman in a large mercantile house.  His responsibilities were in the purview of measuring and fitting carpets.  The Gomers were active in Third Church, holding formal and informal leadership positions.  Joseph, for example, often had more than one title simultaneously.

The Gomers’ lives changed in 1870.  The denomination had established a mission on Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone, in the late 1850s.  The mission grew coffee and rubber trees.  After the missionary assigned there died in 1870, the Gomers applied to fill the vacancy.  They were lay members.  They were relatively uneducated and lacked missionary training.  Furthermore, the denomination had not yet commissioned any African-American missionaries.  The United Brethren commissioned the Gomers and sent them to Sherbro Island, however.  The Gomers sailed on November 8, 1870, and arrived in January 1871.

The challenges facing the Gomers were daunting, and their frustrations were also numerous and great.  For starters, they arrived at a mission post consisting of rundown buildings and few people who cared about the mission.  After all, there had been no missionary there most of a year.  Many of the local people thought of Christianity as a religion just for white people.  Competition among missionaries of various denominations was a drawback, and local feuding chiefs created civil strife.

Nevertheless, the Gomers accomplished much.  They introduced more efficient farming techniques, built a thriving industrial school, fought superstition and ignorance, eschewed denominational competition, convinced many locals that Christianity was a religion for Africans, converted many people, inspired people to repair buildings and construct new ones, and reconciled mutually hostile chiefs.  Mary focused on working with women and children.  Joseph became an ordained minister during his years as a missionary.  The Gomers cared about the people among whom they labored for the glory of God.  The couple’s skin color helped them to build relationships with people on Sherbro Island.  The Gomers served three terms in Sierra Leone, with breaks in the United States from November 1875 to November 1876 and from April 1889 to November 1889.

During the third term of service Joseph was planning to retire, given his failing health.  He never retired, for he died in Freetown on September 6, 1892.  He was 58 years old.

Mary retired from missionary service in May 1894.  Then she returned to Dayton, Ohio, where she died on December 1, 1896.

Men and women such as Joseph and Mary Gomer have been essential to the building up of the Church.

One lesson from the story of the Gomers is that sometimes the people best suited for a particular role are the ones who seem most unlikely.  As the Bible teaches, God qualifies the called.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servants Joseph Gomer and Mary Green Gomer,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Psalm 96 or 96:1-7

Acts 1:1-7

Luke 10:1-9

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 716

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