Archive for the ‘Coronavirus/COVID-19’ Category

“Stuff”   3 comments

In one of his less profane monologues, George Carlin discussed “stuff.”  Our houses are where we keep our stuff, he said.  The manner in which Carlin said “stuff” indicated the low importance of what he referred to as “stuff.”

I have become less materialistic as I have aged.  Even if an object is lovely and I may consider owning it pleasant, I consider a counter-argument:  It will occupy space and collect dust.  And, when I move from Dwelling A to Dwelling B, I will have to decide whether to take it with me.  Also, given that I helped to clean out the apartments of my deceased grandmother and my dead girlfriend three months apart, I know viscerally the truth of Luke 12:15:

…for life does not consist in abundance of possessions.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

“Stuff” is on my mind as I make final preparations to move to the opposite corner of the state in less than a week.

I have been thinking in practical terms.  I have pared my library down to about 600 volumes, small, by my standards.  Given that I will not have my own kitchen again for a few years, I have decided to part with almost all of my kitchen supplies.  I gave some away to a family yesterday.  (They needed these items immediately.)  I have decided to put nearly all of the rest in the back of my pickup truck and haul them to my favorite thrift store on the next non-rainy day.  I have reserved a U-Haul trailer; I have granted myself that much space, plus the cab and bed of the truck.

What which matters most is intangible.  “Stuff” is merely “stuff.”  Hair is hair, and ought not to function as a statement of vanity.  That hair takes a while to grow out after each self-administered pandemic buzz cut, but so be it.  And how much of x does one person really need?  I own two sets of sheets, so I can change the bed covers without having to wait for the laundry to finish.  This number of sets of sheets makes sense to me.  Practical matters aside, relationships matter more than “stuff” ever will.  Trust me, O reader; I wish I could still spend time with my beloved Bonny, watch old movies with her, and dine with her.

As I prepare to leave Athens, Georgia, and drive to my new home in Americus, Georgia, I know that (a) I am leaving much “stuff” in good places and (b) leaving places where I have forged relationships that have altered my being for the better.  I also know that this is the time to go.  Therefore, I have mixed feelings about moving.  I am simultaneously emotionally ready to move and sad to do so.  I will miss my parish of about sixteen years yet will remain connected to it via my lectionary class via Zoom, due to the pandemic.  And I will join a parish I have visited for about fifteen years.

“Stuff” is…”stuff.”  The abundance of life resides elsewhere.  We all need some “stuff.”  So be it.  We all retain some items for sentimental reasons.  Given that this practice does not become excessive and burdensome, especially to those who will have to clean out our abodes after we die, that is harmless.  We need to be careful to possess items, not to become their possessions.  How much of our lives ought we to spend in the service of inanimate objects?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

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The Irresponsibility of the Georgia Board of Regents   Leave a comment

The Georgia Board of Regents, which controls the University System of Georgia, mandates neither masks nor COVID-19 vaccinations during this pandemic.

This is irresponsible.  I read news stories about K-12 teachers and students in the state dying of COVID-19.  I also live within walking distance of the main campus of The University of Georgia.  I drive through campus and see crowds of students walking.  I see relatively few of them wearing masks.

By the way, I work, albeit remotely, for The University of Georgia, so I may be biting the hand that feeds me by writing and publishing this post.  So be it.  “I gotta be me,” as the saying goes.  I insist on taking a stand.

The Fall Semester began last week.  Already, to my knowledge, four faculty members at three institutions of the University System of Georgia have resigned abruptly.  They have (a) had the financial ability to quit their jobs, and (b) have valued their health.  Perhaps the most famous case was that of an 88-year-old part-time psychology.  He had come out of retirement to share his talents with the university community.  Dr. Bernstein had a justifiable rule:  No masks, no class.  One young woman refused to wear a mask properly.  When Dr. Bernstein realized she would not wear the mask properly in class, he abruptly resumed his retirement.  He cut that class session short and left.  He was correct.  The combination of age and an underlying health condition made Dr. Bernstein more susceptible than some to COVID-19.

Mark my words:  If the Board of Regents does not alter its policy soon, it will have to contend with more professors choosing their lives over their courses.  I pity those faculty members for whom the choice is between financial ruin and potentially contracting COVID-19.

I also wish Dr. Bernstein a longer and healthy life.

Furthermore, I remember when I was applying for admission to institutions of the University System of Georgia.  I recall having to document that I had received certain vaccinations.  I also remember having to get certain vaccinations.

That made sense.

The University System of Georgia should add COVID-19 to the list of diseases against which to be vaccinated.  It should also mandate wearing masks in classrooms.  It should do so immediately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Allegedly Pro-Life Politicians During a Pandemic   Leave a comment

I count myself among the “cautiously pro-choice.”  I understand that medical conditions can complicate the decision whether or not to have an abortion.  Life is not all black-and-white.  Many shades of gray exist, too.  Sometimes there are no good answers; somebody will die.  I affirm that, in these circumstances, the people closest to the situation are generally the individuals who should make the difficult decisions.  As much as I respect the inherent dignity of every human being, I also grasp that life is messy.  Therefore, I harbor certain sympathies in the pro-life direction, but settle on the pro-choice side.  I have a strong bias toward the pragmatic.

Sometimes, however, the decisions are easy–or should be.  During a pandemic, for example, governors who forbid mask mandates that can save lives act in a morally irresponsible manner.  Many or most of these governors boast of their pro-life credentials regarding abortion.  Yet they are pro-death regarding saving lives, especially the lives of those too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19, during a surge of the Delta Variant.

The hypocrisy galls me.  Concern for life should extend from womb to tomb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Posted August 20, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Coronavirus/COVID-19, Political Statements 2021

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Mutuality and Freedom   2 comments

BALANCE IS ESSENTIAL.

I recall telling my university students that many bastards exist, but that the marital status of the parents has nothing to do with one’s status as a bastard.  Being a bastard is solely a matter of bad character.

By the way, I reject the notion that anyone is illegitimate; my Christian ethics dictate that position.  Now that I have addressed that matter, I return to my topic.

Biblical Ethics 101:  Mutuality is part of the infrastructure of the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, the theology of Jesus of Nazareth, the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle, and those attributed to that great evangelist.  Biblical Mutuality teaches that, in community, human beings stand together, completely dependent upon God.  It also holds that we are all responsible to and for each other.  Whatever we do, we affect others.  Nobody has the moral right to exploit or otherwise victimize anyone else.  The community has no moral right to oppress individuals who are harming nobody, and no individual has the moral right to endanger the community.  In other words, we are all in it together.

No freedom is absolute.  I have no constitutional or legal right, for example, to commit libel, slander anyone, or incite violence.  If I were to do so, I would engage in illegal speech.  Given my dedication to objective reality, I will never commit libel or slander, of course.  Given my aversion to violence, I will never incite violence, either.  I do have a moral obligation to resist calls to violence, though.  Unfortunately, that can be illegal, depending on the time and the place.  When governments incite violence, pacifists and conscientious objectors may become enemies of the state.  Ask the Quakers and the Anabaptists, O reader.  This weblog’s Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days includes pacifists and conscientious objectors who died as martyrs, sometimes in the United States of America.  “I will not kill,” is a morally defensible position.

As I wrote, the state has no moral right to target, detain, or prosecute individuals who are harming nobody.

However, the state has the moral right to protect the common good.  This frequently entails making the lives of individuals who are harming others rather uncomfortable.  This official process may, according to some, infringe upon freedoms.  But which freedoms may these be?  May these be the alleged freedoms to be irresponsible.

Nobody has the moral right to be a contemporary Typhoid Mary.  Universities and other institutions have the moral right in mandate certain vaccinations, for the common good.  If I could trust human nature, I would oppose vaccination mandates, especially during this pandemic.  I distrust human nature, though.  Official compulsion is necessary much of the time, for the common good, sadly.

I read that certain people refuse to wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID-19.  Many of these bastards cite their freedom.  Which freedom is this?  Is it the freedom to be a latter-day Typhoid Mary?  Is it the freedom to die horribly and leave a large medical debt?

Will Campbell (1924-2013), a renegade Southern Baptist minister, said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

We may all be bastards, to one extent or another, but each one of us can, by the combination of divine grace and human free will, be a bastard to a lesser extent.  In the context of COVID-19, each of us can wear a mask when that is appropriate, get fully-vaccinated (if that is possible and medically advisable, given factors such as age), and maintain proper distances.  Each of us can behave in a morally responsible manner, within circumstances.  We can look out for each other and save lives.  The lives one saves may even include one’s own.

Some people are relentlessly selfish, of course.  They look out for themselves, not others.  This is unfortunate yet true.  Selfishness should lead even these individuals to behave responsibly.  Do they want to die or suffer horribly?

May we look out for each other.  Assuming that we are bastards, may we avoid using that status as an excuse.  May we strive instead to be better people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Sixteen Years in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   1 comment

Above:  16

Image in the Public Domain

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On Tuesday, August 9, 2005–sixteen years ago, today–I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.

I have spent the last sixteen years putting down roots.  Growing up in a series of rural United Methodist parsonages in southern Georgia, I moved with my family every two years, on average.  That pattern has allowed me to date many memories approximately, based on where the remembered event occurred.  In contrast, I lived at one address all but three of these sixteen most recent years.  Placing certain memories on the timeline has proven more difficult, given that fact.

As I age, I become more aware of my mortality.  I no longer mistake myself for being invincible and immortal.  I talk to graves.  I understand that I do not know what will happen twelve seconds from now, so what I may expect twelve months from now is anyone’s guess.  I am certain mainly of uncertainty.  I, as a Christian, understand that God calls me to faithfulness, not to certainty.  I do not pretend that living faithfully is easier that living with certainty, even false certainty.  Knowing and doing are distinct from each other.

I hope and pray that the reality, as of August 9, 2022, is much better than the reality of today–for everybody’s sake.  I hope and pray that, by August 9, 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic will be over for everybody on the planet, for example.  The most discouraging factor germane to that wish is that how quickly this pandemic will end depends on human decision-making.  Nevertheless, may this pandemic be over within a year, despite human nature.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF FLORENCE SPEARING RANDOLPH, FIRST FEMALE ORDAINED MINISTER IN THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMMER, FOUNDER OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Feast of Thomas Merton (December 9)   7 comments

Above:  Abbey of Gethsemani

Image Source = Google Earth

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THOMAS MERTON (JANUARY 31, 1915-DECEMBER 10, 1968)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Monk, and Spiritual Writer

Also known as Father Louis Merton

His feast transferred from December 10

Thomas Merton comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via three sources:  Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997); G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year With American Saints (2006); and The Episcopal Church.

Instead of composing a brief biography of Merton, I refer you, O reader, to the biography available at the website of the Merton Center at Bellarmine University.  I choose to spend most of this post pondering one defining principle in our saint’s life.

One day, Merton, a monk, stood on the corner of South Fourth Street and East Walnut Street in Louisville, Kentucky.  He had an epiphany there.  Later, our saint wrote:

I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness.

How much better would the world be if more people loved as Merton did?  He grasped mutuality, a principle embedded in the Law of Moses and the New Testament.  Our saint understood that all people bore the image of God, as he did.  So, he loved them.  This love compelled him to follow a radical path, one that entailed embracing interfaith dialogue and opposing the Vietnam War.

I do not pretend to be a spiritual giant.  Compared to Merton, I am a spiritual dust mite, actually.  I grasp certain high spiritual principles more in the intellectual sense than in the visceral sense.  I accept, for example, that all people bear the image of God.  I do not, however, love all people.  I know that I should love all people.  I struggle to approach Merton’s spiritual peak.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people–some of them professing Christians–reject responsible, morally defensible measures (such as wearing face masks and getting fully vaccinated), in violation of mutuality and love of neighbors.  They need a dose of Mertonian ethics.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIM SANDOVICH, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1914

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Gracious God, you called your monk Thomas Merton to proclaim your justice out of silence,

and moved him in his contemplative writings

to perceive and value Christ at work in the faiths of others:

Keep us, like him, steadfast in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ,

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

Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 62

Colossians 2:2-10

John 12:27-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 113

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Feast of Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha (December 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha

Image in the Public Domain

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VENERABLE JAN FRANCISZEK MACHA (JANUARY 18, 1914-DECEMBER 3, 1942)

Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1942

Alternative feast day = June 12 (Polish Martyrs of World War II)

Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Roman Catholic Church.

Macha, born a Russian subject, grew up in independent Poland.  He debuted in what is now Chozrów, Poland, on January 18, 1914.  Our saint was one of four children of Pawel Macha and Anna Cofalka.  Young Jan grew up in a devout household.  He, having perceived his vocation to the priesthood, applied to the Silesian Theological College in 1933.  That application failed, so our saint briefly studied law.  However, the second application, in 1934, succeeded.  Macha joined the Sacred Order of Deacons on May 1, 1938, then became a priest on June 25, 1939.

Europe was descending into World War II, and Macha understood that his life and priesthood would be brief.  They were holy, however.  Our saint, assigned to St. Josef Parish, Ruda Slaska, in the summer of 1939, ministered to his flock faithfully under wartime conditions.  German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  Merely being a Roman Catholic priest was sufficient to receive a death sentence from Nazi officials.  Macha tended to his congregation spiritually and raised funds to help the poor.  He did this until his arrest by agents of the Gestapo, at Katowice, on September 5, 1941.

Macha spent the rest of his short life as a prisoner of the Third Reich.  Nazi officials interrogated, abused, and humiliated him.  They moved Macha from prison to prison.  Our saint prayed for God to forgive them.  Macha, sentenced to death on July 17, 1942, went to the guillotine, at Katowice, shortly after Midnight on December 3, 1942.  He was 28 years old.  Prison authorities refused requests for a proper burial.

Holy Mother Church has formally recognized Macha.  Pope Francis declared him a Venerable in 2019.  The Vatican has approved our saint for advancement to the status of beatus.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed that ceremony.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORG WEISSEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA BERNADINE DOROTHY HOPPE, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GOTTFRIED GEBHARD, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FOSTER, ENGLISH MORAVIAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF PETER JULIAN EYMARD, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, THE SERVANTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, AND THE PRIESTS’ EUCHARISTIC LEAGUE; AND ORGANIZER OF THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

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Almighty and everlasting God,

who kindled the flame of your love in the heart of your holy martyr,

Venerable Jan Franciszek Macha;

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-5

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 715

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

WEAR FACE MASKS!  GET FULLY VACCINATED!

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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

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