Archive for the ‘Political Statements’ Category

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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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 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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Face Masks   Leave a comment

MUTUALITY, PUBLIC SAFETY, TUCKER CARLSON, AND THE FOX NOISE CHANNEL

As circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed, so has official guidance.  For example, now that vaccines for people aged 16 years or older have become more widely available in the United States of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new guidelines regarding the wearing of face masks in public.  This pandemic has presented many challenges.  Public health professionals, whose sole agenda is to save lives, have had to study a proverbial moving target.  Hence, official guidelines have changed over time.

The target continues to move.  Therefore, data remains incomplete.  We need to remember that as we focus on what we can know in real time.  We can know much.  Whether the situation improves or worsens and how quickly it does that depends greatly on how we behave as individuals, societies, institutions, and governments.  May we not squander blessed progress.

Tucker Carlson, of the FOX Noise Channel, has encouraged people who think as he does to confront those still wearing face masks outdoors.  I have learned to expect especially potent and rich organic fertilizer from the FOX Noise Channel and from Carlson, in particular.  They have long presented themselves as champions of freedom, of a sort–freedom from, not freedom to.  During the last four or so years, in particular, the FOX Noise Channel has actually embraced a Nativistic, White nationalistic, and fascistic agenda as part of Donald Trump’s fascistic death cult of personality.  Even certain prominent Republicans (principled conservatives, I call them), former office holders, have noticed this with great alarm.

Fascism is not freedom.  No, it is a form of tyranny.

I am fully vaccinated.  Therefore, according to the most recent official guidance, I may safely and responsibly forgo wearing face masks outdoors under certain circumstances.  Sometimes I do forgo wearing face masks outdoors.  If, for example, nobody else is around, I do not wear face masks outdoors.  Yet I still wear two face masks outdoors sometimes.  For example, I wear them when walking on sidewalks.  I try to maintain a social distance from other people, but that is not always possible.  Besides, assuming that someone is at least 16 years old, I cannot look at him or her and tell if he or she is unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or fully vaccinated.  By wearing two face masks, I am not endangering anyone, corrupting anyone’s morals, or behaving indecently.  Therefore, nobody has the moral right to confront me for wearing two face masks outdoors.

I leave Carlson and company at the FOX Noise Channel to their fascistic death cult of personality.  If they want to compete for the Darwin Awards, that is their choice.  It is a bad one, but it is still their option.  I have the moral right to object when thew spew organic fertilizer that needlessly endangers human lives.

Perhaps I really do not have to wear two face masks when walking on sidewalks..  If I err, I hope to do so on the side of caution and mutuality.  This is part of my applied interpretation of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Academic Freedom, Part I   3 comments

AND ASSAULTS UPON IT

Academic freedom is precious.  It is also essential.  The advocacy for academic freedom is a core principle for me.  I strive to speak out for it and to practice it consistently, regardless of whether any given threat to it comes from the Right or the Left.  I aspire to avoid hypocrisy as much as possible.

For years, for example, I have cringed at calls for “safe spaces,” in practical terms, spaces in which to hide from theories and perspectives one does not like.  These kinds of “safe spaces” epitomize a misplaced sense of entitlement run amok.  One purpose of education–higher education, in particular–is to broaden the intellectual horizons of students.  Educators should, of course, teach their assigned subjects; staying on topic is crucial, too.  “Coloring inside the lines,” so to speak does not constitute bowing to censorship and does not indicate any threat to academic freedom.

Many conservatives pretend that liberals (with whom I usually sympathize) have a monopoly on seeking “safe spaces” away from certain perspectives.  Evidence indicates, however, that many conservatives seek “safe spaces” of their own.  This week, in Idaho, the controversial theory du jour is Critical Race Theory.  Moving to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory–even in public colleges and universities in Idaho–constitutes an assault on academic freedom.  Critical Race Theory is germane to certain academic disciplines.  Those whose disciplines include Critical Race Theory should have the right to bring it up when it is applicable.

My experience as a classroom instructor informs my perspective.  The prospect of some authority from on high legally forbidding me to teach a part of my discipline appalls me.  Even the threat of such a law or policy appalls me, regardless of the ideological roots of that prohibition.

Whether a person, institution, or government respects academic freedom is easy to determine.  One needs simply to observe actions and policies.  Deeds reveal creeds.

I have granted my students the right to disagree with me in subjective matters.  Objective reality is what it is.  Therefore, I have marked off for getting facts wrong.  I have also marked off for making incoherent arguments not rooted in facts presented.  That has been fair.  “Back up your arguments,” I have told pupils.  “Think critically,” I have instructed them.  I have returned papers bearing high grades–“A’s”–and comments about why interpretations were wrong.  That was fair, too.  When students fulfilled the terms of the assignment, they earned high grades.  And their interpretations were wrong.  Those interpretations did not affect their grades, nor should they have.  Certain students have expressed surprise at this combination of grade and comments.  These students have also tended to give me favorable evaluations.

In another case, I was grading final essays one semester.  I had specified that the minimum length was to be eight full pages.  One student submitted only four pages.  I read his essay closely.  He backed up his argument with evidence.  His interpretation was rubbish, but he backed everything up with facts.  I assigned his essay a grade of 50.  When the student asked me why, I explained that he had submitted half of an essay, so 50 was the maximum possible grade.  (This was consistent with the terms of my syllabus.  Regardless of content, 50 was the maximum possible grade for a four-page-long essay.)  I told him that, If he had submitted at least eight pages in which he had argued as well as he did in four pages, I would have given him an “A” on the essay.  (I would have.)  Anyhow, he earned an “A” in the course.   He seemed satisfied with my explanation.

I strive to avoid hypocrisy regarding academic freedom.  More people, institutions, and governments, should do the same.  They ought to respect academic freedom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Historical Reality, Collective Denial, Political Inconvenience, and Truth-Telling   3 comments

THE SINS OF THE FATHERS

Today, on the calendar of The Episcopal Church, is Genocide Remembrance.

Today, President Biden called the Armenian Genocide a genocide.  It was a genocide, objectively.  Turkish denial, as old as that genocide, has continued.  Furthermore, the authoritarian government of Turkey has issued its predictable objection of President Biden’s simple act of telling the truth.

Admitting unpleasant truths about national and regional sins can be extremely difficult.  I know.  Witness my country, the United States of America.  We are a country founded partially on slave labor and on the racism that enabled slavery.  Anyone who thinks that the legacy of slavery ended in 1865 is a fool.  And anyone who imagines that racism is dead in the United States of America is willfully oblivious.  Yet much of the U.S. Right Wing seeks to minimize or deny these truths.  

I am also a Southerner, although one may be hard-pressed to detect that, based on my accent.  The Lost Cause of the Confederacy–that slavery was incidental to secession and the Civil War–is, to borrow a term from Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), a “damn lie.”  Documentary evidence from 1860-1861 indicates this.  One may read, for example, the “Cornerstone Speech” of Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens (March 1861), which indicates that race-based slavery was the cornerstone of the Confederate States of America.  One may also notice a change in writings and statements after Confederate defeat, when leading former Confederates minimized the role of slavery.  Yet the Lost Cause of the Confederacy persists.

What is going on in all three cases?  We human beings like to think of ourselves as good people.  We also like to think of our ancestors as good people.  But admitting that our ancestors committed genocide, condoned slavery, or were vile racists and segregationists seems to call our character into question.  God does not visit the sins of the fathers upon members of subsequent generations.  (Ezekiel 18 contradicts Exodus 20:5-6).  We do that ourselves, by not admitting what members of previous generations did, and how those sins have benefited us.  Telling the truth is cleansing.  It sets us free.  First, however, we need to get over our discomfort with the truth.  Only then can reconciliation become possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Feast of Obadiah Homes (October 15)   2 comments

Above:  United Baptist Church, Newport, Rhode Island

Image Source = Google Earth

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OBADIAH HOLMES, SR. (BAPTIZED MARCH 18, 1609 OR 1610-DIED OCTOBER 15, 1682)

English Baptist Minister and Champion of Religious Liberty in New England

Born Obadiah Hulme

The Reverend Obadiah Holmes, Sr., comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Many people accept a host of falsehoods about the history of the United States of America.  One of these lies is that most Puritans came to this country (when it was still a collection of British colonies) to practice religious freedom.  Shall I point to the numerous examples that prove the existence of Puritan theocracies in New England?  How about the four executed Quakers (link and link) in the Massachusetts Bay colony?  I point also to the cases of Roger Williams (1603?-1683) and Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) and company, exiled for dissenting.  To that list I add the case of Obadiah Holmes, Sr.

Obadiah Hulme grew up in a devout Anglican family.  He, baptized on March 18, 1609 or 1610, in Didsbury, Lancashire, England, was a son of Katherine Johnson Hulme (d. 1630) and Robert Hulme (d. 1640).  Obadiah led a rebellious, wild youth.  After his spiritual awakening, his blamed himself for his mother’s death.  Our saint was, by profession, a weaver and a glass maker.  On November 20, 1630, at the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, St. Denys and St. George, Manchester (now Manchester Cathedral), he married Katherine Hyde.  The couple had nine children, starting with John, who died in 1633.  The other eight children (four sons and four daughters) were:

  1. Jonathan;
  2. Mary;
  3. Martha;
  4. Samuel;
  5. Obadiah, Jr.;
  6. Lydia;
  7. John (II); and
  8. Hopestill.

The growing Holmes family immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638.  They settled in Salem and joined the church there.  Obadiah worked as a glass maker.  He, finding the church in Salem too rigid, left and moved the family to Reheboth in 1645.  Reheboth proved unsatisfactory, too.  Obadiah and the eight other members of the church there split away (during a dispute over infant baptism) and formed a house church in 1649.  He became the minister of the new congregation.  According to the local court, the house church was illegal.  In 1650, Obadiah and the rest of his congregation moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  They affiliated with the First Baptist Church in that city.  This made sense; pastor John Clarke (1609-1676), of Newport, had rebaptized the members of the house church in 1649.

Rhode Island was rare in British North America; it had a policy of religious toleration.  First Baptist Church, Newport, was the second Baptist congregation in what became the United States of America.  John Clarke founded it in 1638, shortly after Roger Williams had founded the First Baptist Church, Providence.

John Clarke and John Crandall (1618-1676) of First Baptist Church, Newport, visited William Witten, an old blind man, in Lynn, Massachusetts Bay Colony, in July 1651.  Obadiah traveled with Clarke and Crandall to visit Witten.  The three visitors conducted a church service.  They celebrated communion and baptized converts.  Authorities arrested the three visitors.  The court convicted and fined them:

  1. John Crandall–five pounds, or about $984.15 (2021);
  2. John Clarke–twenty pounds, or about $3,939.37 (2021); and
  3. Obadiah Holmes–thirty pounds, or about $4,270.15 (2021).

The alternative was a severe whipping.  Nevertheless, Governor John Endecott considered that punishment lax; he claimed that the three men deserved to die.

Allies offered to pay the fines of all three men.  Crandall and Clarke accepted and returned to Newport.  Our saint, however, refused.  Therefore, he endured 30 strokes on his back.  For weeks, he had to sleep on his knees and elbows.  For the rest of his life, he called his scars “the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Later in 1651, Clarke traveled to England, to serve as Rhode Island’s colonial agent.  Obadiah began to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church, Newport.  After Clarke returned, in 1664, the two men served as co-pastors (1664-1667, 1671-1676).  Our saint was pastor at Newport until he died, on October 15, 1682.

First Baptist Church, Newport, has become the United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial, Newport.

No freedoms are absolute in any society.  Mutuality requires that people be responsible to and for each other.  And it does not license trampling the rights of anyone.  Therefore, in the case of freedom of religion, some restrictions are necessary, in extreme cases.  When, for example, someone’s religion endangers public health, public health properly takes precedence.  Most circumstances are not extreme, though.  Living in a free society requires much mutual toleration, if not acceptance.  So be it.

All of the legal troubles Obadiah Holmes, Sr., endured in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were indefensible.  He was not endangering public health and safety.  He was not endangering anyone in any way.  No, he was defying a theocracy.  He refused to conform.

“Conform” and “conformity” are, by the way, the most profane words in the English language.  Mutuality embraces mutual responsibility and tolerates all dissent and individuality that does not endanger the common good.

I write in a politically divided society.  Labels such as “liberal” and “conservative” function as weapons to use against members of the other tribe.  Actually, many people who weaponize these terms strip these words of their real meanings, inherently relative to the center.  A better way (NOT original to me) is to ask whether one prioritizes order or justice.  Properly, of course, justice establishes a morally defensible order.  Likewise, order is necessary for justice, which cannot exist in the midst of anarchy.  Nevertheless, not all order is just.  In fact, much order is unjust.  And many people favor an unjust order over justice.  I favor justice every day.  Whenever a given order is unjust, I support tearing it down and replacing it with a just order.  Call me a revolutionary if you wish, O reader.

Obadiah Holmes, Sr., favored justice.  He worked for a just order.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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O God, our light and salvation, who makes all free to worship you:

May we ever strive to be faithful to your call, following the example of Obadiah Holmes, Sr.,

that we may faithfully set our hands to the Gospel plow,

confident in the truth proclaimed by your Son Jesus Christ;

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

–Adapted from A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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O God our light and salvation, we thank you for Obadiah Holmes, Sr.,

whose visions of the liberty of the soul illumined by the light of Christ

made him a brave prophet of religious tolerance in the American colonies;

and we pray that we may follow paths of holiness and good conscience,

guided by the radiance of Jesus Christ;

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

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 133

1 Peter 1:13-16

Luke 9:51-62

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 211

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do   Leave a comment

Above:  An Incriminating Photograph of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Printed in the Flagpole, Athens, Georgia, March 31, 2021

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Hypocrisy rankles, does it not?  This is especially applicable in the case of the recent voter suppression law in Georgia.  Supporters claim it is “common sense” and that it expands access to voting.  Yet the foundation of the law consists of discredited theories of a compromised voting system in the state last year.  Actually, many Republicans are just mad that Georgia is a purple state going blue, due to demographic changes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Posted March 31, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2021

Tagged with ,

Sidney Powell, Organic Fertilizer, and Voter Suppression   Leave a comment

I do not pretend to know the difference between what organic fertilizer Donald Trump accepts and what organic fertilizer he merely spouts.  It is, however, all organic fertilizer, to use a G-rated term.  In the time of “alternative facts,” many members of the Republican Party (now the Donald Trump Death Cult of Personality) both accept and spew his organic fertilizer.  Some of the richest fertilizer concerns alleged and repeatedly debunked claims of election fraud in 2020.

Attorney Sidney Powell is a skilled practitioner of spewing such organic fertilizer.  One may remember her for infamously saying that Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela who died in 2013, was plotting in 2020 to compromise the U.S. presidential election.  Yes, Sidney Powell really needs to learn to the meaning of “fact check.”  Dominion Voting Systems knows all about her repeated and false claims about their voting machines.  They are, in fact suing her for defamation and at least $1.3 billion.  Powell’s defense, via her attorney, is that she was spewing organic fertilizer, and that any reasonable person would have known this.

The State of Georgia (my state) has made news (in a bad way) again.  (We keep doing this.)  The General Assembly has passed and Governor Brian Kemp has signed into law an election reform bill that suppresses voting and sits on the foundation of discredited claims of a previously compromised voting system.  According to the standards of Sidney Powell’s attorney, Governor Kemp and those who voted for this law are unreasonable people.

Objective reality is what it is.  Likewise, organic fertilizer is organic fertilizer.  I favor policy-making based on objective reality, not organic fertilizer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

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Act Responsibly (Especially During a Pandemic)   Leave a comment

I HAVE NO SYMPATHY FOR FOOLS WHO ENDANGER THE LIVES OF OTHERS NEEDLESSLY.

One of the most counterproductive and socially irresponsible aspects of human psychology is the tendency to protect one’s ego at the expense of being objectively correct.  When admitting error may endanger one’s self-image, one may double down on the objectively false idea.  This tendency, reinforced the declining number of common media outlets, increases the number of opportunities for indulging confirmation bias.

I am glad to report that, so far, I have avoided contracting COVID-19.  I have worn masks in public.  I have been wearing two masks since the day I read that advice online.  I have received my first Pfizer vaccine.  I have been waiting for the scheduled date of my second shot to arrive.  

Many people make me angry during this pandemic.  Damn fools who defy the advice of public health experts and do not practice social distancing raise my ire.  Politicians who behave irresponsibly–by easing restrictions or not imposing them, in defiance of the best public health advice–are paving their roads to Hell, I am convinced.  People who mistake not wearing masks, at least not properly, for taking a principled stand on civil liberties endanger themselves and other people.  Those who, in the name of politics, refuse to take a crucial vaccine when it is available are competing for the Darwin Awards, too.  And those who, citing immoral medical experiments of the past, refuse to take a necessary vaccine when it is available are like generals fighting an earlier war and misapplying lessons from the previous war to the current one.

Whatever I do affects others.  Whatever you, O reader, do affects others.  Mutuality is a societal reality and a pillar of the Law of Moses.  Those who compete for the Darwin Awards act irresponsibly.  They endanger themselves, bearers of the image of God, needlessly.  They also put other people at risk needlessly.  In this case, acting for the common good entails wearing a mask or masks in public, maintaining social distancing, and getting vaccinated when possible, unless one has already become fully vaccinated.  Depending on circumstances, acting for the common good during this pandemic may entail other actions, too, of course.  

I am tired of this pandemic.  I do not enjoy wearing masks.  I dislike needles.  Yet I wear two masks in public.  Yet I, having gotten jabbed once already, have a scheduled date to get jabbed again.  This is not about what I want to do.  No, this is about what I have a moral imperative to do.

So, to those who insist on denying the reality of the virus and/or not wearing a mask or getting vaccinated, I ask:

What is your damage?

I ask the same question to politicians with the power to enact responsible policy yet choose not to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

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