Archive for the ‘Political Statements 2018’ Category

Rest in Peace, President Bush   Leave a comment

Above:  George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989

Photographer = David Valdez

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-98302

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This morning I read that former President George Herbert Walker Bush had died at the age of 94 years.  My immediate response was to pray for the repose of his soul, and for all who mourn him.

The first presidential election in which I voted was that of 1992; I rejoiced to see Bush lose his bid for a second term.  I did not, however, ever think he was an agent of Satan, et cetera.  Rather, I always respected him as a patriot and a good man.  That respect increased after he left office.  Whenever I read a news story about Bush 41 skydiving, I stood in awe of the man.

Rest in peace, sir.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Posted December 1, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2018

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Every Vote Should Count   Leave a comment

Above:  “I Voted” Sticker

Image Source = Dwight Burdette

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Every vote should count.  That is a timeless principle.

This is the year of many close elections in the United States.  The new Senator-Elect from Arizona owes her election to a razor-thin margin, as the counting of votes has continued.  Three races in Florida are in recounts, for the margins of victory from election night are less than half of a percentage point, thereby triggering mandatory recounts.  The race for Governor of Georgia is too close to call, with local elections officials finding previously uncounted votes.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who puts the bully in “bully pulpit” and specializes in spreading rumors while labeling confirmed facts “fake news,” is making charges of corruption in recounts.  If there is evidence for such corruption, local law enforcement knows nothing about it.

Every vote should count.  That is a timeless principle.  I hold to it, even when I have no guarantee that my preferred candidate will win.  This is a matter of principle, not convenience.  This is a matter of standing up for what my country, the United States of America, says is a major principle.  Suffrage is a right about as close to sacred as a civic activity can be.  It is a right for which many brave men and women have died, and for which many men and women have yearned.

One benefit of counting every vote is to validate the electoral process.  There can be no doubt that Candidate X is the rightful winner if election workers have counted all the votes.  What can be wrong with counting all the votes, especially in close elections?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Posted November 13, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2018

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The Seventh Party System   1 comment

Above:  Alexander Hamilton, First Leader of the Federalist Party

Image in the Public Domain

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I am convinced that the United States of America has been in the Seventh Party System since or shortly before January 20, 1993.  As a teacher of U.S. history on the college level, I think about various matters of the past, especially when students’ questions prompt me to do so.

First a brief review of the first six party systems is in order.

The First Party System was the Federalist-Jeffersonian Republican divide, with parties forming during George Washington’s administration.  The national Federalist Party did not field a presidential candidate after 1816, but not all Federalists became Jeffersonians, some of whom had begun to sound like Federalists by that point.

The Second Party System grew up around Andrew Jackson in the 1820s.  His supporters were Democrats, and his opponents merged into the Whig Party in the 1830s.  Before that, however, they were National Republicans and Anti-Masons, the latter of which gave us the presidential nominating convention in 1831.

The Third Party System emerged in the middle 1850s, in the aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).  The Whigs came apart, as did the Democrats to a lesser extent, and the Republican Party emerged with a platform which included opposition to the expansion of slavery but not support for immediate abolition of that damnable peculiar institution.

The Fourth Party System began after the 1896 general election, in which Republican William McKinley won a landslide victory.  The Republicans controlled the presidency for all but eight years (the Woodrow Wilson Administration, 1913-1921) through the end of the Herbert Hoover Administration (1929-1933).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated the Fifth Party System, during which the Democratic Party controlled the presidency for all but eight years (the Dwight Eisenhower Administration, 1953-1961).  This system ran its course until the 1968 general election and the election of Richard Nixon, who employed the notorious “Southern Strategy.”  Lyndon Baines Johnson was correct; he gave the South to the Republicans when he signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Sixth Party System began with Nixon and ended with George H. W. Bush.  Republicans controlled the presidency for all but four years.  Jimmy Carter, the sole Democratic president (1977-1981) during this system, was hardly an FDR-LBJ social programs type.

The Seventh Party System, I am convinced, began with the Clinton Administration or during the campaign of 1992.  This fact has become obvious to me only in hindsight.  (Historical analysis does require the passage of time.)  Here is my case:

  1. None of the presidential elections (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016) has been a landslide, certainly not in the popular vote.
  2. Regardless of the identity of the President, about half of the population seems to hate his guts.
  3. A vocal proportion of that livid portion of the population entertains unfounded conspiracy theories.  For the record, Vince Foster did commit suicide.  Nobody murdered him, so there was no murder for the Clinton Administration to cover up.  Also, the George W. Bush Administration was not complicit in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011; a hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, was the birthplace of Barack Obama in 1961; and Osama bin Ladin is dead.  One can, however, find websites arguing against all these propositions.  This means nothing conclusive; once I found the website of the Flat Earth Society.
  4. Vitriol, unvarnished hatred, and unapologetic indifference to objective reality has become increasingly politically acceptable.  The abuses of power (and threats of them) commonplace in third world countries have entered mainstream political discourse in this country.

Also, for the record, Barack Obama is neither a Socialist nor a Communist.  There are Socialist and Communist Parties in the United States, and they do not mistake him for one of their sympathizers.

It is long past time to lower the political temperature and retire over-the-top charges which distract from the serious issues of the day.  We have a nation, one which has lasted for more than 200 years.  Childish antics do not honor the highest ideals upon which our founders created the United States.

How should we, as citizens, respond when the lunatics take over the asylum?  How should we respond when the temporary occupant of the Oval Office spews a combination of venom, rumors, and falsehoods casually, thereby degrading his office and the country, yet labels documented journalistic stories “fake news”?  How should we respond when many of our fellow Americans, members of a cult of personality, affirm  whatever Il Duce with bad hair utters and tweets?  How should we respond to the American Il Duce‘s fondness for authoritarian leaders?

Donald Trump is a domestic threat to the United States.  Trumpism is a domestic threat to the United States.  We should recognize these truths and utilize the constitutional methods available to us to resist both.

I derive some comfort from the realities of demographic changes, which will usher in the Eighth Party System, as soon as more people of certain demographic categories vote in sufficient force consistently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Updated on November 7 and 9, 2016

Updated October 9, 2018

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Feast of William Scarlett (October 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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WILLIAM SCARLETT (OCTOBER 3, 1883-MARCH 28, 1973)

Episcopal Bishop of Missouri, and Advocate for Social Justice

Bishop William Scartlett comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible.

Scarlett, born in Columbus, Ohio, on October 3, 1883, grew up to become a courageous, progressive Christian leader on the vanguard of various moral causes.  He was what certain cynical reactionaries of 2018 would have called a “social justice warrior.”  So were Hebrew prophets.  Our saint, influenced at an early age by Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbush (1861-1918), proponents of the Social Gospel, graduated from Harvard University with his A.B. degree in 1905.  Scarlett, unsure about whether to study for ministry or medicine, worked on a ranch in Nebraska for a year.  He matriculated at the Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1906, and graduated three years later.  Our saint, spent the rest of his life in ordained ministry marked by a dedication to social justice dictated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Scarlett cared deeply by outreach to the poor, the rights of industrial workers, civil rights, and other issues germane to human relations.  He was, in order:

  1. Assistant Rector, St. George’s Episcopal Church, New York, New York (1909-1911);
  2. Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona (1911-1922);
  3. Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, Missouri (1922-1930);
  4. Bishop Coadjutor of Missouri (1930-1933); and
  5. Bishop of Missouri (1933-1952).

Friend Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) described our saint as

the conscience of the community.

Scarlett was on the avant-garde of The Episcopal Church with regard to social ethics.  He advocated for the liberalization of the denomination’s stance on remarriage after divorce.  In 1946 our saint edited Christianity Takes a Stand, in which various authors took a stand against societal sins such as racial segregation and the federal government’s recent internment of West Coast Japanese Americans.  Although the House of Deputies, at the General Convention of 1946, consented without debate to sponsor the publication of the book, the majority of Episcopalians were not ready to espouse those positions yet.

Scarlett, a Low Church Episcopalian and self-described Liberal Evangelical who wore a tie in lieu of a clerical collar, was a natural ecumenist.  He cooperated with members of other Christian denominations as easily as he did with Jews.  At Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, our saint scandalized many Anglo-Catholics by encouraging interdenominational Eucharists.  He also scrapped plans for a new Episcopal hospital in the city when he learned of a similar Presbyterian plan.  The result was cooperation, not competition, in the form of St. Luke’s Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospital.  He also favored the merger of The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the 1940s.  The proposal did not survive the late 1940s.  It would probably have been impractical anyway.

(Aside:  I mean no disrespect to any Presbyterians, but the denominational cultures and certain theological-liturgical factors are too different for merger to be practical.  I suppose that many Presbyterians agree with that assessment.  Cooperation of many issues is feasible and desirable, however.)

Scarlett retired in late 1952.  His successor as Bishop of Missouri was Arthur Carl Lichtenberger (1900-1968), later the Presiding Bishop of the denomination.

In retirement Scarlett wrote the exposition on the Book of Jonah for The Interpreter’s Bible.  He wrote, in part:

If God has a controversy with his people, it is because there has been in our world too little concern for our brother, too little recognition that his fate is bound up in ours, and ours in his, even to the least, too much forgetting that word of old, “We are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25) and if one member suffers, “all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26).  A plain fact of the nineteen-thirties is that Hitler climbed to power on the backs of the unemployed in Germany, and it was this frustration, this sense of uselessness, in millions of lives that made his way easy.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), 877

That is a chilling text in 2018.

The resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general has been current reality in the world, from the Philippines to Europe to Brazil to Turkey to Europe for a few years now.  Many of the enablers of fascist and other authoritarian leaders have been professing Christians.  The call to “Make America Great Again” has echoed pre-World War II movements to make Italy and Germany great again.  The rhetoric of “America First,” originated before World War II in an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi movement to keep the United States out of that war, has returned, still with racist overtones.  Calls for U.S. society and government to practice the Golden Rule have become subversive as many professing Christians have chosen to ignore the demands of that great commandment and embraced xenophobia and nativism, largely out of fear.

I encourage you, O reader, to read Scarlett’s exposition on the Book of Jonah and to oppose–resist–the deplorable resurgence of fascism and of authoritarianism in general.

Scarlett, aged 89 years, died in Castine, Maine, on March 28, 1973.  His wife, Leah Oliver Van Riper (b. 1889), had predeceased him in 1965.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE KENNEDY ALLEN BELL, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CHICHESTER

THE FEAST OF ALBERTO RAMENTO, PRIME BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERARD OF BROGNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHN RALEIGH MOTT, U.S. METHODIST LAY EVANGELIST, AND ECUMENICAL PIONEER

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

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

Help us, like your servant William Scarlett, 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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Rest in Peace, Senator McCain   Leave a comment

Above:  Lieutenant Commander John S. McCain, April 24, 1973

Photographer = Thomas J. O’Halloran

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-03413

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John McCain, who died today, was a patriot and a statesman.  As much as I disagreed with him on most policy points, I recognized the integrity of the man.  He was, regardless of what shameless idiot and loudmouth Donald Trump said, a war hero; being a prisoner of war did not make him something other than a hero.  Trump’s claim from the campaign for the presidential nomination insulted all prisoners of war.

Rest in peace, Senator McCain.  You have laid down your burdens and ended this stage of your pilgrimage.  You have done more for this country than most of us ever will.

In paradisum deducant te angeli….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

Worse Insults and Better People   Leave a comment

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, made a classic comment in 1971, when he learned that President Richard Nixon had called him a crude term I will not repeat at this weblog.  Trudeau said,

I’ve been called worse things by better people.

There are many domestic officials in the United States, as well as world leaders who could repeat that line these days, and should do so.  Being the recipient of insults by Donald Trump is actually a high honor that says more about the insulter and the insultee.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

Truth is Truth   4 comments

Or, How Can It Be Otherwise?

Chuck Todd:  “Truth is truth.”

Rudolph Giuliani:  “No it isn’t.  Truth isn’t truth.”

Meet the Press, August 19, 2018

Allowing for Giuliani’s subsequent “clarification,” in which he stated that he was referring to “he said, she said” disagreements, his original statement is still malarkey.  So is his alleged clarification, which refers to mutually-exclusive truths.

Call me old-fashioned, if you please, O reader, but I affirm that truth is always truth.  Furthermore, it does not depend on subjective perception.  To the extent one’s perception differs from objective reality, one’s perception is in error.  Therefore, I do not have my truth, you do not have your truth, and another person does not have his or her truth; the truth is simply the truth, and there is just one truth.  There is no Mandela Effect; each of us has faulty memories.  Human memory is not like an infallible recording of one’s experiences; no, it is malleable.  Fake news is that which is objectively false, not news one does not like.  Donald Trump is a veritable fountain of inaccurate information daily, but he labels much confirmed journalistic work “fake news.”  The Trump-Giuliani definition of truth reminds me of Mormon epistomology:  objective reality be damned, I know what I believe.

The Biblical standard of truth is reliability.  A liar deceives on purpose.  One who spreads unreliable information yet does not know it is unreliable is still working against the dissemination of the truth, but is not a liar.

Each of us should strive for reliability in information.  Each of us will fall short of that to some degree, but should do as best as he or she can.  I, as a historian, have received training in evaluating sources.  Sometimes the best we can say is that a statement is or is not plausible.  None of we mere mortals should ever disregard or dismiss objective reality.  No, we should strive to perceive more of it than we do already.  We should also hold all public officials to that high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

A Modest Proposal   Leave a comment

Or, the Playground Rule

Politics and children’s sports have at least one fact in common:  Children frequently behave more maturely than adults.  Witness, O reader, the continuing, nation-degrading saga of Donald Trump, Il Duce with a combover or whatever one calls that growth on his head.  Nothing ever seems to be his fault, especially when he makes decisions; just ask him or read his tweets.  One might recall President Harry Truman’s motto,

The buck stops here.

Oh, for a President of the United States who understood his personal and official responsibility, and who consistently behaved with dignity!  Really, is public dignity too much to expect from leaders?

In the context of the most recent round of name calling (including the use of animal terms) from the temporary occupant of the Oval Office, I offer a modest proposal:  No behavior that fails to pass muster on an elementary school playground should be acceptable in politics.  Nobody should excuse such behavior, from children or adults.

For the rest of the day I will avoid the news, given that I have heard too much already.  I want to avoid becoming a negative, angry person, after all.  I have managed to get this far into the day with out swearing, and I hope to end the day the day the same way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted August 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2018

Tagged with ,

Feast of James Carney (September 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Honduras and Nicaragua, 1957

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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JAMES FRANCIS CARNEY (OCTOBER 28, 1924-SEPTEMBER 16, 1983)

U.S.-Honduran Roman Catholic Priest, Missionary, Revolutionary, and Martyr, 1983

Also known as Padre Guadeloupe

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To be a Christian is to be a revolutionary.

–Father James Carney

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The national security policy that justifies everything that is done in terms of U.S. security is an evil policy.  Father Carney got in trouble because he fell in love with poor people.  Other people get in trouble because they fall in love with riches and power and glory and pomposity.

–Joseph Connolly, brother-in-law of James Carney

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James Francis Carney took up his cross and followed Jesus to his death.

Carney, born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 28, 1924, grew up in a devout and middle-class Roman Catholic family in the Middle West.  He was an altar boy, a football player, and a member of the St. Louis University High School Class of 1942.  Our saint attended St. Louis University on a football scholarship.  While playing the sport he injured a knee; he had a bad knee for the rest of his life.  Myopia and a bad knee did not prevent conscription into the U.S. Army during World War II.  He, serving in the European Theater as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, found living piously in the military difficult.  The frequent profanity proved especially disturbing.

Carney’s life changed after the war.  In 1946 he resumed studies at St. Louis University for a year.  Our saint matriculated at the University of Detroit, to study civil engineering, in 1947, but left after a year.  Religious life was calling.  While at Detroit Carney first read Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  He spent the rest of his life synthesizing Christianity and Marxism.  In 1948 our saint matriculated at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Flourissant, Missouri.  Carney joined the Society of Jesus.  He served as a missionary in British Honduras (now Belize) from 1955 to 1958 then studied at St. Mary’s College, St. Mary’s, Kansas.  He became a priest in 1961.

Honduras has a sad political history.  The economically underdeveloped country has a long record of military dictatorships and corrupt and repressive governments.  Poverty is rampant, entrenched, and intergenerational, and institutional.  As in other parts of the former Spanish Empire, relatively few people own most of the land, control the majority of the wealth, and resist attempted at the redistribution of land, wealth, and political power.

From 1961 to 1979 Carney was a missionary priest in Honduras.  He, devoted to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, preferred that the peasants (campesinos) among whom he ministered call him “Padre Guadeloupe.”  Our saint, not content to stop at administering sacraments, became a social and political revolutionary for justice.  He identified with the peasants and lived as they did.  He became active in the peasants’ union, advocated for land reform, became a Honduran citizen, and came to identify as a “Marxist-Christian.”  He criticized the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Honduras for their close relationship with the United Fruit Company, which paid far below a living wage, thereby exacerbating poverty.  Our saint also condemned U.S. imperialism in Latin America.

Carney, after spending a few weeks at St. Louis University in 1979, moved to Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had recently deposed Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the U.S.-backed dictator.  After spending a few years as a member of a revolutionary society, Carney decided to return to Honduras.  Doing so was dangerous.  The U.S.-supported government there arrested or executed alleged subversives–including leftists, liberals, and union activists.  Death squads were active in the Honduran Army.  This was the government that, according to U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983, was promoting democracy.  The Honduran government was not promoting democracy while murdering or arresting its politically troublesome citizens.  It was, however, providing a base of operations for the U.S.-backed, anti-Sandinista Contras.

Carney, who resigned from the Society of Jesus in June 1983, had become a committed revolutionary.  He regarded the wealth of the Vatican with disgust and recoiled at bourgeois Christians who supported causes he considered antithetical to the faith.  His pacifism was gone; some violence was sadly necessary, Carney understood.

On July 19, 1983, Carney returned to Honduras as the chaplain to a small band of guerrillas.  The Honduran Army captured or killed the unit quickly; Carney disappeared.  There were, over the years, various proposed fates for Padre Guadeloupe.  The most likely one was that, on Friday, September 19, 1983, the Honduran Army, having tortured Carney, threw him out of a helicopter above a mountain.  Perhaps the priest died when he hit the ground.

Officially, nobody recovered Carney’s physical remains–just his stole and chalice.

Carney’s family has attempted to learn of his fate and what the U.S. Government knows about it.  A federal judge, citing national security, dismissed a lawsuit.  Requests under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed answers, but mostly indirectly.  In 1999 the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) released many pages of documentation; 75 of those pages were entirely blacked out.  Members of the the family have also had good reasons to suspect that the federal government has tapped their telephones.

The truth of the matter seems clear, especially considering the many redactions and the appeals to national security:  The Honduran Army executed Carney with the support of the U.S. Government, which does not want to admit this.

Carney, in his 1983 autobiography, “The Metamorphosis of a Revolutionary,” wrote:

Since my novitiate, I have asked Christ for the Grace to be able to imitate him, even to martyrdom, to the giving of my life, to being killed for the cause of Christ.  And I strongly believe that Christ might give me this tremendous Grace to become a martyr for justice.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 404-405

The United States of America is, unlike many other nation-states, a country founded on high ideals, which the U.S. Government and society has a long record of trampling, unfortunately.  Human nature makes no exceptions because of U.S. citizenship.  When my country is at its best, it seeks to live those ideals, embodied most nobly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, especially the Fourteenth Amendment.  The case of James Carney’s fate and the subsequent cover-up of U.S. Government knowledge of if poses a difficult question:  If a government founded on high ideals consistently makes a mockery of them, how are citizens supposed to respond to that hypocrisy?

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God of the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless,

we confess our sins, which we have committed either in knowledge or ignorance,

and which have harmed those less fortunate, many of them far away.

We acknowledge that, despite our best intentions,

we are complicit in the sins of our society, governments, institutions, and corporations.

We have the blood of innocents, many of whom we will never encounter, on our hands.

As we praise you and thank you for the moral courage of Father James Carney to take up his cross and follow Christ,

we also pray that you will forgive us and grant us the necessary grace

to confess and repent of our sins, and to act, as you lead us, to help the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless.

We pray through Jesus of Nazareth, executed unjustly as a criminal and a threat to imperial security.

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

Amos 8:4-8

Psalm 15

Revelation 18:9-20

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JEREMY TAYLOR, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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This is post #1600 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of the Martyrs of Birmingham, Alabama, September 15, 1963 (September 15)   Leave a comment

Above:  Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, 1993

Photographer = Jet Lowe

Image Source = Library of Congress

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ADDIE MAY COLLINS (AGE 14)

CAROLE ROBERTSON (AGE 14)

CYNTHIA WESLEY (AGE 14)

DENISE MCNAIR (AGE 11)

Died in the basement of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, Sunday, September 15, 1963

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These children–unoffending; innocent and beautiful–were the victims of one of the most vicious, heinous crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., September 18, 1963

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This feast comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997).

The city of Birmingham, Alabama, was notorious during the Civil Rights Movement.  There, from 1956 to 1963, the city earned its unfortunate nickname, “Bombingham,” due to the at least 28 unsolved racially motivated bombings.  In Birmingham, in 1963, authorities committed unjustifiable violence against peaceful protesters–many of them juveniles–when they sprayed them with water full-force (sufficient to break bones) from fire water hoses and sent dogs to attack protesters.  In Birmingham, in April 1963, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., sat in the jail and wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, one of the great texts of moral theology in the twentieth century.  And, on September 15, 1963, a few bombers committed a crime that claimed lives and shocked much of the world.

September 15, 1963, was to be Youth Day at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.  Addie May Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair, set aside to lead the 11:00 service, were excited.  They had left Sunday School early and gone to put on their white choir robes in the basement.  The new school year had begun; they were discussing that topic.  Upstairs, in a women’s Sunday School class, the topic of the lesson was “The Love that Forgives.”  Then, at 10:22, a bomb exploded in the basement, destroying the outside stone staircase, blowing a hole in the eastern façade of the building, injuring twenty people, and killing the four girls.

Moral revulsion at this act was global yet not universal.  The Vatican newspaper likened the bombing to a “massacre of the innocents.”  The bombing and the four deaths shocked even many of the most hardened segregationists.  In Birmingham that Sunday, however, the bombing inspired social violence–some of it fatal–by whites on African Americans who were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The wrong place was Birmingham.

At the funeral three days later Dr. King condemned the crime and reminded the mourners that

God has a way of wringing good out of evil.

He also stated the necessity of being concerned with the system and society that produced those immediately responsible for the bombing.

King’s words remain relevant.  His speeches and writings have a simultaneously noble and unnerving quality, for they remain germane when we Americans, as a country, should have made more progress toward social justice.  In the context of 2015-2018 in the United States several factors alarm me.  The move of hateful rhetoric and policies, until recently usually relegated to whispers, coded speech, and unapologetically racist wing nuts on the Far Right into the mainstream of politics, but without the coded language, is sinful.  Many election results of recent years confirm this phenomenon.  Yet this period in U.S. history is not unique, the study of the past teaches me.  White supremacy is an indefensible American tradition.  It is as American as motherhood, apple pie, and

…all men are created equal….

Human depravity is, in my mind, a verified fact, not an article of faith.  I need no faith to believe that which I can prove objectively.

King still teaches us, if we listen.  The deaths of the four girls and the injuries of the twenty other people at the church on September 15, 1963, still teach us, if we listen.  Do we dare to listen to the lessons they impart?

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Loving God of the Incarnation, you identify with us in our joys and our sorrows.

We thank you for your holy children:  Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair.

We also mourn them, murdered in an act of racism, cruelty, and cowardice.

Burn out of us, we pray, all hatred for any of our fellow human beings, and cast out all prejudice that leads to bigotry.

We pray through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, an innocent man who died violently and unjustly.

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

Isaiah 69:17-22

Psalm 37:1-13

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 2:13-18

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JEREMY TAYLOR, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DOWN, CONNOR, AND DROMORE

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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