Archive for the ‘American Civil Liberties Union’ Tag

Feast of A. J. Muste (January 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  A. J. Muste

Image in the Public Domain

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ABRAHAM JOHANNES MUSTE (JANUARY 8, 1885-FEBRUARY 11, 1967)

Dutch-American Minister, Labor Activist, and Pacifist

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Only the nonviolent can apply therapy to the violent.

–A. J. Muste

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A. J. Muste 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).

Muste changed his mind on major points more than once, each time sending his life in a different direction.

Our saint, born in Zierkzee, The Netherlands, on January 8, 1885, to Martin and Adriana Muste, came from a Dutch Reformed family.  He, his parents, and his siblings, seeking economic opportunity, emigrated in 1891.  They settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, joined the Dutch Reformed Church there, and naturalized in 1896.  The working-class congregation that shaped Muste was quite conservative–diehard Republican and puritanical.  Dancing, attending plays, and listening to secular music were allegedly sinful.

Muste, intelligent, was a fine student.  He, the valedictorian of Hope College in 1905, taught Greek and Latin at Northwestern Classical Academy (now called Northwestern College), Orange City, Iowa.  Then our saint studied at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909.  After ordination into the ministry of the Reformed Church in America (1909), Muste married Anna Huizenga before the end of the year.  The couple raised three children.

Muste liberalized significantly during 1909-1914, his tenure as pastor of Fort Washington Collegiate Church, Washington Heights, New York, New York.  He questioned the religious strictness of his youth, accepted the Social Gospel, and earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary.  Muste had changed so much in 1912 that he cast his vote for Eugene Victor Debs, nominee of the Socialist Party, in the presidential election of 1912.

Muste was theologically honest.  By 1914 he no longer accepted the Westminster Confession of Faith, so he resigned his pastorate.  Our saint served as the pastor of Central Congregational Church, Newtonville, Massachusetts, for about three years.  (Muste succeeded Jay Thomas Stocking in that role.  Stocking’s immediate predecessor was Ozora Stearns Davis, who served in 1900-1904.)  Muste, a pacifist, founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915.  In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, Muste resigned his pastorate under pressure.  Our saint volunteered for the Civil Liberties Bureau (a precursor of the American Civil Liberties Union) in Boston, in 1918.  He defended draft resisters.  Later that year, in Providence, Rhode Island, our saint joined the Quakers.

Muste became a labor union activist in 1919 and remained active in the cause for the rest of his life.  For sixteen weeks that year, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, workers went on strike.  They had a just cause; they worked 54-hour-long work weeks for $0.20 an hour.  (That amount, adjusted to inflation and keyed to the Consumer Price Index for 2018, the most recent year I can adjust amounts for inflation, is $2.90.)  Police spies tried to goad workers into committing violence, but Muste encouraged striking workers not to resort to violence.  Police beat him and incarcerated our saint for a week, though.  Later that year, Muste helped to found the Amalgamated Textile Workers of America.  He served as the secretary until 1921.

Muste became a radical–a Marxist-Leninist, even, for a time.  He, the president (1921-1933) of Brookwood Labor College, Katonah, New York, left the American Federation of Labor in 1929.  Our saint helped to found the Conference for Progressive Labor Action.  He also worked to build a labor third party, culminating in the Workers Party of the United States (1934-1936).

Muste changed direction again in 1936.  He left Marxism-Leninism behind and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A..  Our saint’s writings, starting in 1936, were clear; the proper revolutionary force was Christianity.  From 1937 to 1940, he was the director of the (Presbyterian) Labor Temple, a mission of the Presbytery of New York to working men of New York City.  Our saint, the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1940 to 1953), mentored Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), who taught nonviolent resistance tactics to Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  Muste’s obvious opposition to Marxism-Leninism, starting in 1936, did not spare him from allegations during the 1950s of being a communist.  He was certainly a consistent pacifist, opposing wars, whether declared or “police actions.”  Muste also spoke out against racism at home and abroad.  Furthermore, he insisted that good housing and proper, affordable health care were human rights.  Those views were sufficient to prompt much criticism of him.

Muste died in New York, New York, on February 11, 1967.  He was 82 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

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

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Feast of Ben Salmon (February 15)   Leave a comment

ben-salmon

Above:  Icon of Ben Salmon

Image in the Public Domain

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BENJAMIN JOSEPH SALMON (OCTOBER 15, 1889-FEBRUARY 15, 1932)

Roman Catholic Pacifist and Conscientious Objector

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War is the health of the state.

–Randolph Bourne (1886-1918), 1918

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It is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities are wrong.

–Francois-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire (1694-1778)

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I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

–Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956); frequently attributed to Voltaire erroneously

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To refuse to commit or be complicit in violence when one’s government encourages violences can be dangerous and fraught with legal difficulty.

Consider, O reader, the case of Ben Salmon, born in Denver, Colorado, on October 15, 1889.  He grew up in a desert and working-class Roman Catholic family.  Our saint became involved in leftist social justice movements, in particular, with labor unionism.  According to some, he was even an agitator.  Salmon, who attended Mass frequently, married his longtime sweetheart in 1917.  Shortly thereafter, due to U.S. involvement in World War I and official intolerance of antiwar activism, his life changed for the worse.

President Woodrow Wilson, about whom I harbor mixed and mostly negative opinions, had predicted prior to April 1917 that, if the U.S.A. were to enter World War I, many Americans would forget that there was no such thing as tolerance.  He was correct.  He also led the charge of intolerance.  In 1917 and 1918 state and federal laws incarcerated peaceful opponents of that war.  The U.S. Government even treated Amish (yes, Amish!) conscientious objectors harshly.  Authorities, suspecting Amish and Mennonites of being pro-German, kept them under surveillance.  (For details, O reader, consult Steven M. Nolt, A History of the Amish, Revised and Updated Edition, 2003, pages 266-273.)  Laws in some states targeted those who worshiped in a language other than English, so populations ranging from Dutch-psalm-singing members of the Christian Reformed Church to Lutherans who worshiped in Danish or German felt pressure (sometimes in the form of vandalism) to assimilate.

The Amish had been pacifists since their founding, centuries prior to World War I, yet they were not safe from the assaults of the U.S. military over their refusal to fight in a war.  Neither was Salmon, whose pacifism, rooted in Roman Catholicism, put him at odds with the American bishops of his own church.  He responded to the draft by applying for conscientious objector status.  The Army refused to grant him that status, but offered non combatant status instead.  Even that constituted a violation of Salmon’s conscience.  In 1918 the military police arrested our saint.  In short order he had gone through a court-martial and received a guilty verdict and a death sentence, reduced to a term of 25 years.  For more than two years Salmon suffered as he refused to cooperate with his persecutors and oppressors, who retaliated by treating him inhumanely–including with much solitary confinement, sometimes in a vermin-infested cell above the prison sewer.  When, in 1920, our saint started a hunger strike, guards force-fed him.  Then the Army, arguing that he was not only a criminal but an insane person, had him committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.  The new American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) defended Salmon and other war resisters, sent to prison.

In prison Salmon, consulting only the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Bible, composed a 200-page refutation of just war theory.  No modern war, he argued, can fit that theory.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, militarism had become the new idolatry.  Such arguments did not convert many enemies into allies at a time when the “rally around the flag” mentality turned into jingoism, vigilantism, and religious intolerance–all in the name of national security.

President Warren G. Harding, of whom I also harbor mostly negative opinions, at least pardoned Salmon and other war resisters in late 1920.  The Army issued our saint a Dishonorable Discharge, however.  Salmon returned to his wife, with whom he had three children.  His prison experiences had broken his health.  He died, aged 42 years, at Chicago, Illinois, on February 15, 1932.

I have attempted and failed to be a pacifist.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that most violence is both avoidable and wrong.  I have also concluded that the mistreatment of pacifists is always wrong.  I have decided to place the persecutors and oppressors of Salmon in the same category as the Puritans who hanged Quakers in New England in the late 1600s:  evildoers who reacted out of fear.

National security is an invalid excuse for trampling the rights of people, in this case, a man who simply refused to commit violence or to be complicit in it.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Or at least a jingoist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 736

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