Archive for the ‘Athens Georgia’ Tag

Into My Thirteenth Year in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia   Leave a comment

Above:  Nu, the Thirteenth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, for twelve years–much longer than I lived in any other place.  During this time I have experienced great joys as well as the depths of despair.  I have pursued dreams and witnessed the termination of them.  (The death of a dream is the cruelest death one can experience, psychologically.)  I have felt at home in Athens and felt trapped in it as I have sought in vain to get the hell out of Dodge.  Through thick and thin I have remained, fortunately.

Here I have found a place I belong, at least for a while.  Here I have, for the only time so far, found a community in which I do not feel like a politically marginal person.  I have always been an odd duck, relative to the definition of normal.  I have always chafed against the term “abnormal,” for its negative connotations have always been clear to me.  Yet I have not wanted to be “normal” either.  I have simply wanted to be the best version of myself, as God created me to be, without having to cope with bullying, hard stares, and suspicions.  I was acutely aware of my odd duckness as a child.  I could not help but be aware of how much I stuck out like the proverbial odd thumb.  In Athens, however, I have found a community more welcoming to odd ducks.  I have also found, however, places in that community where odd ducks are not welcome.

In fact, I prefer the company of odd ducks.  Being “normal” is so boring and bland.

Conformity is a vice much of the time.  Certainly conformity enforced via bullying is never a virtue.  No, I prefer a high tolerance level (at least) for diversity.  (Aside: Barring extreme cases, when acceptance is not on the table, tolerance is superior to intolerance.  The allegation of being tolerant is not the worst charge one can face.)  We should not accept or tolerate everything in a healthy society, but we should tolerate or accept much in a good society.  Bullying, for example, is a behavior with no moral justification.  Diversity makes life more interesting in positive ways.  If we humans were supposed to be alike, why would God have created us to be so different from each other?  I accept diversity as a gift from God and refuse to do unto others as conformists have done unto me.

I have not changed my theological and political opinions much over the past twelve years.  I have moderated my theology, moving slightly to the right and the center, but I have remained left-of-center.  My politics have, during the last twelve months, shifted to the left.  I was already a man of the left; now I am moving closer to Fabian Socialism.  When I lived in South Georgia, I was frequently the most liberal person in any given room.  If I was not that person, others in any given room certainly made me feel as if I were and made me feel uncomfortable about it.  Immediately, in Athens, I found myself among the more conservative faction, whether at my new parish or in the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  The difference in Athens was that I was in different rooms–rooms filled with people to my left.  I adopted a policy of not looking askance at them, for I knew the feeling of being the object of askance looks.  I continued to practice this policy.  Over the years I have retained my generally liberal support for civil rights–on all bases.  I supported gay rights before I arrived in Athens; I have continued in that opinion.  I have remained a liberal voice.

I have concluded that I am best suited to life in a college town, regardless of whether I work at an institution of higher education.  (I keep my options open.)  Athens, then, has been a fine place for me to be.

As long as I should remain here, may I do so.  Then may I go where I should be next.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Regarding Voting and Futility   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of the State of Georgia, Modeled after the Confederate First National Flag, Banner of a Treasonous Cause, Whose Cornerstone was Chattel Slavery, Allegedly Commanded by God

Image in the Public Domain

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Of Political Futility and the Right to Complain

I seek to be an informed voter.  I seek out information about candidates and their policy positions.  I also study a sample ballot days before I vote.  If I can find audio or video of a debate, I pay attention.  Some of the time all the candidates disappoint me, as in the case of the races for the Board of Education in Laurens County, Georgia, in 2004.  I recall that none of the candidates, based on how they constructed sentences and conjugated verbs, sounded properly educated.

I take the responsibility of voting seriously.  Yet I do not harbor any delusion that my vote matters most of the time.  The reality of politics in Georgia (statewide and in the case of the Congressional district in which I reside) means that my vote is irrelevant most of the time.  The gerrymandering of Athens-Clarke County means that my votes for candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives mean nothing.  (Aside:  I oppose gerrymandering at all times and places; the practice depresses voting and discourages political moderation and legislative bipartisanship.)  With regard to presidential elections, the combination of the Electoral College and the reality of politics in Georgia means that I might as well not vote for a slate of electors, although I do.  My vote, I know, is futile.  My vote is usually meaningless when there is a political contest.  Much of the time, however, candidates run unopposed.  Nobody’s vote matters then.

Writing and calling my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., is likewise futile.  I know this from experience; a brick wall would be more responsive than the staffers who write the non-responses I receive.  I recall receiving only one genuine response from Congressional staffers as long as I have been writing and calling Senators and Congressman.  I remember that, some years ago, I contacted an office of Senator Zell Miller and wrote that his position on a major national issue was contrary to the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.  I also recall that a staffer called me at home and asked if I wanted to add to my statement; I did not, I remember.  I do, however, give credit where it is due; such a call is not a canned non-response.

I continue to vote.  For now, at least, it gives me the right to complain legitimately, if nothing else.

I favor a vigorous republic (which is what we have, not a democracy; read the Constitution of the United States) with an engaged, well-informed populace, the end of nakedly partisan efforts to suppress voting, the dedication to recognizing objective reality, and the reality of real political contests as the rule.  That sentence, alas, does not describe political reality in the United States of America in 2017.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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My Eighth Anniversary As a Blogger   Leave a comment

Above:  Theta, the Eighth Letter of the Greek Alphabet

Image in the Public Domain

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Today is the eighth anniversary of SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I have spun off seven others.

I had little idea what I was doing on July 27, 2009.  My original post was the text (as an editor at the Athens Banner-Herald modified it) of a letter to the editor decrying the homophobia of U.S. Representative Paul Broun, Jr., and people like him.  That was a fine post, but I have deleted most of my earliest posts.  I hit upon the idea of blogging about saints, although I have deleted many of those early posts also.  Many were mostly cut-and-paste jobs; they were substandard.  Early original posts about saints also tended to be bad.  The slow and methodical renovation and expansion of my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days has progressed from posts for feast days beginning with January 1 to the end of April–about one-third of the way toward one goal–to get through December 31.

The project of renovating and expanding the Ecumenical Calendar will require much time.  That will not be a problem for me.  After I get to December 31 in that project, I will start again, reviewing what I have done and adding more saints as I deem proper.

Blogging has proven to be a useful hobby for me.  It has stabilized my Bible Study projects (keyed to lectionaries) and provided an outlet for self-expression.  I have frequently been at a loss for someone to whom to express certain thoughts I have considered worthy of sharing.  Either stating certain opinions to a particular person would be foolish or at least not helpful or that person would not be able, for a variety of reasons, to comprehend or relate to the content.  Yet, via blogging, I have been able to find an audience, albeit a relatively small one, as WordPress records statistics.  I have pursued what I like, not what is popular.  As Martin Luther probably did not say at the Diet of Worms,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

Maintaining a network of eight weblogs necessarily entails leaving some of them fallow at any given time.  I am preparing to leave SUNDRY THOUGHTS fallow for a little while, except for an occasional post, and return to BLOGA THEOLOGICA, the intended host of a series of 60 posts of the Book of Psalms.  The Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) divides the 150 Psalms according to a reading plan for 30 days, with distinct readings for the morning and the evening of each day.  That sounds like an invitation to write 60 weblog posts to me.  The next major project here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS is due to be the renovation and expansion of the May portion of the Ecumenical Calendar.

For now, however, the project of updating the April section of the Ecumenical Calendar is temporarily on hold while I add texts by the prolific hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854) to GATHERED PRAYERS ahead of creating the new Montgomery post, the last one of April this round.  I have a draft (dated July 23) of that profile sitting in a composition book.  Frequently, when I write about a hymn writer here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, the updating of GATHERED PRAYERS becomes a related project, so that I link the two weblogs to each other.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Memories of Vidette, Georgia   3 comments

Vidette UMC 01

Vidette United Methodist Church 1980-1982

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I have been spending much time using Google Earth recently.  In particular I have been examining satellite and street view images of Vidette, Georgia, in western Burke County, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.   My father was the pastor of the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut United Methodist Charge.  I was seven, eight, and nine years old at the time, so I did not pay attention to most of the local ecclesiastical matters.  (Battle of the Planets, a dreadful  and frequently nonsensical American dubbing of a superior Japanese cartoon series, was much more interesting to me.)  I have learned, however, that the responsibility for the move in 1982 was a joint matter shared by my father and certain lay members.  Moving away was also a blessing.

Vidette Parsonage 01

The Parsonage, 1980-1982. My sister’s bedroom was on the right. The front room was in the center, off the porch. My bedroom was to the left, behind the twin windows at the porch.

The parsonage, located next to Vidette United Methodist Church, was in need of repair.  It was an old structure with one bathroom, no corridors, and no central air or heating.  The den was a narrow room in the middle-back section of the house, located between the master bedroom and the bathroom on one side and the kitchen and the dining room on the other.

Vidette Parsonage 02

I come from a bookish family.

Vidette Parsonage 04

The den. The dining room was to the left and the bathroom as to the right. My sister’s bedroom was to the left, through the front room. My bedroom was to the right, through the front room.

Vidette Parsonage 03

Look at me!

How many parishioners would have chosen to live in a house in that condition?  But the structure was good enough for the pastor and his family, right?  No!

The front room, just off the front porch, separated my sister’s bedroom from mine.  My bedroom, facing onto the front porch, was obviously supposed to be the pastor’s study, for it had a built-in closet and lacked a closet.  It had to be my bedroom, however, for there was no other room.  It was good to have the use of a built-in bookcase, however.  The large heater provided heat during the winter.  I dressed in front of it on cold mornings.

Much of life during the main part of the week during the school year occurred in Waynesboro, the county seat.  There we visited the bakery some Mennonites owned.  In that town my mother worked in the city hall and my sister and I attended school.

Vidette UMC 02

Me

1980-1982 were not good years for me.  I was struggling with life.  Certainly moving every few years did not help with regard to that matter.  I was not very sociable, and not just because of my introversion.  So I was possibly the worst Cub Scout ever.  At least I tried to be sociable, I suppose.  When we moved away, I terminated my involvement in the Cub Scouts.  Also, my physical awkwardness (evident in P.E.) contributed to my social awkwardness, as some of my classmates took the opportunity to mock me.  When my third grade class received Honorable Mention in the dodgeball tournament at Waynesboro Elementary School, many classmates blamed me.  Also, when (not by my doing) classmates learned of my middle name (Randolph), I became “Randolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  My friend was Ola Mae Bailey, the kindly elderly woman who lived next door.  She did more for me than perhaps she knew.

Did I mention that I have never really wanted to have children?  My childhood experiences contributed to this decision.

The South Georgia Conference has broken up the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut Charge.  As of last week, when the most recent round of ministerial appointments took effect:

  1. Vidette went onto a charge with Mt. Moriah, north of Matthews, in Jefferson County.  (By the way, I recall a pulpit exchange that took my father to Mt. Moriah one Sunday in 1980-1982.)
  2. Friendship was on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro.
  3. Green’s Cut was a station church.

There have been changes to structures since 1982:

  1. Vidette U.M.C. has expanded its fellowship hall and covered the gap between the back of the church and the front of the fellowship hall.
  2. Eventually Vidette U.M.C. ceased to use its deteriorating parsonage.

The Google Earth street view image (dated August 2012) of the house shows a decrepit, abandoned building.  Plywood covers one half of the front windows of my sister’s former bedroom.  In the satellite view (dated October 30, 2016), however, the parsonage is absent.  I get the impression that the demolition of the house must have been fairly recent, based on the obviousness of where the parsonage had been.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I recall events, scenes, and routines.  I think of (God help me!) The Lawrence Welk Show.  I recall the church hayride through the local cemetery one Halloween.  I also remember that, one Halloween (I suppose), some people bobbed for apples outside the front of the fellowship hall.  I recall the Sunday morning that Buddy the dog went to church.  I also remember watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Greatest American Hero, and Pink Panther cartoons.  I recall my sister watching the Fame series, before it went into syndication.  I also remember the town park and the only store in town.  I recall ecumenical engagements with the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (disbanded a few years ago), whose pastor had an obsession with the Book of Revelation.  One of their vacation Bible schools sticks in my memory.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I realize how fortunate I am not to live there any longer and to live in Athens-Clarke County.  I thank God in real time for what I have.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Strolling Down Memory Lane Via Google Earth   Leave a comment

Google Earth is wonderful.  Of all the programs I have downloaded to my computer, it is among my favorites.  Sometimes I use it to find landmarks before I drive to a place for the first time.  On other occasions I look up places I have never been and will probably never visit.  On other occasions I study Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live.  Most of the time I use Google Earth, however, I stroll down memory lane.

I have lived in Athens for slightly more than eleven years–since early August 2005.  This is longer than I have resided in any other place.  Within Athens I have had only two addresses, moving most recently in August 2007.  Most of my moves to prior to August 2005 were related to my family–my father’s ministerial career, to be precise.  Most of the other moves pertained to college.  I have had more addresses and telephone numbers than I can recall, for, after I relocate geographically, I move psychologically.

My memories of places I used to live is such that I recall certain details of them and can recognize them easily when I see them or images of them.  The first step in this process is looking at the satellite view; the street view continues the facilitation of the stirring up of memories.  There is the pastorium in Newington, Georgia; I could not have drawn it yet I recognized it immediately when I saw it on satellite view.  There is the park in Vidette, Georgia; I recall playing there in 1980-1982.  There is the Vidette United Methodist Church; people have expanded the facilities since 1982, but the parsonage looks worse than it did in the early 1980s.  There is the now-vacant lot just outside Dublin, Georgia, where I rented a mobile home for a time between degree programs.  There are the congregations where I attended services prior to moving to Athens.  There are the schools I attended and there are the places where those schools stood.

Spending time recalling the past is a useful exercise, for it (A) helps me to understand better the course of my path to the present and (B) prevents me from falling into the error of nostalgia.  The good old days were not as good as some imagine, I know.  The more I plumb the depths of my memory, the more I know that, despite certain aspects of my reality.  I am, all things considered, actually much better off in 2016 than I was during the time period before I relocated to Athens.  If I could I exchange places with a pre-Athens version of myself, I would not do so.

The past can be a fine place to visit via one’s memories, but one should never live there, seek to reside there, or romanticize it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  City Hall, Athens, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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On the morning of Tuesday, August 9, 2005, I moved from East Dublin, Georgia, to Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to begin doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA).  My major professor, to whom I refer to as “John Doe” in this post, dashed my hopes and killed my program within sixteen months, however.  I dropped out of UGA in December 2006, for I knew that I would have no third year and perceived no reason to complete the second year.  The graduate supervisor of the department advised me take a M.A. degree instead.  I informed him that I had one already.  Take a second one, he replied; the second M.A. will be from a “superior institution.”  My succinct reply, via email, copied to my negligent major professor, who was stingy with feedback, was, “No.”  The powers that were in the Department of History had tried to convert me into something I refused to become:  someone who could not pass five minutes without saying or thinking “subalternate.”  I liked people who changed the course of history and left documentation about it.  Subalternates did not interest me very much.  I finished Fall Semester 2006, holding myself together with the emotional equivalent of twine and duct tape.  Blazing Saddles, in five-minute-long increments, also helped greatly.  (Thank you, Mel Brooks!)  “To thine own self be true,” as Shakespeare wrote, placing those words in the mouth of Polonius in Hamlet.  I maintained my integrity in the face of pressure to do otherwise.

I still find subalternates boring.  Institutional and Great Man and Woman history retain my interest.

I also refuse to call what happened to me anything other than what it was:  academic abuse.  Judgment and mercy on the guilty parties rest entirely in the purview of God, I am not the judge of Dr. Doe and those in the department who made excuses for him.   Grudges do not build me up anyway, and any quest for revenge would damage me and be contrary to my Christian principles.  The trauma of my short-lived doctoral program has left much spiritual scar tissue; I need not add any more to it.  On the other hand, my stress levels today are much lower than they were when I was a graduate student at UGA.  I conclude that the Department of History was not a healthy milieu for me at that time.

Athens, however, has become my home.  Of all the places I have lived it is the one in which I fit best.  The intellectual life of the city is agreeable to me.  And, after all those years of feeling like the damned, marginalized liberal and heretic in South Georgia, I find myself slightly to the right of the center in most circles in which I move.  I have not even changed my opinions much.  I have, however, ceased to be an outcast.  I also refuse to make those to my left feel like outcasts, for I have no desire to do unto others negatively as others have done to me negatively.

I have never lived in one place this long.  I, born in Rome, Georgia, spent my earliest years in Chattooga County, Georgia–a few years in Trion but mostly in the ancestral family home in Summerville.  When I was six years old my parents moved my sister and me to South Georgia.  Starting in 1980 we took the grand tour of the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  From kindergarten to Twelfth Grade I attended schools in six counties.   Then I attended college in three more counties and lived in four other counties prior to relocating to Athens-Clarke County.

I have changed spiritually since I arrived in Athens in 2005.  I have, by grace and through trauma, become a better human being.  I am more aware of my weaknesses and my complete dependence upon God.  I am more forgiving, of both others and myself, for being weak.  I am more aware of my responsibilities to others, especially my students.  I know what St. Paul the Apostle meant by “dying to self,” although I cannot express that meaning in words.  I have received abundant grace via human beings and know of my responsibility to function as a vehicle of grace for others better than I did.  I have experienced spiritual death and rebirth.  I know well the pain of the death and the elation of the rebirth.  I am quite aware of my dark side, of my unworthiness, and of the immeasurable riches of the love of God.  I know that the light shines most brightly in the deepest darkness.

I do not know how long I will remain in Athens or its vicinity.  Neither do I know how long I should continue to live here.  I hope and pray that I will remain here as long as that is appropriate and that I will then move along to the proper subsequent location.  Meanwhile, I am glad to reside in Athens-Clarke County.

May my twelfth year in Athens be positive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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Feast of Bartolome de Las Casas (July 18)   1 comment

Bartolomedelascasas

Above:  Portrait of Bartolome de Las Casas

Image in the Public Domain

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BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS (1474/1484-JULY 18, 1566)

“Apostle to the Indians”

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INTRODUCTION

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My background reading for this post included sources with diametrically opposed understandings of Bartolome de Las Casas.  He was imperfect, to be sure, but he was hardly the bete noir some have depicted him as being or the increasingly intolerant man of conscience of whom I read at the New Advent website.  (He was increasingly intolerant of slavery.  How is that a vice?)  I have concluded that The Church of England was correct to decide to celebrate his life, with a feast day of July 20.  Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., the Ninth (Episcopal) Bishop of Georgia, said in my presence while he was still the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early 1990s that one can find a reason not to think of any given saint as a saint, and that such nitpicking was not a helpful endeavor.  What really mattered, Louttit argued, was whether one considered a saint was a person of God, especially at the end.  (That is also the point of view of Thomas J. Craughwell, author of Saints Behaving Badly:  The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints, 2006.)  The Episcopal Church, which maintains a calendar of saints without canonizing anyone formally, has established a set of standards by which to evaluate proposed saints.  Among them are significance, memorability, perspective, and Christian discipleship.  That denomination has decided to celebrate the life of Las Casas on July 18.  Likewise, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have decided to remember him on July 17.

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BIOGRAPHY

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Bartolome de Las Casas changed much during his lifetime.  He, a native of Seville, Castille and Leon, came from nobility.  His father, Francisco Casas, returned from the second voyage (1493-1496) of Christopher Columbus with an Indian boy, who became our saint’s servant.  Las Casas studied law and theology at the University of Salamanca then practiced law.  In 1502 he sailed to the Spanish Antilles to begin work as an advisor to the government there.  Eight years later, at Santo Domingo, Las Casas became the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the Americas.  Then the direction of his life changed.

Our saint came under the influence of Antonio de Montesinos, a Dominican friar and the first Spaniard to preach against Spanish cruelty to indigenous people in the Americas.  Las Casas accompanied Diego Velasquez’s expedition to Cuba in 1511-1512 and tried in vain to prevent the massacre of natives at Caonas.  The Spanish Empire employed a system called repartimiento, the allotment of encomiendas, or slaves to Spanish landowners for forced labor.  Defenders of this arrangement cited economic necessity and public safety as justifications for it.  In 1514 Las Casas, having concluded that this system was evil, renounced his rights within it and encouraged others to follow his example.  Then he commenced his decades-long effort devoted to the abolition of repartimiento.

This work began in Spain in 1515, when Las Casas spoke to King Ferdinand V of Castille and Leon (reigned 1474-1516)/Ferdinand II of Castille (reigned 1506-1516), “Ferdinand the Catholic.”  The monarch was a power-hungry and unscrupulous figure, so that stage in the great work failed.  In 1516, however, Cardinal Jimenes de Cisneros, the regent, appointed Las Casas to lead a commission to inquire as to the best way to alleviate the injustices inflicted upon the native peoples by Spanish settlers and conquistadors.  Our saint returned to Hispaniola,  While there he found the zeal of his fellow commissioners lacking.  In 1517 he returned to Spain.  King Charles I (reigned 1518-1556)/Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-1556) was struggling to gain recognition for his claim to the throne.  There was a regency in place, however, and our saint spoke to people in power to make decisions.  He proposed an end to slavery for native peoples.  (That was good.)  To replace that slave labor force Las Casas proposed African slaves.  He disavowed that recommendation shortly thereafter and spent the rest of his life making apologies for it.  No part of this proposal bore fruit.  Our saint was able, however, to obtain royal approval for the founding of a model colony (without slave labor) at Cumana, on the coast of Venezuela.  That colony failed in 1521, due to the violence of conquistadors.  Powerful economic and military interests defended the enslavement of indigenous peoples tenaciously.

The effort continued.  In 1522 Las Casas entered the Dominican Order and the monastery at Santo Domingo.  There he wrote History of the Indies (published in 1875-1876), an account of early Spanish colonies in the Americas.  Our saint returned to Spain in 1530 and obtained a royal decree forbidding the enforcement of slavery in Peru.  He delivered it to Peru in person.  Circa 1535 Las Casas wrote The Only True Method of Attracting All People to the True Religion, in which he argued that preaching and good example, not enslavement, should be the first step in the process of converting Indians.  Next, in 1537-1538, our saint converted the fierce Tuzutlan tribe of Guatemala to Roman Catholicism.  He also changed the name of their territory from Tierra de Guerra (“Land of War”) to Vera Pax (“True Peace”).  The Dominican Order sent Las Casas to Spain to gather recruits in 1539.  At that time he wrote A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (published in 1552).

On November 20, 1542, the New Laws took effect.  They were not all that Las Casas wanted, but they were more than many settlers considered wise.  The New Laws, prior to amendments which made them useless, were supposed to be the beginning of the end of the repartimeinto system.  Our saint, having declined to become the Bishop of Cuzco, in Peru, in 1542, became the Bishop of Chiapas, in Mexico, in 1544.  His tenure (1544-1547) was difficult, for he had to contend with constant opposition (related to the New Laws) from clergy, laymen, and authorities.  Our saint even refused absolution of sins to anyone who refused to free his Indian slaves.

Las Casas left the Americas for the last time in 1547.  He returned to Spain, where he spent most of the rest of his life living in monasteries.  In 1550 and 1551 our saint debated famed scholar and theologian Gines de Sepulveda in public on the topic of the enslavement and destruction of indigenous peoples.  Four years later, in 1555, Las Casas followed Prince Philip, soon to become King Philip II (reigned 1556-1598), to England, to prevent colonists from winning royal approval of the perpetual slavery of Indians.  Our saint died at Atocha Monastery, Madrid, on July 18, 1566.  The struggle against slavery in the Spanish Empire continued.

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CONCLUSION

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The designated collect from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) emphasizes modern slavery.  That is appropriate, for Las Casas opposed slavery in his day.  One might think of religious-based slavery in Africa.  That practice is evil, I agree, but stopping there might lead one far away from Africa to think,

What can I do about that?

and do nothing else.  I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, on the outskirts of the Metropolitan Atlanta Region.  (To be precise, I live just a few miles from part of the eastern border of that region.)   Southeast of my location is Atlanta, a hub of human trafficking.  Even closer to home, human trafficking is a problem in Athens-Clarke County.  The life of Las Casas challenges me to ask myself what I might do to resist slavery just a few miles from my front door.  As for religious-based slavery in Africa, certain organizations fight that evil.  They need support.

Evil, supported by powerful economic, political, and military interests and frequently dressed up in the attire of morality, surrounds us.  We cannot fight all of it successfully or partially so, but we can do our part.  God, I suppose, does not really need we mere mortals.  God is omnipotent, correct?  Yet we, I have heard, are God’s hands and feet.  Will I–will you, O reader, in the words of the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979),

…seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

and

…strive for for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

–Page 305

One of the great difficulties of timeless principles is that many people who agree to them differ when the question becomes how best to apply them.  If, for example, one accepts the proposition that one person’s rights end at the edge of the other person’s nose, how does one resolve the conflict of these two sets of rights?  May each of us, by grace, succeed in bringing honor to God and in respecting the dignity of every human being as we navigate and shape the circumstances of life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNADETTE OF LOURDES, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH THEOBALD SCHENCK, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISABELLA GILMORE, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM FIRMATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Eternal God, we give you thanks for the witness of Bartolome de las Casas,

whose deep love for your people caused him to refuse absolution to those who would not free their Indian slaves.

Help us, inspired by his example, to work and pray for the freeing of all enslaved people of our world,

for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 59:14-20

Psalm 52

Philemon 8-16

Matthew 10:26-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 469

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