Archive for the ‘Homosexuality’ Tag

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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Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church (November 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  A Globe

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Church of England.

A cliché tells us that the church is always one generation away from extinction.  Some clichés are accurate.  This one hits home with much force when, in much of the world, “none” is the fastest-growing religious affiliation.  A complicating factor is the contrast between mainliners (such as yours truly, comfortably to the left of the theological center, overall) and the Global South, with its style of Christianity on the fundamentalist-Evangelical spectrum.  If being a Christian requires me to shut down my intellect, reject science and history, and turn into a homophobe, I do not want to be a Christian.  However, that is not true Christianity.  But how many people see that negative face of the church and turn away from the church and Christianity completely?  This concerns me.  Some of find much to admire about the Enlightenment.  Call me a radical if you wish, O reader.  Here I stand.  I can and will do no other.

Historically, organized Christianity has been its own worst enemy.  For example, many churches have identified with the kingdom, empire, or state so much as to become an arm thereof.  So, for example, when certain western kingdoms and republics became global empires, missionaries from those countries were frequently indistinguishable from imperial agents.  The predictable indigenous, nationalistic wave of resistance to the colonial masters often had an anti-Christian character.  Yet, in places where missionaries successfully indigenized the churches, Christianity did not seem alien and foreign.

I have always been a Christian.  My family has been Christian for countless generations.  Somewhere, long ago, in the mists of time, that chain of faith began with a missionary.

Missionaries perform invaluable work.  And not all of them travel to far-flung places.  I try to function as a missionary where and when I am, in person and at a keyboard.  And I am most like one of those Hobbits who remained in Hobbiton all the time.  Perhaps you, O reader, do not consider yourself a missionary or an evangelist.  Maybe you are one anyway.

Tactics matter.  The first rule is not to be obnoxious or to place the other person on the defense immediately.  I recall a story I heard from an exchange student from Nepal in the middle 1990s.

Lax (as she encouraged people to call her) was a Tibetan Buddhist.  (“Lax” was one syllable of her polysyllabic name.)  She was also a student at Valdosta State University.  Lax told me that, one day, another student told her that she would go to Hell if she did not convert to Christianity.  That was a terrible opening line.  It placed Lax (a sweet person, by the way) on the defense immediately.  Also, if I understand Tibetan Buddhism accurately, the threat of going to Hell made no sense to Lax. (According to what I have read in reference works, not having broken the cycle of reincarnation is Hell in Tibetan Buddhism.)  Christianity made about as little sense to Lax as Tibetan Buddhism did (and still does) to me.

I thank God for missionaries who have used–and use–effective, culturally-sensitive techniques.  Using such techniques creates an opening for potentially successful evangelism.  Such work is essential, whether far away, very near, or in the middle.

One obstacle organized Christianity faces is the impression that Christians are judgmental.  This impression exists because many Christians are judgmental.  I know some, O reader.  Maybe you do, too.  I know some Christians who were pleasant, kind people until they had a conversion experience.  Perhaps you do, too.  In reality, if we mere mortals are honest with ourselves, we will admit to ourselves that we need divine mercy as much (at least) as do all other people.  So, what right do we have to be judgmental jerks?  We have no such right, of course.  Another cliché is accurate and applicable here, too:  many recent converts frequently embarrass long-term adherents.

May the missionary work of the Church thrive and expand.  May the love of God define it.  And may missionaries heed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi (1181/1182-1226).  May they preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM COWPER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELARD OF CORBIE, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, FRANKISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

THE FEAST OF RUTH BYLLESBY, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBISTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940; AND SAINT WLADYSLAW GORAL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1945

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Almighty God, who called your Church to witness

that you were in Christ reconciling men to yourself:

help us so to proclaim the good news of your love,

that all who hear it may be reconciled to you;

through him who died for us and rose again

and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 97 or 100 or 2 or 46 or 47 or 67 or 87 or 96 or 117

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 28:16-20

The Alternative Service Book 1980 (1980), 907-908

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 14: Tears of a Clone (2001)   1 comment

Above:  The Two Graces

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Tears of a Clone

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 25, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-117

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Main Guest Cast

Adrienne Barbeau as Evelyn Hall

Scott Benefiel as Doctor

Behind the Camera

Writer = Hans Beimler

Director = Adam Davidson

Above:  Evelyn Hall

Brief Summary

For the sake of narrative clarity, I have rearranged the story to make it linear.

Early one morning, shortly after midnight, Grace Hall enters an alley.  She is answering a call and seeking a lead about a Puerto Rican succubus.  Her clone, a creation of Nemacoids (space aliens), attacks her.  The two Graces struggle.  The clone falls into water and nearly electrocutes.  The original Grace calls Donald Stern, who tells her to call 911.  Then he shelters her until he can find out who is responsible.  The clone, nearly electrocuted, forgets her imperative to kill Grace and that she is a clone.  When the clone awakens in a hospital bed, Donald Stern is only person present who knows she is a clone.  Wes Freewald, Tucker Burns, and Sal the Pig-Boy, for example, are in the dark.  So is Grace’s concerned mother, Evelyn Hall.

Evelyn does not believe any of Grace’s stories about experiencing abductions.  The mother also dismisses the World Chronicle as a “little paper.”  Out of concern, she tries to have Grace committed involuntarily.

A Nemacoid “cleaner,” disguised as a human male, tries to kill Wes, Tucker, and Grace.  The clone sacrifices herself to save the original Grace.  The Nemacoid “cleaner” teleports away with the corpse of the clone.

In a side plot, Sal the Pig-Boy temporarily changes his wardrobe and tries to find his inner pig.  The adds bling, too.  Wes calls him the “Notorious P.I.G.”  At the end of the episode, Sal is done with that phase, so he passes the clothes and bling to Wes and Tucker.

Grace and her mother make their peace before Evelyn departs.  Evelyn offers NSYNC concert tickets to Grace, who rejects them.  Grace tells her mother that “only teenage girls and gay men like NSYNC.”  Then Evelyn offers the tickets to Wes and Tucker whom she has spent the episode mistaking for a homosexual couple, despite their attempts to correct her.  (She is very open-minded, though.)  Wes really wants to attend the concert.

Character Beats

Evelyn Hall is really nice, concerned, and open-minded.

Kristen Martin is out of town for the weekend.

Above:  Sal, the Notorious P.I.G.

Great Lines

The Grace clone, to Evelyn:  “I am calm!”

Sal, to the Grace clone:  “Grace, pigs are loyal.  We don’t squeal on our friends.  We leave that to rats.”

Above:  The Committal Form

In-Universe

Why do Nemacoids want to kill Grace?

Nemacoids scale walls as spiders do.

We have heard Grace speak of her parents on occasion.

Grace and Evelyn seldom meet with or speak to each other.

Donald Stern once published a story about lesbian Lilliputians, but not as a cover story.  Maybe the story was running short on words.  (Ha!  That pun was not the height of my sense of humor. Jonathan advised me not to be so swift to pun.  I replied, “What a novel idea!”)

This episode includes a reference to Pig Boy’s Big Adventure.

Evelyn has been planning to have Grace committed for at least a month or so.  The date on the committal form is March 17, 2001.

This episode could occur before or after The Cursed Sombrero, set in early May 2001.

Above:  Partners

Comments

The first half-hour or so of this episode sustains the mystery well.  Then the story moves along well to its resolution.

Evelyn’s “No need to explain,” an expression of her toleration, is simultaneously sweet and funny.

This episode is simultaneously suspenseful and fun.

Error:  In dialogue, Grace’s shrink is Dr. Greenleaf, whom Evelyn says has signed the committal form.  Evelyn says she needs only one more signature to commit Grace involuntarily.  Yet, when we see the form with two signatures, one is Evelyn’s and the other is that of one Dr. Benson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Robert McAfee Brown (May 28)   3 comments

Above:  Stanford University

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-21158

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ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN (MAY 28, 1928-SEPTEMBER 4, 2001)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, Activist, and Ecumenist

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In conscience, I must break the law.

–Robert McAfee Brown, October 31, 1967

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Robert McAfee Brown comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my library.

Above:  Two Books by Robert McAfee Brown

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Brown stood in the finest tradition of the Hebrew prophets and centuries of Christian tradition.  He, born in Carthage, Illinois, on May 28, 1928, was a son of Ruth McAfee (Brown) and Presbyterian minister George William McAfee.  Our saint was also a grandson of Cleland Boyd McAfee, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.  Brown, a 1944 graduate of Amherst College, married Sydney Elise Thomson on June 21, 1944.  The couple had three sons and a daughter.  Our saint, a student at Union Theological Seminary from 1943 to 1945, studied under Paul Tillich (1886-1965) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).  After graduating, Brown served as a chaplain in the United States Navy in 1945 and 1946.

Brown spent most of his life as an academic.  He was an assistant chaplain and an instructor in religion at Amherst College in 1946-1948.  Then he studied at Mansfield College, Oxford, in 1949 and 1950.  Our saint, an instructor at Union Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1951, earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951.  He led the Department of Religion, Malacaster College, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1951-1953.  Our saint served on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in 1953-1962.  Then, in 1962-1976, our saint was a Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.  Brown returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1976 as Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity.  Our saint was Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, in 1979-1984.  Then he retired.

Brown was an ecumenist.  In the early 1950s, when unapologetic anti-Roman Catholicism was prominent in U.S. Protestantism, our saint campaigned for Minnesota Congressman Eugene McCarthy, whose Roman Catholicism was a political difficulty.  Brown and Gustave Weigel (1906-1964) collaborated on An American Dialogue:  A Protestant Looks at Catholicism and a Catholic Looks at Protestantism (1960).  Time magazine called Brown

Catholics’ favorite Protestant

in 1962.  Our saint was even an observer (on behalf of global Calvinism) at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1963 and 1965.  Brown also attended the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches as a delegate in 1968.  Seven years later, he delivered the keynote address (“Who is This Jesus Who Frees and Unites?”) at the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

Social justice was essential to Brown’s faith.  He, a pacifist, had no moral difficulty serving as a military chaplain after World War II.  Our saint’s pacifism led him to oppose the Vietnam War, of course.  His conscience led him to protest the military draft, to speak and write against the war, to commit civil disobedience, and to go to jail for doing so in 1971.  That conscience also let Brown to join a delegation that met with Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) in  January 1973 about ending the Vietnam War.

Brown was also a longtime civil rights activist at home and abroad.  He, a Freedom Rider in 1961, went to jail in Tallahassee, Florida.  Our saint addressed the immorality of Apartheid when he spoke at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa in September 1972.  Brown also advocated for women’s liberation and the civil rights of homosexuals.  Furthermore, he was active in the Sanctuary Movement, for he cared deeply about justice in Central America.  This led our saint to collaborate with Liberation Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez (b. 1928).

Brown also helped to raise consciousness about the Holocaust.  He, a friend of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) since the middle 1970s, served on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 1979 to 1985.  Our saint resigned after President Ronald Reagan visited Bitburg Cemetery, containing graves of Waffen SS troups.

Brown became a novelist late in life.  He published Dark the Night, Wild the Sea in 1998.

Brown, aged 81 years, died in Greenfield, Massachusetts, on September 4, 2001.

One of Brown’s volumes invaluable for Bible study is Unexpected News:  Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984).  Passages covered came from Luke, Exodus, 2 Samuel, Jeremiah, Matthew, and Daniel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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

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

Help us, like your servant Robert McAfee Brown,

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, 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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Family Values/Family Values (Redux)   11 comments

Above:  Jeb with Dante Montana

A Screen Capture

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SEASON 1, EPISODE 3

MAIN CAST

Michael Paré as Dante Montana

Claudette Roche as Lucretia “Luc” Scott

Tanya Allen as Percy Montana

Murray Melvin as Caravaggio (the ship’s AI)

Stephen Marcus as Rudolpho DeLuna

SUPPORTING CAST

Heidi von Palleske/Heather Belle-Matmor as Penny Montana

Philippe Simon as Etienne

George Harris as Darius Scott

Joseph Clark as Brad

Marc Belliveau as Telus

Denis Theriault as Jeb/Vincent Taylor

Cavanagh Matmor as Baby Travis Montana

Paula Dawson as Cynical Onlooker

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Director = Henri Safran

Writer = Nelu Ghiran

Composer = Donald Quan

Length of the original episode = 0:47:23

Length of the Redux episode = 0:44:06

GENERAL COMMENTS ABOUT THE EPISODE

Above:  Dante and Vincent, in a wonderful scene

A Screen Capture

  1. The Redux version of this episode incorporates nearly all of Rudolpho’s opening transmission.  In the original version, the transmission is distinct from the rest of the episode.  In the Redux version, however, we see the transmission broadcast throughout the Transutopian.  Rudolpho, between laughs, philosophizes about families as sources of both hope and pain.  The Redux version of the episode omits the end of the transmission, in which he brags about an imminent sexual encounter.
  2. The special effects of the surface of Mars, of outer space, and of virtual reality are better in the Redux version.
  3. The heart of this episode is character, however.  Let us not be so superficial as to focus on style over substance.
  4. VR Penny is the downloaded soul of Penny, as we learn in a subsequent episode.
  5. Virtual reality Penny is breaking down after a decade.
  6. Penny Montana was a scientist.  As we learn in a future episode, Dante was a farmer on Titan.
  7. After nearly a century of terraforming and colonization, Mars remains a “dump.”
  8. Dante knows that Luc has a secret agenda, that she is not merely someone Rudolpho sent to keep Dante on task.  Luc tells Dante that she has not secret agenda, though.
  9. Etienne and Brad are partners in life and in grifting.
  10. Etienne takes pride in his crime.  He objects strenuously when learning that his reputation is that of a minor criminal.
  11. Brad is a walking negative stereotype of a homosexual.
  12. The bickering of Etienne and Brad provides comic relief.
  13. Percy tells Caravaggio that she has never been to Earth.  An observant person may recall that she was aboard the Transutopian in The Divinity Cluster (1.1) when the ship flew over New Los Angeles.  Percy did not walk on the surface of the planet, though.
  14. Percy has a fine sense of sarcasm.
  15. Dante has arrested Etienne four times.
  16. Cortex moderation, first degree, is an alternative to arrest in this case.  This alternative renders the subject a “drooling idiot” for a year.
  17. Luc is a veteran of military special forces.
  18. Mars is supposedly clear of Raiders.
  19. The origin of the Raiders:  Military leaders experimented on some soldiers, rendering them sterile.  So Raiders increase their numbers via abduction.  One may wonder though, how long these experiments have continued, given the existence of Raiders for generations.
  20. The Raiders killed Brad.
  21. Denis Theriault, who played Jeb, the Raider boy, was 14 years old, the correct age for Travis at the time of this episode.
  22. The Transutopian, far past its prime, is full of obsolete technology.
  23. Percy encounters VR Penny via Dante’s virtual reality headset.
  24. Luc says that Raiders always abduct male children.  Raiders do not abduct only male children, though.  We see female Raiders later in the first season.
  25. Dante thinks that Jeb is Travis.  Jeb is actually Vincent Taylor, abducted from his family on Oberon nine years prior.  Vincent gets to go home.
  26. Darius Scott is all business with his daughter.
  27. Weight limits on the shuttle prevent Etienne from going with Dante and Luc when they decide to take Jeb with them back to the Transutopian.
  28. Etienne distracts Raiders with shell game con while Dante, Luc, and Jeb get away.
  29. In the sweet closing of the episode, Vincent, afraid on the way home, sits next to Dante as both of them gaze into outer space and Dante helps the boy to feel less afraid.
  30. Etienne escapes, to appear in another episode.

Next episode:  Siren’s Song, which has never made any sense to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Proper Levels of Sensitivity   3 comments

Above:  A Scene from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

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Or, Neither Be a Snowflake Nor Excuse and Facilitate Snowflakism in Others

Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.

Certain statements are always beyond the pale.  These statements are those intended to degrade other human beings.  Reasons for degrading others include race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.  Anyone who crosses that line deserves strong condemnation.  Nobody should ever tolerate such statements.  One might, on occasion, quote them (as in academic work; try writing a biography of a segregationist politician without quoting racial slurs, for example) or mock them (as in Blazing Saddles).

Above:  Men Reluctant to Give Land to the Irish; from Blazing Saddles (1974)

A Screen Capture

Some works of art age better than others based on this standard.  For example, Blazing Saddles (1974) depicts unapologetic racists as fools and idiots.  The movie stands the test of time as a masterpiece that argues against bigotry.  We who watch the movie laugh at those ensnared by their own learned racism.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) is also a classic, but Mickey Rooney’s performance as an Asian man makes me cringe.  On the other hand, the movie does boast Audrey Hepburn and a cat.  How can I dislike a movie with Audrey Hepburn and a cat in it?

Above:  Holly Golightly and Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

A Screen Capture

I am sensitive, but not hypersensitive.  Life is too short (however long it might feel in real time) for me to spend it being hypersensitive, either about what others do and say or what I do or say.  No, I aim for a proper level of sensitivity on both sides of the equation.  I find Birth of a Nation (1915) offensive, for the seminal movie does glorify the first Ku Klux Klan.  The work is inherently racist, but it is also a landmark of cinema and a document of sorts of racial attitudes in much of the United States half a century after the end of the Civil War.  I have no regrets about having watched it from beginning to end once, for historical interest, or in having shown clips in classes, for educational purposes, with context.

The guiding principle for me in these matters is respecting the dignity of every human being, a value built into the Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  This principle explains why, for example, I oppose abortion except in extenuating cases (while I argue that changing minds and making alternatives to abortion easier is a more effective, and therefore, better strategy than outlawing the procedure) as well as homophobia and discrimination against homosexuals.  Whether one places the label “left” or the label “right” on a position regarding respecting the dignity of all people does not matter to me.  Respecting the dignity of every human being is a principle that leads me to refrain from dehumanizing those who are different from me in one or more ways.

That does not mean, however, that I can ever get through day without doing something to offend someone, given that some people take offense more easily than others, and often at matters certain others consider inoffensive.

I am, for example, sufficiently pedantic to insist on always using the words “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” in the plural.  One can be inclusive in the present tense, often by writing or speaking in language that makes one sound educated.  “One” and “one’s” are gender-neutral pronouns, after all.  One might also remain in the singular and substitute the definite article (“the”) for a gendered pronoun.  One can, when one sets one’s mind to the task, identify several strategies for being inclusive in the singular without wrecking the English language.  Alternatively, one might use “they,” “them,” “their,” and “themselves” correctly by switching to the plural forms of words.  Or one might accept the tradition of using masculine pronouns as the inclusive default position and go about enjoying one’s day.  All of the above are feasible options.  I refuse to distort the English language, of which I am quite fond, because of the hypersensitivity of others.

Some people take offense at even the most respectful and polite disagreements.  I have experience with this, usually in the context of teaching.

In late 1991, in southern Georgia, U.S.A., I was at a transitional point in my life.  I was a freshman in college.  I was also turning into an Episcopalian.  I was, for the time being, still a United Methodist, though.  My father was the newly-appointed pastor of the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  One Sunday morning I was teaching the adult class.  There were two visitors, a married couple, Independent Baptists from Savannah, Georgia.  One half of that couple was a child of a member at Sumner.  During the course of that Sunday School lesson the visitors decided that my position on a particular theological point was lax.  Courteously I said,

I disagree.

I learned later in the week that I had offended–upset, really–them.  If these individuals were not prepared to take a polite, respectful “I disagree” well, how did they cope with daily life?  Did they associate most days only with people who agreed with them completely?

I have also offended students with the Joe Friday strategy–

Just the facts.

(Watch Dragnet, if you dare.  The acting was consistently and purposefully bad, but the two series were popular culture touchstones.)  In World Civilization I courses, for example, I have recited facts of ancient comparative religion.  This information has disturbed some students, who have mistaken me for one hostile to Judaism and Christianity, and who have taken grave offense at me.  To quote an old saying many of a younger generation might not understand,

Their tapes were running.

Those who took offense at me were not listening to what I was saying.  No, they were listening to what they thought I was saying.  They were reacting not to me, but to others who had criticized Christianity on false grounds.  In contrast, years ago, when I wrote an article I submitted for publication at an online theological journal with a conservative Presbyterian orientation, I recited many of the same facts about ancient comparative religion, but with no negative response or reaction.  The editors checked my facts and published my article.  They read what I wrote.  They also understood I was not hostile to the faith.

At one of the universities I attended there was a professor who specialized in Latin American history.  One day years ago he taught about human rights violations centuries ago that were matters of policy in the Roman Catholic Church.  An offended parent of an offended student called the department chair to complain.  The professor’s material was factually accurate; he cited examples Holy Mother Church has acknowledged frankly and for which it has formally apologized.  The two offended Roman Catholics (student and parent) took offense more easily and quickly than the institution they defended.

No ideological, political, or religious camp has a monopoly on snowflakism.  If one is to criticize snowflakism while remaining intellectually honest, one must criticize it consistently, without regard for left-right distinctions.

I have a strategy for dealing with that which would ruin my day needlessly:  I ignore it.  If I do not want to hear a speaker on the campus where I work, I do not attend the event.  If I do not want to watch a program or a movie, I avoid it.  Life is too short not to enjoy it properly.

I affirm all I have written in this post thus far as I add to it the following statement:  I understand why many people are hypersensitive.  I understand that many people’s formative experiences have included unapologetic, intentional insults, degradation, and contempt from others.  I understand that many people have felt oppressed because they have experienced a degree of oppression.  I understand that experiences have conditioned them.  I accept that one should acknowledge the unjust realities of many people’s lives and make no excuses for the inexcusable.

I also return to my original thought in this post:  Maintaining the proper level of sensitivity is crucial; hypersensitivity is at least as negative a force as insensitivity.  Something I do (or have done) today is offensive to somebody, somewhere.  The same statement applies to you, O reader.  Our duty is to do our best to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  That kind of love seeks to build people up, not to tear them down.  It respects in words and deeds the dignity inherent in them.  So may we act accordingly.  May we neither cause legitimate offense not take offense wrongly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Feast of Gerald and Betty Ford (July 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford at the Republican National Convention, 1976

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-08487

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GERALD RUDOLPH FORD, JR. (JULY 14, 1913-DECEMBER 26, 2006)

President of the United States of America and Agent of National Healing

husband of

ELIZABETH ANN BLOOMER WARREN FORD (APRIL 8, 1918-JULY 8, 2011)

First Lady of the United States of America and Advocate for Social Justice

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The long national nightmare is over.  Our Constitution works.

–President Gerald Ford, August 9, 1974

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INTRODUCTION

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With this post I merge two feasts.  Doing so is consistent with one of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  That goal is to emphasize relationships and influences.

The Fords were decent people who did much to leave the United States of America better than they found the country.  They were what the U.S.A. needed immediately after the presidency of Richard Nixon.

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GERALD, NÉ LESLIE

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Leslie Lynch King, Jr., entered the world at Omaha, Nebraska, on July 14, 1913, as his parents’ marriage was crumbling.  When Leslie, Jr., was two weeks old his mother and father separated; they divorced before the end of the calendar year.  Dorothy Ayer Gardner King and her young son moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to be close to her parents.  On February 1, 1916, Dorothy married paint salesman Gerald R. Ford.  Leslie, Jr., informally Gerald, Jr., for a long time, legally became Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., on December 3, 1935.  In the meantime he had worked in the paint store, become an Eagle Scout, and been a fine student and athlete in public schools then at the University of Michigan (1931-1935).

Ford rejected opportunities to become a professional football player, opting instead to coach boxing and varsity football.  His busy work schedule delayed his admission to Yale Law School until 1938.  While at Yale Ford found time to work on the presidential campaign of Republican nominee Wendell Willkie in 1940.  Our saint, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1941, practiced law in Grand Rapids, where he also taught business law and worked as a football line coach at the University of Michigan.

Ford served in the military during World War II.  In April 1942 he became an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve.  After teaching physical fitness at the pre-flight school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ford transferred to the U.S.S. Monterey in 1943.  He served in the Pacific Theater and nearly died.  Lieutenant Commander Ford received an Honorable Discharge in February 1946.

Ford returned to Grand Rapids, where he resumed the practice of law.  Politics beckoned, however.  So did love.

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GERALD AND BETTY

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Elizabeth Ann Bloomer, born at Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 1918, was also contributing to society.  She grew up in Grand Rapids, where her father, Stephenson Bloomer, had died when she was 16 years old.  Betty graduated from high school, taught dancing to children, worked with troubled children, studied dancing under Martha Graham, and worked as a fashion consultant in a department store.  Betty also married William C. Warren, an insurance agent, in 1942.  Unfortunately, he was also an alcoholic and a cruel man.  That marriage ended in divorce in 1947.

Gerald and Betty married at Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, in 1948.  They remained husband and wife until Gerald’s death in 2006.  The couple had four children from 1950 to 1957.

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CONGRESSMAN FORD

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Isolationism in foreign policy was a Republican tradition, one Senators Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., and Robert A. Taft practiced.  There was also an internationalist wing of the Republican Party, however.  In 1948 the U.S. Representative for the district containing Grand Rapids was Bartel Jonkman, an isolationist Republican.  Ford, whom World War II had transformed into an internationalist, successfully challenged Jonkman and won the general election in the fall.

Ford, whose ambition was to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, remained in the U.S. House until December 1973–for a total of twenty-four years, eleven months, and three days.  He, a member of the Appropriations Committee for most of that time, was a much-respected and well-liked member of that chamber.  Ford described himself as

a moderate in domestic affairs, an internationalist in foreign affairs, and a conservative in fiscal policy.

Perhaps Ford went overboard with his fiscal conservatism.  (A good idea, taken too far, becomes a bad idea.)  One biographer, looking back on Ford’s presidency, described him as the kind of man who would help a poor child individually then veto a school lunch bill.  Nevertheless, Ford was always a decent, compassionate man.  Our saint, who served on the Warren Commission, became the Minority Leader in 1965, opposed much of the domestic program of the Johnson Administration, and was skeptical of President Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s military escalation in Vietnam.

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VICE PRESIDENT FORD

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In October 1973 Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, guilty of illegal perfidy, resigned as part of a deal with Attorney General Elliot Richardson.  Meanwhile, the Watergate scandal, of President Richard Nixon‘s creation, was rapidly consuming his administration.  Nixon, under the terms of Amendment XXV (1967) of the Constitution, nominated the respected and popular Ford to fill the vacancy Agnew had created.  Many of those in Congress who voted to confirm Ford as Vice President knew they were also selecting the next President of the United States.

Ford was Vice President of the United States from December 6, 1973, to August 9, 1974–nine months and three days.  At first Ford was skeptical of the allegations against Nixon, his old friend.  Yet, as evidence piled high, Ford became skeptical of Nixon then turned against him.  On August 6, 1974, at a Cabinet meeting, Nixon said he would not resign, despite the certainty of imminent impeachment in the House of Representatives and the long odds of avoiding conviction and removal from office in the trial in the Senate.  After that meeting Ford told Nixon,

I can no longer defend you.

Two days later, when Nixon, for his own reasons, announced his resignation, he regretted having appointed Ford to the Vice Presidency.

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PRESIDENT FORD

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On the morning of August 9, 1974, Nixon said farewell to the White House staff and left Washington, D.C.  If he had not resigned, his fate would have been conviction and removal from office in the Senate trial; the margin would have exceeded the Constitutional minimum of two-thirds.  At Noon, at the White House, Chief Justice Warren Burger administered the oath of office to Ford.

Ford was the President of the United States from August 9, 1974, to January 20, 1977–two years, four months, and eleven days.  Perhaps he was in an impossible predicament, given the widespread distrust of the presidency and of Washington officialdom due to the combination of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.  Two successive Presidents from different parties had self-destructed politically.  Both had lied to the public.  One had committed criminal acts.  Meanwhile, a Vice President had also committed criminal deeds and had to resign.  The country needed a decent, honest man as the President of the United States more than ever.

Ford and his appointed Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, were Republicans of a sort that was becoming endangered; they were fighting an uphill battle against the more conservative Goldwater wing of the party.  (For that matter, Senator Barry Goldwater, a libertarian, Western Republican, found himself outflanked by social conservatives in the party during the Reagan Administration (1981-1989).  Some of his libertarian views made him too liberal for certain social conservatives in the mold of the Moral Majority.)  Ford was too liberal for many Republicans and too conservative for many Democrats.  He, with the help of Rockefeller, survived a challenge by Reagan for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976.  At the end of the year Ford narrowly lost the general election to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia.  Ford and Carter actually had much in common, in terms of policies.

Ford, as President, struggled with major global issues that affected other world leaders also.  During the Ford Administration South Vietnam collapsed faster than even North Vietnamese generals expected.  Ford was instrumental in the admission of 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees into the United States.  They and their descendants have contributed to American society.  Financial troubles, such as those related to inflation and energy crises, also occurred before and after the Ford Administration and affected the world, from Australia to England.  The Helsinki Accords (1975), which attracted criticism from both Reagan and Carter, proved to be historically important, for they held the Soviet Bloc accountable for violations of human rights.

There was also consistency with the Carter Administration.  Carter, for example, took Ford’s negotiations regarding the Panama Canal to the treaty stage.  Carter also made human rights an emphasis in foreign policy.  Carter Administration diplomacy in the Middle East, culminating in the Camp David Accords (1979), built on diplomacy from the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  Also, Nixon and Ford had done much for diplomacy with the Peoples’ Republic of China.  The Carter Administration opened full diplomatic relations with that country.  Furthermore, Ford had issued an amnesty for Vietnam War-era military deserters and draft dodgers; Carter issued a pardon.

Ford’s pardon of Nixon (September 8, 1974) ensured defeat in the election of 1976.  Ford insisted that the pardon, which carried with its acceptance an admission of guilt, was in the best interests of the country–to help with the healing process.  Vindication of this position came in 2001, when he won the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In December 2006, shortly after Ford’s death, biographer Lou Cannon, speaking on National Public Radio, said that our saint

had a practical mind and a noble heart.

Ford applied both of those during his years of public service.  The Nixon Administration had been an imperial presidency.  Ford, in contrast, was an unpretentious, humble man known for his innate decency.

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FIRST LADY

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Betty Ford was controversial.  She, a feminist, supported the Equal Rights Amendment, a position her husband shared.  Unfortunately, that proposed amendment failed to become part of the Constitution.  Betty also held a libertarian (pro-choice) position on abortion and a non-libertarian position on gun control.  Two of her greatest contributions to the country as First Lady pertained to the cancer and mental illness, both of which came with stigmas attached at the time.  (There is still a stigma attached to mental illness.)  Betty shared her diagnosis of breast cancer.  She, like Rosalynn Carter, the next First Lady, spoke out in favor of psychiatric treatment and discouraged stigma related to it.  May we recall that, in 1972, Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern had to drop his first running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, from the ticket because Eagleton had once undergone psychiatric treatment.  Furthermore, with regard to cancer, the stigma related to varieties of cancer was a topic in medical dramas of the 1970s.

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AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE YEARS

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The Fords left the White House on the morning of January 20, 1977.  Gerald, nearly Reagan’s running mate in 1980, had not become wealthy in elected and appointed offices.  As a former President of the United States he made real money, giving speeches, writing books, and sitting on corporate boards.  He and Betty also befriended the Carters after the Carter Administration ended.  Ford had both agreed with and criticized Carter from 1976 to 1981, but they found much common ground during the 1981 flight to Egypt, to attend the funeral of Anwar el-Sadat, the assassinated President of Egypt.

Betty, as a former First Lady, continued to help others.  She admitted her alcoholism and entered a treatment program.  Then, in 1982, she founded the Betty Ford Center at Rancho Mirage, California.

Today we know that addiction is a matter of altered brain chemistry.  It is not merely a matter of bad morality and a weak will.  Science argues against old attitudes and stigma in this case.  Nevertheless, old attitudes that disregard the scientific evidence (such as brain scans) persist, so stigmas remain.

Former President Ford remained an honorable man to the end.  He, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, was a class act.  He advised Bill Clinton to confess during the Lewinsky scandal.  Clinton sought the counsel then declined to heed it, at least when Ford offered it.  In 2001 Ford announced his support for marriage equality for homosexuals, thereby arguing against homophobia.  A few years later he quietly opposed the Second Iraq War during the George W. Bush Administration.  The Republican Party moved past Ford.

The former President died at Rancho Mirage, California, on December 26, 2006.  He was 93 years old.

Betty, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991, lived until the age of 93 years also.  She died at Rancho Mirage on July 8, 2011.

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CONCLUSION

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Mere decency and political civility are virtues that seem to be in short supply in the United States of America in 2018.  The examples of Gerald and Betty Ford remind one of a contentious time when those virtues were more plentiful.  One might legitimately disagree with one or both of them on certain policy issues, but one should acknowledge their great decency and respect their service to the country.  One should join with Jimmy Carter, who at the inauguration in 1977, thanked Gerald Ford for doing much to heal the country.  The wound of Watergate have never healed; they have run that deeply.  The shadow of Watergate, as Bob Woodward has called it, has fallen across all Presidents after Nixon.  The wounds of Watergate have proven too deep for any President or combination of Presidents to heal completely, one should admit.  Yet one should also acknowledge that Ford did his part honestly, humbly, and honorable.

One should also give all due credit to Betty Ford, especially for calling on people to put away harmful stigmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS STEFAN AND KAZIMIERZ GRELEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS,  1941 AND 1942

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE, LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY DAY AND PETER LAURIN, COFOUNDERS OF THE CATHOLIC WORKER MOVEMENT

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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

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

Help us, like your servants Gerald and Betty Ford,

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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