Archive for the ‘Jim Wallis’ Tag

Feast of Pedro Arrupe (February 28)   2 comments

Above:  Logo of the Society of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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PEDRO ARRUPE GONDRA (NOVEMBER 14, 1907-FEBRUARY 5, 1991)

Advocate for the Poor and Marginalized

Superior General of the Society of Jesus

Pedro Arrupe comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Father Joe Nangle, OFM, writing in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, eds., Cloud of Witnesses (2005).

Pedro Arrupe Gondra, born in Bilbao, Spain, on November 14, 1907, was a Basque, like St. Ignatius (of) Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus.  Arrupe, who joined the Jesuits in 1927, studied medicine in Madrid.  He continued his studies overseas, starting in 1932, when the Spanish Republican government expelled members of the Society of Jesus.  Our saint arrived in Japan, as a missionary, in 1938.  He, ordained to the priesthood in St. Marys, Kansas, in 1936, held a doctorate in medical ethics.

Arrupe understood the relationship between the Gospel and societal responsibility; he absorbed the message of various Hebrew prophets regarding exploitation of the poor and the marginalized.  Our saint, arrested as an alleged spy in December 1941, spent 33 days in prison.  Then he returned to his duties as master of novices for the Jesuit mission to Japan.  He, living on the outskirts of Hiroshima, joined his colleagues in serving as first responders after the U.S. nuclear bombing of the city on August 6, 1945.  Of the 150 people to which Arrupe and company tended, 149 survived.  Arrupe, regardless of where he was, recognized Jesus in “the least of these.”  This attitude helped him in his work, regardless of his title and duties.  Our saint became the Superior of the Jesuit Japanese Province in 1958.  From 1965 to 1983, he served as the Superior General of the order.

Vatican II was reshaping the Roman Catholic Church.  That Council coincided within a movement within Roman Catholicism in Latin America to defend the poor and the exploited, not military dictatorships that preyed on civilians.  The teaching of the divine preference for the poor informed this shift.  Arrupe challenged Christians, including his brother Jesuits, to defend “the least of these,” as Jesus would have had them do.  In a revolutionary age in the Church, our saint supported Liberation Theology, but only to a point.  Arrupe insisted on the primacy of the Gospel over political revolution.  He also shielded the Society of Jesus from attacks from more conservative quarters of the Roman Catholic Church.  As Jesuit priests and bishops, including Father Rutilio Grande (1928-1977) and Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980), joined the ranks of martyrs at the hands of brutal dictatorships, Arrupe continued to support he cause for which they died.

Arrupe, being an intellectually and spiritually honest Christian, also defended the rights of refugees.  He, affected by the plight of Vietnamese boat people, founded the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980.  Our saint insisted,

Saint Ignatius called us to go anywhere where we are most needed for the greater glory of God.  The spiritual as well as the material need of more than 16 million refugees throughout the world today could scarcely be greater.  God is calling us through these helpless people.

Arrupe, who said that

the love of God which does not issue in justice is a farce,

resigned as Superior General in 1983.  He had suffered a stroke in late 1981, and a Papal appointee had served as interim Superior General.  Our saint, forced to use a wheelchair, died in Rome on February 15, 1991.  He was 83 years old.

The cause for Arrupe’s beatification and canonization opened officially on February 5, 2019.

Attempting to read the minds of dead people can easily become an act of great folly.  In this case, however, I know what Arrupe would say about the global refugee crisis in 2019.  I do not have to guess what he would think about Donald Trump’s policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexican border.  Neither do I have to guess what our saint would say about Trump’s recommendation to shoot asylum seekers in the legs.  I do not have to guess what Arrupe would say about government policies that enrich the wealthy and keep the impoverished poor.

Pedro Arrupe was a prophet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR, 1729; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF CYRIACUS SCHNEEGASS, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BLESSED FRANCIS XAVIER SEELOS, GERMAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, U.S. NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

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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

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 736

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Feast of Beyers Naude (September 7)   Leave a comment

 

 

Above:  Flags of South Africa

Images in the Public Domain

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CHRISTIAN FREDERICK BEYERS NAUDÉ (MAY 10, 1915-SEPTEMBER 7, 2004)

South African Dutch Reformed Minister and Anti-Apartheid Activist

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Because of my experience, I’ve been able to tell other white Afrikaners, who despise me or have rejected me and feel that I’m a traitor to their cause, “I pity you, because I feel that you, in fact, have become the victims of your own imprisoned philosophy of life.  And therefore you cannot be free.  You cannot be free to love people of color deeply and sincerely.  You cannot be free to look at the future of South Africa outside the confines of your present political viewpoint.  You cannot be open to the concept of Christian community with Christians of all denominations around the world.  And therefore, as a result of those things that you have imposed on yourself, your vision is limited.”

–Beyers Naudé, interviewed for Sojourners magazine, 1987;  quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, eds., Cloud of Witnesses, Revised Edition (2005), 152-153

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The Reverend Beyers Naudé comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Cloud of Witnesses (2005).

Of Orthodoxy and Heresy

What do we mean by orthodoxy and heresy?

Orthodoxy literally means “correct opinion.”  But who defines “correct”?  Ideally, all of us would recognize God as the definer of correctness and agree on the contents of orthodoxy.  Actually, though, competing orthodoxies exist within traditions, such as Christianity.  An orthodox Lutheran, for example, is a heretic by standards of an orthodox Calvinist or Roman Catholic or Methodist.  We who follow God or try to do so are attempting to read God’s mind partially.  Usually we adopt an institution’s definition of orthodoxy as the gold standard.  As I try to be a faithful Christian, I do not color outside the lines, so to speak.  I reject some strands of tradition and favor others, but I am generally fairly conventional, in the context of broader Christianity, but not the Bible  Belt of the United States.  I try, however, to be theologically humble, and to acknowledge that I am mistaken on certain points; I just do not know which ones.  I am therefore tolerant of a wide range of Christian orthodoxies, for I recall having changed my mind on major theological issues, such as, years ago, when I disposed of my Wesleyan-Arminian upbringing sufficiently to accept Single Predestination, an Anglican, Lutheran, and moderate Reformed doctrine.

“Heresy” comes from the Greek verb meaning “to choose.”  A heretic therefore a person who chooses what to believe, in opposition to orthodoxy, as at least one institution defines it.  The implication, therefore, is that the heretic chooses wrongly.

Understand me correctly, O reader; I am no postmodernist.  Orthodoxy and heresy are real, and we can know them partially.  I also affirm that, as much as each person is somebody’s schismatic, each person is also somebody’s heretic.

Beyers Naudé, raised a heretic, came to orthodoxy when he rejected the norms of his church, society, and nation-state.  Voltaire wrote that is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.  Our saint learned that lesson painfully.

Early Years

Damn you when everybody speaks well of you!  Recall that their ancestors treated the phony prophets the same way.

–Luke 6:26, Annotated Scholars Version (1992)

Christian Frederick Beyers Naudé, born in Roodeport, Transvaal, South Africa, on May 10, 1915, was a man baptized into a racist denomination. The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, hereafter the DRCSA, taught that the Bible justified racism and racial segregation.  In 1948 Apartheid became the continuation of various laws and customs.  The DRCSA quoted the Bible to justify that execrable system.  The architects of Apartheid and its antecedents came from the Broederbond, an Afrikaner organization our saint’s father, the Reverend Jozua Naudé, a hero of the late Boer War, had helped to found.  Naudé the elder named his son, our saint, after Christian Frederick Beyers, a Boer general from that war, and a friend.  Our saint moved in influential, devout, and unapologetically racist circles; he was on track to rise to the office of Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.  His background, South African Dutch Calvinism, included not only a toxic stew of racism, imperialism, and ethnocentrism, but the sense that Afrikaners were part of God’s elect.  Afrikaners understood and embraced what Rudyard Kipling gleefully called “White Man’s Burden” in 1899, to celebrate the debut of the United States of America as an imperial power:

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Until the 1950s Naudé the younger did not question the orthodoxy–the conventional wisdom–concerning Apartheid.  He graduated from the University of Stellenbosch and became a minister in the DRCSA in 1939.  He married Ilse Weder, daughter of a Moravian missionary, in 1940.  Also in 1940, at the age of 25 years, he became the youngest person to join the Broederbond.  Naudé rose through the ranks of the DRCSA.

The Road to Damascus

Consider this:  Treat people in was you want them to treat you.  This sums up the whole Law and the Prophets.

–Matthew 7:12, Annotated Scholars Version (1992)

The conversion of Beyers Naudé was gradual.

That process began in 1953, when he was part of a DRCSA delegation studying youth work in Europe, the United States of America, and Canada.  Some of what he witnesses outside his home culture and country affected him to the point of sowing the seeds of doubt regarding the morality of Apartheid.

Later, when Naudé was the acting Moderator of the Transvaal Synod of the DRCSA, some of his ministers came to him with troubling questions.  Some white ministers were serving in Colored (to use the South African term) congregations.  Parishioners were confronting these ministers for supporting Apartheid.  Naudé’s subsequent visits to these congregations shook him as he witnessed the human toll of Apartheid.  Between 1955 and 1957 Naudé undertook a private study of the question of whether the Bible justified Apartheid; he concluded that scripture and Apartheid were opposed to each other.

The last straw for Naudé was the Sharpeville Massacre of May 21, 1960.  On that day agents of the national government shot and killed 69 peaceful, unarmed protesters, most of whom were running away when security forces shot them.  Naudé became an outspoken opponent of Apartheid.

Taking Up His Cross

Congratulations when people hate you, and when they ostracize and denounce you and scorn your name as evil, because of he son of Adam!  Rejoice on that day, and jump for joy!  Just remember, your compensation is great in heaven.  Recall that their ancestors treated the prophets the same way.

–Luke 6::22-23, Annotated Scholars Version (1992)

That was when trouble started for Naudé.  Yes, he continued in parish ministry until 1963 and became the Moderator of the Southern Transvaal Synod in 1961, but our saint was on a collision course with the DRCSA.  In 1963 Naudé became the Director of the Christian Institute of South Africa, an ecumenical and multiracial organization that challenged Apartheid and distributed humanitarian aid.  That year the DRCSA also gave our saint an ultimatum; he had to choose between the Christian Institute and his ministerial function in the denomination.  Naudé chose the former.  The title of his final sermon was “Obedience to God.”  Our saint was, for all intents and purposes, a defrocked man.

Naudé spent most of the next three decades in trouble with South African government.  Security forces raided the offices of the Christian Institute occasionally.  Our saint, allegedly a heretic, as well as a traitor to the Afrikaner cause, opposed violence as a method of political change.  That did not satisfy the hardline government, which, on one occasion, accused him of being a communist.  Naudé was not a communist, but he was a subversive, as he should have been.  He traveled in Europe, speaking against Apartheid and collecting honors.  In October 1977 the South African government banned our saint and the closed the Christian Institute.  Naudé, as a banned person, was under house arrest.  The law also forbade him from speaking to more than one person at a time.  Foreign honors continued.  In the early 1980s the government relaxed the ban somewhat, permitting Naudé to leave his house yet not the magisterial district of Johannesburg.  The ban ended in September 1984.

Naudé was a free man again.  In 1984 He succeeded Desmond Tutu (a man destined for addition to this Ecumenical Calendar eventually) as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.  In the early 1990s our saint, without joining the African National Congress (ANC), was the only white member of the ANC team that negotiated with the national government as Apartheid collapsed.

Naudé, marginalized within the DRCSA, had made the emotionally difficult decision to leave it in 1980.  He transferred to the majority-Black Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA).  The DRCA, by the way merged with the (Colored) Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in 1994 to form the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA).

The Hero

Well done, you competent and reliable slave!

–Matthew 25:23a, Annotated Scholars Version (1992)

Naudé, once a pariah, was a hero at the end of his life.  President Nelson Mandela was one of his friends.  Our saint lived long enough to witness his vindication.  He even lived long enough to witness the DRCSA denounce Apartheid and issue a formal apology for having affirmed the execrable institution.

Naudé lived to the age of 89 years.  He, surrounded by his wife and children, died at a retirement home in Johannesburg on September 7, 2004.

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I also composed the collect and chose the passages of scripture.

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Loving God of all nations, races, ethnicities, and cultures,

your command that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves

is as ancient as the Bible and as contemporary as the news.

That command continues to challenge us as we confront our own prejudices

and contend with those of people in power, as well as those around us.

Negative pressure to consent to injustice actively or passively is frequently intimidating.

We thank you for your faithful servant Beyers Naudé, whom you converted,

and who took up his cross and followed Jesus in South Africa,

thereby becoming an agent of transformation of his church, society, and nation-state.

May we follow the divine path of love in our circumstances,

and thereby radiate the light of Christ when and where we are,

regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord and Savior,

in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Amos 1:21-24

Psalm 27

James 1:22-25

Luke 6:20-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION

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Feast of Athol Hill (September 5)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of Australia

Image in the Public Domain

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ATHOL HILL (SEPTEMBER 5, 1937-MARCH 9, 1992)

Australian Baptist Biblical Scholar and Social Prophet

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[Jesus] comes time and again and calls us to follow him, offering a fresh start in the life of discipleship.  The options don’t vary, but the choices continue.

–Athol Hill

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Athol Hill comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the revised edition of Cloud of Witnesses, edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday.

Hill was a renowned scholar of the Bible, the New Testament in particular.  He was also a Christian so committed to following Jesus completely that he was too radical for the comfort of the conservative establishment of the Baptist Union of Australia.  Hill, when accused of being a Marxist, replied that he was not, for Karl Marx was too conservative.  Not surprisingly, Hill was the defendant in a heresy trial.  He was not always diplomatic.  Hill also recognized the existence of differing interpretative traditions within the Bible.  The most controversial aspect of his faith and practice was his radical commitment to service to the poor and other vulnerable people.  Passages from the Gospels that affirmed the divinity of Jesus, Hill argued, also challenged Christians to shake off middle-class and upper-class complacency, and to engage in complete discipleship.

Hill, born in Wauchope, New South Wales, Australia, on September 5, 1937, took Jesus seriously.  Our saint, a former retail manager, pursued theological studies.  He studied at, in order:

  1. New South Wales Baptist College, Macquarie Park, New South Wales, Australia;
  2. Spurgeon’s College, London, England, United Kingdom;
  3. The University of London, London, England, United Kingdom (Bachelor of Divinity, 1965);
  4. Rüschlikon International Baptist Seminary, Prague, Czechoslovakia; and
  5. The University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland (Master of Arts, 1967; Doctor of Theology, 1971).

In 1971 Hill started his new job teaching at the Baptist Theological College of Queensland, Brisbane.  Quickly he became persona non grata at the conservative institution.  When he and 20 students opened a coffee-house in Brisbane they made contact with the counterculture in that city.  The coffee-house led to a communal residence then to an intentional community, the House of Freedom.  Hill taught at the Methodist Training College, Brisbane, in 1973-1974, but he and his wife Judith had to leave the city for greener pastures in Melbourne in 1975.

From 1975 to 1992 Hill worked at Whitley College, The University of Melbourne.  He was the Dean of Students from 1975 to 1979 then Professor of New Testament from 1979 until his death in 1992.  In Melbourne the Hills found urban congregations moving to the suburbs.  The Hills disapproved of this.  They founded an intentional community, the House of the Gentle Bunyip (1975-1996), named after a creature from aboriginal mythology.  A bunyip found his dignity and identity when he met another rejected bunyip.  As Hill explained,

The search for identity is the quest for community.

The House of the Gentle Bunyip became a means of ministering to the homeless, those suffering from schizophrenia, the sick, the elderly, and the young of Melbourne.  Sometimes, out of idealism, members of the community attempted to do too much at once, but they learned from their mistakes.  Disagreements and personality struggles–in other words, human nature–also afflicted the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

Hill’s commitment to radical discipleship led him to place himself at risk for others.  In the 1980s the U.S.-supported government of El Salvador, a brutal regime that tortured and killed many of its citizens and targeted elements of the Church for violence, fought a war against Communist guerrillas during one of the proxy conflicts that were part of the Cold War.  (The Cold War made for morally indefensible international bedfellows.)  The national police had arrested, detained, and tortured a Salvadoran Baptist minister who had been helping poor people.  Hill flew from Australia to El Salvador to confront the chief of the national police.  The colonel who led that agency was a man who had no compunction about ordering the tortures of people, so Hill was taking an extreme risk.  The scholar asked the colonel why the national police had arrested the Salvadoran Baptist minister.  The colonel accused the minister of being a Communist.  The scholar asked the colonel if helping the poor was always a crime in El Salvador.  Fortunately for Hill, he was persuasive that day; the colonel freed the minister and signed a document permitting the Salvadoran Baptist community to continue to aid the poor without fear of reprisal.

Hill died suddenly of a heart attack on March 9, 1992.  He was 54 years old.  Around the world admirers mourned him.

We Christians–especially we very churchy Christians raised and steeped in the faith–experience the temptation to become bogged down in our comfortable pews, to borrow a term.  We are not necessarily bad, but we risk domesticating the Gospel and losing touch with those with whom one should be in touch.  We need people like Athol Hill to kick us in our complacency as we sit in our comfortable pews.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO XIII, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGISUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Athol Hill,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Fannie Lou Hamer (March 14)   1 comment

fannie-lou-hamer-1964

Above:  Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01267

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FANNIE LOU TOWNSEND HAMER (OCTOBER 6, 1917-MARCH 14, 1977)

Prophet of Freedom

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I’m never sure anymore when I leave home whether I’ll get back or not.  Sometimes it seems like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed.  But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.  I’m not backing off that and no one will have to cover the ground I walk as far as freedom is concerned.

–Fannie Lou Hamer, quoted by Danny Duncan Collum in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, Cloud of Witnesses (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2005), page 109

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Christianity is being concerned about your fellow man, not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner.  Christ was a revolutionary person, out there where it is happening.  That’s what God is all about, and that’s where I get my strength.

–Fannie Lou Hamer, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York, NY:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), page 118

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Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints (1997), lists Fannie Lou Hamer as the saint for March 14 and describes her as a “Prophet of Freedom.”  That is an accurate description.

Fannie Lou Townsend, born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, on October 6, 1917, was always poor.  She was the youngest of 20 children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, the poorest region of a state (infamous for its open, institutional racism and reactionary politics) that has long been the butt of jokes about poor states.

Thank God for Mississippi!

has long been the exclamation of citizens of other impoverished states grateful that their states are Forty-Ninth or Forty-Eighth–but not Fiftieth–in the prevention of scabies or some other disease, or in certain educational attainment statistics, et cetera.  As an old joke says, we know that the inventor of the toothbrush hailed from Mississippi because, if he had come from any other state, it would be a teethbrush.

1951

Above:  Northwestern Mississippi

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Our saint, who suffered from childhood polio, had a fourth-grade education and also became a sharecropper.  In 1945 she married Perry “Pap” Hamer, a tractor driver on a nearby plantation.  The Hamers adopted two daughters, Dorothy and Virgie, and worked on plantations in Sunflower County, Mississippi.  Our saint knew both hard work and little reward for it:

Sometimes I be working in the fields and I get so tired, I say to the people picking cotton with us, “Hard as we have to work for nothing, there must be some way we can change this.

–Quoted by Danny Duncan Collum in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, Cloud of Witnesses (2005), page 103

Hamer also knew the injustice of forced sterilization.  In 1961, while she was having surgery for the removal of a tumor, the surgeon sterilized her as part of a state program targeting poor African-American women.

In August 1962, at the age of 44 years, Hamer became politically active.  She attended a voter registration rally sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Immediately she began to attempt to register to vote–a right the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States theoretically prevented anyone from denying her on the basis of her race.  She succeeded in January 1963.  By then, however, the Hamers’ landlord had evicted the family and confiscated their possessions in repayment for alleged debts.  These were acts in retaliation for her registering to vote.  Our saint became a field secretary for SNCC.  Her work was to encourage African Americans to register to vote and to communicate the plight of Southern African Americans to Northern whites.  There were consequences.  She received death threats.  The State Sovereignty Commission kept the family under surveillance.  Also, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens’ Council (now the Conservative Citizens’ Council), and J. Edgar Hoover‘s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) harassed the Hamers.

In 1963, when Hamer and some other civil rights workers were returning from Charleston, South Carolina, police in Winona, Montgomery County, Mississippi, arrested them and incarcerated them for several days.  Officers presided over beatings of these activists.  Our saint suffered the effects of the beatings for the rest of her life; a blood clot in her left eye impaired her vision.  She also suffered kidney damage.  Hamer might have died shortly, for she overheard officers plotting to kill the activists and dispose of their bodies.  Fortunately, local activists and the federal Department of Justice arranged for their release.

From 1964 to 1968 Hamer was active the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which she helped to form and in which she exercised leadership.  She sought unsuccessfully to unseat the state Democratic Party’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1964.  She also ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965.  Hamer did succeed, however, in influencing the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  She also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and opposed the Vietnam War, which she understood in the context of human rights for poor people.  In addition, she helped to organize the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.  All of her actions stemmed from her Christian faith.

Other actions that stemmed from Hamer’s Christian faith were local in nature; she sought to improve conditions in Ruleville and Sunflower County.  Our saint helped to bring the Head Start program to the area, raised funds for building 200 low-income housing units, helped to found a day care center, and was instrumental in bringing a garment factory to town.  Our saint also organized the Freedom Farm Cooperative (ultimately 680 acres), to acquire land for agricultural workers forced off the land they had been farming due to the mechanization of agriculture.

Hamer suffered from a variety of health issues at the end of her life.  She had diabetes.  Also, the effects of juvenile polio and the beatings in Winona in 1963 remained with her.  Furthermore, she had breast cancer.  Hamer died at Mound Bayou Community Hospital, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, on March 14, 1977.  She was 59 years old.

Hamer understood herself to be engaged in a struggle against forces of spiritual darkness.  She was correct.  How else should one categorize Jim Crow laws, a state program of forced sterilization, government surveillance of peaceful activists, and official and unofficial intimidation of them?  And how else should one label consent of these foul deeds?  It has happened here.  Much has changed, but much has also remained the same.  Certain state governments have, in recent years, instituted programs to suppress minority voting.  They have been careful to avoid using openly racist language while doing so, but their actions have targeted minorities.  If Hamer were alive today, she would have much work to do and much opposition to overcome.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FABIAN, BISHOP OF ROME AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUTHYMIUS THE GREAT AND THEOCRISTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET AUBER, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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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 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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