Archive for the ‘Karl Marx’ Tag

Feast of James Carney (September 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  Honduras and Nicaragua, 1957

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



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

Also known as Padre Guadeloupe


To be a Christian is to be a revolutionary.

–Father James Carney


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

We acknowledge that, despite our best intentions,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amos 8:4-8

Psalm 15

Revelation 18:9-20

Luke 6:20-26








This is post #1600 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.


Feast of Athol Hill (September 5)   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of Australia

Image in the Public Domain



Australian Baptist Biblical Scholar and Social Prophet


[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


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.








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


Feast of Jacques Ellul (May 19)   2 comments

Above:  Bordeaux Harbor, Bordeaux, France, 1890

Publisher and Copyright Holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-04951


JACQUES ELLUL (JANUARY 6, 1912-MAY 19, 1994)

French Reformed Theologian and Sociologist

Jacques Ellul offered a nuanced critique of modern society.  The central theme of his theology was that

The world is in perpetual contadiction with the will of God.

Ellul also argued that God has never abandoned the world.

Ellul, who was French, was of a mixed ethnic background.  He, born at Bordeaux on January 6, 1912, was the son of Joseph and Martha Ellul.  Joseph, frequently unemployed, came from an Eastern Orthodox background, which he had abandoned in favor of Deism.  He, born in Malta, was an Austrian citizen and a British subject of Serbian and Italian ethnicity.  Martha, a French Protestant, was of French and Portuguese descent.  She taught art at a private school.  Religion was a subject of little discussion in the home.  Our saint did not become a Christian until his early twenties.

At his father’s behest Ellul studied law at the University of Bordeaux.  At the university our saint read Das Kapital.  Thus Karl Marx became an influence on his thought.  The Marxian (separate from Marxist) idea of Conflict Theory, or of historical change via clashing social forces, remained a part of Ellul’s philosophy for the rest of his life.

Ellul offered a social critique prior to World War II.  He and friend Bernard Charbonneau (1910-1996) developed a variation on the Personalism of Emmanuel Mournier (1905-1950).  They published their libertarian-anarchist critique in Mournier’s journal, L’Esprit.  Our saint sought to start a cultural revolution opposed to nationalism and political centralism.  He stood in opposition in particular to modern technological structures.

In 1937, the same year Ellul married his wife Yvette, he became a professor of law.  He taught at Montpelier then at Strasbourg.  The government of the French State, or Vichy France, removed our saint from his position at the University of Strasbourg on the grounds that his father was Maltese.  (The Vichy slogan was “Work, Family, Country.”  Ellul was allegedly a foreigner because of his father.)  During World War II our saint supported himself and his family via farming.  He, active in the Maquis, also helped Jews escape from the Nazis.  For this work he received posthumous recognition as one of the Yad Vashem, or the Righteous Among the Nations.

Partisan politics disagreed with Ellul, but social causes did not.  He, the Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux from October 31, 1944, to April 29, 1945, preferred to work for social transformation via the Reformed Church of France and various non-partisan organizations.  Causes that inspired him included ecology and the prevention of juvenile delinquency.  Ellul, a professor at the University of Bordeaux from 1944 until his retirement in 1980, influenced many people around the world via his more than 35 books in the fields of theology and sociology.

Ellul, whose influences included Karl Marx, John Calvin, and Karl Barth, argued that Christians should be, from the perspective of the state and other social institutions, trouble-makers.  The systems, he insisted, are inherently violent, for, even if they do not commit violence, they depend upon it.  His proposed alternative was the “violence of love,” or the application of one’s energies to social change on behalf of the impoverished, especially the forgotten poor.  Regarding technology, Ellul criticized the deification of it.  He was no luddite, however.  No, his attitude toward technology was ambivalent.

Ellul, not a Biblical literalist, recognized that the sacred anthology contains inaccuracies and contradictions.  He dealt with them not by ignoring them, rationalizing them away, or rejecting the Bible, but by focusing on the messages in the Bible and its books as wholes.  The Church had canonized certain books, not isolated passages, he observed.  The best way to read the Bible, Ellul wrote, was to focus on the forest, not to become lost amid the trees.

Ellul died, aged 82 years, at Pessac (near Bordeaux) on May 19, 1994.

Ellul provides much food for thought for me.  I am not a Biblical literalist either, so his advice on reading and interpreting the scriptures resonates with me.  I also agree with Conflict Theory, an approach useful in history, my discipline.  Furthermore, I identify with Ellul’s ambivalent approach toward technology, with its benefits and its dangers.  I am a blogger, so I cannot be a luddite, but the Internet is not unambiguously good.  I appreciate our saint’s recognition of the violence inherent in social, economic, and political systems, whereby all of us become the beneficiaries of that violence, even if we do not commit it.  I also approve of his call to nonviolent social action in response.  Furthermore, the union of church and state perverts the church, transforming into an arm of the state.  Ellul’s cautious attitude toward the state therefore makes much sense to me.

People die yet ideas survive.  Ellul’s philosophy continues to influence people to nonviolent social action, fortunately.







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 Jacques Ellul,

and we pray that by his teachings 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), page 61


Feast of Frederick Denison Maurice (April 1)   4 comments

Frederick Denison Maurice

Above: Portrait (1854) of Frederick Denison Maurice, by Jane Mary Hayward

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest and Theologian



In 1843 Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses.”  Indeed, one of the uses of religion by the powerful has been as just that, so that, for example, the peasants might not rebel again this year.  In the same year that Marx wrote his famous comment about religion Frederick Denison Maurice wrote,

We have been dosing our people with religion when what they want is not this but the living God.

–Quoted in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 300

Although Marx opposed theism, Maurice favored it.

(John) Frederick Denison Maurice, son of a Unitarian minister, became a great Anglican divine.    Our saint, a native of Normaston, Suffolk, England, debuted on August 29, 1805.  His mother left the Unitarianism for the Calvinistic Baptists when he was ten years old.  That religious change disrupted the family’s harmonious home life.  Our saint, still a Unitarian as a young man, lived with an Evangelical (Low Church) Anglican family in London while preparing the study civil law at Trinity College, Cambridge University.  He graduated in 1827 but could not received his degree because he was a dissenter.  Maurice moved to London, where he edited the London Literary Chronicle until 1830.  Next he edited the Athenaeum briefly.  Then our saint, a newly-minted member of The Church of England, entered Exeter College, Oxford, to study for the priesthood.



(“Conserve” is the root word of “conservative.”)

Maurice, a priest from 1834, was simultaneously revolutionary and conservative during an age when the spectre of the French Revolution (1789-1799) haunted the fears of many in Britain.  He served as the Curate of Bubbenhall, Warwickshire, then as the Chaplain of Guy’s Hospital.  In Subscription No Bondage, or the Practical Advantages Afforded by the Thirty-Nine Articles as Guides in All the Branches of Academic Education (1835) our saint defended the Articles as requirements in universities, an opinion he did not change.  From 1840 to 1853 he was Professor of English History and Literature (doubling as the Chair of Divinity from 1846 to 1853) at King’s College.  During this time Maurice began his service as the Chaplain at Lincoln’s Inn, for students.  Theological Essays (First Edition, 1853; Second Edition, 1854; Third Edition, 1871) prompted allegations of heresy and forced his resignation from King’s College yet not from the Chapel of Lincoln’s Inn.

Our saint’s theology of sin and the Atonement alarmed many people to his right.  Maurice noted that human sin was the actual beginning point for much of Christian theology.  He considered this an error.  The proper beginning of Christian theology, Maurice argued, was Christ, specifically his restoration of people to their true lives as bearers of the image of God.  God, our saint wrote, had created and redeemed all people in Christ, only in whom all people can find their proper identity.  Maurice defined sin as the refusal to acknowledge Christ as central, leading to the effort to establish false independence from God.  Thus Christ, in the thought of our saint, was the transformer and converter of societies.

Related to this theological position was the assertion that members of all social classes were “in it together,” to use words far less eloquent than Maurice’s.  Thus the proper solution to social problems, especially those related to class (in the rigid British class system and in the context of the economic chasm separating the haves from the have nots) was for people to become aware of their fraternity for each other across class lines and to act accordingly.  Our saint, with Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), a founder of British Christian Socialism, was therefore to the right of other Christian Socialists, for he disagreed on the topic of tactics.

Christian Socialism is the assertion of God’s order.  Every attempt to bring it forth I honour and desire to assist.  Every attempt to hide it under a great machinery, call it Organization of Labour, Central Board, or what you like, I must protest against as hindering the gradual development of what I regard as a divine purpose, as an attempt to create a new constitution of society, when what we want is that the old constitution should exhibit its true function and energies.

–Quoted in John C. Cort, Christian Socialism:  An Informal History (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1988), page 147

The revolution Maurice sought was first spiritual then economic and political, not the other way around.  Aubrey de Vere, a critic from our saint’s left, complained,

Listening to Maurice is like eating pea soup with a fork.

–Quoted in Cort, Christian Socialism (1988), page 142

Maurice sought reconciliation and unity yet found himself persona non grata in many ecclesiastical quarters.  On his left he faced allegations of heresy and sympathized with the oppressed and the downtrodden.  Our saint also encouraged his students to consider and act on the social implications of the Gospel, something which entailed changing society.  His theology of eternal life, grounded in the definition (knowing God via Christ) of that term in the Gospel of John, caused some to accuse him of heresy.  Maurice’s masterpiece, The Kingdom of Christ (First Edition, 1838; Second Edition, 1842–Volumes I and II), denounced religious partisanship and laid the foundations of Anglican ecumenism.  Although our saint affirmed Apostolic Succession and the episcopal office, he, unlike many Tractarians, refused to classify those who had abandoned those traditions as being outside the fold.   God was the only proper judge of that matter, Maurice insisted.

On the right Maurice, a Broad (as opposed to Low or High) Churchman, opposed Higher Criticism of the Bible and certain economic and political structures which many of his fellow Christian Socialists favored.  He also insisted on six signs of the Church:

  1. Baptism, which he called “the sacrament of constant union,”
  2. The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed,
  3. The Book of Common Prayer,
  4. The Holy Eucharist,
  5. Holy Orders, and
  6. The Bible.

These were essential, our saint insisted.  Of the liturgy he wrote:

I do not think we are to praise the liturgy but use it.  When we do not want it for our life, we may begin to talk of it as a beautiful composition.

–Quoted in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 300

Maurice practiced what he preached.  The Church, he said, must educate and stimulate the public conscience.  He fulfilled his role in that effort.  Our saint helped to found Queen’s College, London (1848), for women and served as its first Principal.  Six years later he helped to found the Working Men’s College, London, and served as its first Principal.  He also founded cooperatives for workers.



Maurice’s career during his final years played out in London and Cambridge.  From 1860 to 1869 he was the Incumbent of St. Peter’s, Vere Street, London.  In 1866 he became Professor of Casuistry and Moral Theology at Cambridge.  And, from 1870 to 1872, our saint served as the Incumbent of St. Edward’s, Cambridge.

The definition of casuistry, according to Funk and Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary of the English Language–Britannica World Language Edition (1956), is:

The science or doctrine of resolving doubtful cases of conscience or questions of right or wrong according to the injunctions or sacred books or of individual authority or social conventions, rather than on grounds of moral reason.

Maurice married twice.  His first wife, Anna Barton, died in 1845, leaving him to raise to young boys.  Our saint’s second wife was Georgiana Hare.

Maurice wrote and published much.  I found links to many of his works at during the research phase of the development of this post.  Others also wrote and published about him, both positive and negative.  I also found such works at  I have decided, however, to forgo creating a catalog of those in this post and to refer you, O reader, to that website.

Maurice died at Cambridge on April 1, 1872, which was Easter Sunday, as he prepared to receive the Holy Eucharist.



If I had established complete agreement with someone as a standard for sainthood, this Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days would never have come into existence.  Although I disagree with Maurice regarding much, I also agree with him regarding much more.  My bottom line is that Maurice was worthy of inclusion on calendars of saints.  I have therefore followed the lead of The Church of England, The Episcopal Church, and The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.






Almighty God, you restored our human nature to heavenly glory

through the perfect obedience of our Savior Jesus Christ:

Keep alive in your Church, we pray, a passion for justice and truth;

that, like your servant Frederick Denison Maurice,

we may work and pray for the triumph of the kingdom of your Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Genesis 33:1-10

Psalm 72:11-17

Ephesians 3:14-19

John 18:33-37

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 301