Archive for the ‘Ku Klux Klan’ Tag

If the Bed Sheets Fit, Wear Them.   Leave a comment


Efforts at voter suppression are underway in 45 of the 50 states in the United States.  Republican legislators are erecting a fortress against changing demographics.

Today, in my state, Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a bill that suppresses the votes of members of minorities who vote Democratic.  Kemp, experienced at voter suppression, has denied engaging in voter suppression.  He claims to have improved the security of elections, as well as public confidence in their results.

I have given the Voter-Suppressor-in-Chief of Georgia a piece of my mind.  Tonight, I sent his office an email.  I told Kemp to wear the bed sheets, if they fit.  I also said that going ahead and burning crosses would be consistent with what he has done so far.  Then I signed.  The Grand Dragon, Wizard, whatever, knows where I live and how to contact me.  So be it.

I stand by my words.  I say and write what I mean, and I mean what I say and write.




Enablers of Trumpism   2 comments

Or, If the White Bed Sheets Fit, ….

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

–James Baldwin

Just as Joseph McCarthy latched onto what became known as McCarthyism and became its leader, Donald Trump latched onto what became known as Trumpism and became its leader.

Both -isms, their followers, and their leaders have much in common, not the least of which are:

  1. disregard for objective reality,
  2. demagoguery, and
  3. contempt for American democratic institutions.

Trump is a menace to the American republic.  So are all those who have enabled him and continue to do so.  They make his menace possible.  To liken them to people protesting police brutality, especially against people of color, is to make a false equivalency.    To make that false equivalency is to ignore the menace enablers of Trump and Trumpism continue to pose to the republic and to turn a blind eye to their character.  And to liken domestic terrorists who invaded the United States Capitol Building to people protesting police violence against people of color is morally offensive.

I have no interest in trying to understand the grievances of enablers of Trump and Trumpism.  I have no desire to listen to their complaints and to attempt to reason with them.  I leave that exercise in attempting to reason with the unreasonable to those who seek to follow in the footsteps of James Baldwin.

If the white bed sheets fit, enablers of Trumpism should wear them.

How is that for being direct?




Feast of William Henry Heard (June 25)   1 comment

Above:  William Henry Heard

Image in the Public Domain



African Methodist Episcopal Missionary and Bishop

Bishop William Henry Heard comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via a few sources.  The main source is Ray Chandler, “Up from Slave Row:  The Making of Bishop William Henry Heard” (Georgia Backroads, Autumn 2018), 44-49.  This post also depends directly on Bishop Heard’s autobiography, From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church (1924), available at Documenting the American South.  I also rely on the website of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Furthermore, I cite a one of my deceased fellow parishioners and a fine local historian in Athens, Georgia.  Al Hester’s Enduring Legacy:  Clarke County, Georgia’s Ex-Slave Legislators:  Madison Davis and Alfred Richardson (2010) provides a little information about Heard.  And is an invaluable tool for adjusting monetary amounts for inflation.  This post also draws minor details from various historical works and congregations’ websites.

Our saint, born a slave, rose to become the senior bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (hereafter the A.M.E. Church).  He, born in Longstreet community, about ten miles from Elberton, Georgia, or or about June 25, 1850, was a son of slaves.  His mother was Parthenia, whose main duties were to bear and raise children.  The future bishop, originally called William Harrison Heard, was one of five children she bore.  Parthenia died of typhoid fever in 1859.  Our saint’s father was George Heard, a blacksmith and a wheelwright on a neighboring plantation.  George Heard was probably a son of planter (and his owner), Thomas Jefferson Heard, a son Stephen Heard (1740-1815), whose public offices in Georgia included a term (1780-1781) as governor.  The future bishop grew up in conditions one would generously describe as primitive.  In the slave cabin, waking up to find a snake in his bed was not unusual.  He also remembered the two times he and family members were on the auction block.  Our saint, a field hand on the plantation of John Trenchard, headmaster of Elberton Academy during the Civil War, received his freedom in May 1865.  He was nearly 15 years at the time.

William Harrison Heard went to live with his father, who had opened a blacksmith and wheelwright business near Elberton.  Not surprisingly, there were no schools for African Americans in the area in 1865 and 1866.  In 1867, the Reverend William Jefferson White, a Baptist minister from Augusta, Georgia, visited Elberton.  He, an agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, came to encourage African-American education.  White, of Caucasian, Muskogee, and African ancestry, impressed the future bishop by speaking the King’s English.  White was the first African-American Heard had met who was so well educated and articulate.

Our saint had some education already.  During the Civil War, he had learned the Bible and the catechism at Elberton Methodist Episcopal Church, South (now First United Methodist Church).  He remained unable to read and write, though.  Through his father’s intervention, William Harrison Heard obtained tutoring using Noah Webster‘s Blue Back Speller.  Our saint took his new name from William Henry Heard, a farmer for whom he worked and who taught him at home from late 1865 to June 1866.  Then our saint returned to his father’s house.  After the African-American school opened, the future bishop attended it.  Then he passed the test to become a teacher in 1867.  Heard earned in excess of $300 (about $5,400 in 2020 currency) in three months of teaching in Elberton.  Meanwhile, our saint continued his studies and kept teaching.

Above:  Henry McNeal Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) influenced Heard’s life greatly.  Turner, a minister in the A.M.E. Church, was active in post-Civil War politics in Georgia.  He was an organizer of the state Republican Party (when the Republican Party was to the left of the Democratic Party, especially in the former Confederacy) in the state, eventually a member of the General Assembly, and an activist in the movement to encourage former slaves to immigrate to Liberia.  In 1867, Turner spoke in Augusta.  Heard attended the speech and went away inspired.  Turner became one of Heard’s mentors and patrons, in time.

Above:  Amos Tappan Akerman

Image in the Public Domain

Heard, back in Elberton, joined the local Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (perhaps Rock Springs C.M.E. Church, founded in 1868) and became involved in politics.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was in the process of spinning off the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (founded in 1870), called the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church since 1954.  Our saint became his congregation’s secretary.  He also collaborated with another mentor and patron, Amos Tappan Akerman (1821-1880).  Akerman, a former slaveholder and a Confederate veteran, had become a “scalawag,” as resentful neighbors called white Southerners, such as Akerman, who supported civil rights and joined the Republican Party.  Akerman, a staunch opponent of the first Ku Klux Klan (racially-motivated domestic terrorists), was so zealous in the prosecution of the Klan that, less than a year after becoming the Attorney General of the United States, President Ulysses S. Grant fired him in late 1871.  Heard, whom Akerman mentored in politics, ran for a seat in the General Assembly in 1872.  He lost, probably because of election-related fraud.

Heard, spent 1872-1877 in South Carolina.  He taught at Mount Carmel (in the county on the other side of the Savannah River), earning $40 (about $872 in 2020 currency) per month.  Meanwhile, our saint continued his education.  He taught at Mount Carmel for four years then studied classics at the University of South Carolina (1876-1877) on scholarship.  The end of Congressional Reconstruction terminated his education at that university.  The end of Congressional Reconstruction also terminated Heard’s political career in South Carolina.  He had won a seat in the state legislature in 1876.  However, our saint’s effort to guarantee the integrity of the electoral system nearly caused his death.  He also survived an abduction.

Heard, back in Georgia, settled in Athens in 1877.  The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in downtown Athens (now First United Methodist Church) spawned Pierce Chapel in 1866.  Henry McNeal Turner brought Pierce Chapel (now First A.M.E. Church) into the A.M.E. Church in 1867.  Our saint joined Pierce Chapel in 1877 and founded the school in the church’s basement.  He taught in that school for years.  Heard also took classes at Clark University (one term) and Atlanta University (one year) in Atlanta.  Furthermore, our saint became the editor and one of the publishers of the local African-American newspaper, the Athens Blade.  Henry McNeal Turner preached a revival at Pierce Chapel in 1879.  At that revival, Heard had a conversion experience.  In 1880, our saint became a federal employee; he was a railway postal clerk.  One route ran between Macon and Atlanta, Georgia.  The other route ran between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta.  The salary was $1150 (about $30,000 in 2020 currency) a year.  And, in 1882, he was a finalist for postmaster of Athens.

Heard turned to the ministry in 1879.  In June of that year, the A.M.E. Church licensed him as an exhorter.  He progressed to local preacher after three months then joined the North Georgia Annual Conference in January 1880.  Our saint became a deacon in 1881 then an elder the following year.  The A.M.E. Church transferred out saint frequently, according to Methodist custom.  He always left a congregation better off in terms of attendance, membership, and finances.

Heard’s first stage of ordained ministry spanned 1880-1895.

  1. He served in Johntown, Dawson County, Georgia, for two years (1880-1882), while continuing to work as a railway postal clerk.  When he arrived, the A.M.E. Church had a mission.  Two years later, the denomination had a circuit.
  2. Heard transferred to Markham Street Mission, Atlanta, where he served for about two months.
  3. He married his second wife, Josephine Henderson, in Athens, in 1882.  (His first wife had been Amanda.)
  4. Heard resigned his postal job to accept a post in Aiken, South Carolina.  His financial compensation was $650 (about $16, 930 in 2020 currency) the first year then about $930 (about $24, 223 in 2020 currency) the second year.
  5. Next, the future bishop served at Mount Zion Church, South Carolina (1885-1888), followed by a year (1888-1889) at Allen Chapel Church (now Allen Church), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  6. After a year as the Presiding Elder of the Lancaster District, Heard spent two years as pastor of Mother Bethel Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1890-1892.)
  7. While in Philadelphia, our saint studied at Reformed Episcopal Seminary.
  8. Heard was the pastor of Bethel Church, Wilmington, Delaware (1892-1894).
  9. Then he served at the A.M.E. congregation that, at the time, occupied a building on State Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Above:  Eliza Turner Memorial A.M.E. Church, Monrovia, Liberia

Image in the Public Domain

Heard went to Liberia next.  Henry McNeal Turner, a bishop since 1880, arranged for President Grover Cleveland to appoint our saint the U.S. Minister Resident and Consul General and doubled as a missionary.  He transferred to the A.M.E. Church’s Liberia Conference and doubled as a missionary.  He founded and led Eliza Turner Memorial Church, Monrovia.  (Eliza Turner had been Bishop Turner’s first wife.)

Heard’s third stage of ministry spanned 1899-1909.

  1. He spent a year (1899-1900) at Zion Mission, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, followed by another year (1900-1901) as the Presiding Elder of the Long Island District.  Then he spent several months at Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
  2. Bishop Turner arranged for the appointment of Heard to the pulpit of Allen Temple Church, Atlanta, Georgia, in August 1901, after the death of the previous pastor.  Heard left that pulpit in 1904.
  3. His next position was Secretary-Treasurer of the A.M.E. Church’s Connectional Preacher’s Aid and Mutual Relief Society.  Then, in 1908, he became a bishop.

Heard had three assignments as a bishop.  He returned to West Africa (Liberia, especially) in 1909.  From 1917 to 1920, our saint presided over the Eighth Episcopal District (Mississippi and Louisiana).  His final assignment (1920-death) was the First Episcopal District (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and New England).

Heard, aged 87 years, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 12, 1937.

Heard found his niche, excelled in it, and glorified God in doing so.  May we, by grace, live so that others, speaking and writing about us, may truthfully and accurately describe our lives in those words or in words to that effect.





Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people,

we thank you for your servant William Henry Heard,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock;

and we pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace grow into the full stature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 38


Feast of Elmer G. Homrighausen (January 3)   4 comments

Above:  Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

Image Source = Library of Congress



U.S. German Reformed and Presbyterian Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Professor of Christian Education

Elmer G. Homrighausen comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1957), for which he wrote the exposition of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude.

Homrighausen came from the Reformed tradition.  He, son of Henry and Sophia, entered the world in Wheatland, Iowa, on April 14, 1900.  The family was German Reformed, members of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), which merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC) in 1934, which merged into the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  The religion of Homrighausen’s youth and early adulthood was stern; fear of divine judgment was always present.  After nearly dying as a child, he was thankful for every day of the rest of his long life.

Homrighausen became a scholar and a German Reformed minister.  He studied at Mission House College, Plymouth, Wisconsin, from 1921 to 1923.  Mercersburg Theology, or relatively High Church Reformed theology with an emphasis on sacraments and liturgy, began to influence our saint there.  In 1923, before transferring to Princeton Theological Seminary as a senior, married Ruth W, Strassburger.  The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy divided the faculty.  Our saint identified as a Modernist.  (The couple went on to raise six children.)  He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and became an ordained minister in 1924.

Above:  The Former First English Reformed Church, Freeport, Illinois

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen’s first pastorate was the First English Reformed Church (now Bethany United Church of Christ), Freeport, Illinois, where he served from 1924 to 1929.  Our saint applied Mercersburg Theology to help resolve a difficult situation.  Some of the leaders of the congregation were members of the Ku Klux Klan.  This appalled Homrighausen and many of his parishioners.  Our saint understood that the honor, integrity, and unity of the congregation were at stake.  He practiced reconciliation, followed by a communion service.  Then Homrighausen initiated outreach to African Americans in the community.

Above:  The Former Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen served as pastor of the Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana (now St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, Carmel, Indiana), from 1929 to 1938.  While there, he earned his Ph.D. (1929) and Th.D. (1930) from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, as well as his M.A. from Butler University, Indianapolis (1931).  Homrighausen also worked as a lecturer in church history at Butler University from 1931 to 1938.

Homrighausen liberalized in academia and became a Barthian.  Our saint stood in the theological center and criticized positions to his left and his right.  The relationship between church and culture interested him.  Homrighausen read the writings of St. Justin Martyr (d. 166/167) during the process of loyalty to empire versus loyalty to the Kingdom of God.  Our saint found in St. Justin Martyr openness to the truth, regardless of its source, while affirming Christ as the Savior.  Doctrinal rigidity was not a virtue, according to Homrighausen.  Neither was setting social progress in opposition to perceived orthodoxy.  And, in the theology of Karl Barth, our saint found a Christocentric theology.

NOTE:  I identify as a Modernist, for I accept science.  I, as a generally liberal person, think of myself as occupying a center-left position on the spectrum.  I tend to be more conservative in liturgical matters–traditional worship please, preferably Rite II from The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  And, if if I see so much as a guitar or a tambourine, I will kvetch inwardly.  I like the Roman Catholic Church’s “Seamless Garment” theology of life, with some caveats regarding tactics, never ideals.  I understand church history well enough to be able to rattle off instances of ecclesiastical leaders, from antiquity to the present day, deploying “orthodoxy” against necessary and proper social progress.  I make no excuses for that.  I also know of examples of the predictable, reflexive tendency in much of the Christian Left to focus on social progress in reaction against false, reactionary orthodoxy.  Social progress is a principle firmly entrenched in the Law of Moses, the Hebrew Prophetic tradition, and the Gospels, therefore in actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy.  Actual orthodoxy, with the Golden Rule, facilitates social justice. 

Homrighausen worked full-time at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1938 to 1970.  He was, in order, the:

  1. Thomas Synnott Professor of Christian Education (1938-1954),
  2. Chairman of the Department of Practical Theology (1953-1960),
  3. Charles R. Erdman Professor of Pastoral Theology (1954-1970) and
  4. Dean (1955-1965).

Homrighausen, a recipient of many honorary degrees, was also active beyond the seminary.  He traveled the world, preaching, from 1941 to 1971.  Starting in the 1930s, our saint was active in the movement to found the World Council of Churches, formed in 1948.  Then he became a leader of that organization.  Likewise, Homrighausen filled leadership roles in the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches.  Our saint also served as the Vice Moderator of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Homrighausen, aged 81 years, died in Princeton, New Jersey, on January 3, 1982.

Princeton Theological Seminary has created the position of Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics.  While preparing this post, I read the list of faculty members of the seminary.  I noticed that this position was vacant.  I found names of previous Homrighausen Professors in Internet searches, however.

Homrighausen left a fine and faithful legacy.








O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Elmer G. Homrighausen and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34






Feast of Lynn Harold Hough (September 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lynn Harold Hough

Image Source =  Drew University Library



U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, and Biblical Scholar


Once more we are reminded that only God is to be met with a bended knee.  Even the high must not be given the place of the highest–even the good must not be given the place of the best.  The tragedy of mistaken loyalties is one of the greatest tragedies of the world.  Too late Wolsey realized that he had given to his king, Henry VIII, what belonged only to God.

–Dr. Hough’s exposition on Revelation 22:9, in The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 12 (1957), 545


Lynn Harold Hough, with his Roman collar, Charlie Chaplin mustache, and keen intellect, comes to A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via Volume 12 (1957) of The Interpreter’s Bible.

Hough owed much to Eunice Richey Giles (1856-June 3, 1937), his devoted, single mother.  She had married Franklin M. Hough, father of our saint.  The marriage had ended in divorce in 1877, and Eunice had moved back home, to Cadiz, Ohio, when she gave birth to her only child, Lynn Harold Hough, on September 10, 1877.  Eunice, a devout Methodist, raised her son in the faith.  She also worked hard to provide him with the best education possible.  In 1898 he graduated (with his B.A.) from Scio College, Scio, Ohio, where his mother worked as a cook.  Hough, ordained a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), served in churches in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland from 1898 to 1914.  He also became the head of the household, which included his mother until 1936, when he married.

Above:  Drew Theological Seminary

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 315

Hough continued his education, graduating from Drew Theological Seminary (now Drew Theological School, Drew University), Madison, New Jersey, with his B.D. in 1905.

Above:  Garrett Biblical Institute

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 389

Our saint, from 1914 to 1918 Professor of Historical Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Evanston, Illinois, graduated from that institution with his D.Th. in 1918.  Our saint, from 1919 to 1920 the President of Northwestern University, host of Garrett Biblical Institute, established the graduate division of the university’s School of Commerce and laid the foundations, metaphorically speaking, for subsequent improvements at the university.  He resigned for health reasons.

Above:  Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Matthew Simpson, ed., Cyclopedia of Methodism, Embracing Its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition, with Biographical Notices, 6h ed. (1876), 294

Hough returned to parish work for the period of 1920-1930.  For eight years (1920-1928) Hough served as the pastor of Central Methodist Episcopal Church (now Central United Methodist Church), Detroit, Michigan.  Our saint was, the “preacher to the intelligentsia,” according to his contemporary, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, from 1915 to 1928, and a fellow anti-Ku Klux Klan activist.  The outspoken Hough was not shy about expressing his opinions and opposing bigotry.  Our saint stated that the United States should have joined the League of Nations.  He condemned the Daughters of the American Revolution for being critical of Jane Addams (1860-1935).   In 1923 our saint described the second Ku Klux Klan as

the most diabolical organization this nation ever saw.

(That unequivocal statement was quite different from Donald Trump’s statement about the alleged presence of “very fine people” on both sides in he context of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.  That statement’s most avid fans were white supremacists.  This pattern of giving aid and comfort to unapologetic bigots has not surprised me, given Trump’s public statements and over the years, as well as many of his policies, to the present day.  Nativism, xenophobia, and white nationalism have been present in him for a long time.There were no “very fine people” in the Ku Klux Klan, according to our saint.  In 1925 years later Hough’s assertion that Evolution and the Bible were mutually compatible nearly prompted a heresy trial.  Hough was usually a delegate to the denomination’s General Conference, which met every four years, but he was not a delegate in 1928.  The reason for Hough not being a delegate that year was the backlash against his article, “Why Not a Catholic President?” (Plain Talk magazine, 1927).  The article did lead, however, to an honorary degree from the University of Detroit (Roman Catholic).  Of the eleven honorary degrees Hough received, he was proudest of that one.  From 1928 to 1930 Hough was the pastor of the American Presbyterian Church (amalgamated into the Erskine and American United Church, extant 1934-2011; now amalgamated into the Mountainside United Church), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  During that time he also doubled as the President of the Religious Education Council of Canada.

Hough was active in many organizations, including the Federal Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Masonic Lodge, the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939), The Methodist Church (1939-1968), and The United Methodist Church (1968-).  Furthermore, he traveled across the United States and the world, preaching at prominent churches and, in 1934, addressing the League of Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, on “The Church and Civilization.”

Hough returned to academia for good in 1930.  At Drew Theological Seminary he was Professor of Homiletics (1930-1933), Professor of Homiletics and Comprehensive Scholarship (1933-1937), Professor of Homiletics and Christian Criticism of Life (1937-1947), and Dean (1934-1947).  Our saint, a well-read Anglophile with an expansive vocabulary, as well as a firm grasp of history and literature, founded the Department of Christian Humanism at Drew.  He retired in 1947.

Hough, like any properly functioning human being, changed his mind as time passed.  He, a pacifist, initially opposed U.S. entry into World War II.  Our saint was not naïve, though; he recognized the necessity of Allied victory, for the sake of civilization.  Hough, with his customary tolerance, supported the causes of conscientious objectors while supporting the war effort and ministering to military personnel.  He remained committed to peace as he adjusted to reality.  Hough’s theology also changed.  He settled into what he called a “new orthodoxy” more liberal than Fundamentalism, more conservative than Modernism, and distinct from the Social Gospel and Neo-Orthodoxy.  The Social Gospel, Hough argued correctly, was utopian, therefore not realistic.  Neo-Orthodoxy, he insisted, went too far by emphasizing the human inability to arrive at Christian faith.

I reject Hough’s critique of Neo-Orthodoxy.

Hough, being a staunch Methodist–a thoroughgoing Methodist, not a Baptist masquerading as one, per the old joke that a Methodist is a Baptist who can read–placed a high premium on the power of human free will.  He came very close to putting the Pelagianism in Semi-Pelagianism.  Karl Barth (1886-1968) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), leading Neo-Orthodox theologians, had Reformed backgrounds, however.  Barth, a minister in the Swiss and Reformed Church, emphasized divine actions, not human ones.  Niebuhr, a minister in the Prussian Evangelical (Lutheran-Reformed) tradition, rejected the Social Gospel as placing too little stress on sin and assuming too much human agency.  He emphasized original sin, which he redefined beyond an individual focus to have a strong societal, institutional component.  Barth was probably more optimistic than the sometimes grimly realistic Niebuhr.  Original sin, having corrupted human nature, institutions, and societies, severely hampered one’s ability to act morally, even when one was trying very hard to do so, Niebuhr taught.  My reading of Barth and Niebuhr has convinced me that they were mostly correct.

I am, by the way, an Anglican-Lutheran Single Predestinarian, so my theology makes room for free will to have a role in salvation for those not predestined to Heaven.  My critique of Hough is that he placed too much emphasis on free will.  I hold that nobody finds God, but that God finds people.  Via free will those not destined to Heaven may obey the invitation of the Holy Spirit and say “yes” to God, and therefore find salvation and eternal life, in the Johannine sense of eternal life, which is knowing God via Jesus.

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough wrote prolifically.  His catalog included 35 books (about one a year for a while) and many articles.  In retirement he, a visiting professor at various elite institutions off-an-on, wrote for The Interpreter’s Bible in the 1950s.  He wrote the exposition on the Book of Revelation in Volume 12 (of 12), published in 1957.  (I quoted a portion of that exposition at the beginning of this post.)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Hough also wrote “The Message of the Book of Revelation,” spanning pages 551-613 of Volume 12.

Hough, a Victorian in terms of morality, resided with his Eunice, mother (or rather, she lived with him) until 1936, when, at the age of 58 or 59, he married.  Our saint’s wife was Blanche Horton Trowbridge, a 57-year-old widow of a Congregationalist minister.  She had also been a missionary in Turkey then Egypt for a quarter of a century.  Sadly, Eunice Hough, who had devoted her life to her only child, died in New York City on June 3, 1937, after an automotive accident.  She was about 81 years old.  The Houghs died less than a year apart; the cause of death in both cases was heart attack.  Blanche, aged about 92 years, died on August 3, 1970.  Lynn, aged 93 years, died on July 14, 1971.

One might justifiably ask why Hough, one of the most famous preachers of his time, has fallen into obscurity.


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


Compassionate God, you have created us in your image and endowed us with intellect.

We thank you for your servant Lynn Harold Hough,

who loved you with all his heart, mind, and strength, and who loved his neighbors as he loved himself.

May we likewise recognize your presence in history, literature, and each other,

as well as employ our intellects fully, as we confront forms of bigotry;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who,

stretching his arms on the hard word of the cross beckoned all the world to himself.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15

Psalm 1

Philippians 2:1-11

Matthew 7:24-27









Deplorables   4 comments

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.





Feast of Fannie Lou Hamer (March 14)   2 comments


Above:  Fannie Lou Hamer, 1964

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01267



Prophet of Freedom


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


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


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.


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.








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