Archive for the ‘Racism’ Tag

Feast of Benjamin Lay (January 22)   3 comments

Above:  Portrait of Benjamin Lay (1750), by William Williams

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

BENJAMIN LAY (JANUARY 26, 1682-FEBRUARY 8, 1759)

American Quaker and Abolitionist

Benjamin Lay comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via historical accounts.

The association of Quakers with the movement to abolish race-based chattel slavery in North America has deep historical roots.  Yet the historical record reveals that this association did not exist from day one.  This may seem odd, given the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light.  The historical record also indicates that Lay did much to popularize opposition to race-based chattel slavery among members of the Religious Society of Friends.

Lay was a man far ahead of his time.

Benjamin Lay, born in Copland, England, on January 26, 1682, was a radical.  The family belonged to the working class.  Young Benjamin worked as a shepherd and a glove-maker.  He converted to the Religious Society of Friends, perhaps the most radical version of Protestantism.  When 21 years old, our saint became a sailor.  No later than 1718, he married Sarah Smith.  The Lays moved to Barbados, where our saint worked as a merchant.  The majority of settlers supported race-based chattel slavery, from which they benefited financially.  Lay, already a radical, opposed human trafficking, though.  This position made him unpopular in Barbados.

This position also made him unpopular in Pennsylvania, where he and Sarah settled in 1731.  The Lays arrived in Philadelphia before eventually moving to Abington.  Some Quaker fellowships, alarmed the Lays’ position on slavery, made the couple unwelcome.

Lay was unusual.  He was, objectively, odd, relative to the majority of his neighbors.  The may, about four feet tall, had a hunchback.  His arms and legs were the same length as each other.  “Little Benjamin,” as our saint referred to himself, lived in a cave with his wife.  After Sarah died, he lived in that cave as a hermit.  Our saint, who respected animals, was a vegetarian.  He drank only water and milk.  The Lays tended goats and fruit trees, spun flax, made their own clothes, and were as close to self-sufficient as possible.  They refused to wear any garment that entailed either slavery or the killing of an animal.  The couple was also bookish; they kept about 200 books in their cave.

Lay also wrote and published on topics that concerned him.  These topics concerned the prison system, slavery, the death penalty, and the leaders of the colony.  Lay mostly wrote pamphlets, but he did write a book.  Benjamin Franklin, a frequent visitor to the cave, published All Slave-Keepers That Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates (1737).  Franklin had acquired two slaves, Peter and Jemima, in time.  Yet Lay persuaded that Founding Father to free Peter and Jemima in his will.

Lay, 77 years old, died in Abington, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1759.  He remained an inspiration for abolitionist Quakers for a long time after his decease.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CARL JOHANNES SODERGREN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, CLAUS AUGUST WENDELL, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF ATHOL HILL, AUSTRALIAN BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND SOCIAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF CALCUTTA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM F. ALBRIGHT AND G. ERNEST WRIGHT, U.S. BIBLCAL SCHOLARS AND ARCHAEOLOGISTS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM MORTON REYNOLDS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Benjamin Lay] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Present, the Past, the Future, Truth, and Reconciliation   Leave a comment

Yesterday was July 1–Canada Day.

Today is July 2, the actual anniversary of the declaration of the independence of thirteen rebellious colonies from the British Empire in 1776.  The Second Continental Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence two days later.  On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote enthusiastically to his wife Abigail that July 2 would become a great holiday.

During the last year or so, Canada has been confronting proverbial demons from its past that affect its present and future.  Canada has been wrestling with its shameful record of cultural and physical genocide of the First Nations, at residential schools, in particular.  The reputation of the already-troublesome (and corrupt) Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891), one of the founders of Canada, the first Prime Minister of Canada, and one of the founders of the system of residential schools–has come under critical scrutiny, to state reality mildly.  Some portion of Canadian society, especially on the Right, has not taken this well.

Down here, in the United States of America, we, as a population, have been experiencing similar turmoil in relation to institutionalized racism, police brutality, and other negative marks on our past and present.  Some portion of our populace, especially on the Right, has not taken this well, hence hostility to Critical Race Theory (CRT), for example.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s Canada Day Address from yesterday struck a chord with me:

Today, we celebrate our country and everyone who calls it home. We also reflect on everything we have accomplished, and look forward to what more we have to do.

The pandemic has changed our daily lives, taught us hard lessons, and kept us apart. But through this challenge and crisis, Canadians were there for each other. We all – young and old – made personal sacrifices to help keep our communities safe and healthy. We put signs in our windows and banged pots and pans for our front-line health care workers. We ordered takeout and shopped at our local small businesses. And once vaccines became available, we got our shots as soon as possible, so our communities could return to normal.

Hope, hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect. These are the values that Canadians have shown in the face of the pandemic, and today we should celebrate those values and what we’ve overcome. But while we acknowledge our successes, we must also recognize that, for some, Canada Day is not yet a day of celebration.

The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada. We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past. And we must recognize that here in Canada there are still people who don’t feel safe walking the streets of their communities, who still don’t have the same opportunities as others, and who still face discrimination or systemic racism in their daily lives.

While we can’t change the past, we must be resolute in confronting these truths in order to chart a new and better path forward. Together, we have a long way to go to make things right with Indigenous peoples. But if we all pledge to do the work – and if we lead with those core values of hard work, kindness, resilience, and respect – we can achieve reconciliation and build a better Canada for everyone.

What makes Canada special is not the belief that this is the best country in the world, but the knowledge that we could be. And whether it’s finishing the fight against COVID-19, tackling the climate crisis, or walking the path of reconciliation, I know there is no challenge too great, if we face it together. Because the progress we’ve made as a country didn’t happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.

This Canada Day, let’s recommit to learning from and listening to each other so we can break down the barriers that divide us, rectify the injustices of our past, and build a more fair and equitable society for everyone. Together, we will roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that is necessary to build a better Canada.

From my family to yours, happy Canada Day.

I am from the Deep South, the heart of the former Confederate States of America.  The lie of the Lost Cause thrives, sometimes under official protection of state governments.  Quoting pro-slavery documents, such as the inaugural address of Jefferson Davis, the Cornerstone Speech of Alexander Hamilton Stephens, and the secession declarations of states does not change the minds of many people, committed to the lie of the Lost Cause.  My family tree includes at least on Confederate Army veteran from Virginia and at least one Confederate state senator from Georgia.

The state senator from Fort Gaines, Georgia, was also a deacon in the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, and a slaveholder.  During the Civil War, the State of Georgia conscripted slave labor to build up and maintain fortifications.  The state also promised to pay the slaveholders for the slaves’ work.  (Nobody paid the slaves, of course.)  The state senator was one of the affected slaveholders.  A letter he wrote to Governor Joseph Brown has survived.  In this correspondence, the state senator complained that the state was delinquent in paying him for his slaves’ labor.  I read the text of the letter in a book about the Civil War in southwest Georgia and southeast Alabama.

I sympathize with the slaves, not the state senator.

Most opposition to facing the past honestly stems from discomfort with the implications of doing so.  If many of our ancestors were total bastards, what does that make us?  We like to think ourselves as good people.  We also like to think our ancestors as good people.  Many of them were good people.  Many of them were also vile racists, imperialists, slaveholders, and other types of sinners.  If any nation or society is to move forward, toward a more just nation or society, it must acknowledge its past–positive and negative–honestly.  It must stand on the ground of objective reality and admit to the better angels and the demons of the past and present.  Only then can the nation or society move forward into a better, more just future.

Happy belated Canada Day!  Happy birthday, U.S.A.!  May we admit that recognition of the truth must precede reconciliation and progress toward justice.  May we recognize the truth, reconcile, and progress toward justice.  That will work toward the common good.  That will be patriotic and moral.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Academic Freedom, Part II   8 comments

And Social Justice, Too

Eric Blair, who wrote as George Orwell, was a prophet.  Some recent news stories have proven that the anti-intellectual and totalitarian tendencies of which he wrote in 1984 (1948) thrive in the United States of America.

Sadly, these tendencies have thrived here since before the founding of the U.S.A.  Anti-intellectualism has long been a feature of certain varieties of Evangelicalism and all forms of fundamentalism.  Richard Hofstadter, a great historian, wrote Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1966).  Religious historian Mark A. Noll, himself an Evangelical Presbyterian, wrote a scathing critique, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  As for totalitarianism, some portion of the population has always preferred to obey orders from a dictator, whatever that person’s title is.

Two issues concern me, for the purposes of this post.

One is Critical Race Theory (CRT).  CRT hits the proverbial nail on the equally proverbial head.  Institutionalized racism is a part of the past and the present of the United States of America.  I can point to examples, starting with the colonial period, for I am a student of American history.  CRT holds water, so to speak.  I wish that it did not, but wishing that reality is different does not make it so.  CRT has become a target for the racist part of the Right Wing in the U.S.A.  Teaching CRT in public institutions of learning is now illegal in some states, including Tennessee.  Tennessee is a state with a shameful record of violating academic freedom.  One may recall that Scopes “Monkey Trial” (1925) was in Tennessee, which, at the time, outlawed the teaching of Evolution in public schools.

I am not suprised that CRT is a hot potato in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  This is a denomination founded in support of slavery in 1845.  This is a denomination once known as the religious wing of the Ku Klux Klan.  This is a denomination historically associated with White Southerners, most of whom, most of the time, have been unapologetic racists.  I wonder how many of the anti-CRT Southern Baptist leaders and followers have read and taken to heart and mind the message of Hebrew prophets, who denounced systemic injustice.

To outlaw the teaching of a legitimate and germane academic or scientific theory is to violate academic freedom.  As I have written, remaining on topic is a reasonable expectation and sound pedagogy.  One should, for example, teach biology in a biology course.  Likewise, CRT applies in history and various social sciences.  So be it.

To state CRT in Augustinian terms, racism is the original sin of the United States of America.  That sin remains in the present tense and influences social, economic, and political institutions.

To state CRT in Niebuhrian terms, racism defines the social, political, and economic climate and institutions which define our collective lives.  Racism infects almost everything.  And, whenever, we, individually or collectively, try to redress the sin of racism and its consequences, we may wind up accidentally furthering racism, despite ourselves.

The other issue is the new law regarding alleged indoctrination in public colleges and universities in Florida.

Recently, in the context of signing this bill into law, Governor Ron DeSantis spoke in favor of critical thinking and against liberal “indoctrination.”  He signed into law a bill mandating an annual survey of the political opinions of faculty and students at public colleges and universities in that state.  The explicit threat was that, if the proportion of opinions was too critical of DeSantis and his conservative camp, the state may reduce funding.  Regardless of the minutae about whether answering the survey is mandatory or optional, the bill has crossed the line into Orwellian territory.  The law inspires self-censorship and quashes freedom of academic expression.

DeSantis and his supporters mistake objectivity to mean agreeing with them, and “biased” to mean disagreeing with them.  This attitude that, “I am right, anyone who agrees with me is objective, and anyone who disagrees with me must be biased,” is old.  I recall hearing it frequently from conservative callers into open-lines segment on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal years ago, before I cut the cord.  In reality, we are all biased.  Those who agree with me are biased in the same way I am.  An honest researcher or academic acknowledges his or her biases and tries to be as honest and accurate as possible, as far as the evidence goes.

On the bright side, my home state of Georgia is no longer the most embarrassing state in the Union.  Florida and Tennessee have knocked us down the list.  That is cold comfort, though.  It is like repeating a Southern saying:

Thank God for Mississippi.

We’re not first in the high school dropout rate or last in the prevention of rickets!  Woo hoo!

I pray for the day that more of our state governments resume making good policy and cease to embarrass us and trample the noblest American traditions.

I come from a particular perspective.  I recall growing up as one of the marginalized, bookish people in the rural, conservative, and anti-intellectual communities in which I grew up.  I recall growing in United Methodist parsonages full of books.  Yet I also recall my father, who should have been my natural partner in intellectual and theological exploration, shutting me down.  That still disappoints me about him.

I stand left of the center in 2021.  This is an average score; I am very liberal on some counts, quite conservative on others, and moderate on others.  Some people may be surprised to learn what some of my political and theological opinions are.  So be it.  But I refuse to censor myself in the matter of which of these I express in an academic or ecclesiastical setting.  I am who I am.  I may change my mind again about certain issues; I reserve the right to do so.  Then I will be who I will be.  And I will not censor myself then either.

Consistently, though, I stand for academic freedom. within the context of remaining on topic and remaining based in available evidence.  This is non-negotiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Historical Reality, Collective Denial, Political Inconvenience, and Truth-Telling   3 comments

THE SINS OF THE FATHERS

Today, on the calendar of The Episcopal Church, is Genocide Remembrance.

Today, President Biden called the Armenian Genocide a genocide.  It was a genocide, objectively.  Turkish denial, as old as that genocide, has continued.  Furthermore, the authoritarian government of Turkey has issued its predictable objection of President Biden’s simple act of telling the truth.

Admitting unpleasant truths about national and regional sins can be extremely difficult.  I know.  Witness my country, the United States of America.  We are a country founded partially on slave labor and on the racism that enabled slavery.  Anyone who thinks that the legacy of slavery ended in 1865 is a fool.  And anyone who imagines that racism is dead in the United States of America is willfully oblivious.  Yet much of the U.S. Right Wing seeks to minimize or deny these truths.  

I am also a Southerner, although one may be hard-pressed to detect that, based on my accent.  The Lost Cause of the Confederacy–that slavery was incidental to secession and the Civil War–is, to borrow a term from Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), a “damn lie.”  Documentary evidence from 1860-1861 indicates this.  One may read, for example, the “Cornerstone Speech” of Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens (March 1861), which indicates that race-based slavery was the cornerstone of the Confederate States of America.  One may also notice a change in writings and statements after Confederate defeat, when leading former Confederates minimized the role of slavery.  Yet the Lost Cause of the Confederacy persists.

What is going on in all three cases?  We human beings like to think of ourselves as good people.  We also like to think of our ancestors as good people.  But admitting that our ancestors committed genocide, condoned slavery, or were vile racists and segregationists seems to call our character into question.  God does not visit the sins of the fathers upon members of subsequent generations.  (Ezekiel 18 contradicts Exodus 20:5-6).  We do that ourselves, by not admitting what members of previous generations did, and how those sins have benefited us.  Telling the truth is cleansing.  It sets us free.  First, however, we need to get over our discomfort with the truth.  Only then can reconciliation become possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Judith Lomax (September 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of Virginia

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JUDITH LOMAX (SEPTEMBER 25, 1774-JANUARY 19, 1928)

Episcopal Mystic and Poet

Judith Lomax comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Judith, born on her father’s plantation at Portobago, Virginia, on September 25, 1774, was a poet and a fervent Evangelical Episcopalian.  Her father was Thomas Lomax.  Our saint’s mother was Ann Lomax.  Judith’s faith was a conventional form of piety for her time and place.  She kept a Sabbath journal, published in 1999.  Our saint never married; she wrote of her “Heavenly Bridegroom.”  Judith also wrote poetry about a wide range of subjects, including nature, friendship, and death.  She made history by becoming the first woman in Virginia to publish a volume of poetry.  The Notes of an American Lyre debuted in 1813.  Our saint, who left her father’s plantation after his death in 1816, lived in Port Royal, Virginia, until 1827.  That year, with her health failing, Judith moved into the home of a sister in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Judith, aged 53 years, died there on January 19, 1828.

History–the of the past, with interpretation–teaches me to contextualize everything and to excuse nothing that is inexcusable.  I chafe against the relativistic notion that X may be wrong–today, at least–but that I ought to excuse it in the past because X was ubiquitous back then.  Societal and social norms and mores change, but right is always right and wrong is always wrong.  “Many people were doing it” does not excuse sin.

Judith supported the American Colonization Society.  The colonization antislavery movement was inherently racist; it affirmed that the United States of America was properly a country of White people.  Therefore, operating within that racism schema, many people, such as Judith Lomax, favored freeing slaves and shipping them out of the country.  Yet many African Americans, such as pioneers in Liberia, welcomed the opportunity the colonization movement provided for them.  

For a period of her life, Judith could not easily get to an Episcopal church.  Yet she had easy access to Baptist and Methodist churches.  She corresponded with missionaries in Africa, read tracts in French, communed ecumenically, and hoped for a post-denominational future.  Judith tended scrupulously to her spiritual life.

May you, O reader, tend scrupulously to your spiritual life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA SKOBTSOVA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF ERNEST TRICE THOMPSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN AND HIS BROTHER, MICHAEL HAYDN, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSE, CARMELITE NUN; AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN DONNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Judith Lomax.

Teach us to drive from the world the ugliness of chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may not be blind to your glory,

and that at length everyone may know the inexhaustible riches

of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Joanna P. Moore (September 30)   6 comments

Above:  Joanna P. Moore, 1898

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JOANNA PATTERSON MOORE (SEPTEMBER 26, 1832-APRIL 15, 1916)

U.S. Baptist Missionary and Educator

Joanna P. Moore comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Moore was an advocate for education and for racial justice.  She, born in Clarion County, Pennsylvania, on September 26, 1832, grew up on a farm.  Our saint started teaching when she was 15 years old, when she successfully operated a summer school for youth.  Young Joanna received a fine education; her parents insisted that she did.  Our saint, a daughter of an Episcopalian father and a Presbyterian mother, became a teacher as an adult.  She joined a Baptist church in 1852.  Like many (single, female) teachers of the time, Moore boarded with a family in the town where she taught.

Moore found a new calling during the Civil War.  Upon hearing news that a regiment of African-American soldiers in the U.S. Army was guarding African-American women and children on Island Number Ten (at the junction of Tennessee and Missouri, in the Mississippi River).  Our saint knew she had to minister to African Americans.  In November 1863, she moved to Island Number Ten and commenced her ministry.  Her educational curriculum there included Biblical literacy.

Our saint continued to minister to Southern African Americans for the rest of her life.  She did this in a series of places, including Helena, Arkansas; Lauderdale, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana.  She worked for most of that time as a missionary of the Women’s Baptist Home Mission Society.  Joanna was what many White, Southern racists dismissed as a “carpetbagger.”  And she engaged in God’s work.  Our saint supervised 3,000 small “Fireside Schools,” in which family members learned from each other.  She also founded a magazine, Hope, to promote Biblical literacy.  Furthermore, our saint helped to organize women’s societies.  She had found her people–the oppressed African Americans in the Jim Crow South.

Moore was initially reluctant to compose her autobiography.  She insisted that she was too busy to write about her life.  Besides, she insisted, people should read the Bible, not her autobiography.  Finally, though, Moore wrote the story of her life, on the grounds that the book may help “the dear colored people the United States.”  The Women’s Baptist Home Mission Society, Chicago, Illinois, published “In Christ’s Stead”:  Autobiographical Sketches in 1902.

Moore defended the aspirations and rights of African Americans to White people.  In so doing, she incurred strong criticism from many White people and churches, culturally bound by their racism.  She also understood, in her time, the importance of education and industrial training where she and those among whom she worked lived. And the Bible, she insisted, provided the answer to the alleged “negro problem.”  The answer was to enforce the Golden Rule, individually and institutionally, and socially.

Moore, aged 83 years, died in Selma, Alabama.  Her grave was, at her request, in an African-American cemetery.

She had concluded “In Christ’s Stead” (1902) with these words:

I have not written a history of my life, only given you a few scraps.  No one but God ever wrote a history of human life.  It is impossible.  Our greatest battles are fought and lost and greatest battles are won where no one but God sees and understands.  As we, ourselves, look back, we do not know which was victory and which was defeat, what was wise and what was a mistake.  But we do know that when we lived for God’s glory.  He with matchless kindness made the shade and the sunshine, the bitter and the sweet, all unite for our good as well as His glory; and now in restful faith I give this book and all there is of my poor life, past, present, and future, into the hands of Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.  Glory be to His name now and for ever.  Amen.

Joanna Patterson Moore lived for God’s glory and saw Jesus in the faces of those subjected to racial and economic discrimination.

In this age of the Black Lives Matter movement, Moore’s example takes on greater resonance.  I recall, years ago, talk of the “death of racism.”  I dare anyone who has been paying attention, especially during the last few years, to affirm the “death of racism” with a straight face.  Those who call attention to racism frequently make many other people uncomfortable.  Even many racists try to avoid the label “racist.”  “I’m not racist, but…” almost always precedes a racist comment.  Furthermore, avoiding dealing with racism and denying its role where such a role is objectively accurate is itself racist.  Pretending that racism is not a factor when it is a factor does not make it cease to be a factor.

The application of the Golden Rule on the individual, institutional, and social levels in the best way forward.  Doing so entails recognizing mutuality, that we are all responsible to and for each other, and that whatever we do affects others.  Keeping a segment of the population “in its place” reduces everybody’s opportunities.  When we act in the best interests of others, for the common good, we act also in our best interests.  Living this in society glorifies God and fulfills the Golden Rule.

May the example of Joanna Patterson Moore encourage us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for 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 your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feast of Sarah Mapps Douglass (September 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Painting of a Flower, by Sarah Mapps Douglass

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

SARAH MAPPS DOUGLASS (SEPTEMBER 9, 1806-SEPTEMBER 8, 1882)

U.S. African-American Quaker Abolitionist, Writer, Painter, and Lecturer

Sarah Mapps Douglass comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Sarah Mapps Douglass, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 9, 1806, came from that city’s African-American elite.  Her family, active in the abolitionist movement, included her father (Robert Douglass, Sr., a baker), her mother (Grace Bustill Douglass, a teacher and a milliner), and her brother (Robert Douglass, Jr., an artist).  Our saint, well-educated, started teaching, in 1825, at a school her mother had helped to found.  Then Sarah taught at the Free African School for Girls.  After that, in 1837, she founded the African Institute, subsequently renamed the Institute for Colored Youth in 1852 and, eventually, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (the oldest Historically Black College or University in the United States).  Douglass had a professional connection to the African Institute/Institute for Colored Youth for most of the rest of her life.  She also insisted on the revolutionary idea that male and female students receive equal opportunity to study subjects previously off-limits to girls and young women.

Douglass, a financial supporter of and literary contributor to William Lloyd Garrison‘s The Liberator (founded in 1831), helped her mother to found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.  This biracial society, which included Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), was radical, by the standards of the time.  It advocated for the abolition of slavery as soon as possible and in such as way as to leave former slaveholders holding the proverbial bag.  The organization also supported boycotts of goods slaves had manufactured, distributed anti-slavery books and pamphlets, and opened a school for African-American children.  Our saint remained active in the society for years, too.

Douglass also helped to lead the Female Literary Association, founded in 1831.  This organization, for African-American women, both free and enslaved, challenged White racism and encouraged self-improvement via education.

Douglass became a pioneer of another sort.  She studied medicine, with a specialty in hygiene and gynecology, from 1853 to 1877.  She also matriculated as the first African-American student, at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.  Then she taught night classes to African-American women.

Douglass, a fine artist, was one of the first African-American painters, too.  She signed her work and challenged White racist assumptions in yet another way.

Our saint married in 1855.  Her husband, a widower with nine children, was the Reverend William Douglass, the Rector of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Philadelphia.  He died in 1861.

Our saint faced racism within the church, too.  One day, at a Friends meeting house in New York City, a member asked her:

Does thee go out ahouse cleaning?

Sarah wrote to a friend and explained what she did next:

I wept through the whole of the meeting….

Sarah Mapps Douglass died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 8, 1882.  If she had lived one day longer, she would have turned seventy-six years old.

My parents raised me to believe in racial equality.  My father was a United Methodist minister in rural southern Georgia. U.S.A.  Many of his parishioners (in the 1980s through the early 2000s, especially) were openly and unapologetically racist.  Many of them used racial slurs openly and unapologetically.  Others used slightly less impolite language.  I recall that, one day in 1990 or 1991, in Alapaha, Georgia, I heard Henry, a neighbor and a fellow parishioner, say, “African-American engineering,” a paraphrase of a slur.  Church members, such as Henry, should have known better than to be racists and to use racist language.

Sarah Mapps Douglass lived prior to the coining of the word “intersectionality.”  Yet her life epitomized that word.  She dwelt at the intersection of being female and African American.  Our saint contended with sexism and racism.

Biases, such as sexism and racism, come in two varieties, by one method of categorizing them.  These varieties are conscious and unconscious.  The most difficult biases to recognize in oneself are the ones does not realize are biases.  One may mistake them for being objectively they way things are and perhaps mistake them for the way things ought to be.  One need not wear bed sheets or shave one’s head to function as a racist.  One can also be a racist without realizing one’s racism.  And, when one recognizes oneself as a racist, combating that form of bigotry in oneself can prove difficult.  Such is the hold social conditioning has on people.

Every society always needs revolutionaries such as Sarah Mapps Douglass at her time and location, to challenge moral blind spots in the collective norms and mores.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF ELLEN GATES STARR, U.S. EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil

and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Sarah Mapps Douglass]

to use our freedom to bring justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 37

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Anti-Democratic Politics   1 comment

What do the the military of Myanmar and the dominant wing of the Republican Party have in common?  Both consider elections they lose fraudulent, without evidence.  The military of Myanmar has staged another coup.  The wounds from the Donald Trump-instigated insurrection last January 6 have not healed in the United States of America.  And, in various states, including Georgia, certain Republican legislators, many of them citing discredited conspiracy theories, have launched renewed efforts to make voting more difficult.  When more people voted, Democrats fared better in the election results.  This has scared many Republicans, a host of whom favor rigging the system in their favor.

In a republic, the right to vote should be about as close to sacred as anything in the secular realm.  When more people vote, that is a positive result.  If a particular political party fares worse in the election results when more people vote, that party ought to work on getting more people to vote for it.  That party ought not to make voting more difficult, or to seek to make voting more difficult.  And that party should remain grounded in reality, not embrace discredited conspiracy theories.

I live in Georgia.  

Last year, I did all my voting via absentee ballots, for obvious reasons.  I registered for each ballot online.  My driver’s license number verified my identity.  The voting process was secure.  And, as Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger confirmed, the process was honest.  He pushed back against Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories regarding the elections.  At this weblog, I praised Raffesnsperger for doing so.

That was then.  

As I write these words, there is a Republican effort in the Georgia General Assembly to make voting via absentee ballots more difficult.  Raffensperger supports this effort.

I condemn him for doing so.

In the United States of America, all political parties should be democratic parties.  They should affirm the democratic process.  Sadly, anti-democratic political tactics of today are continuations of a morally unjustifiable tradition.  I think of the Federalist Party, realizing that male immigrants, once they naturalized then registered to vote, overwhelmingly voted Jeffersonian Republican, extending the length of the naturalization process to 14 years via the Naturalization Act (1798).  Being a son of the South, I think also of the Democratic Party in the former Confederacy, starting shortly after the Civil War and extending for the next century or so.  I refer to poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, White primaries, and outright intimidation, mainly.  I understand that the main purpose of these anti-democratic measures was to maintain White supremacy.  

Georgia did something remarkable last January 6.  We sent an African American and a Jew to the United States Senate.  That was astounding, given the long record of racism and anti-Semitism in this state.  We sent an African American and a Jew to the United States Senate because (1) the Democratic Party turned out its voters, and (2) Donald Trump and company depressed the Republican vote with baseless conspiracy theories.

I am a Democrat.  Far be it from me to break up the Republican Party’s circular firing squad.  Yet I, as an American and a patriot, want the other party in a two-party system to be sane and grounded in objective reality.  I want this because that party will win elections some of the time.  In the democratic system, any given political party wins some and loses some.  So be it.  And I want both parties in a two-party system to strengthen and maintain the electoral system and to make voting easier.  

It should be the American way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Vote Suppression   Leave a comment

Above:  The Gerrymander

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Vote suppression is wrong in all circumstances.  When a political party seeks to boost its electoral odds to suppressing votes, it damages the structure of the republic.  Such a party deserves scorn for doing so.

I know enough about United States history to list vote suppression efforts since the earliest days of the republic.

  1. Gerrymandering (a practice older than the label) dates to at least 1788, when Patrick Henry of Virginia tried to draw Congressional district lines to deny James Madison a seat.  The germane historical records tell us Madison won the seat anyway.  The term derives from Elbridge Gerry, the Governor of Massachusetts, who presided over the redrawing of district lines in 1812 to favor his (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  A famous political cartoon from the time depicts a district the shape of which resembles a salamander.  Gerrymandering entails politicians choosing the voters, not the voters selecting the politicians.  The practice suppresses votes by making voting futile for many potential voters.  Many may choose not to vote because there is no point in doing so.  In 2020, too few Congressional districts are politically competitive.  Some politically secure seats exist apart from gerrymandering, of course.  However, many exist only because of the practice.
  2. The annals of the John Adams Administration (1797-1801) document the Naturalization Act of 1798, which made the minimum period of time to naturalize fourteen years, as opposed to the previous standard of five years.  When one examines the politics of the late 1790s, one realizes that the Federalist Party was trying to maintain its grip on power.  One may also understand that the targeted immigrants were Irish, therefore anti-British.  Perhaps one recalls that the Federalist Party, with its pro-British foreign policy, was unlikely to receive the votes of naturalized Irish-American immigrant men, who tended to favor the (Jeffersonian) Republican Party.  The historical record also tells us that the Naturalization Act of 1798 backfired on the Federalist Party when immigrants hastened to complete their naturalization process than voted (Jeffersonian) Republican enthusiastically.
  3. The Democratic Party committed vote suppression in the post-Civil War South in the name of restoring and maintaining white supremacy.  Methods of vote suppression for nearly a century included lynchings, other forms of violence, informal social pressure, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.  Literacy tests varied widely, from having to read Latin to guessing how many jelly beans were in a jar.  In Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1890s, voting officials used a literacy test to prevent the brilliant W. E. B. DuBois, a professor at Atlanta University, from registering to vote.  DuBois was literate, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
  4. The Republican Party has been committing vote suppression lately.  Some party officials have even candidly admitted this, without apology.  Their efforts have often had a racist edge, given the rate at which African Americans vote for Democratic candidates.  Since the Republican Party launched its Southern Strategy in the 1960s and began to appeal to White Southern racists, some portion of that party has maintained the Southern Strategy.  Donald Trump has made no secret of his racism.  His dog whistles have been so loud that one does not need canine ears to hear them.  And he has called neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
  5. Voting by mail is safe.  Trump, one who has voted via mail, is lying about it being untrustworthy.  I recall having voted absentee–by mail–more than once.  Some states have much experience conducting elections entirely via mail.  Actually, I prefer voting by mail.  I recall that, earlier this year, I sat down with my ballot, looked up candidates, and marked my ballot.  I also remember that, more than once, I wrote in “None of the above,” even in uncontested races.
  6. No political party has a monopoly on vote suppression.  No major political party in the United States has a clean record regarding opposing this practice.

I hesitate to apply “sacred” to secular institutions, such as the republic.  However, some principles come close to being sacred.  Among these principles are these:

  1. Any political party that has difficulty appealing to voters should seek methods of appealing to them without betraying the highest ideals of human equality.
  2. In a republic, governments should facilitate voting by citizens, not discourage it.

Here I stand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Anti-Intellectualism and Right-Wing Populism   1 comment

Truthiness, Alternative Facts, and Damn Lies

Stephen Colbert, during his years of hosting The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, spoke, in the character of a composite of most of the on-air talent at the FOX News Channel of “truthiness,” defined as

the quality or seeming or feeling true, even when being false.

“Truthiness” is the quality of anti-intellectualism, of the distrust of expertise and reference works.  Objective reality, the character of Stephen Colbert said on October 17, 2005, is

all fact and no heart.

The television persona of Colbert rejected objective reality.

Objectively, surveys revealed that more self-described conservatives than self-described liberals did not get the joke.  More self-described conservatives than self-described liberals failed to realize that Colbert was playing a character.

That which Colbert said in political satire has become the governing strategy of the Trump Administration.  One may recall that, in early 2017, Kellyanne Conway used a now-infamous term:

alternative facts.

Her boss is a proponent and purveyor of alternative facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, and what Samuel L. Clemens called

damn lies.

Anti-intellectualism is a political and religious tradition in the United States and elsewhere.  (Traditions are, by definition, old, so I choose not to call anti-intellectualism an “old tradition.”)    Related to anti-intellectualism is another tradition, distrust of science.  I trust science and consider myself an intellectual, of course.  Another cousin, so to speak, is the distrust of expertise.  I like experts, people who have read, studied, researched, et cetera.  They are well-informed, by definition.  I do not pretend that they are infallible, but I trust them before I trust an uninformed person on the street.  If that makes me an elitist, so be it.

Right-wing populism embraces truthiness and alternative facts as it rejects intellectualism, expertise, and science.  This tendency is proving deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing should NOT be controversial, but they are.  The Coronavirus will not vanish one day, magically.  No, it will remain with us for a very long time.  The Bubonic Plague still exists, but how often does it become a news story?  COVID-19 will eventually join the ranks of generally contained diseases that break out here and there, now and again, with limited effects.  We will get to that day sooner rather than later by acting responsibly, both collectively and individually, and by trusting that people who study this disease know more about it than people who do not.

Unfortunately, as human psychology proves, ego defense mechanisms are generally impervious to objective reality.  The least effective way to convince one to change one’s mind may be to present objective information, especially if one’s ego is invested in an erroneous belief.  Consider opposition to vaccination, O reader.  I understand why, centuries ago, when vaccination was new, that many people feared it.  However, given that vaccination has proven effective, fear of it is irrational and contrary to objective reality.

Aside:  I report that the worst reaction I had to an immunization was the exception to the rule.  My standard reaction is none, except for momentary discomfort; I despise needles.  I recall, however, that I passed out momentarily once.  On the other hand, I got a piece of chocolate, so I cannot complain.

This pandemic presents people with a choice:  Behave responsibly and reject misinformation or embrace conspiracy theories and racist, nativistic, xenophobic, and objectively false statements and those who peddle them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++