Archive for the ‘Samuel Johnson’ Tag

Devotion for Independence Day (U.S.A.) (July 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

God and Country–God First and Foremost

JULY 4, 2019

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I realize that one might arch an eyebrow over the timing of this post, inside the month of July 2018 yet after July 4.  There is a good reason for the timing, though; I am updating ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, for which I wrote a new July 4 post.  This slightly altered version of that post replaces my older July 4 post here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

KRT

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Feast of Blesseds Ralph Milner, Roger Dickinson, and Lawrence Humphrey (July 7)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED RALPH MILNER

BLESSED ROGER DICKINSON 

BLESSED LAWRENCE HUMPHREY

English Roman Catholic Martyrs, July 7, 1591

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), that great English conservative, debater, moralist, and linguist, was correct when he asserted,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

National security has long been a justification scoundrels have cited when appealing to a perverted variety of patriotism to justify the morally unjustifiable.  In the process, so much for freedom!

Consider the aftermath of the failed Spanish attempt to invade and conquer the British Isles in 1688, O reader.  Also consider the then-recent religious politics of the English Reformation, with some Roman Catholics becoming martyrs during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I, and some Anglicans and Protestants experiencing persecution (sometimes to the point of martyrdom) during the reign of “Bloody” Mary I (1553-1558).

“Live and let live” would have been an appropriate religious policy for the English government to follow.  Alas, simply being caught being a Roman Catholic priest in England was, for a time, sufficient for a charge of treason, usually punishable by hanging, drawing, and quartering.

Ralph Milner had long been a conventional Anglican.  He, born in Flacsted, Hants, was a farmer, a husband, and the father of eight children.  Lives of Roman Catholics in his region convinced Milner to convert to Roman Catholicism.  That decision changed his life, for there was no policy of religious toleration.  On the day Milner was to make his first communion as a Catholic authorities arrested him.  Milner was a prisoner for the rest of his life.  Nevertheless, he became such a trusted prisoner that the spent much time on parole and held the keys to the jail.  Milner helped other Catholic inmates and aided priests.  For a time he escorted Father Thomas Stanney (1558-1617), who, after expulsion from England, transferred to Belgium.  Then Milner escorted Father Roger Dickinson, a native of Lincoln.

Father Dickinson, who studied at Rheims, risked his life for his faith.  He, sent to England in 1583, served in Hampshire until arrest and exile.  He returned to England anyway, and served in Worcestershire.  Authorities arrested Milner and Dickinson together.  Milner even rejected the pleas of his children and an offer to spare his life if he attended Anglican services.

The third martyr on July 7, 1591, was Lawrence Humphrey, a convert to Roman Catholicism.  He, while in a fever-induced delirium, had denounced Queen Elizabeth I as a heretic.  Humphrey, when recovered, stated that he had no memory of making that statement.  Nevertheless, his offense was legally and politically sufficient to send him to a horrible death.

The fate of these three men at Winchester on July 7, 1591, was hanging, drawing, and quartering–certainly a Foucaultian form of execution, as well as excessive.  The men were innocent of treason, after all.  Besides, the form of execution was excessive, even for actual traitors.  Then there was the moral question of execution by any method.

Pope Pius XI beatified these martyrs, killed because of religious bigotry and fears related to national security, in 1929.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BUXTEHUDE, LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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

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

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Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs

Blessed Ralph Milner,

Blessed Roger Dickinson, 

and Blessed Lawrence Humphrey,

triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with them the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 714

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THE ADMINISTRATION IS NOT THE NATION-STATE.   6 comments

john-adams

Above:  John Adams, President of the United States from 1797 to 1801

Image in the Public Domain

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The administration is not the nation-state.  This is a simple fact that political dissidents keep having to repeat, even in my native land, the United States of America.  To oppose the presidential administration is not to be disloyal.  The Constitution of the United States even builds debate and dissent into the political system, complete with contested elections.

The failure to acknowledge the fact that the administration is not the nation-state during the Quasi-War with France during the administration of President John Adams (1797-1801) contributed to the abomination that was the Sedition Act of 1798.

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty, and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court may be ho]den to find sureties for his good behaviour in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in Republication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause, shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, that the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

APPROVED, July 14, 1798.

Source = The Avalon Project, Yale University

Adjusting dollar amounts for inflation is crucial.  Know then, O reader, that $2000 (1798) is $39,800 (2015) and that $5000 (1798) is $99,400, according to MeasuringWorth.com.

It was a partisan law applied to opposition newspaper editors and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont.  One might also notice that the law permitted (by omission) all manner of negative press and speech regarding the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the opposition party.  Newspaper editors went to prison, newspapers closed, and Lyon became a federal inmate.  Lyon was hardly the most polite of Congressmen, but all that he had uttered and published negatively regarding the Adams Administration fell within the bounds of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federalists who supported the Sedition Act of 1798 mistook partisanship for treason and trampled upon the First Amendment.  Lyon had argued in a letter to Spooner’s Vermont Journal that the allegedly power-hungry president had “swallowed up” “every consideration of public welfare.”  He had written this letter prior to July 14, 1798, so the legal principle of ex post facto protected him prior to the date that Adams signed the Sedition Act into law.  After the law had gone into effect, however, Lyon repeated those charges repeatedly and added more criticisms of Adams and the Federalist majorities in Congress (such as that Adams fostered “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” and Congress should send the President to a mad house).  The federal indictment (October 5, 1798) accused Lyon of having “malicious intent to bring the President and the government of the United States into contempt.”  The verdict was guilty.  Lyon went on to win reelection from his prison cell.

Alas, Jefferson was not a paragon of virtue with regard to freedom of the press.  Although he, as Vice President, opposed the Sedition Act of 1798, which expired in 1801, he encouraged partisans to use similar state laws against Federalist critics of himself and of his administration.  There was, for example, People v. Croswell (1804), which targeted Harry Croswell (1778-1858), editor of The Wasp, a Federalist newspaper in Hudson, New York.  Croswell was openly critical of President Jefferson.  Croswell lost that case, in which the prosecution convicted him of having committed both libel and sedition.  The editor kept losing libel lawsuits.  In 1814 he left journalism for the Episcopal priesthood.

The unfortunate tendency to confuse the presidential administration for the nation-state has recurred frequently, drawing support from the “rally around the flag” mentality.  Resurgence of this confusion in the form of jingoism has been especially egregious during times of war, whether declared or otherwise.  During World War I, for example, the federal government sent some antiwar activists to prison not for inciting violence, but for inciting nonviolence.  Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., disappointingly, compared the rhetoric of nonviolence during time of war to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  “My country, right or wrong” has never impressed me, for as the great Voltaire wrote,

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

And, as the moralist Samuel Johnson observed,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Dissent is as American as the First Amendment.  That is a patriotic statement.  Those who enter public life should either have thick political skins already or grow them quickly.  President Harry Truman‘s maxim that those who want a friend in Washington, D.C., should bring a dog remains true much of the time.

I am convinced that another contributing factor to the identification of the administration with the nation-state is fear.  Out of fear individuals and institutions tend to trample people and ideals–even foundational principles.  A time of crisis, however, is properly a time to double down on acting in accordance with those foundational principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the fact that dissent is patriotic.  As Tom Dobbs, the character the late, great Robin Williams portrayed in Man of the Year (2006), said,

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

I bristle whenever I read or hear someone accuse dissidents of being stupid at best or treasonous at worst.  One reason for my bristling is principled; I affirm that, in the words of The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),

If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

What I think of the content of that dissent is irrelevant with regard to my estimate of the patriotism of the dissident.  Another reason is personal; I know the feeling of hearing and reading people question either my intelligence or my patriotism or both because of a political difference.  Dissent, however, is as American as the First Amendment.

Administrations come and go, but the United States of America persists.  The administration is not the nation-state.

As Martin Luther probably did not say,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

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I derived much material for this post from Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times:  Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY:  W. W. Norton and Company, 2004).

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Feast of Ben Salmon (February 15)   Leave a comment

ben-salmon

Above:  Icon of Ben Salmon

Image in the Public Domain

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BENJAMIN JOSEPH SALMON (OCTOBER 15, 1889-FEBRUARY 15, 1932)

Roman Catholic Pacifist and Conscientious Objector

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War is the health of the state.

–Randolph Bourne (1886-1918), 1918

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It is dangerous to be right in matters about which the established authorities are wrong.

–Francois-Marie Arouet, a.k.a. Voltaire (1694-1778)

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I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

–Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956); frequently attributed to Voltaire erroneously

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To refuse to commit or be complicit in violence when one’s government encourages violences can be dangerous and fraught with legal difficulty.

Consider, O reader, the case of Ben Salmon, born in Denver, Colorado, on October 15, 1889.  He grew up in a desert and working-class Roman Catholic family.  Our saint became involved in leftist social justice movements, in particular, with labor unionism.  According to some, he was even an agitator.  Salmon, who attended Mass frequently, married his longtime sweetheart in 1917.  Shortly thereafter, due to U.S. involvement in World War I and official intolerance of antiwar activism, his life changed for the worse.

President Woodrow Wilson, about whom I harbor mixed and mostly negative opinions, had predicted prior to April 1917 that, if the U.S.A. were to enter World War I, many Americans would forget that there was no such thing as tolerance.  He was correct.  He also led the charge of intolerance.  In 1917 and 1918 state and federal laws incarcerated peaceful opponents of that war.  The U.S. Government even treated Amish (yes, Amish!) conscientious objectors harshly.  Authorities, suspecting Amish and Mennonites of being pro-German, kept them under surveillance.  (For details, O reader, consult Steven M. Nolt, A History of the Amish, Revised and Updated Edition, 2003, pages 266-273.)  Laws in some states targeted those who worshiped in a language other than English, so populations ranging from Dutch-psalm-singing members of the Christian Reformed Church to Lutherans who worshiped in Danish or German felt pressure (sometimes in the form of vandalism) to assimilate.

The Amish had been pacifists since their founding, centuries prior to World War I, yet they were not safe from the assaults of the U.S. military over their refusal to fight in a war.  Neither was Salmon, whose pacifism, rooted in Roman Catholicism, put him at odds with the American bishops of his own church.  He responded to the draft by applying for conscientious objector status.  The Army refused to grant him that status, but offered non combatant status instead.  Even that constituted a violation of Salmon’s conscience.  In 1918 the military police arrested our saint.  In short order he had gone through a court-martial and received a guilty verdict and a death sentence, reduced to a term of 25 years.  For more than two years Salmon suffered as he refused to cooperate with his persecutors and oppressors, who retaliated by treating him inhumanely–including with much solitary confinement, sometimes in a vermin-infested cell above the prison sewer.  When, in 1920, our saint started a hunger strike, guards force-fed him.  Then the Army, arguing that he was not only a criminal but an insane person, had him committed to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.  The new American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) defended Salmon and other war resisters, sent to prison.

In prison Salmon, consulting only the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Bible, composed a 200-page refutation of just war theory.  No modern war, he argued, can fit that theory.  Furthermore, our saint insisted, militarism had become the new idolatry.  Such arguments did not convert many enemies into allies at a time when the “rally around the flag” mentality turned into jingoism, vigilantism, and religious intolerance–all in the name of national security.

President Warren G. Harding, of whom I also harbor mostly negative opinions, at least pardoned Salmon and other war resisters in late 1920.  The Army issued our saint a Dishonorable Discharge, however.  Salmon returned to his wife, with whom he had three children.  His prison experiences had broken his health.  He died, aged 42 years, at Chicago, Illinois, on February 15, 1932.

I have attempted and failed to be a pacifist.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that most violence is both avoidable and wrong.  I have also concluded that the mistreatment of pacifists is always wrong.  I have decided to place the persecutors and oppressors of Salmon in the same category as the Puritans who hanged Quakers in New England in the late 1600s:  evildoers who reacted out of fear.

National security is an invalid excuse for trampling the rights of people, in this case, a man who simply refused to commit violence or to be complicit in it.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Or at least a jingoist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF DAMASCUS AND COSMAS OF MAIUMA, THEOLOGIANS AND HYMNODISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor:

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may

do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight;

through Jesus Christ our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns

with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 55:11-56:1

Psalm 2:1-2, 10-12

Acts 14:14-17, 21-23

Mark 4:21-29

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 736

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Feast of Blessed Filip Siphong Onphithakt (December 16)   Leave a comment

thailand-2

Above:  Map of the Germane Region of Thailand

Image in the Public Domain

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BLESSED FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT (SEPTEMBER 7, 1907-DECEMBER 16, 1940)

Roman Catholic Catechist and Martyr in Thailand

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,

Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) stated.  He was correct.  More specifically, an appeal to national security has frequently become a justification for engaging in immoral actions.  In the case of the saints listed in this post, the context was the (Vichy) Franco-Thai War (1940-1941), during which Thai police forces in the vicinity of French Indochina persecuted Roman Catholics, suspected of being spies for the Vichy French.

Blessed Filip Siphong Onphithakt, born at Nong Seng, Nakhon Phanon, Thailand, on September 7, 1907, became a martyr.  In 1931 he married Marie Thong; the couple had five children.  Our saint, a catechist since 1926, assumed the leadership of his parish in Songkhon village in 1940, when persecution of Christians by police forced the priest to depart.  Onphithakt protested this persecution.  In December 1940 police summoned him to their headquarters at Mukhadon.  Our saint answered that summons.  He was en route when police ambushed, tortured, and murdered him at Muang Phaluka Phanom.

Ten days later police shot, killed, and martyred six nuns.  They were:

  1. Blessed Akatha Phutta Bi (born in 1882),
  2. Blessed Agnes Phila (born in 1909),
  3. Blessed Bibiana Khamphai (born on November 4, 1925),
  4. Blessed Cecilia Butsi (born on December 16, 1924),
  5. Blessed Lucie Khambang (born on December 22, 1917), and
  6. Blessed Maria Phon (born on January 6, 1929).

These martyrs had disobeyed police orders to cease speaking of Jesus.

Pope John Paul II declared the Seven Martyrs of Thailand venerable on September 1, 1988.  He beatified them on October 22, 1989.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women

who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.

Inspire us with the memory of the Seven Martyrs of Thailand,

whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage

to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death,

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

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Samuel Johnson (December 13)   12 comments

samuel-johnson-joshua-reynolds

Above:  Samuel Johnson

Image in the Public Domain

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SAMUEL JOHNSON (SEPTEMBER 18, 1709-DECEMBER 13, 1784)

“The Great Moralist”

With this post I add a second Samuel Johnson to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  The other Samuel Johnson, his contemporary, was an American, a convert from Congregationalism to Anglicanism, the creator of a system of organizing library books, and a president of what became Columbia University, New York, New York.  Both Samuel Johnsons, I write without fear of contradiction, enrich this calendar of saints’ days and holy days.

Page 16 of Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists December 13 as the date to recall the life of “Samuel Johnson, Moralist, 1784.”

The Great Moralist, also an essayist, literary critic, poet, translator, and influential lexicographer, came from Lichfield, England.  There he entered the world on September 7, 1709 (Julian Calendar)/September 18, 1709 (Gregorian Calendar).  His mother was Sarah Ford, an Anglican with Calvinist leanings.  She taught her son to memorize the collect for the day.  Our saint’s father was Michael Johnson, a bookseller and, at the time of Samuel’s birth, the Sheriff of Lichfield.  Michael was also a High Anglican with Jacobite sympathies.  The family was not prosperous.  That fact created much stress in Samuel’s life, as did his persistent bad health.

Johnson became well-educated.  The informal part of his education occurred at home and at his father’s bookstore.  The young bookworm read many books at his father’s place of business.  He also attended Lichfield grammar school (1717-1728) and Pembroke College, Oxford (1728-1729).  The Great Moralist had to drop out of college for medical and financial reasons, but his informal education continued.  Eventually he received two honorary doctorates–from Dublin University (1765) and Oxford (1775), hence “Doctor Johnson.”

Johnson became an educator.  In 1731 he accepted the position of undermaster of the Market Bosworth Grammar School, Leicestershire.  Four years later our saint married Elizabeth “Tetty” Potter, a widow 20 years his senior.  They remained married until she died in 1752.  In 1735 Johnson founded a boarding school at Lichfield.  He led that institution and taught Greek and Latin there until the school closed after two years of operation.

Then Johnson relocated to London.  He had already begun to compose and translate works.  Our saint had also contributed to the Gentleman’s Magazine, founded in 1732.  In London, starting in 1737 and continuing for years, Johnson picked up the pace of his literary efforts, which included poems and satirical prose.  Some of the writing was political.  Although our saint was no Jacobite, he was critical of governments during the Georgian Age.  The Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the basis of many subsequent dictionaries, set him on the road to financial security.  His education of Shakespeare (1765) also proved to be a classic.

Johnson was a High Anglican influenced by Greek stoicism.  [Stoicism (frequently misunderstood by many) recognized the difference between those things we can change and those we cannot change.  It is actually an optimistic philosophy, one which teaches a person to delight in the pleasure of life and to refrain from fretting about not doing what one cannot do.]  The basis of our saint’s faith was an understanding of human sinfulness and the necessity of redemption by Jesus Christ.  Johnson, who tolerated Roman Catholicism at a time when that attitude was frequently unpopular, did not hide his dislike of Calvinism.  His Prayers and Meditations debuted in print posthumously in 1785.

Johnson was neurotic and he knew it.  He was prone to melancholy and indolence.  Our saint also knew how to overcome these weaknesses:  surround himself with people.  Johnson’s household included the following, among others:

  1. Robert Levett, a doctor who tended to poor people;
  2. Francis Barber, a former African slave, whose education he financed; and
  3. Anna Williams.

She was the daughter of Zechariah Williams, with whom Johnson had written Longitude at Sea (1755).  Anna visited our saint at his home for years before moving in.  Eventually she went blind and he took care of her until she died in 1783.

Johnson, a loyal subject, supported his government’s position during the American Revolutionary period.  His Taxation No Tyranny (1775) argued that colonists should pay their taxes dutifully.

Johnson died at Lichfield on December 13, 1784.  He was 75 years old.  His legacy has remained impressive and instructive.  For example, his reminder that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” has been relevant for a long time.  Johnson also elevated the tone of debates and the quality of arguments, for his intellectualism and manner forced his debating partners to improve their cases, to prepare to argue as effectively as possible against him.

The world needs more people of the caliber of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Samuel Johnson 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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of Alfred the Great (October 26)   Leave a comment

England 878

Above:  Map of England in 878

Image in the Public Domain

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ALFRED THE GREAT (849-OCTOBER 26, 899)

King of the West Saxons

An old saying tells that power wears down those who do not have it.  That is certainly true in the Turkish Republic.  Even before the recent failed coup President (previously Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the judiciary to imprison journalists whose reporting was critical of him.  He thereby proved that he lacked respect for the freedom of the press.  Now, after the coup, he is targeting not only soldiers but journalists, judges, academics, and civil servants en masse.  It is a witch hunt.  The republic is really a dictatorship.  Erdogan’s power wears down those who do not have it.  Patriotism and law and order are the last refuges of a scoundrel, to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

Power need not wear down those who lack it, however.  If the right person uses power for proper purposes it builds up the nation–or, in the case, of King Alfred the Great, the only monarch in English history to be “the Great,” the kingdom as a whole.

Alfred the Great was the last King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex) and the first King of the Anglo-Saxons (from 878).  His mother was Osburh/Osburga (died in 854), a noblewoman.  Our saint’s father was King Aethelwulf (reigned 839-858).  Alfred, born in 849, was the youngest of five children who survived to adulthood.  Aethelwulf sent his four-year-old son to visit Rome, where Pope St. Leo IV (reigned April 10, 847-July 17, 855) sponsored the prince at his confirmation.  Two years later Alfred accompanied Aethelwulf on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The prince learned to read English prior to his twelfth birthday.  He did not learn to read Latin until 887, when he had been king for some time.  Aethelwulf’s three elder sons succeeded him, in order, prior to Alfred’s accession:

  1. Aethelbald (reigned 858-860),
  2. Aethelberht (reigned 860-865), and
  3. Aethelred I (reigned 865-871).

Alfred’s public life spanned 866-899.  That public life began with Alfred assisting his elder brother, Aethelred I, resist Danish invaders, a persistent threat for generations.  In 868 the prince married Ealhswith/Ealswitha (died 902), from the Mercian royal family.  Alfred succeeded Aethelred I in 871, becoming the King of the West Saxons (alternatively, the King of Wessex).  The fight against Danish invaders continued throughout his reign.  One phase of that struggle ended in 878, when Alfred took the title “King of the Anglo-Saxons.”  In that year Alfred did not kill Guthrum, the leader of the Danish invaders; no the monarch forced Guthrum to convert to Christianity and stood as his godfather.  Another stage of that struggle ended in 896.  Alfred left behind a military legacy, including a naval fleet and reorganized militias.  He was, in fact, the “Father of the English Navy.”

Alfred did more than maintain the independence of his realm and became one of the greatest early English monarchs.  He also built up his realm and improved the lives of his subjects.  The monarch, for example, issued a law code, joining the ranks of Hammurabi (reigned 1792-1750 B.C.E.) and Justinian I (reigned 527-565 C.E.).  He also encouraged art, architecture, education, and monasticism.  Alfred recruited experts from the continent of Europe to revitalize learning.  He also ordered that children in his court learn both English and Latin.  Furthermore, the king, in 892, began to translate major Latin texts in theology and philosophy.  Other also translated major Latin texts.  Over time confusion regarding which of these Alfred translated has developed.  The monarch also founded a convent and a monastery.  His attempt to revive monasticism failed, however, due to a lack of public interest.  Alfred was ahead of his time in that regard.

Alfred died on October 26, 899.  He was about 50 years old.  His son, Edward the Elder (reigned 899-924), succeeded him.

George P. Knapp, late Professor of English at Columbia University, wrote:

It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the magnitude of Alfred’s military achievements, nor the extent of the country which he governed, that lift him into the ranks of the world’s great men, but the beauty and moral grandeur of his character.  In him were combined the virtues of the scholar and the patriot, the efficiency of the man of affairs with the wisdom of the philosopher and the piety of the true Christian.  His character, public and private, is without a stain, and his whole life was one of enlightened and magnanimous service to his country.

–Quoted in The Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 1, page 380

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN EDITOR

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

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O Sovereign Lord, you brought your servant Alfred to a troubled throne that he might

establish peace in a ravaged land and revive learning and the arts among the people:

Awake in us also a keen desire to increase our understanding while we are in this world,

and an eager longing to reach that endless life where all will be made clear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom 6:1-3, 9-12, 24-25

Psalm 21

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Luke 6:43-49

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 653

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