Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Tag

Remaining Positive and Focused on the Morally Justifiable   Leave a comment

Above:  The View from the Camera Built Into a Computer on my Desk, June 14, 2020

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We live in times of rapid social and political change.  Change–even that which is morally proper–causes disorientation and disturbance.  Sometimes we ought to be disturbed.  Injustice ought to disturb us. The root word of “conservative” is “conserve.”  Whether one’s conservatism is morally defensible depends on what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes one should conserve x.  In certain times, reform is proper.  On other occasions, however, only a revolution is morally defensible.  Yet, even in those cases, nobility must extend beyond the cause and encompass the methods, also.

Call me politically correct, if you wish, O reader.  Or call me a radical or a fool.  If you call me a radical and a revolutionary for justice, I will accept the compliment.  I support what Martin Luther King, Jr., called

a moral revolution of values.

I favor the building of a society in which people matter more than money and property.  I favor social and political standards that brook no discrimination and bigotry while granting violators of those standards the opportunity to repent.  I favor altering society and institutions, inculcating in them the awareness that keeping some people “in their place,” that is, subordinate, underpaid, poorly educated, et cetera, harms society as a whole.  I support building up the whole, and individuals in that context.  I oppose celebrating slavery, discrimination, racism, and hatred, whether past or present.  I stand (socially distanced and wearing a mask, of course) with all those, especially of the younger generations, who are rising up peacefully for justice.  The young will, overall, have an easier time adapting to morally necessary change than many members of the older generations will, no matter how devout and well-intentioned many older people may be.  To quote a cliché,

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless advice for confronting evil:

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:21 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985)

May all who seek a more just society pursue that goal with shrewdness, courage, and goodness.  To create a better society without incorporating goodness into methodology is impossible, after all.  May all who reshape society remain positive and focused on the morally justifiable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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To Be Clear   Leave a comment

Shalom in Hebrew

Above:  Shalom in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

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Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

–The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967

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To be clear, I stand, without reservation, against police brutality, systemic racism, individual racism, the militarization of police forces, needless violence, and all excuses that cover up for not opposing and correcting these offenses against human dignity.  I also oppose all political dog whistles (mainly, appeals to law and order) that distract while they favor unjust order over social justice.  Furthermore, I oppose the use of force against peaceful protesters.  That unjust, oppressive, and repressive law-and-order “desert called peace” (as Tacitus referred to the Pax Romana) is NOT shalom.  It is not, in civil rights terms, beloved community.

I also understand that institutions infected with injustice change only when people force them to do so.  Society is people.  It shapes its members, who have the power to change it.

I favor a just social order.  I favor wise and necessary systemic reform.  I favor spiritual renewal, which must go hand-in-hand with the first two points.  I recognize that sin, guilt, reward, and punishment are both individual and collective.

I, as a self-respecting white liberal, also refuse to tell my brothers and sisters of color how they should feel regarding any matter related to racism.  I do not know how they feel.  I have not experienced what have experience and continue to experience.  I refuse to lecture them.  Instead, I listen to them and learn from them.  I respect them so much that I refuse to do otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

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This is post #2100 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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Feast of Samuel and Henrietta Barnett (June 17)   3 comments

Above:  Portrait of Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, by Hubert von Herkoner

Image in the Public Domain

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SAMUEL AUGUSTUS BARNETT (FEBRUARY 8, 1844-JUNE 17, 1913)

Anglican Canon of Westminster, and Social Reformer

husband and partner of

HENRIETTA OCTAVIA WESTON ROWLAND BARNETT (MAY 4, 1851-JUNE 10, 1936)

Social Reformer

June 17 is the feast day of the Barnetts in The Church of England.

Even if The Church of England had not paired the Barnetts on a feast day, I would have decided to do so anyway.  The couple was a team from the day they married in 1873 to the day Samuel Barnett died in 1913.  I have established emphasizing relationships and influences as a goal for this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Samuel Augustus Barnett, born in Bristol, England, on February 8, 1844, was a son of Mary Gilmore and iron manufacturer Francis Barnett.  Our saint, an 1867 graduate of Wadham College, Oxford, joined the ranks of Anglican clergymen that year and became the Curate of St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, Marylebone, London.  He married Henrietta Octavia Weston Rowland in 1873.

Henrietta, born in London, England, on May 4, 1851, was a socially conscious heiress.  Her mother was Henrietta Monca Margaretta Didges.  Our saint’s father was Alexander William Rowland (d. 1869), in the oil business.  Her mother predeceased her father.  Young Henrietta, altruistic from an early age, attended a boarding school in Devon.  Starting in 1869 or so, she worked with Octavia Hill (1838-1912), active in efforts to improve slums in London.

The work in which the Barnetts engaged together, starting in 1873, flowed from their faith and their Christian Socialist ideals.  Samuel served as the Vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, London, from 1873 to 1894.  He led an congregation in a slum.  He, the founder (1869) of the Charity Organization Society, worked with Henrietta in improving the lives of people in Whitechapel.  The couple addressed housing.  Substandard housing was a major problem.  The Barnetts lobbied for building suitable residences.  They also enriched slum dwellers’ lives with art; the couple founded the Whitechapel Art Gallery.  Urban children needed countryside holidays.  The Barnetts raised funds and arranged for those holidays.  Entertainment was another need the Barnetts worked to provide.  Education was, of course, vital.  The Barnetts founded a night school for adults.  Samuel also served on school committees.  Through Toynbee Hall, of which Samuel was the first warden (1884-1906) and in which Henrietta taught, tutors from Oxford lived and taught in the slum.  Jane Addams (1860-1935) and Ellen Gates Starr (1859-1940) modeled Hull House, Chicago, Illinois, on Toynbee Hall.  Henrietta’s sister, Alice Marion Rowland Hart (1848-1931) also taught at Toynbee Hall.

Above:  Toynbee Hall

Image in the Public Domain

The Barnetts wrote books together.  These included:

  1. Practicable Socialism:  Essays on Social Reform (1888, 1894),
  2. Religion and Progress (1907),
  3. Towards Social Reform (1909),
  4. Religion and Politics (1911),
  5. Worship and Work (1913), and
  6. Vision and Service (1917).

Samuel also wrote Perils of Wealth and Poverty, published posthumously in 1920.

Samuel, a Canon of Westminster (1906-1913), died in London on June 17, 1913.  He was 69 years old.

Henrietta continued in good works until 1936.  She founded Barnett House, Oxford, for the study of social sciences, in Samuel’s honor.  She wrote Canon Barnett:  His Life, Work, and Friends (1918)–Volumes I and II.  She also wrote books on topics ranging from child rearing to working for economic justice.  Our saint had formed the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, which entailed building mixed-income housing, in 1903.  Henrietta, form 1924 a Commander of the British Empire, took up painting during her final years.  She, aged 85 years, died in London on June 10, 1936.

The Barnetts understood the Biblical mandate to help the less fortunate.  They knew that those blessed with privilege have a responsibility to aide those not blessed in that way.  Our saints accepted that the more one has, the more responsibilities one has.  They acted accordingly, for the glory of God and the benefit of many people.  They were faithful partners of God.

The poor will always be with us.  That is a fact.  Increasing numbers of the impoverished can, of course, cease to be poor.  Poverty is a function of various factors, not the least of which is institutionalized artificial scarcity.  Therefore, individual actions help alleviate the problem, but institutional revolution is necessary to make substantial dents in poverty.  The ultimate solution to institutionalized artificial scarcity resides in the purview of God, whose partners we are supposed to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JULIANA OF NORWICH, MYSTIC AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ACACIUS OF BYZANTIUM, MARTYR, 303

THE FEAST OF HENRI DUMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER AND ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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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), 736

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Feast of Will Herzfeld (June 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Fair Use

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WILLIAM LAWRENCE HERZFELD (JUNE 9, 1937-MAY 9, 2002)

U.S. Lutheran Ecumenist, Presiding Bishop of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and Civil Rights Activist

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Will was a person with uncanny insight, constant respect for people, and a focus on the gospel.  He conveyed the partnership, accompaniment, of a large North American church with churches in other lands in a manner that transcended economic, cultural, and political boundaries.

–Bonnie L. Jansen, Executive Director, Division for Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 408

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Bishop Will Herzfeld was a leader of U.S. Lutheranism.  He departed from one denomination, helped to form two denominations, and played a vital role in increasing the degree of unity of Lutheranism in the United States.  Activism in support of civil rights was a component of his faith.

Herzfeld grew up in the Jim Crow South.  He, born in Mobile, Alabama, on June 9, 1937, was a son of Julius Herzfeld, Sr., and Clarice Heinningburg Herzfeld.  Our saint grew up in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS)–in Faith Lutheran Church, Mobile, to be precise.  He attended parochial schools then other Lutheran institutions of education for African Americans.  Herzfeld graduated from the subpar Alabama Lutheran Academy and College (now Concordia College), Selma.  He carried negative memories of this institution for the rest of his life.  Our saint also graduated from Immanuel Lutheran College, Greensboro, North Carolina (1957).  Herzfeld went on to graduate from Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, Greensboro (M.Div., 1961), and to continue his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.  Meanwhile, he married Thressa M. Alston at Kannapolis, North Carolina, on June 11, 1961.  The couple had four children–two daughters and two sons–three of whom lived to adulthood.  Their first child, a daughter, lived only one day.

Herzfeld was an ordained minister in the LCMS from 1961 to 1976.  His first pastorate was Christ Lutheran Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (1961-1965).  Our saint became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement while in Tuscaloosa.  He helped to organize the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1963.  Herzfeld, the first president of that chapter, worked closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968).  OUr saint also served as the president of the Alabama branch of the SCLC (1964-1965).  On the denominational level, he was active in the Southern District of the LCMS.  Our saint sat on the Stewardship Committee and the Family Life Committee.  Furthermore, he was the Vice President of the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America (1964-1966).

Herzfeld ministered in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS, starting .  He, based in Oakland, California, was an urban minister for the district (1966-1969).  Our saint also served as the regional mission executive of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. (1969-1973).  This service overlapped with his time on the LCMS Board of Missions (1969-1973), the Council for Christian Medical Work (1973-1975), and the Board of Directors of the Wheat Ridge Foundation (now the We Raise Foundation) from 1069 to 1972.  The latter organization addresses social inequality.

Herzfeld ministered in the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS, starting in 1966.  He, based in Oakland, California, was an urban minister for the district (1966-1969).  Our saint also served as the regional mission executive of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. (1969-1973).  This service overlapped with his time on the LCMS Board of Missions (1969-1973), the Council for Christian Medical Work (1973-1975), and the Board of Directors of the Wheat Ridge Foundation (now the We Raise Foundation) from 1969 to 1972.  (The We Raise Foundation addresses social inequality.)

Above:  Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, California

Image Source = Google Earth

Herzfeld was the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, California, from 1973 to 1992.  These were eventful years for U.S. Lutheranism.  Our saint, who had represented LCMS President Jacob Preus at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the LCMS mission in India in 1969, broke with Preus during the doctrinal turmoil (1969-1976) in the denomination.  Herzfeld became the vice president of the moderate Evangelical Lutherans in Mission (ELIM) in 1973.  Three years later, he became the Vice President of the moderate, breakaway Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), to which ELIM gave birth.  The AELC eventually changed its title to Presiding Bishop.  Herzfeld became the Presiding Bishop in 1984.  By then he had been active for years in efforts to merge the AELC, the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987), and The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987) into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Herzfeld was socially and politically active.  He taught urban ministry at the Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California, starting in 1976.  He devoted much to ecumenical Black Theology-related projects and organizations for decades.  Our saint always seemed to find time for work in civil rights.  He worked for nuclear disarmament.  Herzfeld, active in urban renewal in Oakland, served in a variety of capacities toward that end.  He also found time to be the chaplain of the Golden State Warriors, a professional basketball team, from 1984 to 1991.

Herzfeld made history.  He made history in 1984, when he became the first African-American head of a U.S. Lutheran denomination.  He made history in the 1980s by being prominent in the movement to bring global pressure on the Apartheid-era governments of South Africa.  Our saint made history by helping to seal the deal to form the ELCA.

Meanwhile, Herzfeld continued his education.  He earned two doctorates–one from the Center for Urban Black Studies, the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California; and the other one from Seminex.

Herzfeld resigned from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, at the end of 1992 to accept promotion to the denominational level.  He moved to Chicago, Illinois, to become the Director for Global Community and Overseas Operations of the Division of Global Mission of the ELCA.  He, already a presence in global Lutheranism, expanded his worldwide profile.  He served as the Vice Presidency of Lutheran World Relief.  Our saint, a vice president of the National Council of Churches during his final years, was also active in the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation.  Herzfeld represented the ELCA globally in a variety of capacities and at a number of events.

In 2002, Herzfeld visited the Central African Republic.  He went there to attend the ordination of the first female Lutheran minister in that country.  Unfortunately, he also contracted cerebral malaria.  A month later, on May 9, our saint died at Resurrection Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.  Had Herzfeld lived one month longer, he would have celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday.

Survivors included Herzfeld’s former wife, Thressa; his three adult children–Martin, Katherine, and Stephen; and five grandchildren.  Our saint’s second wife, the Reverend Michele L. Robinson, had died in May 2001.

Herzfeld’s death prompted many remembrances and kind words.  Perhaps the most poignant statement came from a colleague, Herbert Chilstrom, the first Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Chilstrom said,

I’ve lost a friend.

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God of justice, we praise you as we thank you for the

life, work, and legacy of your servant, Will Herzfeld.

May we, deriving inspiration from his example,

confront and resist systems of oppression and artificial inequality

as we strive to live according to the Golden Rule

and to leave society better than we found it.

May we also work to break down unnecessary barriers

to greater ecclesiastical unity and cooperation, for your glory.

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

Amos 5:21-24

Psalm 95

Galatians 5:13-15

Matthew 25:31-46

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAROSLAV VAJDA, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF CEBULA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILIUS OF SULMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ALMSGIVER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA, 1841

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Feast of Robert McAfee Brown (May 28)   3 comments

Above:  Stanford University

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-21158

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ROBERT MCAFEE BROWN (MAY 28, 1928-SEPTEMBER 4, 2001)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, Activist, and Ecumenist

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In conscience, I must break the law.

–Robert McAfee Brown, October 31, 1967

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Robert McAfee Brown comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via my library.

Above:  Two Books by Robert McAfee Brown

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Brown stood in the finest tradition of the Hebrew prophets and centuries of Christian tradition.  He, born in Carthage, Illinois, on May 28, 1928, was a son of Ruth McAfee (Brown) and Presbyterian minister George William McAfee.  Our saint was also a grandson of Cleland Boyd McAfee, a professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.  Brown, a 1944 graduate of Amherst College, married Sydney Elise Thomson on June 21, 1944.  The couple had three sons and a daughter.  Our saint, a student at Union Theological Seminary from 1943 to 1945, studied under Paul Tillich (1886-1965) and Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).  After graduating, Brown served as a chaplain in the United States Navy in 1945 and 1946.

Brown spent most of his life as an academic.  He was an assistant chaplain and an instructor in religion at Amherst College in 1946-1948.  Then he studied at Mansfield College, Oxford, in 1949 and 1950.  Our saint, an instructor at Union Theological Seminary in 1950 and 1951, earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951.  He led the Department of Religion, Malacaster College, St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1951-1953.  Our saint served on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in 1953-1962.  Then, in 1962-1976, our saint was a Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University.  Brown returned to Union Theological Seminary in 1976 as Professor of Ecumenics and World Christianity.  Our saint was Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California, in 1979-1984.  Then he retired.

Brown was an ecumenist.  In the early 1950s, when unapologetic anti-Roman Catholicism was prominent in U.S. Protestantism, our saint campaigned for Minnesota Congressman Eugene McCarthy, whose Roman Catholicism was a political difficulty.  Brown and Gustave Weigel (1906-1964) collaborated on An American Dialogue:  A Protestant Looks at Catholicism and a Catholic Looks at Protestantism (1960).  Time magazine called Brown

Catholics’ favorite Protestant

in 1962.  Our saint was even an observer (on behalf of global Calvinism) at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1963 and 1965.  Brown also attended the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches as a delegate in 1968.  Seven years later, he delivered the keynote address (“Who is This Jesus Who Frees and Unites?”) at the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

Social justice was essential to Brown’s faith.  He, a pacifist, had no moral difficulty serving as a military chaplain after World War II.  Our saint’s pacifism led him to oppose the Vietnam War, of course.  His conscience led him to protest the military draft, to speak and write against the war, to commit civil disobedience, and to go to jail for doing so in 1971.  That conscience also let Brown to join a delegation that met with Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) in  January 1973 about ending the Vietnam War.

Brown was also a longtime civil rights activist at home and abroad.  He, a Freedom Rider in 1961, went to jail in Tallahassee, Florida.  Our saint addressed the immorality of Apartheid when he spoke at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa in September 1972.  Brown also advocated for women’s liberation and the civil rights of homosexuals.  Furthermore, he was active in the Sanctuary Movement, for he cared deeply about justice in Central America.  This led our saint to collaborate with Liberation Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez (b. 1928).

Brown also helped to raise consciousness about the Holocaust.  He, a friend of Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) since the middle 1970s, served on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 1979 to 1985.  Our saint resigned after President Ronald Reagan visited Bitburg Cemetery, containing graves of Waffen SS troups.

Brown became a novelist late in life.  He published Dark the Night, Wild the Sea in 1998.

Brown, aged 81 years, died in Greenfield, Massachusetts, on September 4, 2001.

One of Brown’s volumes invaluable for Bible study is Unexpected News:  Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984).  Passages covered came from Luke, Exodus, 2 Samuel, Jeremiah, Matthew, and Daniel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

THE FEAST OF LUCY CRAFT LANEY, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Robert McAfee Brown,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60

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Perilous Times   1 comment

Above:  Cain after Abel’s Murder

Image in the Public Domain

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A CALL FOR MUTUALITY IN SOCIETIES AND POLITICS

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“Am I my brother’s guardian?”

–Cain, to YHWH, in Genesis 4:9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Principles matter.  One of these vital principles is the high value of human life.

Wishful thinking will imperil, not save, us from Coronavirus/COVID-19.  All of us–from average citizens to world leaders–must act for the common good.  Necessary and proper actions may be more than inconvenient; they may involve sacrifice.  Good choices are scarce at best and absent at worst these days.  Given bad options, individuals, families, communities, leaders, societies, et cetera, need to act according to the least bad options in a woefully imperfect world.  Perhaps, then, we will not make a bad situation worse, and may improve it, in time.

I lower the boom, rhetorically, on all irresponsible people.  These include politicians who contradict medical and public health experts who are following the data.  Governments must not, for example, ease restrictions prematurely.  To do so would make a bad situation worse.  These irresponsible people also include individuals who disregard social distancing rules and have “Coronavirus parties,” for example.  Other irresponsible people include college and university presidents and chancellors who permit students back on campus prematurely.

I understand the desire to return to life as it was.  That, however, is a form of wishful thinking.  Reality is harsh; we cannot return to life as it was.  Even after this pandemic has ended, we will not return to life as it was.  Whenever that time will arrive, may it find us–as individuals, families, communities, leaders, societies, et cetera–better than we were before the pandemic started.  May we think more about our responsibilities to and for each other, and how much we depend on each other and on God.  May we have a stronger sense that, when we keep any segment of the population “in its place,” we harm the whole.  May we be faster to eschew all bigotry, especially racism, xenophobia, and nativism, and to realize that we, as people, have more in common than not.  May we adjust our economies in ways that are necessary and proper to adapt to the new reality and to decrease poverty.  And may we, collectively, hold leaders and ourselves to a higher standard relative to the common good and replace those we ought to replace.

We all belong to God and each other, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/perilous-times/

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Feast of William Stringfellow (April 28)   1 comment

Above:  William Stringfellow

Fair Use

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FRANK WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW (APRIL 26, 1928-MARCH 2, 1985)

Episcopal Attorney, Theologian, and Social Activist

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I think they need to hear it.

–William Stringfellow, explaining why he read long passages of the Bible to the F.B.I. agents recording his telephone calls

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This is the man America should be listening to.

Karl Barth, on Stringfellow, early 1960s

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It is profane, as well as grandiose, to manipulate the Bible in order to apologize for America.

–William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973)

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For thousands of us, he became the honored keeper and guardian of the Word of God.

Daniel Berrigan, 1985

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William Stringfellow comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via five sources.  He is on the short list of people The Episcopal Church will probably list officially as a saint once the “fifty-year-rule” (to which the denomination has made notable exceptions) ceases to be a barrier.  Stringfellow’s name appears in this context in the back of Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) and its successor, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016).  Cloud of Witnesses, 2d. ed (2005), edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, contains Wallis’s remembrance of his friend of 14 years.  A Year with American Saints (2006), by G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, features Stringfellow.  So does All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), by Robert Ellsberg.

Stringfellow was a prophet.  He was, by definition, also a controversial figure.  Our saint was the kind of man certain contemporary reactionaries would dismiss cynically as a “social justice warrior.” Stringfellow would, in a counterfactual scenario in which he would have heard that term, probably have considered it a compliment and read the Book of Amos to his critics.  He did, after all, read long Biblical passages to the F.B.I. spooks who recorded this telephone calls.  That was better than what some other spied-upon U.S. citizens did in identical circumstances–frequently insult J. Edgar Hoover profanely.

Stringfellow stood up for what he believed.  He condemned economic injustice, racism, institutionalized segregation, homophobia, misogyny, sexual promiscuity, and other offenses.  Our saint also advocated for the ordination of women within The Episcopal Church long before 1976, when the General Convention approved the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.  His opposition to the Vietnam War and to nuclear weapons also made him many enemies on the Right.

Frank William Stringfellow was a man who allowed the Bible to shape him.  He was a radical and a strong social critic who walked the walk.  Our saint, born in Johnston, Rhode Island, on April 26, 1928, was a life-long Episcopalian.  At age fifteen, he matriculated at Bates College, Lewiston, Massachusetts.  When Stringfellow left Bates College, he studied at the London School of Economics.  Our saint served in the Second Armored Division, U.S. Army, during World War II.  Next, he earned his J.D. degree at Harvard Law School.

Stringfellow moved into a slum in Harlem after he graduated from Harvard Law School.  He joined the East Harlem Protestant Parish, taught Biblical studies, and practiced law.  He remained in Harlem until 1967.  Our saint moved for health-related reasons; a metabolism-related disorder that led to diabetes affected him.  Stringfellow and platonic partner, poet Anthony Towne (died in 1980), a Methodist, moved to Block Island, New Shoreham, Rhode Island.

All evidence points to Stringfellow being a celibate, semi-closeted homosexual.  This matter, relevant to his life and activism, does not offend me.  (Stringfellow no more chose to be homosexual than I chose to be heterosexual.)

Theologically, Stringfellow was neo-orthodox.  He read works by Karl Barth (with whom he had a conversation in Harlem in the early 1960s) and Jacques Ellul.  The neo-orthodox theology of original sin pervading neo-orthodoxy was evident in his writings, including many of his books.  The presence of original sin in American culture and social institutions was one of Stringfellow’s most controversial topics.  He objected to reading the Bible through (dominant) American cultural eyes.  Rather, our saint interpreted (dominant) American culture through Biblical lenses.  He concluded that the Bible condemned his culture and his society’s institutions.  That proved to be controversial when

My country, right or wrong

was a popular slogan for many people.

Stringfellow’s views and activism placed him on J. Edgar Hoover’s radar, hence the wire-tapping.  When our saint’s friend, Father Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) was a fugitive for having destroyed military draft records, Stringfellow and Toyne sheltered him for four months.  F.B.I. agents raided the house on Block Island and arrested all three.  The court eventually dropped the charges (of sheltering a fugitive) against Stringfellow and Towne, though.

Stringfellow, in constant pain during his final years, died at home on March 2, 1985.  He was 56 years old.

Stringfellow defined being holy as

being truly human.

By that standard, of being the best person one can be, our saint was holy.

Stringfellow’s prophetic witness remains relevant, unfortunately.  I write “unfortunately” because the United States of America, my country, has continued collectively and officially down a path contrary to the high moral standards Stringfellow championed.  I wonder what the FOX News Channel (according to which Mister Rogers was evil) would have said about Stringfellow, had it existed when he was alive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALBERT LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENZINA CUSMANO, SUPERIOR OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR; AND HER BROTHER, SAINT GIACOMO CUSMANO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS SERVANTS OF THE POOR AND THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE POOR

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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), 736

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Excessive Negativity on YouTube as Disordered Love   1 comment

Above:  The U.S. DVD Cover for The Brain of Morbius

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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And your petty obsessions! England for the English! Good heavens, man!

–The Doctor, in The Claws of Axos, Episode One (1971)

The Doctor is an internationalist.  So am I.

The Internet has much virtue.  I find it invaluable in preparing hagiographies, for example.  The Internet also has much vice, not the least of which is excessive negativity, often laced with or starring unapologetic bigotry.  Much of this excessive negativity relates to geek culture.  Certain YouTubers have channels on which they focus exclusively or mainly on negative content.

I notice this in the genre of science fiction-related videos, especially regarding Doctor Who.  I cannot help but notice that the recently-completed season of that series has aroused much bile and vitriol, much of it uninformed.  I remember a time before the modern series.  I recall a time when I could watch the series only on Saturday nights on public television.  Furthermore, I have been rewatching the classic series (as much as that is possible), with an emphasis on the William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee years (1963-1974).  Do not take my word for it; watch for yourself, O reader.  Heightened social consciousness goes far back into classic Doctor Who.  Consider the societal background of the Daleks (stand-ins for Nazis; debuted in the second serial, The Daleks, in 1963-1964)) and Cybermen (based on fears related to organ transplants and artificial limbs; debuted in The Tenth Planet, in 1966), for example. The Krotons (the villians) in The Krotons (1968-1969) have South African accents.  One may surmise that the voice actors were making a statement about the evil of Apartheid.  The Doctor criticizes Apartheid by name in The Mutants (1972).  The Doctor’s character is inherently anti-authoritarian.  I also know that, during the Pertwee years (1970-1974), messages relating to problems such as pollution, nativism, and abuse of workers pervaded stories.  Inferno (1970) contains an obvious anti-fascist message.  The Silurians (1970f) and the Sea Devils (1972f) raise questions about the mistreatment of indigenous peoples.  Imperialism takes many hits in stories during the Pertwee years, especially in Colony in Space (1971).  Furthermore, The Curse of Peladon (1972) is more germane than ever in the age of Brexit.  In the domain of canon, in which even the classic series contradicts itself (see:  three mutually exclusive versions of Atlantis, including two during the Pertwee years), the recent revelations about the Timeless Child are consistent with The Brain of Morbius (1976), in which producer Philip Hinchcliffe sought to indicate pre-Hartnell Doctors.

More people should be slower to criticize Chris Chibnall and faster to consult the long and rich heritage of Doctor Who before arriving at conclusions.  They should also repent of their biases and opposition to social justice messages.

People should focus primarily on that they like, not what they dislike.  Are some people’s lives so empty that they seek to fill that void with vitrol?  Are many people not content unless they are angry?  Evidence seems to indicate that the answer is yes.

Much of this excessive negativity, such as that evident on certain YouTube channels and in the comments sections of a plethora of videos, is evidence of disordered love, St. Augustine of Hippo‘s definition of sin.  Some objects are worthy of a certain amount of love.  To love them more than one should is to commit idolatry, to love God insufficiently.  In this case, to enjoy or to dislike Doctor Who is morally neutral, but to approach it with religious fervor is to commit idolatry.  No series or franchise is like a religion for me.  I have a religion, Christianity.  Doctor Who is one of my preferred forms of entertainment.

I choose to refrain from watching any video from any YouTube channel that is primarily or entirely negative.  I opt not to encourage such anger by adding to the number of views.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2010 COMMON ERA

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Happy to Be an Episcopalian   1 comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I have belonged to three denominations and chosen one.  When my parents were Southern Baptists, so was I.  Likewise, in 1980, when my father left the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention for that of The United Methodist Church, I became a United Methodist at the age of seven years.  Thus, in June 1980, our family moved from Newington, Georgia, where he had been pastor of North Newington Baptist Church, and settled in the parsonage in Vidette, Georgia.  He served as the minister of the Vidette, Friendship, and Greens Cut congregations in Burke County.  In the ensuing years, I took the grand tour of rural southern Georgia.  My initial spiritual formation occurred within the context of rural Southern United Methodism, a different creature from United Methodism as it exists in much of the rest of the United States and the world.

Yet I have always had an inner Catholic.  The sacraments, central to my faith, were too infrequent in those rural United Methodist churches.  My attraction to the Deuterocanon (what many call the Apocrypha) asserted itself, also.  Furthermore, my interest in history, and therefore, in ecclesiastical history, made me an outlier in the congregations my father served.  Church history, as it existed in those places, started with Jesus, ran consistently through the Apostles, jumped to the Crusades, jumped again to Martin Luther, ran forward, and really started sprinting with John and Charles Wesley.  That version of church history left many gaps.

In the autumn of 1991, I started my studies at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia.  I started attending services at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Tifton, on the Sunday after All Saints’ Day.  On December 22, 1991, Bishop Harry Woolston Shipps confirmed me.  I remained in the Diocese of Georgia through 2005, belonging to the following congregations:

  1. Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia (1993-1996),
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church, Baxley, Georgia (1996-1998),
  3. Christ Episcopal Church, Cordele, Georgia (1998-2001),
  4. Trinity Episcopal Church, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), and
  5. Christ Episcopal Church, Dublin, Georgia (2003-2005).

I have worshiped as a member of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, in the Diocese of Atlanta, since August 2005.

I have enjoyed the liberty of being a layman and the pleasure of belong to congregations that respect scholarship and encourage the asking of questions.  My father, as a pastor, censored himself; he made honest theological statements at home he dared not utter from a pulpit.  I did not feel free to ask certain questions in those churches.  In Episcopal churches, however, I have asked questions freely and heard priests utter statements (not all of whom I agreed with) that would have gotten my father into great trouble.  The threshold for offending people was low in his case; my father once offended people by supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr., federal holiday.  That position contributed to us moving.  On another occasion, he upset a parishioner by preaching that Jesus had a sense of humor.  He had allegedly insulted her Jesus.  The District Superintendent did not take the complaint seriously, fortunately.

Many of my statements on my weblogs, such as this one, would have cooked my goose in those churches.

So be it.  I refuse to back down from my Catholic tendencies and my acceptance of Single Predestination.  I refuse to back down from my support of civil rights (and not just based on skin color), of Biblical scholarship, and science.

I am where I belong–in The Episcopal Church.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Feast of Eleanor Roosevelt (November 7)   10 comments

Above:  Eleanor Roosevelt, 1945

Image Source = Library of Congress

J38008 U.S. Copyright Office

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-107008

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ANNA ELEANOR ROOSEVELT ROOSEVELT (OCTOBER 11, 1884-NOVEMBER 7, 1962)

First Lady of the United States of America, and Civil Rights Activist

I refer you, O reader, to some biographies of Eleanor Roosevelt as I offer some concise thoughts about her.

National Women’s History Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

President Harry Truman was correct when he referred to our saint as “First Lady of the World.”  Eleanor Roosevelt, an Episcopalian, acted on faith for causes including civil rights, human rights, civil liberties, and economic justice.  From Marian Anderson‘s concert in 1939 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to civil rights work in the 1950s, our saint acted on conscience and took politically controversial positions.  She had exemplary public morality.  She left the United States of America and the world better than she found them.

She was indeed a great person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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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), 736

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