Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Tag

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

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Feast of Edward McGlynn (September 28)   Leave a comment

Above:  Father Edward McGlynn

Image in the Public Domain

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EDWARD MCGLYNN (SEPTEMBER 27, 1837-JANUARY 7, 1900)

U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Social Reformer, and Alleged Heretic

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When I feed the poor, they call me saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Helder Camara (1909-1999), Roman Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife (1964-1985)

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Charity is a noble virtue, but to make the whole world an almshouse is carrying it to the absurd.  The noblest charity is to do justice–not only to procedure, at the sacrifice of self, in an unselfish spirit, some improvement in the condition of mankind, but to compel tyrants to do justice to the victims they have wronged.

The supreme moral law, the law of gravitation in the moral order, is justice.  Justice is the one think necessary to hold society together, to give each individual man the proper opportunity of exercising his God-given liberty.  Justice must be like Him in whose bosom it finds its eternal resting place, universal–it must prevail throughout the universe of God.

–Edward McGlynn, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber. A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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He believed in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man,….

–from an obituary of Edward McGlynn, quoted in A Year with American Saints (2006), 581

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INTRODUCTION

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Father Edward McGlynn paid close attention to the Lord’s Prayer.  The line,

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

dictated his radical social ethics and political positions.

The Kingdom of God is radical, of course.  It confronts those who build and maintain exploitative and otherwise unjust systems, and shows them what they should be doing instead.  The Kingdom of God tells them, to quote Daniel 5:27:

You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

McGlynn comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via A Year with American Saints (2006).

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BIOGRAPHY

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Our saint, born in New York, New York, on September 27, 1837, came from Irish stock.  His parents were Peter (d. 1847) and Sarah McGlynn, who had left Donegal, Ireland, in 1824.  The McGlynn family had ten children.  Fortunately, Peter, a contractor, could afford to take care of his family properly.  Our saint studied first in New York City then in Rome (for nine years, in the Eternal City).  McGlynn, having received his doctorate in theology and philosophy, joined the ranks of priests (at the Church of St. John Lateran) on March 24, 1860.

McGlynn returned to New York City and began his ministry.  First he served as the assistant priest at St. Joseph’s Church.  Subsequent assignments through 1865 were:

  1. St. Brigid’s Church (as acting pastor),
  2. St. James’s Church (as pastor),
  3. St. Ann’s Church (as pastor), and
  4. St. Joseph’s Military Hospital (as chaplain).

Father Jeremiah Williams Cummings (1814-1866), McGlynn’s childhood priest, and the pastor of the Church of St. Stephen the Martyr since 1848, requested that John Hughes, the Archbishop of New York, assign our saint the assistant priest at St. Stephen’s Church.  McGlynn’s tenure as the assistant priest was brief; Cummings died on January 1866.  Then our saint succeeded him.  McGlynn served as the pastor of one of the largest Roman Catholic parishes in New York City until 1887.

At a time when the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States of America was obsessed with resisting the cultural assimilation of Roman Catholic immigrants, McGlynn had other priorities.  He supported public schools and defied orders to build a parochial school at St. Stephen’s Church.  He also befriended some Protestant clergymen.  Our saint caused plenty of scandal and outrage by doing all of the above.  Then he really got into trouble; he addressed economic inequality.

McGlynn looked into the heart of the problem and pondered structural changes to structural problems.  He dispensed many charitable handouts, of course.  Then he thought about why so many handouts were necessary.  He read Progress and Poverty (1879), by Henry George (1839-1897), and became a radical, like George.  George argued that all residents of a community should share equally in the economic value derived from the land.  He also favored municipal (public) utilities, free public transit, free trade, the secret ballot, greenbacks (as opposed to metal money), a universal pension, women’s suffrage, civil service reform, free bankruptcy protection, and the abolition of debtor’s prisons.  Much of George’s agenda has become policy in the United States of America, but parts of it have remained as radical in 2021 as they were in the late 1800s.

McGlynn got into hot water for aligning himself with George and George’s agenda, especially collective land ownership.  Our saint even participated in George’s failed campaign for Mayor of New York City in 1886.  Archbishops of New York John McCloskey (-1885) and Michael Corrigan (1885f) saw red, so to speak.  McCloskey ordered McGlynn to refrain from defending the alleged Socialistic opinions in public.  Corrigan forbade our saint from speaking at a campaign rally for George on October 1, 1886.  McGlynn refused. Corrigan published a pastoral letter defending property rights and condemning theories to the contrary.  McGlynn publicly criticized the document.  At the end of November 1886, Corrigan suspended our saint again.

Corrigan, citing alleged insubordination, removed McGlynn from St. Stephen’s Church in January 1887.  Our saint, summoned to Rome, on pain of excommunication, cited ill health and refused to make the trip.  His excommunication took effect on July 4, 1887.

Meanwhile, McGlynn and George had founded the Anti-Poverty Society in March 1887.  Our saint had become the first president of that organization.  He moved in with his widowed sister in Brooklyn.  McGlynn, having recovered his health, toured the West in his official capacity.  He also made clear that he rejected Papal Infallibility, which had emerged from the First Vatican Council (1869-1870).

Fortunately for McGlynn, his status in the church improved.  The lifting of his excommunication took effect on December 23, 1892, followed by his reinstatement to ministry the next day.  And, in 1893, Pope Leo XIII (reigned 1878-1903) gave McGlynn a sympathetic hearing in Rome.

McGlynn, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Newburgh, New York (1895-1900), died at the rectory on January 7, 1900.  He, 62 years old, had died of Bright’s Disease.

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CONCLUSION

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On April 4, 1967, at The Riverside Church, New York, New York, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), delivered one of his most famous speeches; he unambiguously opposed the Vietnam War.  In that address, King also made other points, such as:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.  We must rapidly begin the shirt from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

At the risk of sounding like a very Low Church Protestant, can I get an “amen”?

King’s statement was radical in 1967.  It was radical in the late 1800s, too.

And it remains radical.  That fact speaks negatively, in moral terms, of societies, cultures, and nation-states.  That fact confirms that we–as societies, cultures, and nation-states–have, in the words of Daniel 5:27,

been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.

Uh-oh.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUBBOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG GIBSON, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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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 Octavia Hill (August 13)   1 comment

Above:  Octavia Hill, by John Singer Sargent

Image in the Public Domain

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OCTAVIA HILL (DECEMBER 3, 1838-AUGUST 13, 1912)

English Social Reformer

Octavia Hill comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Church of England.

Hill devoted most of her long life to helping poor people.  She was simultaneously of her time and ahead of it.  Our saint, for example, opposed women’s suffrage; she accepted the “separate spheres” theory, then a societal norm.  Hill, who did much to provide affordable housing for poor people, also opposed affordable public housing.  Furthermore, her opposition to government programs to help the impoverished extended to social services and social security.  Yet Hill did much to create the National Trust, preserving green areas and places of historical interest for the common good.

One can acknowledge the good a person did while partially disagreeing with him or her.

Hill, born in Wisbach, Isle of Ely, England, Cambridgeshire, on December 3, 1838, came from a once-prosperous family.  Her father was James Hill, a corn merchant and a former banker.  James Hill, twice widowed, had five sons and daughter when he married his former governess, Caroline Southwood Smith, in 1835.  By 1840, he had collapsed mentally and gone bankrupt.  Caroline’s father, Dr. James Southwood Smith, provided for the family financially and emotionally.  He helped to raise his granddaughter, Octavia, eighth daughter and tenth child of James Hill.

Our saint’s upbringing informed the rest of her life.  The grandfather’s influence in Octavia’s life became obvious over time.  He, a pioneer in urban sanitary reform, took a great interests in social problems, such as affordable urban housing and child labor in mines.  Caroline Hill’s special interest in progressive education also influenced our saint.  Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), a family friend and a leader in the Christian Socialist movement, added her influences, too.

Hill grew up to become quite a formidable, functional presence.  Friend Henrietta Barnett (1844-1913) noted our saint’s obliviousness to fashion.  Others considered Hill ruthless and despotic.  Frederick Temple (1821-1902) encountered our saint while he was still the Bishop of London (1885-1896).  At an ecclesiastical meeting, she spoke for about half an hour.  The future Archbishop of Canterbury recalled,

I never had such a beating in all my life.

Hill worked for the improvement of the lives and circumstances of poor people starting when she was 14 years old.  At that young age, she began to lead a workroom for a guild providing employment for poor school children.  She taught these women how to make toys for children.  Our saint knew these children and their terrible living conditions.  Throughout the rest of her life, making and maintaining a personal connection with those she helped was crucial in her mind.  For example, the impersonal nature of public housing was why she opposed it.

Hill also emphasized teaching self-reliance.  She approved any well-intentioned effort (especially public) she perceived as threatening self-reliance.  Yet Hill was no “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” person.  And she was obviously not a Social Darwinist, one who insisted that the wealthy were superior because they were rich, and, therefore, owed the less fortunate nothing.  To the contrary, our saint affirmed that the more fortunate must never ignore their obligations to the poor.

That sense of obligation, combined with a moral critique of legislative attempts to provide affordable housing, led her to provide affordable housing.  When our saint learned of the shortage of affordable housing for poor people for whom and to whom she was accountable, she started providing affordable housing.  With the help of friend John Ruskin (1819-1900), another humanitarian, she became a land lady at Paradise Place, Marylebone, London, in 1865.  Over the years, the number of cottages, initially three, increased.  Ruskin used his inheritance to acquire cottages for rent; Hill managed them.  Our saint and her rent collectors (all female) doubled as social workers.  Hill was building a community.

As the years passed, Hill managed more communities in London.  She worked hard, as did her employees.  So did her tenants.  In fact, Hill overworked herself.  After collapsing in 1877, our saint had to rest for several months.

Hill, demanding of herself and others, also recognized the importance of access to open spaces and the blue sky, especially in the cases of the urban poor.  Therefore, our saint worked to conserve open, green spices.  She coined the term “Green Belt,” lobbied and helped to conserve and preserve London suburban woodlands, and laid the foundation for the National Trust, founded in 1893.  Furthermore, Hill lobbied against any encroachment of industrialization upon natural beauty in certain areas.  Proposed construction of railroads in some places aroused her formidable ire.

As years passed, Hill’s influence spread.  Others in England and abroad copied her model for providing affordable housing.

Our saint, aged 81 years, died in Marylebone, London, on August 13, 1912.

The lack of affordable housing remains a major problem around the world.  It is a major problem in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live.  The local unified government is working with the private sector to alleviate the matter.  How to provide affordable housing in the optimal matter is a quandary for which more than one proper solution exists.  Local circumstances are always germane.  What works well in one place may not work well somewhere else.  The solution for which Octavia Hill advocated for which she put into effect, therefore, may fit in some localities yet not in others.  General principles are timeless.  Yet the mechanics of putting them into effect are not.  So be it.

But let us–you, O reader, and I–remember Octavia Hill as one who did something, did it well, and made a major, positive difference in the lives of vulnerable people where and when she was.  May we, empowered by grace, what out saint did–leave our corner of the world better than we found it.  That is our task.  That is also the task of those who will come after us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, JESUIT PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE PHILLIPPS DE LISLE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC CONVERT, SPIRITUAL WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF SPIRITUAL WRITINGS; FOUNDER OF MOUNT SAINT BERNARD ABBEY

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER MACASSOLI OF VIGEVANO, FRANCISCAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CREMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ION COSTIST, FRANCISCAN LAY BROTHER

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

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom

the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

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

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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)   4 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 26)   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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