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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, La Vierge aux Anges, 1881

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, La Vierge aux Anges, 1881

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When the northern liberals and the southern conservatives agree on something, pay attention. The end of the world may be near.RDM-square

Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; an author, theologian, ethicist, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. I was very interested to read this article, as Dr. Moore is influential among Christian conservatives throughout the U.S., not only among Southern Baptists.

The Cross and the Confederate Flag by Russell D. Moore

This week the nation reels over the murder of praying Christians in an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina. At the same time, one of the issues hurting many is the Confederate Battle Flag flying at full-mast from the South Carolina Capitol grounds even in the aftermath of this racist act of violence on innocent people. This raises the question of what we as Christians ought to think about the Confederate Battle Flag, given the fact that many of us are from the South.

The flag of my home state of Mississippi contains the Confederate Battle Flag as part of it, and I’m deeply conflicted about that. The flag represents home for me. I love Christ, church, and family more than Mississippi, but that’s about it. Even so, that battle flag makes me wince—even though I’m the descendant of Confederate veterans.

Some would say that the Confederate Battle Flag is simply about heritage, not about hate. Singer Brad Paisley sang that his wearing a Confederate flag on his shirt was just meant to say that he was a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. Comedian Stephen Colbert quipped, “Little known fact: Jefferson Davis—HUGE Skynyrd fan.”

Defenders of the flag would point out that the United States flag is itself tied up with ugly questions of history. Washington and Jefferson, after all, supported chattel slavery too. The difference is, though, that the United States overcame its sinful support of this wicked system (though tragically late in the game). The Confederate States of America was not simply about limited government and local autonomy; the Confederate States of America was constitutionally committed to the continuation, with protections of law, to a great evil. The moral enormity of the slavery question is one still viscerally felt today, especially by the descendants of those who were enslaved and persecuted.

The gospel speaks to this. The idea of a human being attempting to “own” another human being is abhorrent in a Christian view of humanity. That should hardly need to be said these days, though it does, given the modern-day slavery enterprises of human trafficking all over the world. In the Scriptures, humanity is given dominion over the creation. We are not given dominion over our fellow image-bearing human beings (Gen. 1:27-30). The southern system of chattel slavery was built off of the things the Scripture condemns as wicked: “man-stealing” (1 Tim. 1:10), the theft of another’s labor (Jas. 5:1-6), the breaking up of families, and on and on.

In order to prop up this system, a system that benefited the Mammonism of wealthy planters, Southern religion had to carefully weave a counter-biblical theology that could justify it (the biblically ridiculous “curse of Ham” concept, for instance). In so doing, this form of southern folk religion was outside of the global and historic teachings of the Christian church. The abolitionists were right—and they were right not because they were on the right side of history but because they were on the right side of God.

Even beyond that, though, the Flag has taken on yet another contextual meaning inconfederate flag sc the years since. The Confederate Battle Flag was the emblem of Jim Crow defiance to the civil rights movement, of the Dixiecrat opposition to integration, and of the domestic terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens’ Councils of our all too recent, all too awful history.

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.

None of us is free from a sketchy background, and none of our backgrounds is wholly evil. The blood of Jesus has ransomed us all “from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Pet. 1:18), whether your forefathers were Yankees, rebels, Vikings, or whatever. We can give gratitude for where we’ve come from, without perpetuating symbols of pretend superiority over others.

The Apostle Paul says that we should not prize our freedom to the point of destroying those for whom Christ died. We should instead “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The Confederate Battle Flag may mean many things, but with those things it represents a defiance against abolition and against civil rights. The symbol was used to enslave the little brothers and sisters of Jesus, to bomb little girls in church buildings, to terrorize preachers of the gospel and their families with burning crosses on front lawns by night.

That sort of symbolism is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ. The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire. White Christians, let’s listen to our African-American brothers and sisters. Let’s care not just about our own history, but also about our shared history with them. In Christ, we were slaves in Egypt—and as part of the Body of Christ we were all slaves too in Mississippi. Let’s watch our hearts, pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors. Let’s take down that flag.

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This will work if you’re a Gilbert & Sullivan fan, or if you’re familiar with theModern Major General song from The Pirates of Penzance, “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” (even if you don’t remember where it came from).

As for the biblical philology stuff, I used to hang around people who did this, so yeah, it’s funny if you’re into that stuff too. In fact, it’s hilarious.

Laugh. Or not. The back button is at the upper left.

By the way, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Maine will be doing Yeomen of the Guard this year at The Grand in Ellsworth, Feb 6, 7 & 8.

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I didn’t mean to take the rest of the year off.  June through December 2014 had much to tell, but much of it difficult and best left untold. Mostly though, all are well and ready to tackle 2015.

There were joys however: there was a wedding in September, the highlight of the year, and that deserved a blog post. But photos are up on Jeri’s Facebook page at least, and maybe I’ll post a few here someday.

For a New Year prayer, here’s what I found on a friend’s blog: it’s attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but may be more contemporary. No matter, it’s here, and very un-American.st-francis1 reversed

Most of the versions on the web omit the final verse but I include it as a benediction. St. Francis would approve.

Is it a blessing or a curse?

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

Amen.

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We seem to be hanging out in England today. See earlier Good Friday post.

I put up the lyrics to this song before, and threatened you with a video of N.T. Wright singing it. Then I forgot.

Tom Wright has appeared recently, as if he needed more attention, as the cover story of the current issue of Christianity Today.

Here is the Bishop of Durham himself singing, not Bob Dylan this time, but “Friday Morning” by Sydney Carter. It’s a touch of irony on the level of Pilate looking Jesus in the eye and asking, “What is truth?”

“Friday Morning” by Sydney Carter

It was on a Friday morning that they took me from the cell
and I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.
You can blame it on to Pilate; you can blame it on the Jews.
You can blame it on the Devil, but it’s God that I accuse.
“It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,”
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree.

You can blame it on to Adam; you can blame it on to Eve.
You can blame it on the apple, but that I can’t believe.
It was God that made the Devil, and the woman and the man.
And there wouldn’t be an apple if it wasn’t in the plan.
“It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,”
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree.

Now Barabbas was a killer, and they let Barabbas go.
But you are being crucified for nothing that I know.
And your God is up in Heaven and He doesn’t do a thing
With a million angels watching, and they never move a wing.
”It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,”
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree.

“To hell with Jehovah,” to the carpenter I said;
“I wish that a carpenter had made the world instead.
Goodbye and good luck to you; our ways will soon divide.
Remember me in heaven, the man you hung beside.
”It’s God they ought to crucify instead of you and me,”
I said to the carpenter, a-hanging on the tree.

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I’ve been reading Julian of Norwich lately, and although she’s a slow read she’s worth every minute. In honor of Good Friday I’ve included part of her description of the dying of Christ on the cross.

Lady Julian, or Dame Julian (not quite Saint Julian), wrote her Showings (orJulian of Norwich cat & hazelnut “Shewynges”) in the late 14th century England. She was an anchoress (not quite a nun) at the church of St. Julian in Norwich. Not much is known about her outside of her writings, not even her name. She is called Julian after her church.

At age 30, probably in 1373, she became deathly ill and began to receive visions, revelations, or “showings” that she believed came from God. She wrote them down immediately and developed them years later into a longer text, which became a volume of 86 chapters. It’s humbly written, simple and powerful, and uncannily orthodox as far as I’ve read. Her perspective on matters such as creation, the Trinity, Christ’s death and God’s love appears to come from a different angle—and I suppose it would, if it comes from God. Her level of education is not known and was likely not very high; nevertheless she is known as the first woman published in the English language.

She wrote in a dialect of Middle English that resembles our language more than does Chaucer’s Middle English of the same period. But then, Chaucer wrote poetry and liked to show off.

I’ve taken this excerpt from Julian’s revelation VIII, last paragraph in chapter 16 and the first in chapter 17. I have modernized the spelling, even though the editor of my copy had already cleaned it up a bit. Not only does Julian’s spelling differ greatly from ours, it differs from her own. She couldn’t seem to spell a word the same way twice. To see what you’re missing, here are the first two lines in the selection, unchanged:

“Thus I saw the swete flessch dry in my syght, parte after perte dryeing with mervelous payne. And as long as any spryte had lyffe in Cristes flessch, so longe sufferede he.”

A few observations on Julian’s writings; and owing to her style I’ll list them in threes:

—The First, that this stuff is way better as a Christian devotional than just about any of the crud written for the mass market today.

—The Second, that Julian’s showings offer at least one good reason not to swallow a belief in the cessation of the apostolic gifts. And no, I’m not Pentecostal.

—The Third, that Julian’s style vaguely reminds me of Hemingway, and I don’t suppose I can help that. But sadly, Hemingway never wrote anything about creation likened to a hazelnut.

Here’s the Good Friday excerpt, and remember that we have to get through this to make any sense out of Easter:

Thus I saw the sweet flesh dry in my sight, part after part drying with marvelous pain. And as long as any spirit had life in Christ’s flesh, so long suffered he. This long pain seemed to me as if he had been sevennight dead, dying, at the point of out passing, always suffering the great pain. And there I say it seemed as he had been sevennight dead, it specifieth that the sweet body was so discoloured , so dry, so clinging, so deadly, and so piteous as he had been sevennight dead, continually dying. And me thought the drying of Christ’s flesh was the most pain and the last of his passion.

And in this drying was brought to my mind this word that Christ said, “I thirst.” For I saw in Christ a double thirst, one bodily and another ghostly. This word was showed for the bodily thirst, and for the ghostly thirst was showed as I shall say after. And I understood by the bodily thirst that the body had feeling of moisture, for the blessed flesh and bones was left all alone without blood and moisture. The blessed body dried all a lone long time with wringing of the nails and weight of the body. For I understood that for tenderness of the sweet hands and the sweet feet by the great hardness and grievous of the nails the wounds waxed wide and the body saddled for weight, by long time hanging and piercing and raising of the head and binding of the crown all baking with dry blood, with the sweet hair clinging the dry flesh to the thorns and the thorns to the flesh drying.

Reference:
Denise N. Baker, ed., The Showings of Julian of Norwich. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. pp. 27-28

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I’m trying to find a video of Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee in AugustPete Seeger 1955 House Un-American Activities Committee 1955.  I know I’ve watched it, but it’s not to be found.  If you know its whereabouts, let me know.

Pete died today.  Ninety-four years and he never grew old.  One of the last great American heroes, and if you’d like to argue with me on that I shall walk away.  You win.  You know who your heroes are, and God help you.

Excerpts from Pete’s hearing before the Committee follow.  He was sentenced to 10 concurrent one-year prison terms (for contempt of court) but only served a few hours while his lawyer sorted out the bail.  Years later the sentence was overturned.

Pete appealed not to the Fifth Amendment but—as he said in an interview later—to the First:  freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly.  Much of the hearing  can be summed up in this reply:   I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.”

The hearing begins:

MR. TAVENNER: When and where were you born, Mr. Seeger?

MR. SEEGER: I was born in New York in 1919.

MR. TAVENNER: What is your profession or occupation?

MR. SEEGER: Well, I have worked at many things, and my main profession is a student of American folklore, and I make my living as a banjo picker—sort of damning, in some people’s opinion.

MR. TAVENNER: Has New York been your headquarters for a considerable period of time?

MR. SEEGER: No, I lived here only rarely until I left school, and after a year or two or a few years living here after World War II I got back to the country, where I always felt more at home.

Further on…

MR. TAVENNER: Mr. Seeger, prior to your entry in the service in 1942, were you engaged in the practice of your profession in the area of New York?

MR. SEEGER: It is hard to call it a profession. I kind of drifted into it and I never intended to be a musician, and I am glad I am one now, and it is a very honorable profession, but when I started out actually I wanted to be a newspaperman, and when I left school—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Will you answer the question, please?

MR. SEEGER: I have to explain that it really wasn’t my profession, I picked up a little change in it.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Did you practice your profession?

MR. SEEGER: I sang for people, yes, before World War II, and I also did as early as 1925.

MR. TAVENNER: And upon your return from the service in December of 1945, you continued in your profession?

MR. SEEGER: I continued singing, and I expect I always will.

MR. TAVENNER: The Committee has information obtained in part from the Daily Worker indicating that, over a period of time, especially since December of 1945, you took part in numerous entertainment features. I have before me a photostatic copy of the June 20, 1947, issue of the Daily Worker. In a column entitled “What’s On” appears this advertisement: “Tonight-Bronx, hear Peter Seeger and his guitar, at Allerton Section housewarming.” May I ask you whether or not the Allerton Section was a section of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: Sir, I refuse to answer that question whether it was a quote from the New York Times or the Vegetarian Journal.

MR. TAVENNER: I don’t believe there is any more authoritative document in regard to the Communist Party than its official organ, the Daily Worker.

MR. SCHERER: He hasn’t answered the question, and he merely said he wouldn’t answer whether the article appeared in the New York Times or some other magazine. I ask you to direct the witness to answer the question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: Sir, the whole line of questioning—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: You have only been asked one question, so far.

MR. SEEGER: I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it.

MR. TAVENNER: Has the witness declined to answer this specific question?

CHAIRMAN WALTER: He said that he is not going to answer any questions, any names or things.

MR. SCHERER: He was directed to answer the question.

The Committee got nowhere with him.  They went in circles for a while, Pete saying, “My answer is the same as before, sir.”  This follows:

MR. TAVENNER: I have before me a photostatic copy of the April 30, 1948, issue of the Daily Worker which carries under the same title of “What’s On,” an advertisement of a “May Day Rally: For Peace, Security and Democracy.” The advertisement states: “Are you in a fighting mood? Then attend the May Day rally.” Expert speakers are stated to be slated for the program, and then follows a statement, “Entertainment by Pete Seeger.” At the bottom appears this: “Auspices Essex County Communist Party,” and at the top, “Tonight, Newark, N.J.” Did you lend your talent to the Essex County Communist Party on the occasion indicated by this article from the Daily Worker?

MR. SEEGER: Mr. Walter, I believe I have already answered this question, and the same answer.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: The same answer. In other words, you mean that you decline to answer because of the reasons stated before?

MR. SEEGER: I gave my answer, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: You see, sir, I feel—

CHAIRMAN WALTER: What is your answer?

MR. SEEGER: I will tell you what my answer is.

(Witness consulted with counsel [Paul L. Ross].)

I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: Why don’t you make a little contribution toward preserving its institutions?

MR. SEEGER: I feel that my whole life is a contribution. That is why I would like to tell you about it.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I don’t want to hear about it.

Pages of transcript later, the Committee tired of him and  ended the hearing:

MR. TAVENNER: Was the booking agent of People’s Songs an organization known as People’s Artists?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. TAVENNER: Will you tell the Committee, please, whether or not during the weekend of July 4, 1955, you were a member of the Communist Party?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same as before, sir.

MR. TAVENNER: Were you a member of the Communist Party at any time during the various entertainment features in which you were alleged to have engaged?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. TAVENNER: Are you a member of the Communist Party now?

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same.

MR. SCHERER: I ask for a direction on that question.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: I direct you to answer.

MR. SEEGER: My answer is the same as before.

MR. TAVENNER: I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN WALTER: The witness is excused.

____________________

[Source of text]:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/01/28/pete_seeger_huac_transcript_full_text_of_anti_communist_hearing_courtesy.html?wpisrc=burger_bar

____________________

[CBC interview in 1965 about the trial]:

_____________________

And, in one of the most  patriotic songs (or least—you choose), written by Woody Guthrie:

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