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Civil Rights & Modern History

Civil Rights

Second Founding: The Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution

Did the Civil War lead to a Second Founding of the United States? Eric Foner in his book with that title on the Reconstruction amendments and his other books on the Reconstruction era argues forcefully that the Civil War was a political turning point for this country. Before the Civil War, each state determined its own racial policies, but the politics of slavery, then white supremacy, proved so repugnant to the North that it passed these three amendments. […]

Civil Rights

Father Augustine Tolton, From Slave to Priest

Day after day Father Tolton was seen coming in or out of the shacks, the rat-infested hovels and tenement houses.  He listened compassionately to complaints of unemployment, desertion, injustice, depravity.  Father Tolton knew how to bring hope and comfort to the sick and dying; he knew how to mitigate human suffering and sorrow because eh himself had experienced the lash of the slave driver as well as the lash of the white man’s tongue. […]

Civil Rights

Frederick Douglass Tells Us About His Life as a Slave in his Autobiography

Frederick Douglas was born a slave in Maryland in the late 1820’s, he can only guess how old he is, like most slaves he did not know when he was born. He escaped slavery on his second attempt to run away to the Northern states, and not only did he teach himself how to read, he became a spell-binding orator and abolitionist, agitating for the end of slavery, and becoming a best-selling author, publishing three autobiographies, other books and a newspaper. Some bigots claimed it was impossible for an ex-slave to be able to write that well, though they could not argue that it was not him making his speeches. […]

Civil Rights

American Evangelicals, Civil Rights, and Republican Politics

When we study the history of the Christian Church in America, we must ask ourselves, What role should the Christian Church play in our society, in our culture, in the making of the values of our nation?  What role SHOULD the church play?  What role DOES the church play?  There is always a spiritual contest between the church and our culture, this contest is summed up in the eternal question: Who is going to influence whom? Will the Church succeed in influencing our culture?  Or will our culture instead influence the Church? […]

Politics

Trump, QAnon and Fox News: Body and Soul Snatchers of My Christian Friends

Whenever I talk to my white Christian friends and tell them that I am a socialist liberal Democrat; that I support the social justice Catholic position so passionately advanced by Pope Francis; that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, AOC, George Soros, Tom Hanks, and Hilary Clinton are not QAnon bogeymen kidnapping children; that I am both pro-life and pro-choice, with reservations, and am not pro-death; that Black Lives Really Do Matter deeply; when I tell them this and more, they bulge their eyes, point their fingers, and let out a high pitch screech screaming: Snake!  False Teacher! Satan’s servant!  Liberal!  Communist! Trump hater!  Baby killer!  Murderer!  Democrat! […]

Civil Rights

WEB Dubois: Souls of Black Folk, Fighting for Dignity

Should blacks compromise, or should blacks protest when facing discrimination and segregation? Should blacks compromise under the leadership of Booker T Washington, or should blacks protest under the leadership of WEB Dubois, who founded the NAACP? This question is a question each black person needs to answer for himself from the days of Jim Crow up to the present day. […]

Civil Rights

Up From Slavery: Autobiography of Booker T Washington

Booker T Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, offers an interesting glimpse in what it was like to be born a slave, live through the tumultuous Civil War era, and as a young man to experience the consequences blacks faced with the end of Reconstruction when the Ku Klux Klan night-riders enslaved the former black slaves anew through terror by lynching them, burning their bodies and their farm and their churches, suppressing them and denying them justice, even denying them the ability to defend themselves in daylight through the courts. […]

Civil War and Reconstruction

Refuting the Lost Cause: Black Reconstruction by WEB Dubois

Dubois’ subhead reads: “How civil war in the South began again, indeed had never ceased; and how black Prometheus bound to the Rock of Ages by hate, hurt an humiliation, has his vitals eaten out as they grow, yet lives and fights.”  Dubois continues: “The civil war in the South which overthrew Reconstruction was a determined effort to reduce black labor as nearly as possible to a condition of unlimited exploitation and build a new class of capitalists on this foundation.  The wage of the Negro, despite the war amendments, was to be reduced to the level of bare subsistence by taxation, peonage, caste, and every form of discrimination, in open defiance of the clear letter of the law.”

An eyewitness tells a Senate Committee: “Some planters held back their former slaves on their plantations by brute force.  Armed bands of white men patrolled the country roads to drive back the Negroes wandering about.  Dead bodies of murdered Negroes were found on and near the highways and byways.  Gruesome reports came from the hospitals, reports of colored men and women whose ears had been cut off, whose skulls had been broken by blows, whose bodies have been slashed by knives or lacerated with scourges.  A veritable reign of terror prevailed in many parts of the South.” […]

Catholic Catechism

Pope Francis Mentions Abortion in Gaudete et Exsultate, With a Prayer From Pope Benedict

Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.”

Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.  We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty. […]

Civil Rights

Promise Keepers: Black Lives Matter To These Evangelicals

Promise Keepers was founded in 1990 by Coach Bill McCartney.  He was the head coach of the University of Colorado with a winning record from 1982 to 1994.  His team won three consecutive Big Eight Conference titles and the national championship in 1990.  While attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet, he discussed with Dave Wardell the idea of Promise Keepers, an organization that would organize conferences that would train and teach young men on what it means to be godly husbands, godly fathers, and godly men.

Many black athletes see college and professional sports as their ticket out of poverty.  Many blacks attending college on athletic scholarships only know poverty, attended sub-standard ghetto schools, and really have a hard life and often have a difficult time in college.  Bill McCartney witnessed first-hand how the lack of opportunity for these black families affected his black athletes.

Promise Keepers asks the young men in its ministry to make seven promises to live a godly life.  This is the sixth promise: A Promise Keeper is committed to reaching beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity. […]

Politics

A Democrat Christian Ponders Abortion and Morality

As you can tell from the length of this blog, abortion is truly a moral tar baby.  If you do not touch the tar baby and only glance at its outward appearances from twenty feet away, you can yell and scream and shout and maybe even shoot at those who do the evil deed, and think you are righteous and holy condemning those who you think made a sinful decision all day long on Facebook and Twitter and on the abortion picket line.

But if you dare to get one arm, then your other arm, then one leg, then your other leg into that moral tar baby called abortion, and start moving around and educating yourself and pondering and praying about all the sticky morass of moral issues, you will never get free of this moral tar baby, you will never be able to condemn any decision anybody makes about abortion, you will only be able to feel compassion towards those unfortunate few who must decide and who must live with their decision. […]

Civil Rights

American Civil Rights History: Yale Lecture Notes

There have been disagreements among the Civil Rights leaders, particularly in the decades following the Redemption era.  There was definite tension between those who were followers of Booker T Washington, the accommodationist, and WEB Dubois, the activist.  They are like the good cop and bad cop of early Civil Rights history.

These two pioneering black leaders were from two generations.  Booker T Washington lived from 1856 through 1915 and was the last black leader who witnessed the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War.  WEB Dubois was born later and lived longer, from 1868 through 1963.  WEB Dubois earned his PhD in history from Harvard and was part of the Talented Tenth movement who believed that black leaders should seek higher education to better enable them to champion the causes of their race. […]

Civil Rights

Post-Civil War Reconstruction and Redemption History, Yale Lecture Notes

Southerners were stubborn, Southerners were intransigent, Southerners could never accept St Paul’s declaration that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It was anathema, unthinkable, incomprehensible that Southerners, and many Northerners, would ever regard negroes as equal to free white men, in their eyes negroes were inferior, they would always be subservient. General Sherman may have burned Atlanta and destroyed livestock, crops, and railroads in his mark to the sea; General Grant may have continually fought and flanked Robert E Lee until he was cornered and cut off from supplies at Appomattox; these two Union generals may have momentarily exhausted the ability of the Southern generals to continue the war; but the true Civil War to change racial attitudes is a war that is being fought to this very day.

The South may have lost the Civil War, but it won the peace. The history of Reconstruction is in three phases. In Presidential Reconstruction lenient terms entice the Southern states back into the Union, but the South overreaches, enacting black codes so harsh that they effectively re-enslave the free blacks to their former masters, denying blacks any rights as citizens. Radical Reconstruction is enacted when many in the North to be outraged by the attitudes of their Confederates, the Radical Republicans gain a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress, the South is placed under military rule, and new elections are held and policies that benefit free blacks are enforced. But there is mass resistance, the Ku Klux Klan and similar white supremacy bands spring up, terrorizing the South in their night rides and burning crosses, lynchings become commonplace. The Panic of 1873 causes a deep recession, Northern public opinion tires of the endless struggle against the old Confederacy, leading to the final phase, Redemption. Federal troops are withdrawn from the South and the Southerners are free to rule as they see fit, Jim Crow laws are passed denying blacks their civil liberties and their ability to live a normal life with a decent paying job. The KKK and other night riders step up their lynchings to intimidate blacks, in some cases violently overthrowing legitimately elected local governments. […]

Civil Rights

Stories of How Slaves Helped the Union Win the Civil War: Yale Lecture Notes

To win the war, Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, shared it with his Cabinet, and then pocketed the document until the fortunes of war improved for the North.  After the victory at the Battle of Antietam and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation as an executive order issued under his war powers as Commander-In-Chief in September 1862.

What the Emancipation Proclamation did not do was emancipate any slaves immediately, nor did it emancipate the slaves in the border states loyal to the Union cause.  Lincoln proclaimed that if the Confederacy surrendered by January 1, 1863, she could keep her slaves, but if the rebellion persisted after that date all slaves in the rebelling states would be free.

David Blight in his lecture says:
There were at least four immediate and visible effects of the Emancipation Proclamation. First, every forward movement the Union armies now would, whether some of those officers liked it or not, liberate more slaves. Second, news of this Proclamation, whatever the details and the fine print, would spread like wildfire across the South, and it would attract towards Union lines more freed people. We have testimony of Confederate soldiers and white Southerners saying they first heard about the Emancipation Proclamation from their slaves. Third, it committed the United States Government in the eyes of the world to Emancipation.  That’s terribly important when we remember that Great Britain was on the verge of recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation.  Fourth, Lincoln formally authorizes once and for all, although it’s already begun to happen, the recruitment of black men into the Union Armies and Navy, and it authorizes a formal process now to recruit black men to the Union uniform. And before the war will end about ten percent of all Union forces will be African American– approximately 180,000–eighty percent of whom were former slaves, from the slave states. […]

Civil Rights

American Slavery and the Abolitionists: Yale Lecture Notes

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he remarked, So you are the little lady whose little book started the Civil War.  This book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was the best-selling book by far in 1852, eventually selling over a million copies, galvanizing Northern opinion about the horrors of slavery.  This romantic novel from the point of view of ordinary slaves, and it really promoted that the lives of even slaves should have dignity, they were not just mere property like cows or horses, that slaves could the heroes and heroines of a tragic novel allowing the reader to imagine the horrors of a life lived bound in chains, of souls bound in cruel inequities, of human beings bound in a life of unending cruelties.[2]

The antithesis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott vs Sanford in 1857.  Dred Scott was a slave who sued his master for his freedom as his master moved him and his family between slave states and free states that banned slavery under the Missouri Compromise law.  The Southern Chief Justice Roger Taney held that no negro had ever enjoyed the rights of a citizen under the Constitution.  Negroes were denied the dignity of personhood, negroes were always property and would also remain property, negroes were declared by the Supreme Court decision to be “so far inferior that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect.”  This decision, which denied that the Constitution gave Congress the right to bar slavery in the territories, enraged public opinion in the North, bolstering the popularity of Lincoln and the Republican Party […]

AntiSemitism

Christians Coping Under Fascism in WWII: Warnings for Christians Under Trump

You need a strong moral compass to do what is right.  Like Trump, Mussolini did not have a strong, he did not even have a weak moral compass, his compass had no morals at all.  Shortly before the start of World War II Mussolini started looking up to Hitler, Mussolini visited Berlin, Hitler visited Rome, and Mussolini started to value the values of Nazi Germany over the values of the Catholic Church.
Starting in 1938, the Fascist government under Mussolini started to implement many of the same anti-Semitic race laws that had earlier been passed in Nazi Germany.  In the years before 1938 the Catholic Church prospered in its partnership with Mussolini.  In the remaining years of Mussolini’s rule these relations were more and more strained.  The Pope had started hearing disturbing reports from his churches in Germany and across Europe, disturbing reports on the fate of the Jews and the disabled and dissenters, priests, and believers.
Pope Pius XI started to have regrets about his compromises with Mussolini, Pope Pius XI was elderly and in poor health, Pope Pius XI started to worry about his salvation. […]

AntiSemitism

Vatican II Decree on Freedom of Religion, Embracing Democracy, Rejecting Fascism

The Church Fathers of Vatican II believed that the Catholic guarantee of Religious Liberty was crucial for regaining the respect of many believers and the modern world.  History had evolved so that the Catholic Church was not on the side of truth regarding religious liberty.  From ancient times the Catholic Church was supported first by the Roman emperors starting with Constantine, and then the royalty of medieval Europe, but the absolute monarchies had all disappeared, giving way to dictators and republics, some of which were constitutional monarchies.  The Jacobism of the French Revolution and its grandchild communism were the enemies of the church, and the church supported fascism to combat communism.  World War II totally discredited fascism, now the Catholic Church saw democracy as the bulwark opposing communism, and religious liberty was a cornerstone for democracy. […]

Eastern / Early Church Fathers

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Basil On Envy

What is envy? St Basil teaches us that “envy is distress caused by your neighbor’s prosperity. The jealous person is never free from anguish, never free from despair.” Is your neighbor successful? Does he drive a nice car, live in a nice house, have an attractive wife and precious children? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Is he wealthy? “All these things feed the illness and increase the pain of the jealous person.” […]

Early Church Writing

St Cyprian on Envy and Jealousy

St Cyprian warns us of the pernicious evils of envy. “What a gnawing worm of the soul envy is, what a plague-spot of our thoughts, what a rust of the heart, to be jealous of another.” How envy gnaws at our soul when we hate our neighbor for their prosperity, their good luck, their inheritance, when we make other people’s glory our penalty, when we allow envy to be the executioner of our soul. When we are consumed by envy, “no food is joyous, no drink is cheerful. The envious are every sighing and groaning and grieving,” our envy torments us day and night. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 5, Blessed are the Peacemakers and the Persecuted

We must be one of the peacemakers. What is peace? Peace is a “loving disposition towards our neighbor.” What is the opposite of this love? The enemy of peace is “hate and wrath, anger and envy, harboring resentment as well as hypocrisy and the calamity of war.”
We are reminded that the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain directly reminds us that not only are the poor in spirit blessed, but also the poor and down and out, and in case we do not comprehend, Jesus in Luke warns us, “woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” So what is common between to these two Beatitudes and the words of Jesus on the Day of Judgement? St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us, “they all converge on the same goal,” they all show how the Love of God shines in our lives and in how we live our lives, and the love we show to our neighbor. […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 4, Blessed are the clean of heart and the merciful

These sermons by St Gregory of Nyssa are cited twice in the Catholic Catechism in its discussion of the Commandment, DO NOT COVET, DO NOT ENVY.  St Gregory of Nyssa mentions envy in this Beatitude: “Some people covet glory, or wealth, or prominence.  Others lap up envy like some noxious food, and there are others (more holy) who desire things whose nature is good.”  He continues, “the Word calls blessed those who hunger not without qualification, but those whose desire is directed toward true justice.”

Those who hunger and thirst for justice need never be filled, the possession of virtue “always offers its disciples the fulness of its delights.  Therefore, God the Word promises to those who hunger for these things that they shall be filled, and in being filled their desire for virtue will not be dulled but rather kindled anew.” […]

Cappodocian Church Fathers

St Gregory of Nyssa, Beatitudes, Blog 3, Blessed are the Meek and Those Who Mourn

St Gregory of Nyssa teaches, “Blessed are those who are not easily turned towards the passionate movements of the soul, but who are steadied by reason.”  “To boast of riches or to be proud of one’s family, to have regard to fame and to think oneself above one’s neighbor, all these human honors destroy and shame the honor of the soul.  No righteous man would thus defile the purity of his soul.  When humility is well established, wrath will find no entrance into the soul.  If there is no wrath, our life will be in a settled state of peace.  This is true meekness.” […]

Western Church Fathers / St Augustine

St Augustine

St Augustine on Catechizing the Uninstructed, Blog 2

If you seek to become a Christian for social or temporal reasons you may backslide from the faith when you see “wicked and impious men” who are more prosperous than you are.  You may ask yourself, How is this faith helping me?  This is the wrong question, for the true Christian seeks “everlasting blessedness and the perpetual rest of the saints so he may not pass into eternal fire with the devil but rather enter into the Eternal Kingdom together with Christ.  He will be on his guard in every temptation, so we will neither be corrupted by prosperity nor be utterly broken in spirit by adversity, but remain modest and temperate during good times, and be brave and patient during times of tribulation.”  Then this Christian will “Love God more than he fears hell,” and he will recoil from evil thoughts and temptations. […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on Catechizing the Uninstructed, Blog 1

In all his writings St Augustine reminds us that the core of our faith is the commands to Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  In this work on catechesis St Augustine teaches that the vice that ruins love, the vice that is the enemy of love is envy, and that the mother of envy is pride.  This section is referenced in the Catholic Catechism teaching on the Commandment, Do Not Covet. […]

Biblical Interpretation

St Augustine: On Christian Teaching, How To Read Scripture

St Augustine teaches, “Whoever thinks he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but interprets them in a way that does not build up this two-fold Love of God and love of neighbor, does not truly understand the Scriptures. If, on the other hand, a man draws a meaning from Scriptures that builds up the two-fold Love of God and love of his neighbor, although he does not precisely understand the exact meaning of the author, his error is not pernicious, and he is wholly clear from the charge of deception.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine’s Treatise on the Faith and the Creed

This discourse on the Apostle’s Creed was delivered by St Augustine to a local church council in North Africa.  In this treatise he repeats his classical explanation of the Trinity:
The Father is truly God, the Son is truly God, and the Holy Spirit is truly God.
The Father is not sometimes the Son, and the Father is not sometimes the Holy Spirit, and God is One.  We have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but “there are not three Gods in that Trinity, but One God and one substance.” […]

St Augustine

St Augustine on the Beatitudes

St Augustine tells us the fate of those who hear God’s words and does them, and then for emphasis those who do not, hearing is not enough, the words must be planted in our soul and bear fruit in our actions and deeds.

Who are the poor in spirit in the first beatitude, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God?” St Augustine teaches us that the poor in spirit are those who “are humble and God fearing,” whose spirit is not proud, not puffed up by the wind. St Augustine contrasts this with the spirit of the proud, in a passage quoted by the Catholic Catechism[2], that though the “proud seek after and love the kingdoms of the earth” while the poor in spirit possess the kingdom of heaven. […]

Greek / Stoic Philosophers

Greek and Roman History

Pondering the Death of Socrates in Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes

These works on the trial and execution of Socrates by Xenophon and Plato testify to their anger at the citizens of Athens for condemning their gadfly teacher and friend. Xenophon and Plato also show their anger at Socrates for the hubris and arrogance displayed in full force in his trial speech and his sentencing speech. They want to remind us that just as the Homeric heroes of the battle of Troy showed their hubris at the battlefield, so too did their hero Socrates show hubris in the public courtroom of Athens. […]

Cynic Philosophers

Diogenes and the Greek Cynic Philosophers

Diogenes Laertius tells us the Cynics were only interested in ethics, and unlike the other philosophical schools, they had no interest in logic and physics, much like the later Roman Stoics.  They had no interest in general education or literature, their only concern was how to live a life of virtue.  The Cynics “lived frugally, eating only for nourishment, wearing only a clock, despising wealth, fame, and royal birth.”  Some ate only vegetables, some drank only water, some lived in tubs in the marketplace, like Diogenes of Sinope.  The Cynics believed that “virtue can be taught, and when acquired cannot be lost.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Diogenese on the Greek Stoic, Zeno of Citium

Zeno speculates that “God is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect in happiness, immune to anything evil, exercising forethought for the cosmos and all it contains.  But he is not of human shape.  He is the craftsman of all things, both generally and in that particular part of him that pervades everything, and which is called by many names in accordance with all his various powers.” […]

Stoic Philosophers

The Stoic Socrates of Xenophon

Xenophon’s Socrates definitely sounds Stoic, he sought to die the good Stoic death. “Socrates was so arrogant in court that he invited the juror’s ill-will and more or less forced them to condemn him. His fate was proper to one loved by the gods, because he both avoided the most difficult part of life and gained the easiest of deaths. His fortitude was obvious, since he decided death was the better option, he showed no weakness in the face of death, but awaited it cheerfully.” […]

Ancient History

Greek and Roman History

Pondering the Death of Socrates in Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes

These works on the trial and execution of Socrates by Xenophon and Plato testify to their anger at the citizens of Athens for condemning their gadfly teacher and friend. Xenophon and Plato also show their anger at Socrates for the hubris and arrogance displayed in full force in his trial speech and his sentencing speech. They want to remind us that just as the Homeric heroes of the battle of Troy showed their hubris at the battlefield, so too did their hero Socrates show hubris in the public courtroom of Athens. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Slaves in Ancient Greece and Rome, Blog 2

Slavery in the ancient world was not based solely on race like in the Confederate South. Slavery in the ancient world happened to you when your city was conquered or when you were kidnapped by pirates. When a city was defeated the women and children were often enslaved, the men were often slaughtered, though sometimes they were enslaved to work in the mines. Or if you could not pay your bills you could be sold into slavery. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Slaves in the Ancient World, Blog 1, Were Slaves the Employees of the Ancient World?

We are tempted to view slavery as something that went away with the Civil War, that with regards to slavery the modern world is so morally superior to the ancient world. The truth is that there were no employees in the ancient world, that slaves in the ancient worlds did the work that employees are hired to do in today’s world.

To understand the role of slaves in the ancient world we have a totally distorted picture when we only focus on the moral wrong of owning another person, treating servants like talking draft animals. The other aspect of slavery is paying someone such low wages that they cannot feed their family with dignity, that they feel like they live forever on the edge of the abyss, where the slightest crisis could force them to live in the streets. Someone who earns starvation wages is very much a modern-day slave. […]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ordinary Life and Justice in the Ancient World

The ancient world is very different from the modern world. We in the modern world view life is sacred, today we expect our children to survive until old age, because modern medicine ensures a long healthy life to most of us. If I had lived in the ancient world, I would have died as a teenager from appendicitis. In the ancient world, parents often did not name their children until they were a few weeks old due to the high infant mortality rate. Only half of children survived to adulthood, some scholars estimate that only one in ten survived to a ripe old age.
[…]

Ordinary Life in the Ancient World

Ancient Warrior Societies, Blog 3, World of the Old Testament

Warfare is mentioned over three hundred times in the Old Testament, swords four hundred times. Ancient Israel was caught in many of the ancient wars since it was in the cross-roads of trade routes between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Since Judah was mountainous, its armies relied heavily on infantry, but the Bible mentions that King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom had chariots, and that he was felled by arrow probably shot by a composite bow. Assyria and Babylon had cavalry archers on horseback, but not Egypt or Israel. An Israeli chariot had three horses pulling three men, a driver with a spear, an archer, and a shield bearer. We know from our Sunday School stores King David slew Goliath with a sling, but the ancient slings were not the puny toys we imagine, the sling in the ancient world was a deadly combat weapon. A skilled slinger could sling a rock over 120 miles per hour, faster than the fastest fast ball. […]

Catechism / Biblical Studies

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 5, Coveting Tempts You To Harm Your Neighbor

Ten Commandments

Why does Rambam list these Mitzvoth thus? Is it because Exodus precedes Deuteronomy? This is not a good answer, for when studying Torah we should always favor the interpretation that draws us to Love Adonoy more intensely. Maybe Rambam is suggesting that coveting followed quickly by trying to buy your neighbor’s possessions is bad enough, but laying awake at night desiring and dreaming of your neighbor’s property is far worse. Coveting is perverse idolatry. Coveting counts here for coveting, the looking and the desiring, always precedes adultery. […]

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 4, Coveting: The Sin That Leads To Many Other Sins

Ten Commandments

The Mitzvah against coveting appears in slightly different form in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s house, and you are forbidden to covet his wife. In Deuteronomy you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s wife, and are forbidden to desire his house. In Deuteronomy you cannot covet his field, and in both versions you cannot covet or desire his slaves, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that is his neighbor. If the tablets were written today, your neighbor’s car would probably be on the list. Ramban suggests that coveting your neighbor’s wife is listed first in Deuteronomy because it is the greatest sin of all. Coveting your neighbor’s husband is just as much a sin. […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 3: Does the Torah Condone Divorce?

The attitude of the Torah towards divorce can be gleaned from the very words the Torah uses to describe G_d, blessed is He, whose Name is so holy usually it is rendered in the Torah as either Adonoy the merciful, or Elohim the just. Elohim may get angry, but Elohim rarely speaks to judge, it is always Adonoy the merciful who speaks. Elohim the just may visit justice to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, but Adonoy the merciful remembers those who Love him for thousands of generations. If Adonoy is so quick to be merciful to us, why should would not be as quick to be merciful to those whose lives we affect, particularly those close to us, our loved ones, our family? […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 2, How One Sin Can Lead to Many More, Up to a Perfect 10

The Decalogue is symmetrical. The commandments to Love G_d with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your possessions are mirrored in the commandments to love your neighbor as yourself. If you steal, murder, or adulter today, yesterday you coveted that which was not yours and could never properly be yours. Coveting is wanting. Coveting is looking. Looking, if not sinful, and it is sinful, is inviting sin to cross under our doorposts. […]

Ten Commandments

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 1, We are Invited to a Curious Bar Mitzvah

When the son of a close friend who was divorced invited me to his Bar Mitzvah I eagerly accepted. What a treat! Often those who are born into the faith do not realize what treasures they possess. We will watch as the great Torah scrolls were reverently, ceremoniously removed from the Ark and unrolled. We will then listen as the young man reads the ancient liturgy in English and also in G_d’s language, where the rhymes are more in thoughts than words, so by repetition the words are burned in your heart. We will pray the beautiful prayers in the prayer book. We will all participate in his initiation into the life of the Torah. […]

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I was born and baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. When I was in my twenties I read some of Luther’s works, and although his theological works were well written, seemingly well thought out, what [...]