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? […]
Civil Rights & Modern History
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! […]
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. […]
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. […]
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.” […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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. […]
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.
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 […]
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. […]
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. […]
Obamacare is all about health insurance. Obamacare does not raise your taxes. Obamacare DOES increase health insurance premiums because it does not allow insurance companies issue CHEAP JUNK policies that cover so little that they are not really health insurance but are really a fraud on consumers. […]
In hindsight, the Republicans were doomed to lose the Civil War. The Great Stalinist Purge Trials that decimated the officer corps and political and bureaucratic class of Russia occurred at the same time in history, being a lackey of Stalin was valued far more highly than professional competence. This attitude also affected only intensified the inflexible ideology of the far-left in the Spanish Civil War, battles were valued more for their propaganda victories than for their actual military victories. Strategic retreats were ideologically suspect, once you committed troops to a battle you never retreated, you just kept committing more troops until your armies were either victorious or all dead or captured. And after all battles the dead always leave their guns and trucks and tanks behind. […]
How could most Christians either tolerate or support the totalitarian Nazi regime of Hitler? We cannot help but ask that question because we see bulging eyes of the skeletal concentration camp victims looking up in those black and white photographs, but we must realize that nobody in the prewar years could have predicted that the concentration camps would come to define Nazism. In the prewar years many saw a reawakened national German pride and family values after the humiliation imposed by the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. […]
Although Mussolini’s totalitarian regime was brutal, and although Mussolini was not a practicing Catholic himself, he did cooperate with the Pope and the Catholic Church. Mussolini did not enact Nazi style anti-Semitic race laws until he fell under the spell of Hitler after 1938. Until then, the Catholics in the pews were not morally forced to choose between obeying the church and the state. […]
Hitler shrewdly allowed the rump Vichy regime nominal autonomy in the third of France that was unoccupied by German troops. Marshal Petain and the Vichy regime had moral legitimacy in the early years of the war. Since the church teaches that the political authorities should be respected, the regime had the support of the elderly bishops throughout the war. The British were urging the French to fight on, from North Africa if necessary, but the Church Hierarchy felt that an attitude of repentance and acceptance was more appropriate. The humiliation of the German conquest was seen as an opportunity for moral and religious transformation. […]
Eastern / Early Church Fathers
John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.
One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]
St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when we fulfill the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention.” When we live a godly life, the immediate reward is the living of a godly life. Salvation is promised in the next life for living a godly life, as St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “fear of hell and love for God’s kingdom enable us patiently to accept affliction; and this they do, not by themselves, but through Him who knows our thoughts.”
However, salvation can also be attained in this life when we are transformed into godly people, adopted sons of our Father in Heaven. Luke reminds us, “once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ’The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’”
St Mark continues, “Christ is Master by virtue of His own essence and Master by virtue of his incarnate life. For He creates man from nothing, and through His own Blood redeems him when dead in sin; and to those who believe in Him He has given His grace. When Scripture says ‘He will reward every man according to his works’, do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” […]
We should always search our heart for upright and humble motives. St Mark the Ascetic warns that “some, without keeping the commandments, think they are keeping the faith, while others, keeping the commandments, expect to receive the kingdom as a reward owed to them. Both are deprived of the kingdom.” Our reward lies in our humble obedience, our salvation is our striving to live a more godly life.
Salvation is not a transaction, salvation is not bartering, salvation is a gift by grace, unearned. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “when the Scriptures say, ‘God will reward each person according to his works,’ the Scriptures are not saying that works deserve hell or the kingdom, but rather that works are done out of faith or lack of faith in Him. Christ repays each person not as a businessman fulfilling his contracts but as God, our Creator and Redeemer,” out of love for us, not out of bartered obligations. […]
You cannot cherry-pick which commandments you should follow and which ones you should ignore. Little sins vs whoppers, scrupulously avoiding small penny sins to save up for the whoppers you need to be forgiven for when you hide thousands of dollars of defects when selling your house or when you need to ruin someone financially to steal their business. St Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “Those who do not consider themselves under obligation to perform all of Christ’s commandments study the law of God in a literal manner, ‘understanding neither what they say nor what they affirm.’ (1 Tim 1:7) Therefore the think they can fulfill the law by their own works.”(34)
“Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues. . . Perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.(31) The law of freedom by true knowledge, and is understood through the practice of the commandments, and is fulfilled through the mercy of Christ.”(32)
“Fulfilling a commandment is one thing, and virtue is another, although each promotes the other.(193) Fulfilling a commandment means doing what we are enjoined to do; but virtue to do it in a manner that conforms to the truth.”(194) […]
St Diadochos teaches that when “the energy of the Holy Spirit is within us,” “the soul is kindled into Love for God and, free from all fantasy and image, moves untroubled by doubt towards Him, drawing the body with it into the depths of that ineffable love. The Love which comes from the Holy Spirit so inflames the soul that all its parts cleave ineffably and with utter simplicity to the delight of its love and longing for the divine.” […]