Morality

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Do Not Slander: Church Fathers and Preachers, and Catholic Catechism, CCC 2464

The Church Fathers focus on our love for our neighbor when contemplating this commandment.  St Gregory Palamas in our English translation renders the commandment as, “You shall not accuse anyone falsely.”  We are warned that if we accuse anyone falsely, we may “become like the devil, who falsely accused God to Eve and was cursed by God.  Rather, we should conceal our neighbor’s offense, unless by so doing others may be injured; and in this way we will imitate not Ham, but Shem and Japeth, and so like them receive the blessing.”
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Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

St John Climacus in Ladder of Divine Ascent on Slander, Talkativeness, and Lying, Steps 10, 11 and 12

Many people think that one of the Ten Commandments prohibits us from lying, but that is a shallow understanding of the commandment.  Actually, the Ten Commandments urges us not to bear false witness against our neighbor.  Not only are we forbidden to slander our neighbor, but we are also urged to guard his reputation.  We slander our neighbor even when we tell the truth in a hurtful manner. […]

Ladder of Divine Ascent

St John Climacus: Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 5, Repentance, and Perseverance of Winston Churchill

Repentance is not merely a quick apology to St John Climacus. Repentance is not quick in the Ladder of Divine Ascent. The first four rungs, where we renounce the world, detach ourselves from worldly things, become an exile and pilgrim from the affairs of the world, and with daily discipline internalize God’s will in holy obedience, these first four rungs prepare us for the rung of repentance. Repentance is more an attitude and a process than an event. An attitude of humility and repentance will prepare us for the slow ascent up the remaining twenty-five steps of the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Without daily heartfelt repentance we cannot continue the climb to a godly life. […]

Early Church Writing

St Irenaeus On Heresies, Eusebius and Modern Scholars, and Catholic Catechism

Eusebius explains, “Irenaeus, whose name means ‘peaceable’ and who by temperament was a peacemaker, pleased and negotiated for the peace of the churches.” There was a dispute between Bishop Viktor of Rome and the Asian dioceses over the length of a church fast, he was threatening excommunication over this dispute. Irenaeus interceded, arguing that “the dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast.” He pointed out the variations were differences in practice extending back to their forefathers. Although they had their differences, “they all lived in peace with one another, and so do we: the divergences in the fast emphasizes the unanimity of the faith.” […]

Five Miniute Theology

Should the Books of the Apocrypha Be Included In the Bible?

The Church Fathers differed on what should be included in the Old Testament canon, St Jerome, who had updated the Latin translation of Scriptures in the Vulgate, preferred a narrow canon including only the Hebrew books of the Jewish canon. St Augustine preferred the wider canon which included the deutero-canonical books written in Greek, which are called the Apocrypha by Protestants. St Jerome and St Augustine were contemporaries, they often corresponded with each other. […]

AntiSemitism

Martin Luther, Large Catechism on Decalogue, Do Not Envy, and Anti-Semitism

“You should not covet your neighbor’s house.”
“What does this mean? We should fear and Love God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.”

“You shall not cover your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
“What does this mean? We should fear and Love God, and so we should not abduct, estrange, or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.” […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

Dr Laura and Her Rabbi Stewart Vogel on Ten Commandments: Do Not Envy

If in your heart you keep shouting, I want! I want! I WANT!
Not only are you acting and living like a child, but when you focus excessively on getting more possessions and success, you risk becoming jealous of what your neighbor’s possessions and success, you risk becoming obsessed and possessed by jealousy and envy. Coveting and envy is a sin that is unique because it is a sin of our thoughts and mind, our “thoughts, desires, and feelings.” […]

CS Lewis

CS Lewis’ Great Divorce, An Allegory of Hell and Plato’s Cave

Another allegory similar to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the central story in the Republic and Platonic philosophy, is CS Lewis’ great book, the Great Divorce, about how Hell itself is a another type of dark cave of deceptions, where the brave few can still choose to board the bus to climb into the bright sun and visit a brighter place, the fields surrounding the mountain the faithful climb in their eternal quest for perfection and union with Christ. […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Luther on Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor

Luther starts his Large Catechism commentary on this commandment memorably, “Besides our own body, our wife or husband, and our temporal property, we have one more treasure which is indispensable to us, namely, our honor and good name, for it is intolerable to live among men in public disgrace and contempt.” Our reputation is our most precious possession, more important than baubles and gold, every man wants “to maintain his self-respect before his wife, children, servants, and neighbors.” […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 6, Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor

A common misconception is that this Commandment only forbids us to lie. However, this Mitzvah goes deeper. Not only should we not destroy the reputation of our neighbor, we should also guard the reputation of our neighbor like we should build a parapet on our roof. Not only does this Mitzvah forbid us to lie, it also forbids us from telling the truth in a mean and heartless and cruel manner. […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

Dr Laura and Her Rabbi on Not Bearing False Witness Against Your Neighbor

Dr Laura bemoans how the tangled web of the lies we weave is dragging us down, how “people expect politicians, lawyers, lobbyists, advocates, journalists, talk-show hosts, and anyone else in the public view will lie if it serves their purpose.” Even when the often-malicious gossip that they spread to millions of viewers has an element of truth, these celebrities can totally destroy someone’s reputation and even life. Indeed, our acceptance of this twisting of the truth leads to the “disappearance of common social courtesies to the prevalence of vulgar and vicious radio and television programming, from disrespect for traditional sexual and marital mores to the ever-growing cynicism about the potential of goodness to survive anywhere.”

Dr Laura bemoans how commonly people give false testimony to win their case in court. We think that if we suffer no immediate consequences, like lightning bolts, that nobody notices our lying, that it is quite okay. “Americans tend to assume that whatever deficiencies our system has, they largely are not a result of corruption, but rather due to judges and juries who are too soft, or racial prejudice, or insufficient concerns for the rights of victims.” “It is remarkable that we can be proud of our judicial system in spite” of how often we lie under oath.

Dr Laura tells us how horribly the lives of her listeners and others have been ruined by lies and slander. These damaging slanderers include the husband who lies about working late but is really out drinking and carousing with his buddies and maybe flirting with the women at the bar. They include the incredibly cruel lies told in custody battles, false reports of child abuse that harm both spouse and child. She tells how digging up possibly non-existent stories of childhood abuse decades in the past can destroy families. She also has stories of less destructive lies that enable to steal time and money from our employers or our neighbors. […]

Hillel and Jesus

More Stories and Sayings of Hillel and Shammai

Once Hillel’s wife had finished preparing a meal for Hillel and a guest, when a “poor man came by, stood at Hillel’s doorway, and said, ‘I am scheduled to marry today and have no provisions whatsoever.’ Hearing that, Hillel’s wife took the entire mean and gave it to the poor man. Then she kneaded fresh dough, cooked another pot of stew, and when it was ready, placed it before Hillel and his guest. Hillel asked, ‘My dear, why did you not bring it out sooner?’ She told him what happened. He said, ‘My dear, in asking about the delay, I meant to judge you not on the scale of guilt but on the scale of merit, because I was certain that everything you did, you did for the sake of Heaven.’” […]

Early Church Writing

St Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho the Jew on Circumcision and Jesus

When the debate begins, the first question Trypho asks is about circumcision, which was a major stumbling block for Christian converts in the early days of the Church, when many converts were confused on whether they first needed to convert to Judaism before becoming Christian.  Converting to Judaism meant you had to be circumcised.  St Paul in his Epistles famously reassures his Gentile converts that they only needed to be circumcised in their heart.  Not only did Christian converts not need to be circumcised; it was wrong to require that converts be circumcised, and he is quite strident in his exhortations in Galatians in particular. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

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

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. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

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

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. […]

Command 6 Do Not Adulter

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? […]

Morality

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. […]

Philosophy

AntiSemitism

Our Reflections on Morality, Philosophy, and History: Ancient and Modern Classics

To a Stoic Philosopher, the question of Theodicy, or why God permits bad things to happen to good people, why God permits suffering, is simply absurd. The fact is, we do suffer, we will face injustices, we will suffer illnesses and death, and the rain falls on both the good man and the bad man. God will not shield us from suffering and injustice, but God will provide us with the strength to endure the challenges of this life. […]

Philosophy

Why This Old White Christian Abandoned the Republican Party

The absolute disrespect shown to our President Barack Obama by many Republican Congressmen, Fox News, and the Tea Party movement was both deeply offensive and also reminded me of similar insults thrown about during the Jim Crow lynching years of our ugly history. It was the rise of the Tea Party movement that meant I now had an ugly choice, I could either support the party of morals, or I could support the party of compassion, but the choice was not really that ugly, because if you are not compassionate, than any morals you wear on your sleeve for show are fake morals, because compassion and morals go together. […]

Epicurean Philosophy

Epicurus, Aristippus, and Lucretius: History of Epicurean Philosophy

Was Epicureanism a cult? Or perhaps we should ask, was Epicureanism like a philosophical fraternity? One prominent scholar, AA Long, suggests that Epicurus’ school of philosophy was more a philosophical community centering on personal friendship than it was a formal school of philosophy. Many ancient philosophers wrote about the virtues of friendship, but the virtues of friendship are core to the Epicurean experience, and the Epicureans sought pleasure through their friendships. This community was egalitarian, it was one of the few in ancient world that admitted women and slaves, and in his letters, Epicurus expresses deep affection for his friends and followers. AA Long says this, “those who committed themselves to Epicurus we not so much students ‘reading for a course’ as men and women dedicated to a certain style of life.” […]

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.” […]

Philosophy

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.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Sentencing and Execution of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 2

In the end of his speech to the jurors who will decide whether he will live or die, he says, “Judges, be of good cheer about death, and know for certain that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.” Socrates is forgiving. “I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm. Although the did not mean to do me any good; for this I gently blame them.” […]

Greek Philosophy

Trial of Socrates in Apology and Crito, Blog 1

How do you encourage your neighbor to grow in wisdom without preaching to him? The Platonic method is the dialectic, the Socratic Dialogue, questions and answers to encourage the citizen to think. The method used by the Gospels is the parable, similar in function to the Delphic Oracle, that also entices the listener to think through questions of right and wrong, justice and virtue. Plato does not use parables as often, but he does use parables very effectively, the most famous parable in the history of philosophy is his Allegory of the Cave in the Republic. […]

Greek Philosophy

Plato: Euthyphro, Who Won’t Listen

Socrates has been charged by the citizens of Athens of impiety, of corrupting the youth, and in preparation he must go to the porch of the King Archon. There he meets his friend, Euthyphro, and they converse about the serious charges filed against Socrates, and the serious charges Euthyphro intends against, surprisingly, his very own father. Socrates senses that his friend has little idea of the consequences of this action, and that his youthful haste may lead to a miserable and penurious future, and that his friend has pondered little of this drastic action. […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 7, Precious Stoic Nuggets of Wisdom

Seneca tells us that “we Stoics believe that pleasure is a vice.” Like the Church Fathers, Seneca reminds us that we need to overcome many years past of bad habits with many future years of living a godly life. “We are fettered and weakened by many vices; we have wallowed in them for a long time and it is hard for us to be cleansed.”
Seneca asks, “Why does folly hold us with such an insistent grasp? Primarily because we do not combat our vices strongly enough, we do not struggle towards salvation with all our might, we do not trust and drink in the words of the wise with open hearts,” we are not serious in our struggle against our vices, our efforts at living a godly life are but trifles. […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 6, Stoicism and the Golden Rule

Seneca warns us not “to trust the countenances of those whom we meet.” Men may appear to be kind smiling kind in their appearances but often men possess souls of brutal beasts in their hearts. The difference is beasts may attack you when they first encounter you from fear or hunger, but once your paths depart beasts will usually not pursue you further. Men, however, scheme and often delight in destroying one another, making each other’s lives miserable. […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Stoic Philosopher, Moral Epistles, Blog 5, On the Benefits of Friends and Keeping Score

Seneca says, “Let us avoid being ungrateful, not for the sake of others but for our own sakes.” Likewise, Seneca warns, “evil drinks the largest portion of her own poison.” “When we do wrong, only the least portion flows back upon our neighbor, the worst and densest portion blows back, troubling us instead.” “The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates his gifts for he must return the favor, he tries to belittle their value, but when he does this he hurts himself instead. What is more wretched than the man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?” […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 4, Stoic Concepts of Virtue and the Good

What distinguishes the virtuous soul? Seneca says It is “the soul that penetrates the whole world and directs it contemplating gaze upon all its Phenomena, paying strict attention to thoughts and actions, rising above both hardships and flatteries, yielding neither to poverty nor to fortune, rising above all tribulations and blessings, absolutely beautiful, perfectly equipped with grace and strength, unruffled, never dismayed, unmoved by violence, neither exalted or depressed by chance events – a soul like this is virtue itself.” Virtue is not like the house built on sand that is swept away by the first storm, virtue is the house built on the rocks, the house that stands firm against the waves and the storms that crash against the rocks, this house is never moved. Seneca lists the other virtues, “tranquility, simplicity, generosity, constancy, equanimity, endurance.” […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 3, Loving Philosophy, Loving God, Loving our Neighbor

If Seneca would be writing today, perhaps he would title this essay, Encouragements to the Budding Blogger.  It is good to read the works of wise men, Seneca says, but men long dead cannot think for you, you need to think for yourself, reading the classics for inspiration, not duplication.  Seneca advises us, “Take command, and utter some word prosperity will remember.”  Why only memorize maxims from dusty tomes?  Make some maxims yourself.  It is one thing to remember maxims, quite another to know the true meaning of the maxims. […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Moral Epistles, Blog 2, Stoicism and Living a Godly Life

Philosophy is the study of wisdom, for as Seneca writes, “no man can live a happy life without the study of wisdom,” and “life is endurable even when we first begin our study of wisdom.” You must study philosophy every day, “you must persevere, you must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good habit.” “Philosophy molds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; philosophy sits at the helm of our ship and directs our course as we waver amid the uncertainties of life. Without philosophy, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind. Countless occurrences every hour call for advice, and such advice is to be found in philosophy.” […]

Philosophy

Seneca, Stoic Philosopher, Moral Epistles, Blog 1, Living Well, Dying Well

Seneca discusses our most precious possession, our possession that we can never really possess, that continually slips through our fingers, the loan we can never repay, the gift we waste through carelessness, the treasure we should not waste, our most precious possession, time.

Seneca asks, “What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. What years be behind us are in death’s hands?” Nothing in life is ours except time, while we postpone life speeds by, so let us live well, not wasting time. […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 5 Seeing life’s misfortunes through the eyes of our neighbor

Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should always remember that if men do not do right, we should assume that “they do so involuntarily and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power behaving as it should.”

We should “consider that we also do many things wrong, that we are merely men, that even when we refrain from certain faults, we still have the disposition to commit them, either through cowardice, concern about reputation, or some other mean motive.” […]

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius Blog 4 Be critical of yourself, be gracious towards your neighbor

Marcus Aurelius begins Book IX with “Injustice is impiety.”  Since universal nature has made rational animals to help one another rather to attack each other, “he who transgresses her will is clearly guilty of impiety toward the highest divinity.  And he who lies is also guilty of impiety towards the highest divinity. . . He who lies intentionally is guilty of impiety inasmuch as he acts unjustly by deceiving.” […]

History

History

What Happened at Vatican II, Embracing Democracy and Modernity

Pope Benedict once said that both the supporters and opponents of the Second Vatican Council have one characteristic in common, and that is, most of them have never read the decrees or the history of Vatican II and are ignorant of the actual teachings of the council. His solution was to draft the Catholic Catechism, but unfortunately, nobody reads that either. […]

Civil War and Reconstruction

Civil War Struggle Through Paintings

General Winfield Scott, brilliant strategic general and hero of the Mexican War, served under seven Presidents, but in the 1860’s he was in his seventies, and was so obese that he had to be hoisted on and off his horse with a crane. But he was still a sharp general, and his “Anaconda Plan” was the strategy that would win the war, and this Great Snake picture was printed in the newspapers across the country. 1861. This plan called for a naval blockade that strangled the commerce of the Confederacy, the Union forces seizing control of the Mississippi River, then Union forces marching through the heart of the Confederacy. General Scott predicted that 300,000 soldiers would be needed to defeat the Confederacy, which was less than half the size of the eventual Union Army, but it was shocking numbers at the beginning of the war, when the Union Army had fewer than twenty thousand soldiers. […]

Civil Rights

Ida B Wells, Journalist, Brave Woman, and Anti-Lynching Crusader

Historically, lynchings were justified by the myth that black men were eager to rape white women, and that white womanhood needed to be protected. Spurred by her knowledge of the details of this lynching of a dear friend, Ida B Wells started to research the history of other lynchings, discovering that for most lynchings had no connection to any intimate acts, and where there was intimacy, the white woman consented, which was so repugnant that it enraged white men of the day. […]

Civil Rights

Comparing Martin Luther King’s Letter From the Birmingham Jail with Hannah Arendt’s The Banality of Evil

Many Americans are either unaware or do not want to make the connection between the Jim Crow system of racial segregation and the Nazi ideology of the master race. In fact, the Jim Crow statutes enforcing segregation was used as precedents by the Nazi lawyers drafting the Nuremberg Jewish Race Laws soon after the Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. […]

Civil Rights

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, After Slavery as an Abolitionist

Frederick Douglass remembers, “In the South I was a slave, thought of and spoken of as property,” as chattel, like talking livestock. “In the Northern states, a fugitive slave was hunted like a felon, to be hurled into the terrible jaws of slavery, doomed by an inveterate prejudice against color,” “shut out from cabins on steamboats, refused admission to respectable hotels, caricatured, scorned, scoffed, mocked and maltreated by anyone with a white skin.” […]

Greek and Roman History

Draco, Solon, and Cleisthenes, Democracy and Justice in Ancient Greece

Homer’s Odyssey depict the deep Greek past where might makes right, where brave soldiers fight for justice, where grievances and murders are settled by blood feuds. As Greek emerged from its Dark Ages in the seventh century, the Greeks in Athens sought to establish a more systematic system of justice with laws governing the state. Draco was appointed by the ruling aristocracy to be a lawmaker to codify new laws to replace justice by feuds, now the Senate of the Areopagus would hear cases of homicide. […]

Greek and Roman History

Herodotus, Histories of Persia: Egypt and Scythia Before the Greco-Persian Wars

Why did Herodotus write his Histories? Herodotus tells us in his first paragraph, “so that human achievements may not be forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by Greeks, some by barbarians, may not be without their glory; and especially to show why the two peoples fought with each other.” Just as in the Iliad, the Greek soldiers and sailors in the Histories of Herodotus fight for cleos, or glory, and warriors in these warrior societies are immortalized by their great and marvelous deeds on the battlefield. Herodotus is interested in recording any mighty deeds of both the Greeks and the Persians, although the glory was earned mostly by the Greeks. […]

Civil Rights

Critical Race Theory: Reviewing the 1619 Project and Beloved

Both concerned parents and activists who have no children have been flooding school board meetings across the country yelling and threatening each other over critical race theory and whether we should be teaching our children American History starting with our Founding Fathers and the American Revolution when we won our liberty from the British in 1776, or should we teach our children that our country was originally built on the unpaid labor and bones of slaves since the first was shipped over in 1619 with the first colonists? What role did slavery play in the founding of our nation, and when did slavery end? Finally, when discussing what books should be included in young students’ lessons, one book has stirred considerable controversy, Beloved, by Tomi Morrison. […]

christianity

This Old Deep South White Christian Reflects on How To Teach Both Sides of Critical Race Theory

Many white protestors at School Board meetings have only a vague notion of what Critical Race Theory means, other than somehow it is a communist plot by blacks, or that it intends to make white children feel guilty about themselves or their country, in essence they want teachers to teach their white children some variation of the Lost Cause myth, that the Civil War was not caused by slavery, that the Civil War was fought for states’ rights, and that the North should not have invaded the South by arms. […]

AntiSemitism

How the Racist Jim Crow Laws Served as Precedent for the Nazi Nuremberg Race Laws

The Nazis were not simply demons who erupted out of some dark underworld to shatter what was good and just within the Western tradition, until they were put down by force of arms and the authentic humane and progressive values of Europe were restored. There were traditions of Western governments within which they worked. There were continuities between Nazism and what came before and after. There were examples and inspirations on which the Nazis drew, and American race law prominent among them. […]

AntiSemitism

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning, His Life in a Nazi Concentration Camp in WWII

Most books progress, with many chapters, each chapter tell different events, or different people, or different phases of life, usually progressing in some manner.  But the story in Viktor Frankl’s account of life in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II is one long dreary struggle for survival, unrelieved misery, each day running into the next, no weekends, for a precious few a monotonous few years until the war ended, for some many, many months of misery, for most, for nine out of ten Jews, they had left only days before they stripped for showers not of streams of life-giving water but showers spewing noxious fumes into gas chambers.

Viktor Frankl was one of the few of the ten percent whose first shower in Auschwitz sprayed life giving water over their naked bodies, one of the few who survived years of what was the most brutal slave society the world had ever seen, where formerly free men and women were torn away from their families, whose luggage and their jewelry and clothes were taken, even their hair shorn from them.  The Nazis even strove to steal from them their humanity, taking away their names, tattooing on their wrists the numbers they would be their new identity. […]

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? […]

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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 [...]