Saturday, January 18, 2014
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
When I knew him, Will was Director of Religious Life at the University of Mississippi from about 1954 until the University encouraged him to leave in 1956. University authorities claimed that he wasn't fired, he just left to follow other paths. Right.
The word avuncular was invented to describe Will Campbell. His head was egg-shaped, topped by a prematurely bald, avuncular dome. He smoked a curved-stem avuncular pipe. In a discussion group, he stimulated discussions with avuncular questions.
Though he had been a preacher since he was ordained at the age of 17, he was never the flamboyant kind. It was only a year or two after he was ordained that Will answered his country's call and went off to World War II. It was his return from that war that transformed him and led him to what was to become his life's work. When the troop train reached the Mason-Dixon line, the soldiers, who had mingled freely in the railroad cars until then, were rearranged into segregated cars. "That's not right," Will recognized immediately.
Will used the GI Bill to go to college, eventually completing his BD at Yale. As Director of Religious Life at the University of Mississippi, he encouraged students to rethink the social arrangements referred to at the time as "the Southern Way of Life."
He was a dangerous man. Controversy dogged his heels.
In 1956, there was the Kershaw incident involving the Reverend Al Kershaw, a television quiz program, jazz music and the NAACP. That's a story for a later post.
There was another incident involving a student delegate from Ole Miss to the national Y convention.
The most famous incident involved a ping pong game in the Y building on campus.
I will share all of these stories at some point.
After leaving Ole Miss, Will worked for the National Council of Churches Department of Racial and Cultural relations. He appeared in Little Rock during integration of Central High, working behind the scenes to convince ministers to do the right thing. His success was limited.
He became an itinerant preacher and writer. He called himself a "bootleg preacher."
Will believed that, at least in the South, no people had more interests in common than the downtrodden African Americans and poor white rednecks.
In 1957, Will made a furtive visit back to Oxford, Mississippi. Will wasn't furtive about it, but the campus authorities placed furtive measures in place to make sure he didn't make his way back to the campus. A few of us met with Will at a local eatery. By then, we knew of his association with the Southern Christian Leadership Council. Someone asked him about Martin Luther King. "The man's a saint," Will replied.
My favorite book by Will Campbell is Providence, an account of what in Holmes County we always called Providence Plantation. He calls it Providence Farm, a not quite successful interracial collective farm eventually run out of (as in expelled from) Holmes County by the good, hard-working white folks around Tchula.
Will wasn't nationally famous. Might not have thought he did much good. But he did what he could among the people he knew best, with the tools at his command.
I think it's hard to ask for more than that.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Information provided by Mrs. Berdoglio, Francis' sole surviving sibling, who lives in Buenos Aires, is that their parents immigrated from Italy to Argentina to escape the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Mrs. Bergoglio, a divorced mother of two adult sons, emphasized that stories suggesting her brother's complicity in actions by the Argentine military junta are wide of the mark. Such complicity, she emphasizes, would have been a betrayal of their father's lessons to the family.
The father, Mario Bergoglio, had been a railroad worker in Northern Italy in the Piedmont region before emigrating to Argentina in the 1920's.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Now things are a bit more complicated. Pope Francis I (nee Bergoglio) is the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina. In at least the sense of ethnicity, the Pope is Italian.
More worthy of concern is that the Pope is Argentine. Remember the "disappeared" and Argentina's "dirty war" of kidnapping, torture and murder of leftists? There has long been information that the hands of Argentina's Catholic hierarchy were not clean in this matter. How about Bergoglio?
Today, Pope Francis I is being described as more concerned than many of his predecessors about poverty and injustice. Let us hope this is so.
The brutal Argentine military dictatorship ended thirty years ago. Many Argentine institutions were compromised by their actions during that period, not least the Argentine Navy. Maybe Francis I can lead Argentines in a final refutation of that period. That would be a good thing.
Here are a few links to articles about Argentine Catholics, including Bergoglio, during the dictatorship:
Monday, February 11, 2013
The 1415 resignation is one of the most interesting events in European history. It was preceded by the Babylonian Captivity of the Pope, the Black Death, and the Burning of Jan Hus. It was followed by the first Protestant regime in Europe, that of Bohemia and Moravia, the subsequent Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance and Enlightenment. These events were all accompanied by the end of serfdom in Europe, at least until 1619.
And by the way, the 100 Years' War between England and France.
It was all set in motion, or at least accelerated, by the Black Death (bubonic plague) of 1348, which killed from a quarter to two-thirds of the population of Europe.
Survivors wanted to know who to blame. In Germany and much of France, the answer was obvious: Jews had poisoned the wells. Thousands of Jews (who by the way were dying in great numbers also) were rounded up and slaughtered.
In Bohemia, however, many saw the plague as God's punishment for a corrupt church. One manifestation of that corruption was the fact that, since 1309, the Catholic Church had had two Popes, one in Avignon, under influence of the King of France and one in Rome. Another example of the church's corruption in the view of many clerics was the sale of indulgences, which so offended Martin Luther a century later.
The situation was exacerbated, in the eyes of the church hierarchy, by dissident priests challenging central tenets of Catholicism. The most prominent of these in the late 14th century was John Wycliffe of England, who escaped papal retribution by dying in December, 1384. The other prominent voice of dissent was the Bohemian Jan Hus, who was very much alive.
By 1415 there were three popes. Church authorities hoped to resolve the problem by scheduling a Council at Constanz, in present-day Germany. They also hoped to resolve the matter of their troublesome priests. John Wycliffe was already dead, but the Council declared him a heretic, ordered his body exhumed, decreed that his books be burned. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift.
Jan Hus was "invited" to the Council under a safe conduct. The safe conduct was not enforced. He refused to recant, and was burned at the stake.
Gregory XII, the Roman pope, resigned so that a special council in Constance, which is today a German city, could excommunicate the Avignon-based pope and start fresh with a new, single leader of the Catholic church.
A year later, just to show they weren't kidding, the Council burned Jerome, Jan Hus' deputy, at the stake.
If the new pope thought that would end the problems with Bohemia and Moravia, he was badly mistaken. The countryside rose up against the pope and his supporters among the nobility. The supporters of Hus fled to the Bohemian hills and fortified their headquarters. Appointing a one-eyed general (Jan Zizka) to lead their peasant army,during the following seventeen years, the Hussites fought back against seven different papal crusades, defeating the Catholic Nobles at every turn.
Eventually cutting a deal with the least militant Hussites, the Utraquists, the pope looked the other way while Bohemia and Moravia were allowed to practice what amounted to protestantism for nearly two centuries.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
The Kountze school district prohibited use of the banners, but a state district court judge has ruled they may continue this practice for the rest of the season. Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott came to the cheerleaders’ defense. They called the efforts by the Kountze school district to prohibit the banners “a great insult” that was out of step with a state law requiring districts to treat student expression of religious views in the same manner that secular views are treated.
According to the New York Times, the case has "galvanized" Christians in East Texas and has upset some of the usual suspects such as the Anti-Defamation League.
My question: are there any genuine Christians in East Texas? Let me get this straight: young cheerleaders mark up large paper banners with Bible verses, so that football players will run through them and destroy them? This is supposed to demonstrate religious fervor and devotion? Why not encase a bible in plastic and throw it around the field in a game of ultimate frisbee?
Has anyone caught up in this madness looked up the word "sacrilege?"
I have often wondered, in a similar fashion, about taking our symbols of worldly wealth or "mammon" and imprinting on those symbols the phrase "in God we trust." Is this intentional or merely unintentional mockery of God?
What has become of our sense of the sacred?
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Since 9/11, the handful of Sikhs in this country have been objects of persecution by ignorant, hate-filled racists. It is certainly too early to confirm the motives of the Wisconsin shooter, but it's reasonable to surmise that is what happened today.
Those of us a bit far along in years have a favorable image of Sikhs, based on the cartoon character Punjab, who was "Daddy Warbucks" right hand man and protector of Little Orphan Annie.
The word "guru," by the way, comes from Sikhism. The religion was founded in South Asia some five hundred years ago by Guru Nanak Dev. There have been ten subsequent Gurus.
Sikhism is monotheistic and is the world's fifth largest religion. Its adherents are enjoined to engage in social reform through the pursuit of justice for all human beings.
Monday, May 14, 2012
I take exception to the "lesser of two evils" remark - it trivializes and misrepresents the issues and choices facing voters. Democracy isn't easy.
If the Rev. Jeffress means simply that there is no perfect candidate, that is true. But I was intrigued by the "Jesus isn't on the ballot" formula. What if He were? I wondered. Would so-called fundamentalists or evangelicals vote for Him?
I suspect the answer is "no!" Instead, many of them would probably support the pro-death penalty, public-praying, ostentatious giving, pro-wealth, law and order candidates of the Pharisee party.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Perhaps they have not heard, read or understood the words of Jesus himself concerning acts of public piety, as recorded in the synoptic gospels. Here, from the gospel according to Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 to 34:
|[New International Version 1984]|
Sunday, February 19, 2012
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials -- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
"For, while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew -- or a Quaker -- or a Unitarian -- or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim -- but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.
"Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end -- where all men and all churches are treated as equal -- where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice -- where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind -- and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, both the lay and the pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood."
It is worth comparing this speech of 52 years ago with one uttered during this year's campaign. Here is one candidate's more recent take on the same set of issues.
Monday, August 8, 2011
He arrived at the University of Mississippi from Columbus in the early 1950's and became a legend in his own time. He was especially renowned for a touch of irreverence. He was said to have hung a copy of Sallman's Head of Christ on the wall in his dormitory room, but replaced the eyes with a doll's glass eyes that were wired to follow a visitor as he moved about the room.
A talented musician, V.P. organized a dance band, whose jazz repertoire included a version of "The Little Brown Church" and other jazzed up hymns, arousing disapproval in some circles.
One year, V.P. was upset that the University increased dormitory rent. He refused to pay the rent, instead pitching a tent nearby. One morning, he arose just before official sunrise and put his trumpet to his lips. Just as the sun peeked above the horizon, he played a rousing fanfare, and announced to the gathered audience: "and now, courtesy of V.P. Ferguson, I present - the Sun!"
I just learned that V.P. Ferguson passed away last year in Paris, where he had lived on the Left Bank for many years as a science fiction writer.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Late last year, he explained exactly what he means: "economics is not a morality play. It’s not a happy story in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The market economy is a system for organizing activity — a pretty good system most of the time, though not always — with no special moral significance. The rich don’t necessarily deserve their wealth, and the poor certainly don’t deserve their poverty; nonetheless, we accept a system with considerable inequality because systems without any inequality don’t work."
Republicans who claim to be good Christians will certainly recognize the principle as stated in Matthew 5:45: "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." In fact, the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is devoted entirely to this theological problem.
This is not the same as saying that there are no moral issues involved with economics. Reinhold Niebuhr, the great 20th century American theologian, in his 1932 book Moral Man and Immoral Society explained: "human society will never escape the problem of the equitable distribution of the physical and cultural goods which provide for the preservation and fulfillment of human life." A few pages later, he explains the particular aspects of our own history and that of democracy in general that generate moral complexity: "...the creeds and institutions of democracy have never become fully divorced from the special interests of the commercial classes who conceived and developed them. It was their interest to destroy political restraint upon economic activity, and they therefore weakened the authority of the state and made it more pliant to their needs....[therefore] the economic, rather than the political and military, power has become the significant coercive force of modern society."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was making much the same point in 1936 when he said: "We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." And he did not yet have to deal with the power of today's multinational corporations who seem answerable to no national power.
But when Krugman says that an economic system must have a certain amount of inequality in order to work, we are still left to wonder what is meant by an economic system that works. Works for whom? Works to what end?
These are fundamentally moral, not technical, questions.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
Now we are not dealing with famine, and we have a monetary economy in place of a barter economy, but the principle is the same: store up surpluses in good times and use those surpluses in bad times. The technical term for this is a counter cyclical policy.
The problem is, we did not store up surpluses in good times. In truth, every US president from Truman through Nixon left office with reduced debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. So did Presidents Carter and Clinton. Presidents Ford, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush did not. In fact, they quadrupled our existing debt.
Now if we want to put people and other resources back to work, we need to borrow the resources to do so, which we can do at very low interest rates.
Here is Mark Thoma's plan for how to make such financial policy automatic. Good luck getting it adopted.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The board decided this evening to schedule public hearings on all five proposed amendments at the July meeting. I would have been happier if they had decided to act first on the proposed amendment on how to amend the ordinance, but that's ok.
In the meantime, we should all be thinking about the proposal to exempt "religious institutions," including buildings owned by such institutions, even if they otherwise resemble ordinary houses, from some of the dimensional regulations affecting other structures in the zone.
A point to remember is that, just because a religious institution owns a building today doesn't mean it will own that building tomorrow, next year or ten years from now. In the meantime, an allowed deviation from dimensional restrictions could have significantly changed the look of the neighborhood and affected the housing value of neighbors.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I have noticed the same phenomenon in church hymns. Recent hymns seem more self-centered and far less centered on the deity.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I gather that two novelists, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, have written sixteen best-selling novels on this theme.
I have just one question.
Where did they put their money?
Monday, April 25, 2011
In addition to reciting the Lord's Prayer every morning, we had other religious instruction.
The most memorable was the annual visit by an itinerant preacher, who addressed the student body on the importance of religion, the evils of smoking, and related subjects.
At one point in his presentation, the preacher asked if any student could recite the golden rule. He offered a quarter to anyone who could do so. Hands shot up, usually hands of eager boys anxious to win the quarter. The preacher would call on the boys in turn. None ever won the quarter.
The only way to win, it turned out, was to recite the King James translation of Matthew 7:12 - "whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." No variations allowed.
I don't recall that he required the rest of the verse, where Jesus is quoted as saying: "for this is the law and the prophets." That is, this is the essence of Judaism, and by implication, the essence of Christianity.
Sounds like altruism to me. Maybe those who claim to be Christians and also followers of Ayn Rand should reexamine their position.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
It is worth reading.
When I was in grade school in rural Oklahoma, we routinely recited the Lord's Prayer. This never raised any opposition, because so far as I know, all of the students came from white, anglo-saxon protestant families.
I never noticed that reciting the prayer had any beneficial effect on student conduct, but neither did it seem to do any harm in that setting.
I learned one thing from the exercise - Methodists prayed for forgiveness of their trespasses, and Presbyterians prayed for forgiveness of debts. Maybe that's why, at least in our community, the Presbyterians seemed more prosperous.