Archive for the ‘Violence’ Tag

Deplorables   1 comment

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PORCHER DUBOSE, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/deplorables/

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Psalms 56-58   1 comment

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POST XXI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge;

he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Men will say,

“There is, then, a reward for the righteous;

there is, indeed, divine justice on the earth.”

–Psalm 58:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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So much for loving one’s enemies and praying for one’s enemies!

“You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so you can be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on the good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked.  If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.  If you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that?  Even the heathen do as much.  There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

–Matthew 5:43-48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The vengeful tone of Psalm 58 troubles me.  It is inconsistent with the highest ideals of Judaism (such as healing the world) and with the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth, who forgave those who had him crucified and who consented to his crucifixion (Luke 23:24).  I argue with the author of Psalm 58; the righteous man grieves when he sees vengeance and rejoices when he witnesses reconciliation and repentance.  After all, revenge is not justice.  This seems to be a point lost on the upset martyrs in Heaven in Revelation 6:9-11.

Consider, O reader, Psalm 57, allegedly of David after having fled from King Saul, who was trying repeatedly to kill him.  The superscription refers to a story of which two versions–in 1 Samuel 24 and 26–exist, thanks to the reality of multiple sources edited together into one narrative.  In both versions of the story David, who has the opportunity to kill Saul, spares the monarch’s life instead and lets him know it.  David refuses to take revenge, even though his magnanimity continues to place his life at great risk.

A note regarding Psalm 56 in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible makes a wonderful point.  J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writes that the author of that psalm

professes that true security is a divine gift rather than a human achievement.  The fundamental mistake of the wicked is their belief that they can make it on their own, that they can find hope in exploiting others (v. 6; see Isa. 47:10).  The psalmist knows better.  Because security is ultimately a gift from God, no human action can take it away.

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The true security from God is a form of security that the world does not recognize as security at all.  Indeed, many of the faithful (as in Revelation 6:9-11) have difficulty seeing it for what it is.  Who can blame them?  This is, after all, counter-intuitive.  This true security is the security of the Jew (whose name has not come down to me) who, during the Holocaust, while having to perform a degrading task as a concentration camp guard taunted him with the question,

Where is your God now?,

answered,

He is here beside me, in the muck.

This is inner security, so no outside human source can take it away.

May we, thusly secure, refrain from seeking revenge.  This is a matter of our character, not that of our enemies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Psalms 27-29   Leave a comment

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POST X OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Psalms 27, 28, and 29 are similar yet different; all of them praise God, in different contexts.  The author of Psalm 27 expresses ultimate confidence in God and anticipates living in the divine Presence in the afterlife.  Psalm 28, a royal thanksgiving to God for military victory, contains an unfortunate request for divine destruction of, not mercy toward, one’s enemies.  That Psalmist does not expect his foes to repent, or want them to do so.  Psalm 29 glorifies God in nature.  Also, both Psalms 27 and 29 echo Canaanite sacred texts.  They are not the only Psalms to do so.

Yahweh, as depicted in these texts, is a tribal deity.  That is why the author of Psalm 28 could pray devoutly for the destruction of the foes.  If one thinks of God as universal, however, one realizes that the foes of Psalm 28 are as much subject to divine judgment and mercy as the Hebrews are.  If one understands God as the only, universal deity, albeit without universal human recognition, one has an easier time praying for the repentance of one’s enemies.  Behavior becomes more important than national origin.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOANNA, MARY, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION

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Psalm 18   Leave a comment

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POST VI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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One tradition attributes Psalm 18 to King David, in the context of his victories over Philistines.  Davidic authorship is less than certain, given the ancient and widely accepted ancient custom of writing something then giving credit to a famous dead person.  What is certain, however, is that Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 22 are similar in content.

The author, writing as David, thanks God for the victories.  The line

Yahweh rewarded me because I was just

(Mitchell J. Dahood translation)

recurs.  The description of King David as just confounds me, even within the Psalm.  (Never mind the shabby treatment of Michal and the subsequent murder of Uriah the Hittite.)  This text reads like Davidic Dynastic propaganda to me.

The author’s descriptions of official violence disturb me.  The boasts of having pulverized, exterminated, and trampled his enemies as if they were dust, for example, are troubling.  I understand that violence is, under certain circumstances, a legitimate and necessary (for national defense) activity of a state or kingdom, but I think of it as a sad necessity, not a reason to boast.

Nevertheless, the author’s recognition of dependence upon God in triumph is refreshing.  It is easy to admit one’s dependence on God during difficult times, but perhaps less so when one is “on top.”  The urge to sing one’s own praises to the exclusion to those of God can be a powerful temptation.

May we glorify God during good times, bad times, and the times in between.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF JESUS

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Psalms 1-5   Leave a comment

Above:  Oasis, the Sahara, Between 1910 and 1915

Image Publisher = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-10739

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POST I OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Perhaps no word in the English language is more loaded than “God,” distinct from “god.”  My understanding of “God,” O reader, is certainly not exactly what yours is.  I know an Episcopal priest who has a good way of dealing with people who tell him they do not believe in God.  Father asks that person to describe God, in whom he or she does believe.  Inevitably Father does not believe in that God either.  He is, however, definitely a theist and a Christian.

So much for the word “God.”  What about the word “believe”?

To believe in, in full theological meaning, is to trust in.  As I have explained in person to the one person who has asked me to my face whether I believe in God, my answer depends on the meaning of the question.  If one is asking if I affirm the existence of God, my answer is “Yes, always.”  If, however, one wants to know if I trust in God, the answer is “Yes, most of the time.”  I would be less than honest if I were to indicate otherwise.

So, since trust in God is the real issue, how do we understand God, in whom we are supposed to trust?  Am I supposed to trust that God is the sort of figure who will, in the words of Psalm 3, strike my enemies across the face and break the teeth of the wicked?  Should I even desire that result?  If I do, that fact reflects negatively upon me.  Yes, I affirm that judgment and mercy coexist in the character of God, and that, when oppressors insist upon continuing to oppress and refrain from repenting, the deliverance of the victims is inherently bad news for their oppressors.  Yet I understand that my spiritual character ought to direct me to pray for the repentance, not the destruction, of oppressors.  Therefore I affirm that the recognition that, in the words of Psalm 5, evil cannot exist within God, is inconsistent with the portrayal of God as one who responds affirmatively to prayers for revenge.

Part of the difficulty of pondering the balance of divine judgment and mercy is not minimizing one of the two.  God is God; we are not.  Even the most powerful potentate (per Psalm 2) is insignificant compared to God.  God is neither a warm fuzzy nor a bastard.  We should avoid both extremes scrupulously.

Psalm 1 is, as the late Father Mitchell J. Dahood points out in his analysis of the text, the summary of the Book of Psalms.  The wicked might prosper and be powerful and influential in the meantime, but they will eventually perish; they will reap what they sow and be victims of themselves.  On the other hand, those who avoid the council and counsel (both words are accurate translations from the Hebrew text) of the wicked and refuse to join the company of the scoffers of God are still in the desert, albeit adjacent to sources of water.  They still depend upon God for everything and recognize that reality.  Life might not be easy or prosperous for them, but they have and will have eternal life–life in God, life of enjoying and glorifying God forever.  That is enough.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FLORA MACDONALD, CANADIAN STATESWOMAN AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF NANCY BYRD TURNER, POET, EDITOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE PIONEERING FEMALE EPISCOPAL PRIESTS, 1974 AND 1975

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New Life   1 comment

Above:   Samson in the Temple of Dagon, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Judges 16:1-5, 16-31

Psalm 119:17-24

Acts 20:7-12

John 6:37-40

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Samson was a foolish, reckless man who paved the way to his downfall.  His great accomplishment (deliverance for Israel) was also an act of revenge marked by a body count exceeding that to his life before then.  He was quite different from the author of Psalm 119, who was pious.

Eutychus was also foolish, for he fell asleep in a third-story window.  He suffered fatal injuries, but St. Paul the Apostle raised the young man from the dead.

New life is a theme in John 6:37-40, in which Jesus speaks of eternal and everlasting life.  In the Gospel of John eternal life is knowing God via Christ (17:3).  Everlasting life is simply the afterlife.  In Johannine theology there is no eternal life apart from God in Christ.  So may nobody commit the theological error of speaking or writing of eternity apart from God.

New life can be physical or spiritual, but it is also a gift from God.  May we use it for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-13-ackerman/

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Hesed   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Before David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-13a

Psalm 68:17-20

Revelation 19:1-10

Mark 8:1-10

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The reading from 2 Samuel 9 contains a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, which can mean “faith” or “kindness.”  For example, in 9:1 we read,

David inquired, “Is there anyone still left in the House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the other translation:

David asked, “Is there anyone left of the House of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Kindness is not always a simple matter.  Treating Mephibosheth, the self-described “dead dog” and crippled son of Jonathan with mercy and prestige is easy enough.   Furthermore, the miracle (the Feeding of the 4000) in Mark 8 is an example of extravagant and unambiguous kindness.  But what about the contents of the other readings?

Babylon (the Roman Empire) has fallen in Revelation 18.  The regime based on violence, oppression, and economic exploitation is no more.  Those who benefited from relationships to the empire mourn its passing.  We read of rejoicing in Heaven in Revelation 19.  But what about the innocent victims of the fall of the empire?  Might they also mourn the passing of the empire?

In Psalm 68 (a liturgy for a festival celebration in the Temple), taken in full, we read of God’s judgment and mercy.  Yes, divine hesed is present, but so is God crushing the heads of his enemies (verse 21).  As I have written repeatedly, good news for the oppressed is frequently catastrophic news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Perhaps the enemies whose heads God crushes were harming the widows and orphans mentioned in verse 5.

There is more than enough divine hesed to go around, but each of us has the individual responsibility to practice hesed toward each other also.  Furthermore, we have the collective responsibility to practice hesed institutionally, including as nation-states.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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