Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday BookReview: "Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow" by David Chappell

(first published August 5, 2011)

Here are excerpts from David Pence's review of A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow:

Faith in God allows a man to see more clearly into the reality of things but apparently it has taken [the atheist] David Chappell to write this penetrating book defining the civil rights movement as a religious revival. He plays the righteous pagan Virgil in guiding Christian Dante through the biblical prophetic theology and working of the Spirit which signaled the civil rights movement as the third American Awakening...

Education was NOT the key to prophetic religion. God, judgment, conversion, sin, demons, and miracles constitute the vocabulary of the prophets. Reverend King's God was a highly personal God -- the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not the god of the philosophers. He could be trusted in times of travail and prayed to in times of danger. Andrew Young was quoted: "The civil rights movement brought a resurgence of religious feeling in the South. When folks start shooting at you, you do a lot more praying." When Bayard Rustin was asked if King believed in the fundamentalist active personal God, he answered: "Oh, yes, profoundly; it always amazed me how he could combine this intensely philosophical analytical mind with this more or less fundamental -- well I don't like to say fundamentalist -- but abiding faith." As Thomas Gilmore, another civil rights veteran said: "The Holy Spirit guided us. I got strength facing the sheriff; he was the biggest man in the county, but I felt we were walking next to someone bigger. God is real, man." Years later Gilmore became the first black sheriff of his county.

Chappell has little time for the flatteners of history who in the name of "people's history" try to paint the civil rights struggle as the ever-present but under-reported fight of the common man against oppression. Chappell argues that something happened here that was extraordinary indeed; and the people who stepped out of the routines of their everyday lives to enter the political arena and national historical narrative were extraordinary people. He found the source of their courage and hope (that "stone of hope" they somehow chipped from the mountain of despair). What is unique about his study is that he does not stress the easy lesson that the biblical prophetic tradition was a foe to racism. He instead contrasts prophetic religion as a more effective and truthful actor for justice than position-paper rationalistic liberalism. What did those Baptist preachers (Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King, and Fred Shuttlesworth) know and do that eluded Gunnar Myrdal, John Dewey, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and Lionel Trilling? Chappell's answer is that the civil rights movement was not the inevitable maturation and triumph of philosophical liberalism. It was not education for progress. Rather it was a Spirit-driven melding of characters and events living out the biblical narrative by confronting the soul of a nation. This prophetic witness employed a "coercive non-violence" necessary to confront evil and the men wedded to it. Such nonviolence is much more like war than pacifism, and is grounded in a realistic Christian anthropology which saw both struggle and an embrace of "unrequited suffering" as the redemptive route to justice. It was a stunning paradox of this fitting time that there was no group more convicted by this witness -- not into joining the cause but chastened to inaction -- than Southern evangelicals who were also seeking a renewal of lived-out religion in the daily life of the nation.

Returning military veterans of WWII and Korea -- as well as preachers -- infused the civil rights movement with the intersecting language and claims of religion, patriotism, and righteous warfare. The charismatic soldier-preacher Fred Shuttlesworth of Birmingham said in 1958: "This is a religious crusade, a fight between light and darkness, right and wrong, fair play and tyranny. We are assured of victory because we are using weapons of spiritual warfare." In 1964 the fire still burned in the man whose eloquence was only surpassed by his courage. "We have faith in America and still believe that Birmingham and Alabama will rise to their heights of glory in race relations. And we shall be true to our ideals as a Christian nation."


The civil rights movement "carried the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other." This crucial book by an atheist historian should challenge American Christians to distinguish the great religious awakening of the civil rights movement from the contrary spirits of black power and the sexual revolution. These profane pretenders have hobbled our national gait. Black and white evangelicals are now religious brethren separated into the voting army "bases" of two opposing parties. How long, asked Elijah, can Israel hobble on... divided between Baal and Yahweh? Can the third great awakening stir American Christians to be united again, promising a second Reconstruction more just than the first? Chappell's book gives no answer but he has led us to the question.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

"This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope."
                    (Reverend King, 28 August 1963)


Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Russians' strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations"

George Friedman makes the wise point that Mother Russia -- having survived so many wrenching changes and privations -- resides in a vastly foreign sphere, with strengths and weaknesses alien to our own.


This excerpt from Archbishop Sheen (from a post several years ago at Mundabor website) sublimely illuminates the point:
“The modern world, which denies personal guilt and admits only social crimes, which has no place for personal repentance but only public reforms, has divorced Christ from His Cross; the Bridegroom and Bride have been pulled apart. What God hath joined together, men have torn asunder. As a result, to the left is the Cross; to the right is the Christ”. […] Communism comes along and picks up the meaningless Cross; Western post-Christian civilization chooses the unscarred Christ.”
“Communism has chosen the Cross in the sense that it has brought back to an egotistic world a sense of discipline, self-abnegation, surrender, hard work, study, and dedication to supraindividual goals. But the Cross without Christ is sacrifice without love. Hence, Communism has produced a society that is authoritarian, cruel, oppressive of human freedom, filled with concentrantion camps, firing squads, and brain-washings.”
“The Western post-Christian civilization has picked up the Christ without His Cross. But a Christ without a sacrifice that reconciles the world to God is a cheap, feminized, colorless, itinerant preacher who deserves to be popular for His great Sermon on the Mount, but also merits unpopularity for what He said about His Divinity on the one hand, and divorce, judgment, and hell on the other. This sentimental Christ is patched together with a thousand commonplaces. […] Without His Cross, He becomes nothing more than a sultry precursor of democracy or a humanitarian who taught brotherhood without tears."
“The problem now is: Will the Cross, which Communism holds in its hands, find Christ before the sentimental Christ of the Western world finds the Cross? It is our belief that Russia will find the Christ before the western world unites Christ with His Redemptive Cross."


                      - Lyubov Glukhova

"Ye who have gone into deep, dark forests,
Taking no sword, but only a cross,
Ye who have built such mighty churches,
Solely by virtue of ardent faith,
Ye the creators of Holy Russia,
Champions strong of its holy truth,
Its intercessors in God’s high kingdom,
Fathers on earth of its Orthodox Church,
Ye who have burned with the fire of purity
All through the narrow and somber ages,
Rise as a wondrously shining banner
Over the sadness of native woods!
Having lost the shrines of our homeland,
We wander in sweat and dust of despair…
Pray for us sinners, o dear holy hierarchs,
O holy saints of the Russian land!"


Monday, December 15, 2014

Map on Monday: The British Empire

The map above (click to enlarge or click here to see the original map) depicts the territories once belonging to the vast British Empire. Declared as "the empire on which the sun never sets," the British Empire ruled over one-fifth of the world's population in 1922 (458 million people) and covered almost a quarter of the globe's land areas (13,012,000 square miles). A casual glance at the map reveals the global impact of the English language long predates the postwar rise of the United States.

Although its expansion began much later than that of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the British Empire began to catch up by establishing colonies in North America and the Caribbean. The rise of the joint-stock companies of the colonial era in Britain and the Netherlands led both nations to challenge Portuguese dominance in Asian trade and territorial control. American independence further pushed the British Empire to the Far East and Pacific. During the 19th century, the British Empire gained impressive influence in Africa and the Mideast.

Despite its impressive military, economic, and territorial might, Great Britain found itself bankrupt following the two world wars (indeed, it only finished repaying a multi-billion dollar postwar loan to the United States in 2006). Today Great Britain controls fourteen, semi-autonomous areas entitled the British Overseas Territories. Below is a map of these territories (click to enlarge):

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 13

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
India's Narenda Modi is a very different leader of the second most populous nation on earth. Deeply religious and eminently practical, he is a harbinger of the new nationalists who will emerge not only amidst the Asian nations but in Europe and South America as well. The post-Cold War international landscape is a multipolar world. Nations and their leaders will define many of the new magnetic poles of gravity.

The House resolution on Russia seems bad history and bad policy. That old cold warrior Pat Buchanan has a crusty constitutionalist objection.

Immigration is foreign policy too. An article by Minneapolis StarTribune writer Doug Tice asks just those questions that might foster a pivot to the Americas in national policy.

A historical question that must inform future policy: Did NAFTA help Mexico? Here is an unbiased but negative reply.

The drop in oil prices we notice at the gas pump affects the nations in diverse ways. Oil producers like Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and Mideast states are hurt. Large agricultural countries (China and India) are helped. Here's a good summary.

Written by an American diplomat in Russia at the time of the the dissolution of the Soviet Union, here is a brief review of the missed moment in US strategy during the Bush senior and Clinton years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12: Queen of Mexico, Our Lady of the Americas

by David Pence

On October 12, 1492, Cristobal Colon named the land he sighted on the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar after her son: San Salvador. Thirty years later (1519-1521) Hernando Cortez would defeat Montezuma and the Aztec Empire, establishing the new Spain and eventually the nation of Mexico. Ten years later (1532-33) his second cousin, Francisco Pizarro, would defeat Emperor Atahualpa of the Incas in Peru. These military victories would set the groundwork for the Spanish nations of South and Central America.

In the same era another event would lay the “true spiritual foundation of America -- and of all the nations of the Americas -- North and South.” The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Nahuatl convert Juan Diego (December 1531) would synthesize the indigenous natives and Spanish warriors into a single La Raza. She appeared as an Aztecan beauty and told Juan Diego’s uncle (whom she healed) that her name would be Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This was the same name as the black Madonna of Castile – an inspiration to the Catholic warriors who established the nation of Spain through the Reconquista against the Muslims. That centuries-long war ended in 1492 just as Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) planted the Christian tree in the Americas. She said she would be “the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind.” She was both of the natives and of the Spaniards, and she left Castilian roses and the name of a river in Spain to accompany her beautiful native countenance.

As Catholics gather in ever growing numbers on this American feast day, let us honor Mary and her Son by deepening our public bonds of religion and  national citizenship. Our Lady of Guadalupe integrated cultures in her very person and provided a path to the syncretistic national identities of 8 million converted Aztec Indians and the evangelizing Catholic conquistadors.  Gathering to acknowledge her loving motherhood, hundreds of miles north and half a millenium later, may our liturgical actions forge the new personalities of Catholic nation men who belong to the supernatural organic community of the Eucharistic Church as well as the covenanted civic brotherhoods of our respective nations.

Bishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who called her appearance “the spiritual foundation of the Americas,” has written a little masterpiece on immigration: Renewing the Soul of our Nation. He categorizes immigration reform as a religious project, for America is a spiritual adventure. It is here in America that Chesterton says a “cosmic commonwealth” is being formed by “molding many peoples into the visible image of the citizen.” Bishop Gomez, unlike  many immigration proponents, sees a restoration of the idea of citizenship and an integrating Americanization as the necessary spiritual alternative to the "anarchy of diversity" and the destructive bias of "our elites" against "the ideals of citizenship and integration around a common national identity."

On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Catholics across the Americas will unite as brothers and sisters under our common mother. On other days our civic task will be to reestablish the distinct religious national brotherhoods of the United States and Mexico, which have been so frayed and torn in this age of atheism. May Our Lady’s cloak provide us the spiritual graces to mend our sacred flags and meet our complementary destinies as Christian nations acting in history to fulfill God’s Providence.


Monday, December 8, 2014

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: She who is the greatest instrument of the Holy Spirit

(first published December 8, 2013)


On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, here is part of a prayer by Saint Maximilian Kolbe:
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you…
For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin. 
R. Give me strength against your enemies.

Father Kolbe organized his spiritual Militia in fealty to her who "cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Song 6:9).

UPDATE -- Ponder this beautiful prayer that Pope Francis wrote to the Immaculata for the December 2014 feast [from 'Whispers in the Loggia' site]:

"O Mary, our mother,
today the People of God feast in hailing you as Immaculate,
preserved forever from the contagion of sin.
Receive the homage I offer you in the name of the Church
that is in Rome and across the whole world.

To know that you, who are our Mother, are totally free from sin
gives us great comfort.
To know that, over you, evil has no power, renews our hope and strength
in the daily struggle that we must undertake
against the threats of the evil one.

But in this fight we're not alone, we are not orphans, because Jesus,
before dying on the cross,
gave you to us as our Mother.
We, then, while being sinners, are your children,
sons and daughters of the Immaculate one,
called to that holiness which shines in you from the beginning by God's grace.

Enlivened by this hope,
we today seek your motherly protection for us,
for our families, for this city, for the entire world.
May the power of God's love, which preserved you from original sin,
through your intercession, free all humanity from every spiritual and material slavery,
and make victorious, in our hearts and in events, the design of the salvation of God.

Make it so for us, your children, that grace might prevail over pride
and that we might become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.
In this time that leads us to the feast of the Birthday of Jesus,
teach us to go against the current:
to strip ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give of ourselves;
to listen, to be quiet, to focus away from ourselves,
so to make space for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.

O our Immaculate Mother, pray for us!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 6

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
The cardinal rules of policing are a good place to start in any discussion of Ferguson and New York. The police are the public and the public are the police.

Before Hitler established the German Reich on blood and soil, Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the 20th Century alluded to ridding the multinational empires of extra nationalities. His book was considered an intellectual cornerstone of Nazi ideology. The new German Reich would annex Austria but not take in all the warring nationalities which caused WWI Germans to describe their alliance with the Austrian Empire as "being tied to a corpse." The young Turks who emerged from the multinational Ottoman Empire would define their new nation in more restricted ethnic terms. They cleansed the Orthodox Armenians and Hitler noted their methods decades before his own nation-building by racial cleansing. The emergence of Turkey was more a secular racial nationalism than a quest for an Islamic identity. Pakistan was the one truly deliberately Muslim nation, just as Israel was a deliberately Jewish homeland. Interestingly, the founders were not as religiously motivated as they were building national walls that would protect them from their enemies. Whether Saudi Arabia can be considered a state built to protect Islamic holy lands or a family exploiting the holy sites of Mecca and Medina is considered here.

The most disastrous foreign policy error of the baby-boomer presidents has been the failure to normalize relations with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here is a good one year review of the aftermath of our Ukraine policy.

Here is a very helpful essay in understanding the historical ups and downs of the Islamic understanding of the Caliphate -- not surprisingly, a far cry from the reverberations of today's media.

On November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration regarding their wishes for full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Preceding the signing, both the Pope and Patriarch addressed each other in terms of the apostolic fraternity in Christ that bound the brothers Peter and Andrew more deeply than family. Here are the texts of the two addresses and the joint declaration.