Sunday, April 26, 2015

Politicalish quotes

"Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." -- James Madison

"Democracy and majority rule confer an aura of legitimacy and respectability on acts that would otherwise be deemed tyrannical." -- Walter E. Williams

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." -- John Adams

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Christian nation?

I wrote the following letter to the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel newspaper. Letters to the editor can only be 350 words, so I had to edit it severely. I am posting the original letter here. It may lack context itself, without access to the letter it addresses. There are a number of people who argue about whether the United States is or ever was a Christian, and pick select quotes that will prove their point. 

In a letter to the editor on the April 22nd "Opinion Page" of the Daily Sentinel (p. 4a), Robert Martin writes to support Tom Rorie's debunking of America as a "Christian nation". I cannot comment on Rorie's writing, as I did not see it. But Mr. Martin does your readers a disservice by giving out of context quotes to prove his point. (Those interested in reviewing the context of any of these historical quotes may find them with simple Google searches.) Such selective quoting is part and parcel of the work of partisans on both sides of the "Christian nation"/"not a Christian nation" issue. 

His first quote by Washington is mis-referenced. This is from a letter to the General Committee of the United Baptist Churches in Virginia in May of 1789. Washington applauds their stand for religious liberty and appeals to them for the prayers. Immediately after what Mr. Martin quotes, Washington writes, "For you doubtless remember, that I have often expressed my sentiments, that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." He concludes saying, "In the mean time be assured, Gentlemen, that I entertain a proper sense of your fervent supplications to God for my temporal and eternal happiness."

When Adams writes "It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had any interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of heaven" the rest of the sentence is "...any more than those at work upon ships or houses, or labouring in merchandize or agriculture: it will for ever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses." While Adams believes those who developed the American systems of government were no more directly inspired than those who work on ships or houses, he went to indicate that he himself believed the system of government was founded on the basic Christian religion: "The experiment is made, and has completely succeeded: it can no longer be called in question, whether authority in magistrates, and obedience of citizens, can be grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion, without the monkery of priests, or the knavery of politicians."

Adams did write that "the best of all possible worlds [would have] no religion in it." But this was an exasperated Adams who thought it but then could not endorse it. The quote is from a letter written by John Adams on April 19, 1817 to Thomas Jefferson, which with context provides a better understanding. "The Parson [Parish Priest Lemuel Bryant] and the Pedagogue [Adams's Latin School Master Joseph Cleverly] lived much together, but were eternally disputing about Government and Religion. One day, when the Schoolmaster had been more than commonly fanatical, and declared "if he were a Monark, He would have but one Religion in his Dominions" The Parson coolly replied "Cleverly! You would be the best Man in the World, if You had no Religion." Twenty times, in the course of my late Reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible Worlds, if there were no Religion in it." ! ! ! But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company--I mean Hell."

In these examples I think we can see that Washington and Adams were not saying in the excerpts what might be assumed by the casual reader. As for Jefferson and Franklin, surely most understand that they were not "card-carrying" evangelical Christians. Yet they were not entirely antagonistic to some of the benefits of the religion, either. Franklin may have been one of the most unusual and eccentric of the Founding Fathers, and somewhat antagonist to organized religion. Yet it is apparently accurate that he concluded his Thursday, June 28, 1787, speech to the Constitutional Convention moving, "I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service." [This was reported by James Madison, and according to his report the Convention did not pass the motion.]

My point? Whether or not the United States of America was founded as a "Christian nation" is not a simple debate and will not be decided by quote-picking, whether done by Robert Martin or David Barton. There were many opinions among the founders about both politics and religion. But what we do know is this -- the United States of America was founded on the principle of the free exercise of all religions, or the free choice to not exercise any at all. Baptist minister John Leland advised, "Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."

Baptist minister John Leland of that same era gave very good advice, "Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians."

For those interested in reading the the contexts, most of this information can be found by searching the internet.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

With shape notes and a Sacred Harp

Here's a dab of doggerel for your day. Maybe some of you will enjoy it.

With shape notes and a Sacred Harp. C. M. (April 22, 2015)

1. There was a man in olden days
B. F. White was his name.
He made a friend in E. J. King
And taught him how to sing.

2. Together with their talents they
Compiled a great song book,
With shape notes and a Sacred Harp--
Well, that was all it took!

3. Young E. J. died before they could
Get their book back from press.
So B. F. took it on himself
To try to do his best.

4. He formed a music convention
They called Southern M. C.
It laid a solid foundation
From "A" to "Zynder-Zee."

5. The singing spread both near and far
Across the southern land;
To shape notes and The Sacred Harp,
A loyal faithful band.

6. When B. F. died there were no more
Editions of his book.
But lovers of the songs therein
Kept singing their hearts out.

7. Cooper and James and J. L. White
Decided that they could,
All take the book and revise it
For singers' future good.

8. The Densons came and did their part,
To add a future store
Of tunes made in the old time way
To sing on more and more.

9. The singings waned, but then blossomed
To spread from shore to shore;
And soon they couldn't be contained
Within the U.S. border.

10. Living composers write new tunes
In both important keys.
They write with strength, they write with power
With praise and energy.

11. With three song books and lots of heart
We're singing still today;
With shape notes and a Sacred Harp
In the old fashioned way.

12. We're singing loud, we're singing proud,
We're singing still today--
With shape notes and a Sacred Harp
In the old fashioned way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This day in Baptist history

* April 22 -- "On April 22, 1834, at Altona, across from Hamburg, Germany, Dr. Barnas Sears baptized, in the Elbe, Johann Gerhard Oncken and six others." 

Fundamentalist witch hunt?

In an opinion piece on The Daily Beast, Karl W. Giberson describes Professor Tom Oord as the latest casualty of The Fundamentalist Witch Hunt. Giberson is certainly no unbiased reporter, and I found it interesting the different ways he feels about intellectuals and "fundamentalists". The "fundamentalists" are political, threatened, irate, homophobic, warmongers out for a witch hunt. On the other hand, the "thinking evangelicals" like Oord are beloved, intellectual, popular, respected, gentle, educated, pastoral, and lastly, victims. I can add two more -- dishonest and deceitful. Yes, when professors hide in seminaries supported by Bible-believing people who expect their students to be taught in accord with the faith they hold they are deceiving the people and being dishonest with the denominations that hire them.

* Disagreeing with Oord doesn't constitute agreement with how his termination was handled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hamrick on Harmony, dispersed

"I think dispersed harmony is created throughout a piece of music where it is composed as most Sacred Harp composers do -- as horizontal strands rather than vertical chords. Each part is written so as to make it a singable tune of its own and this leads to 'open chords'. (Open chords being defined as chords in which another note can be inserted between the upper voices.) Sacred Harp composers move from 'open' to 'closed' chords without regard to where the change takes place in the phrase. Add to this the frequent crossing of voices throughout the composition, especially between treble and tenor, and we have two essential points in the style known as 'dispersed harmony'." -- Raymond Hamrick (in a letter to Hugh McGraw, November 1981)

I'm going to add this to my dispersed harmony definitions page, but wanted to post it here so folks might notice it. I thought it was interesting that Hugh and Raymond were discussing the correct meaning of 'dispersed harmony' as late as 1981.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Quotes from the words of Malcolm Muggeridge

"The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact." 

“For us humans, everything is permanent - until it changes, as we are immortal until we die” 

"People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to." 

"If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, the clenched fist or the phallus, Hitler or Hugh Hefner." 

"Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message." 

"All new news is old news happening to new people."

"Animistic savages prostrating themselves before a painted stone have always seemed to me to be nearer the truth than any Einstein or Bertrand Russell. As it might be pigs in a crowded sty, jostling and shoving to bury their snouts in the trough; until one of them momentarily lifts his snout upwards in the air, in so doing expressing the hope of all enlightenment to come; breaking off from his guzzling to point with his lifted snout to where the angels and archangels gather round God's throne."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Blood isn't thicker than water, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources.

“You must endeavour to enjoy the pleasure of doing good. That is all that makes life valuable. When I measure my own by that standard I am filled with confusion and despair.” -- Robert E. Lee

"The Word of God does not bow to contemporary culture." -- Dwight McKissic, Sr.

"What cruelly shapes and cripples the personality of one is as cruelly shaping and crippling the personality of the other." -- Lillian Smith

"Blood isn't thicker than the water of baptism!" -- H. B. Charles

"Only those who have been born of the Spirit of God truly know themselves as they really are: sinners in need of mercy." -- Ralph Dale

"I wonder what is must be to go up into the pulpit, and read somebody else’s sermon to the congregation. We read in the Bible of one thing that was borrowed, and the head of that came off; and I am afraid that the same thing often happens with borrowed sermons – the heads come off." -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"A doctrine in regression quickly becomes an item of convenience." -- Chris Johnson

"You may thunder, you may lighten, you may take the whip and flog a poor backslider; you can never flog him home. He must be drawn by mercy, by the goodness of God, which leads to repentance. How was Peter brought back? By that look which Jesus gave him, as he stood in the hall of the high priest; that look of mingled love and reproach." -- J. C. Philpot

Friday, April 17, 2015

10 reasons, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.