Category Archives: North America

Fred Rogers — February 27

Fred Rogers

Bible connection

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

All about Fred Rogers (1928-2003)

Fred Rogers, television pioneer and gentle subversive for Jesus, was born in 1928 in Latrobe, PA. He went to a local high school and studied piano at Dartmuth and Rollins College (Florida), graduating in 1951. While taking a break from college to visit his parents, he saw their newest favorite gadget: the television. He had mixed feelings about the programming, but he was inspired to use the powerful medium for something wonderful.

Rogers married Sara Byrd in 1952; they had two sons. He got one of his first jobs working at a local Pittsburgh community television station, WQED. He became one of the pioneers in the field as part of a team who improvised the Children’s Corneralso serving as puppeteer. While developing meaningful content for kids, Rogers also finished his Masters of Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. After he was ordained by the Presbyterian Church USA in 1963, the church charged him to create quality children’s programming.

He moved to Toronto in 1963 to play Mister Rogers in a show for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). Here he further developed several characters and songs that would become famous. That 15-minute program was called Misterogers. In 1966, he acquired the rights to various elements of the show and moved back to Pittsburgh to work with WQED. He began Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, for which he wrote most of the scripts, the music, played several of the characters. In 1968, PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) began broadcasting Mister Rogers Neighborhood all across the country. Rogers hosted the program until 2000.

During its run of daily episodes, Rogers hardly embellished his offscreen personality (besides the puppets, of course) because he thought authenticity was a gift to kids. He did not endorse any products and only served as a spokesperson for a few non-profits dealing with education. He visited children in the Pittsburgh hospitals regularly and volunteered inside a state prison. When PBS’ funding was under fire by a Senate Committee in 1969, Rogers gave a key testimony that saved the network.

The show was very simple and did not include fast-paced action or over-stimulating animations, which Rogers called “bombardment.” Wearing the famous zip-up cardigans knitted by his mother, Mister Rogers talked directly to his audience imaginatively and engagingly. He “took them” on field trips to see how crayons were made and explored themes of being afraid, going to school, how good it feels to be able to control your temper, teaching kids that they have worth and to love themselves and others. He brought in various guests including several recurring characters. In each episode a trolley would come into his living room and take the audience to the land of make believe. His opening and closing songs, as well as the changing of jackets to sweaters and shoes to sneakers helped us all feel like he actually was our neighbor.

Rogers won 4 Emmysplus a Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award. The acceptance speech for the lifetime achievement (given mostly to talkshow hosts & soap opera stars) became famous, as he used 10 seconds of silence for the crowd and the viewers to think about the people who loved them into being who they are [link]. Rogers was given numerous other honors over the years including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (@ 21:22) and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (great speech).

Rogers was known and admired for his calm and quirky personality and a devoted faith. He was known to swim every day, ate a vegetarian diet, and was red-green colorblind. Shortly after the last shows aired in 2001, Fred Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The operations were not successful, and he died at home surrounded by his wife and family on this day in 2003, just before he turned 75.

More

FredRogers.org [link]

Obituary [link]

Tom Hanks talks about playing the icon Rogers has become [Today Show]

What do we do with this?

Fred Rogers gently infiltrated the most powerful means of communication of his time and used it to relentlessly advance his example of love and his background message: the teachings of Jesus. He even took the thoughts of the Senate and the Emmy Awards presentation “captive.” The scripture for today calls us to be so clever and so bold. How do you see your role in your environment? Chances there are arguments and opinions raised against the revelation of God in Jesus. What is your strategy for getting the love and truth of Jesus into the mix? Pray about that.

Fanny J. Crosby — February 12

Fanny J Crosby

Bible connection

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”

And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”  So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.”  

Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. – Mark 10:46-52

All about Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915)

Francis Jane Crosby wrote more than 9,000 hymns, some of which are among the most popular in every Christian denomination. She wrote so many that she was forced to use pen names lest the hymnals be filled with her name above all others. And, for most people, the most remarkable thing about her was that she had done so in spite of her blindness. What many don’t consider is that she also did it in spite of her lifelong struggle with depression and isolation.

“I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when he showered so many other gifts upon you,” remarked one well-meaning preacher. Fanny Crosby famously responded, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” Born in Putnam County, New York, Crosby became ill within two months. Unfortunately, the family doctor was away, and another man—pretending to be a certified doctor—prescribed a treatment that left her blind. A few months later, Crosby’s father died. Her mother was forced to find work as a maid to support the family.

Her love of poetry began early—her first verse, written at age 8, echoed her lifelong refusal to feel sorry for herself:

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t,
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot, and I won’t!

She zealously memorized the Bible. Memorizing five chapters a week, even as a child she could recite the Pentateuch, the Gospels, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many psalms chapter and verse.

Her mother’s hard work allowed her to attend the recently founded New York Institute for the Blind, which was her home for 23 years — 12 as a student, 11 as a teacher. She gave herself to poetry and was called upon to offer poems for various occasions. One principal considered her art vanity. But the prophecy of a traveling phrenologist, of all people, changed the school’s mind and re-ignited her passion: “Here is a poetess. Give her every possible encouragement. Read the best books to her and teach her the finest that is in poetry. You will hear from this young lady some day.”

That day came sooner than later. By age 23 Crosby was addressing Congress and making friendships with presidents. In fact, she knew all the chief executives of her lifetime, especially Grover Cleveland, who served as secretary for the Institute for the Blind before his election. After graduation from the NYIB in 1843, Crosby joined a group of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. arguing for support of education for the blind. She was the first woman to speak in the United States Senate when she read a poem there. She appeared before the joint houses of Congress and recited these lines:

O ye, who here from every state convene,
Illustrious band! may we not hope the scene
You now behold will prove to every mind
Instruction hath a ray to cheer the blind.

In 1844, when she was 24, she published a collection of poetry titled The Blind Girl and Other Poems (a bestseller which is still in print).  She was inspired to write it when she was speaking about the value of placing blind children in an institution like the one in which she grew up.

The tears, warm gushing on her cheek,
Told what no language e’er could speak;
While their young hearts were light and gay,
Her hours passed heavily away –
A mental night was o’er her thrown;
She sat dejected, and alone….
Alas! How bitter is my lot
Without a friend—without a home—
Alone—unpitied and forgot—
A sightless orphan, now I roam….

But He who marks the sparrow’s fall
Will hear the helpless orphan’s call.
My mother bid me trust his care,
He will not leave me to despair.”…
How changed that sightless orphan now:
No longer clouded is her brow..
If o’er the past her memory stray,
Then music’s sweet and charming lay,
Drives each dark vision from her breast
And lulls each heaving sigh to rest.

In the poem, we can hear the battle she will wage the rest of her life with depression. She seems to be dealing with her automatic thoughts with poetry, music and positivity.

Another member of the institute, former pupil Alexander van Alstine, married Crosby in 1858. Considered one of New York’s best organists, he wrote the music for many of Crosby’s hymns. Crosby herself wrote music for only a few of her poems, though she played harp, piano, guitar, and other instruments. More often, musicians came to her for lyrics. For example, one day musician William Doane dropped by her home for a surprise visit, begging her to put some words to a tune he had recently written and which he was to perform at an upcoming Sunday School convention. The only problem was that his train to the convention was leaving in 35 minutes. He sat at the piano and played the tune. “Your music says, ‘Safe in the Arms of Jesus,’” Crosby said, scribbling out the hymn’s words immediately. “Read it on the train and hurry. You don’t want to be late!” The hymn became one of Crosby’s most famous.

Though she was under contract to submit three hymns a week to her publisher and often wrote six or seven a day (for a dollar or two each), many became incredibly popular. Crosby became known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers” and as the “Mother of modern congregational singing in America.” Ira Sankey attributed the success of the Moody and Sankey evangelical campaigns largely to Crosby’s hymns. They are still sung by all sorts of Christians all over the world as this sampling demonstrates: Blessed Assurance, All the Way My Savior Leads MeTo God Be the GloryPass Me Not, O Gentle Savior, Rescue the Perishing Praise Him! Praise Him!, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, He Hideth My Soul.

At the end of her life, Fanny’s concept of her vocation was not that of a celebrated gospel songwriter, but that of a city mission worker. In 1880, aged 60, Crosby made a new commitment to Christ to devote the rest of her life to serve the poor. She lived in a dismal flat near one of the worst slums in Manhattan until about 1884. In an interview published in  1908 Crosby said her chief occupation was working in missions. She was aware of the great needs of immigrants and the urban poor, and was passionate to help those around her through urban rescue missions and other compassionate ministry organizations.  This was a flowering of her conviction, not something new. She said, “From the time I received my first check for my poems, I made up my mind to open my hand wide to those who needed assistance.” Throughout her life, she was described as having “a horror of wealth,” never set prices for her speaking engagements, often refused honoraria, and “what little she did accept she gave away almost as soon as she got it.”

She could write very complex hymns and compose music with a more classical structure (she could even improvise it), but she preferred to write simple, sentimental verses that could be used for evangelism. She continued to write her poetry up to her death, a month shy of her ninety-fifth birthday. “You will reach the river brink, some sweet day, bye and bye,” was her last stanza.

More

45-minute bio

A three-minute version from the Methodists:

What do we do with this?

Some people today look back on Fanny J. Crosby from a perspective of “psychotherapeutic holiness.” Their questions have merit, since many Christians deal with their depression with can-do religion, through spiritual bypass and by following examples like Fanny J. Crosby. But casting blanket aspersions might not be fair. Fanny had a genius about her, or a revelation that allowed her to pull health-giving decisions out of the air. Maybe, in her case, depression was just what she needed to perfect trust in God. At least that’s what she thought.

Your genius might present some problems for you, too.  What is your best route to giving your gifts without denying the suffering that might diminish them or just might refine them? Maybe you should write a poem about that and find a musician to make it a hymn.

Richard Twiss — February 9

Richard Twiss

Bible connection

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish. — John 1:14 (The Message)

All about Richard Twiss (1954-2013)

Richard, Tayoate Ob Najin (He Stands With His People), was born on the Rosebud Reservation (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) in South Dakota in 1954. His father was a member of the Oglala Sioux from Pine Ridge Reservation, also in South Dakota. After his parents separated when he was seven years old, Richard moved to Denver, CO with his mother during a period of Indian urbanization (see the Federal Indian Relocation Act). They eventually moved to Oregon where Richard finished high school. They made visits back to the Rez, staying in touch with relatives.

Twiss moved back to Rosebud to attend his first year of college at Sinte Gleska (Spotted Tail) University where he became involved with the radical politics of the American Indian Movement (AIM). He participated in the famous takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in 1971. He wandered and experimented with many substances. One night in 1974 on the island of Maui, Jesus responded to Richard’s desperate prayer. There began a transformation that was coming into its fullness at the end of his life as a Lakota follower of the Jesus Way.

Two years after meeting Jesus, he married Katherine (Scottish and Norwegian decent) while living in an intentional community in Alaska. Together, they had four sons. Richard served as pastor of a mostly white church (their family being the notable exception) in Washington State for over a decade. While there, Richard felt a nudging of the Holy Spirit. Across the US and Canada and around the world, Indigenous People were sloughing off the colonial residue that lifted up dominant cultural norms above other God-endowed cultures such as their own. This residue is typified by the U.S. policy of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” that resulted in the abuses of the  residential schools.

In 1997, he and Katherine began Wiconi International, a non-profit ministry “to work for the well-being of our Native people by advancing cultural formation, indigenous education, spiritual awareness and social justice connected to the teachings and life of Jesus, through an indigenous worldview framework.” Richard taught and spoke in many contexts, local to the Portland area, around the U.S. and the world. Richard not only taught about the wonders of creation but also the negative impact of Christian mission in the U.S. — all with his disarming sense of humor. He received a doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2011 (Intercultural Studies) and authored two books One Church, Many Tribes: following Jesus the Way God Made You and Rescuing Theology from the Cowboys: An Emerging Indigenous Expression of the Jesus Way in North America as well as many articles. His contributions to contextualizing the gospel have been a source of healing and inspiration for Indians and non-natives.

Richard Twiss was one of the founders of the North American Institute for Indigenous Studies, an Indigenous learning community that now includes several seminary programs. He served on the board of directors of the Christian Community Development Association and the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland and others as well as being the U.S. representative for the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples.

Dr. Twiss did not live without critics of his work from within native communities and from Christians. Toward the end of his life, he often talked about the next generation carrying on the work. He had a knack for expressing love and including people. His capacity to forgive astonished many but did not dissuade him from working for justice or inspiring people to fall deeper in love with Jesus and walk in His Way.

In 2013, while in Washington, DC to participate in the National Prayer Breakfast, Richard suffered a massive heart attack. He died three days later on February 9th, surrounded by his wife and their four sons at 58 years of age.

Richard Twiss often received credit for the work and wisdom of his community because of his notoriety and charisma. He thought that was funny. He did not promote himself nearly as much as he did the movement. His goal was to build the community. He gathered people, encouraged them to love and give of themselves to fulfill a vision of reconciliation, to move toward what his close friend Randy Woodley describes as “the community of creation.” He always tried to speak from a place of community, and did not strive to be a celebrity as much as demonstrate the Lakota value of being Ikce Wicasa, a common human person.

More

A short article for Mission Frontiers “Making Jesus Known in Knowable Ways” [link]

Video of Richard’s keynote speech at CCDA 2011 [link]

Wiconi International’s Youtube page, several short pieces [link]

Red Letter Christians’ tribute page to Richard [link]

What do we do with this?

Richard Twiss did not have an intact family or an easy youth, yet Jesus called him, healed him, and made him an influential proponent of radical Christianity. Consider how Jesus is calling you.

This ancestor in faith may have introduced you to many aspects of American culture that were unfamiliar to you. Spend some time learning and allow your heart to become large enough to include brother and sisters unlike you.

John R. Mott — January 31

Bible connection

But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:8-17 

All about John R. Mott (1865-1955)

John Mott stood before the fabled 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference and said, “It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the twentieth century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled. … The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known.”

His evangelistic passion made Mott his generation’s most popular evangelist to university students and the promoter of the emerging ecumenical movement.

Mott was born in New York but raised by parents who settled in Iowa. They nurtured his faith and duty. While he was in college at Cornell University, C. T. Studd, the famous cricket-player-turned-evangelist struck him with these words: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” That same year, at the 1886 Northfield Student Conference led by Dwight L. Moody, Mott stepped up and became one of the 100 men who volunteered for foreign missions.

Mott’s destiny, however, lay not in foreign missions but in evangelizing college students and inspiring others to foreign mission work. He became college secretary of the YMCA in 1888, when the organization was consciously evangelical and aggressively evangelistic. That same year, he helped organize the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), which he led for thirty years. By the time he spoke at SVM’s 1951 convention, over 20,000 volunteers had gone to mission fields through its efforts.

Mott’s energies could not be bound by one or even two such organizations, no matter their scope. In 1895 he helped found the World Student Christian Association and traveled some 2 million miles to further the federation’s dream: to “unite in spirit as never before the students of the world,” and so hasten the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer, “that all may be one.” On every continent he visited, he established immediate rapport with students and church leaders, who flocked to hear him speak. His reputation for irenic yet impassioned appeal for dedication to the kingdom of God grew; heads of state sympathetic to his mission honored him upon arrival and consulted him in private.

In 1893 he helped found the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, and in 1910, he helped pull together and chair the massive Edinburgh Missionary Conference—its 1,200 delegates represented 160 mission boards or societies.

All these movements, and a few more with which Mott was involved, eventually blossomed at the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948. Mott was not only officially named honorary president at the inaugural session, he has come to be remembered as the “father of the ecumenical movement.”

By the time Mott was 32, he was called “Protestantism’s leading statesman,” at 58, the “father of the young people of the world,” and at age 81, in 1946, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In an era when liberals and fundamentalists debated fiercely, Mott took a middle view: “Evangelism without social work is deficient; social work without evangelism is impotent.” Still, evangelism was his first love. The title of his bestselling 1900 book is The Evangelization of the World in This Generation, and in his last public appearance, he said, “While life lasts, I am an evangelist.”

More

Mott used as an object lesson for the men’s group: you must rest:

A participant’s description of John Mott’s chairmanship at the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference:

When he himself addresses an assembly, [he] knits and kindles the craggy tender face; the voice vibrates with fierce emphases and stresses. … The single words seem literally to fall from his lips (the trite expression is for once justified), finished off with a deliberation that never slurs one final consonant, but on the contrary gives that consonant the duty of driving its word home. And as for the sentences also—the conclusion of each, instead of dropping in tone, increases to a sort of defiant sforzando, which, when his earnestness is at its height, can be terrific.

History from the Nobel Committee:

Friendship among Christians Brings Peace

The Peace Prize for 1946 was awarded to the head of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American John Raleigh Mott, who according to the Nobel Committee had contributed to the creation of a peace-promoting religious brotherhood across national boundaries.

Mott grew up in a settler family in Iowa, strongly influenced by Puritan ideals, and took a bachelor’s degree in history at Cornell University. As a student Mott received a religious call to spread the Gospel, after which he devoted most of his life to the YMCA, to missionary activities, and ecumenical work.

As general-secretary of the International Committee of the YMCA and president of YMCA’s World Committee, Mott sought to advance understanding and reconciliation. He organized youth exchanges, set up study groups, and arranged international youth camps. Mott was at the same time a leading figure in the field of international Christian student and missionary cooperation, and took part during both World Wars in relief work for prisoners of war. He criticised the oppression of colonial peoples and was a pioneer in the struggle against racial discrimination.

Founding of the YMCA

History of the World Council of Churches from their site.

What do we do with this?

John R. Mott crossed all sort so lines to forge alliances. He carried a gospel of reconciliation all over the world and became famous for his good will and trustworthy character. He is a good example of the best of Evangelicalism and the “muscular” Christianity of the early 20th century. Mott was a tireless proponent of a vision that “all would be one” in Christ. What do you see as a vision worth devoting your future to?

Mahalia Jackson — January 27

Mahalia Jackson

Bible connection

Yes, all who are incensed against you
    shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
    I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:11-13

Mahalia Jackson singing live in Chicago. She was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mahalia sang this song at the March on Washinton just before King gave the “I have a dream” speech. (Rod loves her).

All about Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)

Mahalia Jackson was an American gospel singer. She had a powerful contralto voice. Even more, she had a powerful spirit that led people to name her “The Queen of Gospel.” She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was known internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She recorded over 30 albums during her career (mostly for Columbia Records), and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” in front of 250,000 people. That was the same event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech. She sang to crowds at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and was accompanied by “wonderboy preacher” Al Sharpton. She sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at Dr. King’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

Earlier, in 1956, she met Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Baptist Convention. A few months later, both King and Abernathy contacted her about coming to Montgomery, Alabama, to sing at a rally to raise money for the bus boycott. Despite death threats, Jackson agreed to sing in Montgomery. By the time she got there, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In Montgomery, the ruling was not yet put into effect, so the bus boycott continued. The concert was a success, but when she returned to the Abernathy’s home, it had been bombed.

Mahalia Jackson once said: “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free.” Asked about her choice of gospel music, she said, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

Jackson’s last years were a mix of heartbreak and great success. Through friends, Jackson met Sigmond Galloway, a former musician in the construction business.  To the surprise of her closest friends and associates, she married him in her living room in 1964. A few weeks later, she had had a heart attack. Her recovery took a full year during which she was unable to tour or record, ultimately losing 50 pounds.

Galloway proved to be unreliable, leaving for long periods during Jackson’s convalescence, then upon his return insisting she was imagining her symptoms. He tried taking over managerial duties from agents and promoters despite being inept. They argued over money; Galloway attempted to strike Jackson on two different occasions, the second one was thwarted when Jackson ducked and he broke his hand hitting a piece of furniture behind her. The marriage dissolved and she announced her intention to divorce. He responded by requesting a jury trial, rare for divorces, in an attempt to embarrass her by publicizing the details of their marital problems. When Galloway’s infidelities were proven in testimony, the judge declined to award him any of Jackson’s assets or properties.

Her doctors cleared her to work and Jackson began recording and performing again. When not on tour, she concentrated her efforts on building two philanthropies: the Mahalia Jackson Foundation which eventually paid tuition for 50 college students, and a nondenominational temple for young people in Chicago to learn gospel music. She worked toward the latter for ten years.  As she organized two large benefit concerts for these causes, she was once more heartbroken upon learning of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1968 and 1969 Jackson toured Europe. In the next few years she had successful tours of the Caribbean, Liberia, Japan, and enjoyed a U.S. State Department sponsored a visit to India. While touring Europe months after India, Jackson became ill in Germany and flew home to Chicago where she was hospitalized. In January 1972, she received surgery to remove a bowel obstruction and died in recovery. Her body was returned to New Orleans where she lay in state at Rivergate Auditorium under a military and police guard while over 60,000 people filed through to view her casket.

More

Branching out into business, Jackson partnered with comedian Minnie Pearl in a chain of restaurants called Mahalia Jackson’s Chicken Dinners and lent her name to a line of canned foods.

Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story (2022 film)

“Sweet Little Jesus Boy” on the  Ed Sullivan Show (1960)

 

What do we do with this?

Right now, let yourself be happy. Let the blues be lifted because God is with you.

If you really want to follow Mahalia’s example, sing! Try it right now. If you are in public, or with someone else in your home, do it anyway. That would be even more like her.

Thomas Dorsey — January 23

The Father of Gospel Music Wanted to Be a Secular Star

Bible connection

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. — Ephesians 5:18-20

All about Thomas Dorsey (1899-1993)

Thomas Dorsey was 33 years old and had a flourishing career in secular music. In the previous fifteen years, the Georgia native had moved to Chicago, completed his musical studies while picking up an endless number of side jobs, and eventually found a way to support himself and his expectant wife as a full-time musician. But it wasn’t to last. In the next months Dorsey lost his wife and newborn son, a tragedy which spurred him to heed the advice of those closest to him. He left the secular music scene behind and fully dedicated his musical gifts to the church.

Over the next 60 years, Dorsey became known as the “Father of Gospel Music,” writing hundreds of songs and redefining the genre in beat, rhythm, and tempo. As The Voice reported, the Chicago musician dubbed his work “songs with a message.”

Here’s the full story:

Thomas A. Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, a small town outside of Atlanta, in 1899, the son of an itinerant Baptist preacher. When his father and mother married, his mother brought a significant amount of land. But within a few years, the family lost their property, allegedly due to back taxes. Thomas’s father, a respected teacher and preacher, was forced to work as a sharecropper on the very land formerly owned by his wife’s family. In 1908 the Dorseys moved to Atlanta where both parents worked to help the family survive.

The adjustment wasn’t easy for Thomas. He was placed a year behind his classmates in the Atlanta public school system and his peers often made fun of his speech and clothes. Thomas dropped out of school at the age of 10 and began working at a prominent black vaudeville theater, carrying water and doing other odd jobs.

As a young boy, Thomas learned to play the piano from his mother, for whom music had been a significant part of her own family life. After the family moved to Atlanta, he walked 30 miles a week to take formal music lessons. As his musical ability improved, he began playing for churches, house rent parties (parties organized by tenants to pay for their rent), bordellos, and women’s teas to help supplement his family’s income.

In 1916, at 17, Dorsey moved north to Chicago to pursue a musical career. Success was initially hard to come by. He soon learned he couldn’t earn union scale wages as a musician without a card, and he couldn’t obtain the card without a formal music education. To pay for his education, Dorsey worked days at a steel mill in Gary, Indiana, attended school at night, and established his own nightly rent-party circuit . In 1919, Dorsey completed his musical studies at the Chicago College of Composition and Arrangement and obtained his union card. Now he was free to play anywhere in Chicago and performed with various groups, including the Whispering Syncopators and a jazz orchestra.

Dorsey also joined Pilgrim Baptist Church. A preacher’s kid who had confessed faith in Christ as a child, he had also been influenced by his father’s flamboyant style, which he often imitated on the family porch. But faith wasn’t a serious priority in Dorsey’s life until his early 20s. Initially, Dorsey’s conversion spurred him to end his secular music career, and he began playing for a storefront church. But the salary wasn’t enough to pay his bills. So, once again, Dorsey began to work in jazz and blues clubs. In 1924, Dorsey, with the Wild Cats Jazz Band, debuted with Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, at the Grand Theater in Chicago. Performing with Rainey was a significant career break for Dorsey — she was known as the “Mother of the Blues.”

Despite personal success, depression plagued Dorsey throughout his career. He appeared on stage one night with Ma Rainey and was unable to play. He said, “I could move my fingers. I just couldn’t play. Think of that. I have the muscular ability to move, but I can’t play. In other words, I can’t make music. I can’t create.” Some of those close to Dorsey, however, believed something else was at work. His wife and sister-in-law were unhappy that he had continued to pursue a secular musical career. Dorsey’s wife, Nettie, whom he married in 1925, believed that God had called him to write and sing gospel music and that the source of his inner turmoil stemmed from ignoring God’s calling.

Yet his secular career was rising. In 1928, Dorsey and guitarist Tampa Red released, It’s Tight Like That—a national sensation and a religious scandal. The song’s bawdy lyrics described lovemaking between a man and a woman. It was an instant success, selling over 500,000 copies.

Things began to change for Dorsey in the 1930s when influential church musicians began championing his music. A performance of Dorsey’s composition of If You See My Savior during a morning devotion left people “slain in the spirit.” Two NBC musicians gave Dorsey permission to set up a booth at the 1930 convention where he sold more than 4,000 copies of that song. For his part, Dorsey continued to play secular music while he visited churches and asked pastors to listen to his religious compositions.

In 1932, Dorsey’s battle between secular and sacred reached a tragic resolution. The musician had gone to St. Louis to sing at a revival. During his trip, he received a telegram telling him to return home—his wife had just died in childbirth. His infant son died the next day.

Initially, Dorsey was angry with God, believing God had wronged him. In his grief, he refused to do anything for God; he only wanted to pursue his secular career. But God had something to say to him, as Dorsey later recounted in The Precious Lord Story and Gospel Songs: “You are not alone. I tried to speak to you before. It was you that should have gotten out of the car and not gone to St. Louis. … I said, Thank you, Lord, I understand. I’ll never make that same mistake again.”

The following Saturday after Nettie’s death, Dorsey met up with his friend Theodore Frye. There, he later said, God gave him the words and melody for Take My Hand, Precious Lord: “Something happened to me there. I had a strange feeling inside … a calm—a quiet stillness. As my fingers began to manipulate over the keys, words began to fall in place on the melody like drops of water falling from the crevice of a rock.” The popularity of Precious Lord throughout the country helped revolutionize the worship atmosphere and later, inspired many in the civil rights movement. Frye introduced the song to Martin Luther King Sr.’s Ebenezer Church. On the day he died, Martin Luther King Jr. requested that Precious Lord play at a future event. Aretha Franklin sang it at his funeral. (In the documentary Say Amen Somebody Dorsey tells the story behind the song).

Ebenezer Gospel Chorus

Dorsey dubbed his music “gospel blues” due to the similarity of his gospel rhythms and vocals to those heard in blues and jazz clubs. He employed the “call and response” pattern in his songs that also reminded pastors of songs composed and sung by their enslaved ancestors.

Eventually, Dorsey’s style of worship took hold. In 1931, the established “silk-stocking” Ebenezer Baptist Church organized a gospel choir, marking the beginning of gospel music’s acceptance by mainline churches. The energy from the Great Migration also impacted this social musical revolution. Blacks relocating to the North from the South wanted a type of singing that reminded them of home—songs with rhythm, hands clapping, and feet tapping. Frustrated with the Northern worship style, newly arrived Southern blacks who had joined large churches left and began to join storefront churches where worship services resembled the ones they left in the South. Pastors at traditional churches began to take notice.

At Pilgrim Baptist, Dorsey’s own pastor was encouraged by the success of Ebenezer’s gospel choir, and he soon hired Dorsey to serve as the church’s gospel choir director and musician in 1932. Dorsey held that position for more than 50 years. Ebenezer and Pilgrim’s acceptance of gospel music as a religious genre helped to fuel gospel music’s prominence in church worship not only in Chicago but also across the country.

Thomas Dorsey published and performed his own music for decades. He earned his nickname as “The Father of Gospel Music” because of his impact on traditional gospel from the 1930s to 1950s. For most of his life, when he wasn’t playing or leading music in Chicago, Dorsey traveled around the United States demonstrating his music, conducting workshops, presiding over music conventions, and occasionally writing.

More

From The Hisotry of Gospel Music

Dorsey recording

What do we do with this?
For what will we use our talents? For what will we strive? It is a question in every era of our lives, from childhood to old age? So there is probably a choice for you today. Sit back and ask what needs to be done. Are read the circumstances, as Dorsey read the tragedy of his life, as see how they inform your choice, knowing Jesus as you do.

Sit back and enjoy inventive, relevant music from Dorsey’s era.

11th Day of Christmas / Elizabeth Seton — January 4

Bible connection

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. – Luke 6:12-16

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36

Image result for mother setonAll about Mother Seton (1774-1821)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, many Catholics and Episcopalians honor  Elizabeth Seton, or Mother Seton, who was the first native-born American to be canonized as a saint. [Info from the shrine]

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in New York City on August 28, 1774 to a prominent Episcopal family, and lost her mother at the age of three. In 1794, at the age of 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman with whom she had five children. William died in 1803 of tuberculosis, exacerbated by his financial misfortunes, leaving Elizabeth as a young widow. After discovering Catholicism in Italy, where her husband had died after an attempt at convalescence, Elizabeth returned to the United States and entered the Catholic Church in 1805 in New York.

After a number of difficult years, Elizabeth moved in 1809 to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first community for religious women established in the United States. She also began St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, planting the seeds of Catholic education in the United States. Her legacy now includes religious houses in the United States and Canada, whose members work on the unmet needs of people living in poverty in North America and beyond.

Mother Seton, as she is often called, was canonized on Sunday, September 14, 1975 in St. Peter’s Square by Pope Paul VI. Her remains are entombed in Emmitsburg in the Basilica at the National Shrine that bears her name.

The Fifer — Édouard Manet (1866)

Also, according to the song, on the 11th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Eleven pipers piping

The “secret” meaning of the song supposedly notes the eleven faithful apostles: Simon Peter,  Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of  Alphaeus,  Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James (Luke 6:14-16). The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot, who gave over Jesus to the religious leaders and the Romans. Being faithful disciples is a lifelong matter and could be costly, as Elizabeth Seton experienced. On this day, however, it is kind of fun to imagine them marching through as pipers.

What do we do with this?

Pray: Thank you for choosing me. Reassure me of my calling. May I be free to live as my true self in your presence.

Want to learn more about the apostles? Here is a video narrated by a nice British accent. It has some disputable assertions, but is interesting.

Mother Seton was undoubtedly a good woman. However, she may have been canonized because the Roman Catholic Church needed an American saint. Regardless, she models a life of service to oppressed women and the poor. And she represents a person who stuck with her convictions when it was not easy to do so. None of us need to be sainted. But we will have a reputation and a legacy of one kind or another. What is yours? Journal a prayer about that.

Clara McBride Hale — December 18

Bible connection

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. — Galatians 5:13-15

All about Clara McBride Hale (1905-1992)

Clara Hale had a mission of motherhood. Her life experiences helped make her extraordinarily empathetic to the pain and suffering of other mothers and children. Her compassion gave her an unusual capacity to love and to find solutions.

“Mother Hale” was born in North Carolina in 1905. After her father was killed, her mom moved the family to Philadelphia, PA. After she married , she had two children, and adopted a third. Her husband moved the family to New York City, but he lost his battle with cancer when Clara was 27.

Through the Great Depression, Hale raised and supported her children, working as a domestic by day and a janitor by night. In 1943, Hale opened a daycare in her home in order to spend time with her children as well as care for others. It grew from a short–term to a long–term care facility. She also took care of foster children.

When Clara Hale retired in 1968 she could not have foreseen that her most notable endeavor, the founding of Hale House, was yet to begin. Hale House started in 1969 when Clara Hale’s biological daughter, Lorraine, brought a mother and child who were addicted to drugs to Hale’s home. She could not refuse the desperate pair. Actually, she had no choice becasue the mother disappeared and left the baby behind while Hale made a phone call in another room. Hale took the tiny baby girl and nursed her through drug withdrawals. The young mother had other children, and when she returned to Hale’s residence, she brought the others and left them, too. Eventually she returned to take the children back. Hale sent the family off with her blessing and never charged a penny for her help. Within a few short weeks Mother Hale’s apartment was packed from wall to wall with 22 drug-addicted babies. Some of them were abandoned; some were orphaned. As Mother Hale told the tale to Irene Verag of Newsday, “Before I knew it every pregnant addict in Harlem knew about the crazy lady who would give her baby a home.”

Slowly the Hales (Clara, daughter Lorraine, and sons Nathan and Kenneth) allowed their lives to become virtually consumed by the effort to instill hope and to inject healing into the lives of addicted parents in Harlem. The dedicated family worked day and night to support their cause. Mother Hale kept the frailest of the infants in her own bedroom, cradling them and walking the floors all night when necessary to comfort each one through the painful experience of detoxification. The younger Hales took as many jobs as was necessary to bring in the funds to support the many, many children who came into their home. “It wasn’t their fault they were born addicted. Love them. Help one another,” Hale explained to others, as quoted in the Chicago Tribune.

She later got a home license as a “child care facility” in 1970, called the Hale House. A few years later Hale purchased a larger building. In 1975 she was able to attain a license for child-care. She raised the children as if they were her own and once they were healthy she would help to find families interested in adoption. She took it upon herself to make sure the families were a correct fit and even in some cases turned families down if she thought they could not provide a good enough home for the child. Hale said, “My daughter says she was almost sixteen before she realized all these other kids weren’t her real sisters and brothers. Everyone called me ‘Mommy.’” She eventually helped over 2,000 drug addicted babies and young children who were born addicted to drugs, children born with HIV, and children whose parents had died of AIDS. It was simple, she said; “Hold them, rock them, love them and tell them how great they are.”

After the grant that helped her buy Hale House expired her work became a victim of severe cutbacks of state and city funds. Public agencies with competing services repeatedly harassed the center.

Image result for mother hale house

Successfully supported by individuals, churches, and community groups, Hale House nonetheless became unique in its format and demonstrated a sharp contrast to public agencies for the care of children. In the the program’s early days when funds for food and supplies were few and meeting payroll was a constant challenge, Clara Hale’s personal faith in Christ and the love and active concern of ordinary people were her only reliable sources of strength and support. They brought her disposable diapers, formula, and other items that were in constant demand.

One notable admirer spent more than two years, off and on, trying to track down Clara Hale because no one among his circle of friends knew her name. Finally, John Lennon found her and sent a check for $10,000. “He came with his wife and son and spent time with the children,” Hale had said. After Lennon’s tragic death the following year, Yoko Ono, his wife, sent more gifts, including a check for $20,000, which arrived every year thereafter.

One morning, another fan made her way to Hale’s doorstep. As she emerged from a black limousine, the usual paparazzi who typically pressed for pictures were elsewhere. This was a private visit, for sure. Nonetheless, the presence of Princess Diana made it a royal and memorable one. As the princess stood at the top of the brownstone stairs, she lovingly held a baby in her arms. “Thank you for the work you’re doing here for these children,” she said to Mother Hale.

On February 6, 1985, at the close of the State of the Union message to Congress, President Ronald Reagan turned to Mrs. Clara Hale, seated at the side of the first lady, Mrs. Reagan, and recognized “Mother Hale” for helping babies of drug–addicted mothers in Harlem, N.Y. The president said to members of Congress and to all America, “go to her house some night and maybe you’ll see her silhouette against the window as she walks the floor, talking softly, soothing a child in her arms. Mother Hale of Harlem, she too is an American hero.”

More

The media made her a bit famous. Here is a Mother’s Day report from NBC in 1984:

What do we do with this?

It may have been harder than Mother Hale let on. By 1983, 28,000 women had succumbed to drug–addiction in New York City alone. More than 50,000 children were born chemically dependent. These children were also at high risk of acquiring AIDS from their mothers during pregnancy. In New York State, there were about 250,000 addicts. At least 450,000 were users of cocaine, with one out of every 20 people over the age of 12 involved in drugs.

Today, such people are officially known to suffer from “Substance Use Disorder.” But in the 1980s, rather than declare their situation a national health crisis, society declared a crime wave was sweeping the nation. Mass incarceration and benign neglect of poor minorities became the response, rather than the implementation of well–funded addiction treatment and mental health programs.

Systemic issues are just that. If you want to make an individual response to social issues, talk to the powers that be as well as act with compassion in your neighborhood.

Love can accomplish a lot, even if you are needy yourself! Spend a minute a let God love you, needy child who you are.

Transformation often starts with a small inspiration or opportunity and grows up to accomplish a lot! Spend another minute and see what love is doing through you or your church. Give praise for how the love of Jesus flourishes even when the powers-that-be are against it. Maybe it is a good day to imagine how Jesus would like to work through you, or yours. Tell someone about the seed thought you may have and see where it goes.

Thomas Merton — December 10

Bible connection

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. — Psalm 139:1-6

All about Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Thomas Merton, known to the other monks as Father Louis, was born in the south of France to a American mom (a Quaker) and Kiwi dad (a painter).  He was baptized as an Anglican. When Thomas was six years old his mother died of stomach cancer. He was sent to live in the U.S. with his grandparents while his father, an artist, often travelled. As an early teen, he was reunited with his dad and educated in Europe until his father died when he was 16. After finishing school, Thomas was agnostic. In 1933, while in Italy, he experienced a sense of spiritual emptiness, anxiety, and a hope it would all lead to a dramatic conversion.

In 1938, while finishing up a M.A. in English (focused on William Blake), Merton joined the Catholic church after experimenting with other forms of Christianity. He was rejected by the Fransiscans and did not feel drawn to become a priest. In 1942, he was accepted as a novice monk at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

His abbot directed Merton to write his autobiography, which became The Seven Storey Mountain. The book became an unlikely best-seller and is considered today to be one of the spiritual classics of the modern age.

Merton would go on to write poems, articles, essays, and more than 60 books, among them New Seeds of ContemplationThe Sign of JonasConjectures of a Guilty Bystander, and No Man Is An Island.

In the latter decades of his life he became increasingly interested in Asian religions, particularly Buddhism.  His leadership helped spark Christian-Buddhist dialogue that continues to this day. Merton is an example of a devoted Christian who had dialogue with others respectfully and as a learner. He was particularly interested in Eastern ways of thinking and understanding of self. His conversations about these issues were largely with other monks, Christian and Buddhist, as well as his superiors.

His abbey still receives revenues from his work. His work telling the stories of the Desert Fathers and Mothers has been inspirational and influential to many in my circle. His writings have been translated into over 30 languages.

Merton died on this day in 1968 of an accidental electrocution while attending an interfaith conference of contemplative monks in Thailand at age 53.

Quotes:

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” — Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

More

The Thomas Merton Center [link]

Director’s page for “Soul Searching,” a documentary about his life [link]

The Thomas Merton Society replayed an argument that Merton was murdered, probably by the CIA, instead of killed in an accident. The book The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton, an Investigation by Hugh Turley and David Martin (2018), may be an addition to the era full of conspiracy theories or it may be a window into overlooked or suppressed evidence [link].

What do we do with this?

Merton teaches with great inclusion and acceptance. He offers a path to the deep places of God, starting from where you are right now. Feel the freedom of that, and also a bit of the terror of that trust. Enjoy your solitude.

Mother Jones — November 30

Bible connection

Read Jeremiah 22

“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
    his upper rooms by injustice,
making his own people work for nothing,
    not paying them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
    with spacious upper rooms.’
So he makes large windows in it,
    panels it with cedar
    and decorates it in red.

“Does it make you a king
    to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
    He did what was right and just,
    so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
    and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
    declares the Lord.
“But your eyes and your heart
    are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
    and on oppression and extortion.”

All about Mother Jones (1837-1930)

As a social reformer, Mary “Mother” Jones exposed disturbing truths about child and adult factory workers and miners and perpetual poverty in the United States through numerous marches, demonstrations, strikes, and speeches. The influence of Christianity was evident throughout her life. She received a Catholic education as a girl and became a teacher in a convent as a young adult. Letters and speeches by her, and those about her, were filled with the imagery of Christian beliefs.

Jones worked as a teacher and dressmaker, but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever in 1867, and her dress shop was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union. In 1903, upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills, she organized a Children’s March from Kensington, in Philadelphia, to the home of then president Theodore Roosevelt in New York.

She wailed about the unjust experiences of the poor like an Old Testament prophet, often dressed in old‐fashioned black dresses that seemed similar to the black habits worn by the Catholic sisters that taught and mentored her during her early years. She was described by others as the “incarnation of labor’s struggles” decrying injustice and calling to account its perpetrators.

Hall of Honor Inductee: Mary Harris "Mother" Jones | U.S. Department of Labor
Hall of Honor Inductee: Mary Harris “Mother” Jones | U.S. Department of Labor

She was even introduced by the author Upton Sinclair one day as “Mother Mary” — an allusion to the New Testament Mary who gave birth to the Christ child and was considered one who interceded on behalf of poor and exploited adults and children. Sinclair, author of the exposé of the meat packing industry, The Jungle, used her as a character in one of his books and described her as “wrinkled and old, dressed in black, looking like somebody’s grandmother; she was, in truth, the grandmother of hundreds of thousands of miners. Hearing her speak, you discovered the secret of her influence over these polyglot hordes. She had force, she had wit, above all she had the fire of indignation—she was the walking wrath of God.” Attorney Clarence Darrow said of his old friend, “Her deep convictions and fearless soul always drew her to the spot where the fight was hottest and the danger greatest.”​

Her use of the word “hell” is notable. Once she was introduced as a humanitarian and quickly bellowed “I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell‐raiser.”  Two noteworthy quotes that peppered her speeches on behalf of factory workers and miners were “fight like hell until you go to heaven” and “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” When a West Virginia district attorney, Reese Blizzard, in 1902, Called her “the most dangerous woman in America” at her trial for ignoring an injunction banning meetings by striking miners, the title stuck.

As a passionate public speaker, some people thought she was “unchristian‐like,” mainly because she used name‐calling, profanity, and dramatic stunts for effect, such as parading children who lost body limbs as a result of accidents in factories and mines. She was compared to John Brown, the abolitionist who believed armed rebellion was the only way to defeat the institution of slavery in the United States. Whether she actually believed such things is doubtful, but the associations made her seem disreputable. When confronted with the issue of violence in the labor movement she encouraged it at times as a necessary evil. She believed that martyrs died to overcome injustices and the causes she fought for were no exception.

Just a few months after her death, the singing cowboy Gene Autry recorded the song “The Death of Mother Jones.” The writer of the lyrics is unknown.

The world today’s in mourning
For death of Mother Jones
Gloom and sorrow hover
Around the miners’ homes

This grand old champion of labor
Was known in every land
She fought for right and justice
She took a noble stand

Through the hills and over the valleys
In every mining town
Mother Jones was ready to help them
She never turned them down

On front with the striking miners
She always could be found
And received a hearty welcome
In every mining town

She was fearless of every danger
She hated that which was wrong
And she never gave up fighting
Until her breath was gone

This noble leader of labor
Has gone to a better land
While the hard working miners
They miss a guiding hand

May the miners all work together
And carry out her plan
And bring back better conditions
For every laboring man.

More

AFL-CIO bio [link]

Wail of the Children” speech, July 28, 1903 — Coney Island, New York City

Mother Jones Magazine bio [link]

What do we do with this?

Jesus was probably considered the most dangerous man in Palestine by the leaders who eventually killed him. Jeremiah was decidedly unpopular with the kings he exposed for their greed and oppression. If we, as Jesus followers, are not at odds with the powers-that-be, or even a threat to the corrupt ones, we might not be too serious about being planted in the soil of a fallen world. Consider who God wants you to stand with and stand up for.