Category Archives: The Modern Era (1227-1936)

John Wesley — March 2

Surrounded by the mob in Wednesbury, England

Bible connection

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. — Read Ephesians 2:1-10

All about John Wesley (1703-1791)

John Wesley lived for most of the 18th century . He was the world-famous founder of Methodism which is alive and well in many forms all over Creation right now.

John and his brother, Charles, were twentysomethings when they began to meet as the “Holy Club” they founded at Oxford. They read spiritual classics and tried to apply what they read to their lives and encourage one another. It sounds a lot like a cell meeting.

In 1735 John and Charles went on a missionary trip to the colony of Georgia. John returned very discouraged that he couldn’t translate his ideas about God in effective ways for the people of the colony (plus, he fell in love with a local woman and the relationship did not work out very well).

In this period of discouragement, he became friends with a Moravian preacher, Peter Boehler. At a small religious meeting connected to the Moravians in Aldersgate Street, London, on May 24, 1738, John had an experience with God that changed his life. He famously described this experience as having his heart “strangely warmed.” This personal encounter with God prompted John to spend the rest of his life energetically encouraging others to meet God personally. This encounter with God seems to have caused his faith to move from mostly his head to his heart; it activated a deep dependence on God’s grace and a whole new way of living that he then shared with thousands of people.

Wesley’s faith was devoted to social justice as well as preaching. It is hard to overestimate how large a transforming force the Methodists were in England and the United States in the 17 and 1800s. They can be congratulated for being instrumental in the abolition of slavery by England, as well as in uplifting the poor in countless ways.

Notable quotes from Wesley:

  • Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.
  • Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.
  • “Holy solitaries” is a phrase no more consistent with the Gospel than holy adulterers. The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social; no holiness, but social holiness.
  • Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees.
  • When I was young I was sure of everything. In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before. At present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.
  • Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.
  • Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.
  • God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.
  • Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.
  • As for reputation, though it be a glorious instrument of advancing our Master’s service, yet there is a better than that: a clean heart, a single eye, and a soul full of God. A fair exchange if, by the loss of reputation, we can purchase the lowest degree of purity of heart.
  • Our church did some theology about being radical in 2016 and John Wesley was the example. Check out this material that relates: Radical Energy at 3000 Feet, and Are We Visible Enough?

More

Article from Christian History magazine [link]

2009 film Wesley includes June Lockhart, playing his mother Susannah. There are quite a few films to watch: John Wesley: The faith that Sparked the Methodist Movement (2020 documentary using scenes from 2009 film) and one from 1954 John Wesley.

Interesting look at Methodist history in England [link]

Wesley’s books were best sellers. As he got richer, he got more generous, as the following story about his financial discipline shows.

While at Oxford, an incident changed Wesley’s perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?”

Perhaps as a result of this incident, in 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply, and he quickly gave away his surplus money. One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds.

Favorite works about Wesley:

What do we do with this?

John Wesley caused enormous change in the lives of individuals and in both England and the United States by giving people practical ways to live out radical faith. Many churches today reflect his methods. Do you connect with others to be a force for change, or do you kind of do your own thing? That would be one of his questions for you. [Wesley’s 22 Questions]

Ask God to move you from your head to heart—or just anywhere.

Xi Shengmo — February 19

Xi Shengmo

Bible connection

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. — Romans 8:38

All about Xi Shengmo (Pastor Xi, 1836-1896)

The Confucian scholar Xi Zizhi became a Jesus follower after a failed attempt to pass the provincial level exams in Taiyuan, Shanxi. As he exited the examination hall, he received several gospel tracts as well as an invitation to contribute to a collection of essays on general moral and religious topics. This process was devised by British missionaries, Timothy Richard and David Hill, as a means of opening up gospel discussions with Chinese elites. Xi submitted several winning entries in the essay competition. When he visited the missionaries to collect his prize, he was asked by Hill to serve as his secretary and Chinese language tutor. Xi accepted and his new foreign friend soon helped him overcome his opium habit.

Cambridge Seven

Xi became a Christian, changed his name to Xi Shengmo (“Xi, the overcomer of demons”), and returned to his hometown to convert his traditional Chinese medical dispensary into a church and opium refuge for others seeking to overcome their addictions. He was the first indigenous pastor in Shanxi province, immortalized in Geraldine Taylor’s biographyPastor Hsi: Confucian Scholar and Christian. Xi was fiery, and while he did at times get into conflict with foreign missionaries, a long string of China Inland Mission (CIM now OMF) missionaries (including many of the famous Cambridge Seven) served effectively under his direction. His opium refuge played an important role in the early development of the indigenous Protestant church in Shanxi.

Xi Shengmo also wrote numerous Chinese Christian hymns, which were considered more to the liking of the local people than the hymns introduced by the missionaries. But perhaps the most notable thing about him was the way in which he led the Christian missionary work in his area. The general pattern was for Western Christians to enter an area, raise up churches and then train local people as pastors and evangelists. Xi Shengmo took hold of the work with such skill and energy that the missionaries stood aside, to a considerable extent, as he established clinics and churches.

One of the towns where he worked was Hwochow (modern Huaxian) in Shansi. After his tenure, Mildred CableEvangeline and Francesca French worked there as missionaries for 21 years until they left in 1923. “The ramifications of the Church under the direction of the Chinese Pastorate, in immediate succession to the foundation as laid by Pastor Hsi … were the joy and gratification of the whole community.” (Through Jade Gate and Central Asia; by M. Cable & F. French, p. 16).

Quote

At this time I still smoked opium. I tried to break it off by means of native medicine, but could not; by use of foreign medicine, but failed. At last I saw, in reading the New Testament, that there was a Holy Spirit who could help men. I prayed to God to give me His Holy Spirit. He did what man and medicine could not do; He enabled me to break off opium smoking. So, my friends, if you would break off opium, don’t rely on medicine, don’t lean on man, but trust to God. —Transcribed oral testimony of Xi Shengmo from Days of Blessing in Inland China.

More

Entry from the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity

What do we do with this?

From failure and addiction, Xi was called to make a big difference. He even overcame the “foreign devils” and exercised his own authority. He says it is all because he trusted Jesus. Does his example move you to get beyond something in yourself and get into the mission of Christ in the world in some expanded way?

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.

Menno Simons — January 31

Menno Simons

Bible connection

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:27

All about Menno Simons (1496-1561)

At the height of their persecution, one convert survived to give form and future to the Anabaptist movement. Menno Simons  was a Catholic priest born in modern day Netherlands. While studying the Scriptures for the first time (even though he had been a priest for over a decade), Simons realized he was in conflict with church leaders  about transubstantiation. A few years later, around 1531, Simons heard about “rebaptizing” when Sicke Snijder was beheaded, the first Anabaptist martyr in the Netherlands. He was moved to study the scriptures and found that infant baptism was not in the Bible. He began having more contact with Anabaptists, and while the date of his own adult baptism is not known, those who harbored Simons were arrested for the offense.

The Mennonites, a religious group descended from the 16th century Anabaptists, take their name from Menno Simons. His moderation, after the militant excesses of the fanatical Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster (1534 – 35), restored balance to the movement.

As Simons’ influence increased over the years, the Dutch Anabaptists became known as Mennonites. They developed a distinctive focus on evangelism. The most celebrated of Simons’ work: Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539) reads,

True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love; it dies to flesh and blood; it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires; it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul; it clothes the naked; it feeds the hungry; it comforts the sorrowful; it shelters the destitute; it aids and consoles the sad; it does good to those who do it harm; it serves those that harm it; it prays for those who persecute it; it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord; it seeks those who are lost; it binds up what is wounded; it heals the sick; it saves what is strong (sound); it becomes all things to all people.

The Mennonites rejected infant baptism, the swearing of oaths, military service, and worldliness. They practiced strong church discipline in their congregations and lived simple, honest, loving lives in emulation of the earliest Christians. Because Mennonites refused to assume state offices, to serve as police or soldiers, or to take oaths of loyalty, they were considered subversive and as such severely persecuted. These persecutions led at various times to the emigration of Mennonite groups, such as one group’s escape to the American colonies (1683), where they settled in what came to be known as Germantown, now a neighborhood in Philadelphia. At the end of the 18th Century, merging this Anabaptist stream with influence from the Pietist movement, the River Brethren (later to birth the Brethren In Christ) were formed.

Menno Simons died a free man of natural causes on this day in 1561, 25 years after he had renounced his priestly vows. He was buried in his personal garden.

More

Here is all you might want to know from the Mennonite history website. 

Online collection of Simons’ writings.

What do we do with this?

Read through the excerpt from the writings of Menno Simons again. Maybe we should all take a “dormancy” test. Are there an elements of the true evangelical faith that are less active in you or us than they ought to be? Does our relative lack of persecution quench the Spirit among us?

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.

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.

Sojourner Truth — November 26

Image result for sojourner truth"

Bible connection

Read Joel 2:28-31

“In those days, I will also pour out my Spirit on the male and female slaves.”

All about Sojourner Truth (Ca. 1797-1883)

Today we celebrate the prophetess Sojourner Truth, who died on November 26th, 1883 at the age of 86. She is remembered for her relentless, Spirit-filled work as an abolitionist, women’s suffragist, and evangelist.

She was sold as a child into slavery in New York. She worked on a farm and often retreated into the woods nearby where she prayed to God by a “temple of brush” that she had made. In her twenties, she obeyed a vision from the Lord to take her baby, Sophia, and walk away from the family that enslaved her. It was a frightening experience for her to live out on her own, and she considered going back to work on the farm, but Jesus appeared to her in a vision and prayed for her, giving her the strength to continue.

After these and other experiences with God, she saw her life and ministry as uniquely situated to be a leader involved in two movements in the United States: the abolition of slavery, and the right of women to vote. As a woman leader and a former slave, she saw her gifts of leadership and freedom from slavery as something that God wanted for all women and all people who were enslaved. She used her life story and experiences with God as the basis for her political and theological views.

She is also remembered fondly for her straight-gazed challenges to live by faith. When some other notable abolitionists were advocating for violent uprisings to end slavery, Truth asked them the question: “Is God gone?”

Quotes

  • “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”
  • “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne five children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”
  • “Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”
  • “You have been having our rights so long, that you think, like a slave-holder, that you own us. I know that it is hard for one who has held the reins for so long to give up; it cuts like a knife. It will feel all the better when it closes up again.”
  • “And what is that religion that sanctions, even by its silence, all that is embraced in the ‘Peculiar Institution’? If there can be any thing more diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus, than the working of this soul-killing system – which is as truly sanctioned by the religion of America as are her minsters and churches – we wish to be shown where it can be found.”

More

Nice resources from her home town memorial association in Battle Creek: [link]

Sojourner Truth’s famous speech of 1851, “Ain’t I a Woman” Re-enactment

What do we do with this?

Look racism and sexism straight in the face and expect the same Spirit of Jesus, who inspired Sojourner Truth, to say something through you, too.

Encouragement from Dru Hart to take a stand: [blog post]

Eberhard Arnold — November 22

Eberhard Arnold

Bible connection

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:43-45

All about Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935)

Eberhard Arnold was born in 1883 to a middle class family in Königsberg, Germany (now Kalinigrad of the Russian Federation). After a rambunctious childhood, he experienced an inner change at the age of 16. He became active in evangelism and had acted with  compassion for the poor.

He married Emmy von Hollander. They would have five children. Both grew increasingly discontent with the new movements of urbanization and industrialization in Germany. They criticized the state church of Germany for various reasons. Later their critique would provide a model for a new movement. In 1915 Arnold became editor of Die Furche (The Furrow) and became a sought-after speaker in his region.

Arnold supported Germany during the first World War at first, even enlisting for a few weeks before being discharged for medical reasons. He sent copies of The Furrow to young people at the front lines. The returning soldiers had a profound influence on Eberhard, and he had an increasingly difficult time reconciling the gospel with war.

During the war, the Germans sustained incredible losses. Afterwards, hunger protests and strikes were common responses to the political upheaval and national shame. Among groups working for change, the Youth Movement inspired Arnold with their love of nature, rejection of materialism, and aspirations towards joy and love.  Eberhard and Emmy began meeting with Youth Movement people once or twice a week in homes.

In 1920, the couple along with Emmy’s sister Else moved to the village of Sannerz to found the Bruderhof (place of brothers) community with seven adults and five children. Their community was founded on the Sermon on the Mount and the witness of the early church. The community grew and needed a bigger farm. Eberhard’s writing continued and he became well-known. He began corresponding with the Hutterite Brethren, an Anabaptist group that had fled to and flourished in the United States and found common cause. The Bruderhof’s values now also included a common purse as well as pacifism.

The rise of the Nazi party was a catalyst for the Bruderhof to send their children (school age and draft age) out of the country. The rest of the community eventually also fled. During the travel Arnold sustained a leg injury that led to his death on this day in 1935. The Bruderhof groups re-assembled in England before being forced out of the country. The Mennonite Central Committee helped them relocate to Paraguay, the only country that would accept a pacifist community with mixed nationalities. The Bruderhof Communites are now in four states in the US as well as Germany, Paraguay, and Australia.

Quotes:

“Love sees the good Spirit at work within each person and delights in it. Even if we have just been annoyed with someone, we will feel new joy in them as soon as love rules in us again. We will overcome our personal disagreements and joyfully acknowledge the working of the good Spirit in each other.”—printed in Writings 

“Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder. ”
“Truth without love kills, but love without truth lies.”
“Even the sun directs our gaze away from itself and to the life illumined by it.” —Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
 “We must have the love that exists among children, for with them love rules without any special purpose.” ―Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“The whole world is shaking at its joints. We have the frightening impression that we stand before a great and catastrophic judgment. If this catastrophe does not take place, it is only because it has been averted by God’s direct intervention. And the church is called to move God—yes, God himself—to act. This does not mean that God will not or cannot act unless we ask him, but rather that he waits for people to believe in him and expect his intervention. For God acts among us only to the extent that we ask for his action and accept it with our hearts and lives. This is the secret of God’s intervention in history.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We kill at every step, not only in wars, riots and executions. We kill every time we close our eyes to poverty, suffering and shame.”—Salt and Light: Talks and Writings on the Sermon on the Mount
“We must live in community because we are stimulated by the same creative Spirit of unity who calls nature to unity and through whom work and culture shall become community in God.”—Why We Live in Community: With Two Interpretive Talks by Thomas Merton

More

Biography and more: [EberhardArnold.com]

The Bruderhof website [link]. Bio from the Bruderhof [link]

One of five interesting videos on Bruderhof history. Here’s one on Arnold:

What do we do with this?

Arnold was a deep thinker who was open to the movement of God’s Spirit. He did not just think, he acted. His life was an incarnation of his convictions. He formed communities that had an influence much greater than their size might justify. Let his example inspire you to express your own faith and devotion in your troubled day.

You can visit the Bruderhof https://www.bruderhof.com/connect

Leo Tolstoy — November 20

Leo Tolstoy

Bible connection

Read Luke 17:20-37

“The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

All about Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was the fourth of five children born to a family of old Russian nobility in 1828. His mother died while he was young, so he and his siblings were in the care of his aunt. His father then died, followed by his aunt and caretaker. He and his siblings moved under the care of another relative.

Tolstoy struggled in school. He eventually became a farmer until his brother convinced him to join the military, where his writing began to develop. He grew into one of the most celebrated novelists of all time. His two greatest works War and Peace and Anna Karenina are considered masterpieces.

After he enjoyed some success, Tolstoy fell into a deep depression that ultimately led to his conversion to following Jesus. He tried joining the Russian Orthodox Church, which he found corrupt. His treatise on this corruption, The Mediator, got him kicked out of the Church in 1883 and put him under surveillance by the secret police. He decided to give away all of his money and renounce his aristocratic titles. His wife did not agree with his newfound beliefs, causing problems in their marriage. He gave away nearly all his wealth, but took care of his wife by signing over to her the copyrights and proceeds from his writings pre-1881.

During the last 30 years of his life, his richest spiritual work and international movement-building flowered. In 1894 his magnum opus The Kingdom of God Is Within You inspired practitioners of non-violent resistance, as it continues to do. Gandhi cited the book as one of the three texts that most influenced him. The two developed a relationship in which Tolstoy strongly urged nonviolence as a means of social change.

Tolstoy’s beliefs and regular visits from disciples plagued his wife. He finally fled with his daughter and began an incognito pilgrimage that he was never able to complete. He died on this day in 1910.

Quotes:

On revolution: There can be only one permanent revolution—a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.

On progress : People usually think that progress consists in the increase of knowledge, in the improvement of life, but that isn’t so. Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life. The truth is always accessible to a man. It can’t be otherwise, because a man’s soul is a divine spark, the truth itself. It’s only a matter of removing from this divine spark (the truth) everything that obscures it. Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.

On passions: The whole world knows that virtue consists in the subjugation of one’s passions, or in self-renunciation. It is not just the Christian world, against whom Nietzsche howls, that knows this, but it is an eternal supreme law towards which all humanity has developed, including Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and the ancient Persian religion. And suddenly a man appears who declares that he is convinced that self-renunciation, meekness, submissiveness and love are all vices that destroy humanity (he has in mind Christianity, ignoring all the others religions).

On Nietzsche: One can understand why such a declaration baffled people at first. But after giving it a little thought and failing to find any proof of the strange propositions, any rational person ought to throw the books aside and wonder if there is any kind of rubbish that would not find a publisher today. But this has not happened with Nietzsche’s books. The majority of pseudo-enlightened people seriously look into the theory of the Übermensch, and acknowledge its author to be a great philosopher, a descendant of DescartesLeibniz and Kant. And all this has come about because the majority of pseudo-enlightened men of today object to any reminder of virtue, or to its chief premise: self-renunciation and love — virtues that restrain and condemn the animal side of their life. They gladly welcome a doctrine, however incoherently and disjointedly expressed, of egotism and cruelty, sanctioning the idea of personal happiness and superiority over the lives of others, by which they live.

More

The School of Life on Tolstoy:

A postmodern takedown if you feel like cancelling Tolstoy [2022 book review]

More bio from GradeSaver: [link]

Movies adapting his fiction masterpieces: Anna Karenina (2012), War and Peace (2016)

The Tolstoyan Movement uses his philosophy as a liffestyle guide [Wiki]

Tolstoy and Gandhi [link]

What do we do with this?

Depression led Tolstoy to faith. Often depression is not an enemy, it is our heart speaking to us about change, about redemption, about unknown possibilities. Consider your own depression. Some of us have chronic conditions that need the help of doctors. Others are self-medicating what needs to be heard.

After Tolstoy wrote his masterpieces, he found his deepest calling. While his literature remains influential, it could be argued that his influence for nonviolent resistance did more to change the world. What are you growing into? Do you dare consider what your legacy will be and who you might influence for good?

Lucretia Mott — November 11

Lucretia Mott
Mott in the foreground of the Portrait Monument in the Capitol Rotunda. 

Bible connection

Read Jude 1:20-23

Have mercy on those who doubt. Save some by snatching them from the fire.

All about Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

Lucretia Mott (U.S. National Park Service)Lucretia Mott became a Quaker minister at 25. Her whole adult life was devoted to church reform, women’s rights, and the abolition of slavery.

In her bid to end the evil of slavery, she and others refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slave-produced goods as part of their protest. In 1833 Mott, along with Mary Ann M’Clintock and nearly 30 other female abolitionists, organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. She later served as a delegate from that organization to the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. After passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, her Pennsylvania home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In 1866, Mott became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association.

In 1848 Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton held the Seneca Falls Convention advocating rights for women. There, Mott presented the “Declaration of Sentiments,” which included twelve resolutions, including property rights, the right to divorce, increased access to education, and the right to vote. The last sentiment, voting rights, divided the convention; however, it was ultimately included in the Declaration and became the foundation of the women’s suffrage movement. It was forty years after Mott died before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920. Mott’s fight for women’s rights included education. Her most famous work: Discourse on Woman, was published in 1849. She led the founding of Moore College of Art and the Medical College of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia. She was one of the founders of Swarthmore College.

Quotes:

  • We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by the truth.
  • It is not Christianity, but priestcraft that has subjected woman as we find her.
  • The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.
  • Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.
  • I have no idea of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.
  • It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practice is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.

More

Exterior, Lucretia Mott is in the chair in the foreground.
Lucretia Mott at Roadside

Explore PA History supplies a good bio giving background for the historical marker at the site of “Roadside” (Old York Rd. and Latham Park in Elkins Park). The Mott family moved from 1316 Chestnut to this country house in 1857 and Mott died there. It was torn down by a developer in 1912.

“Lucretia Mott, the Brazen Infidel, ” a bio from the Unitarians [link]

Video from series on Philadelphia Women:

What do we do with this?

Lucretia Mott is such an inspiring example. What movement is God starting with us? Will we have the faith and courage to follow through?

Mott was among those who were disappointed the 15th Amendment gave the right to vote to black men, but not women. Radical and conservative reactions to that event divided the suffragist movement until it reunited in 1890. Have you ever been in a social action movement that divided and failed? James notes how common this is: Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it, so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it, so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:1-2)

Name the evil against which you should be organizing. Take the lead, or join in.