Sojourner Truth Part 2: Woman of Influence

Artist’s portrait of Sojourner Truth’s meeting with Abraham Lincoln in 1864 (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

This is the second of a two-part article on Sojourner Truth, the 19th century preacher, orator, anti-slavery, and women’s rights activist.  Born a slave in Ulster County, New York, she was never afforded the opportunity to learn to read or write. Yet, through fearless determination born of a deep Christian faith, she became one of the brightest lights in the civil-rights and women’s rights movements of the 19th century, lecturing and speaking to thousands, and meeting with some of the most influential figures of the period, including three presidents. Continue reading Sojourner Truth Part 2: Woman of Influence

Sojourner Truth Part 1: Isabella

Orator and Civil Rights Activist Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883),

Arguably three of the most influential African Americans of the 19th century are Harriet Tubman, the ‘Moses’ of her people; the abolitionist Frederick Douglass; and Sojourner Truth. They may in fact be three of the most influential Americans of any race of that era. Truth was an itinerant preacher, anti-slavery activist, and women’s rights activist.  Born a slave she would develop into an acclaimed public speaker, achieving a stature that was matched by very few of any race. Luminaries of her era sought an audience with her, including Douglass, the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, women suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and president Abraham Lincoln himself. More than a hundred years after her death her life remains a shining example of incredible courage, of an unshakable faith in God, and an uncanny ability to use that faith in deceptively simple but highly effective ways in the fight for justice, equality and respect among all peoples. Continue reading Sojourner Truth Part 1: Isabella

Howard Thurman: Jesus and the Disinherited

Theologian, pastor, professor, Dr. Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman

During the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly carried a copy of a book entitled Jesus and the Disinherited with him. The author of the book was Howard Thurman, a theologian, pastor and professor, who, by some accounts, would become a mentor to several leaders of the non-violent civil rights movement. Inspired by the Gospels, Jesus and the Disinherited offers four basic principles to the marginalized and underprivileged, to prevail in their struggle against injustice and oppression, to realize their rightful place as full human beings with rights endowed not by man but by God.  Continue reading Howard Thurman: Jesus and the Disinherited

The Luxury of Atheism

Author and atheist, Christopher Hitchens
Author and atheist, Christopher Hitchens

 

While researching the life of the nineteenth century itinerant preacher and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, for an upcoming blog, it became extremely clear that   many of the giants of the abolitionist movement in the United States had a strong Christ-centered faith.  Sojourner Truth was a lay preacher. The famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman—the Moses of her people—both had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. The relationship between the Black Church and the fight for freedom continued into the 20th century, where the church and the Civil Rights Movement remained practically inseparable.

How is it then that those for whom life has been so extraordinarily difficult and unfair, by any stretch of the imagination, could have had such an unwavering belief in God—in Jesus Christ, specifically? Simultaneously, the loudest voices advocating atheism—of a belief in no God–tend to come from men and women of privilege, particularly from academia? The search for an answer to this question precipitated this post. Continue reading The Luxury of Atheism

For A Higher Power: From Hacksaw Ridge to Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali arrives at federal court in Houston for his trial on a charge of refusing to be inducted into the Army.
Muhammad Ali arrives at federal court in Houston for his trial on a charge of refusing to be inducted into the Army.

What does it take for someone to stand for what they believe in? What does it take for someone to sacrifice for what they believe in? What does it take for someone to literally sacrifice their liberty, their very life for their faith?  In the film, Hacksaw Ridge, Desmond Doss enlists in the army and is faced with these questions right from the get-go. Muhammad Ali is faced with these questions in the prime of his fighting career, and thousands of others have faced these questions for centuries.

When I think of the term ‘conscientious objector’, Vietnam and the young men who refused to join the conflict immediately crowd the imagination.  Images of long haired hippies, in tie-die tee-shirts, ‘turning on, tuning in, and dropping out’ [1] in the streets of San Francisco and New York City in the late ‘60s, holding peace signs an decrying the evils of the War, are synonymous with the term.

Hacksaw Ridge

The 2016 Academy Award Winning feature film, Hacksaw Ridge, portrays the life of a conscientious objector that could not be farther from that image. Desmond Doss was working at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, [2]. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in December of 1941 he was determined to serve in the military, yet would not compromise his faith as a Seventh-day Adventist.  This meant adhering to two commandments that would cause him great difficulty. He would not kill, and he would observe the Sabbath. Consequently he refused to carry a weapon, let alone fire one, and requested a pass to attend church on Saturday. Continue reading For A Higher Power: From Hacksaw Ridge to Muhammad Ali

To Heaven and Back II: Miracles from Heaven

The Beam family and filmmakers, 2016
Miracles from Heaven. The Beam family and filmmakers, 2016

 

The movie Miracles from Heaven is based on the true story of a young girl, Annabel Beam, who suffered for years with two digestive disorders.  One day while climbing with her sisters, she fell headfirst into the hollow trunk of a tree. While the events that ensued may raise the suspicions of the skeptic, they are just as likely to reaffirm the faith of many–particularly of the film’s intended audience–and perhaps speak to a few of those skeptics as well.  Continue reading To Heaven and Back II: Miracles from Heaven

Reflections on C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed

Writer and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
Writer and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)

Clive Staples Lewis is one of the giants of twentieth century Christian apologetics.  His reasoned and erudite defence of the Christian faith in books, essays, lectures and letters have persuaded and inspired many for decades. However it was the illness and death of his wife, Helen Joy Davidman, that severely tested his faith, that forced an intensely personal introspection that blasted through layers of intellectual reasoning, and exposed a vulnerability and helplessness uncharacteristic in his writings. A Grief Observed is Lewis’ account of that grief, of his struggle to cope with the heart-wrenching agony that mere reason and intellectualism were so ill-equipped to explain.

‘H.’

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Handel: Messiah

 

Musical score for the oratorio Messiah, by German-British composer George Frideric Handel 1685-1759. Title page. Printed by Messers Randall & Abell, London, 1747. Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale, Bologna Italy. (Photo by: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images
Musical score for the oratorio Messiah, by George Frideric Handel.

Every Christmas the music of the Hallelujah Chorus fills our churches and concert halls, is streamed over the radio, television, and on Social Media.  Originally intended as an Easter work, the oratorio from which it is taken, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, has become synonymous with Christmas around the world for over two and a half centuries.

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John Newton, Amazing Grace

circa 1775: John Newton (1725-1807), English clergyman and religious poet,
circa 1775: John Newton (1725-1807), English clergyman, hymn-writer and abolitionist.

As a young sailor John Newton was prone to drunkenness, profanity, and myriad forms of irresponsible behavior. He converted to Christianity in his mid-twenties yet accepted a position as captain of a slave ship, sometimes conducting Bible studies onboard. After leaving the slave trade he became a pre-eminent figure in the Anglican Church, well known for his sermons, letters, and over two hundred hymns, including the venerable ‘Amazing Grace.’ In later years he became a prominent figure in the British abolitionist movement and a powerful weapon in the fight that would end the slave trade and, ultimately, slavery itself in the British Empire.

 ‘Infidel’

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Jesus Christ, Timeless Music Star

Crucifixion scene from 'Jesus Christ Superstar'
Crucifixion scene from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

 

Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell are two of the most iconic theatre and film productions of the past fifty years that are based on the life and death of Jesus Christ. They portray a Christ that resonated with the culture at the time, and exposed two very different views of the Messiah, views that are as relevant today as they were when first produced.
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