Religious Beliefs of the Founding Fathers

 

You desire to know something of my Religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it: But I do not take your Curiosity amiss, and shall endeavour in a few Words to gratify it. Here is my Creed: I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable Service we can render to him, is doing Good to his other Children. That the Soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental Principles of all sound Religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever Sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho’ it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. I see no harm however in its being believed, if that Belief has the good Consequence as probably it has, of making his Doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the Believers, in his Government of the World, with any particular Marks of his Displeasure. I shall only add respecting myself, that having experienced the Goodness of that Being, in conducting me prosperously thro’ a long Life, I have no doubt of its Continuance in the next, tho’ without the smallest Conceit of meriting such Goodness.

Benjamin Franklin, excerpt of a letter that Franklin wrote to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale on March 9, 1790, six weeks prior to Franklin’s death.

Published in: on March 29, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Religious Beliefs of the Founding Fathers  
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Screen Pilates: Pilou Asbæk

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Keith Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore,  Hurd Hatfield, Vincent Regan, Arthur Kennedy, Gary Oldman and Ian Holm may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here , here,  here , here and here.

 

 

 

In Asbaek’s portrayal of Pilate we encounter a hirsute and ruthless Pilate.  In his ruthlessness, the portrayal of Pilate reflects that of the Jewish historian Josephus who lived in the latter half of the first century.  That portrayal has always been at odds with the more nuanced picture of Pilate contained in the Gospels.  I have never viewed these different portraits of the man as necessarily in conflict.  Depending upon events, a man might act quite differently than one might expect based upon their past.  Pilate had two jobs from the Emperor:  keep the peace and keep taxes flowing.  Pilate was inclined to be merciful to Christ until Caiaphas skillfully convinced Pilate that he would accuse him of falling down on both his jobs if Christ were not crucified.

As to Pilate having a beard, most Roman aristocrats were clean shaven at the time, and had been since the end of the Second Punic War, and a beard was considered a Greek affectation.  It is unlikely that Pilate would have had a beard, especially considering the hot and humid climate of Judaea, but some Romans did have beards, usually as a sign of fashionable youthful rebellion or as a sign of mourning.

Published in: on March 28, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Pilou Asbæk  
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Screen Pilates: Ian Holm

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore,  Hurd Hatfield, Vincent Regan, Arthur Kennedy and Gary Oldman may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here , here,  here and here.

 

Bilbo Baggins as Pilate.  Actor Ian Holm voice acted Pilate in the claymation version of the life of Christ in The Miracle Maker (2000).  British actors have a long history of being cast in roles as Roman aristocrats.  However Ian Holm does the role of Pilate without a trace of a British accent.  He portrays Pilate as quite stern but not unsympathetic to Jesus who he finds completely puzzling.  When Caiaphas states that Pilate is no friend of Caesar if he spares Jesus, Pilate gives up in disgust, washes his hands and orders the crucifixion of Jesus.

Published in: on March 27, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Ian Holm  
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Screen Pilates: Gary Oldman

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth, David Bowie, Lowell Gilmore,  Hurd Hatfield, Vincent Regan and Arthur Kennedy may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here , here , here , here , here and here.

Gary Oldman, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017), assumed the role of Pilate in the 1999 CBS miniseries Jesus.  I cannot find a clip of his performance on the internet, but we do have an interview in which he discusses Pilate and the role of Pilate:

 

Oldman says that in this version the Romans are to blame for the execution of Jesus with  Pilate the consummate politician leading the plot against Jesus.  Certainly almost nothing in Scripture to support this viewpoint, but it certainly is one that has been frequently raised.

Published in: on March 26, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Gary Oldman  
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Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago

 

 

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

Grant in his memoirs wrote, “When Lee and I separated he went back to his lines and I returned to the house of Mr. McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same flag.”

Lee so appreciated the generosity of the terms of surrender given by Grant, that for the remainder of his life he would never allow a word of denigration about Grant to be spoken in his presence.

(more…)

Published in: on March 25, 2018 at 5:29 am  Comments Off on Palm Sunday 151 Years Ago  
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I Hate Snow

Something for the weekend.  I Hate Snow.  Courtesy of Winter Storm Uma my little slice of Central Illinois is under a winter storm advisory today.  This after a week of spring like weather.  Depressing but such is life in the Midwest where I have seen “Winter” occasionally in May.

 

Published in: on March 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on I Hate Snow  
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March 23, 1775: Liberty or Death

 

 

 

A fine video on the great “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death Speech” of Patrick Henry delivered in the Virginia House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775.  It is a remarkable speech, made even more remarkable when we consider that Patrick Henry was in deep mourning for his beloved wife Sarah who, after years of fighting a losing battle with mental illness, had died in February of 1775.   ( Henry refused to have her committed, against the advice of his physician, to the appalling insane asylums of his day, one he inspected would have had his wife chained to a wall, and Henry cared for her at home, bathing her, dressing her and keeping her from harming herself.)

Henry was perhaps the greatest American orator in a time of great American oratory.  It was said of him that cold print did not do justice to the passions he roused in his listeners with his speeches.  American school children used to memorize passages from this speech, a custom I hope is revived, because his speech goes to the core of what it means to be an American.  Here is the text of his speech, as it has been reconstructed, as no manuscript of it survives and our text is based on the recollections of men who heard it: (more…)

Published in: on March 23, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 23, 1775: Liberty or Death  
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Pershing Speaks!

 

The things you find on the internet.  An address by General “Black Jack” Pershing from France during World War I.  His voice was more sonorous than I expected, perhaps I anticipated a more clipped and prosaic pronunciation from his many years in the Army.  Pershing declined to run for President in 1920 but said he would serve if the people wanted him.  Pershing was a Republican, but party leaders thought he was too closely associated with Wilson’s policies.  An interesting what if as to how history would have been impacted if Pershing, who lived until 1948, had been elected President in 1920.

Published in: on March 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Pershing Speaks!  
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March 21, 1918: Operation Michael Begins

And then, exactly as a pianist runs his hands across the keyboard from treble to bass, there rose in less than one minute the most tremendous cannonade I shall ever hear…It swept round us in a wide curve of red leaping flame stretching to the north far along the front of the Third Army, as well as of the Fifth Army on the south, and quite unending in either direction…the enormous explosions of the shells upon our trenches seemed almost to touch each other, with hardly an interval in space or time…The weight and intensity of the bombardment surpassed anything which anyone had ever known before.

Winston Churchill, who was present at the front when Operation Michael began.

 

 

 

The 1918 German Spring Offensive, known to history as the Kaiserschlacht (Kaiser’s Battle), got underway on March 21, 1918.  Three German Armies struck the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The British Fifth Army held the juncture with the French forces in the south.  If the British could be driven away from the French, hopefully being driven into the North Sea, the Germans thought that they could then defeat the French.  This large scale test of the German stosstruppen tactics seemed initially to be a great success.  Rolling artillery barrages protected the German stormtroops as they avoided Allied strongpoints and punched holes in the British trench lines, restoring a mobility to the Western Front warfare that had been absent after 1914.

 

By the time the offensive came to an end on April 5, 1918 the Germans had put a scare into the Allied High Command and made huge, up to 65 miles, almost unbelievable, in the context of the Western Front, gains against the British.  However, there were worrisome factors for the Germans to contemplate.  Each side during the offensive lost a quarter of a million men, but the German losses were mostly among their highly trained, and irreplaceable, stormtroops.  The Germans enjoyed huge tactical successes, but General Ludendorff, perhaps the most overrated commander of the Great War, was unable to use these successes to gain the strategic goal of separating the British from the French.  The Germans had great difficulty in keeping their assault troops supplied over the torn up terrain they were advancing over.  The Germans captured 75,000 British troops, and 1300 pieces of artillery, but they were no closer to ultimate victory than they had been when Operation Michael was launched.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 21, 1918: Operation Michael Begins  
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March 20, 1854: Founding of the Republican Party

By 1854 two things were clear on the American political scene:

  •  The Whig Party was in its death throes; and
  • The issue of slavery was becoming the major issue in the country, cutting across Whig and Democrat party divisions.

The founding of a new anti-slavery party was clearly called for and it came about in 1854.  The birth of the new party was complicated with many meetings around the country laying claim to giving birth to the new political party.  The Republican party over time has pointed to a meeting of former Whigs in Ripon, Wisconsin on March 20, 1854 as marking its birth.  Although friendly to the new party Abraham Lincoln, a committed Whig, did not join  until 1856.  The party would grow ever stronger throughout the 1850’s, drawing strength from anti-slavery advocates forsaking old allegiances and rallying under the anti-slavery banner of the Republicans.

Published in: on March 20, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 20, 1854: Founding of the Republican Party