An article I recently contributed to Christian History & Biography:
Re-Monking the Church
Many Catholics and Protestants are looking back to Benedict for the community and spiritual intensity they can’t find in modern culture.
Christians struggling for sanctity in a too-comfortable world should pay attention to this observation by Mark Noll: “For over a millennium, in the centuries between the reign of Constantine and the Protestant Reformation, almost everything in the church that approached the highest, noblest, and truest ideals of the gospel was done either by those who had chosen the monastic way or by those who had been inspired in their Christian life by the monks.” Can Western monasticism’s “father,” Benedict, still give us an antidote to cultural compromise?
At first blush, this might seem unlikely, at least in the Western church. Between 1978 and 2004—nearly the entire span of John Paul II’s pontificate—the number of men in monastic and religious orders (not including priests) decreased by 46% in Europe and 30% in the Americas, while the number of women decreased by 39% and 27%, respectively. Compare this to the trend in the global South: During the same period, men in monastic and religious orders increased by 48% in Africa and 39% in Asia, with women increasing on those two continents by 62% and 64%.
A number of the Catholic writers in the 2006 volume A Monastic Vision for the 21st Century frankly wonder if “monasticism as we know it” is, in God’s providential plan, destined for obsolescence in the West. Yet most suggest that new and powerful forms of the monastic impulse may even now be arising.
This is certainly the impression given by the 21st annual Monastic Institute, held in July 2006 at St. John’s Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota. There, Catholic Benedictines and members of established communities such as L’Arche and the Catholic Worker Movement joined with leaders of new Protestant communities with names like the Simple Way (Pennsylvania), Rutba House (North Carolina), and the Church of the Servant King (Oregon) to mine the riches of Benedict’s Rule. This strikingly diverse group—50% Catholic, 50% Protestant—discussed the topic of “new communities” with high hopes that, indeed, God is still in the monastic impulse.
The Lure of Tradition
Many signs buoy this hope. Even in the midst of declining numbers, Benedictine monasticism is still thriving on a wide spectrum from the modernized (seen at places like St. John’s) to the traditional. In 2000, American monks reestablished a Benedictine monastic community in Benedict’s Italian hometown of Nursia, now called Norcia. American Catholic monasticism has seen new life from an unexpected quarter: young men committing themselves to a very traditional form of Benedictine monasticism at the recently founded Clear Creek Monastery near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clear Creek’s monks celebrate the Latin Mass, cultivate Gregorian chant, and practice not only the gospel demands of poverty, chastity, and obedience, but also the distinctly Benedictine gift of hospitality. Many Americans, struck anew with the yearning for holy community rooted deep in the church’s history, have come to visit—and a few to stay.
But what if someone does not desire—or does not sense God’s call—to make the lifelong vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience required of monastics? Do the spiritual resources of the monastic tradition have anything to offer to the person who has made commitments to spouse and family, or is pursuing a secular vocation? History gives a resounding “yes.” After all, monasticism was never intended to encompass a different set of spiritual values than those followed by all Christians. It offered a means of living the Christian life with more single-minded intensity.
For nearly a millennium, there have been people (one might call them “monastic groupies”) who have connected themselves to a monastery in a less formal way, committing to certain spiritual disciplines while remaining in the world. The option of becoming a monastic associate or oblate has enjoyed a recent surge of popularity as both Catholics and Protestants have sought in monastic spirituality something they feel is missing in their own lives.
The Longing for Connectedness
Also more numerous within the Catholic fold—and arguably no less in the spirit of Benedict himself—are members of a cornucopia of mission-driven ecclesial communities, such as the Christian Life Movement, Chemin Neuf (A New Way), and the Emmanuel Community. In June 2006, the same month that the Monastic Institute met in Minnesota, Pope Benedict XVI met with over 100 new ecclesial groups in St. Peter’s Square.
Each is committed to following a disciplined pattern of life—some communally and some in the regular spheres of family and work—and to serving the world in its own way. Many include married couples along with priests and individuals who have taken vows of celibacy and poverty. Though the ecclesial communities are not deliberately “monastic,” they are meeting needs that in previous centuries could only have been met by joining a monastery.
Many of us yearn to be deeply rooted in Christ in a way that reflects his holiness, and to share this rooted, holy life with a community, but we find this hard to do in the modern West. Our culture pushes us to strive for individual fulfillment, to consume more and more, and to spend much of our lives working to pay for that consumption. The result has been a world of constant mobility, alienation, and loneliness. Quasi-monastic movements like the Catholic ecclesial communities reveal a deep desire for connectedness—a sense that we need to live a regular, disciplined life of devotion to God, and that we can’t do it alone.
In Protestant circles, this monastic impulse can be seen especially in the phenomenon of intentional communities. Among these, the self-described “new monastics” have taken their cue from philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. In his influential 1981 book After Virtue, MacIntyre compared the state of the West to the decadence of the late Roman Empire, and called for “another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.” In 1998 Jonathan R. Wilson picked up MacIntyre’s ideas and put them into more explicitly Christian form in Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World. He fleshed out a call for a “new monasticism” that would allow the church to truly be the church in this troubling, fragmented age.
In a time when, it seems to Wilson and the new monastics, “many parts of the church are sinking with the culture and doing so without any resistance,” Benedict’s wisdom has again become a fount of inspiration and guidance. In School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism (which emerged from a 2004 meeting of “new monastic” communities) leaders concluded that at least some Christians must engage in some form of separation—not only from the “culture at large,” but also from the increasingly compromised church—to model a life of true devotion and obedience to Christ.
But historically, of course, monastics have not stopped at separation—nor do these “new monastics.” Benedict founded a monastic way in which hospitality to the stranger and the needy is a prophetic witness to the world. Thus these new quasi-monastic communities have dedicated themselves not only to contemplative disciplines and submission to a communal rule, but also to solidarity with the poor, racial reconciliation, and peacemaking.
One Protestant who attended the St. John meeting, Bethel Seminary graduate Jan Bros, was driven by the difficulty she experienced pursuing true spiritual formation in her old megachurch to start a new monastic community in Minneapolis called Abbey Way, founded on Benedictine principles. When Bros asked a Benedictine sister what she thought of Protestants seeking to start such communities, to her delight the nun replied, “Benedict would approve.”
Passing Fad or Promising Future?
Even in the midst of such celebration, members of new communities, both Catholic and Protestant, are aware that the current love affair with monastic forms of worship and life can amount to another unhelpful “fad” as people run after books and retreats. A few candles and a few chanted prayers do not a prophetic community make.
Church of the Servant King’s Jon Stock says, “It’s awful hard for us Westerners not to approach Benedict as another technique, another consumable, another path to self-actualization.” Stock also admits that the new monasticism, focused as it often is on social activism, can lose its connection to the larger church and to worship practices anchored in the church—a concern shared by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Asbury Seminary’s Christine Pohl admits that Benedict’s four pillars—”life under a rule, life lived in commitment to a particular people and place, obedience, and ongoing conversion”—present a challenge to modern Western Christians, with our “wariness of vows and commitments, and our individualistic and mobile lifestyles.”
Time will tell whether the “new monastic” communities will survive, whether the traditional Benedictine monasteries will continue to thrive, and what new forms of counter-cultural, prayerful, prophetic community will arise to inspire Christians and shake the culture. But for now, the future of Benedict seems as bright as his past.
Chris Armstrong is associate professor of church history at Bethel Seminary and a senior editor of Christian History & Biography. The author thanks Dennis Martin for his guidance on the current state of Roman Catholic monasticism.
In the spirit of Dorothy L. Sayers’s appreciation of our modern need for ancient creeds, I offer the following piece I wrote a few years back:
United methodist bishop Joseph Sprague publicly denies that Jesus rose bodily, that he is eternally divine, and that he is the only way to salvation. He has been charged four times with teaching heresies, and four times denominational representatives have acquitted him.
This is not a lone incident. For decades before his retirement, Episcopal bishop Jack Spong publicly repudiated nearly every line in the Nicene Creed and yet was never disciplined by his denomination. Examples could be pulled from Congregational, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches. Mainline leaders seem to perceive heresy as somehow an outmoded concept. Or, at least, they see the heresy trial as an inappropriate venue for addressing such teachings.
Whatever their reasons, we are mistaken if we think modern objections to the prosecution of heretics come from sloppy thinking. To put the best face on it, such extreme leniency arises, rather, because many people are repulsed by the ways orthodox Christian belief has been defended—in particular, how heretics have been prosecuted and punished.
Much more has been at work in historical heresy trials, George H. Shriver insists in his Dictionary of Heresy Trials in American Christianity, than a simple desire to protect the faithful from bad doctrine. “Politics, jealousies, power struggles, anti-intellectualism, miscommunication, limits of knowing, grudges, personal animosities, confusion of ethics with doctrine” have all entered into the picture, coloring not only the motivations of would-be defenders of the faith, but their actions as well.
Indeed. One need only think of the closed, secret trials and torture implements of the Inquisition. Shriver’s conclusion: “The heresy hunters have…often allowed themselves to pervert Christian ethics in their pursuit of their goal of discrediting persons they have labeled ‘heretics.’ “
The truth of this objection to “heresy hunting” is only too clear from church history. But those who would use this historical evidence to attack all forms of heresy prosecution find it convenient to ignore one small fact: Apart from Jesus, no one has ever been exempt from mixed motives and unsavory methods.
This means that the process of defining orthodox belief has always been mediated by, as historian R. Scott Appleby puts it in a U.S. Catholic article, “human agents who have a tendency to let their own passions, misunderstandings, and political rivalries intervene.”
So, read the Old Testament. Or review the squabble between Peter and Paul over circumcision. The Holy Spirit has always found it necessary to work with the human materials at hand. And those materials have always been the same—not pretty. There was metaphorical (and sometimes real) blood on the floor of every one of the early church councils at which orthodox Christian doctrine was defined and embodied in creeds.
Yes, it does take faith to believe that the decisions of these councils actually reflect belief as God would have it. It is the same act of faith that allows the Christian to look around a church, see the assortment of annoying and downright unsavory characters occupying the pews, and affirm that the church is still, somehow, the “body of Christ.”
Romancing the Heretic
The popular image presents the heretic as a courageous, powerless loner, exploring what fellow Christians refuse to explore and paying the price at the hands of unprincipled church leaders motivated by entrenched prejudice. This holds no more water than the picture of the heretic as a black-hearted subversive and orthodox leaders as saints riding in on white horses.
To take just one example, think of Arius. This was the man whose teaching that Jesus Christ is less than fully divine (for a modern version, talk to a Jehovah’s Witness) rocked the early church and led to the first ecumenical council. He and his followers were far from a weak, oppressed minority beset by power-hungry orthodox leaders. As Tom Oden puts it in his Rebirth of Orthodoxy, they “lived by collusion with political oppressors. They had plenty of intellectuals and power manipulators on their side, while orthodoxy had to be defended largely by nonscholars and laypeople, by modest men and women of no means, by lowly persons who had no training or special expertise but understood their lives in Christ.”
On the other hand, Arius’s opponent Athanasius, the bold Christian thinker whose leadership helped move the Council of Nicea to condemn Arius, was no triumphant political manipulator. He was “exiled a half-dozen times and chased all over the Mediterranean world during the Arian times.” The example can be multiplied on both sides.
To be sure, the inquisitorial practices of some past heresy hunts have left a permanent stain on the church—although the scale of what we might dub “heresy abuse” is often overblown. (Contrary to popular fiction, being charged before one of the Spanish Inquisitions was not a guarantee of an auto-da-fé. Statistical studies show that fewer than 2 percent of those charged were condemned to death.) Still, we must not deny or defend travesties that did occur. At the same time, we must recognize the depth of the problem heresy trials have attempted to address. In most cases, not political but pastoral concerns have driven the church to prosecute teachers of aberrant doctrines.
The problem is that the preached word has power—one way or the other. Every Sunday, unsuspecting people enter churches shepherded by those whose theological openness leads them to teach things we used to call heresies. What they hear in such teachings is not just divergent opinion. It is potent misdirection, capable of turning the sheep away from salvation.
And this is the nub. As a teacher of mine once put it, if Jack the Ripper is abroad in your town, killing people and mutilating their bodies, the city’s leaders must track him down and render him unable to inflict further harm. And if, as the historic church has always—until today—agreed, a person insists on teaching beliefs that threaten the eternal lives of all who hear them, that person must be disciplined and his harmful teaching rendered null within the church.
It is easy for a comfortable “Christian” society to demonize the mechanisms the historic church has developed to deal with heresy. But to wink at heresy is to suck the life from faith.
Heresies are worth fighting against, through the same kinds of mechanisms that the church has always used. Yes, these mechanisms are tainted by politics and pride. But somehow still, we must believe, they have been used and will continue to be used by the Holy Spirit for the health of his church. In Appleby’s words, “What we hold devoutly to be true, what we identify as the very core of our Christian identity, has come to us through the imperfect channel of human history.”
Chris Armstrong is managing editor of Christian History magazine.
An anagram for Amanda Berry Smith
Amanda Berry Smith: “Mamas Tarry Behind”
“Tarrying” was the African-American (and in some circle, white) holiness word for what the “seeker” did when they were praying for entire sanctification.
The “behind” refers to a social position: as a poor black woman, Amanda had three strikes against her even before she started to tarry for her sanctification–let alone when she desired to bring the message of that experience to the larger world of America. She was “behind” before she even began. Yet begin she did, and fought through every obstacle to teach and sing the message she felt the Holy Spirit had given her.
Taking Dante to the streets
A scholar and popularizer of Dante, Dr. Ronald B. Herzman, has given this wonderful account of some experiences he’s had with what happens when people–including the inmates of Attica Prison–grab hold of Dante. If you enjoy Herzman’s short article, run, don’t walk to the website of The Teaching Company and get their Dante course, co-taught by Herzman and Dr. William R. Cook.
A woman not in the “ten,” but well worth knowing!
Here’s a paper by one of my excellent students, Jane Spriggs, on another woman well worth knowing: Sojourner Truth. I love the dynamic, sensitive way Jane presents this powerful character from American Christian history:
Sojourner Truth: Freedom Fighter
Sojourner Truth deserves the reputation of being “one of the two most famous African-American women of the nineteenth century”. She preached the gospel of Jesus Christ without Biblical training, was a powerful voice for abolition as an ex-slave, fought for the rights of women, and saw beyond emancipation to the educational, health, and long-term economic needs of black people. Her name was well chosen, for she did indeed speak truth at a dark time in American history.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Van Wagenen in about 1797, in the village of Hurley, New York. Though slavery was different in the 1700’s than the Southern United States (each family in the North owned less slaves; females had more domestic responsibilities than the agricultural focus of the South) – slavery was a large part of Northern life and economy in the late 1700’s. Isabella’s slave context was brutal and defined her life in many ways; in later years, she often told of the “most cruel whipping she was ever tortured with”  by her master when she was only nine, which permanently scarred her back.
Slavery devastated generations of families in America – families in the North, as well as the South, were split apart as children were sold to other owners (Isabella often heard her parents tell the sad story of her siblings being taken away and sold when they were 3 and 5 years old), slavery prematurely ended the life of many, including Isabella’s father, Bomefree and mother Elizabeth (though their living conditions were inhumane, they outlived many other American slaves; one estimate of slave life expectancy in 1850 was 29 years for a black male, and thirty-four years for a black female). Slave-owners controlled marriages – Isabella was prevented from marrying her boyfriend, who was beaten for trying to see her – she was “shocked at the murderous treatment of poor Robert, whom she truly loved, and whose only crime, in the eye of his persecutors, was his affection for her”. Slavery was particularly cruel to women – in the nineteenth century, when white American women were kept in homes and protected, only slave women were “sexually exploited with impunity, stripped and whipped with a lash, and worked like oxen”.
Slaves had no rights, no possessions, and usually had no chance to be educated. Isabella, who renamed herself Sojourner Truth when she was free, was a “woman of remarkable intelligence despite her illiteracy”. Truth chose to remain ‘illiterate’ throughout her life – she once reportedly said, “You know, children, I don’t read such small stuff as letters, I read men and nations.”
But is illiteracy the right designation to give Sojourner Truth? Historian Karma Lochrie uses fifteenth-century mystic Margery Kempe, the first English autobiographer, (who also relied on scribes and intermediaries to put her words into writing), to argue for a category between literacy and illiteracy, “a quasi-literacy defined by its access to the written word.” This seems to fit Truth, as well as many others of her time, for whom “reading was more often linked with hearing or listening than it was with seeing”. Truth loved to hear the Bible and newspapers read to her – when she was examining the Scriptures, she wanted them read ‘without comment’, and, as a result, she asked children, rather than adults, to read to her. Children, Truth said, “would re-read the same sentence to her, as often as she wished, and without comment; and in that way she was enabled to see what her own mind could make out of the record”.
3. Christian (and other) traditions
Reading books by and about Truth are like a foray into American religious life of the 19 and 20th centuries. Perhaps because of a lack of formal education and Christian community, or because of her spiritual curiosity, Truth had associations with a wide variety of Christian and quasi-Christian traditions of her time. For example, she became a Methodist perfectionist in the 1820’s (and, for many years, adopted characteristics of the holiness movement such as plain dressing and listening to “the Spirit”), and also became involved with a small, unorthodox group led by the self-proclaimed prophet named Matthias in the 1930’s. Truth sums up her time with the fanatical group by saying “while Isabella was a member of the household at Sing Sing, doing much laborious service in the spirit of religious disinterestedness, and gradually getting her vision purged and her mind cured of its illusions, she happily escaped the contamination that surrounded her”.
After she left the group, Truth moved to Connecticut and preached at camp meetings of Millerites in the 1840’s (Millerites believed in the popular ‘Second Advent’ doctrines of the time – Jesus was coming back soon; people had better be ready!), at one meeting she calmed a riotous crowd by singing and preaching with “truth and wisdom beyond herself”. Also in the 1940’s, Truth was involved with a utopian community, the Northampton project, in Massachusetts – which opened the door for her to know several reformers of antislavery feminism.
In the 1850’s, as Truth was on the road as an itinerant preacher, one of her biographers maintains she “embraced a new religion on the American landscape: spiritualism”. While it is clear Truth participated in at least one séance at Progressive Friends meetings, as spiritualism “turned its followers more toward the spirits of the dead than toward Jesus the saviour”, I struggle with how fully Truth embraced a movement condemned by God. At any rate, I take comfort in the report of Truth’s last words being, “Be a follower of the Lord Jesus”,– and I believe she was, to the end of her life.
Sojourner Truth lived a remarkable life; one hallmark of her story was her ability to listen to the voice of God. As a young slave named Isabella, her mother Elizabeth (also called Mau-mau) taught her, in the Low Dutch that was their culture, that “there is a God, who hears and sees you.” Even in her excruciating experiences of slavery, Truth “did not forget the instruction of her mother to go to God in all her trials and every affliction”; though she did not know at that time that God could hear her thoughts, so she prayed audibly.
Isabella was a slave from the age of nine until about 30; during that time she married Thomas, another slave, and bore five children. In 1826, Isabella heard the voice of her God telling her to leave her slave-owners and become a free woman; she left just before dawn with her infant daughter, Sophia, and spent her first days with a Quaker family, the Van Wagenners, who secured her freedom by paying her owner. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Isabella to leave her other children behind – but she did it because “she had no means of sustaining them if she had them with her, and was content to leave them behind.”
After about a year, Isabella was wrestling with returning to John Dumont, her former slave owner, when suddenly God revealed Himself to her, and made her conscious of her own sinfulness. She also wished for someone to speak to God for her, and, “At length a friend appeared to stand between herself and an insulted Deity; and she felt as sensibly refreshed as when, on a hot day, an umbrella had been interposed between her scorching head and a burning sun.” As Isabella meditated on this vision, holy and radiant with love, wondering who it was, “an answer came to her, saying distinctly, “It is Jesus.” From that time on, Isabella knew Jesus loved her, though she had never known it before. Isabella describes herself as happy with her dear new Friend; it was later she understood Jesus is God, too; after that her conceptions of Jesus became more “elevated and spiritual” – as she saw Jesus as her friend, “standing between me and God, through whom, love flowed as from a fountain.” I believe this vision informed the remainder of her life and ministry. Was Isabella born again at this time? Baptized in the Holy Spirit? Entirely sanctified? Whatever it was, Isabella experienced the assurance of salvation “that gave her the self-confidence to oppose the rich and powerful of this world.”
Isabella starting fighting for truth before she even changed her name. In 1927, Isabella prayed and fought to recover her son, who had been illegally sold – after a year, she won the court case and legal custody of her son. (Later she would win several more court cases – by proving her innocence in a charge stemming from the prophet Matthias days, and by having an abusive streetcar driver arrested and convicted of assault and battery.)
On June 1st, 1843, Isabella knew she needed to leave sinful New York City; she informed the woman whose home she stayed in that her name was “no longer Isabella, but SOJOURNER, and she was going east”, because God’s Spirit was calling her -on the day of Pentecost! Harriet Beecher Stowe tells the story of Truth’s naming this way: “…the Lord gave me Sojourner, because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ bein’ a sign unto them. Afterwards I told the Lord I wanted another name, ‘cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth to the people”.
From this time on, Sojourner Truth traveled throughout the land, singing and preaching salvation in the name of Jesus Christ – which caused controversy because she was not only female, but also black and uneducated! At nearly 6’ tall, with “strong and truthful tones”, Truth captured audience’s attention and hearts. She was a masterful entertainer, who used wit, sarcasm, and Biblical imagery to soften her message and produce surprisingly positive responses from her audiences. (A copy of Truth’s speech to the First Annual Meeting of the American Equal Rights Association in 1867 quotes her as saying, “I am sometimes told that “Women ain’t fit to vote. Why, don’t you know that a woman had seven devils in her: and do you suppose a woman is fit to rule the nation? Seven devils ain’t no account; a man had a legion in him.” (The audience responded with great laughter!) Truth tells where the devils asked to go – into hogs, because they were the selfishest beast, “and man is so selfish that he has got women’s rights and his own too, and yet he won’t give women their rights.”
As time went on, and she grew in confidence and conviction, Sojourner Truth became known as a tireless spokesperson for abolition; she was also a pioneering feminist, as the speech above illustrates. Truth spoke at many other conventions across the country, selling her narrative (and, in later years, her photographs) to dispel the many myths written about her, and support herself financially.
Truth intuitively recognized the connections “between the subordination of women and the enslavement of Africans” – for her, the two issues were combined “in her one body”. These two issues had held together well during the Civil War, but after Emancipation, “Reconstruction tore abolitionists apart. Southern politics demanded black male suffrage, and black, male suffrage galvanized feminists.” Truth tried to make a bridge between political claims of race and of sex – as she stood for both blacks and women.
Truth’s last mission was to ask the government to give western land for resettling refugee freedpeople still unemployed in Washington, D.C., using the Indian reservation as a model – though she again tirelessly worked to move the proposal through Congress, it did not muster much support. Truth finally retired to her home in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1880; she was cared for in her final years by her daughters Diana, Elizabeth, and Sophia; her son, Peter disappeared at sea in the 1840’s; nothing is known about her fifth child. Near the end of her life, Truth visited with a reporter from Grand Rapids– she exhorted the reporter to continue her resettlement dream, and sang one of her favorite songs:
It was early in the morning,
It was early in the morning,
Just at the break of day,
When He arose, when He rose, when He rose,
And went to Heaven on a cloud.
Sojourner Truth died before dawn on November 26, 1883; she was about eighty-six years old.
The life and prophetic words of Sojourner Truth are still relevant today. Racism, sexism, and classism still exist in America, and throughout the world. If a prophet is “one who continues to keep imagination regarding possible alternative futures alive in those who are oppressed”, Truth was a powerful prophet in her lifetime – even though she was a marginalized person. By her faithfulness to God’s call on her life, she affected individuals and institutions for truth and liberty (when she presented her land grant program to the U.S. Congress, they gave her a standing ovation because of her relentless efforts for freedom). I feel a similar call on my life today, as I care about racial, gender, and economic reconciliation in the Body of Christ.
Truth inspires me to:
· Utilize all available technologies available to me in reaching audiences (as she utilized the spoken and written word and photography).
· Speak the truth from God’s Word – finding my own style of saying difficult things in creative and humorous ways.
· Guard myself against experimenting in religious fanaticism; “testing the spirits” to assure I am listening only to the Lord Jesus Christ.
· Develop relationship with influential people in each sphere I operate in, like Truth did – and encouraging them to stand for truth as well.
· Speak against all forms of oppression, and raise my voice in behalf of equality.
· Love my enemies, even as God gave Truth love for her oppressors – “She used to say she wished God would kill all the white people and not leave one for seed. Now she found she could even love them.”
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.3.
 Ibid., p.9.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987,p.26
 White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n’t I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. New York: W.W.Norton and Company, 1985, p.84.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.35.
 White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n’t I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South. New York: W.W.Norton and Company, 1985, p.162.
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.3.
 Stetson, Erlene, and Linda David. Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994, p.3.
 Ibid., p.3.
 Ibid.` p.3.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.108-9.
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.42.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.96.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.117.
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.95.
 Ibid., p.143.
 Ibid., p.145.
 Ibid., p.254.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.17
 Ibid., p.27.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.63.
 Ibid., p.66.
 Ibid., p.67.
 Ibid., p.68.
 Ibid., p.69.
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.30.
 Ibid., p.211.
 Truth, Sojourner. Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Salem: Ayer Company Publishers, 1987, p.100.
 Stetson, Erlene, and Linda David. Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994, p.87-88.
 Brekus, Catherine A. Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America – 1740-1845. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, p.205.
 Ibid., p.225.
 Fitch, Suzanne Pullon and Roseann M. Mandziuk. Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story, and Song. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997, p.125.
 Brekus, Catherine A. Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America – 1740-1845. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, p.250.
 Ibid., p.225.
 Painter, Nell Irvin. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1996, p.221.
 Ibid., p.221.
 Ibid., p.229.
 Ibid., p.251.
 Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination, p.40. Quoted in “Prophetic Women and the People of God,” by Elaine A. Heath; Priscilla Papers, Volume 20, Number 1, Winter 2006, p.25.
 Hollyday, Joyce. Sojourner Truth: A Pillar of Fire. Sojourners, December, 1986, p.20.
 Stetson, Erlene, and Linda David. Glorying in Tribulation: The Lifework of Sojourner Truth. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1994, p.51.
Dante’s Divine Comedy online
Here’s Dante’s Divine Comedy online. The translation is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Given the number of hits on unique phrases from this, I’d assume it’s public domain.
Amanda Smith biography and article online
Folks, I’ve just discovered online a complete full text version of Amanda Smith’s Autobiography. This is great, because the published version that’s still in print costs a pretty penny:
Also, here is a two-part popular article on Smith:
Thanks to Erica Olson for pointing these articles out to me.
Sayers against “historicism gone to seed”
In my recent series on me, “Grateful to the Dead: Diary of a Christian History Professor,” I argued that the enterprise of reading history and biography for the purpose of personal transformation has been under attack from a number of fronts, and that we ought to do everything we can to defend that enterprise. Now I discover that Dorothy L. Sayers, bless her, launched her own cautious, balanced defense of just this enterprise, against an enemy she calls “a ’sense of period,’” but which in scholarly circles (as she well knew) is called “historicism.” That is the idea that writings from the past are very much of their time, and we must not try to read them as if they weren’t. What Sayers correctly objected to was the sort of “historicism-gone-to-seed” that goes on to argue that since past writings are so much of their time, we cannot read them with benefit in our own time. But already I’m failing to do her justice, so, on to her own words . . .
“The period-sense, and the dynamic philosophy of history to which it belongs, is, of course, an admirable thing, quickening our undrestanding of the past and displaying lal social and historical changes as movements in a great process of becoming. But if it is insisted upon too much, it may defeat itself. It may end by actually destroying all contact, all sympathy between us and our forebears, and even that very awareness of continuity that it ought to foster. If we look upon Dante (for example) as a man totally explicable in terms of a vanished period, we may succeed in forgetting that he is a man [Sayers almost always used gender-specific language; she understood it as denoting humanity of both sexes] like ourselves. If we account for everything that he said by the consideration that, being born when he was, there was nothing else he could very well say, we shall have provided ourselves with an excellent excuse for not applying what he said to ourselves: it performed a function in history, and there its interest ends. The period-sense may, that is, be used as a defense mechanism against any categorical imperative [that is, any universally applicable moral truth] that we may feel to be inconvenient. So long as we can look upon it as a mere incident in a historical pattern, our resistance remains unaffected.
“In this matter, as in so many others, Christianity displays its usual propensity for making everything as awkward as possible. It outrages the tidy-minded by occupying a paradoxical position. On the one hand, it made modern science and the modern views of history possible by insisting that the pattern of events was not (as the Greek philosophers thought) static or cyclic, but a progression in time from a beginning to an end. On the other, it tiresomely maintains that at every point in the developing temporal process, the conditioned truths are referable [the printed text has "preferable," but that makes nonsense out of what Sayers is saying] to an extratemporal standard of absolute truth, before which all souls enjoy complete equality, no aristocratic privilege being attached to the accident of later birth.”
(I love Sayers’s characteristic dry wit in that last clause. She later summarizes as follows:)
“Christianity also rests upon the assumption that the Word uttered in the past meant something then and means the same thing now. There is an unseemliness about the Easter appearances of something that has no business to be alive. We cannot really be surprised if some people find it more comfortable to sit down to a quiet, objective, laboratory examination of the grave clothes.”
Dorothy L. Sayers, “Dante and Charles Williams,” in The Whimsical Christian (New York: Collier, 1987).
Sayers on the variety–and commonality–of saints
“Saints come in all varieties. The only kind that seems to be rare in real life is the spineless and ‘goody-goody’ figure familiar to us in the feebler sort of pious fiction and stained-glass windows of the more regrettable periods. There are as many types of saint as of men and women, and most of them are people of great character. There are stormy and complex souls like Augustine of Hippo, with his burning sense of sin and his passionate love and dread of physical beauty, pouring out treatises, sermons, memoirs, apologetics, amide the distracting cares of a busy bishopric, travelling for ever between the city of the world and the City of God. There are anchorites, fleeing this world altogether, and devoting themselves to solitude and prayer: some, sweet and gentle like the desert Fathers; some, harsh and fanatical like Simeon Stylites, perched in austere discomfort upon his pillar. There is Francis, the ‘troubadour of God’, going barefoot among poor men and singing out his love to God and man and the whole creation: there is Albertus Magnus, toiling conscientiously at his vast commentaries upon Aristotle–certainly no singer, but the conspicuous glory of the Schools. There is Albertus’s still greater pupil, Thomas Aquinas, a man to whom virtue seemed to come naturally, whose towering intellect completed his master’s work and co-ordinated Greek learning and Christian revelation into a comprehensive system of Catholic doctrine. . . . There is little Theresa of Lisieux, meekly practising the Way amid the trivial duties of daily life and in the face of cramping family opposition: there is mighty Theresa of Avila, the eagle of contemplation, ruling her nuns with that fierce practical ability in which great mystics so often excel, and quite prepared to take God to task, with a tongue as vigorous as Job’s and a good deal tarter, when He moved in ways more exasperatingly mysterious than usual. Stubborn martyrs, subtle theologians, ardent missionaries, cloistered contemplatives, homely pastors, brilliant administrators, obscure social workers, orators whose spell-binding eloquence could move multitudes and shake the thrones of princes, the saints seem to have little in common except a heroic love of God and a flaming single-mindedness of purpose.
Dorothy L. Sayers, “Introduction” to Richard of Chichester by C. M. Duncan-Jones (1953), excerpted in Dorothy L. Sayers: Spiritual Writings, selected and introduced by Ann Loades (Cambridge: Cowley, 1993).