Social Gospel Movement

Today, like the main performer in a piano bar, I am doing a request. The request is the Social Gospel Movement in America, but I will be expanding this to the movement in general.

When I was taking business classes, the professors often quoted from Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”, but in not a single class did any of them require us to READ it. I found this curious, because over and over again I was told that this was one of the most influential books in the founding of our nation, and the basis for our entire economic system.

Therefore, I committed the ultimate heresy; I purchased a copy, and read it cover to cover.

What I found inside was a blueprint for Progressivism, the Social Contract, and a progressive tiered tax system. The purpose behind nations and corporations generating wealth was to reinvest that wealth into the betterment of the lives of their citizens, especially those who had the least amount to give.

Smith’s other great work, and his personal favorite, was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”. It opens with:

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrows of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous or the humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.”

This second book was never mentioned even once while I was in school. Adam Smith was a humanitarian who felt it our moral, social, and religious duty to improve the lives of our fellow man. By quote mining, they had turned “help your fellow man” into “greed is good”.

So, what has this long introduction have to do with the Social Gospel Movement? The Social Gospel was an originally Protestant social religious movement started in the 19th century, extending into the middle of the 20th, with some elements today, though in no way the mainstream in the United States. It was started by middle class preachers who saw the working classes becoming increasingly alienated from both the theory and practice of 19th century Christianity.

The movement was originally post-millennialist, in that they believed that the Second Coming of Jesus would not occur until after mankind had rid itself of social problems by its own efforts. This was not an original idea. Apocalyptic religions usually believe that the end of the world will not come until things get decidedly better or worse; usually the latter, if for no other reason than that it is easier to accomplish. There were several Jewish cults in pre-1st century Judea who thought that the Messiah would not come until the world was better, and far more who thought only ruin and war would bring him.

It is a myth that there was a rapid rise in the numbers of Christians in the 1st century. The extra biblical references to it would not fill a single sheet of paper, and come from later and medieval copies of texts without the original source materials. However, after a full century had passed and no end of the world was in sight, the 2nd century Christians turned their eyes from the skies to the earth below, and developed social welfare programs, which can be seen as an origin of the Social Gospel movement. One Roman author described Christianity as fit only for “women and slaves”, not realizing the significance of his words. These were two social groups with the least power, and the most to gain from a new way of thinking. They were also a significant proportion of the population. Christianity slowly became the religion of those who ran the day to day Empire and the middle class, until Helena and her son Constantine made it the official religion in the 4th century.

There were many in the Christian faith, both laity and priests, who felt it their duty to ease the suffering of their fellow man. The Franciscan order of priests was founded for this very reason. However, the emphasis of the Church became accumulation of power, wealth, and murdering other Christians who did not agree with them. Personal salvation by avoiding Hell took precedence over doing good deeds.

The Protestant Reformation and the rise of Humanism among the educated classes led to a new resurgence of concern for social ills. Infighting among sects, religious and political wars, along with the rise of Saint Paulian based Puritanicalism eventually subsided this upswing in social conscience. The needy were the way they were because of God’s Will and their own failures, and no right thinking Christian should interfere with that. You only helped them because you hoped they would reform their ways and think more like you did.

Most historians today completely miss the point of why various revolutionaries went after the churches in their countries. It was not an attack on the faith so much, but on the fact that the priestly class had become a privileged one, mostly discounting the needs of the poor. The French Revolution was a perfect example of this.

At the end of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th, the lower classes came to the full realization that they were being screwed. They did all the heavy work, the fighting and dying in wars, and the only thanks they got were short miserable lives. The American and French Revolutions were examples of what people could do to free themselves. The injustices of industrialization gave rise to the new political movements of Socialism and Communism, both based on putting the workers first. Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was first published in 1867. Revolutions broke out all over Europe in 1848, resulting in massive crack downs by authorities, but also a realization that the majority of the population would not stand for this forever. The increase in the voting franchise meant that politicians had to take notice of the needs of the poor. The German Empire, founded on the hard work of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, became a socialized paradise compared to its European and American rivals.

Into this environment stepped the Social Gospel Movement. Already, great strides had been made by Christians acting together. The abolition of slavery and the Temperance Movement were led by Christians, often working against the words of their holy texts in order to promote the social good. Christians became heavily involved in the development of worker’s rights, labor unions, opposition to child labor, environmental issues, better education, and eradication of vice. They saw clearly the causes of poverty and disease, and worked to clean up slums and provide health care to the poor. Many stood in opposition to war and empire building.

One good example of this was the Young Men’s Christian Association founded by George Williams in London in 1844. The YWCA and Boys and Girls Clubs would come much later. Christian principles would lead to a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

The Social Gospel and the Progressive movement often shared members and goals, and got help from figures like President Theodore Roosevelt. A growing press allowed people to learn of conditions far away. Charles Dickens and Mark Twain filled their books with the evils of modern society. “The Gilded Age” was the name of a book and a slur term invented by Twain, meaning that the apparent successes of Victorian society masked the depth of human misery that had built it.

Richard T. Ely (1854-1943) was a figure who straddled both the Social Gospel and Progressive Movement. He was an economist who helped found a number of organizations devoted to the applications of Christian principles to solve social problems. He lobbied for more government intervention in the areas of labor unions, workplace safety, child labor, and compulsory public education. Although he was strongly opposed to socialism, he adopted most of its ideas.

Ely wrote, “We have among us a class of mammon worshippers, whose one test of conservatism, or radicalism, is the attitude one takes with respect to accumulated wealth. Whatever tends to preserve the wealth of the wealthy is called conservatism, and whatever favors anything else, no matter what, they call socialism.”

Nevertheless, Ely was typical of his time, being both highly nationalistic and just as racist, wanting government support for the “Nordic” races over the “inferior” peoples. He was a strong supporter of American intervention in WWI, something opposed by the majority of those in the social movement. He founded the American Economic Association, which today is headquartered in Nashville, TN. His feast day in the Episcopalian Church (USA) is October 6.

The Social Gospel Movement suffered in the post WWI disillusionment, but saw major successes in the policies of the New Deal and the Eisenhower Administration reforms. However, in the 1950’s such ideas were being labeled as “commie” by the main stream media, government, and Christian churches, and membership fell off. It did remain a guiding principle in the Civil Rights Movement and Liberation Theology.

Today, the Social Gospel Movement can still be seen in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopalian Church, the Church of England, and in the reforms of Pope Francis in the Roman Catholic Church.

It is opposed by the majority of Evangelical Movements, and by Conservative groups and politicians. Most of the literature I found to research this article was actually from these detractors. They labeled the Social Gospel as “bankrupt”, “fallacious”, “dangerous”, “heresy”, “lunacy” and without a shred of biblical support. The Four Gospels sayings of Jesus probably could put them straight, but in their defense they don’t actually use them very often, except as reasons not to intervene. As they wrote in their articles, mankind is evil and sinful from birth, and only God can fix the problems. A single author put it “The problem is, this is a fallen, broken world full of imperfect people who cannot redeem themselves by their own efforts. Claiborne (another author) wants to bring to earth what is reserved only for heaven. Yet, no matter what people do, this broken world will remain broken.” He then went on to quote “the poor will always be with us”, so why bother.

“Temporal changes are not the objective of churches”.

I read this again and again. One helps the needy to get them to join your group. The Meek shall never inherit the earth because they will not be allowed to. Modern US Christianity has formed an alliance with Capitalism and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism.

The Social Gospel is not unique to Christianity. Every religion has those members who deem it a necessity to help one’s fellow man. Zakat (“that which purifies”) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam in which one gives to the poor and needy. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood gain their strength from the good they do for their communities. Dana (“generosity”) is one of the Ten Niyamas of Hinduism. Buddhism is an entire religion devoted to bettering the lives of others. Europe has been moving in this direction for decades, although with less of the religious motivation.

All is not lost here. Organizations like St. Jude’s Hospital come readily to mind. The various Masonic charities, such as the Shriner Hospitals and the Scottish and Yorkish Rite Charities work quietly every day to improve the lives of needy children. Every single medical worker, school teacher, and social worker, whether for religious reasons or not, live the ideals of the Social Gospel.

Perhaps the Social Gospel today can be seen, not so much as a movement, but as influencing the millions of acts of kindness Americans perform every day. It has moved from out in the open into the hearts of our people. The Social Gospel today may not be able to cure every ill, mend every broken heart, or end all injustice, but, by God, they certainly are going to try.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:35-40


Shin and his Tricycle

Tetsutani Shinichi, called Shin by his family (pictured here with sister Michiko), was a little boy with a dream. He lived with his father, mother, grandmother, big sister Michiko, and new baby sister Yoko. Their home was also a local drugstore. Shin’s dream was the same as many three year old’s; a shiny red tricycle.

Shin spent his days playing with his best friend, Kimi, the little girl who lived next door. They loved to play house and look at picture books, especially the one with the tricycle they both wanted.

But in wartime Japan, luxury items were scarce, and toys were almost impossible to find.Shin cried and pleaded with his parents, and tried to understand why his dream could not be fulfilled.

But, on one bright sunny day in April, a miracle happened. Shin’s uncle came to visit before he put out to sea. Wrapped in paper was a very early birthday gift; a red tricycle his uncle had discovered in a closet in his home. Shin was overjoyed, and said, “Look, Papa, my dream did come true!”

Shin and Kimi treated the tricycle like a third friend, and they took turns pedaling it while the other one rode behind. They loved to ride around the streets of their quiet town.

One morning after breakfast, Shin and Kimi were riding the tricycle around the yard. A group of soldiers were repairing the road in front of Shin’s house. They laughed and waved to the children, who laughed and waved back.

On that bright sunny morning, there was suddenly a loud explosion, followed by a blinding flash of light. In an instant, everything changed.

It was August 6, 1945, and the Little Boy atomic bomb had just exploded over Hiroshima.

Upon entry into WWII, the United States had launched into a massive arms development program, including nuclear weapons. There is a myth that there was a nuclear arms race during the war, but the Axis powers lacked the resources. Germany essentially gave up trying to develop the bomb in 1942, and the Soviet Union did not start nuclear weapons research until after Stalin discovered through his spies that the Western Powers were frantically working on one.

Many reasons have been given for why the atomic bombs were used on Japan. Some are speculation, some are conjecture, and some are subjective.

One of the most common was that Japan would not surrender. However, Japan had been trying to negotiate a peace settlement through the agency of the the Soviet Union since February 1945. Japanese historians say that it was more the decision of the Soviet Union to declare war on them than the atomic blasts that led to the need to surrender.

Another was massive Allied casualties if Japan were to be invaded. This is conjecture, and can never be proved or disproved. The allies had overwhelming military superiority, and huge stockpiles of chemical weapons were readied to be used against Japanese human wave attacks. (Biological weapons were considered as well if they were needed). Japan had been planning for invasion, and had mobilized its last resources to resist.

Another was hatred of the Japanese people. Americans wanted revenge for Pearl Harbor. (The 68 civilians killed at Pearl Harbor were almost all killed by US shrapnel from anti-aircraft fire raining down on residential areas). Americans held a lot of erroneous ideas about the Japanese and their culture, and many saw them as an inferior race. A 1944 national survey determined that 1 in 8 Americans wanted all “Japanese men, women, and children exterminated.” My father, who actually fought the Japanese, did not hold this opinion. He saw them as a noble people, and brave warriors.

One of the major reasons was the extreme cost. The United States and its allies had spent $2 billion on the project (an unheard of amount at that time), and President Truman was determined to see if it worked. He was opposed in this by Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur, the head of the Joint Chiefs, Albert Einstein, and the majority of those in the United States government who knew of the project. Most said to not use it, or at least drop it over an unoccupied area of Japan and allow the Japanese government to see its effects. Truman would hear none of that. It was a city or nothing.

Hiroshima had purposely not been bombed by conventional means to allow a greater assessment of the damage. This lack of attacks had been noted by those in the city, and various ideas had been been put forward, but none suspected the truth.

When the bomb exploded, a wall of fire and a massive shock wave spread out in all directions. The bomb had drifted during its descent, and detonated over a hospital, vaporizing everyone inside. Shin’s home was 1500 meters from the hydrocenter of the blast. The house fell down on everyone and they were badly burned.

Grandmother was the first to pull Shin from the rubble. He was badly bleeding and swollen. Kimi was already dead, crushed or killed by the blast. Their father Nobuo tried to rescue the girls, but Michiko and Yoko perished in the flames of their home. All of the soldiers in the road were dead.

With well over 90% of the city’s medical personnel dead (only one doctor survived in the Red Cross Hospital), the civilians were on their own, and most rushed down to the river to soothe the horrible burns, Shin’s family included. Shin begged for water, but his father saw that most of those who drank it died, and gave him none. (The water was highly contaminated with radiation, and those who drank it usually vomited violently before they died).

Shin was incoherent, and was asking over and over about his tricycle. His parents showed him that he was still holding one of the plastic handlebar grips in his hand. Shin smiled. That night he died, 10 days before his fourth birthday.

All of the children in Shin’s family were dead, and only the saddened adults survived. Overcome by grief, they decided to bury the children in their own yard, and not in some mass grave. The charred bones of Michiko and Yoko were buried together. Kimi’s mother brought her body and said, “They were such good friends. We should bury them together, Nabuo.” Shin and Kimi were laid to rest, hand in hand. Their cherished tricycle was buried with them as well.

In a twist of irony, the United States Army Air Force declared the atomic bombing of Hiroshima a failure, as only 1.7% of the fissionable material reacted. They had estimated far greater destruction.

On August 9th the Soviet Union declared war, and on the same day Nagaski received the second and last atomic bombing in human history. The Japanese government had had enough, and on August 15th, for the first time in their lives, the Japanese people heard their God-Emperor Hirohito on the radio, reading the capitulation announcement. The Empire of Japan had lost its first conflict in its ancient history.

Of the bombing, President Truman said, “I realize the tragic significance of the atomic bomb … It is an awful responsibility which has come to us … We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

Unfortunately, in 1949 God decided to even the playing field, and the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. A new era of fear and mutual assured destruction started. But by then Allies had become enemies, and the United States had joined forces with the former major Axis powers in a new game of world domination. That war lasted until 1989, but it still echoes today.

In 1985, Shin’s parents decided that it was time to give their children a proper burial. When they dug up the skeletons of Kimi and Shin, they were still hand in hand. The adults were astonished to discover the tricycle, since they had forgotten they had buried it.

The tricycle was donated to the Hiroshima Peace Museum, where it can still be viewed today (see picture).

“Shin’s Tricycle” is a children’s book written by another survivor of that day, with help from Shin’s father. As the author writes, “His battered tricycle serves as a reminder of all of the young victims of that tragic day – and as a symbol of the joyful and innocent time that childhood should be.”


War of 1812

June 2012

This week is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, when Napoleon led his Grand Armee into Russia.

Frustrated in his war with Britain, economic disaster, and failure of the Continental Blockade, Napoleon decided that he needed another great victory to bring Europe under his heel. Picking a fight with Russia, he got what he wanted, and his troops poured across the Neman River.

The Grand Armee was composed of 685,000 from almost every part of the First Empire and her satellites and allies. It was the largest army the modern world had ever seen, and all Europe was certain of a crushing Russian defeat. But the Russians burned their crops and towns, falling back the entire time, sucking the invaders deeper and deeper into Russia. The Grand Armee grew smaller and smaller as it was forced to leave garrisons and guard supply columns. Men and horses starved while Russian partisans picked them off one by one. Russian mud and rain slowed them down.

Finally, Marshal Kutusov was forced to fight the French at Borodino on September 7. A hard fought day, 74,000 casualties total for both sides, and the Russian army retired in good order. The French entered a Moscow stripped of supplies. A month later, the French were in full retreat. Mother Russia and Father Snow now killed even more of the invaders, and the Russians Cossacks destroyed whole columns of troops.

As he had done in Egypt, Napoleon abandoned his men to their fate and returned to Paris. The Grand Armee that entered Poland was only a tiny fraction of the one from months before.

Once again, the Russians did what no one in Europe thought they would do; they continued to pursue the French in a bid to destroy the First Empire. What followed was the War of Liberation, as much of Germany revolted against the French.

Napoleon responded with a new army, composed of the “Marie Louises”, young French conscripts barely out of school, nicknamed after their young empress. Napoleon fought great campaigns, and won many victories, but it was never enough to stem the tide, and in April 1814 he was defeated.

General Montgomery once said the the first rule of warfare was to never march on Moscow. As they would do so often, the Russian people, with their courage and willingness to sacrifice everything for their homeland, won a great victory.


Spreading Christianity to Catholics

May 2013

“Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots.” Senator Knute Nelson (R) regarding the treaty of Paris 1898, in which large parts of the Spanish Empire were handed over to the new American one after the Spanish-American War.

It is a strange statement also for the fact that the regions acquired were exclusively Catholic. Sadly, fighting to hold the land had already started. How often we make the same mistakes again and again.

Iraqi Revolts 1991

September 2013

With the 2 year civil war in Syria dominating the news now, it reminds me of the greatest tragedy of which I personally witnessed; the revolts in Iraq of 1991 and the disgraceful massacres that followed.

But first, some background information for those who do not know/remember:

Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and captured the country. (Kuwait had originally been part of Iraq, and this was their fourth attempt to take it.). Officially, the invasion was because of $1 billion. Iraq had said that Kuwait was illegally stealing oil from the Rumaila Oil field (they were) and demanded $10 billion in compensation. Kuwait offered $9 billion. The invasion followed.

Iraq was confused by the reaction to the invasion in the US, especially after assurances they had received from American Ambassador April Glaspie. Also, the United States had seven months earlier invaded and overthrew Panama, officially because a US Naval officer’s wife had been threatened with rape, but later changed to President Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking. President Bush initially did not react, but he was shamed into action by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who questioned his manhood. The Kuwait government in exile hired the PR firm Hill and Knowlton to invent stories of the occupation and stir up public opinion for war. It was the best $11 million they ever spent.

After convincing the Saudi government that they were next (they were not), an international coalition was built and the largest US deployment since Vietnam was quickly mobilized. It was better handled than the deployments of the War on Terror, and is a testament to the skill of thousands of dedicated personnel.

Expecting a long war, the US and other governments were shocked at the rapid success of the coalition forces, in what would become the most successful military campaign in US history. President Bush ordered a cease fire after 100 hours of ground combat.

The US and its allies had no real plans for the post-conflict, and ordered General Norman Schwarzkopf to handle the negotiations. Citing his lack of diplomatic experience, he demanded that the State Dept. give him directions; they sent him only four points, and he asked nothing more than those at the table. The Iraqis, surprised at their luck, turned defeat into a kind of victory and readily accepted. What had started as an almost bloodless victory (on the coalition side) turned into an 18th century “balance of power” war.

President Bush had called President Saddam Hussein “the Hitler of our time”, despite the previous support given to him by his administration and the fact that Hussein actually modeled himself after Russia’s Joseph Stalin. Although the coalition had no mandate (and several governments were against it), the public of the coalition countries had been lead to believe that the Hussein government would be replaced and brought to justice. In my personal belief, this was the first mistake that lead to President Bush not getting reelected.

That was the background for what came next.

On February 15, 1991 President Bush said over Voice of America Radio, “There is another way for the bloodshed to stop: and that is, for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations’ resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations.”

On March 1, 1991, he again said, “In my own view…the Iraqi people should put [Saddam] aside, and that would facilitate the resolution of all these problems that exist and certainly would facilitate the acceptance of Iraq back into the family of peace-loving nations.”

The Voice of Free Iraq radio also encouraged a revolt.

Revolts broke out first in the southern Shia parts of Iraq, quickly followed by the Kurdish north, and rapidly spread throughout the entire country, fueled by armed army and militia soldiers. Massacres of government officials and loyalists were common. President Hussein did offer the rebels a voice in the government, but this was rejected. The southern revolts were directed towards a democratic Iraq, while the Kurds fought (once again) for an independent homeland.

Loyalist forces, led by the Republican Guard, launched a nationwide counteroffensive, aided by the use of helicopters, which General Schwarzkopf had said they could use.

The rebels were truly devastated to discover that they could expect no help from coalition forces. Alarmed that Iran might gain too much influence in the New Iraq, the US government destroyed stockpiles of weapons, and ordered US troops to not intervene in any way to help rebels or civilians. As the rebellion began to fail, American soldiers stood by helplessly while civilians begged them for help, only to be murdered in front of them by laughing Iraqi soldiers.

On April 2, 1991 the State Department said, “We never, ever, stated as either a military or a political goal of the coalition or the international community the removal of Saddam Hussein.”

On April 5, 1991, President Bush said, “I made clear from the very beginning that it was not an objective of the coalition or the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. So I don’t think the Shiites in the south, those who are unhappy with Saddam in Baghdad, or the Kurds in the north ever felt that the United States would come to their assistance to overthrow this man…I have not misled anybody about the intentions of the United States of America, or has any other coalition partner, all of whom to my knowledge agree with me in this position.”

How many people died in the revolt, and the massacres that followed, will never truly be known. A similar fate had been granted to the people of Eastern Europe when they had revolted against the Soviet Union, and the American soldiers promised by Radio Free Europe never arrived. The people of Bosnia would learn the costs of non-intervention starting in 1992.

Many excuses were made for the lack of US intervention in the revolts, including the length of time of occupation, and the high cost of additional casualties and money. All of which were greatly expanded in the 2003 invasion.

In 2011, American Ambassador James Jeffrey officially apologized to Iraqi politicians and tribal leaders for US inaction in 1991.

Ayatollah Basheer Hussain Najafi, said, “The apology of the U.S. has come too late, and does not change what happened. The apology is not going to bring back to the widows their husbands, and bereaved mothers their sons and brothers that they lost in the massacre that followed the uprising.”

The King James Bible

Today I want to discuss a most remarkable historical book, The King James Bible. In the 18th century it was the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars, and even today is widely sold and used, especially by Evangelical churches in the United States. There is even a movement to ban all other English language versions. And yet, many of those who use it don’t know its origins. As one example, a lady once told me that she thought King James was one of the Old Testament kings, and he wrote it. When I asked her that, if this was true, how did she explain the New Testament parts, she did not know.

So, who was this King James, and why is his name attached to this bible?

James VI of Scotland became king James I of England in 1603 after the death of Elizabeth I, who had tried to delay the inevitable by murdering his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. Besides being an active bisexual with an aversion to soap, James was a brilliant religious scholar, writing many books on the various subjects in his lifetime.

Even before leaving Scotland, he had set up a commission to address some of the problems with the bibles in use at the time. In 1604, he requested 47 Church of England scholars to come up with a new version, to become the standard for the Church. The commission was required to make the version conform to the doctrines of the Anglican Church at that time, and to sound good when read aloud. (This was the standard practice of bible reading at that time, both for individuals and congregations.)

The group broke into six committees, working on different sections. Although bibles in many languages were consulted, the primary sources were the Great Bible of 1539 and the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, of which several copies were made to be used for making notes on. The bible numbering system used today (heavily favored by quoters) was invented by a French book publisher in the mid 1550s, who on his own admission divided it quite arbitrarily. (If you can, read a version without these numbers; it takes on a much different meaning.)

Although stating that they would not, the committees heavily edited the words and sometimes whole meanings of sentences. The commission decided to have their new bible “sound old”, and used phrases like thee and thou, long out of use in England. As other examples, they combined 14 different Hebrew words into “prince.” The phrase “Suffer not a witch to live” is another good example. The root word used for “witch” was the same word for the men who brought gifts to baby Jesus. Not wanting there to be problems for the reader, it was changed into “wise men” or “Magi” (I guess the Magi were supposed to be burned at the stake after dropping off their presents.)

Although the groups worked separately on some parts, the parts produced were compared and revised to harmonize as a whole. Finishing by 1609, their work was reviewed and edited, and the first versions were published in 1611. It did not become the standard text until 1661, when James’ grandson Charles II became king. (England had had three civil wars and and 11 year military dictatorship beforehand).

Over the next 250 years, English explorers and missionaries carried this book with them as the Empire conquered one quarter of the earth’s surface. As many peoples learned English, this was the version of Christianity they learned as well.

Languages evolve, and a new version was redone in 1769, which is still the favorite one today. The Apocrypha section has been dropped, and even the Anglican Church has seven different approved versions of the bible, of which this is only one.

So now, you know the story of King James and his bible.


The Never Ending Monkey Trial

There is a discussion going on now in Tennessee over what is taught in school textbooks. Various groups are complaining that kids are not being taught “the correct things”, defined as whatever it is the group disagrees with. One man in the radio spoke about “turning the clock back to when kids were taught the right things.” Unfortunately, he did not specify the date he had in mind.

So, I suggest 1925.

In 1925, Tennessee passed the Butler Act, which made it a crime to teach anything other than the biblical origins of Man, as described in the Book of Genesis. John Butler was the head of the World Christian Fundamentals Association. Mr. Butler confessed that he didn’t know anything about evolution; he just didn’t like it. Governor Austin Peay signed it into law, but felt that it would never be enforced.

The ACLU offered to defend anyone accused, and teacher John Scopes took them up on it.
From the start, the defense played to lose, hoping to get the law repealed. Scopes was told to plead guilty and asked students to testify against him.

Clarence Darrow volunteered as defense lawyer, and William Jennings Bryan was counsel to the prosecution.
Many things that happened in the trial would never happen today. One major problem was that the book teachers were forced to use supported evolution! The defense brought in 8 experts, but the judge refused to let all but one testify, forcing the others to supply written testimony that could only be used on appeal. Judge Raulston opened the trial by quoting Genesis and the Butler Act, and told the jury they could not consider the merits of the law, only whether it was violated. The jury was excluded from hearing the defense. In a bold move, on the seventh day, Darrow called Bryan to the stand as a biblical expert, questioning his own views on different bible stories. After two hours, the judge called a halt, ordered the testimony struck from the record, and declared the trial over. The two sides gave their last arguments, and the jury took only 9 minutes to find Scopes guilty. The judge imposed a $100 fine without letting Scopes reply.

For seven days, the whole world listened on the radio, and newspapers lampooned the Tennessee legal system.
The sentence was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court, but only because the judge imposed the fine himself, which was the jury’s duty.

The Butler Act was Tennessee law until May 18, 1967.

During the trial, Butler said, “I never had any idea my bill would make a fuss. I just thought it would become a law, everybody would abide by it, and that we wouldn’t hear any more of evolution in Tennessee.”

I wish the talk host had asked the speaker to be more specific on which date he had in mind.