Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity.
We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity. An Age of Religious Pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - Anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - Anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Relevant Magazine - 5 Things Great Leaders Do

5 Things Great Leaders Do (That Most People Don’t)
There’s a reason why great leaders are where they are.

April 16, 2015

Aaron is a husband, dad, church planter, coffee addict, insatiable learner and chronic dreamer. He's the founding pastor of Mosaic Lincoln. You can find more of his writing on his blog or on Twitter.

As the pastor of a young church, I get to interact with a lot of young people, many of whom dream of doing something significant with their lives. To quote the late Steve Jobs, they long to make a dent in the universe. They want their life to matter. I love getting to spend time with young people who aren’t content to settle for the status quo and who long to make a difference. That said, there are some things I’ve noticed that are common to aspiring young leaders that often get in the way of them actually seeing those dreams realized.

So here are a few pieces of advice I have for aspiring young leaders:

1. Learn to Follow First

Leaders tend to want to lead, and that isn’t always a bad thing. After all, the Apostle Paul did say whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1). But Paul also gave us a great picture of what that leadership is supposed to look like: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

In other words, Christian leaders are primarily in the following business. This is so important for aspiring leaders to get because the idea of leading can sound pretty appealing. Aspiring to lead can naturally play to our pride, but following develops in us humility.

Learning how to follow is an important part of becoming a leader worth following.

For this reason, it is vitally important that young leaders learn how to follow first. This means not only learning how to follow Jesus, but also learning how to follow those He has placed above us. Until you can do that joyfully, you’re not ready to lead yet. Learning how to follow is an important part of becoming a leader worth following.

2. Find a Mentor

Great leaders never stop learning. Many of the very best continue to have coaches and mentors even as they sit at the highest levels of leadership in their company or organization.

The truth is, it’s never too late or too early to find a mentor. So find one (or three) and starting asking questions. Listen well to what they have to say. Give them permission to speak hard truths into your life. And take really good notes. Not only will this allow you to draw from their wealth of knowledge and experience, but it’ll help you avoid having to learn what they have the hard way.

3. Finish What They Start

One of the best pieces of advice I was given as an aspiring young leader was, “Do everything you can to finish what you start.” That was not my track record up until that time, but I took the advice and it changed my life.

I meet a lot of passionate young people who jump from one thing to the next without finishing many of the things they’ve started. As my mentor pointed out to me in my early twenties, this is a character issue. It’s a sign of immaturity and selfishness as we what we want or feel right now is given complete precedence. It breaks trust with others as they come to realize we can’t be counted on to follow through on what we’ve said. It develops a really bad habit that will not serve you well as you grow older. And it shortcuts the character development that happens in the hard work of persevering (Romans 5:3-4), a necessary quality for every leader.

So finish what you start. No matter how badly you want to quit, no matter how hard it gets, finish and finish well.

4. Decide Who They Want To Be and Act Accordingly

This might sound obvious, but it’s important to realize you’re not just going to roll out of bed one day and be who you want to be. You won’t just stumble into your dream job. You won’t be an overnight success (there’s no such thing). You won’t accidentally become more wise, more talented, more connected, more faithful, more spiritual, more mature, more disciplined, more developed, more successful, more ___________.

You will be who you have decided to be, whether actively or passively.

You will be who you have decided to be, whether actively or passively. Your person and as a result, your life, will be a reflection of the decisions you make over time. So you need to decide now who you want to be and what kind of life you want to live and begin practicing the habits that will get you there today.

5. Don’t Wait for Permission

I meet a lot of young people who plan to do something someday, but are doing little to move that direction right now.

But here’s the thing: You can start doing some of the things you want to do someday today. And doing it today is the best way to figure out whether you actually want to do it someday.

You want to start a business? Awesome. Start one. Even if it fails in six months and you don’t net a single dollar, you will have learned more trying and failing than you will sitting around reading Fast Company for the next five years. The same goes for most anything else. You want to go into ministry? Great. Start doing ministry today. Take responsibility for spiritually investing in those in your relational circles now. Then pay attention to what happens. If you see fruit, that’s a really good sign. If not, at least you’ve got some experience to process with your mentor before you invest a whole lot of years and money in a ministry education you may never use.

The point is you can start right where you are, right now. Don’t wait for permission.

*This article was originally posted on

Exploring Evolution Series - If Earth Never Had Life, Continents Would Be Smaller

If Earth never had life, continents would be smaller

April 16, 2015

VIENNA—It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth’s mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth. When it comes to a habitable planet, life even plays a role in building the habitats.

* * * * * * * * * *

Geophysical Research Abstracts
Vol. 17, EGU2015-13398, 2015
EGU General Assembly 2015
© Author(s) 2015 CC Attribution 3.0 License

Feedback cycles in planetary evolution including continental growth and mantle hydration, and the impact of life

Dennis Höning and Tilman Spohn
German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, Germany (

"The Earth’s evolution is significantly affected by several intertwined feedback cycles. One of these feedback loops describes the production and erosion of continental crust. Continents are produced in subduction zones, whose total length in turn is determined by the fraction of continental crust. Furthermore, the fraction of continental crust determines the amount of eroded sediments. These sediments eventually enter subduction zones and affect the water transport into the mantle. As the biosphere enhances weathering and erosion of continental crust, we show how life on Earth can enter this feedback cycle and stabilize the present day state of the Earth. A second feedback loop – coupled to the first one – includes the mantle water cycle. Water in the Earth’s mantle reduces its viscosity, and therefore increases the speed of mantle convection and plate subduction.

Here, we present a thermal evolution model of the Earth which reproduces the present day observations. We investigate the influence of the biosphere during the Earth’s evolution on continental growth and mantle hydration. Finally, we discuss implications on the evolution of plate-tectonics planets beyond our solar system."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Roots of Social / Progressive Evangelicalism and Movement Towards Radical Christianity


I have reached a milestone in my life this week. It is the week where I turn sixty and leave behind the last vestiges of my once youthful body. Though I am good health I am beginning to notice a tiredness I had never felt before. And a willingness of my youthful spirit that is not quite matched by my body once so eager for sports and athleticism, adventure and competition.

Years ago I had reached another milestone, a life event marker that put me into a place of lament for about six years as I was approaching the age of thirty. I knew then that what I once could do as a youth I could do no longer. And yet, what a surprise I found in all the things I could do that I hadn't considered in my youth. But unlike that lengthy time of despondency I now consider my end years to bear good surprises of expectation and endeavor I would not have expected but a few, spare years ago.

And so, I will take this week in stride and own up to the Lord's grace and blessing in granting to me the many years I might yet give back to Him as I move beyond this age-based plateau. I would not have guessed the extent of such a dramatic turn-around which I have experienced these past several years were I to have contemplated it back five or six years ago. Perhaps this is a part of wisdom that my former self as a younger man of thirty could not have then meditated on. Even so, I wish to do so this day.

A Time of Examination

Not long ago I had been self-employed for some 27 years and found myself beginning to tire of my occupation and wishing to step away from the business world where I had provided IT consulting and technology services. It wasn't the big-money business then as it is now, but even so, I was allowed to invent processes, explore innovation, and even produce one or two successful entrepreneurial projects against several other losses of opportunity.

About five years ago I thought I might try to write poetry - something I had wanted to do for a very long time and never did. And so I did, producing quite a quantity (unpublished) over two to three years as I laboured from dawn-to-dusk to the task I had assigned myself. Eventually I began to burn out and knew I needed to find a new philosophical foundation for my poetry if I were to continue.

A foundation which required me to explore my beliefs and background. A foundation which ultimately I had to break apart and glue back together again on my own since there were none to travel my tormented road with me. A road that took my conservative Christian beliefs and demanded its reconfiguration, restitution, and renewal. A road that was very hard for awhile before it became easier and less burdensome. But a burden that has stayed with me until now.

And so I did. I laid down the poetry pen to take up the task of writing of an expanded faith and renewed theology deeply in need of repentance and resurrection. It was not an easy task but one that I was thankful to employ under the driving burden of the Spirit of God. One which has birthed this website here for others to explore and consider.

Then, about two years ago, as I was heavy into writing of a new radical Christianity, I felt I needed to push away from the desk a bit and get out into the fields and meadows of this good earth. Mostly because I needed someplace to be other than at the desk all the time, and also because I needed a new source of friendships. Friendships more at ease with the world that might provide a renewing outlet of vision and care for society.

And so, sometime during that Fall I read of an opportunity to study and become certified as a Master Naturalist through Michigan State University and enrolled for next year's workshops and field studies. I quickly became involved with a new society of care-givers dedicated to exploring, protecting, and preserving the fields and streams, meadows and forests, of the lands around us. It became a healthy experience and provided a place to become absorbed within where men and women of all ages were dedicated to restoring nature into a more positive balance with humanity. It was fun and I found myself willing to try new things through the early winter snows of Michigan to its late fall blooms along its coastal waters.

New Horizons, New Burdens

A year and a half later as I was finishing my certification in its required community service hours I began to wonder what I might do with it. I still was writing a lot and had not begun to slow down until this past winter. But I had also used that time to work with as many "nature organizations" in my area as I could, thus building up a practical base of knowledge of my area's capacities.

One day, as I was attending a coastal dunes field study class I began to wonder how I might help this dedicated core of conservationists. Soon after, the Lord placed upon my heart a clear-sighted passion that would not let go of me. I had considered a variety of projects - from counting butterflies to cleaning up riverbeds to purchasing conservation areas to preserve and restore. And then it dawned up me, "What if I became involved in public policy?" It was simple and direct and might afford the maximum amount of help to the greatest number of people.

In preparation for this attitude the Lord had placed me into local city government and now was pushing me into county government to think through our region's agricultural policies. I then interviewed for the vacant position and was later accepted over several dozen applicants. Next, I joined a regional environmental group that I once was a part of decades ago when it first formed to bring technology to the public and non-profit sector. By this time this public transit authority had added an environmental group focused on restoring the watershed in our West Michigan region.

To prepare, I joined a three day river expedition composed of trout enthusiasts, river restorationists, several scientists and professors, and a general cadre of nature enthusiasts. This group of 65 environmentalists composed the base elements of three river sections that ran nearly the entire width of the state of Michigan. It was the ideal group to be a part of as we paddled and kayaked flood stage river waters at the height of its torment amid a wet, cold rain plunging upon us for the first two of those three days. I felt as if I was more water bug than human but in the late afternoons we would camp along the surging river's edge to dry out and explore our evening's habitats, watch the night sky by a warming fire, and share story after story.

I soon became one of the board of directors of the Lower Grand last year and have since found the doors flung open to me across agriculture, conservation, water, and open lands policy from a local, to a regional, to a state level. I am simply amazed at the opportunities being presented to me by so many governmental agencies and organizations. Opportunities that will help the many groups I have met towards better earth-care and land management. Opportunities that I feel passionate about as an advocate/consultant for urban-environmentalism and green infrastructure planning and development.

And as of last week, I am now presented yet another opportunity to become involved in translating my passion for green infrastructure projects into the area's very school districts themselves. For myself, as for many others, it is important to have a vision of the future through the eyes of the next generation of youthful millennials to carry on the burden of earth-care through all the many opportunities that technology may take us. Opportunities to refashion costly, crumbling grey infrastructure into organic, living natural spaces utilizing water, earth, light, and air, into the public and private spaces of human communities. Today's youth are the seeds to tomorrow's future.

The Need for Re-Visioning

And so, as you can tell, I have drifted a bit from formally writing poetry and theology as rigorously as I once was doing. But now I have found the foundations I required to continue my writing. Examples abound of earth-advocate poets like Wendell Berry who never ceased from writing poetry even as he engaged public policy. Nor did the statesman Benjamin Franklin cease from his "common man's homilies" even as he became engaged in fashioning the 13 Colonies of America into the United States of America. It would be unwise to stop writing. To stop, would negate the sense of purpose that could be granted a society of people searching for vision and justice - both in the human realm as in the natural.

Nonetheless, I do wish to also pursue the idea of what a Millennial Christianity might look like for this 21st Century so tormented with oppression, hatred, and greed. It is a vision which I have been exploring since beginning this blog site. A vision that would provide a newer philosophical foundation to the one I grew up with. A foundation that might engage a form of postmodern Continentalism rather than Western Secular Enlightenment. A foundation onto which a vision of a Radical Christianity might be created which I have before described as Emergent, Post-Conservative, Progressive, or even Postmodern, in the highest and best senses of the word which keeps Jesus at its core and God's love and grace as its guide.

Perhaps this is what it means to experience a mid-life crisis. If so, praise God. This time of sanctuary has indeed been rich and fulfilling. And praise the Lord for His goodness during the hard times of existential crisis when the very foundations of my life had been torn to shreds both personally, in my family, in my worship, and finally in my professional life, The late fifties had not been an easy time for me much like my late twenties once had been. But life after the mid-seasons of traumatic events have shown that if you can push through them in some semblance of survival and disorder than eventually a peace will be found accompanied by personal direction and satisfaction.

Of late, my children have grown up. Each has graduated from college or graduate school in the past year. Each has married since last fall within three months of the other. And my wife and I find ourselves learning to become reacquainted back to the happy days of our first espousal, discovering the love we once had before becoming encumbered with obligations and responsibilities. A grown-up love that is clear-eyed with one another and with what we wish to complete before this good life ends.

A New World Order of Political and Theological Activism

And so, today, I wish to reflect again on the belated process I had come to so late in life in displacing the "faith of my youth" with a "grown-up faith" that has become more clear-eyed with the passage of time and distance. For now, I have come to embrace in the past dozen years or so what could be called a progressive evangelicalism which has caused for me a deep departure from my then-current conservative evangelical past.

I no longer shy away from words like social or political activism and theology as I once had when seeing so many militant strands of religious world oppression and tyranny upon the innocents of society. If I am to be militant than it is to be in God's love towards others and not my own selfish self-love of fear and discrimination that has lately been framed into my conservative faith through the 1990s and 2000s by the mullahs of my faith.

Nay, this kind of unjust, unequal, anti-intellectual Christian faith must be put to death finally and firmly if I am to get on with the task of living in the will of the Lord. I must have a personal faith that is renewing and resurrecting against the evil turmoils I see gripping the wicked of this world. I must help to promote and develop a Christian faith that does the same and knows why it wishes to proceed in this fashion against the strong dogmas of yesteryear's church striving for ascendancy but losing in its grasp of the very thing it has come to idolized which is their misdirected sense of strong conservative doctrine.

Consequently I created Relevancy22 where I might speak my mind - while hosting many other minds and souls wishing to do the same - so that a perusing reader might come to understand that there are many voices speaking of the same resurrected faith. The same radicalizing faith in Jesus demanding a new allegiance, a new voice, and impatient missional fields of passionate labour denouncing religious false prophets all a-glimmer with their own false fore-tellings and pejorative speech.

Hence Relevancy22 - along with many other writers we follow here - is committed to investigating biblical doctrines on an elemental level so that a new contemporary Christian orthodoxy might be presented founded on better hermeneutics, speech, and labor, beyond the current narrowness I have more recently found employed in my once conservative faith. Like so many ghosts echoing from my past I must confront those ghosts and put them away and will require the audience of many hands and feet that we labor together to regain sight of the Christ of Calvary who modeled for us the truth of God's grace and forgiveness.

Mostly I write and edit for those like myself needing new handles and a broader reach of theology than can be found within the Reformed halls of dogma and dictum. But as well, I write for the next generation of younger Christians who need a stronger vision of Jesus and theology that might persist into this postmodern, post-Christian world. A world which has evolved on the doorstop of the failure of Secular Modernity. A new world unlike the old world I have lived through these past sixty years but am all-the-more-willing to embrace for the love of God, and the heart of Jesus, despite the personal distresses of leaving familiar grounds for foreign lands. Not unlike hesitant Father Abraham do we travel this unknown path of God to discover a City unmade with human hands. A City bearing a new earth and a new society. A City that truly is the City of the renewing, healing God.

For myself, as for some of you here, the 1960s and 70s became the launching site for dissettlement with religious conservatism after seeing its secular fruition carried through into the 1980s and 90s by its unending wars and recessions, political storms and turmoil. Obviously it took decades of living through these events before understanding how my hallowed faith had become fundamentally altered and changed from the biblical forums I once adhered to. But now, after doing the hard work of deconstructing my faith by the Spirit of the Lord - and then reconstructing it into a more living, vibrant form - I can now breathe more easily in the Spirit in missional outreach, love, and care for society and this good earth.

Below will be found Dr. Roger Olson's kind review of progressive Christianity. And if, like myself, the reader wishes a little historical background to his or her's present Christian faith, than I think this very short review will be most helpful. Especially within the social evangelical context that we are seeing grow about us today in so many directions and endeavors. I am tempted to say I would wish to go beyond this form of social / progressive Christianity to expound a new kind of "radical Christianity" if I could use this phrase in its highest and best sense of our Christian faith. One that doesn't confuse it with the fears of my former tribe nor the Christless-core of its liberal disbelievers. If I could, then there is much to be done both on the doctrinal level as well as on the social level in Kingdom theology requiring a new critical base for reflection, fellowship, and worship.


R.E. Slater
April 19, 2015

“Progressive Evangelicals”:
Where Are They Now?

by Roger Olson
April 18, 2015

Recently I received two relatively new, very similar books (complimentary copies provided by publishers). Their similarity lies in the subject they both cover: “progressive evangelicals.” They focus on progressive (some would say “liberal”) evangelical social and political beliefs especially among younger evangelicals in the 1960s and 1970s (some before, some after).

The two books are: The Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism by David R. Swartz (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice by Brantley W. Gasaway (University of North Carolina Press, 2014). I would say there is an overlap of these books of about sixty percent. They are about the same length (300 plus pages). Swartz’s book is a bit more scholarly while Gasaway’s is a bit more popularly written. (By no means do I intend that as a value judgment on either book or either author! It is only meant to indicate ease of reading and depth and detail of treatment of the subject.)

Reading these two books is like reading about my own journey in evangelicalism. I grew up in an extremely conservative evangelical context where many people sympathized with the John Birch Society, despised John F. Kennedy and Humbert H. Humphrey, grieved over Barry Goldwater’s loss to Johnson (1964) and hailed Richard Nixon as a fellow evangelical and near political messiah. I will never forget the day Nixon’s motorcade drove from the airport to downtown in front of the fundamentalist Bible college I attended. Many of the students, faculty and staff (I among them) stood for about an hour next to the street with a huge banner that read “God Bless You, President Nixon!” We were “blessed” that he rolled down the window of his limousine and smiled and waved at us.

Then came Watergate, the disaster of America’s increasing involvement in Vietnam, “Kent State,” and revelations / dawning awareness (at least in my mind) of government corruption, enduring racism in America, atrocities committed by Americans in Vietnam. As I began to question the fundamentalism of my upbringing I began also to question the political and social views of my spiritual mentors. Sometime toward the end of my Bible college student career I learned about what has been called “The Great Reversal” of evangelical social activism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I stumbled on it on my own; it wasn’t taught by my college professors. “The Great Reversal” was, of course, the change from social progressivism among evangelicals to disengagement from political-social activism to conservatism. Both of the books mentioned above and under consideration here mention this as a factor in the rise of young evangelical progressivism in the 1960s and 1970s. Books by evangelical scholars such as Timothy Smith, David Moberg and Donald Dayton revealed that throughout much of the nineteenth century our own evangelical ancestors had been in the forefront of abolition of slavery, movements for equality of women with men, and even redistribution of wealth. I began to ask myself what happened to that evangelical heritage?

During seminary (mid-1970s) I began to read a magazine both books credit with being a major factor in the rise of “the evangelical left” in the 1970s: The Post-American (which eventually evolved into Sojourners). I remember that I somehow obtained and read every issue. At one time I owned every issue of The Post-American. I also came into contact, at a distance, with the World Christian Liberation Front—reading some of their literature which I found in the seminary’s library. Some of my seminary professors pointed me to Mark Hatfield as an example of a theologically conservative and evangelical politician who was also socially and politically progressive. I learned about Tom Skinner and Samuel Escobar, evangelicals critically sympathetic with Black Theology and Latin American Liberation Theology. I took a course on Liberation Theology at a Lutheran Seminary’s extension on the campus of a Lutheran College near my seminary. Gradually my mind began to change; I began to identify myself socially and politically with this “evangelical left” movement while maintaining my basically conservative and evangelical theological beliefs and spirituality.

Reading these two books is for me like the proverbial trip down memory lane. I learned some details from them, but for the most part they merely remind me of people, publications, events, organizations, ideas that I imbibed and mostly agreed with in the 1970s. Both books raise the fascinating question of how “evangelical” came to be a synonym for “political conservatism” in the 1980s and beyond and point to Jerry Falwell and other fundamentalists like him who hijacked the label “evangelical” and convinced the media to identify it with their hyper-conservative theologies and social-political views. Both books tend to “hype” Jim Wallis (wikipedia link / amazon books) as the key figure in the evangelical left—especially over the “long haul.” He was, perhaps, the organizing genius of the movement, but I personally found Ron Sider (wikipedia / amazon books) to be the more attractive thinker within the movement. That’s not to pit them against each other; they were and always have been co-leaders in progressive evangelicalism. I think my favoritism toward Sider comes from my gradual turn toward an Anabaptist vision of prophetic Christian social concern for peace and justice.

I would say that one of the greatest disappointments in my life as an evangelical theologian has been the popular misconception of all evangelicals as socially and politically conservative. I have friends who simply cannot understand or accept that an evangelical Christian can be progressive. Even after I mention Mark Hatfield to them (and they are old enough to remember him or at least know about him) they turn right around and use “evangelical” as a label for “Religious Right” attitudes and activism in the public square.

My hope is that somehow these two books will begin a shift in public perception of evangelical Christianity that distinguishes it from any one particular political party or platform and that honors its rich diversity.

* * * * * * * * * * *

What Is Progressive Christianity?

 - Wikipedia

Progressive Christianity is a form of Christianity which is characterized by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to "love one another" (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ.[1] This leads to a focus on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, tolerance, often through political activism. Though prominent, the movement is by no means the only significant movement of progressive thought among Christians (see the 'See also' links below).

Progressive Christianity draws on the insights of multiple theological streams including evangelicalism, liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, pragmatism, postmodernism, Progressive Reconstructionism, and liberation theology.[2]

Though the terms Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are often used synonymously, the two movements are distinct, despite sharing many similarities.[3]

The characteristics of Progressive Christianity can be summarized as:

  • A spiritual vitality and expressiveness, including participatory, arts-infused, and lively worship as well as a variety of spiritual rituals and practices such as meditation
  • Intellectual integrity including a willingness to question; distrust of dogma
  • Liberal interpretation of the bible as a record of historical human spiritual experiences and ideas rather than of historical or physical facts. Acceptance of modern Biblical criticism.
  • Acceptance of multiple understandings of the concept of "God", including God as Nature, as the Universe, as a shared psychological construct, and/or as community.
  • Understanding of communion as a symbol of the church community as the body of Christ
  • An affirmation of the Christian faith with a simultaneous sincere respect for other faiths
  • An affirmation of human diversity
  • Strong ecological concerns and commitments

* * * * * * * * * * *

Follow up Articles -

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and the Struggle for Human Rights

The Rule of History: Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and the hold of time.

April 20, 2015 Issue

“This Universal Declaration of Human Rights may well become
the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

"There are no certainties in history. There are only struggles for justice,
and wars interrupted by peace."

- Jill LePore

The reign of King John was in all ways unlikely and, in most, dreadful. He was born in 1166 or 1167, the youngest of Henry II’s five sons, his ascension to the throne being, by the fingers on one hand, so implausible that he was not named after a king and, as a matter of history, suffers both the indignity of the possibility that he may have been named after his sister Joan and the certain fate of having proved so unredeemable a ruler that no king of England has ever taken his name. He was spiteful and he was weak, although, frankly, so were the medieval historians who chronicled his reign, which can make it hard to know quite how horrible it really was. In any case, the worst king of England is best remembered for an act of capitulation: in 1215, he pledged to his barons that he would obey “the law of the land” when he affixed his seal to a charter that came to be called Magna Carta. He then promptly asked the Pope to nullify the agreement; the Pope obliged. The King died not long afterward, of dysentery. “Hell itself is made fouler by the presence of John,” it was said. This year, Magna Carta is eight hundred years old, and King John is seven hundred and ninety-nine years dead. Few men have been less mourned, few legal documents more adored.

King John signs the Magna Carta King John signs the Magna Carta

Magna Carta has been taken as foundational to the rule of law, chiefly because in it King John promised that he would stop throwing people into dungeons whenever he wished, a provision that lies behind what is now known as due process of law and is understood not as a promise made by a king but as a right possessed by the people. Due process is a bulwark against injustice, but it wasn’t put in place in 1215; it is a wall built stone by stone, defended, and attacked, year after year. Much of the rest of Magna Carta, weathered by time and for centuries forgotten, has long since crumbled, an abandoned castle, a romantic ruin.

Magna Carta is written in Latin. The King and the barons spoke French. “Par les denz Dieu!” the King liked to swear, invoking the teeth of God. The peasants, who were illiterate, spoke English. Most of the charter concerns:

  • feudal financial arrangements (socage, burgage, and scutage),
  • obsolete measures and descriptions of land and of husbandry (wapentakes and wainages),
  • and obscure instruments for the seizure and inheritance of estates (disseisin and mort d’ancestor).

“Men who live outside the forest are not henceforth to come before
our justices of the forest through the common summonses, unless they are in a plea,”
one article begins.

Magna Carta’s importance has often been overstated, and its meaning distorted. “The significance of King John’s promise has been anything but constant,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens aptly wrote, in 1992. It also has a very different legacy in the United States than it does in the United Kingdom, where only four of its original sixty-some provisions are still on the books. In 2012, three New Hampshire Republicans introduced into the state legislature a bill that required that “all members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.” For American originalists, in particular, Magna Carta has a special lastingness. “It is with us every day,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in a speech at a Federalist Society gathering last fall.

Much has been written of the rule of law, less of the rule of history. Magna Carta, an agreement between the King and his barons, was also meant to bind the past to the present, though perhaps not in quite the way it’s turned out. That’s how history always turns out: not the way it was meant to. In preparation for its anniversary, Magna Carta acquired a Twitter username: @MagnaCarta800th. There are Magna Carta exhibits at the British Library, in London, at the National Archives, in Washington, and at other museums, too, where medieval manuscript Magna Cartas written in Latin are displayed behind thick glass, like tropical fish or crown jewels. There is also, of course, swag. Much of it makes a fetish of ink and parchment, the written word as relic. The gift shop at the British Library is selling Magna Carta T-shirts and tea towels, inkwells, quills, and King John pillows. The Library of Congress sells a Magna Carta mug; the National Archives Museum stocks a kids’ book called “The Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the Constitution.” Online, by God’s teeth, you can buy an “ORIGINAL 1215 Magna Carta British Library Baby Pacifier,” with the full Latin text, all thirty-five hundred or so words, on a silicone orthodontic nipple.

The reign of King John could not have been foreseen in 1169, when Henry II divided his lands among his surviving older sons: to Henry, his namesake and heir, he gave England, Normandy, and Anjou; to Richard, Aquitaine; to Geoffrey, Brittany. To his youngest son, he gave only a name: Lackland. In a new biography, “King John and the Road to Magna Carta” (Basic), Stephen Church suggests that the King might have been preparing his youngest son for the life of a scholar. In 1179, he placed him under the tutelage of Ranulf de Glanville, who wrote or oversaw one of the first commentaries on English law, “Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Realm of England.”

“English laws are unwritten,” the treatise explained, and it is “utterly impossible for the laws and rules of the realm to be reduced to writing.” All the same, Glanville argued, custom and precedent together constitute a knowable common law, a delicate handling of what, during the reign of Henry II, had become a vexing question: Can a law be a law if it’s not written down? Glanville’s answer was yes, but that led to another question: If the law isn’t written down, and even if it is, by what argument or force can a king be constrained to obey it?

Meanwhile, the sons of Henry II were toppled, one by one. John’s brother Henry, the so-called Young King, died in 1183. John became a knight and went on an expedition in Ireland. Some of his troops deserted him. He acquired a new name: John Softsword. After his brother Geoffrey died, in 1186, John allied with Richard against their father. In 1189, John married his cousin Isabella of Gloucester. (When she had no children, he had their marriage ended, locked her in his castle, and then sold her.) Upon the death of Henry II, Richard, the lionhearted, became king, went on crusade, and was thrown into prison in Germany on his way home, whereupon John, allying with Philip Augustus of France, attempted a rebellion against him, but Richard both fended it off and forgave him. “He is a mere boy,” he said. (John was almost thirty.) And lo, in 1199, after Richard’s death by crossbow, John, no longer lacking in land or soft of sword, was crowned king of England.

Many times he went to battle. He lost more castles than he gained. He lost Anjou, and much of Aquitaine. He lost Normandy. In 1200, he married another Isabella, who may have been eight or nine; he referred to her as a “thing.” He also had a passel of illegitimate children, and allegedly tried to rape the daughter of one of his barons (the first was common, the second not), although, as Church reminds readers, not all reports about John ought to be believed, since nearly all the historians who chronicled his reign hated him. Bearing that in mind, he is nevertheless known to have levied steep taxes, higher than any king ever had before, and to have carried so much coin outside his realm and then kept so much coin in his castle treasuries that it was difficult for anyone to pay him with money. When his noblemen fell into his debt, he took their sons hostage. He had a noblewoman and her son starved to death in a dungeon. It is said that he had one of his clerks crushed to death, on suspicion of disloyalty. He opposed the election of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. For this, he was eventually excommunicated by the Pope. He began planning to retake Normandy only to face a rebellion in Wales and invasion from France. Cannily, he surrendered England and Ireland to the Pope, by way of regaining his favor, and then pledged to go on crusade, for the same reason. In May of 1215, barons rebelling against the King’s tyrannical rule captured London. That spring, he agreed to meet with them to negotiate a peace. They met at Runnymede, a meadow by the Thames.

The barons presented the King with a number of demands, the Articles of the Barons, which included, as Article 29, this provision: “The body of a free man is not to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way ruined, nor is the king to go against him or send forcibly against him, except by judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” John’s reply: “Why do not the barons, with these unjust exactions, ask my kingdom?” But in June, 1215, the King, his royal back against the wall, affixed his beeswax seal to a treaty, or charter, written by his scribes in iron-gall ink on a single sheet of parchment. Under the terms of the charter, the King, his plural self, granted “to all the free men of our kingdom, for us and our heirs in perpetuity” certain “written liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs by us and our heirs.” (Essentially, a “free man” was a nobleman.) One of those liberties is the one that had been demanded by the barons in Article 29: “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned . . . save by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Magna Carta is very old, but even when it was written it was not especially new. Kings have insisted on their right to rule, in writing, at least since the sixth century B.C., as Nicholas Vincent points out in “Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction” (Oxford). Vincent, a professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia, is also the editor of and chief contributor to a new collection of illustrated essays, “Magna Carta: The Foundation of Freedom, 1215-2015” (Third Millennium). The practice of kings swearing coronation oaths in which they bound themselves to the administration of justice began in 877, in France. Magna Carta borrows from many earlier agreements; most of its ideas, including many of its particular provisions, are centuries old, as David Carpenter, a professor of medieval history at King’s College, London, explains in “Magna Carta” (Penguin Classics), an invaluable new commentary that answers, but does not supplant, the remarkable and authoritative commentary by J. C. Holt, who died last year. In eleventh-century Germany, for instance, King Conrad II promised his knights that he wouldn’t take their lands “save according to the constitution of our ancestors and the judgment of their peers.” In 1100, after his coronation, Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror, issued a decree known as the Charter of Liberties, in which he promised to “abolish all the evil customs by which the Kingdom of England has been unjustly oppressed,” a list of customs that appear, all over again, in Magna Carta. The Charter of Liberties hardly stopped either Henry I or his successors from plundering the realm, butchering their enemies, subjugating the Church, and flouting the laws. But it did chronicle complaints that made their way into the Articles of the Barons a century later. Meanwhile, Henry II and his sons demanded that their subjects obey, and promised that they were protected by the law of the land, which, as Glanville had established, was unwritten. “We do not wish that you should be treated henceforth save by law and judgment, nor that anyone shall take anything from you by will,” King John proclaimed. As Carpenter writes, “Essentially, what happened in 1215 was that the kingdom turned around and told the king to obey his own rules.”

King John affixed his seal to the charter in June, 1215. In fact, he affixed his seal to many charters (there is no original), so that they could be distributed and made known. But then, in July, he appealed to the Pope, asking him to annul it. In a papal bull issued in August, the Pope declared the charter “null, and void of all validity forever.” King John’s realm quickly descended into civil war. The King died in October, 1216. He was buried in Worcester, in part because, as Church writes, “so much of his kingdom was in enemy hands.” Before his death, he had named his nine-year-old son, Henry, heir to the throne. In an attempt to end the war, the regent who ruled during Henry’s minority restored much of the charter issued at Runnymede, in the first of many revisions. In 1217, provisions having to do with the woods were separated into “the charters of the forests”; by 1225, what was left—nearly a third of the 1215 charter had been cut or revised—had become known as Magna Carta. It granted liberties not to free men but to everyone, free and unfree. It also divided its provisions into chapters. It entered the statute books in 1297, and was first publicly proclaimed in English in 1300.

“Did Magna Carta make a difference?” Carpenter asks. Most people, apparently, knew about it. In 1300, even peasants complaining against the lord’s bailiff in Essex cited it. But did it work? There’s debate on this point, but Carpenter comes down mostly on the side of the charter’s inadequacy, unenforceability, and irrelevance. It was confirmed nearly fifty times, but only because it was hardly ever honored. An English translation, a rather bad one, was printed for the first time in 1534, by which time Magna Carta was little more than a curiosity.

Then, strangely, in the seventeenth century Magna Carta became a rallying cry during a parliamentary struggle against arbitrary power, even though by then the various versions of the charter had become hopelessly muddled and its history obscured. Many colonial American charters were influenced by Magna Carta, partly because citing it was a way to drum up settlers. Edward Coke, the person most responsible for reviving interest in Magna Carta in England, described it as his country’s “ancient constitution.” He was rumored to be writing a book about Magna Carta; Charles I forbade its publication. Eventually, the House of Commons ordered the publication of Coke’s work. (That Oliver Cromwell supposedly called it “Magna Farta” might well be, understandably, the single thing about Magna Carta that most Americans remember from their high-school history class. While we’re at it, he also called the Petition of Right the “Petition of Shite.”) American lawyers see Magna Carta through Coke’s spectacles, as the legal scholar Roscoe Pound once pointed out. Nevertheless, Magna Carta’s significance during the founding of the American colonies is almost always wildly overstated. As cherished and important as Magna Carta became, it didn’t cross the Atlantic in “the hip pocket of Captain John Smith,” as the legal historian A. E. Dick Howard once put it. Claiming a French-speaking king’s short-lived promise to his noblemen as the foundation of English liberty and, later, of American democracy, took a lot of work.

“On the 15th of this month, anno 1215, was Magna Charta sign’d by King John, for declaring and establishing English Liberty,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” in 1749, on the page for June, urging his readers to remember it, and mark the day.

Magna Carta was revived in seventeenth-century England and celebrated in eighteenth-century America because of the specific authority it wielded as an artifact—the historical document as an instrument of political protest—but, as Vincent points out, “the fact that Magna Carta itself had undergone a series of transformations between 1215 and 1225 was, to say the least, inconvenient to any argument that the constitution was of its nature unchanging and unalterable.”

The myth that Magna Carta had essentially been written in stone was forged in the colonies. By the seventeen-sixties, colonists opposed to taxes levied by Parliament in the wake of the Seven Years’ War began citing Magna Carta as the authority for their argument, mainly because it was more ancient than any arrangement between a particular colony and a particular king or a particular legislature. In 1766, when Franklin was brought to the House of Commons to explain the colonists’ refusal to pay the stamp tax, he was asked, “How then could the assembly of Pennsylvania assert, that laying a tax on them by the stamp-act was an infringement of their rights?” It was true, Franklin admitted, that there was nothing specifically to that effect in the colony’s charter. He cited, instead, their understanding of “the common rights of Englishmen, as declared by Magna Charta.”

In 1770, when the Massachusetts House of Representatives sent instructions to Franklin, acting as its envoy in Great Britain, he was told to advance the claim that taxes levied by Parliament “were designed to exclude us from the least Share in that Clause of Magna Charta, which has for many Centuries been the noblest Bulwark of the English Liberties, and which cannot be too often repeated. ‘No Freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or deprived of his Freehold or Liberties or free Customs, or be outlaw’d or exiled or any otherwise destroyed nor will we pass upon him nor condemn him but by the Judgment of his Peers or the Law of the Land.’ ” The Sons of Liberty imagined themselves the heirs of the barons, despite the fact that the charter enshrines not liberties granted by the King to certain noblemen but liberties granted to all men by nature.

In 1775, Massachusetts adopted a new seal, which pictured a man holding a sword in one hand and Magna Carta in the other. In 1776, Thomas Paine argued that “the charter which secures this freedom in England, was formed, not in the senate, but in the field; and insisted on by the people, not granted by the crown.” In “Common Sense,” he urged Americans to write their own Magna Carta.

Magna Carta’s unusual legacy in the United States is a matter of political history. But it also has to do with the difference between written and unwritten laws, and between promises and rights. At the Constitutional Convention, Magna Carta was barely mentioned, and only in passing. Invoked in a struggle against the King as a means of protesting his power as arbitrary, Magna Carta seemed irrelevant once independence had been declared: the United States had no king in need of restraining. Toward the end of the Constitutional Convention, when George Mason, of Virginia, raised the question of whether the new frame of government ought to include a declaration or a Bill of Rights, the idea was quickly squashed, as Carol Berkin recounts in her new short history, “The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties” (Simon & Schuster). In Federalist No. 84, urging the ratification of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton explained that a Bill of Rights was a good thing to have, as a defense against a monarch, but that it was altogether unnecessary in a republic. “Bills of rights are, in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgements of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince,” Hamilton explained:

Such was MAGNA CHARTA, obtained by the barons, sword in hand, from King John. Such were the subsequent confirmations of that charter by succeeding princes. Such was the Petition of Right assented to by Charles I., in the beginning of his reign. Such, also, was the Declaration of Right presented by the Lords and Commons to the Prince of Orange in 1688, and afterwards thrown into the form of an act of parliament called the Bill of Rights. It is evident, therefore, that, according to their primitive signification, they have no application to constitutions professedly founded upon the power of the people, and executed by their immediate representatives and servants. Here, in strictness, the people surrender nothing; and as they retain every thing they have no need of particular reservations. “We, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Here is a better recognition of popular rights, than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our State bills of rights, and which would sound much better in a treatise of ethics than in a constitution of government.

Madison eventually decided in favor of a Bill of Rights for two reasons, Berkin argues. First, the Constitution would not have been ratified without the concession to Anti-Federalists that the adopting of a Bill of Rights represented. Second, Madison came to believe that, while a Bill of Rights wasn’t necessary to abridge the powers of a government that was itself the manifestation of popular sovereignty, it might be useful in checking the tyranny of a political majority against a minority. “Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression,” Madison wrote to Jefferson in 1788. “In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is cheifly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

The Bill of Rights drafted by Madison and ultimately adopted as twenty-seven provisions bundled into ten amendments to the Constitution does not, on the whole, have much to do with King John. Only four of the Bill of Rights’ twenty-seven provisions, according to the political scientist Donald S. Lutz, can be traced to Magna Carta. Madison himself complained that, as for “trial by jury, freedom of the press, or liberty of conscience . . . Magna Charta does not contain any one provision for the security of those rights.” Instead, the provisions of the Bill of Rights derive largely from bills of rights adopted by the states between 1776 and 1787, which themselves derive from charters of liberties adopted by the colonies, including the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, in 1641, documents in which the colonists stated their fundamental political principles and created their own political order. The Bill of Rights, a set of amendments to the Constitution, is itself a revision. History is nothing so much as that act of emendation—amendment upon amendment upon amendment.

It would not be quite right to say that Magna Carta has withstood the ravages of time. It would be fairer to say that, like much else that is very old, it is on occasion taken out of the closet, dusted off, and put on display to answer a need. Such needs are generally political. They are very often profound.

Magna Carta's significance has often been overstated, its meaning distorted.
Credit The National Archives / The New York Times / Redux

In the United States in the nineteenth century, the myth of Magna Carta as a single, stable, unchanged document contributed to the veneration of the Constitution as unalterable, despite the fact that Paine, among many other Founders, believed a chief virtue of a written constitution lay in the ability to amend it. Between 1836 and 1943, sixteen American states incorporated the full text of Magna Carta into their statute books, and twenty-five more incorporated, in one form or another, a revision of the twenty-ninth Article of the Barons: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868; it came to be interpreted as making the Bill of Rights apply to the states. In the past century, the due-process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment has been the subject of some of the most heated contests of constitutional interpretation in American history; it lies at the heart of, for instance, both Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas.

Meanwhile, Magna Carta became an American icon. In 1935, King John affixing his wax seal to the charter appeared on the door of the United States Supreme Court Building. During the Second World War, Magna Carta served as a symbol of the shared political values of the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1939, a Magna Carta owned by the Lincoln Cathedral was displayed in New York, at the World’s Fair, behind bulletproof glass, in a shrine built for the occasion, called Magna Carta Hall. As Winston Churchill was vigorously urging America’s entrance into the war, he contemplated offering it to the United States, as the “only really adequate gesture which it is in our power to make in return for the means to preserve our country.” It wasn’t his to give, and the request that the British Library send the Lincoln Cathedral one of its Magna Cartas, to replace the one he intended to give to the United States, was not well received. Instead, the cathedral’s Magna Carta was deposited in the Library of Congress—“in the safe hands of the barons and the commoners,” as F.D.R. joked in a letter to Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress—where it was displayed next to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with which, once the war began, it was evacuated to Fort Knox. It was returned to the Lincoln Cathedral in 1946.

The first painting that Trumbull completed for the Rotunda shows the presentation of the Declaration of Independence in what is now called Independence Hall

Magna Carta was conscripted to fight in the human-rights movement, and in the Cold War, too. “This Universal Declaration of Human Rights . . . reflects the composite views of the many men and governments who have contributed to its formulation,” Eleanor Roosevelt said in 1948, urging its adoption in a speech at the United Nations—she had chaired the committee that drafted the declaration—but she insisted, too, on its particular genealogy: “This Universal Declaration of Human Rights may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere.” (Its ninth article reads, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”) In 1957, the American Bar Association erected a memorial at Runnymede. In a speech given that day, the association’s past president argued that in the United States Magna Carta had at last been constitutionalized: “We sought in the written word a measure of certainty.”

Magna Carta cuts one way, and, then again, another. “Magna Carta decreed that no man would be imprisoned contrary to the law of the land,” Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion in Boumediene v. Bush, in 2008, finding that the Guantánamo prisoner Lakhdar Boumediene and other detainees had been deprived of an ancient right. But on the eight-hundredth anniversary of the agreement made at Runnymede, one in every hundred and ten people in the United States is behind bars.

The rule of history is as old as the rule of law. Magna Carta has been sealed and nullified, revised and flouted, elevated and venerated. The past has a hold: writing is the casting of a line over the edge of time. But there are no certainties in history. There are only struggles for justice, and wars interrupted by peace. ♦

Source link for Archibald MacLeish's acceptance of
the Magna Carta into the Library of Congress

Poetry of Archibald MacLeish

Hypocrite Auteur
by Archibald MacLeish

mon semblable, mon frère

Our epoch takes a voluptuous satisfaction
In that perspective of the action
Which pictures us inhabiting the end
Of everything with death for only friend.

Not that we love death,
Not truly, not the fluttering breath,
The obscene shudder of the finished act—
What the doe feels when the ultimate fact
Tears at her bowels with its jaws.

Our taste is for the opulent pause
Before the end comes. If the end is certain
All of us are players at the final curtain:
All of us, silence for a time deferred,
Find time before us for one sad last word.
Victim, rebel, convert, stoic—
Every role but the heroic—
We turn our tragic faces to the stalls
To wince our moment till the curtain falls.

A world ends when its metaphor has died.

An age becomes an age, all else beside,
When sensuous poets in their pride invent
Emblems for the soul’s consent
That speak the meanings men will never know
But man-imagined images can show:
It perishes when those images, though seen,
No longer mean.

A world was ended when the womb
Where girl held God became the tomb
Where God lies buried in a man:
Botticelli’s image neither speaks nor can
To our kind. His star-guided stranger
Teaches no longer, by the child, the manger,
The meaning of the beckoning skies.

Sophocles, when his reverent actors rise
To play the king with bleeding eyes,
No longer shows us on the stage advance
God’s purpose in the terrible fatality of chance.

No woman living, when the girl and swan
Embrace in verses, feels upon
Her breast the awful thunder of that breast
Where God, made beast, is by the blood confessed.

Empty as conch shell by the waters cast
The metaphor still sounds but cannot tell,
And we, like parasite crabs, put on the shell
And drag it at the sea’s edge up and down.

This is the destiny we say we own.

But are we sure
The age that dies upon its metaphor
Among these Roman heads, these mediaeval towers,
Is ours?—
Or ours the ending of that story?
The meanings in a man that quarry
Images from blinded eyes
And white birds and the turning skies
To make a world of were not spent with these
Abandoned presences.

The journey of our history has not ceased:
Earth turns us still toward the rising east,
The metaphor still struggles in the stone,
The allegory of the flesh and bone
Still stares into the summer grass
That is its glass,
The ignorant blood
Still knocks at silence to be understood.

Poets, deserted by the world before,
Turn round into the actual air:
Invent the age! Invent the metaphor!