Author Archives: Dr. Larry Taylor
Nam soli Deo speravit anima mea in silentio
He was a very elderly man in his early 40s, sitting so still even the deer did not notice, although the red-tailed hawk had him in her sights.
Sitting on the now branchless trunk of a long ago fallen elm tree that must have remembered some of what he remembered.
Rugged and battered grizzled sophistication, lip swollen, still bleeding from the mugging in which he lost most everything except that which mattered.
The log of repose rested eternally on the edge of a wood that sloped away from the winding dirt road down towards a creek below where frogs could dance and sing harsh lullabies of prognostication.
To say the road was sparsely traveled would be an understatement. One or two passersby a day at most.
Like the bangers who took his wallet.
Like the occasional merchant plodding along with his cart, unaware of anything but the steady rhythm of hooves.
Like the kerchiefed woman, infant on her breast, basket of vegetables balanced on her head.
A specter drifted by on the breeze. Stately, stunning, robed in the stellar heavens, moonlight glowing from her face, long black hair drifting behind – she alone smiled at him, but did not stop.
To the cadence of the snare they marched past him to the battlefront where their lives would be wasted but mythologized.
Herald on his horse, racing, stirring up the dust, horse panting and sweating, determined to arrive nowhere with nothing to say.
Ragged children, happy in spite of faces smeared with dirt and empty stomachs, skipping into grudging survival mode.
Prancing steeds, gold-studded carriage, curtains drawn to preserve the falsehood.
Coachman, footmen, imagining superiority.
Giggles of gaiety, forbidden whispers, bantering maidens skipping happily to early graves.
Silently, the old man watched each go by, observing with awareness-awakened sadness.
No one stopped. No one spoke.
Which was fine with him.
He took some hardtack from his rucksack and washed it down with stiff cold coffee from a pitted canteen.
The sun was warm but waning – the breeze fresh and zephyr-like gentle. Clouds slowly morphed into fantastic shapes of unicorns and Qilin.
The old man leaned back against a maple tree whose leaves had only just begun to blaze with reds and oranges. A wolf howled in the far distance.
He had lived a hundred years before his 40thbirthday.
Now it was time to wait.
The ragged stranger shod in worn sandals and threadbare robe, matted dreadlocks, tangled beard, paused, smiled at him in spite of missing teeth.
The old man gestured and the stranger sat next to him on the elm log.
Two wrens sang their exultant song back and forth to each other, each taking a verse, both joining the chorus.
The red-tailed hawk pierced the sky, announcing approval from on high.
The rugged ragged ageless stranger took flatbread from his pouch, broke it, and together, in silence, they ate.
Still silent, they passed the wineskin back and forth.
And all was made whole.
None of us saw it coming. A gale with hurricane-force wind gusts, sideways rain so hard it cuts skin like razors, enveloping in icy fire.
She’s a good a ship, but all vessels have limits. Her seams groan, her reefed square’s’ils, saturated in salt water, bend to the sea, as if longing to return.
The mizzen snaps with a sound like a mortar shot. Lines tangle. A young man screams as rebellious canvas yanks him to his death.
She’s taking on water over the gunnels and from a sprung seam below. Ship’s carpenter works frantically. All hands shiver and bleed in slippery darkness.
A deckhand collapses and is washed overboard.
The old man clutches the foremast and curses.
A yardarm shatters. A shard impales the second mate.
Four helmsmen wrestle the wheel.
Will she flounder?
Unrelenting nor’easter derecho:
Loss after loss after loss
Will it never stop? Where, oh where, are the Tradewinds and Zephyrs? The God who calms the seas, and turns back Rahab?
My Dear African-American and Native American friends,
I am so very sorry.
On behalf of my tribe, I ask for your forgiveness.
My tribe calls itself “white.” There is no such thing as a white race. That was invented to justify chattel slavery. There are multiple ethnicities but only one race: human.
My tribe invaded what we now call North America.
At the time of that invasion and colonization, Native peoples, who owned the land collectively, had been living in thriving civilizations throughout all of North America for 10,000 years.
My tribe stole their land and destroyed their civilization.
My tribe reneged on treaties.
My tribe either murdered or displaced the Natives, forcing them into poverty and kidnapping their children into special indoctrinating schools.
My tribe did so in the name of Jesus, claiming to be Christians.
My tribe purchased captured and trafficked human beings from Africa, enslaved them, and forced them to work the stolen land for free.
With stolen land and stolen people, my tribe built a powerful economy supplying the newly industrializing world with cotton for its textile mills.
My tribe enslaved, murdered and abused human beings in the name of Jesus, claiming to be Christian.
My tribe invented, implemented and enforced Jim Crow segregation, redlining, mass incarceration, convict leasing, and systemic racism.
My tribe elected Donald Trump – the most corrupt, immoral, racist president in history.
We did so in the name of Jesus, claiming to be Christians.
My tribe spread chaos worldwide – apartheid, colonization, war.
I know not every member of my tribe wrecked havoc. I take some solace in the fact that some of my direct ancestors were abolitionists and that my parents supported the civil rights movement, as did I.
Nevertheless, I have benefitted from the sins of my tribe.
My parents could buy a small row home in Baltimore in an all-white inner-ring suburb in 1952.
I went to good public schools.
I took music lessons.
I got jobs no person of color would have been offered.
I’ve never had to worry about being shot if I’m pulled over by the police.
Security officers don’t follow me in stores.
Women don’t cross the street when they see me coming.
On behalf of my tribe, I am so sorry. Please forgive us. Please forgive me.
And, please, my dear Native and African-American friends, help us see how we can right the historic wrongs. Thank you.
Yours because His,
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A number of issues confront voters in the United States today.
Personal one-liner comments on some of them:
- Poverty: God cares deeply for the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the displaced, and calls us to do all we can do to alleviate poverty.
- Systemic Racism: The Gospel is fundamentally opposed to any form of racism. Racism is embedded in virtually all our institutions. Christians need to work to eradicate racism at all levels.
- Original national sins – genocide of Native people & enslavement of Africans:As a nation, we need to officially repent and right the wrongs via restorative justice.
- Mental health, including addictions and suicide in vets and teens: Mental health issues, including addictions, are killing American veterans, American teenagers, and those in poverty, both in the inner cities and in the rural countryside. Again, as followers of Jesus, we should be supporting programs to prevent suicide, heal mental illness, and bring recovery to addicts.
- Access to medical care for everyone: God is all about life. I am strongly pro-life, which includes promoting free national high quality accessible healthcare for all. Tying healthcare to employment is absurd.
- Food deserts: Many people do not have access to healthful foods. Everyone should.
- Creation care is a huge issue – it is the first task God gave to humanity. Christians should be greener than green, leading the way in caring for our environment, moving us beyond fossil fuels and artificial substances. Deep concern for human-caused global climate change should characterize us.
- Abortion: As I said, I am pro-life, but the way to lower and maybe eliminate abortions is not through coercion, laws, or threats. 25% of American women have had abortions. Are we really ready to declare them all murderers? It is hearts we need to win. Our focus should be on adoption, healthcare, and poverty. Our number one job is to love.
- Immigration Policy: God calls us clearly to welcome and care for the alien and the stranger, not wall them out, separate families, or ship people back to probable death.
- Cabinet appointments: Not really a biblical issue other than all those in government should be honest, of good character, experts in their fields, and seeking the good of all.
- Judicial appointments: see above
- Character of candidates: see above
- Economy: An economy needs to benefit everyone, not just an elite few. Unregulated capitalism is based on greed. It worships Mammon.
- Fair and equal treatment of all: Amen
- Freedom of religion: This phrase has become code for denying equal rights to others, as in, if I own a business and don’t want to serve African–Americans, or Native people, or the LGBTQ community, I don’t have to. True freedom of religion separates church and state.
- Freedom of speech: I’m all for it as long as it is peaceful.
- Gun ownership: Jesus said to love your enemies and not resist evil people. Jesus’ love is cruciform love. I’m in favor of turning all weapons into garden tools. It seems absurd to me that a person has to have license to drive a car but not to stockpile military grade weapons.
- Law and order: Nixon-era code for oppressing black people, mass incarceration, and ensuring white dominance.
- Black Lives Matter: No one suggests other lives do not matter – the phrase means black lives should matter also. Responding to BLM with “all lives matter,” or, “blue lives matter,” is like having a house on fire in your neighborhood and protesting to the firefighters “all houses matter.” Of course they do, but only one is on fire. BLM is nonviolent and is calling us to stop police brutality, profiling, and discrimination.
- Defund the Police: An unfortunate phrase. No politician would come close to getting rid of police forces. What is being called for is a shift in priorities – less money militarizing police and more to alleviate poverty, for example.
- Military strength and policy: The US spends almost a trillion dollars a year on national security, more than the next ten nations combined (including Russia and China). We have the ability to kill every child, woman, and man on the face of the earth 15 times and eradicate all biological life. None of that sounds like the Sermon on the Mount.
- Peace among nations will only come when we care about other nations and use our wealth to help lift others out of poverty and chaos.
- Sanctuary cities are a great idea, although I think we need a sanctuary country, as in the Statue of Liberty
- Social Security is all that keeps massive numbers of older Americans from being homeless.
- Covid-19 pandemic response has been dismal, in fact, the worst in the entire world, which is why the US leads in cases and deaths. Our leaders lied to us and minimized a lethal threat. They have blood on their heads.
On Tuesday, I am voting for the poor, the hungry, the mentally ill, the broken, the refugee, the homeless, the sick, and the incarcerated – those Jesus called “the least of these my sisters and brothers” in Matthew 25.