Enter your e-mail to sign-up for our mailing list to receive news and information about what is new and upcoming for TOKENS.



BLOG + NEWS

Chris Wiman joins Tokens in Abilene, Texas

May 21, 2015

Tokens on the road: Our merry and most outstanding band of musicians, tale-spinners, scholars, and song-singers makes its way to the Historic Paramount Theater in ABILENE, TEXAS June 4, 7:30 p.m., with very special guest Chris Wiman of Yale Divinity School, along with Buddy Greene, Odessa Settles, Brother Preacher, Abilene’s Revolution Strings, the Most Outstanding Horeb Mountain Boys, and host Lee C. Camp. This brand new episode entitled “The Language of Grace” is sponsored by the 2015 Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference. Tickets for the ABILENE, TEXAS SHOW are available HERE.

Download the PDF of the print ad here.
Watch our Abilene Promo video here:

Authority and Alasdair MacIntyre: What Learning to Fly Airplanes without Engines Reminds Me about the Moral Life

May 12, 2015

by Lee C. Camp, host of Tokens

I am learning to fly sail-planes. It is a fine hobby for someone who enjoys an adrenaline rush. I feel like a little kid, a 48 year old kid, when I am coming in on final approach, and know that there is no throttle which can be advanced, no engine upon which I might rely.  There is just gravity, and a glide path, and the energy stored up in height and velocity, the graceful lines of the sail-plane gliding toward the almost mile long grass strip at Puckett Field, Eagleville, Tennessee.

Sitting in the cockpit before our second or third tow one day, my instructor asked me to run through the check-list. He is a very fine instructor, and I come away every time having learned something. I was particularly pleased in the immediate flight prior to have learned how to do wing-overs, a marvelously graceful move in a sailplane, that makes a novice like myself feel all the sudden like I’m flying a fighter jet.

So I dutifully and quickly ran through the check-list. “Ready,” I said.

He simply replied, “There is one thing you’ve left untended that will kill us.”

I ran through the check-list again, and realized I had failed to lock the spoilers, devices which extend vertically from the top side of a wing for the purpose of “spoiling” the lift generated by a wing, typically used during a landing to assist the pilot in landing at the desired spot.  But try to take off with those things unlocked and they will pop out when you get a little ways down the runway—to ill and possibly deadly effect.

The non-judgmental, factual, non-shaming way my instructor said what he said—“There is one thing you’ve left untended that will kill us”—is an example, I do think, of rightful and good authority.

This experience reminded me of a beautiful autumn day on the Notre Dame campus, sitting alongside the reflecting pool which sits below the 14-story-high mosaic of Touchdown Jesus, re-reading some passages from Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, when I came across one particular line that made that beautiful day memorable: we are all, he asserted, legalists in the modern era.

“Legalist” does not mean “conservative,” or even some mode of theologically oriented “works-righteousness.” Instead, MacIntyre was taking aim at the “legalist” who sees a rule as an end in and of itself. In modernity, as MacIntyre has famously argued time and again, we stopped thinking about life and morality having an end, a purpose, or a telos, to use the term the Greek philosophers employed. For the ancients—both biblical and Graeco-Romans—virtues were not merely timeless universal rules that simply had to be kept in order to be “moral.” Instead, virtues—skills, habits, dispositions—were always intended to help a practitioner move toward the desired end.

Also of significance: different communities and traditions, MacIntyre argued, have different sets of virtues because they have different conceptions of the end or telos for which life is being lived, or a given endeavor is being pursued. As one example, consider the different virtues embodied in the practices of soldiering or playing basketball; or consider the different virtues typically embodied among the Japanese as opposed to citizens of the United States. Those different virtues arise from different conceptions of what the purpose of life is, or the purpose of the particular endeavor.

In such a scenario, authority is then, not something to be avoided in principle. But for any good modernist, authority (and tradition) typify the great foe. For the modernist, autonomy—self-rule—is the gold standard. “’Have the courage to use your own reason.’ That is the motto of the Enlightenment,” said Immanuel Kant. Thus authority becomes increasingly suspicious, in and of itself, for the modernist. Any authority from outside oneself gets a nasty sounding name: heteronomy. Unless one wants to be an arcane pre-modern, then heteronomy is surely to be avoided.

But for MacIntyre, and for me in learning to fly sail-planes, and I am increasingly convinced, in learning to live a life worthy of the name, authority now sounds much less a foe in and of itself.

I am not advocating some sort of mindless “return to authority.” Instead, it is a more honest appreciation of the fact that, even in our assertions of “autonomy,” we are still living according to various forms of authority, various presuppositions shaped by varied traditions.

Instead, the question becomes whether it is good authority or bad authority; and this is a question that can typically be answered by considering the fruit of the life or community under consideration.

And often, such concerns may, in fact, be a matter of life or death, even when as simple as checking well the check-list prior to take off.

13135134575_22d2f7cd1b_z

Labels: Blog
0 Comments

Rattlesnakes, Friends, and Stand by Me

May 6, 2015

On Tuesday night we did a show in Malibu, and I’ve enjoyed doing a bit of hiking up on the Santa Monica mountains while here. Last time we were here with the family over spring break, one of the boys just stopped himself as he stuck his hand in a hand hold where lay a young rattlesnake.

I’d recently heard tale of two friends who had been hiking in such environs but many decades ago; one had been bitten right in the midst of his right butt cheek, and problematic symptoms began to manifest quickly. His friend said he would run into the village and get the doctor, while he should sit still and not move about much. Thus the friend ran quickly, found the doctor, who was unfortunately indisposed—due to the fact that one of the women in the village was in the midst of childbirth—and he could not leave. He gave directions though: go back quickly to your friend, take your pocket knife, cut an X-shaped incision over the bite, and suck out the venom, and tend to your friend until I can get there.

The friend hurried back, finding his snake-bitten friend now in rather dire straits, who asked immediately, “What did the doctor say?” Out of breath, he replied hesitantly, “The doctor said, he said that you are going to die.”

It is an immense gift to have those who will in fact stand by us when we are snake-bitten, and we were reminded this week of the artistic power of such fidelity, with the passing of Ben E. King, who famously sang the pop song “Stand By Me.” Less known is the beautiful old hymn by the same title by the pastor Charles Tindley, famed African-American Methodist pastor and hymn-writer. Tindley’s “Stand By Me” served as the fore-runner to the pop song. We performed the old hymn on our most recent show in Nashville. So, in honor of good friends, and in honor of the passing of Ben E. King, we share with you that performance here.

Labels: Blog
1 Comment

Sex in Your 40s, Self- Loathing, and Cellulite: Why Nietzsche Was Often Right

May 1, 2015

by Lee C. Camp, host of Tokens

Critics are, well, so critical. But nonetheless much is to be learned from them, even if I say so begrudgingly. I do think that one of the finer parts of being raised Southern is our suspicion of those who speak in such (over) confident, (over) authoritative ways. The Southern pejorative use of “Yankee” is, in large part, a judgment upon such (over) esteem for one’s viewpoints. For all the foolishness of the Lost Cause mentality, there is something about that ethos that serves a constructive social function of questioning the powers.

So, as a Southerner, I have often enjoyed reading social critics, as diverse as Leo Tolstoy and Reinhold Niebuhr, and even one of the greatest of modern haters of Christians, Friedrich Nietzsche, whom I first started reading as an undergraduate many years ago.  There are many supposedly cultured despisers of Christianity who, with condescension oozing from their blog comments, frankly don’t know what they’re talking about. But then there are people like Nietzsche who may not be dismissed so easily.

There is a discomfiting ring of truth in his insistence that Christianity appears to be a religion of “everything low and botched,” a religion for the slave class. He gets personal sometimes: “Whoever had the blood of theologians in his veins stands from the start in a false and dishonest position to all things.” Christians, he says, have a “deadly hostility to reality.” And then there’s this, one of the things that has often disgusted me too with the southern Christianity with which I have often crossed paths, and, forgive me God, have too often contributed to: that the Christian “turns the spirit of life into fear and suspicion, joy into self-loathing, passion into paranoia.”

Out of all this, Nietzsche will provide this sort of summary objection: “They will have to sing better songs before I believe in their redeemer.” (All quotes cited in Marsh, Welcoming Justice, 67-68).

Whatever those better songs sound like, I suspect that they will have to provide an anti-dote for the self-loathing that Bible Belt Christianity often fosters in good hearted men and women and children, that looks something like joy. Having recently come through a season of a great deal of depression that was often accompanied by self-loathing and self-hatred, I saw again the ways in which roots of much of that self-hatred had been fertilized by the theological pettiness I often saw parading as matters of great substance.

So I’ve been thinking a great deal more about “joy” and “happiness” and what that might look like. The Apostle Paul speaks of “joy” as one facet of the “fruit of the Spirit.” I find this metaphor of “fruit” fascinating because it holds together two loci often kept separate:  there is both the locus of “gift” (it’s from “the Spirit,” not something we manufacture) and it’s “fruit” (which is cultivated, something in which we must participate).

Somewhere I came across the snarky story about farmer Ben who did not much like church and church people, turned off by their incessant piety. He had a beautiful farm and excellent crops, well tended and carefully cultivated. The pastor went out for a visit, perusing the fields with Ben, and said in a pious tone, “The Lord sure has blessed you with a beautiful and bountiful crop.” To this farmer Ben replied, “You should have seen the place when the Lord had it all to himself.”

There is wisdom here: for those of us raised in the works-righteousness side of Christianity, we often focus upon petty concerns to the exclusion of large and broad and beautiful concerns, and, as in time it seems we get caught up in the self-hatred that comes from such legalism, such inability to keep all the rules we’ve made up for ourselves and others. When such works-righteousness does not work, we either quit the Christianity thing all together, or we discover that we are “saved by grace through faith,” but there then is given us no framework or way of life by which we receive and experience a graced existence to overcome our powerlessness, except “pray more,” “read your Bible more,” and such as this. That’s all fine advice so far as it goes, but is about as helpful in leading a joyous Christian life as it would be to say to a baseball player, simply, “pray more” and “read the Baseball rule-book more.”

Many of the medieval Christians, Aquinas for example, insisted first and foremost that Christian faith was about happiness; this itself seems shocking to many American Protestants, because we are so much like what Nietzsche said we were like. But Aquinas, drawing off numerous sources, one of whom was Aristotle, insisted that the end of life is to be happy. I like the fact that he liked to eat and drink; he saw such imbibing and enjoying the table not as in tension with his faith but as part and parcel of it.

Happiness ultimately comprised friendship with God. This “happiness” was not then mere indulgence. Instead, Aquinas held together in his notion of virtues both gift and work, grace and cultivation. To be happy, one needed to be schooled in, given the gift of, the cardinal virtues—temperance, justice, prudence, and courage or fortitude—along with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. These were the primary practices by which such happiness were cultivated.

As I’ve begun to observe a typology of happiness, or varied ways happiness or joy get defined, it seems there are at least three in wide spread usage: (1st) is that most typically meant of happiness, that is, the experience of pleasures or delights, whether carnal or intellectual, aesthetic or appetitive. (2nd) is “eudaimonia,” the term Aristotle used, a state of blessedness that is multi-faceted and related to one’s whole life, personal and communal, pertaining to both intellect and appetites. Some contemporary psychologists have suggested that this might be similar to what has been described as the “state of flow,” in which an individual is at one with the world in one’s work, calling, and passions, in which time almost seems to be irrelevant, a non-recognized reality in that moment. I have tasted such sweet moments in writing, teaching or lecturing, speaking or performing.  (3rd) is that altogether non-circumstantial joy which rises above difficult circumstances, a sort of irrational happiness in the face of daunting or even painful realities, even in the midst of suffering.

Some brief observations about this typology, which might contribute to the “better songs” to which Nietzsche calls us.

In my experience, Christians too quickly claim that (3) is the “Christian joy,” discounting the others. Such a rush to a sort of unhappy happiness as the meaning of Christian joy gives too much fodder for Nietzsche’s critique. So let us pause a bit, and think about the first two types of happiness.

It may be that with regard to category (1)—the happiness arising from delights and pleasures—requires a great deal of maturity and human development to really get these delights. It takes a lot of human development, for example, to get really good at enjoying sex. I’m much better at sex, and my wife is too, in our 40s than either of us were in our 20s. For example, in his book Passionate Marriage, the psycho-therapist David Schnarch says there is a correlation between (more) age and (better) sex. (He actually says there is a correlation between better sex and more cellulite, but that’s harder for me to, well, envision or wish for.) Good sex as a virtue around enjoying pleasure might be thought of this way: We can all get a mere orgasm on our own. But to get good at sex with one’s spouse requires growth as a human being, a sort of basic human maturity in facing one’s own fears, learning to practice open communication, which in turn requires overcoming our fear of judgment; it requires, too, dealing with the self-hatred and shame with which our Christian tradition too often belabors us, especially around sex and bodies; and, somewhat like a contact sport, good sex is often made better by getting and staying fit physically as well. And so forth. The point here is simply that “happiness” as it relates to pleasure is, in fact, a very legitimate Christian endeavor, for being a Christian is about becoming fully human, fully alive, with the most joyous expression of our capacities known and experienced.

One more example: We are quickly losing the art of eating, in our fast-food consumerist world. But to learn to eat good food around well appointed tables adorned with good conversation, hospitality and temperance, patience and provocation to love and good deeds: this is a beautiful art, which requires numerous skills, and some of the greatest joys I have known are around good tables with good friends where we’ve talked long into the night, imbibed temperately, and done all things lovingly and hospitably.

So, to enjoy delights and pleasures well is, in fact, a learned gift, a cultivated grace.   Similarly with regard to category (2) above, it may be that in our varied squelching of passion in life, we forget that we were created out of divine love and creativity, and that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive,” said Irenaeus. I like the story supposedly from the Talmud about Akiba, who on his death-bed, confessed to the rabbi his sense of failure, that he was fearful of facing the judgment of God, confessing that he had not lived as did Moses. He began to weep. The rabbi leaned in and whispered in a kind way: “God will not judge Akiba for not being Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba.”

There is a sort of liberty and freedom in that story that occasions a deep sort of joy, akin to that of which Frederick Buechner speaks when he insisted that one’s vocation is where one’s deep gladness and the world’s great need meet. To experience such “flow” is not some indulgence, which needs be squelched in some pious rejection of passion in life, but may, I think it more likely, be part and parcel of what it means to be a child of God.

So, perhaps one lesson learned from Nietzsche: let us give ourselves a break from our indulgent self-loathing, loosen up, live a little, and learn how to grow up by tasting a bit of joy.

Labels: Blog
2 Comments

Gardening and the Sophistication of Life

April 12, 2015

Today, our social media editor Craig Katzenmiller shares some thoughts inspired by his small, 64-square-feet farm.

My spouse and I relocated to Knoxville in mid-March, into our first home. Suddenly the strange  pools of water in the garage, the door that won’t close all the way, the out-of-place gutter drain are our responsibility. Gone are the assurances of having a landlord. Likewise, though, gone also are the fetters of having a landlord. And so, this past week, I bought six 2x8x8 pieces of lumber and turned the soil over in two 8×4 patches. Then I constructed two 8×4 boxes with the aforementioned lumber, filled them with garden soil and seeds and compost. I sowed my first garden.

Growing up, my father always had a garden. One of my fondest memories of his many gardens is the year, long ago when I was perhaps 10 or 12 years old, we finished planting and were left with various varieties of many extra bean seeds. Dad quickly made a final row in the bean section and we haphazardly sowed all the seeds together in that row. And, several months later, we had a crowded row of many different kinds of beans—all growing together in harmony.

Those were the proverbial good old days. Somewhere along the way though I got a little too big for those britches.

Will Campbell, the much revered Southern preacher and contrarian, speaks of entering his “sophisticated period” when he went off to Yale Divinity School. After leaving Yale, and returning to the South, he learned that much of the stuff he learned in Yale Divinity School didn’t communicate in rural churches. So he had to become unsophisticated again. Somewhere in his writings, he mentions gluing his “ordination papers”—the handwritten document his church drew up when he was a youngster, complete with typos, that said he was a minister in God’s church—over his degree from Yale. One of my friends who used to visit Will reports having seen those ordination papers glued over Will’s Yale degree. Through the years, Will learned how to be thoughtful without being “an Eastern shit”—a term Stanley Hauerwas uses when narrating his own story of gaining sophistication, incidentally, after attending Yale Divinity School.

At any rate, after those good old days mentioned above I entered my sophisticated period in college and grad school. I was not deemed smart enough to enter Yale Divinity School nor did I move eastward. But in my own way, I became an Eastern shit. Regrettably, I looked down my nose on many things—perceived lesser theologies, perceived lesser vocations, etc.

Thankfully, I met people like Lee Camp and Richard Goode while in that sophisticated phase, and they introduced me to people who recognized their so-called sophistication and abandoned it—the Will Campbells, the Stanley Hauerwases, the Zooey Glasses. Through introducing me to various authors as well as to the men who I now count among my friends at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison, I was able to identify and abandon my pretense to sophistication—or at least, in my better moments I’m able to abandon that pretense.

And so, my tiny little garden out back. Gardening was one of those things I once thought myself too evolved for. I had Tyson chickens and Walmarts after all. All I needed to do was drive a couple of miles and pay for that stuff. Why go to the hassle of growing it? Well, I have since evolved to see that that consumeristic tendency is plain toxic.

So, having given up the pretense to being above it, I dug my hands into the dirt and buried some seeds. It is indeed a practice that is and will be good for me. Gardening, in a most concrete way, teaches the virtue of humility (for I cannot control the outcomes here) and it leads me to what Ragan Sutterfield calls “the agrarian mind” (Farming as a Spiritual Discipline, 31–35). According to Sutterfield, the agrarian mind has two components: first, becoming aware of the many dependencies we have—everything from grocery shopping to fuel consumption to clothes buying—and second, ridding ourselves of as many of those dependencies as we can. So we might sew together clothes instead of buying them; or we might ride our bicycles to nearby places instead of driving; or we might grow what’s needed for nourishment instead of relying on overly processed foods. These alternatives are, for Sutterfield, practices that inform virtues. As Sutterfield puts it, following Alisdair MacIntyre, “[W]e do not learn virtues through abstractions but through the concrete discipline and work of practices within a community and tradition. The intricate work of table-making is a better instructor in patience than a classroom dialogue and the discipline of a sport is a better instructor in self-denial than an abstract lesson in ‘virtue education’” (19). Sewing, cycling, and gardening are such community-based and tradition-involved practices.

Sutterfield goes on to identify gardening as a spiritual discipline precisely because it teaches us the virtue of humility, “the only sure path toward being fully human” (21), and forces us to slow down and to be aware of the gifts of God—for example, the gift of fallen leaves, which are ideal for composting. “We will have to beat the trash trucks through suburban neighborhoods to pick up bags of leaves we know are beyond value,” notes Sutterfield (39). “Gardens get in the way of progress. They start people thinking that maybe God gave us the means to feed ourselves without Tyson and Walmart getting in the mix.” And that bit of subversion initiates the defeat of the “forces who are working against the arrival of something abundant and healthy in a world that thrives on scarcity and disease” (38).

Gardening, then, allows us the time and space to grow and to become more deeply rooted to our place in the world.

Gardening allows us time and space to reflect on the fact that just as plants come from the graced nothingness of seeds, so we humans come from the graced nothingness of seeds.

And gardening allows us the time and space to be what God created us to be, namely, co-creators with God of new life around tables where there is food for all.

Craig “Dusty” Katzenmiller is social media editor at Tokens and is a soon-to-be stay-at-home dad.

Labels: Blog
Comments Off

Tokens Show in Malibu

March 11, 2015

We are Most Pleased to report that Tokens returns to the Pepperdine University campus on Tuesday May 5.  This will be our third foray out to that picturesque spot perched out on the edge of our beautiful continent.  Tickets are available through the Pepperdine lectureship, with registration required here. Pleased also to report that Dr. Kent Brantley will be featured interviewee on Tokens Show that evening, one of Time’s “Person of the Year” for his work in fighting the Ebola epidemic.

Tokens_PBL15

Kent-Brantley-Time-Magazine-Cover

Labels: Uncategorized
Comments Off

January 25 Show Re-scheduled

January 21, 2015

 

The Nashville Choir’s show scheduled at the Schermerhorn January 25 featuring the Tokens Show and friends has been re-scheduled for Sunday evening October 4, 2015.  For more information on the 2015 Tokens Show schedule, please visit www.TokensShow.com/shows.  Our first show in Nashville this year will be April 14, 2015, featuring special guest David Crowder.  Season tickets for four shows, plus a special patron-only show, are still available starting at the Most Outstanding Discounted price of $97.50.  Click here for season ticket information.

Schermerhorn - Nashville

Labels: Blog, News
Comments Off

Conferences and Conventions

January 1, 2015

You may download a pdf of our latest Electronic Press Kit by clicking here.

Nashville’s Acclaimed Tokens Show now offers innovative, customized, and compelling programming for conferences and conventions coming to Music City. Let Tokens Show provide a Nashville experience like no other. Contact us at Info {at} TokensShow.com.

Two paragraph blurb:

The Nashville Scene recognized the Tokens radio show as Nashville’s “Best Local Variety Show” in 2013 which is a “grass-kicking shredfest” that is a “huge success,” with “genre-bending creativity.” The Tennessean calls it “one of a kind,” and a “virtuouso ensemble.” Prominent Nashville music critic Peter Cooper recently opined that Tokens “is amazing. It’s amazing that [Tokens] has integrated music, humor and scholarship into something so seamlessly entertaining.” Other reviewers have called Tokens “spectacular” and”provocative.” Best selling author Shane Claiborne calls Tokens “dazzling. magical. better than CATS … creating beauty and mischief.”

For more information, visit the following sites:
www.TokensShow.com,
www.Facebook.com/TokensShow

Publicity Photos:

Tokens Show at the Ryman Auditorium

Host Lee C. Camp, cropped

Host Lee C. Camp with band

Tokens Show Cast on Stage

Labels: Uncategorized
Comments Off

Hymns and the Battle of Nashville

December 16, 2014

My friend and faculty colleague Donna King serves as our regular “go to” authority on helping us sort through song and music possibilities befitting any given theme for Tokens Show. She recently worked on gathering materials for the tolling of the bells in Nashville marking the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Nashville, and we asked her to share a bit of her findings.

Also of interest may be this week’s podcast episode on the Battle of Nashville, and some segments from our show on the Civil War, “Singing Down the Pain,” recorded in 2011.

Pax, LCC

———————————————–

One of the events commemorating the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Nashville is a citywide tolling of bells beginning at 4:30 today and continuing for four minutes—marking the close of the bitter and deadly battle on its second day, at dusk.

As I began collecting hymns to play on Lipscomb University’s 35-bell carillon after the tolling, I was struck again by the great sadness of that Civil War, and the great need to discover that in tragic and desperate times our humanity–or some piece of it–is still intact.

More than thirty camp books that included hymn texts were printed for soldiers; knowing the actual number distributed is problematic, but some estimates are easily more than one million.* Books, sized smaller than regular hymnals to easily fit into pockets, were printed by various Christian denominations, other Christian organizations, and even government agencies. The U.S. Sanitary Commission, for example, distributed The Soldier’s Friend, where a Union soldier could find information about burying a body, procedures for getting an artificial limb, and a substantial appendix of hymn texts. Facts like this, and titles like The Soldiers Hymn Book for Camp and Hospital, I find especially poignant—little pieces of paper crying out for the humane amidst the horrific.

These titles also explain why, for the most part, the contents were not songs written during or about the war, though Union hymnals, especially, included traditional patriotic songs. Mostly, the soldiers carried, read, and sang hymns already familiar and meaningful to them, no matter which side of the conflict. Common themes were duty, the authority of Christ, and assurance of comfort. Titles printed in many books, and still sung in many churches today, were “Come Ye Who Love the Lord (Marching to Zion),” “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” and “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” Yes, clearly, conflating the Army of the Lord with the Battle at Hand has a long history, but the acknowledgement of not knowing, while placing faith in the God who does, is also timeless, as Cowper’s eighteenth-century words remind us:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

One seasonal hymn that was penned during the Civil War years, and has become timeless, was not included in any of these soldiers’ hymnals. In fact, its use in hymnals of the nineteenth century was minimal, though its popularity as a hymn increased with each successive American conflict, peaking during the 1960s and 1970s. When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” in1863, his recent life was one of conflict and sorrow. His wife had died tragically in 1861, and he had disagreed sharply with his oldest son about participation in the war. Charles, the son, finally feeling bound by duty, had joined the army early in 1863 without telling his father, leaving only a note; then, he was seriously injured in a November battle. Longfellow’s reasons for despair must have seemed many, and his despair is little restrained this text: “Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.” Yet, by the end the poet turns, like the psalmists and prophets, to hope, to the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. These best-known verses continue to resonate in our time as they did in his:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

*****

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

For further, excellent reading on this topic, see Mark Rhoads’s website: Singing the Songs of Zion.

Labels: Uncategorized
Comments Off