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Competing American Ideals
Last week, a correspondent wrote favorably about Ronald Reagans use of the "shining city on a hill" phrase. Although this phrase may sound nice, its important to know that it was originally associated with John Winthrop, Puritan Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This colony became notorious for strictness, severity, and a joyless way of life not exactly something we should seek to emulate today. But we are. The ideological (and even blood) descendants of the Puritans are back to their old game. But the story of this small group of settlers, despite its long-standing use as a foundational myth, need not be our own.
The old conception of the "shining city on a hill" is really about the conceit that America is supposed to be the New Jerusalem. Why would anyone want to make this the New Jerusalem, when the old one was a horrible place to live? And their surfeit of piety doesnt alter that fact; indeed, it was a major part of the problem.
While the Puritans wanted to be the New Jerusalem, this countrys real foundation, in 1776 was not led by Puritans. Our founders may not have expressed it rhetorically, but what they had in mind was more like the New Athens. The Greco-Roman architectural revival of their time is solid evidence of this. And given an informed choice, any sane person would rather live in ancient Athens, than Jerusalem.
Stephen Van Eck
Why Insult A Celebration?
This past weekend the Wyoming Conference of the United Methodist Church celebrated the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Brooklyn Methodist Church, an auspicious occasion for the small village of Brooklyn, Susquehanna County, in the hills of northeastern Pennsylvania.
One of the highlights of the occasion was to be a famous actor in the role of the Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury who, like John Wesley, came from England and traveled the eastern United States by foot and on horseback, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In recent years Ive been privileged to see solo performances by professional actors portraying famous people: Will Rogers, Harriet Beecher Stow, and Thomas Jefferson. Each of these actors transported the audience into another time of history and gave the audience a sense of being in the very presence of that person. So I anticipated this portrayal of Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury by a professional actor would be a meaningful experience.
Sure enough there he was the Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury (the actor in appropriate costume) riding a handsome black horse, leading a small procession of people riding in horse drawn carriages, up the hill, past the cemetery, to the crowd awaiting him at the church.
Inside, as the service began, the little church was overflowing with people. Rev. Ralph Christianson, in costume as Rev. Edward Paine, a Methodist pastor of this church in the 1800s, took us back into that century with his remarks, as he introduced the Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury.
The moment had arrived. Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury made several comments regarding the number of sermons he had preached during his extensive travels over many miles. Then the actor stopped, stating he would step out of the role; and, indeed, he did. Bishop Asbury stepped out and never returned. The man we had come to see left us. The actor became himself, and graciously expressed his admiration of the village and way of life here. Then he proceeded to promote his Buddhist beliefs and bash our United States president.
Many of us were shocked, in disbelief that this was happening. If he truly admired our way of life why would this actor insult this simple country celebration? Here is a person famous for his ability to perform many diverse roles. Should we not expect him, as a professional actor, to put himself aside, momentarily become Rev. Bishop Francis Asbury, and make him believable to us? We had anticipated he would help us relive a beginning time of our Christian church. He had been invited to play the role of Bishop Asbury.
Did this actor think our small village was not worth his time to learn about Rev. Asbury, his personality, his beliefs, his values and his life, and make him real to us?
Did he so disdain the Christian faith that he could not assume the role? If so, he should not have accepted the invitation to the celebration.
This day, which was to have honored what God has done through this little country church, was used for one persons spiritual and political agenda.
Outside, following the "service" several angry voices were heard. One man asked, "Who were those people in there who were cheering?" Its true; some cheered the actors remarks about his Buddhist faith and political preference. Who were they? I assume they were the people who came this day only to see a famous actor, to take his photo, to be in his presence so they can brag to their friends. They would have cheered at anything he said. Its an age of adulation of well-known entertainers and sports figures. This day should have been adulation for what Jesus Christ has done through the Methodist Church.
For others of us, many of whom in our youth had been spiritually nurtured in this very building in the teachings of the truth of Gods Holy Bible, it was a day of disappointment and disillusionment a sad day. That on this day, which was intended, and which we expected, to celebrate all that the Methodist Church has stood for the proclamation of Jesus Christ should have been so desecrated, was devastating.
Martha O. Girton
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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