Writings by Dr. Blair

The Bond that Breaks the Boundaries

The Bond that Breaks the Boundaries

An expanded version of a lecture by Dr. Ralph Blair to Courage Trust at the Anglican Church of St. James the Less, Pimlico, London, November 2, 2001.

(PDF version available here.)


When it comes to the subject of gay and lesbian evangelical Christians, most evangelical Christians agree with most gays and lesbians. Just as Grape-Nuts is neither grapes nor nuts and Christian Science is neither Christian nor science and Therapeutic Touch is neither therapeutic nor touch, to most evangelicals and to most gay people, a gay evangelical Christian is neither truly gay nor truly Christian. For most people, you cannot be both an openly evangelical Christian and an openly gay man or lesbian.

Evangelical and Gay/Lesbian Diversity

Actually there are all sorts of evangelicals—from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t. And there are all sorts of gay men and lesbians—from the all-out-of-sorts kind to those who aren’t.

According to an evangelical history professor: “Once past a shared commitment to a supernatural gospel, evangelicals are all over the place theologically.” [Mark Noll] The president of Southern Baptist Seminary joins a church historian at Westminster Seminary to declare that “No single evangelical tradition exists.” [Albert Mohler, Jr. and D. G. Hart] A Regent College theology professor states: “Evangelicalism is a network and tradition of Christians united on a few select convictions. As such, evangelicalism is not essentially committed to this or that … so long as Christ is glorified, the Bible obeyed, the gospel preached and the kingdom extended.” [John G. Stackhouse, Jr.]

“Evangelical identity,” says an Anglican evangelical, “has come to embrace such a wide range of theological options.” And he grants that it has been so ever since the 18th century split between John Wesley and George Whitefield—during the very beginnings of what is known as evangelicalism. [Gerald Bray] He notes that “from that day to this, there has never been an evangelical church or even a confession of faith, which all evangelicals can accept as definitive of this movement.”

In his new book, Christian America?, sociologist Christian Smith again reports research that undercuts the notion that evangelicals make up a monolithic community. Evangelicals are divided along political, racial and class lines. And contrary to popular opinion, evangelicalism and the Religious Right are not synonymous, though most people who identify as evangelicals do not approve of homosexuality.

The president of the board of the Religious Right’s World magazine has proposed that a group of conservative Christians start a daily newspaper “from a distinctively Christian point of view.” If his World magazine is any indication, what he means by reporting the news “from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God” is a perspective that’s against homosexuals and for capital-gains tax cuts. But, at any rate, he laments that there’s an even bigger obstacle than the raising of the millions of dollars it would take to finance such a daily newspaper. He complains: “We Christians are woefully disunified and unprepared ideologically and philosophically to define and then live out the profile of a ‘Christian’ daily newspaper. We Christians still disagree way too much on what it means to be a ‘Christian’ anything.” [Joel Belz] Evangelical Christian diversity is “way too much” for him.

As the dean of American church historians puts it: “There are evangelicals and there are evangelicals.” [Martin E. Marty] Read more →

Undoing Every Do; Doing Every Don’t: The Ten Commandments, the Religious Right & the Lesbigayt Left

by Dr. Ralph Blair

Based on Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtions2000, Evangelicals Concerned’s summer conferences at Kirkridge in Pennsylvania and at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.


A couple months ago, in Uganda, under the banner of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, more than a thousand men, women and children were exterminated. They had been told that the Virgin Mary demanded strict enforcement of the Ten Commandments in order for them to escape damnation. But in the end, the Ten Commandments cult leader was the one who broke every one of the Ten Commandments. And in doing so, she caused the death of more people than any other religious movement in modem history. Also in Uganda, there’s the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army—with its goal to run Uganda according to the Ten Commandments. It’s notorious for kidnapping children and turning them into sex slaves. Today happens to be the day that Christians around the world are remembering the martyrs of Uganda.

Are these anomalous—these atrocities rationalized under the cover of the Ten Commandments? We’ll see. First, for something lighter.

If you do a Web search of The Ten Commandments, you’ll come up with everything from “The Ten Commandments of Tennis” and “The Ten Commandments of Tea” to “The Ten Commandments of HTML” and “The Ten Commandments of HMOs.” There are even “The Alternative Ten Commandments” of an atheist in the U.K., e.g. “Thou shalt not tell atheists that thy God loveth them.”

The Ten Commandments are for sale on “simulated parchment” ($1.50), in stone ($78—“museum quality suitable for outdoor use”), and on T-shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry and of course, bumper stickers.

The Ten Commandments Project and National T-Day are ministries of “Operation Save Our Nation.” The enterprise distributes stone copies of the Ten Commandments to government officials.

A “Ten Commandments Resolution” in defense of the display of the Ten Commandments “against all enemies, domestic and foreign, public and private” is a feature of another Web site called: Take Back Georgia, Inc.

You’ll also find tencommandments.org. Here it gets darker. According to this group, the Constitution’s “an inverted document” because of its “ability [through The Bill of Rights] to create the abominable and death-worthy crime of homosexuality.” The site features a diatribe entitled “Against Homosexuality.” It’s stated: “God has not prescribed that homosexuals should merely be spoken against, rejected, discriminated against, or banished from the nation, but God requires that they be put to death by the governments under which they reside (Leviticus 20:13) and no sorrow should be had for them. … Any homosexual who thinks he or she is accepted by God and His true Church has to be cursed with the deepest depths of blindness and satanic depravity.”

There are more familiar names behind these Ten Commandment arsenals. Gary Bauer’s old “Family Research Council” is sponsoring an effort to get public officials to hang copies of the Ten Commandments in public schools and court houses. This campaign is called “Hang Ten.”

And there’s an Alabama county court judge who gives new meaning to the expression “a hanging judge.” The ACLU brought a lawsuit against him for his hanging Ten in his courtroom. The suit was dismissed on a technicality. Now he’s defeated three other candidates for the Republican nomination for Alabama Supreme Court chief justice. Read more →

Homosexual Counseling Journal

The Quarterly Journal of The Homosexual Community Counseling Center

EDITORIALS

Dr. Ralph Blair, Editor

1974 Editorials: Charter Volume, Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4

1975 Editorials: Volume II, Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4

1976 Editorials: Volume III, Numbers 1, 2


“Dr. Blair is scrupulously thorough and shows a remarkable analytic ability in his evaluation of the research of others. Indeed, his survey of the etiology of homosexuality is to my mind the best in existence.”

Carlfred B. Broderick, Ph.D., Editor
Journal of Marriage and the Family


“Ralph Blair has written a splendid survey of the etiology of homosexuality. [Blair’s] Homosexual Counseling Journal is attractive and so full of news and helpful information that it should be welcomed by many.”

Walter C. Alvarez, M.D.
Emeritus Consultant, Mayo Clinic


VOL. 1, NO. 1, JANUARY 1974

It was right for the Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality from the listing of mental disorders in the Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At long last, those at the top of the psychiatric profession reached the conclusion that, in terms of nomenclature, homosexuality does not meet the criteria for being considered a psychiatric disorder. These psychiatrists educated themselves through critical evaluation of the evidence from both within and without the homosexual community. They recognized that homosexuality per se does not regularly cause subjective distress nor is it regularly associated with some generalized impairment in social effectiveness. This decision should help to improve the chances for greater public acceptance of homosexual men and women.

The one unfortunate move of the Trustees was that they also created a new category, Sexual orientation disturbance, to replace the discarded category of homosexuality. This entry applies to those who, among others and because of introjected negative thinking about homosexuality, feel that they would be better off as heterosexual. To this end they will be led to invest large amounts of time and money to try for psychiatric reversal of orientation. Unfortunately, their hopes cannot be bolstered by histories of success in such effort. In the process, the lives of third parties will be disrupted and the homosexuals will lose opportunities to learn repertoire for functioning appropriately in terms of their fundamental sexual orientation.

Homoerotiphobic psychiatrists are pressing now for a referendum of the entire APA membership in an attempt to overturn the Trustees’ decision to no longer list homosexuality as a mental disorder. When psychiatrists think about behavior which has been so unacceptable in their society, it may be unrealistic to expect that many of them could set aside their prejudices and assess the matter in rigorous diagnostic and statistical terms. Elsewhere in this issue of the Journal, May’s findings suggest that attitudes of members of the helping professions may have little to do with professional training and much to do with pre-professional opinions. The training of psychiatrists has been inadequate to counter popular notions about homosexuality. The response to a referendum might be characterized by what could be called, in Veblenian terms, a “trained incapacity” on the part of grass roots psychiatrists, as either citizens or psychiatrists, to change their impressions in light of more recent and accurate information. Read more →

With Sunshine & Rainfall For All: An Evangelical Affirmation of Gay Rights

by Dr. Ralph Blair

With Sunshine & Rainfall for All: An Evangelical Affirmation of Gay Rights is an expanded version of an address delivered by Dr. Blair at the 34th Annual Meeting of The Evangelical Theological Society in 1982. Dr. Blair is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He is the founder and president of Evangelicals Concerned and is a member of The Evangelical Theological Society, The Christian Association for Psychological Studies, and The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues of The American Psychological Association.

Copyright 1983 by Ralph Blair. All rights reserved. HCCC, Inc.


Let’s Listen With Love.

If we evangelical Christians are going to have anything worth saying in response to proposed gay civil rights legislation, we would do well first to hear what is being said. Quite apart from our having nothing intelligent to say if we really haven’t heard what’s being said, we fail to render what Bonhoeffer reminded us was the “first service one owes to others:” that of “listening to them.” When the early church faced what seemed to be strange claims of Gentiles to full rights in the church, believers did what evangelicals today are not so willing to do with homosexuals: they engaged in dialogue and really tried to hear each other. And they began by emphasizing truths about which they were all in agreement (Acts 15).

We have to listen caringly to what homosexuals and other supporters of gay civil rights legislation are really saying. We have to listen carefully to the wording of proposed legislation. We have to listen caringly when some people tell us of their being attracted sexually, romantically, only to some people of their own sex. We have to listen caringly when they tell us of the ways they’ve been discriminated against in a predominantly homophobic society and thus need the protection of such law. Our failure even to hear them constitutes part of the discrimination they’re trying to tell us about.

We who would preach the gospel to all the world—including homosexuals—must, with Westminster Seminary’s Harvie Conn, recognize that “A gospel that does not address people as the sinned-against poses a lot of problems … for the sinned-against.” (1) Conn helps us see that “compassion becomes possible when we perceive people as the sinned-against,” and that “at the heart of compassion is the idea of ‘suffering with’ (Rom 8:17), involvement in the pain” of the sinned-against. (2) To listen this way may tax some of us beyond what we can yet afford, for as Angelina Grimké said last century, “I am sure that the poor and oppressed … can never be benefitted without mingling with them on terms of equality.” (3) Hers was as repulsive an idea to those who then sought to keep “niggers” in their place as it is now to those who want to keep “queers” in their place. Her empathy, though, reflects what Ray Anderson, writing in The Reformed Journal, has called God’s “structure of human existence … the one for the other, the one with the other, [which] is essential humanity [and] the basis for social justice.” (4) Read more →

Immortal Intimacy: Where, When, Who, Why & What of Heaven

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This booklet is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s keynote address at connECtion 1991, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned, at Kirkridge and at the University of Denver.

Copyright ©1991. Ralph Blair, 311 E. 72nd St New York, New York 10021


Peggy Lee sings of going to “the greatest show on earth” when she was twelve years old. She remembers:

“There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.”

And she recalls that:

“As I sat there watching the marvellous spectacle
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don’t know what, but when it was over
I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to the circus?’
Then I fell in love
With the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks down by the river
Or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes.
We were so very much in love.
And then one day he went away
And I thought I’d die, but I didn’t.
And when I didn’t
I said to myself,
‘Is that all there is to love?’”

Have you ever thought like this? Remember your disappointment when the cartoon show flashed those three unwanted words: “That’s All, Folks!” Remember the emptiness late on Christmas Day, after all the presents had been opened and abandoned, and all the excitement that had raised expectations for weeks was gone? I’ve heard it for years in therapy: Is that all there is—to sex? to love? to career? to success? to rational living? to life? And if we don’t go deeper with such questions, we settle for superficial solutions. We sing along with Peggy Lee:

“Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is, my friends
Then let’s keep dancing.
Let’s break out the booze
And have a ball,
If that’s all there is.”

She goes on:

“I know you must be saying to yourselves
If that’s the way she feels about it
Why doesn’t she just end it all.
Oh no. Not me.
I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment,
For I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you
When that final moment comes
And I’m breathing my last breath
I’ll be saying to myself
Is that all there is?”

Peggy Lee and The Preacher of Ecclesiastes agree: all is vanity. But one responds with calls to reverence God and the other calls for a ball and booze. But the ball ends. Lust doesn’t last. Does anything? Well, after the hangovers we still fear the futility of life we sought to escape. Said Malcolm Muggeridge: “It would be a terrible prospect, wouldn’t it, to just go on and on and on. Everything is bearable because we die.” Yet who wants to die? We die against our will. We may pretend it’s “death with dignity.” There’s a nice lie: Dignified death—“Cold Obstruction’s apathy!” [Byron]. Read more →

Empathways

by Ralph Blair

Empathways is an expanded version of Dr. Blair’s address at connECtions98 in the summer of 1998.


INTRODUCTION

“Can I see another’s woe, / And not be in sorrow, too? / Can I see another’s grief, / And not seek for kind relief?”

What William Blake here had in mind was empathy as we usually think of it—in connection with another person’s misfortune. But empathy can also connect with another person’s good fortune. In his prayer-poem, “The Celestial Surgeon,” Robert Louis Stevenson reproaches himself at the thought that “beams from happy human eyes / Have moved me not.”

Someone tells of a man who came by to meet his friend and saw her talking with a shabbily-dressed woman with a small child at her side. As he approached, he saw his friend give money to the stranger who then, with her child in tow, quickly moved on. When he reached his friend she told him that that little child had leukemia. He said: “Nonsense. That kid’s not sick. It’s a scam!” His friend said: “You mean that child doesn’t have leukemia?” “Of course not,” he insisted. “Oh,” she replied, “That’s a relief!”’

Who do you think was practicing empathy here? The woman who gave money to that mother or the man who said the mother was lying? Maybe both? Maybe both. You might be as surprised about that as you were with the woman’s expression of relief. We’re going to think about empathy so we might do empathy better.

Some people insist on distinguishing empathy from sympathy. These purists want us to say we empathize with people in the same boat and sympathize with people in a different boat. To them, “I feel your pain” is empathy but “I can imagine your pain” is sympathy. Fair enough. We don’t want to be so insensitive as to tell people we “know exactly” what they’re going through when we’ve never gone through exactly what they’re going through. But fussing over rigid distinctions might mean we’ll miss the boat on empathy—no matter what we call it. Besides, are we not all in the same boat? Some may be in First Class and some may be in steerage, but we’re all on the “Titanic.”

In addition to empathy as this ability to feel for or identify with another in his or her situation, there’s another dimension to empathy. The emphasis here is on accurate prediction. Empathy can be the ability to predict accurately the thinking, feeling and behavior of others.

Back when I was in grad school I studied a psychometric instrument called The Empathy Test. Its validity was established on the basis of how well car salesmen (they were all men in those days) could predict the difference between those who were serious about buying a car and those who dropped by only to take a ride. Obviously, an ability to predict which were serious buyers and which were not could save lots of time and money for the dealer. He didn’t want to be taken for a ride. Here, empathy wasn’t about warm fuzzies; it was about cold cash. So empathy isn’t just hand-holding. The better we are at empathic accuracy, the more successful we’ll be in all sorts of relationships with other people. Read more →

Anger!

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This booklet is an expanded version of his address on anger at connECtion95, the summer conferences of Evangelicals Concerned at Kirkridge and Mills College, June and July, 1995.

©1995. Ralph Blair, 311 East 72nd Street, New York, New York 10021


INTRODUCTION

In a promo for New York City’s Lesbian and Gay Community Center, cartoonist Howard Cruse depicts a gay guy asking his lesbian friend: “Where’s the meeting for people who’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?” She consults the Center’s schedule and replies: “Hm—Depends on what night of the week it is.” Gay columnist Bruce Bawer rightly objects to the fact that “many gay leaders and commentators persist in encouraging us to celebrate rage.” Of course, lesbians and gay men are not the only people who are feeling angry these days.

According to the Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Southern [Baptist] Seminary: “The whole Christian Right movement feeds off of a ‘theology of resentment.’“ [Ken Chafin] A prominent evangelical journalist reports that “Moods of … anger dominate the conservative evangelical subculture.” [Rodney Clapp] Evangelist Luis Palau warns: “I fear the Age of the Angry Evangelical is upon us. That we are getting to be an angry bunch isn’t merely a caricature created by the so-called ‘secular humanist media elite.’ Evangelicals are getting far too angry about far too many things, … we American evangelicals are now known nationally (and internationally) by our anger.”

And how did the angry evangelicals react to Palau’s concerns? Harping on the so-called “gay agenda,” one asked: “Has [Palau] never heard of prayers for God’s judgment on the wicked?” Said another: “Clinton is vile … Yes, I pray for our president … but most of those prayers are imprecatory.” A U.S. News poll finds that most people who say they hate President Clinton call themselves “born again” Christians. Just before last fall’s elections, the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert urged voters to pray down evil upon the Democrats on the group’s so-called Philistine List, “enemies of Christianity and/or biblical morality.” The prayer warriors were told: “Don’t hesitate to pray imprecatory Psalms over them!” This kind of “make-my-day religion” gives rise to placards proclaiming: “God hates fags” and “Thank God for AIDS,” the popularity of Frank Peretti’s novels of politico-spiritual warfare, the fundamentalist flavor of apocalyptic rhetoric in the self-styled militia movement, hateful messages on the Internet, and the increasing incidence of religiously-motivated hate crimes. Read more →

CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400

CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400

The 7th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Festival

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 9-11, 2009

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400: An Introductory Lecture

Calvin500. It’s not the new line from Calvin Klein. And Arminius400 isn’t Armani’s new fragrance.

See, some gay men are queer enough to get into something more than fashion and fragrance. That’s us, right! Back in the ‘80s, the New York Times said that our Friday night Bible study “is not what most people think New York gay men do on Friday nights.” And, most still don’t.

At least here in New York, very few gay men meet on Friday nights for Bible study. More do as a New York Press writer testifies he does: “It’s Friday night and I’m headed to the East Side Club, one of the last two remaining gay bathhouses in New York City.” He describes it as a “labyrinth of interconnecting dark hallways lined on either side with innumerable clapboard rooms.” I don’t think he intended the pun.

And yet, according to evangelical pollster George Barna, across America, “a substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life … and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”

Well, try telling an average New Yorker or evangelical Christian that a bunch of gay men are meeting in Ocean Grove this weekend in honor of two 16th century Protestant Reformers and to hear some biblical preaching and you’ll get any response but, “Well, duh!” Yet, here we are! One gay Christian emailed me, saying that he and another gay Christian would skip our event so they wouldn’t miss what he called the “historic” Equality March in Washington. But I’d say what we’re doing here is really more historic than yet another staged rally of gay rage in Washington.

Calvinists celebrate Calvin with gusto. Arminians celebrate Arminius—but with a little less gusto. And each group can be rather hostile to the other. This year, around the world, there are many celebrations of Calvin and at least one other commemoration of Arminius. But our event here in Ocean Grove seems to be the only one that’s remembering both theologians—together.

Maybe it’s not so strange that we’re the ones celebrating both groups’ guys. After all, we’re two groups’ guys—evangelical and gay. So it’s not such a stretch for us to see things from two perspectives—together.

Read more →

[The] Overcoming Outrage!

by Ralph Blair

[The] Overcoming Outrage is Dr. Ralph Blair’s keynote at the 2009 Evangelicals Concerned summer connECtions held at Kirkridge in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains and at the Holiday Inn in Palm Springs, California.

[The] Overcoming Outrage © 2009 by Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


Have you noticed any rampant outrage these days? Lots of people are “outraged.” That’s what they claim. They’re “OUTRAGED!”—in big, bold italic caps and punctuated by exclamation points with none of the expletives deleted. Are they merely vocabulary-challenged?

And folks try to enlist others in their outrage, hoping that a chorus of outrage outdoes outrage on one’s own.

But is it all a bit overdone? Is it prompting only exasperated eyeball-rolls of, “Puh-leeze!” and angry shout-backs of, “Well, we’re outraged at your outrage! So there!”

Some outrage is sheathed in some seeming civility, but it’s still a seething resentment and passive aggression.

Outrage is over-the-top anger. When, as it feels, we’re attacked by unwanted emotions—say, fear, hurt, frustration, irritation—we try to get on top of the feelings by venting outrage as “righteous” indignation.

Outrage can be spontaneous—as in losing our temper. But lots of outrage is strictly for show—as in temper-tantrums.

And have you noticed that most of us are what so many are outraged at, i.e., LGBTs and Christians? And if we’re both, we get outrage from both. When we get outrage from them, do we get outraged at them? If so, do we get more outraged at the Christians or at the LGBTs?

Do we get outraged at ourselves? Google’s count is 17 million results for “outrage” but only 117 for “outrage at ourselves”—an unfortunate ratio. It can be useful to be outraged at ourselves since we can get our hands on it and maybe do something about it. We can’t get our hands on other’s outrage, though we might be tempted to get our hands around their necks. But that should remind us of our own outrageousness and turn us from griping to getting a grip. And, getting rid of our outrage might preempt outrage against us. But waiting for others to get over themselves is frustrating, even futile. Getting over ourselves instead of having to wait around for them to get over themselves is efficient.

And whether we’re outraged at others, or others are outraged at us, or we’re outraged at ourselves, a sober perspective can help. Read more →

“Five Centuries of Reformation Proclamation”

The 2016 Evangelicals Concerned

Ocean Grove Preaching Festival

Columbus Day Weekend

October 7-9, 2016

“Five Centuries of Reformation Proclamation”

“1516, 1616, 1716, 1816, 1916”

John Foxe   John Owen   John Berridge   Francis Asbury   J. C. Ryle   Eugenia Price

 Including Three Sermons by Dr. Ralph Blair
“Our Sufficiency in The All-Sufficient One”, “Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us” and “Participating in His Providence”

Dr. Ralph Blair, Speaker

(PDF version here)

Next year is the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On the last day of October, 1517, a 33-year-old Wittenberg University theologian, Martin Luther, took his courageous public stand for the Gospel. He posted ninety-five arguments against what he contended were Rome’s unbiblical teachings, such as the papal “indulgences” that he saw as simply scams for enriching the church hierarcy through fiancial payments for the forgiveness of sin. He argued that these shameful shakedowns mocked our “treasury of merit” in Christ alone.

Having long agonized over his own sins, and having finally found full relief in God’s unmerited mercy in Christ, he committed himself to confront the ecclesiastical establishment and comfort the ecclesiastically exploited.

In his liberating discovery of God’s grace in Christ alone, clearly revealed in the Bible, he was moved to provoke a return to the Christian witness of the early apostles and to move that witness forward into the future.

As we look forward to the Luther Quintcentenary in 2017, we pause here in 2016, to gratefully reflect on that 16th-century revival’s fruit in continued preaching of God’s Good News through each generation since Luther’s day.

Tonight, we’ll glimpse the ministries of six faithful Christians whose work sprang from the influence of that historically biblical Reformation. These faithful Christians were born or died in 1516, 1616, 1716, 1816 or 1916.

 

John Foxe (1516 – April 18, 1587)

In Germany, in the year before Luther posted his call for Gospel purity, there was a call for purity of another staple on Luther’s table. He’d quipped: “Whoever drinks beer is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, doesn’t sin; whoever doesn’t sin, enters Heaven! So, let’s drink beer!” Germany’s Beer Purity Law, Das Reinheitsgebot was adopted in 1516. It became the world’s longest lasting food quality control for more than four and a half centuries – until 1987, when it was ditched by some bureaucrats in the European Union.

Over in England in that same year of 1516, a boy named John Foxe was born. It was the year that England’s Master of the Posts, predecessor of the Royal Mail, was set up and the year that Thomas More finished Utopia, his fictional “nowhere”, so often mistaken as a “good place”. Over at Basel, Erasmus was publishing his Greek New Testament, Hieronymus Bosch, the artist of intoxicating triptychs, died, and the cleric and cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced the latest of his world maps. His 1507 version had depicted a newly discovered continent that he designated, Americi.

In Venice, Jews were being forced to reside inside a district called the “Venetian Ghetto”, ever after lending its name to all restrained residential neighborhoods. The Ottoman Empire declared war on other Muslims in Egypt and Syria and defeated the Muslim owned slave-soldiers of Gaza.

Luther died when Foxe was 30 years old, so, Foxe’s more immediate contemporaries among the Protestant Reformers were really Calvin, Beza and Bullinger.

We honor Foxe for his life’s consuming work, Actes and Monuments. It’s a multivolume history of centuries of persecuted Christians. First published in Latin at Basel in 1554, and reprinted for centuries since, it’s known today as, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. For many years, among the poor, it was the one book they owned besides the Bible. A century later, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress would become the third volume in those little libraries.   Read more →

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