Churches, social justice, and public health

July 31, 2012

Continuing a series on the “citizen” mode in ecumenical Protestant churches 

There was a time when churches were committed to helping sick people get well. They sent some of their most committed young people around the world as medical missionaries and here at home they used their resources—money and people—to establish hospitals. Around the country, some of these hospitals still carry their religious origins in their names: Methodist, Sacred Heart, Presbyterian, Adventist, Emmanuel, Jewish, Providence.

Churches and church-related organizations continue to be involved in healthcare issues. Many of these efforts have been widely publicized, however, because they focus around controversial aspects of the larger field of activity, such as birth control, pregnancy, abortion, and HIV-AIDS.

The alliance of conservative Christians and conservative political groups further confuses the witness of churches because specific economic principles and the role of governmental action trump convictions concerning the accessibility and cost of medical services.

Ecumenical Protestant churches, which once were active participants in the public debate about these matters, have become strangely silent.

One reason is that their current commitment to freedom of thought makes them reluctant to urge particular points of view upon their members. Another is that it is always easier to cry out against things that are wrong and proclaim broad principles and hopes than it is to endorse specific polities and programs.

Another reason for silence is the fact that churches depend upon the voluntary support of their members if they are to stay in business, and these very members often represent both sides of any seriously disputed topic. Whatever one says is likely to alienate part of one’s constituency.

The current debate over healthcare in the United States is an example of the impasse. Most people believe that the current system needs major revision, but there the agreement rapidly disappears. Some people are unable to acknowledge any aspect of the Affordable Care Act as useful or promising. Even its most ardent supporters recognize that some parts of the Act are flawed and need improvement.

It’s hard to know what to say and do.

One way for ecumenical Protestant churches—those that stand in the liberal Protestant tradition—to engage in public witness is for them to regain their citizen mode of participation in the public sphere. In the citizen mode, these churches study, inform, analyze, and encourage. They bring people of various points of view together for debate and new understanding. They stimulate other forms of participation in public life.

The citizen mode of engagement can be distinguished from the activist mode, which includes advocacy of specific programs and policies and direct engagement in the process that brings them into being. Even with respect to the intensely debated issues, many members of ecumenical Protestant churches—and some congregations, too—will move from citizen to activist mode.

An example of how a church in the citizen mode can participate constructively in the discussion of health care is the forum on this topic conducted recently by First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Portland, Oregon. This forum was one of eight during the summer months in which congregants are considering a wide range of hot button issues including immigration, gang violence, and caring for the earth.

Each session begins with scripture and prayer. One or more prominent representatives of the topic, some of them members of the congregation, present facts and representative points of view about the topic, and there is opportunity for discussion. A packet of materials for further study and action is given to all people in attendance.

The point of view presented by speakers and the printed materials lean left, as does the tradition of this congregation. But no one is demonized, no position is labeled as “the one Christian point of view.” People can go away from the session free to think things through for themselves and act in ways they believe to be right.

The morning devoted to healthcare featured, Martin Donohoe, a Portland physician who has dual associations with a major provider of health services and a public university. He used the forum and a later luncheon gathering to present a highly compressed picture of the complex and dysfunctional state of the health care system.

The speaker opened the door for action by citizens, but that aspect of the forum was pushed forward with the materials in the packet. Among the most provocative were two documents, one describing “a moral vision for our health care future” and the other entitled “Engaging Faith Communities in Working for Health Care Justice.”

These forums at First Christian Church do have an advocacy factor. Each week the packet includes a list of specific ways that members of the church can become involved. This week, the list included ten possibilities, including suggestions on becoming more acquainted with the Affordable Care Act, checking out and participating in opportunities for advocacy, and becoming a volunteer in a specific healthcare activity. To read the full list, click Health Care-You Can Get Involved.

With ideas like those on the list, there’s something that everyone of us can do regardless of what we think about the Affordable Care Act.

 


On bicycles, getting there is what really counts

July 27, 2012

The trip or the destination? Which is better? Crazyguyonabike (aka Joe Culpepper) is proving once again that when traveling on bicycles getting there is more important than the place you get to.

Joe and his friend Guy Wyche, are bicycling across the middle section of the United States, from Yorktown, Virgina, to Astoria, Oregon, using maps by Adventure Cycling as their guide. Loaded for camping at night, they are crusing along at sixty to seventy miles a day, with a rest day about once a week.

Current projection is that they will reach Eugene, Oregon, during the first week of August, where I plan to join the tour for two or three days. I owe it to Joe, since cycling is one of the things I helped him learn thirty years ago when he and his wife were students at the seminary where I was teaching.

When Joe retired from his active career in the ministry, he announced that in the summer he would bicycle across the country. In a few days, barring unforeseen events, he will complete the journey.

Reading the posts in which Joe is chronicling their trip, I understand even better than before why a trip by bicycle is such an interesting, challenging, and satisfying experience.

Day after day you travel through ordinary places and see ordinary people doing what they do every day. In all kinds of places, you meet a succession of American people being themselves.

A long bicycle trip brings a high sense of exhilaration—because you are doing this yourself. Your muscle, your resourcefulness, your resilience, your resolve. Much of the time, mind over matter. Exhilaration melds into pride of personal achievement and joy that sometimes edges into bliss.

These qualities arise, in part, because the trip is so long, the mountain grades so steep, the terrain so varied, the weather so unpredictable and always beyond control. Much of the time, the scenery and companionship help the miles slip by unnoticeably. Yet, there are long periods of steady, unending, butt and mind numbing miles, when it is all you can do to keep the pedals turning over and over, eighty times a minute, never failing.

The sun so hot! The rain so cold! The wind so harsh and overwhelming! “And miles to go before I sleep.”

Joe and Guy are traveling on one of Adventure Cycling’s most popular routes, which means that hundreds of cyclists are crusing along these same quiet roads. You see one another at a camp site some evening, exchange experiences from your rides, and the next day continue your separate journeys, never to see one another again.

Except that you do. Sometimes the next night. Or a couple of days later when you find one another huddled under the same shelter during a rain storm, or a week later at breakfast in some diner where you discover that you’d slept the night on opposite sides of the same camp ground.

The locals befriend you with pleasant comments on the road, hospitality at bike hostels set up in churches, invitations to camp in the back yard and the use of toilet and shower just inside the back door. They offer you a lift in their pickup when you break down and need a ride to town where you hope there’s a bike shop able to get you going again.

Hazards abound. Sharp things that split tires open, rangers announcing that bears are on the road up ahead, falls that cause scraped legs. Cyclists can get sick along the way and need medical help. Yet the amazing thing about trips like this is that you the  cyclist discover how strong you are and how much you depend upon everyone anyway. You gain confidence in yourself while at the same time you realize how vulnerable you are, how much you depend upon the systems of civilization to keep yourself going.

No matter how much you enjoy the open road, you begin to dream of home where the people you love surround you and everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be (most of the time, anyway).

Crazyguyonabike? Yes, riding across America is a crazy thing to do, but it’s a craziness that leads to sanity.

And the way I’ve been feeling lately, it will soon be time for me to load a few things in my saddlebag and ride off to “a place that the Lord will show me.”

 

Photos from crazyguyonabike.com.

 


One church in its “citizen” mode of public presence

July 24, 2012

Social Justice: Challenging the Church to Action

Despite the fact that ecumenical Protestantism, to use the term recommended by historian David A. Hollenger, has lost market share in American culture, churches of this type continue to have a role to play in the market place of ideas. They embody a tradition of speaking boldly to the conscience of the nation and even historians who are unperturbed at the thought that these churches may disappear affirm the contributions they have made in past generations.

Fortunately, there are many ecumenical Protestant churches that continue to work at shaping the heart and mind of America. One example is First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Portland, Oregon. In the late 1800s, this congregation pioneered in developing ministries with Asian and Eastern European communities in the city. Midway through the twentieth century, its pastors and members became leaders in Portland agencies and enterprises that were generating new approaches to justice and humanitarian service.

The congregation was a national leader in the work of settling refugees, especially people forced to flee from Southeast Asia. For many years, the congregation hosted a citywide program focusing upon coaching people in using English as their second language.

The founder of Portland State University, now the largest University in Oregon, was a leader in the congregation, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, one of the strongest local ecumenical agencies in the nation, was given its distinctive public service character by members of First Christian Church.

Throughout this multi-generation era of public service, the congregation also maintained an active program of education in the issues and structures of contemporary life. It was a strong example of the citizen mode of public presence, to use the typology proposed by David A. Roozen, William McKinney, and Jackson W. Carroll in their book Varieties of Religious Presence: Mission in Public Life.

For two months during the summer of 2012, the congregation is continuing this tradition with an impressive series of forums on the theme “Social Justice: Challenging the Church to Social Action.”

The first session provided a theological introduction to the series by summarizing portions of the Bible that emphasize the importance of the justice and mercy ministries of faith communities. A highlight of the session was a sermon by social gospel pioneer Walter Rauschenbusch, delivered by a member of the congregation dressed in the typical attire of an early twentieth-century preacher.

The rest of the sessions in this series begin with gathering music, welcome, scripture reading, and a prayer from the Walter Rauschenbusch collection published in 1909. The main portion of the session is a presentation on the topic of the day by one or more people who are local experts on that aspect of the city’s life and work. Opportunities for questions and comments are provided.

Each session discusses ways that the congregation and its members can participate directly in action that addresses the issue under discussion.

The topics range widely: Food Insecurity; Perspectives on Our Immigrant Nation; Social Justice and Public Health; Interface of Justice, Art, and Faith; Gang Violence and Intersection of Faith Communities; Homelessness; and Caring for the Earth.

One of the distinctive aspects of this series of forums is that a packet of materials has been prepared for distribution to all who attend. An example is the session on immigration. The guest leader was a Portland attorney, himself an immigrant (at middle school age) to the United States from Indonesia. The packet included a lyrical statement he had composed with the title “What big whales, smart swifts, and ambitious people do (move).

Other items: A statement describing the City of Portland’s “New Portlander Programs,” which formerly had been described as the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs; a six-page essay about a local restaurant that commemorates the dramatic relocation of peoples during World War II; a statement entitled “Biblical Principles and Middle Axioms on Immigration” by Michael Kinnamon, until recently the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; and an essay reprinted from Sojourners entitled “Evangelical Leaders Announce Immigration Table Launch.”

Also included in the packet was a news release from the Office of the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) urging ministers and members of the denomination to start “faithful conversations on immigration”; a brief outline of current refugee resettlement activities in Oregon; and a summary of resettlement activities led by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

The final item in the packet was a list of three “immigration related volunteer opportunities and action activities you can get involved in.”

One series of forums, attended by sixty to eighty people per week will not transform the city of Portland. When coupled with similar programs in ecumenical protestant churches across the city, this summer and on through the year into the future, and with actual involvement by congregants and congregations in direct service, this program points the way toward a continuing purpose for churches like this.

Photo of Tim McKennie as Walter Rauschenbusch courtesy of Paul Clendenin and First Christian Church.


Tour de France from the inside

July 18, 2012

Thanks to the NBC Sports Network and a host of mostly insufferable advertisers, I can watch the Tour de France early in the mornings during July. Since I have always been a recreational cyclist, with no experience at racing, I marvel at the exploits of these young athletes, many of whom are the age of  my grandchildren.

I pay special attention to the brief interviews with these men and am impressed by how genuine they seem, how committed they are to their sport, how skilled they are in combining loyalty to their team with the intense desire to perform well themselves.

It is regrettable that this sport, along with other professional sports, has to deal with the problems of performance enhancing drugs. Even so, the character of professional cyclists strikes me as worthy of commendation to young people today as a good example of athletic endeavor .

Watching the Tour, however, gives only a partial view of what happens on the road and how this intense activity feels to the people actually cycling these long, hard distances. Here I can only depend upon the testimonies of people who actually ride the tour route.

In an earlier posting, I called attention to the group of six women who are riding this year’s course a day ahead of the Tour itself. Heidi Swift from Portland is one of the team and she posts columns nearly every day describing how she and her teammates are faring in this intensely difficult event.

Even with support from their sponsors and from a team of Dutch cyclists who also are cycling the Tour route with them, the ride pushes Heidi and friends close to the point of exhaustion, affecting body and mind. Here are a few lines from a recent post.

“We’re five stages from finishing this thing. Five stages which seems like nothing and also seems like forever. Two mountain stages, one excruciatingly long flat stage, a TT and then the parade to Paris. Tomorrow we must pass over two above category climbs and two category one climbs. It will be a long day on the bike. Probably the longest yet.

“These days do not come without consequences. I’m tired and torn up: saddles sores, cramped feet, permanently numb fingers. That’s just the daily stuff. You ride until it all goes away, replaced by a middle ground of calm and determination. Pain is just a sensation, like love or happiness or anything else. Experience it, ride through it, ride past it.”

Onetime racer, longtime frame builder, and current blogger Dave Moulton also comments on current events in cycling, including the Tour de France. On a recent day, the cyclists were confronted with a serious road hazard, a large number of ugly carpet tacks broadcast on the road. Nearly a third of the cyclists flatted, as did some of the motorcycles that patrol the route and several team cars that support and service the cyclists.

One of the unwritten rules of the road was invoked by Brad Wiggins who was wearing the yellow jersey—the cyclist who at the time was number one in the race. He signaled the peloton, the mass of cyclists riding in a group, who had avoided the hazard, to ease up until the others could get back onto the road and in their place. Here are a few lines from Dave’s blog.

“This unwritten law of fair play was demonstrated in last Sunday’s Tour de France stage. Cadel Evans punctured because some idiot had thrown upholstery tacks on the road. Team Sky, lead by Bradley Wiggins, slowed and essentially neutralized the race while Evans caught up. Soon after the other contender Vincenzo Nibali also flatted.

“Let’s face it, if Evans and Nibali had both lost several minutes the Tour de France would have been over for them and over for the rest of us following the event. The sense of fair play shown by Wiggins and the others, not only neutralized the race but neutralized the affect caused by whoever threw tacks on the road in the first place.

“The fact that this happened without any prompting from officials of the race is pretty amazing in any professional sport, which is why I say cycle racing is unique.”

In a few days this most-watched athletic event in the world will be over for the year, but the examples of overwhelming athleticism and remarkable team spirit will continue to encourage and inspire.

Note: The photo is copied from Swift’s blog on Pelotonmagazine.com. 


How ecumenical Christians lost the church but won the nation

July 10, 2012

“Ecumenical Protestants” Berkeley historian David A. Hollinger calls us—Methodists, Presbyterian, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, members of the United Church of Christ, Lutherans, and a miscellaneous collection of other Christians. More clearly than liberal or mainline, Hollinger declares, ecumenical distinguishes us from Evangelical Christians—Pentecostals, fundamentalists, people in the holiness churches—who now have assumed the dominant role in American religious life.

Hollinger makes this point in an interview with Amy Frykholm published in Christian Century (July 11, 2012) under the title “Culture changers.” From the 1940s onward, and especially in the 1960s, the leaders of the ecumenical churches “led millions of American Protestants in directions demanded by the changing circumstances of their times and by their own theological tradition. These ecumenical leaders took a series of risks, asking their constituency to follow them in antiracist, anti-imperialistic, feminist and multicultural directions that were understandably resisted by large segments of the white public, especially in the Protestant-intensive southern states.”

After reading the Frykholm-Hollinger interview, I followed up by searching out and reading the 30-page lecture in which Hollinger develops these ideas at considerable length: “After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity,” It was his presidential address, which he prepared for the 2011 meeting of the Organization of American Historians (published in the June 2011 issue of The Journal of American History).

The paper is especially interesting to me because it lays out the major narrative line for my own ministry (I was ordained in 1952).  The events, personalities and struggles which Hollinger describes succinctly and appreciatively were the dominant features of movements in which I participated. With historical calm, he summarizes books, sermons, and publications that radicalized the discussion and inspired leaders of the ecumenical churches in my generation to speak and act courageously for causes they had espoused.

Especially prominent in these culture-changing activities were efforts to overcome the idea that America is a Christian nation endowed with the responsibility to Christianize the world. A second set of activities sought to overcome the divisions in human life, in the United States and around the world, that kept women in subordination to men and people of color in various forms of segregation and discrimination.

Hollinger describes the gap between leaders of the ecumenical churches and increasingly large portions of their lay constituencies. He also demonstrates that at this critical moment the evangelical churches seized the initiative by speaking out in favor of the Americanism and social segmentation that ecumenical church leaders were seeking to overcome.

The significant shift in market share during these years, Hollinger believes, is accounted for, in large part, by the evangelical advocacy of the very ideas that ecumenical church leaders were deploring. He compares what happened in church life to the transformation of American politics when, under Lyndon Johnson, the Democratic Party advocated similar values and lost the south to the Republicans.

Here is where the story turns. “Ecumenical leaders may have lost American Protestantism,” writes Hollinger (citing N. J. Demerath III), “but they won the United States. The ecumenists campaigned for ‘individualism, freedom, pluralism, tolerance, democracy, and intellectual inquiry,’ observes Demerath, ‘exactly the liberal values that gained rather than lost ground in the public culture of the United States in the second half of the twentieth century.’”

All across the country, the internationalist and multi-cultural views have been taken up by the members and former members of the ecumenical churches, by secularists, by people of Jewish and other faiths, even in growing numbers by the younger generations of evangelical churches.

Hollinger (who states that he is not an ecumenical Christian) seems fully relaxed as he shows how the leadership in developing a finer social structure around the world is being assumed by secular institutions. His example is the YMCA, once a bulwark of aggressive Christianity, which is about to drop Christian from its title.

At the same time, he suggests that “voices like that of the Christian Century and the intellectual leaders of the ecumenical seminaries and denominations should more aggressively criticize the religious ideas proclaimed by the most visible of the evangelicals in American life today.” Secular intellectuals and journalists can comment on these matters constructively, “but believing Protestants have an authority with the faith-affirming public that the rest of us do not have.”

Since I am a religious historian, I appreciate the cool detachment with which intellectual historian and Berkeley professor David Hollinger describes this era of American religious and cultural life.

I confess to being emotionally involved in this discussion, however, because I understand myself to be one of these ecumenical leaders whose church is disappearing even though its ideas continue to flourish across America. I’m confident that I will have more to say about this story of religion in America and what it means to churches like the one I love.


Heidi Swift reveals how hard the Tour de France really is

July 6, 2012

While I’ve never doubted what the TV commentators say—that multi-stage bicycle races like Le Tour du France are the most demanding athletic events of our time—a female cyclist and writer named Heidi Swift conveys a more persuasive interpretation of how hard this extreme sport really is.

With a team of women cyclists, Swift is riding the Tour’s route one day ahead of the race itself and posting frequent reports of how their ride is going. Excerpts from the early stages tell part of the story.

After stage one: “It was a hard stage today. Nothing to dismiss easily. In the final 4k we turned straight up a 17% climb that narrowed and switched here and there through the town. Up, up, up, up. Unrelenting after nearly eight hours in the saddle. I cursed and stood on the pedals and bumped over cobbled roads and then it ended. I thought of the godlike men who will arrive there tomorrow, crushing up the grade in an explosive finale.

“What we do on this course is an exercise in survival. What they do is pure magic and outright athleticism. The crossover of the two is where mortals are able to touch a little bit of that golden light.”

After stage four: “You know how you know when a ride is hard? You’re climbing and blood starts spurting out of your nose. (For the record, I just wrote ‘nose starts spurting out of your blood’ and had to fix it. Which is to say I’m really cashed.)

“The kind (and powerful) Dutch woman who came by me while the blood rolled down my wrist and arm gave me a bit of tissue. I stuffed it shut and kept going – there was still one more climb to do. My advice to you: don’t do threshold efforts while swallowing blood. Unless you’re at 198k of a stage of the Tour de France.” Then you just keep rolling.”

Swift and her teammates have trained rigorously for their tour, and they are sponsored and supported by strong organizations. Furthermore, as Swift’s dispatches indicate, there are other teams on the course with her woman’s team who are ready to provide additional support. Even so, the physical pain and mental stress are building up.

The official teams, of course, have even more support: their team cars, mechanical repairs instantly available, medical support, food and water all along the way. Furthermore, the smooth character of edited TV reports mask some of the stress that riders experience.

Even so, the unbelievable performances shine through. As a non-racing but aggressive cyclist, I have on rare occasions cycled at speeds between 45 and 50 miles an hour. Always down steep grades where gravity provides most of the forward momentum. In the tour, the top cyclists who are charging up hill to the finish line develop that speed by sheer power of muscle and mind (and a little help from their friends).

And they do it day after day!

Heidi Swift, by the way, is a Portland-based writer and cyclist. My previous awareness of her abilities was based on occasional columns she published in the Portland newspaper, The Oregonian. Her personal knowledge of cycling shone through. She affirmed different ways of being a bicyclist, and her writing conveyed feeling as well as information. There was a bite to her columns that I liked.

She and her teammates are sponsored by several bicycle-related businesses, including the magazine Peleton, and that’s where her Le Tour postings are published online. Several online reports detail the team and its Tour effort. To read Jonathan Maus’ account, click here. Her Oregonian essays are good, reading, too. Heidi also blogs and a good introduction to this venture is this interview, also published in the Oregonian. The two photos and the two excerpts from Heidi Swift’s tour accounts are all taken from postings on www.Peletonmagazine.com.

Swift has a hard three weeks in front of her—to ride the Tour’s course to the point of exhaustion every day and to post her regular reports. My bets are that she’ll get it done.


Learning from the Aztecs on Independence Day

July 3, 2012

My Independence Day reflections are influenced this year by three factors: 1) the muddled debate about social values in the American electoral campaign; 2) the struggle in Middle Eastern countries between secular governments and religiously-controlled governments; and 3) Jacques Soustelle’s exposition of the ways that religion functioned in the Aztec civilization, which was discovered by Spanish invaders in the early 1500s.

“It was by religion,” Soustelle says of Mexico City in Aztec times, “that the city and tribe were one, and by religion that variety was unified. It was religion that gave this town (so strangely modern in many ways) its mediaeval face: for the life of the Mexican, within his social and material compass, makes sense only if one perceives the degree to which an all-powerful religion told him his duty, ruled his days, coloured his view of the universe and of his personal destiny” (pp. 93-4).

This all-embracing religious factor of Aztec life can be summed up in five features:

1)    It integrated two earlier socio-cultural patterns into one integrated system.

2)    It defined and controlled social relations for families, economic activities (including occupational choice), education, and social mobility.

3)    It prescribed and performed human activities that directly influenced the regularity of natural processes.

4)    It shaped the physical structure of urban communities, including the design, construction, and maintenance of lavish ceremonial spaces.

5)    It required and justified public rituals of human sacrifice that legitimated and energized war and cultivated a willingness among citizens to participate in a social system in which its own members were regularly volunteered as victims.

Much of this was possible, Soustelle makes clear, because public power and religious ideology and practice were intertwined. The coercive power of government and the justifying theology of religion were tightly bound together so that each supported the other.

Soustelle reminds his readers that western civilizations have their own horrendous histories and ideologies. He also points out how vulnerable Aztec society was because of this integration of culture, politics, and religion.

“In any case, one thing is certain, and that is that this religion, with its scrupulous and exacting ritual and the profusion of its myths, penetrated, in all its aspects, deeply into the everyday life of men. Continuously and totally, it moulded the existence of the Mexican nation…It was this religion which, like a powerful frame, upheld the whole edifice of Mexican civilization: so, when once this frame was broken by the invaders, it was not surprising that the entirety should have fallen in ruins” (119).

These historical references to Aztec culture lead me to these conclusions about the role that religious leaders in my own country should take on this Independence Day.

1)    It is important that we continue to support the clear separation of powers—political authority and religious institutions—in the United States, especially during this election season when there is a strong tendency to use government to enforce religious convictions and practices.

2)    It is also important that we encourage American political leaders in their efforts to support a similar separation of powers in other parts of the world, including the Middle East.

3)    We can acknowledge and support the function of religion as providing an explanatory metaphor to explain the world and describe healthful human communities, but we need to acknowledge that any religious metaphor, including one’s own has significant limitations.

4)    We can affirm the benefit to a society, including our own nation, when more than one metaphorical system is actively engaged in the public debate.

5)    We can exercise great care in how we include patriotic materials in public worship. While it is appropriate to express gratitude for the land we enjoy and to affirm certain religious themes that have characterized the American mythos, it is important that we avoid the close integration of Americanism and Christianity.

On this past Sunday (July 1, 2012), worship in the church I attended used a hymn that illustrates practice that can be affirmed: “This Is My Song” with text by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness, set to the tune Finlandia. The characteristic to be commended is the combination of religious language (God understood as ruler of all nations) and love of one’s own country with the recognition that similar sentiments fill the hearts of people elsewhere. The universalism of the message and international character of the sentiments provide the proper context within which a particular group of people can sing their praise and affirm their own way of life.

Note: Quotations are taken from Daily Life of the Aztecs by Jacques Soustelle (London: Phoenix Press, 2002; first published in French in 1955; English translation by Patrick O’Brian copyright 1961).