Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Story of Wesleyan Church

Read the first two chapters of Bob Black and Keith Drury's new The Story of the Wesleyan Church.  I am not disappointed, and I had high expectations.  These are good writers.  History should be interesting but so often is not (most of the earlier versions of this history are torturous).  Black and Drury have done a great job.

The first chapter was amazing to me.  I glaze over at the beginning chapters of most American histories with their tales of Native American migrations and distant figures of no direct impact on my life.  This book begins in medias res, with a dramatization of the founding of the new denomination in 1968, followed by a flashback to Wesley at the end of the chapter.  Brilliant!

There is so much mediocrity, all around, everywhere.  This is excellence!

Chapter 2 deals with the origins of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in the abolitionist movement.  I continue to process what I think of the abolitionist movement.  I'm obviously on board with their values. But I also think some of the abolitionists were extremists.  Gladly, I don't get that impression of the founders of the WM church.  For example, Luther Lee only joined the movement after Elijah Lovejoy was murdered by a mob.

I am sympathetic with the early attempts of the Methodists (and the Congress) to do away with slavery gradually. But I am also sympathetic with those who finally gave up on gradualism and decided more decisive action needed to happen. I admire Orange Scott for taking a stand in the way he did and hope I would have done the same.

A couple of applications. One is that civil disobedience is no disgrace. Sometimes I feel that Wesleyans today can't tell the difference between US law and God's law, as if breaking the speed limit was like bearing false witness. Getting arrested for protesting against discrimination fits well with our heritage.

The second is a warning.  Standing against sin, as it is often preached today, is not the same spirit as standing against slavery.  Those who stood against slavery were standing up for people.  It's not the same as protesting against liberalism or homosexuality.

So my take away so far:

  • I'm proud that we stood for unity, merger, and coming together in 1968.
  • I'm proud of Wesley and Asbury's innovation to accomplish the mission, working around the respectable rules of society.
  • I'm proud of their optimism about what God wanted to do in people's lives, assuring them that they are right with God, delivering them from the power of evil over them.
  • I'm proud of the abolitionist heritage.

10 comments:

Joshua Rhone said...

Ken,

Thanks for the summary of the chatters that you have read thus far. Also, thanks for the points for consideration. I would say that I have to agree with your comments regarding the differences between many contemporary stances against sin and the stance against slavery.

Good stuff as always!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"Slavery" was ONE of the social problems that was headed by the "civil rights movement".

Civil Rights were the rights granted under our Constitutional Government in the natural sense. But, in the supernatural sense, it was granted by "God".

Pragmatically, everyone is not equal, but idealistically everyone is. Our culture grants that because people are equal as to rights, then, all people need to be granted the respect that demands. This is how civility is defined. We have organized our society by those "ideals", by the social contract, which protects all people's rights as a natural right. These are negative rights, in the conservative sense, but the progressive seeks to expand the "rights movement" to include all of humanity, which is practically impossible. But, it is the basis of the "human rights movement". The solution has been contracts based on mutual agreement. These agreements benefit each party, as people are made to seek their own interests. This is how our globalized economy works.

The progressive seeks the impossible as to equalty, while the conservative seeks to maintain the boundaries that protect defintions around social structures.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

correction, The Declaration of Independence was the basis of the natural rights cause, as to equality based on nature (and nature's god)...The Constitution was the practical or conservative boundary making "formula" for our nation's definition of government.

Ken Schenck said...

One of the things I appreciated about the second chapter is the fact that it did not whitewash the double speak and inconsistencies in our founding documents, speaking of equality while denying it to slaves. Yet individuals like Clarence Thomas would hold us to the meanings in the heads of the lowest common denominator rather than follow through on the more important principles with which those thoughts were inconsistent.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Spoken as a ideological liberal...
Clarence Thomas is an "originalist", as to Constitutional principles....Yes, it is true that culture changes, but ideals must be within some boundary, otherwise, "anything goes". The "rule of law", which is the balancing of power is what prevents the perversion of government. Otherwise, we do promote lawlessness in government leadershp. And this is what we are finding with executive grabs of power with executive orders, subterfuge of the legislative branch, and a disregard and snubbing of the judiacary, which was to hold to the value of the Constitutional guidelines.

Healthcare has been an issue that has challenged the Constitutional principles....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

And why not, if ALL men are created equal, meaning that universal is not identified within just our nation's borders, but the whole globe!!!
Universal healthcare has been a U.N. project for eons, in limiting population growth and education, etc. It is a corrupt organization...it lends itself to allowing subversive governments to oversee committees that are not in our nation's interest! Isn't this the project to promote global governance. I don't think that is practical....just as the Founders didn't.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The language the Founders used, indeed was "protective" of differences in the population, but I don't think with the way in which they governed in government was done in a spirit of arrogance. They wanted to promote liberty as equality, not equality as liberty. But, perhaps that shows my bias, because both could be argued.

The former (liberty as equality) allowed for differences in development or understanding of "nature", while the other (equality as liberty) is based on material factors or measuring equalty....

Ken Schenck said...

Spoken as a Lincoln-Roosevelt Republican ;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Okay, Liberty as Equality is "Diversity in Unity", (many kinds, or aspects in One Nation) while Equality as Liberty is "Unity in Diversity" (Free Thought)...Both are true in our country...I'm not a historian, so I am limited n my information...

But the University comes from "unity in diversity", doesn't it?

John C. Gardner said...

Christians believe in all of humanity as created in God's image(however defined). Natural Rights originate with God and our common across all cultures(cf Abraham Lincoln and the work of historians Mark Noll and A. Guelzo). Slavery is an abomination as was segregation. It was supported by those great small government heroes of the Old South and even Ron and Rand Paul are skeptical to some degree about the Civil Rights law of 1964. Liberty and equality have always been in tension in the United States. Anyone too young to have actually experienced segregation or the Civil Rights period(or have black friends who were segregated) needs to study American history and that of Brazil, Cuba and even 19the century Puerto Rico.

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