Category Archives: Current Affairs

Dr. King on White People & Racism

This red-baiting billboard popped up beside many highways in the South during the civil rights years.

This seldom-cited passage is from “The Three Evils of Society,” Dr. King’s speech to the National Conference on New Politics, in Chicago, August 31, 1967. It is highly relevant to much current discussion about work for racial justice and equity. Continue reading Dr. King on White People & Racism

Quakers: From Peace to Civil War (Again?)

This week, while many American Quakers (& others) wait anxiously to see whether a new civil war is about to break out, the question of what Quakers can or should do in response to such events continues to linger.

I don’t have answers to that question; or rather, there is a surplus of answers, and sorting them out is “above my pay grade.” But I have studied how Quakers faced the (first?) U. S. Civil War. And these studies have been both reassuring and challenging, Perhaps they are worth reviewing briefly.

With the coming of the Civil War, a great many young Quakers felt themselves faced with a dilemma that was stated as well by Abraham Lincoln as by anyone:

“Your people–the Friends” he wrote to a Quaker minister, “–have had, and are having, a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this hard dilemma, some have chosen one horn, and some the other.”

To be sure, Lincoln was a politician, skillfully framing the choice in a way biased toward the war he was waging as the “only” way to “practically” end slavery.

But even Friends who declined to join accepted the binary formulation. And once fighting began, pro-war propaganda was relentless. Here’s a sample I just discovered. It’s a popular song, “A Quaker Letter to Lincoln,” from 1863: Continue reading Quakers: From Peace to Civil War (Again?)

Insurrection, Civil War & Quaker Dilemmas

A few days ago, a post on a Quaker Facebook group asked what the Quaker position was on dealing with insurrection.

An excellent and, er, disturbingly timely question. To which, of course, there is not a single Quaker answer.

To my mind, the best way to approach it is to look at live examples in our history. And here is one:

In the decade before the U.S. Civil War, many of the strong abolitionist Quakers (who were, we must note for the sake of truth, were then the radical fringe, loudly despised and marginalized by the Quaker Establishment) formed groups under the banner of Progressive Friends.

The Longwood Progressive Friends meetinghouse. It now serves as a visitors information office for the region.

The largest of these groups gathered in Longwood in Chester County, southwest of Philadelphia, in an area now known as the “Mushroom Capital.” There they soon built a meetinghouse which still stands.

Once underway, the Longwood Progressives quickly got down to business, launching a many-pronged assault on the recalcitrant status quo: on one side, they sent out volunteer “missionaries” to spread the Progressive gospel by organizing meetings wherever way opened.

On another, they adopted stirring resolutions, called “Testimonies,” denouncing a catalog of evils and calling for government and other action to end slavery  at once; grant equal rights to women; challenge the disparities of wealth; abolish the sale of alcoholic drinks; reform the prison system.

And not least, they called for an end to war & war preparations. Twice they urgently petitioned to the federal government about this, noting that:

“. . . impressed with the awful sinfulness of War, and its demoralizing tendencies upon the human race, we are impelled, by the spirit of our religion, to propose to you, the legislators of our beloved country, that in accordance with the progress of the spirit of the age, an arrangement be entered into to settle all disputations with Foreign Powers, by reference to an Arbitration of Nations.
We also earnestly desire the abandonment of all fortifications and preparations for war, the abolition of the army and navy, and of all military schools, over which the Government of the United States has jurisdiction.” (1853; 1855)

A mere six years later, on April 12, 1861, the newly-formed Confederate artillery opened fire on the federal Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.

That bombardment in South Carolina did more than breach the outpost’s defenses. Its fallout also landed hundreds of miles away: In particular, the war it started blasted holes in the “walled garden” of a then-Quietist and separatist American Quakerism.

It most thoroughly scrambled the thought and actions of the Progressive Friends, and if history has may lessons, perhaps we can find some here for our current plight. Continue reading Insurrection, Civil War & Quaker Dilemmas

Guest Post: A Call for “Felony Murder” Charges for Capitol Invasion Deaths

Mark Schwartz is a civil rights attorney and a friend of this blog. He was the attorney for two women teachers at Friends Central School, who were fired in 2017 after inviting a Palestinian-Quaker pacifist professor from Swarthmore College to speak at the school — a case reported on in depth here.

Now Schwartz has issued an open letter to the federal attorney for Washington DC, in the matter of potential charges in the wake of the U.S. Capitol invasion of January 6.

The letter is below, as I believe his recommendations are timely and should be part of the discussion of legal responses to the insurrection. Continue reading Guest Post: A Call for “Felony Murder” Charges for Capitol Invasion Deaths

The Coup is underway — Jan. 6, 2020

A long, long time ago — Wednesday morning — I thought January 6 would be a historic day of celebration.

After all, when I finally fell into bed, well after Tuesday midnight, Democrats were on the cusp of flipping the U. S. Senate, and that was Big with a capital B.

And sure enough, I heard somewhere yesterday that the flip had come  to pass, and it was, or should turn out to be, Big.

But even tho it’s still true, and Big, and the sun has since crossed the sky and faded in dusk behind bare trees, I’m not yet in a celebrating mood.

Err, don’t I know you guys? Wait—don’t tell me. You’re from Florida. No? Alabama? Somewhere near Charleston? Oh well, it’ll come to me.

It’s been, to put it mildly, a distracting, eventful day. A day that has, as Winston Churchill  once said of the Balkans, produced much more history than it could comfortably consume. And as I write, it’s a day that’s far from over.

Shortly after 1 PM, while the flip was still wrapping up, I looked up and something else had begun, something that drove it completely out of my awareness.

For Updates, scroll down . . .

 

 

 

BBC:

Guns were drawn . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3:40 pm . . . . A cop was reported among the injured so far  . . . No numbers yet.  . . . Chaos continues. National Guard from DC & VA reported on the way . . . DC  mayor sets curfew for 6 PM . . .

But the White House Grift Never Ends . . . .  Even as the coup proceeded, another White House fund appeal went out

Lolling at the Speaker’s desk.

 

The cops & national guard finally showed up in force and reclaimed the capital and its grounds, at least for now. Then shortly after 8 PM, Congress got back to work, certifying the 2020 presidential & vice presidential election results.

If they get that done, peaceably, then maybe that will be something to celebrate.

Or maybe not. The coup attempt was incited by more than one high official. And as the mob at length began to scatter and Representatives and Senators  emerged from hiding, more than one was quoting from the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, a section not often repeated. Here it is:

 

 

 

An Overview of American Catholicism (That Quakers should take note of)

I admire the dogged liberal Catholics at the National Catholic Reporter. (NCR)

NCR occupies an outpost besieged on practically all sides by the forces of Catholic clerico-fascism, which are older than Trump but have eagerly leaped into bed with his movement. Their outlook predates Trump, though, and will likely survive him.

NCR’s main inside ally is Pope Francis; which from an external perspective, ought to be enough. I mean, this is Catholicism, and he’s the pope That makes him the boss, right?

One of my souvenir selfies from the early days of Francismania.

But close up, the reality is more complex and discouraging: the Catholic hierarchy is vast & complicated, and political scheming & internal conflict, including violence within its upper levels is as old as— well, Judas.

Given that the incoming U.S. President is is not only a lifelong Catholic but an honest-to-God practicing one, simpleton outsiders like me might imagine that politically-minded Catholics & their bishops might be thrilled.

And to be sure, some are.

But not all that many. The American hierarchy is overall a branch of the swamp, and hatred of Francis, along with obsessions about abortion, homophobia and the gospels of PPP (pedophile priest protection) & PPR (Perpetual Protection of the Rich), not to mention hanging on to church money, appear to be their abiding priorities.

Here are excerpts from the wrapup of 2020 in American Catholicism, by Michael Sean Winters, NCR’s church columnist. Given the institutional weight and influence of Catholicism (e.g., 21 U. S. Senators — Baptists only have 11 — six of nine Supreme Court justices, etc.), and still the largest denomination in the country, etc., this is a review worth the attention of even small sects like my own Quakers. My comments are in red.


Michael Sean Winters: The dominant fact of ecclesial life in the United States the past several years has been the resistance to Pope Francis among large sections of the faithful and even the bishops. The pandemic briefly brought Catholic leaders together, but by year’s end, the opposition to Francis was as strong as ever.

Yet 2020 began with that great act designed to deepen communion with the Holy Father, the ad limina visits in which all the bishops go to Rome for meetings with the pope and with the different dicasteries that help the pope exercise his ministry. Various bishops said they enjoyed the frank conversations with the pope, with whom they met in small groups for a couple of hours, rather than the 10-minute, one-on-one sessions at which not much was accomplished during previous ad limina visits.

It didn’t take. Some bishops used the visits to put words in the pope’s mouth, saying he agreed with their decision to name abortion “our preeminent priority” in the election, even though the key distinction was whether or not the issue is “a” priority (with which we can all agree) or “the” priority, which is more problematic. . . .

Comment: Even for clerico-fascists, abortion is, while first-among-equals on their list of evils, more complex than it appears. Part of the background is that their outlook is still rooted in a conviction  that our culture will only be “saved” by a huge outburst of fertility, to fend off  “The Great Replacement,” by non-Christian — especially non-Catholic & non-white — foreigners), so besides outlawing the practice, they want women back home, gestating. Such a shift would involve a lot more than simply outlawing abortion, locking up (or hanging) the clinic doctors & nurses.

Michael Sean Winters: By the time the visits were concluded in February, the coronavirus had begun to change the way the entire country went about its business and by March, the entire country went into a shutdown. I was pleasantly surprised that the bishops did not rush to the offices of the Becket Fund to complain that the government had ordered public Mass services suspended and prepare for another religious liberty battle.

By May, however, the common good took its first assault when the Minnesota bishops announced they would defy their governor’s restrictions on worship. I will grant that not every governor or mayor implemented sensible regulations: Attendance caps that treated large churches the same as tiny ones made no sense. Still, comparing church worship to shopping made less sense and appealing to religious liberty misrepresented church teaching entirely.

Sadly, the religious liberty caucus at the bishops’ conference is merely an arm of the culture warriors at the Knights of Columbus and the Federalist Society. As I have noted before — and it held true this year — they do not preach Christ and him crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2) but James Madison and him justified.

Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory (above) expresses thanks after employees at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, surprised him Dec. 3, 2020, with a banner and red balloons to welcome him home from the Nov. 28 consistory at the Vatican during which Pope Francis created him as one of 13 new cardinals. (CNS/Catholic Standard/Andrew Biraj)

One bright spot this year came at the Knights of Columbus’ expense when Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory criticized them in no uncertain terms for hosting President Donald Trump for a photo-op. The event was held at the Knights’ St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington the day after the president’s henchmen had cleared peaceful protesters away from St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square so that the president could pose for the cameras holding a Bible.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said of the Knights’ hosting the president. “Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”

Francis evidently approved of Gregory’s stance, awarding him a red hat five months later.

I feared that some bishops would be even more aggressive and obnoxious during the election cycle than they were. Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron foolishly gave an opening prayer at an event for an anti-abortion group at which the group announced an endorsement of Trump. There were some regrettable tweets and unfortunate pastoral letters from other bishops. EWTN’s Michael Warsaw covered himself in disgrace shilling for Trump’s reelection but that was to be expected.

Comment: EWTN stands for Eternal Word Television Network, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is a very right-wing Catholic broadcaster. Michael Warsaw is its Chairman and CEO.

Michael Sean Winters: Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, always manages to put the “lie” in “outlier,” endorsing a video made by a ranting Wisconsin priest who claimed no Catholic could vote for Joe Biden. Still, it could have been worse, much worse.

At the U.S. bishops’ conference meeting after the election, it did become worse. The leadership of the bishops’ conference overlooked its own bylaws to establish a task force on how to deal with the incoming Biden administration; Francis called to congratulate President-elect Biden.

It is clear that on most issues, Biden will be much closer to the mind of the church than was his predecessor. Yet, former Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput became the public face of a campaign to deny Communion to the president-elect with a poorly reasoned essay at First Things. If you want to sum up the sad state of the U.S. hierarchy today consider this fact: Our president-elect, whom many bishops think is not a “real Catholic” and who should be denied communion, is more likely to favorably quote Francis than many bishops.

The U.S. bishops’ conference meeting also featured elections for committee chairs, and the results confirmed the degree to which the conference will remain a Francis-free zone. The most illustrative contest pitted conservative darling Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane, Washington, against Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer of Atlanta for the chairmanship of the Committee on Education. As one bishop told me before the vote, “That contest will show if there is room for a moderate in the conference.” There isn’t. Daly won 139 votes to 103.

It has become clear that conservatives organize and campaign for these committee chair elections and liberals note that there is not supposed to be any campaigning. Guess who will keep winning?

“Merry Christmas. Now, Get Out!” Quaker David & Goliath Update: Goliath Wins

Christian churches all over the world are having Christmas services this weekend, and into the coming weeks. It’s a tradition almost two millennia old. But for some churches, it’s a pretty bittersweet occasion.

The Friends Church of Midway City, in Orange County California is one such. After 85 years, this Christmas weekend is to be their last in the church they built and paid for, and pursued their vision of evangelical Quakerism.

[Note: more about Midway’s GoFundMe campaign, to help pay off their $50,000 debt for lawsuit legal expenses, is here: https://gf.me/u/ykw8s8 ]
Many readers have asked about the outcome of the dispute between Midway City Friends and their evangelical overlords, reported here in widely-read blog posts almost a year ago, here and here.

The overlords announced in May 2018 that they were going to shut down the congregation, take the church and its property, and fire the pastors. The Midway City Friends filed a lawsuit in 2018 to stop their expropriation.

It didn’t work out. As the church announced on its Facebook page above, they lost their case. The defendants, leaders of Evangelical Friends Church Southwest (EFCSW; neé California Yearly Meeting), argued that changes in Faith & Practice they had engineered a decade earlier made the EFCSW Board of Elders the supreme rulers, with ultimate ownership over all their member churches’ property. After months of mainly Covid-forced delay, last summer the judge agreed.

Cara and Joe Pfeiffer, now looking for a new gig, and home, for their family of six.

Midway City’s deposed pastor Joe Pfeiffer put it this way in a September Facebook post:

What we have discovered through the legal process in the last two years is that a small group who want to adopt a megachurch-satellite model with a centralized corporate structure basically circumvented our denominations governing bylaws to orchestrate a take-over. Though a lot of pious and spiritual language is being used (as often in church settings) it really comes down to power and money.

Early on, I started to publicly question this trend, as well as some of the ways our denominational budgets and nominations were being handled, and basically became a target, and then our church as a whole.

Our hope above all in this, is to continue to speak truth to power, and testify to our experience. Our aim is that truth will lead to conviction and ultimately reconciliation and healing in our broader body of Friends in Southwest.

But a third goal of their EFCSW antagonists went beyond grabbing the Midway City property and terminating Joe and his wife, co-pastor Cara Pfeiffer. They also want to make the whole episode disappear into oblivion down the legal memory hole. When a “settlement” was reached in November, it included nondisclosure clauses which forced the Pfeiffers to clam up, and relieved the EFCSW rulers from having to make any comment.

So no one has actually told me any of the settlement details. But key parts of it, e.g., the evictions, are outcomes that can’t actually be entirely concealed. After all, your basic big closing-down-and moving-the-church rummage sale announce-ment is pretty much a dead giveaway.

Their forced move is also a public reminder of how this whole affair started, when the Pfeiffers yielded to the quinte-ssentially Christian impulse to help a few homeless people who showed up on their doorstep in early 2018. That, and Joe’s record of daring to question EFCSW’s dedication to secretive top-down rule which brooked no questions or protest — that is, acting as if Friends were supposed to be a community of equals, was simply beyond the pale. They had to be stopped. The support the Pfeiffers had from the church was intolerable;  all had to be stopped, and the memory expunged.

Now EFCSW has sort of got their way: they’ll get the property, which if the economy rebounds could be worth a bundle, and the Pfeiffers and their four foster children, are now mum about the lawsuit, and face an uncertain pandemic-haunted future.

Yet there are a few loose ends. For one, the church, while small, has refused to die. Yes, it will be homeless a few days from now; but this is the year of worship-by-Zoom, so they will still meet, as they have done since the pandemic arrived, until they figure out where they can land next. There are, after all, Friends meetings in their area which are not under the hegemony of EFCSW.

Further, last spring, well before the gag rule was drafted, Joe Pfeiffer published “Engaging Homelessness Behind the “Orange Curtain,” a detailed, searing and trenchant critique of the entire “church growth” theology that has driven EFCSW  for more than fifty years. The piece exposed its deep-seated roots in defensive white normativity and the preservation of class privilege.

The essay and a detailed Preface were published in Quaker Theology #34, which is available online at no charge here. EFCSW’s legal victory and its aftermath are unlikely to put an end to the searching conversations that article started.

For its part, EFCSW issued a short letter addressed to pastors in its 45 churches, noting the settlement, and underlining its  confidentiality. In a possible bow to criticism that may have been evoked by wide attention to the Midway City property grab, Rick Darden, who signed the missive for the Elders, said of EFCSW’s leaders that

“we commit to improving our efforts in communications and relationships among our pastors and churches.

We believe that EFCSW has acted graciously toward the people of FCC Midway City and Joe and Cara Pfeiffer and their foster children in this settlement . . . .”

I couldn’t help it. The cluelessness here forced a laugh.

Here’s the leader of a so-called Christian church, parading his “graciousness” while marking the occasion of the birth of his church’s acclaimed messiah, whose infancy was spent as a homeless refugee, and one of whose commands for salvation was taking in the homeless, by having it coincide with making homeless refugees of one of their own congregations.

Further, Darden & Co. are expelling them from a church which the mostly non-affluent members of built, paid for, and maintained. Their only “crime” (besides wanting to think and speak freely) was trying to help a few of the thousands of homeless people with which Darden’s home county abounds.

(The last homeless count in Orange County was over 7000 in 2019, up from 4800 when this whole fiasco began. A 2020 count was canceled by Covid, but homelessness is widely assumed to have ballooned with the associated economic crash and its joblessness.)

An Orange County homeless shelter, 2019.

Darden and EFCSW’s flagship church in upscale Yorba Linda (self-styled as “The Land of Gracious living”) include on their megachurch staff eight staffers assigned to “Marketing,” and a dozen more to a “Creative Team.”

Evidently none of these twenty noticed that both the timing and what political pundits called “the optics” of this expulsion event are, to put it mildly, beyond terrible.  After such a move, any EFCSW efforts at “improving [their] efforts in communications and relationships” as Darden’s letter pledged, would seem to be, as the pundits also say, “due for a reset.”

Darden’s letter closed by assuring that EFCSW’s leaders were offering the Pfeiffers and the Midway City Friends their thoughts and prayers.

Of course. As Christians today, it was the least they could do.

Stamped By A Visit to an Alternate Reality

On December 22, I posted on Facebook an article from the Washington Post:

Televangelist Pat Robertson says it’s time for Trump to accept Biden’s win and ‘move on’

Televangelist Pat Robertson, one of President Trump’s staunchest backers, on Monday (December 21, 2020) described Trump as “very erratic,” called on him to accept that President-elect Joe Biden won and said the Republican should not consider running again in 2024.


The comments marked a sharp turnaround for Robertson, who recently voiced support for Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud and declared before the election that God had told him Trump was going to win.
“I think it’s a sideshow,” Robertson said Monday on his television show, “The 700 Club,” when asked whether he thinks Trump should run again in 2024. “I think it would be a mistake. . . .

Robertson said that Trump has “done a marvelous job for the economy, but at the same time he is very erratic, and he’s fired people and he’s fought people and he’s insulted people and he keeps going down the line.”


“And so, it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “And I think it would be well to say, ‘You’ve had your day and it’s time to move on.”

Robertson helped spur the rise of the religious right in the 1980s and 1990s and has been influential among religious conservatives for decades. . . . In early 2017, after Trump’s administration began, Robertson suggested that those who were revolting against the president were revolting against God.

Chris Roslan, a spokesman for the Christian Broadcasting Network, estimated that about a million people watch the 700 Club across the network’s platforms.


Robertson, a onetime GOP presidential candidate, has been generally supportive of Trump during his administration, although he criticized the president this past summer for his “law and order” response to the nationwide unrest following the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
 . . .

“You know, with all his talent and the ability to be able to raise money and grow large crowds, the president still lives in an alternate reality,” Robertson said. “He really does. People say, ‘Well, he lies about this, that and the other.’ But no, he isn’t lying; to him, that’s the truth.”


. . . “And, you know, people kept pointing to them, but because they loved him so much and he was so strong for the evangelicals — the evangelicals were with him all the way — but there was something about him that was good, that God placed him in that office for the time.”

After these excerpts were posted, my friend Dennis Lone in Seattle  commented:
If anyone knows about alternative reality, it would be Pat Robertson.

Yes I thought. Me too. In fact, I had visited it once, or maybe twice: Continue reading Stamped By A Visit to an Alternate Reality

ESR Upheaval: Dean Resigns, Is Abruptly Banned

Matt Hisrich, who was in his second year as Dean of Earlham School of Religion in Richmond Indiana, was abruptly banned from campus on Wednesday December 16 2020.

Matt Hisrich, smiling but not amused.

His Earlham email was revoked that morning, and he was directed to vacate the campus by 3 PM. Co-workers hurriedly gathered that afternoon to bid him a shocked, impromptu farewell.

Hisrich said in an interview with this blog that he was able to leave campus without the customary perp-walk escort by campus security, but only because, due to recent staff cuts,  the college only has one remaining campus police officer, who was busy elsewhere.

A 2008 ESR graduate, Matt became Director of Recruitment and Admissions in June 2012. Appointed Acting Dean in July 2018, he was appointed Dean, in addition to becoming an Earlham College Vice President, in March 2019.

Early this month, Hisrich announced his intention to resign at the end of 2020.

However, his bums rush exit was early, evidently provoked by a letter he sent to the ESR Board of advisers.

In the letter, Hisrich criticized recent changes in the school’s status, called for them to be reversed, and denounced what he called a “toxic culture of fear of speaking out,” under the administration of new president Anne Houtman, which he said “debilitated the creativity, energy, and community so absolutely necessary to pull off a re-imagination of what the College could be in a radically new context.”

Anne Houtman, President of Earlham College & ESR, not amused either.

This “re-imagination” is underway, as Earlham struggles with major budget deficits and faltering enrollment. Major staff cuts have recently been imposed. (For our earlier posts on Earlham’s financial/academic travail, go here, and here, and here.)

Houtman sent a sharply-worded retort, to Hisrich and the Board of Advisers. (Full text of both letters here: Hisrich-Houtman-Bunner-12-2020)

In it Houtman  declared that

To say I am saddened and disappointed would be an understatement. Matt never once expressed to me the concerns he shared with you, even when I gave him ample opportunity to do so. His “reflections” are filled with misinformation and misinterpretation, and reflect more than anything a deep misunderstanding of ESR’s fiscal situation, its relationship to Earlham, and more broadly the state of higher education in the United States at this time. This is not the first time Matt has behaved unprofessionally in our work together, but I have previously attributed this to his inexperience. It is an unfortunate way to choose to end a working relationship.

For his part, Hisrich firmly denied to me any “unprofessional” behavior, adding that no such charges had previously been made.

He also said that he and the ESR faculty had made numerous appeals to Houtman and other administration officials about ESR’s fiscal situation, and noted that the track record of Earlham’s administrations in recent years did not exactly evince any deep understanding of how to remedy the plight of colleges like Earlham.

About Houtman’s allusion to Hisrich’s alleged “misinformation and misinterpretation,” Hisrich pointed out that the key data his letter mentions are undisputed, namely, that last May ESR was abruptly “incorporated” into Earlham college. The school and  its Dean,  were now put under the direct authority of college officials. Further, and likely more important, the College “de-designated” (i.e., took away) half of ESR’s endowment (about $25 million dollars), which threw ESR’s financial and program plans into complete disarray.

Since then the faculty has been told their programs are subject to revision from above to make ESR a  profit center for the College at large, as it struggles to overcome serious and often called “unsustainable” continuing deficits.

Previously, ESR had its own strategic plan, which was unfolding with reported considerable initial success. Enrollment had doubled between 2019 and 2020, and prospects have been very promising for 2021.

(Meanwhile, overall college admission trends are a mix of a few increases, with the elite schools out ahead as usual, and many others facing pandemic-driven declines or deep uncertainty.) Much of ESR’s endowment income has been going for financial aid for students from non-affluent backgrounds, and headed for non-affluent service professional careers.

Hisrich’s letter argued that

Going forward, tying ESR’s ability to survive to its ability to serve as a financial feeder to the College essentially pre-ordains a negative outcome for the seminary. As the only seminary of its kind, this would be an incalculable loss to the Religious Society of Friends – and many others who have and will find a welcome here.

“Negative outcome” is a euphemism for demise. ESR’s strangulation in an effort to save the College would be a double blow as it has shared facilities and cooperative programs with Bethany Theological Seminary, a school for the Church of the Brethren, for twenty-six years. An informed source told me that Bethany is currently financially sound, but losing its connection to ESR could be fatal.

Hisrich said he had been told that ESR had about eighteen months to reshape its program away from its current offerings to others which would attract a student body affluent enough to pay tuition that was high enough to make the school a profit center (aka “financial feeder) for Earlham’s overall budget.

The reshaping will likely be done from above, based on the conviction  Houtman expressed that Hisrich (backed by his faculty) are mired in a “deep misunderstanding” not only of their own plight, but that of Earlham, “and more broadly the state of higher education in the United States at this time.”

An informed source recounted that in a November meeting with the ESR faculty, Houtman stated that her administration “had a vision” for ESR. Asked what that vision was, she gave no specifics beyond the expectation of it being an income producer. And frankly, it is quite possible to imagine a vision not unlike that of asset stripping by predatory corporate raiders, with ESR being sucked dry to prop up the larger, legally stronger “host,” and the husk then discarded. (Remember Mitt Romney and the depredations of Bain & Co?)

A much younger Mitt Romney and his Bain Co. partners, getting rich. They had fun, but the way they did it did not sell well with the voters in the 2012 presidential election.

What might such new, profitable programs be? Law enforcement was one that’s been mentioned, Hisrich recalled. As well as preparatory courses for pastors in line to run megachurches, with their mega-budgets. Otherwise, the focus will be, as it is in most flailing schools, on attracting students who were shrewd enough to pick wealthy parents.

Well, good luck with that. Speaking from outside the ivy-covered halls, the mess that so many colleges are in makes a hash of claims that administrators have it all figured out.

Last spring, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Robert Zemsky, who has studied college conditions for years and had just published a book, The College Stress Test, based on his research. The paper noted,

“Before the pandemic, ” about 100 of the nation’s 1,000 private, liberal-arts colleges were likely to close over the next five years, predicted Robert Zemsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education, in “The College Stress Test,” a book published in February. He now says 200 of those schools could close in the next year.”

It’s nine months later and there has not yet been a rash of actual college closures. But our peek into the machinations involved in keeping Earlham College afloat suggest just how desperate some schools continue to be, and the lengths to which they’ll go to stay afloat.

As for Matt Hisrich, he’s already put ESR behind him. He explained that his family was packing up, and by this weekend they expected to be back in his home town of Canton Ohio. There he’ll join with other family members working to help navigate the rapids and shoals of the current economic slump to save a family owned store there.

What kind of store? Wait for it — a hippie store.

That’s right: last week, Matt Hisrich was an eminently straitlaced theological dean. Next week, he’ll likely be in bell bottoms, and helping resurrect flower power, man, in a head shop, an authentic survivor, dating from the classic period in 1969.

Wait. In Canton, Ohiohome of the Pro Football Hall of  Fame?

That’s right, man.

OMG – Vinyl is BACK at the Quonset Hut. Hey, dudes, you got In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida??

Matt & his people will be at The Quonset Hut, a lively emporium featuring, of course, crystals, all the paisley you’ll ever need, cool staff who know what an LP is, a smoke & vape shop, and even — wait for it — an eye-opening sex toys department (but strictly for 18 and up).

Well far freaking out, all you need is love, and who the heck knew?

Meantime, back at Earlham, Anne Houtman will be looking forward to, as she wrote to the Advisory Board,

the opportunity to conduct a national search for a Quaker theologian with administrative experience and expertise, who can lead ESR into a more engaged relationship with Earlham’s wider community while addressing its enrollment and financial challenges.

Indeed.

After taking all this in, I called an ESR alum who has observed the school for several decades. “Be straight with me,” I said,  “you know the Quaker scene. Is there anybody out there you dislike so much that you’d suggest they apply for this job?

This Friend paused, and pondered. Then,

“No,” he said.

The Good news And The Other (Paranoid) News

Readers likely already know much of what I consider Wednesday’s good news:

Covid vaccine treatments have started; “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg was tapped to be Transportation Secretary in Joe Biden’s cabinet; there are no more throw-out-the-[Democrats’]-voting-results lawsuits bouncing off the big doors at the Supreme Court; and only five more weeks til Inauguration Day.

There’s a bit more (my new book, Murder at Quaker Lake, has sold a  few copies), but you get the drift.

Now the other news. It seems the not-so-fringe elements of the GOP are keeping up the fight to overthrow either the election or the government (whichever still stands in their way). For instance,  here’s part of a  Washington Post report you might have missed:

An ex-cop held an A/C repairman at gunpoint over a false claim he had 750,000 fake ballots, police said

By Andrea Salcedo

December 16 2020 An air-conditioning repairman was driving his truck through Houston in late October when a black SUV suddenly slammed into his tail.

“Boss, it looks to me like it’s full of fake ballots. Probably headed for Philadelphia– hey, it’s only 1550 miles away. Right, I’m on it!”

When he got out, the SUV’s driver leaped out and pointed a gun at his head, police said.
When police arrived, the gunman offered an incredible tale: The driver, he said, was the face of a vast election-fraud scheme and had about 750,000 fake ballots stuffed inside his truck.

That story was totally bogus, police now say. The man’s truck was full of nothing but A/C parts, and the gunman — Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain — had been paid more than $250,000 by a right-wing organization to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain

On Tuesday [December 15 2020] Aguirre was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a “bogus voter-fraud conspiracy,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. 
“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no one was killed,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg (D) said in a statement.

An attorney for Aguirre, 63, disputed the charges, calling the case “political.”
“I think it’s a political prosecution. I really do,” Terry Yates told KTRK. “He was working and investigating voter fraud, and there was an accident. A member of the car got out and rushed at him and that’s where the confrontation took place. It’s very different from what you’re citing in the affidavit.”

The bizarre tale of Aguirre’s alleged assault comes as President Trump and his allies continue to spread baseless claims of mass election fraud, and features a direct tie to a group of Texas Republicans who unsuccessfully sued to toss out nearly 127,000 Harris County ballots.


 . . .

Police said that Aguirre had received $266,400 from the Liberty Center for God and Country, a Houston-based organization funded by Republican megadonors. The group’s chief executive is Steven Hotze, a prominent Texas right-wing activist who joined other GOP activists in the ballot lawsuit filed in late October.
“ . . .

Aguirre told an officer that he and his “friends,” were “investigating a voter fraud conspiracy” operated by the man at his home and inside a backyard shed.

Aguirre added that his group had been surveilling the man’s home for four days, and said that he “knew” the man had hundreds of thousands of “fraudulent ballots in his truck and his home,” according to the affidavit. He claimed he was “using Hispanic children to sign the ballots because the children’s fingerprints would not appear in any databases.”

“I just hope you’re a patriot,” Aguirre told the officer interviewing him, the affidavit said.

Aguirre later took police to the air-conditioning repairman’s home and showed an officer where he had parked to surveil him, according to the affidavit.

But police said that Aguirre’s allegations didn’t check out. Police found “no evidence of voter fraud or ballot harvesting” after the technician allowed them to check his property.
“There were no ballots in the truck. It was filled with air conditioning parts and tools,” Ogg’s office said in the release. . . .

Somewhat farther south, my adopted home state is not covering itself in glory either. According to WRAL TV News yesterday:

NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat

Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan
NC State Senator Bob Steinburg

— A North Carolina senator suggested Tuesday that the president might suspend basic liberties to overturn an election that he believes, without evidence, was stolen.

Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, paraphrased on his Facebook page comments that retired Gen. Thomas McInerney made earlier this month on a conservative talk show. Among other things, McInerney suggested President Donald Trump declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act and suspend habeas corpus.

Steinburg told WRAL News on Tuesday evening that he wasn’t endorsing the idea, just “putting out there options that others say still remain on the table,” though he later said he’d be on board with it.

In an extended harangue, Steinburg also made it clear he believes the recent presidential election was stolen and that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy to which multiple countries, the media, U.S. government agencies, officials and judges are either a part or turning a blind eye.

“There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” he said. “I’m not nuts. … I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”

Steinburg then offered, unprompted, to take a psychiatric evaluation. He said the CIA and FBI both know there’s a coup d’etat going on in the country but won’t do anything about it.

“They think we’re just bunch of boobs out here in the hinterland,” he said. “Well, these boobs are waking up.”

Facebook post from NC Sen. Bob Steinburg, December 15, 2020.

Steinburg offered no evidence for his claims, which are a rehash of conspiracy theories racing around the internet and conservative media in the wake of Trump’s re-election loss.

Asked why so many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rejected lawsuits intended to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November election, Steinburg said, “let’s take a look at Justice John Roberts.”

He then suggested “somebody’s got something” on the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and, as evidence, said a lot of retired FBI and CIA agents live in his district and have told him so.

“I hear this all the time,” Steinburg said. “All the time.”

Asked about his habeas corpus post, Steinburg said he was “merely quoting what the general said,” but he also said it should be an option if the president feels there was foreign intervention in the election, as Steinburg himself certainly believes.

Chris Krebs, head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said last month that there is no evidence of any foreign country changing vote tallies or preventing Americans from voting. The president then fired him.

Steinburg struggled to define habeas corpus in any way, replying to questions on the topic at one point with, “I’m not an attorney.” Suspending habeas corpus would let authorities detain people indefinitely without bringing them before a judge.

That explained, Steinburg replied: “If that’s what needs to be done, if there are people who have been identified as folks who are suspected of high crimes and misdemeanors, who are threatening the very security and foundation of our nation … for whatever period of time it takes to round them up, then yes.”

The Insurrection Act, also mentioned in Steinburg’s post, allows the president to deploy the military on U.S. soil.

The post also notes that presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt suspended habeas corpus. Lincoln did so during the Civil War, Roosevelt during World War II. During WWII the U.S. government held Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

Steinburg, 72, won re-election last month and will return to the state Senate next year for his second term. He served three terms previously in the state House. The Facebook post appeared on his personal Facebook page, but it would not be out of character on his official page, where he frequently posts conspiracy theories from conservative media outlets. . . .


A sign from Blackwater’s good old days, during the Iraq war, near Moyock, on the northeast NC border with southeast Virginia.

A couple footnotes:

Steinburg is not exaggerating about retired intelligence agents being located in is area. His district covers Chowan County in northeast coastal North Carolina. It is close to Harvey Point, a semi-secret CIA training facility specializing in explosives training  and other clandestine activities. Another nearby landmark is the vast site of the former Blackwater private paramilitary training center (now renamed Academi & still in business), near the Virginia line.

For that matter, a couple hours north in Virginia, across  from the entrance to Colonial Williamsburg, is Camp Peary, home of the CIA’s “secret” (but well-known to spy thriller buffs) training base dubbed “The Farm”.

And as the Washington Post noted,

Steinburg wasn’t alone among GOP lawmakers in suggesting that Trump suspend civil liberties, even after the electoral college finalized Biden’s win on Monday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly acknowledged the Democrat’s victory on Tuesday. Virginia state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R) on Tuesday also called for martial law, echoing a suggestion floated by [ex-General] Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser pardoned by the president last month.

Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase; running for governor in the GOP primary for its 2021 election.

In another article, The Post noted Chase, who is running for governor in the upcoming Virginia primary (calling herself “Trump in heels,”)

said she was holding out hope that Trump somehow would be declared the winner when the electoral college ballots are formally counted during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 — an all-but-impossible outcome, especially as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday publicly acknowledged Biden’s victory for the first time since the election. Barring that extremely unlikely turn of events, Chase thinks martial law is in order.

Under martial law, she said, troops would “go and seize these [voting] machines and voting equipment to find the voter fraud. There needs to be a national audit.”

The beginning section of the full page call for martial law published in the daily the Washington Times on December 12.

This call echoes a similar declaration from an Ohio-based group, “We The People Convention” (WTPC), described as a rightward spinoff of the Tea party movement. QTPC bought a full-page ad in the rightist daily The Washington Times of December 12, to showcase their demands.

Tom Zawistowski: martial law, now!

WTPC is headed by Tom Zawistowski, President of the TEA Party affiliated We the People Convention (WTPC) and Executive Director of the Portage County Ohio TEA Party. Zawistowski is a longtime Trump supporter.The Washington Times ad (full text here) was written in near-apocalyptic terms:

Exercising Extraordinary Authority in Defense of Our Vote
May be Required because Martial Law is better than Civil War!

In the months following the start of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln struggled to preserve the Union. Many objected to Lincoln’s extraordinary use of Presidential authority, in particular his suspension of the right of “Habeas Corpus”.

On June 12, 1863 Lincoln defended his extreme measures in a letter published in the New York Times. Citing Article I of the Constitution he argued: “Ours is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion; and the provision of the Constitution that ‘the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it’, is the provision which specifically applies to our present case.” Lincoln used the same reasoning in justifying a series of extraordinary Presidential Orders:

• Lincoln ordered hundreds of Northern newspapers that spoke against him to be shut down and their owners and editors arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham for the crime of speaking out against him.
• Chief Justice of the US Roger Taney ruled that Lincoln had violated the US Constitution when he illegally suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus. After hearing this Lincoln signed an arrest warrant to have the Chief Justice of the U.S. arrested.
• Lincoln ordered the arrest of thousands in Maryland for the crime of “suspected Southern sympathies” including ordering the arrest of US Congressman Henry May from Maryland. These people were arrested and held in military prisons, without trial, some of them for years.

While some debate these measures still today, no one disagrees that Lincoln and his use of Presidential power were responsible for saving the Republic. While History, and even former President Obama, has judged Lincoln as perhaps our greatest President, few would have agreed at the time he took those actions.

Then, as now, a President with courage and determination was needed to preserve the Union. Today, the current threat to our United States by the international and domestic socialist/communist left is much more serious than anything Lincoln or our nation has faced in its history – including the civil war.

We have well-funded, armed and trained marxists in ANTIFA and BLM strategically positioned in our major cities acting openly with violence to silence opposition to their anti-American agenda. . . .The results being massive increases in violent crime and deaths in our cities and the destruction of small businesses orchestrated by those politicians and leftist groups, many funded by domestic and international communists. We are literally under attack from within!

Then there are admitted Democrat/Socialist federal officials plotting to finish gutting the US Constitution after 100 years of trying. . . .

The Socialist Left has been openly working to destroy the United States since Obama promised and tried to “transform” America in 2008-16 . . . Culminating in this corrupt and provably fraudulent current election planned to illegally and un-constitutionally deny the American people their most sacred honor, right and privilege – which is the right to elect their Representatives!

How can we have a Representative Republic if we cannot hold fair elections to elect our Representatives? There is no doubt that this attempted stealing of these elections again “is a case of rebellion…in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of rebellion” that requires exercising extraordinary authority to preserve our Union. . . .

The enemies are within our gates and our Constitution and Nation are in real risk of being lost to this socialist/communist invasion unless you act decisively.

At least half of all Americans do not and will not accept this fraudulent election because of the eyewitness testimony, and the material, statistical and mathematical evidence of OVERWHELMING fraud. . . .

We the People must not and WILL NOT cede our exclusive Constitutional right to elect our Representatives to judges, lawyers, courts, Governors, Secretary’s of State, Congress, corrupt election officials and local politicians, the corrupt media – or Leftist threats of violence! It is OUR EXCLUSIVE RIGHT to decide our Representatives not theirs! Therefore, We the People MUST demand a NEW and fair national vote, a vote that all Americans can trust and live by regardless of the winner!

Without a fair vote, we fear, with good reason, the threat of a shooting civil war is imminent. Gun sales are at an all time high and 40% are first time gun owners looking to defend themselves, their property, and their rights. Therefore, Mr. President you must act now before there is no peaceful way left to preserve our Union.

When the legislators, courts and/or Congress fail to do their duty under the 12th Amendment, you must be ready Mr. President to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.

A vote that assures a fair election in every jurisdiction and reflects the true will of the people. Federal candidates only. Paper ballots. No computers. Hand-counted with both parties watching every vote. Only registered voters. Photo ID to prove residence. Conducted safely with everyone wearing masks and six feet apart, just like we did in Ohio.

Only then can the winning candidate be accepted as legitimate by a true majority of We the People who must give our consent to be justly governed! Unfortunately we are at a point where we can only trust our military to do this because our corrupt political class and courts have proven their inability to act fairly and within the law.

You must also act, like Lincoln did, to silence the destructive media’s one-sided propaganda designed and proven to influence the election outcome, and end the unlawful censorship of Big Tech, to restore the confidence of the American People in our electoral process or we cannot continue as a nation. Failure to do so could result in massive violence and destruction on a level not seen since the Civil War. Limited Martial Law is clearly a better option than Civil War!

Many will object to these actions, as they did in Lincoln’s day, but we assure you that We the People understand that no less action will suffice to prevent the loss of our Constitutional right to vote and preserve our Republic. . . .


So. That’s the other news, aka the paranoia report, for today. What are the chances that Trump will try for martial law? I don’t know the future. But in October, Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said flatly that

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Zero chance.”

“There’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there,” he said in an interview with National Public Radio.

“We have established a very long 240-year tradition of an apolitical military that does not get involved in domestic politics,” Milley said.

He added that he is confident the courts, Congress and local authorities are prepared to handle a contested election outcome in the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Of all the countries in the world, I think that we are the only one or at least one of the very few that swears an oath of allegiance to an idea that’s embedded in a document called the U.S. Constitution,” Milley said. “We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to an individual, a king, a queen, a president or anything else. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a country, for that matter. We don’t swear an oath of allegiance to a flag, a tribe, a religion or any of that [but rather to a cherished set of ideas].”

Does that settle it? Seems like it.

But here’s what I wonder about: have any other short-term  plans, traditional “norms” and venerable traditions been upended by the events of 2020?

Yeah, just a few.

Who am I kidding? In fact, if I had to make a top Ten list of any of those, I’d soon have to give up and make it the Top Twenty. Or 30.

Or . . . .