The Pope who hated black cats
People like or dislike different kinds of animals. I’m a bird person. They fascinate me. Others are cat people. And historically, we know that some civilizations, like the ancient Egyptians, have been fascinated by cats. Others, too, have had a fascination with the animal. Pope Gregory IX was one of them, though he really wasn’t a fan. And some would say that his hatred of cats may have caused the deaths of millions. Then things got a bit weird... Ugolini di Conti was born in Italy somewhere between 1145 and 1170. After an education in Paris and Bologna, he joined the church, being made a cardinal by his cousin, Pope Innocent III. In 1227, he became Pope, adopting the name of Gregory IX and that is when things became a little bit weird. In June of 1233, Gregory issued a papal decree or bull, called Vox in Rama. Among those working for Gregory was an inquisitor named Conrad of Marburg. Busy in the German territories, this man’s job was to root out heresy and punish heretics. He claimed to have found an odd form of Satanic ritual which involved, in part, the kissing of a black cat’s buttocks, and acknowledging him as their satanic master. The pope took this association between cats and the devil entirely seriously and issued his bull. It resulted in the killing and torturing of cats across Western Europe, For example, in Denmark the pre-Lent festival of Fastelavn saw a black cat put into a barrel and beaten to death to ward off evil. The Kattenstoet festival in Ypres, Belgium, may have found its origin in this time. The festival involved the throwing of live cats from the belfry of the Cloth Hall in a possible attempt to expel the evil spirits the cats represented. This cat throwing festival has been revived in modern times, though now a jester throws out toy stuffed cats to waiting children below. Here the story, as it’s usually told, becomes an example of the law of unintended consequences. As Europeans feared and killed cats, rat populations thrived or so the story goes. And carried on the backs of rats were fleas that carried the Black Death or bubonic plague. In other words, Pope Gregory’s attack on cats was indirectly responsible for the deaths of up to 50 million people across Europe because there were no cats to kill the rats who carried the plague. Too neat, too tidy It’s a neat little story, and one that we’re all tempted to believe. After all, people in the Middle Ages were silly, and modern people like us are far, far smarter. We understand more clearly what they couldn’t possibly have comprehended. And, of course, since religion isn’t very popular today, anything that makes religious believers look dumb is eagerly lapped up. But history is never quite that simple. Though Pope Gregory put a target on the backs of cats in the 1230s, it’s not clear how many cats were killed nor how long the anti-cat hatred lasted. As well, it wasn’t until the 1340s that the Black Death started to make the rounds of Europe. Were they still killing a significant number of cats a hundred years later? And even if cats were still actively hated, you have to remember that while cats don’t quite breed like rabbits, they can multiply quickly. Unchecked a cat will breed two or three times per year, with from 1 to 8 kittens per litter. In her lifetime, a cat can give birth to up to 100 kittens. And, of course, those kittens, at five months old, can give birth to more kittens. So, according to the Roice-Hurst Humane Society website, over seven years a cat and all her kittens and all their kittens and all their kittens can total up anywhere from 100 to 400 new cats. As well, bubonic plague made a reappearance every few generations for the next few hundred years, killing as many as 100,000 people in London from 1665-1666. The plague doesn’t seem to have been affected by how fashionable or unfashionable cats were at any given time. And while the fleas on rats were one of the ways bubonic plague can be spread, it certainly wasn’t the only way. The fleas that carry the disease can live on dogs, humans., and, yes, even cats. So, ironically, if cats had killed all the rats, the cats themselves may have spread the plague. And if there had been no cats and thus the rats had proliferated, the rats probably would’ve done the work. Solomon says... So did Pope Gregory, the most powerful religious leader in Europe in his day, cause the Black Death by encouraging the destruction of cats? To let the cat out of the bag, no, he probably didn’t. And the story of him causing the Black Death should warn us that when a story seems too neat, and too simple, it just might not be true. That applies to stories we hear from our news sources, social media, and even our friends. After all, as Solomon said, the one who states his case first seems right until another comes and examines him (Prov 18:17). Find out what the other side of the issue is. If the story makes us seem absolutely right - or absolutely wrong - we might not be getting the whole story. So the next time you hear something that confirms or even denies what you believe in a way that’s too good, too simple to be true, dig deeper. Investigate. Learn more. Be curious. After all, it’s not like curiosity killed the cat, is it?
James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster. This article is taken from an episode of his History.icu podcast, "where history is never boring." Find it at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts.For further reading The Kattenstoet festival (Wikipedia) Vox in Rama (Wikipedia) What is the Fastelavn festival? Did Pope Gregory IX's hatred of cats lead to the Black Death? Cats breed like bunnies Pope Gregory IX (Wikipedia)
Adult biographies, Book Reviews, History, Teen non-fiction
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Slip sliding away: a very different chapter in Dutch history
You can download or listen to the podcast version (5 minutes) here. **** Paul Simon once sang that the nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away. While it’s a song about your journey through life and the places you visit, it’s also a sentiment that anyone in a northern, icy, country can understand. As a Canadian, I can confidently say we understand ice. It’s something that defines us in a way that’s hard to explain. The waters of the North are covered in ice much of the year. The ground in many areas is frozen with permafrost. The highways in the winter are either covered in treacherous black ice, or in some areas ice itself acts as the winter road. In the cities we learn to walk stiff legged like a penguin to avoid sliding on the ice. And we’ve even made ice our ally, playing hockey or figure skating to turn ice from foe to friend. Though we Canadians may know ice, we’re not the only ones. The Dutch have a reputation as speed skaters par excellence, having won bronze, silver and gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In English literature, the familiarity of the Dutch with skating has survived as the tale of Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. Though the Dutch may not know the snowfalls that can leave you trapped in your house for days, or the blizzards that can leave you unable to see more than a couple of feet in front of you, they do understand ice and maybe in a way the rest of us never will. Historically, for the Dutch skating has not been a sport or a playtime activity, but a practical way of getting around. Much of the Netherlands is located below sea level and large chunks of the country have even been reclaimed from the seas. This is a country with a lot of experience dealing with water. Not surprisingly, it’s also a land crisscrossed by canals because they’re necessary for drainage, and stopping the sea from taking back the land stolen away from it. Zip vs. slip Come winter, and especially the cold winters that the Netherlands frequently experienced in the 1500 and 1600s, these canals freeze. With that many canals, that’s a lot of ice. And since there are relatively few bridges spanning the rivers and canals, knowing how to skate gave you a really fast way to get around. You could get anywhere you wanted, and could get away from anywhere you didn’t want to be. Starting in the 1560s, the Dutch began to battle their colonial overlords, the Spanish. With on-again, off-again battles raging over the years, the troubles came to a head near Amsterdam in 1572. The small Dutch fleet, highly maneuverable against the much larger Spanish vessels, was frozen into the ice in the port of Amsterdam. Though the Dutch fleet was immobile, the cold weather had brought the Spanish similar problems and they were unable to attack the Dutch city with their fleet. Forced to disembark, the Spanish started to cross the ice to the city on foot, and this was their fatal mistake. Walking gingerly in the penguin walk that natives of northern climates know well, the Spanish made slow progress towards the city. Yet as the Spanish struggled, coming at them with unbelievable speed were the Dutch soldiers. They would swiftly skate just within musket range, fire, and then skate away to reload. The speedy attack and retreat gave the Dutch incredible striking power and left nothing for the Spanish to fire at in return. The Spanish commander, the infamous Duke of Alva, was grudging in his respect for the Dutch. He ordered a swift retreat back to the Spanish boats (or as swift a retreat as the ice would allow), having suffered hundreds of deaths at the hands of the Dutch. The Duke did manage to kill a few Dutch soldiers and capture their skates. Acknowledging the innovative tactics of his enemies, he sent skates back to Spain and ordered that 7,000 pairs be made. From then on, soldiers posted to the Dutch frontier were all given skating lessons. It gave the Spanish increased mobility, but learning to skate and to skate well is not the work of a few lessons but of years of practice. The Dutch, as it were, could still skate circles around their foe. The ice-ing on the cake? While ice played a factor in the Dutch eventually winning their independence from the Spanish after 80 years of war, there were other factors, too. They formed alliances with other powers, and the women learned to shoot and guard the city walls while the men attacked the Spanish. But throughout that long war, strategic flooding of the lowlands, and its wintertime counterpart of skating played a role that the Spanish never could overcome. Though there were a lot of reasons that the Dutch beat the Spanish, it certainly helped that the Spanish learned a bit of what Paul Simon would later sing about: The nearer your destination, the more you keep slip sliding away. This article is taken from an episode of James Dykstra’s History.icu podcast, where history is never boring. Check out more episodes there or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts. For further reading… 80 Years War (Wikipedia) How Ice Skates Helped Win the War Ice Skates for Military Use The Dutch Army on Skates Unusual battle in the 80 Years Wars (Board Game Geek) The First Ice Skates Weren’t for Jumps and Twirls – They Were for Getting Around (Smithsonian Magazine) ...
Questioning daycare and preschool: how young is too young?
In this twenty-first century, more and more children are being relegated to daycare or other institutions that look after them for a great many hours each day outside of the parental home. According to the US Census Bureau, as of 2015, about 3.64 million children were enrolled in public kindergartens in the United States, and another 428,000 in private ones. Statistics Canada reported that in 2011, almost half (46%) of Canadian parents reported using some type of childcare for their children, aged 14 years and younger, during that year. Many children obviously spend more time with childcare providers than with their family. Various studies have shown that young children who spend time in daycare may bond less with their mothers than those who stay home. And it has also been concluded by other studies, that children who attend daycare experience more stress, have lower self-esteem and can be more aggressive. “Even a child,” Proverbs 20:11 tells us, “is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” It seems a simple enough proverb and easy to understand. We have all encountered children’s actions – at home around the supper table, in a supermarket while we were shopping, in a classroom setting or on the street – and frequently found their actions lacking in moral wisdom. Greed, selfishness, anger, sloth and you name it, these vices surround cherubic faces like black halos. So it neither surprises nor shocks us when Proverbs adds commandments such as: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Prov. 23:13-14). “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). But what does that have to do with preschool and daycare? Read on. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: education is key to a better society To understand today’s education system we need to know something of its history. On January 12, 1746, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (pronounced Pesta–lotsi) was born in Zurich, Switzerland. His father died when he was only 6 years old and Johann was sent to school with the long-term goal of becoming a pastor. As he grew older he developed a keen desire and vision to educate the poor children of his country. After completing his studies, however, and making a dismal failure of his first sermon, he exchanged the pulpit for a career in law. He reasoned within himself that perhaps he might accomplish more for the poor children of his country through law than through preaching. But after studying law, as well as opting for a number of other careers, in the long run Pestalozzi ended up standing behind a teacher's lectern. Now, throughout these formative years Johann Pestalozzi had been greatly influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau was that philosopher who repudiated original sin and who penned the words: “there is no original perversity in the human heart.” Pestalozzi fell for these false words – he fell hook, line and sinker. Consequently, his principles in teaching strongly reflected the view that education could develop the pure powers of a child's head, heart and hand. He thought, and he thought wrongly, that this would result in children capable of knowing and choosing what is right. In other words, educating students in the proper way would evolve towards a better society. Such a thing happen could only happen if human nature was essentially good and it was on this principle that Pestalozzi based his teaching. Pestalozzi died in 1827 and his gravestone reads: Heinrich Pestalozzi: born in Zurich, January 12, 1746 – died in Brugg, February 17, 1827. Saviour of the Poor on the Neuhof; in Stans, Father of the orphan; in Burgdorf and Munchenbuchsee, Founder of the New Primary Education; in Yverdon, Educator of Humanity. He was an individual, a Christian and a citizen. He did everything for others, nothing for himself! Bless his name! As the engraving indicates, Pestalozzi was much admired, and his approach to education lived on after him, having a massive influence on various educators who followed. Friedrich Froebel: the father of Kindergarten One such person was a man by the name of Friedrich Froebel. Born in Oberweissbach, Thuringia in 1782, he was the fifth child of an orthodox Lutheran pastor. Interestingly enough, the boy heard his father preach each Sunday from the largest pulpit in all Europe. On it you could fit the pastor and twelve people, a direct reference to the twelve apostles. Friedrich's mother died when he was only nine months old. Perhaps his father did not have time for the boy, because when he was ten years old, he was sent to live with an uncle. During his teenage years he was apprenticed to a forester and later he studied mathematics and botany. When he was 23, however, he decided for a career in teaching and for a while studied the ideas of Pestalozzi, ideas he incorporated into his own thinking. Education should be child-centered rather than teacher-centered; and active participation of the child should be the cornerstone of the learning experience. A child with the freedom to explore his own natural development and a child who balanced this freedom with self-discipline, would inevitably become a well-rounded member of society. Educating children in this manner would result in a peaceful, happy world. As Pestalozze before him, Froebel was sure that humans were by nature good, as well as creative, and he was convinced that play was a necessary developmental phase in the education of the “whole” child. Dedicating himself to pre-school child education, he formulated a curriculum for young children, and designed materials called Gifts. They were toys which gave children hands-on involvement in practical learning through play. He opened his first school in Blankenburg in 1837, coining the word “kindergarten” for that Play and Activity Center. Until that time there had been no educational system for children under seven years of age. Froebel’s ideas found appeal, but its spread was initially thwarted by the Prussian government whose education ministry banned kindergarten in 1851 as “atheistic and demagogic” because of its “destructive tendencies in the areas of religion and politics.” In the long run, however, kindergartens sprang up around the world. Mom sends me to preschool My mom was a super-good Mom as perhaps all Moms are who make their children feel loved. And how, at this moment when she has been dead and buried some 25 years, I miss her. She had her faults, as we all do, and she could irritate me to no end at times, as I could her. But she was my Mom and I loved her. She was an able pastor’s wife and supported my Dad tremendously. Visiting numerous families with him, (in congregations in Holland she would walk with him to visit parishioners), she also brewed innumerable cups of tea for those he brought home. Always ready with a snack, she made come-home time after school cozy for myself and my five siblings, of whom I was the youngest. In later years, being the youngest meant that I was the only one left at home, and it meant we spent evenings together talking, knitting, embroidering, reading and laughing. She was so good to me. Perhaps, in hindsight, I remember her kindness so well because I now see so much more clearly a lot of selfish attributes in myself – attributes for which I wish I could now apologize to my Mom. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 32 – a young mother myself, with five little sets of hands tugging at my apron strings. I was devastated. But my quiet mother who always had been so nervous in leading ladies’ Bible studies and chairing women's meetings, was very brave. She said she literally felt the prayers of everyone who loved her surround her hospital bed. She had a mastectomy, went into remission and lived eight more good years Many young mothers are presently faced with a fork in the road decision – shall I go back to work or shall I stay home? Should I send my children to daycare, and thus help pay off the mortgage or should I stay home and change diapers? Times are tough. Groceries have to be bought, gas prices are ever increasing, and so is school tuition. I delve back into my memories and remember – remember even now as my age approaches the latter part of three score plus years – that my father and mother placed me in a Froebel School, a preschool, when I had just turned four years old. I was not thrilled about the idea. As a matter of fact, I was terrified. My oldest sister, who was eleven years my senior, was given the commission of walking me down the three long blocks separating our home from the school which housed my first classroom. My sister was wearing a red coat and she held my hand inside the pocket of the coat. It must have been cold. When we got to the playground which was teeming with children, she took me to the teacher on duty. I believe there was actually only one teacher. My sister then said goodbye to me and began to walk away. The trouble was, I would not let go of the hand still ensconced in the pocket of her coat. The more she pulled away, the tighter I clung – and I had begun to cry. Eventually the lining of the pocket ripped. My sister, who was both embarrassed and almost crying herself, was free to leave. I was taken inside the school by the teacher. It is a bleak memory and still, after all this time, a vivid memory. I do not think, in retrospect, that my mother wanted to get rid of me. Froebel schools were touted as being very good for preschool children. She, a teacher herself with a degree in the constructed, international language of Esperanto, possibly thought she was being progressive as well as making more time to help my father serve the congregation. Dr. Maria Montessori, a follower of Heinrich Froebel, established the Dutch Montessori Society in 1917. By 1940, 5% of the preschools in Holland were following the Montessori system and 84% called themselves Froebel schools or Montessori schools. The general nametag is kleuterschool, (kleuter is Dutch and means a child between 4 and 6). Today the age limit is younger because of the increased interest in sending children of a younger age to school. Creativity and free expression are the curriculum norm. Most of the memories I have of attending the Froebel school, (and let me add that it was for half days), are not pleasant. I recall braiding long, colored strips of paper into a slotted page. Afraid to ask permission to go to the bathroom, I also recall wetting my pants while sitting in front of a small wooden table in a little blue chair. My urine dripped onto the toes of the teacher as she passed through the aisle, checking coloring and other crafts. Such an experience as I gave that teacher cannot have been inspiring for her. Perhaps she always remembered it as one of the most horrible moments of her career. In any case, she took me by the hand to the front of the class and made me stand in front of the pot-bellied stove. Skirts lifted up behind me, she dried me off with a towel. Then she made me stay there as she put the little blue chair outside in the sunshine. At lunchtime she brought me home on the back of her bicycle. Knocking at our door, she called up to the surprised figure of my mother standing at the top of the stairs. (We occupied the second and third floor of a home.) “Your daughter’s had an accident.” I think I dreamt those words for a long, long time afterwards. But this I also clearly recall, that my mother was not angry. Would I have been a better child had my mother kept me at home? Felt more secure? More loved? Perhaps. Perhaps not. There is always the providence of God which like a stoplight on a busy street corner abruptly halts one in condemning the actions of another. God had a purpose for me, no doubt about it, in all that occurred in my life – whether things during preschool days or later. And so He has in all our lives. Conclusion We live at a time when everything is fast-paced – food, travel, and entertainment. What we often don’t realize is that time is also fast – fast and fleeting – gone before we know it. Our little children, sinful from the time of conception, two years old today, will be twenty tomorrow and thirty the day after that. And when they wear out the coat of their allotted time span, will it have mattered who fed them each meal, who read books to them, who played with them and who disciplined them? When we think back to the Proverbs we started with, we realize this is a question we have to answer with the Bible as our guidebook. The strange thing is that I now regret that I did not spend more time with my mother when she was old. I loved her very much and love usually translates into time. For parents concerned with mortgage and groceries and other bills, the simple Proverb "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6) is good to hang over their lintels. First things should be put first. I have never heard God’s people say that He has forsaken them....
Charles Darwin's grave mistake
One hundred and thirty-seven years ago, on April 19, 1882, a seventy-three-year-old man died at home in his bed. He was surrounded by his wife and two of his children, all three of whom wept inconsolably. His wife, who had held him against herself the last moments of his earthly strife, gently lowered him onto the bed. She stroked the white beard and closed the glazed eyes. Even though the family sorrowed, there was also a sense of relief that the patient had finally succumbed to death. The last few weeks had been difficult. Angina attacks precipitated fear. He had refused to eat with his family, preferring to eat in his bedroom alone. He had observed his body with morbid interest, taking notes on what he saw. “Much pain,” he would jot down, or scratch out “dropped down,” after he succumbed to faints. Tuesday, April 18, 1882, was his penultimate day and the pain began just before midnight. He woke his wife, to tell her that he was dying and she ran for his pills. Together with a servant she also administered brandy. But he was unable to keep it down, and retched miserably. He slept a little but vomited throughout most of the next morning, his body heaving and shuddering in agony. “If I could but die,” he said repeatedly, intent on present escape and not focused on the fact that he would shortly face the Creator of his heart, the Judge of his soul. He vomited again and blood spewed out, spilling red onto his white and venerable looking beard. “Oh, God,” he cried, and again, “Oh, Lord God.” His pain appeared to be excruciating and lasted until he lost consciousness about a half-hour before he died. And Charles Darwin was no more on the earth he had with human textbook clarity consigned to evolutionary origins. ***** Charles Darwin, (1809-1882), was the youngest son of an English doctor – one who did not believe in God. His paternal grandfather, an Erasmus Darwin, was also a doctor and an atheist – one who believed in the natural ascent of life and in the kinship of all creatures. Young Charles liked the outdoors. He reveled in collecting shells and bird eggs. Although his father wanted him to become a doctor, like himself and his father before him, Charles had no interest in following their footsteps. He dropped out of medical school, studied theology for a while, and then went on to become a naturalist. In 1831, when Charles was 22, he was hired as a naturalist aboard a ship called the Beagle and left England for a five-year excursion around the world. During this trip, Darwin was particularly intrigued by the plants and animals on the Galapagos Islands, several hundred miles off the west coast of South America. Darwin’s conclusions at the end of this trip are well known and have had repercussions around the world. He inferred that all species – the entire plant and animal kingdom – resulted from environmental adaptations over millions of years. In other words, God did not create the world in six days, but the world was the product of millions of years of evolution. In 1859, Darwin published these conclusions in a book entitled, The Origin of Species. The fact that Darwin stated God did not create things but that they arose through natural processes, and the fact that he promoted the existence of the universe as an accident with no purpose, were both in direct conflict with the Word of God. ***** Darwin had expressed the wish to be buried in the churchyard in the village of Downe, some sixteen miles south of London, where he had lived and worked most of his married life. He wanted his grave to be next to the graves of three of his children under a great yew tree. But such was the mood of the day – that a fool without clothes could be held up as a king – that one who openly flouted God could be hailed as a saint. Freethinking friends, wanting to honor the dead atheist, presented the Dean of Westminster with the request that Charles Darwin be buried within that church. Petitions went around and many influential government people signed, indicating that they thought Darwin’s last resting place should be one of glory among other English patriots. The Standard, a newspaper, urging the family to comply with popular feeling, wrote: “Darwin died as he had lived, in the quiet retirement of the country home which he loved; and the sylvan scenes amidst which he found the simple plants and animals that enabled him to solve the great enigma of the Origin of Species may seem, perhaps to many of his friends, the fittest surroundings for his last resting place. "But one who has brought such honor to the English name, and whose death is lamented throughout the civilized world, to the temporary neglect of the many burning political and social questions of the day, should not be laid in a comparatively obscure grave. His proper place is amongst those other worthies whose reputations are landmarks in the people’s history, and if it should not clash with his own expressed wishes, or the pious feelings of the family, we owe it to posterity to place his remains in Westminster Abbey, among the illustrious dead who make that noble fame unrivaled in the world.” Darwin was compared with Newton, foreign tributes to him poured in and in the end the Dean of Westminster acquiesced to the request that the body be laid to rest in the Abbey. Undertakers dispensed tickets of admission to the widely advertised funeral and an expensive coffin was sent to Downe for the body’s repose. No newspaper paused to consider the fact that burial at Westminster might present a religious obstacle. The Standard said: “True Christians can accept the main scientific facts of Evolution just as they do of Astronomy and Geology, without any prejudice to more ancient and cherished beliefs.” The Daily News stated: “.... Darwin’s doctrine was quite consistent with strong religious faith and hope.” It wasn’t just the newspapers which blew Darwin’s trumpet. Ministers praised the dead man as well. Canon Prothero, Queen Victoria’s chaplain, said on the pulpit, that Darwin had pursued the truth and in him had lived “... that charity which is the essence of the true spirit of Christ.” The canon at Westminster Abbey, an Alfred Barry, echoed the queen’s chaplain’s sentiment by saying that Darwin’s theory of natural selection was “by no means alien to the Christian religion.” At St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another minister lauded Darwin for the patience and care in which he had recorded minute facts. In this way he had brought about a revolution in modern thought and shed high distinction on English science. The funeral was not attended by either Queen Victoria or Gladstone, her Prime Minister. Neither had expressed an appreciation for Origin of Species. But thousands of others did attend. Judges, Parliament members, the Lord Mayor of London, ambassadors, scientists and a great many people from the ordinary homes and hearths of London. Multitudes entered the Abbey, all handing in their funeral tickets at the door. After these had all settled in their pews, the doors opened to those who had no tickets. These people filled the less desirable seats in the northwest side of the Abbey. At noon Canon Prothero entered with the choir as they jubilantly sang “I am the resurrection.” The family, flanking the coffin, which was draped in black velvet and covered with white blossoms, followed. A specially composed hymn was sung after a Bible lesson. The words of the hymn came from Proverbs: “Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom, and getteth understanding.” Darwin's funeral service It is not entirely strange to suppose that the devil occupied one of the pews of Westminster that day. He for one was well aware that Darwin had said, “If God had planted the knowledge of His existence in humans, all would possess it.” He also knew Darwin had said that “the plain language of the New Testament seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.” And the devil must have slapped his knees in mirth thinking about Darwin’s public confession: “I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation, and therefore not in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.” In the end, Darwin’s coffin was lowered underneath Newton’s monument as the choir rendered another selection, “His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth evermore.” People were awed at the solemnity of the moment. The mourners filed out. Darwin had been interred as a symbol of English success in the field of science – that is to say, he had put forward the thought that man was just an animal – an accident of cosmic evolution with no ultimate purpose. ***** Society would never be the same. Although Darwin only put a framework to what many people were already thinking, and to what itching ears were desirous of hearing, the consequences of what he contributed were severe. Racism was rampant in the thinking among early evolutionists. Ernst Haeckel, (1834-1919), the great proponent of Darwin’s theory in Germany, wrote: “The mental life of savages rises little above that of the higher mammals, especially the apes, with which they are genealogically connected... Their intelligence moves within the narrowest bounds, and one can no more (or no less) speak of their reason than of that of the more intelligent animals... These lower races (such as the Veddahs or Australian negroes) are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives.” The idea that white people were superior led to the practice of eugenics – a campaign to improve humankind through selective breeding. James Perloff, in his book Tornado in a Junkyard, writes: “...In Britain, Charles Darwin’s son Leonard became president of the Eugenics Education Society. In the U.S., the movement caught fire in the early twentieth century. By 1935, 35 states had enacted laws requiring the sexual isolation and sterilization of ‘unfit’ people – including the retarded, the ‘feeble-minded’, chronic criminals, and even epileptics. Proposed legislation targeted tuberculosis sufferers, alcoholics, the blind and homeless. About 70,000 Americans were involuntarily sterilized before the practice was stopped.” Nietzsche, (1844-1900), was influenced by Darwin’s theory. He denounced Christianity and declared: “God is dead.” He then advanced the idea of the "superman" and a "master race." This idea was taken over by Hitler, (1889-1945), who consequently killed his millions insanely believing that Darwin’s theory of evolution justified and sanctified his cruel actions. Hitler was not the only madman Darwin influenced. Karl Marx, (1818-1883), viewed Darwin’s work as a basis in natural science for the class struggle throughout history. He actually wanted to dedicate his Communist book, Das Kapital, to Darwin, but Darwin refused the "honor." Stalin, (1879-1953), as well, who began his studies as a theology student, changed his thinking after he was exposed to the theory of evolution. In a book, published in 1940, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin, this change is recorded by the author Yaroslavsky in these words: ‘“At a very early age, while still a pupil in the ecclesiastical school, Comrade Stalin developed a critical mind and revolutionary sentiments. He began to read Darwin and became an atheist. G. Glurdjidze, a boyhood friend of Stalin’s relates: “I began to speak of God. Joseph heard me out, and after a moment’s silence said: ‘You know they are fooling us, there is no God...’ "I was astonished at these words. I had never heard anything like it before. ‘How can you say so, SoSo?’ I exclaimed. "‘I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense,’ Joseph said. "‘What book is that?’ I enquired. "‘Darwin, You must read it,’ Joseph impressed on me.’” Joseph Stalin also killed his millions. The Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, (1893-1976), regarded Darwin as a teaching influence in his life. Calling Darwin the founder of Chinese scientific socialism, Mao was responsible for the death of millions of people. Andrew Carnegie, (1835-1919), and John D. Rockefeller, (1839-1937), were also Darwinists. They were both ruthless businessmen who practiced "survival of the fittest" in their business dealings. Carnegie said: “When I, along with three or four of my boon companions, was in this stage of doubt about theology, including the supernatural element, and indeed the whole scheme of salvation through vicarious atonement and all the fabric built upon it, I came fortunately upon Darwin’s and Spencer’s works... I remember that light came as a flood and all was clear. Not only had I got rid of theology and the supernatural, but I had found the truth of evolution. ‘All is well since all grows better’ became my motto, my true source of comfort.” Rockefeller financed the preaching of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s radio ministry. He brazenly accepted evolution and downgraded the Bible into mythology. ***** So Charles Darwin rests beneath the cold cement of Westminster Abbey. Or does he? Is his eternal soul at peace? Well aware of the tenets of Christianity, he knew that his ideas would destroy the faith of millions. He referred to Origin of Species as "my accursed book." There was considerable trauma associated with his writing of the final draft. In the year leading up to publication he was rarely able to write for more than 20 minutes at a time without stomach pains, and he finished the proof on October 1, 1859, in between fits of vomiting. Ten days before the proofs were bound he wrote to his friend J.D. Hooker, “I have been very bad lately; having had an awful ‘crisis’ one leg swelled like elephantiasis – eyes almost closed up – covered with a rash and fiery boils: but they tell me it will surely do me much good. – it was like living in Hell!” His modern biographers talk of Darwin’s self-doubt, his nagging, gnawing fear that “I ... have devoted my life to a phantasy.” It is not surprising that Darwin was subject to a "gnawing" fear nor the fact that he admitted that, in the dead of night, terror would strike him with painful force when he thought of the possibility of an afterlife. And so his body lies in Westminster Abbey – a grave mistake – an unwise decision. And what, after all, is true wisdom? Is it not the fear of the Lord? May God grant that the eyes of many hearts may be enlightened. Let voices not be afraid to cry out loudly without fear that evolution is a hoax and that it literally hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Edmund Clowney’s hymn, "Vast the Immensity" is a witness to God’s wisdom and creation. Vast the immensity, mirror of majesty, Galaxies spread in a curtain of light: Lord, Your eternity rises in mystery There where no eye can see, infinite height! Sounds Your creative word, forming both star and bird, Shaping the cosmos to win Your delight; Order from chaos springs, form that your wisdom brings, Guiding created things, infinite might! Who can Your wisdom scan? Who comprehend Your plan? How can the mind of man Your truth embrace? Here does Your Word disclose more than Your power shows, Love that to Calv’ry goes, infinite grace! Triune Your majesty, triune Your love to me, Fixed from eternity in heav’n above. Father, what mystery, in Your infinity You gave Your Son for me, infinite love! END NOTES 1 Desmond and Moore, The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, Warner Books,1991, page 668. 2 Ibid, page 670 3 Ibid, page 671 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Ibid, page 251. 7 Ibid, page 623. 8 Ibid, page 634-5. 9 Perloff, Tornado in a Junkyard, Refuge Books, 1999, page 220. 10 Ibid, page 221. 11 bid, page 225. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid, page 226. 14 Ibid. 15 Creation, Ex Nihilo, Vol. 17 No 4. September-November 1995, ‘Darwin’s Mystery Illness, by Russell Grigg, page 29. 16 Ibid....
Church history, History
The Queen on our coins testifies to Canada's Christian roots
If you look at the back of any Canadian coin you will see an image of Queen Elizabeth II. Someone might consider that to be a little bit strange. Canada has been an independent country for well over a century, so why does its money portray a British monarch? Canada has indeed been independent for many years, but it’s important to realize that the British monarch is also simultaneously the Canadian monarch. People generally understand the monarchy in Canada to be entirely symbolic, if not anachronistic. But there is much more than symbolism involved. A simple analysis will reveal that the Queen is, in fact, at the center of Canada’s Constitution. According to the “letter of the law,” she is very powerful. Of course, in reality, she is more of a figurehead and does not actually exercise that power. But on paper, in the actual wording of the document, she holds a lot of power – she is Canada’s Head of State, although her functions here are usually conducted by the Governor General, as her representative. Under the section on Executive Power in The Constitution Act, 1867, the following is stated: “The Executive Government and Authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” Not only that, but: “The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen.” This is the current authoritative Constitution of Canada. The monarch holds the power of the executive branch of the Canadian government, and he or she is also the commander in chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course, in practice the Queen doesn’t exercise these powers nowadays, but they are still firmly entrenched in the current constitution. The Queen and Christ From a Christian perspective, this is very significant because the Queen provides a direct institutional connection between Christianity and Canada’s political system. The connection becomes especially clear by examining the Coronation Service for the installation of Elizabeth II as Queen in 1953. Veteran BC lawyer Humphrey Waldock summarizes important aspects of that service in his 1997 book The Blind Goddess: Law Without Christ? highlights the specifically Christian aspects of it. Much of the service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest prelate in the Church of England. In one place the Archbishop asked Elizabeth: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant reformed religion established by Law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England and the doctrine, worship, discipline and government thereof as by Law established in England? Will you preserve under the Bishops and Clergy of England and to the Churches there committed to their charge all such rights and privileges as by Law do or shall appertain to them or any of them? To these questions Elizabeth replied, “All this I promise to do.” Then she laid her right hand upon the Bible and swore, “The things which I have herebefore promised I will perform and keep, so help me God.” Then she kissed the Bible, and signed the Oath, after which the Archbishop said: To keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Carefully note that Canada’s Head of State took an oath to maintain the Law of God to the utmost of her power. She has clearly violated this oath, as well as others, but she is still accountable to the oath. Canada’s Head of State is formally bound, by her own words, to uphold God’s Law. Subsequently in the service, Matthew 22:15 was read, the Nicene Creed was recited, a hymn sung, and then Elizabeth was anointed by the Archbishop. As he anointed her Queen he stated: As Solomon was anointed King by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet, so be Thou anointed, blessed and consecrated Queen over the peoples whom the Lord Thy God hath given Thee to rule and govern. Next, the Archbishop presented the Sword of State saying, ...that she may not bear this sword in vain but may use it as the minister of God for the terror and punishment of evildoers and for the protection and encouragement of those that do well. With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss and confirm what is in good order. That doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life that you may reign forever with him in the life which is to come. She also received other tokens of authority including the Robe Royal, the Rod of Equity and Mercy, and a ring. The Archbishop continued, Receive the Ring of kingly dignity, and the seal of Catholic faith: and as you are this day consecrated to be our head and prince, so may you continue steadfastly as the Defender of Christ’s religion As Waldock points out, it is clear from the Coronation Service that Canada’s monarchy formally acknowledges that it receives its authority from God. The Queen, Waldock writes, “had utterly submitted her temporal jurisdiction for justice to the authority of Christ and the Church under oath.” Loyal to God In section 128 of The Constitution Act, 1867it is stipulated that every Senator, every MP and every MLA must take the Oath of Allegiance which appears in the Fifth Schedule of the Act. The Oath of Allegiance entails one to swear to “be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty” Queen Elizabeth II. If the Queen has sworn to uphold the Law of God, and Canada’s elected officials swear allegiance to her, it would seem, then, that those officials must uphold the same Law the Queen has sworn to uphold. This is certainly the implication that Waldock draws: “No servants of the Queen have any authority or jurisdiction to substitute their ideas of morals or religion for those she has sworn to.” Many Canadians no longer support the Monarchy and see the Queen as a foreigner who is inconsequential to Canada. But Canada’s Constitution says otherwise, and the Monarchy provides a vital institutional link between Christianity and Canada’s government. There are moves afoot in Britain to change the role of the monarchy and it’s likely that the explicitly Christian aspects will be lost in the future. But as things stand now, and as they have stood throughout Canada’s history to this point, our Head of State is sworn to uphold the “Protestant reformed religion.” Clearly, Canada’s Head of State is an explicitly Christian monarch. Take a look at the back of the coins in your pocket or purse and remember the oath made by the lady whose image you see. She may be woefully deficient in keeping her oath, but it remains an acknowledgment that she, the head of the country, is accountable to our Lord. This article was originally published in the March 2013 issue under the title "One for the Money: The Queen’s image on our coins points to the constitutional bond between Christianity and Canada’s national government." If you want to read further on this topic, Michael Wagner’s book, "Leaving God Behind" about Canada’s Christian roots can be purchased here. Also, the folks at Worldview Encounter have created a 5-minute video based on this article that you can view below, and if you like this one, be sure to check their website for more in the upcoming weeks. How the Queen Demonstrates Canada's Christian Foundation. from Kingdom Focus on Vimeo....
Ulrich Zwingli: Reformer in the shadows?
In 1983 churches all over the world commemorated the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther. Ulrich Zwingli should have gotten the same sort ...
Our heroes have feet of clay
You find them everywhere. They’re the people we look up to. They sing, they dance, they play hockey, they win battles and they found nations. They’re our heroes. You know the people: George Washington, Wayne Gretzky, Winston Churchill, or Ginger Rogers. They’re larger than life figures that do larger than life things flawlessly. We want to be like them. Unless you’re Canadian. When an Internet poll asked Canadians who their heroes were some of the results were predictable, like Terry Fox, but there were also a few less likely individuals. Do n’t misunderstand, these people did some incredible things and were certainly larger than life. However, they were also hopelessly flawed. John A. One man who topped the list was Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A Macdonald. It is to Sir John A. that much of the credit goes for the founding of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. He helped pull together a disparate bunch of English Canadian Reformers and Tories and united them with French Canadian Bleus. Then he got the British to bully Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a grand confederation of colonies that formed the nucleus of the present day Canada. While that’s impressive, Canadians know Sir John A. in a more intimate way than that. You see, as most Canadians are aware, Sir John was bounced from office in 1873 for the Pacific Railway Scandal that involved suggestions of bribes, patronage, and all kinds of corruption. Additionally, the prime minister was a habitual drunkard. It was no secret for he bragged about his drinking, yet Canadians forgave him, returning him and his party to office in 1878. There are other unusual Canadians as well. William Lyon Mackenzie King made the list of heroes for his impressive job of shepherding Canada through the Second World War. If that doesn’t sound impressive, keep in mind that when Prime Minister Borden tried to guide the country during the previous world war, he succeeded in alienating French speaking Quebec, and much of the farming population, as well as accidentally splitting the opposition Liberal party in two. King kept peace and tranquillity, while Borden created a political crisis that threatened to undo Canada. Though a master politician, Canadians were aware of King’s oddities, including consulting with mediums, and talking to his dead dog – stuffed and sitting on the mantle. Rebel Riel Louis Riel was also on the list of heroes. While the man who initiated the only rebellions Canada has ever had may seem an odd choice as a hero, to many Western Canadians Riel is exactly that. With his rebellions at Red River and then in the North West Territories, Riel was probably the first Westerner that ever made “the East” sit up and take notice, and to perpetually alienated Westerners, that makes Riel a hero. However, Riel was a religious fanatic, believing himself a prophet and in communication with God. He had spent time in a mental asylum, and at the time of the 1885 Rebellion may have actually been mentally unbalanced. E is for equal rights...and also eugenics In its heroes, Canada is an equal opportunity employer. One of the most significant women to make the list was Emily Murphy. A successful writer under the pen name Janey Canuck, a Member of the Canadian Parliament, the first female police magistrate in the British Empire, and a participant in the landmark “Persons Case” that gave Canadian women legal status as people, Murphy has had her reputation tarnished in recent years. The United Farmers government of the province of Alberta enacted the Sexual Sterilization Act in 1928 that allowed for the sterilization of the mentally incompetent and others unfit to parent. This version of eugenics, repugnant to most modern Canadians, was strongly backed by the otherwise progressive and reform-minded Murphy. Conclusion Canadians choices for heroes have been odd. The less savory facts behind the lives of most of Canada’s heroes are well known and thoroughly documented, but Canadians picked these people anyway. Someone once told me that you can’t tell an American something bad about their heroes. They don’t want to know about George Washington’s dismal military record as a British lieutenant, and they won’t listen if you tell them that Thomas Jefferson had slaves on his plantation. They certainly don’t want to hear any suggestions that Martin Luther King cheated on his wife, or may have plagiarized his dissertation. But Canadians are different. They know the weaknesses of their heroes and accept them for that. The Bible also contains some unusual heroes, “heroes of faith” like Noah, Abraham, and Rahab. Noah got drunk, Abraham denied that Sarah was actually his wife, and Rahab was a prostitute. These were flawed people, but by God’s strength, they were allowed incredible moments and even years to do deeds that we still remember today. We look back at them, and we look up to them for those deeds. Heroes are not flawless people. They make mistakes, but that doesn’t negate the good that they’ve been allowed to do. That doesn’t mean we can’t look up to them, but it does mean we can’t idolize them. It’s healthy to know that even great women and men have feet of clay, for it reminds us who is ultimately in control. James Dykstra is both a student and teacher of Canadian history. ...