If, like me, you've had your fill this week of politics -- with more to come when the Democrats gather soon -- perhaps this weekend you'd like a bit of a break.
How about if this weekend we celebrate the birth (July 24, 1725) of John Newton, a rebellious lad who was deeply engaged in the slave trade before he finally recognized the evil in which he was participating and quit. Eventually he wrote a whole pile of Christian hymns, including perhaps the most popular one ever, "Amazing Grace."
At my brother-in-law's recent funeral in Vermont, I had suggested that one of the hymns we sing be "For All the Saints," which I love. But others in the family voted for "Amazing Grace," and it was the right choice. Here is a YouTube version of it.
Some years ago, a friend who is a Catholic nun was in charge of creating memorial services for several people both of us had worked with as volunteers in a facility that treated AIDS patients. She loved Newton's old hymn but objected to the line that says grace "saved a wretch like me." She thought it was too harsh, too self-deprecating, too disrespectful of essential human goodness.
I tried to convince her that the "wretch" wording properly reflected how miserable Newton felt about his own complicity in the slave trade and how each of us in various ways also is complicit in evil.
She wasn't buying it and so we ended up singing her ad-libbed words, "that saved a soul like me." (Well, that's what she sang. Under my breath, I continued to sing "wretch." Sorry, Sr. Judy.)
I urge you to read the bio of Newton to which I've linked you on his name above. There you will discover that, among many other hymns he penned, he can be credited with "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" and "How Sweet the Names of Jesus Sounds," both of which still are sung today.
If John Newton still were around today, I might support him for president over the current choices. But that's just me.
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SAYING NO TO TERRORISM
Some 70,000 Muslim clerics in India have signed a fatwa, or ruling, against terrorism. This internal battle for the soul of Islam can be won only through such measures and not through outside imposition of values. The violent radicals eventually will lose because their cause is so wrong, so anti-human, so anti-Islam and anti-religion-in-general. But in the meantime, more such actions by Islamic leaders are needed to continue to limit and finally defeat ISIS, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that claim justification via Islam.