This is one of those days when people take note of at least two matters of history important to religion.
The most recent of the two is Kristallnacht, or Night of Glass, in 1938, when Nazi Germany's leaders organized a night of terror against Jews. Hundreds of synagogues were plundered, thousands of shops were destroyed and nearly 100 Jews were killed.
The earlier event in religious history -- an event I want to focus on a bit today -- happened in 1802 in Albion, Maine. It was the birth of Elijah Parish Lovejoy (pictured here), a remarkable Presbyterian journalist (three words you don't often find in the same sentence), whose name today is preserved in the name of the presbytery (regional governing body) in the St. Louis area -- Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery.
As for Giddings, that's for another time.
A Presbyterian pastor, Lovejoy became editor of the St. Louis Observer in 1833 and turned it into an abolitionist voice.
In 1836, anti-abolitionists forced him to move his presses east across the Mississippi River to Alton, Ill. The next year these forces destroyed his printing facilities twice and eventually shot him to death as they sought to destroy his presses for a third time.
Talk about clergy burnout (my subject here yesterday).
Anyway, Elijah Lovejoy today is an honored man among both Presbyterians and journalists, but it was a terribly hard road to get there.
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MOVING WITH OR AGAINST HISTORY?
Almost every candidate and cause supported by Christians who call themselves conservative went down to defeat in this week's election. David Gibson of Religion News Services describes what happened. I know it may take a long time for such voters to be willing to do this, but now is the time to analyze whether they may well be on the wrong side of history's right side -- on abortion, on gay marriage, on a host of other issues. Sometimes faith communities must stand against the tide of history because history is heading in the wrong direction. But when it comes to issues of liberation, of freedom, of respect for every single individual, the arc of history, as has been said, bends toward justice. And if you're bending the other way, eventually you're going to be broken. (See the history of those who supported slavery and preventing women from voting -- often on phony biblical grounds.)