One of America’s greatest doctors and activists for the least protected in society was Mildred Fay Jefferson (1927-2010). Jefferson was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first woman to graduate in surgery from Harvard, and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society. She influenced a President of the United States of America to change his mind on abortion, and throughout her life, she was a voice for powerless in American society.
Mildred Jefferson was born in raised in segregated Texas and experienced first-hand racism and sexism. She grew up in a time where legally, black Americans experienced injustices because of their color. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother a school teacher. Even though blacks had less opportunities than whites in the 1930s and 1940s, Jefferson never let her circumstances hold her back. As a young girl, she accompanied the town doctor on his house calls and told him that she would one day become a doctor. This was during a time that nearly all doctors were men and white. She succeeded in her dream.
Jefferson was an outstanding student and throughout her career she broke new ground for black Americans and for women. At the age of 15, she entered Texas College and earned her bachelor’s degree in three years. Normally it takes four years. She went on to earn a master’s degree in biology and then to Harvard and became a medical doctor in 1951. She was Harvard’s first black woman ever to graduate from medical school. She was the first female doctor at the Boston University Medical Center and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society.
Jefferson worked all her life to defend the innocent and society’s most vulnerable. She strongly believed in the preservation of life, and fought tirelessly to protect the unborn. Around 1970, she was one of the founders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. She later was one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee. She was President of this committee from 1975-1978. “Millie” was a persuasive speaker, and after one time listening to her speech, the future President Ronald Reagan became pro-life. He wrote to her, "You have made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life, I am grateful to you. " In a 1978 video, Jefferson explained:
“I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.” And, in another interview that same year, ““I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all of the years of slavery and lynchings.”
On October 15, 2020, at the age of 84, Mildred Fay Jefferson passed away in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a pioneer in medicine for American women and for black Americans and she tirelessly fought for the lives of those who could not speak for themselves.
One of America’s greatest authors of all time was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain (1835-1910). He was born in Missouri when it was considered the west, and continued moving west until he decided it was time to jump continents and live in Europe. Known for his wit, his analysis of human behavior, and at the end of his life his love for young people, Twain’s writings exemplify what it meant to be an American living in the 1800s. Change, moving west, honesty, independent-minded, funny, self-critical and struggle was the story of Mark Twain.
Twain is famous for his literature. His one-liners tell us a great deal about him.
“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often”
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
“I once fell into a California river and got all dusty.”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Throughout Twain’s writing life, he made Americans, and others around the world, laugh at themselves, laugh at others, and question if what they were doing was the right thing. Called the greatest American author that ever lived, Mark Twain’s life was all about moving, change, honesty and integrity.
Samuel Clemens was born in Missouri and raised in Hannibal, right next to the Mississippi River. He became Mark Twain when his writing career took off. That river became the focus point of two of his most famous novels about a boy growing up in 1800s America, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At various times throughout America’s history, these books have been forbidden by libraries because of their use of the “N Word,” even though Twain wrote in the vernacular and even though these books do not support racism. Three of Twain’s siblings died young, and his dad died when the boy was only 11. After his father’s death, Twain left school and became a printer’s apprentice, then a typesetter, then a printer, writing various humorous stories while working in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He came back to the Mississippi River and trained for two years for his dream job, a steamboat pilot. He worked as a pilot until 1861, when the Civil War broke out. He joined the war as a Confederate soldier, and after two weeks, he quit and “lit out for the West.”
In the west, Clemens tried and failed as a miner and went back to writing. While writing articles for various newspapers, in Nevada and then in California, he also wrote short stories, such as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” He was hired to travel to Europe and the Middle East and write about it. On this trip, fellow passenger Charles Langdon showed him a picture of his sister. Mark Twain described the moment as falling in love with the woman at first sight. This girl in the picture later became his wife! She wasn’t even on the boat.
Samuel Clemens married Olivia Langdon in 1870 in New York and had three daughters and one son (who passed away at 19 months). Samuel and his wife were married for 34 years until Olivia’s death in 1904. Through his wife’s family, Samuel Clemens met Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and other important figures of the day. In the 1870s and 1880s the Clemens family lived in Connecticut, where Mark Twain wrote many of his famous novels.
While Mark Twain was a famous author, he made poor investments that caused his bankruptcy. Trying his hand with inventions and technology, Twain lost nearly all his financial worth. For much of the 1890s, the Clemens family lived in various countries of Europe, seeking help from their poor health, searching for less expensive places to live, and in between, Twain would come back to the states to try to resolve his financial problems. Even though Twain had declared bankruptcy and did not need to pay back his debtors, he went on a year-long arduous world lecture tour to make enough money to pay back all those who had ever loaned him money. Mark Twain was a sought-after speaker, performing humorous solo talks, similar to modern stand-up-comedy.
Mark Twain had believed America should spread the American way of life around the world. However, after supporting the Spanish-American War of 1898, he had a change of heart and became an anti-Imperialist. He saw how the USA fought the Philippines instead of allowing this people their independence immediately. Twain said, “I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
In the later years of Twain’s life, he lived in Manhattan. After his daughter died in 1896, his wife in 1904, and then another daughter in 1909, he understandably was depressed, at times. He still wrote, however, and, he even formed a club for girls who were interested in writing. Called the “Angel Fish and Aquarium Club” for a dozen girls between the ages of 10 and 16, Twain exchanged letters, took them to concerts and the theatre and played games with the kids. In 1908, Twain wrote that the club was his “life’s chief delight.”
Mark Twain predicted that he would die when Halley’s Comet came closest to Earth in 1910. He believed this because he was born two weeks after the Comet was closest to Earth in 1835. Twain said, “I came with Hally’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almight has said, no doubt: Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet was closest to Earth. He lived a life of integrity, humor, and devotion, as well as being one of America’s greatest authors of all time. His writings continue to cause laughter and controversy today. He could have chosen to not pay back his debts, but he left his family for one year to pay his creditors. Towards the end of his life, when those closest to him had died, he supported and encouraged young girls in their writing and enjoyment of life. Ernest Hemingway wrote of Mark Twain, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
In the United States of America, Christmas was established as a federal holiday on June 26, 1870. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the man Christians believe is the son of God and the savior of the world. It has its roots in ancient times and is celebrated around the world.
For the first few hundred years after Jesus Christ, his birthday was not celebrated. Instead, Epiphany, when the three kings from separate places of the world visited Christ, was the focus of Christians. The visit of the Magi symbolized that salvation was open to the whole world, not just one select nation. Later, early Church Fathers promoted the idea that the birth of Jesus Christ should be celebrated. December 25, 336, marks the first day Christians officially celebrated the first Christmas on Earth, and it was in the Roman Empire.
The date of Christmas and some American traditions have pagan roots. In the Roman Empire, December 25th was the day of “natalis solis invict” (the Roman birth of the unconquered sun), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness.” Saturnalia, a Roman festival that honored the sun, lasted from December 17th to December 23rd. The winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, also falls a few days before December 25th and had been celebrated by pagans. Early Christian Church leaders believed that days that had been set aside to honor pagan gods could be changed to honor Christianity. It was thought that people would more easily accept Christianity and move away from paganism by replacing pagan celebrations with Christian ones.
The festival of Saturnalia honored the Roman god Saturn. Romans had a public banquet, gifts were exchanged, there was much partying, and servants were served by their masters. Singers performed in streets, and baked cookies shaped like men. While some Christians dislike any association with pagan traditions, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) wrote, “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it."
In Great Britain and in the fledgling English colonies in America, the birth of Christ was remembered with joy and festivities until the Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell, outlawed celebrating Christmas in 1645. Puritans believed that celebrating the birth of Christ was a sign of decadence and a disgrace to Christianity. In the English Colonies, the English separatists also believed in worshipping Jesus without ceremonies and made celebrating Christmas a crime. Few in the United States know or would understand how celebrating Christmas with parties, special meals and drinks, was a crime in most of the English colonies until the 18th century, but it was. Although it was no longer a crime, celebrating Christmas in the 1700s was primarily a quiet and solemn religious event, involving no frivolity.
In the 1800s, Americans' views on Christmas changed a great deal. One author, Washington Irving, wrote fictitious stories of how Christmas had been celebrated in England before the Puritans took over, and some of these stories caught on in American practices. German immigrants brought with them the practice of placing evergreen branches and trees in home during winter as a reminder of life during hard times. And, Catholic immigrants brought the tradition started by Saint Francis of keeping small nativity scenes in their homes. By the late 1800s, most Americans celebrated Christmas. In 1870, President Grant and Congress declared Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, savior of the world, a national holiday.
On Tuesday, November 3, the United States of America held the last day of its Presidential election between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. As of November 10, it is still unclear who won. Due to various states’ decisions to extend dates to receive mail-in-ballots, the tight race in these same states, and various lawsuits that deal with fraud and equal treatment of voters, it is unclear how long it will be before Americans know who won the election. According to news networks such as CNN, AP, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, Joe Biden has won the Presidency. However, according to Real Clear Politics, News Max, Breitbart, and Epoch Times, no one has yet won the election. What does the Constitution say?
The Electoral Process According to the U.S. Constitution
Based on the U.S. Constitution, the legislature of each state determines how to choose electors that will vote for a President and Vice President. How many electors each state has is determined by the number of Representatives and Senators in each state. In the first few elections in America, the state legislatures chose the President and Vice President. Over time, however, each state moved to choose its electors based on the popular vote within each state. Still, the state legislatures must commission electors to vote for the President and Vice President, and this need not be based on the popular vote. A candidate must win state certified votes and 270 electors much choose a candidate at a meeting of electors. No state has so far certified any of their electors to either candidate. The electors are scheduled to vote on December 14 within their own state. At this time, who will be the U.S. President becomes official.
Coronavirus and Reaction to Coronavirus
Typically, there is one election day to vote for the President, who is voted for every four years. However, the coronavirus and reactions to the virus has dramatically changed how the 2020 election for President was held. Democrats throughout the country placed over 300 lawsuits desiring mail-in-ballots, extension of deadlines for states to receive ballots, and changing of voter verification requirements. In some states, Democrats won the lawsuits and through court order, states had to change how elections were conducted. Republicans claimed that this was unconstitutional, as state legislatures did not determine the electoral process but judges did. Now, President Trump is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will decide.
Voting Irregularities in the Presidential Election
There are a variety of voting irregularities the 2020 Presidential election. Candidate Joe Biden, for example, received less votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012 in all of the states that went Democrat except the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin. Typically, a candidate’s successes improve nationally, not only in battleground states. Another anomaly is in Wisconsin, where over 89% of the registered voters voted. That is a 29% increase from the last record, which was set in 1984 in the Reagan/Mondale election. An 89% voting statistic sounds more like a piece of data from a third-world country led by a dictator. A third anomaly is the Republicans picked up seats in the House of Representatives, lost one in the Senate, and held all governorships and state legislatures, and picked up seats in some state legislatures. For the country to decide for Republicans but rejects the Party’s leader does not make sense. A fourth oddity is that in the battleground states, Biden won more votes than the Democrat candidates for the House and Senate. There were a large number of ballots with only Biden chosen.
Claims of Fraud in the Presidential Election
In a number of states, namely Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, Republicans have accused Democrats of fraud and have filed lawsuits to pursue their cause. In many of these states, Democrat poll workers decided to stop counting votes sometime around midnight on election day. This unprecedented action led President Trump to immediately claim fraud. After polling stations reopened in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 100,000 votes came in for Biden in Wisconsin, and then over 120,000 for Pennsylvania, with no votes coming in for Trump. This does not make sense because poll workers, or the election machines that count votes, do not separate ballots depending on who a person voted for. In Pennsylvania, over 50 Republican poll observers were denied access to observe vote counting at a time where over 600,000 votes were entered after the election day. Over 450,000 Biden votes in Pennsylvania were entered with no verification of identity or signature. Democrat poll workers acted illegally in denying Republicans access, and continued to deny access even after a court order. A Pennsylvania postal worker filed an affidavit claiming that his supervisors instructed all postal workers to stamp ballot received after election date (which would make them illegal) November 3rd. A software glitch in Georgia was found that correctly placed 6,000 votes that had been given to Biden back to Trump. This software was used in Georgia and Michigan, while Texas rejected using it because of its unreliability. In Nevada, over 3,000 votes were placed by dead people. In Michigan over 10,000 votes were placed by dead people. In Nevada, an observer saw Biden/Harris employees opening up mailing ballots, making one choice, and sealing ballots inside a van. When noticed, Dems surrounded the van so nobody could see inside. This same person saw individuals entering the polling station with multiple ballots in hand throughout the day. At a number of polling places in Arizona, poll workers gave voters Sharpie pens, when they were supposed to hand out ball point pens. When a Sharpie runs to the other side of a paper, the machine rejects the vote.
Donald Trump has filed a number of lawsuits, with video evidence and witness affidavits, in a number of the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Because of these legal proceedings, some news networks are not declaring Joe Biden the President-elect. Still, many news media are declaring Biden the winner. In 2000, Vice President Al Gore sued George W. Bush over the Florida election count. At that time, no news network declared Bush the President-elect until the lawsuit was settled 37 days after the election.
As the electors have a December 14th date to place their votes in each of their states, it appears that the 2020 Presidential election has to be resolved before then.
1. How does someone become President in the United States of America?
2. Why do some news networks claim Biden won and others claim we do not know who won?
3. Name two voting irregularities that occurred in the 2020 Presidential election.
4. Name two cases of potential fraud that occurred in the 2020 Presidential election.
5. By which date will the problems involving the Presidential election most likely be resolved? Why?
On Halloween 2022, millions of American families will carve pumpkins, and unlike two years ago, most children will don costumes and go from house to house asking for candy. The coronavirus lockdowns are thankfully over. Still, in some churches and communities, families will participate in solemn religious ceremonies, or they will stay up playing games. The history of Halloween has its roots with the early days of Christianity and most likely, paganism. Studying this holiday teaches how the present is connected to the past, and, how it is challenging to know and understand the past.
Under the Roman Empire, early Christians faced great persecution for believing in Christ and for not following the Roman religion. Romans tortured and murdered Christians throughout the first three centuries. Then, in A.D. 313, Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, and in 380, Emperor Theodosius I declared Catholic Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The persecution in the Roman Empire stopped, but Christians throughout the world still faced danger and death because of their belief.
Early Christians honored those who died for their faith and considered these martyrs saints. Churches were dedicated to a particular saint, or saints, and that dedication day, or consecration day, was celebrated each year. The Pantheon had been a Roman temple to all the gods, but in 609 Pope Boniface IV dedicated it to the saints and made May 13th a yearly celebration. Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to all the saints on November 1st. Later, in 835, Pope Gregory IV added this celebration of All Saints Day to the Church calendar on November 1st for all Christians to celebrate.
The word Halloween comes from the celebration of All Saints Day (All Hallow's Day, November 1st). From the very beginning of celebrating All Saints Day, Christians attended Holy Mass beginning the evening before November 1st. Thus, the celebration of All Hallow's Day begins in the Eve. “Hallow” means “Holy” in Old English. All Hallow’s Eve (or Even) refers to the day before All Holy Day, or All Saints Day. Masses occurred one day before All Saint’s Day, in the evening. A blending of these three words (All Hallow’s Eve in Old English) gives us the word Halloween.
Pagan Influences or Origins?
Celebrating or honoring the dead was common among pagan peoples of the world, as well as marking the transition from one season to another. Knowing what happened among pagan peoples however, is challenging, as many polytheistic peoples of Europe were also illiterate. There is a lack of primary sources.
Over 2,000 years ago, Celts lived in Central and Northwestern Europe. Celts were pagans, people who believed in many gods. They believed that they could communicate with good and evil spirits. The Celts celebrated a day in the fall as the New Year. The night before was remembered as the end of fall, the end of harvest, and the end of the season where there were more hours of sunshine than dark. Samhain was the night when Celts believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, damaging farms, causing trouble and communicating with humans.
To honor the ghosts, Celts built huge bonfires, burned portions of their crops, and offered animal sacrifices. The Romans reported the Celts offered humans as sacrifices. The Druids were Celtic priests, in charge of the ceremonies. On the night of Samhain, Druids believed they could communicate with the dead, and told the fortunes of others. After the ceremony was finished, the Celts took fire from the bonfire and lit their hearth fires, believing their home would now be protected from evil spirits.
Also pagan, Romans celebrated the end of fall with a festival geared towards worshipping gods. The Roman Goddess of the harvest was Pomona, and her day was celebrated on November 1st. Pomona was also the goddess of love and fertility. It is believed that on November 1st, single Romans over a certain age were compelled to “marry” someone for a year. The Christian Church ended this practice of marriage for one year. Instead, on November 1st, Christian Romans would draw the names of saints to try to emulate or be inspired for the year.
Pope Gregory I and Converting Pagans
In early medieval times, Church leaders and missionaries accomplished the enormous task of evangelizing pagan peoples throughout Europe and parts of Asia. One issue in changing pagan practices was how to deal with shrines that had been dedicated to various gods, and how to end pagan ceremonies. Some Christians argued the need to destroy the shrines. Pope Gregory I, however, argued that these pagan shrines be consecrated as Christian places of worship. In a letter sent in 601 to the missionaries to the Angles, Pope Gregory I writes, “For those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of God.” Pope Gregory I also writes, “For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures; because he who endeavors to ascent to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, not by leaps.”
It is evident that the early Christians used natives’ buildings and local customs for the purpose of conversion. Regarding Halloween, we do not have a document from Christian leaders explaining that October 31st was chosen as All Hallow’s Eve because of the Celtic celebration of Samhain or because of the Roman holiday of Pomona. However, it appears that there is at least some tie between the pagan celebrations and the Christian holiday, but, it may never be completely clear to what extent these are connected.
After the Reformation in some countries of Europe, the celebration of Halloween was seen as Catholic and was outlawed. However, in Protestant England, the English celebrated their victory over Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic who tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic Parliament in 1605. He was caught and executed. On Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) every year, the Protestant English would reenact Fawkes’ punishment by parading a scarecrow, the Pope in effigy, and other unpopular political figures, through the streets. Boys would dress up in costume and beg for coal to burn the scarecrows. Then, the scarecrows would be set on fire. Also, boys would play tricks on their neighbors.
Halloween in America
In America, Halloween evolved over the last four hundred years and is still evolving. Originally, Halloween was outlawed in many Puritan colonies, but in these colonies many celebrated Guy Fawkes Day and became fascinated with witchcraft and evil spirits. In colonies with religious freedom, Catholics celebrated All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
The American Revolution brought forth a huge wave of religious toleration and civic participation, and Halloween started to evolve more into a secular community event instead of a religious one. Over the 18th and 19th centuries, Halloween became a time for parties, games for children, and matchmaking.
In the 1900s, American magazines promoted how to throw the best Halloween parties and large candy manufacturers promoted the idea of giving out candy to those who want to play tricks. As America became modernized and mass media reached all households, it appears that the current Halloween customs were strongly endorsed by candy makers as a way to make more money. Most recently, department stores create and promote Halloween decorations and Americans spend great amounts of time, energy, and resources decorating their homes.
Other Americans, however, still celebrate the Christian meaning of Halloween, by attending church, saying prayers, remembering the saints, and recalling the martyrs of the faith. These Christians are inspired to live as heroes for the Christian faith. Other church communities hold carnivals as a way to evangelize and to keep kids off the street from participating in Trick or Treating.
*Christian Origin of Halloween: http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=1116
*A copy of Pope Gregory I’s missionary letter regarding how to deal with pagan shrines:
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.xxix.html : CHAP. XXX. A copy of the letter which Pope Gregory sent to the Abbot Mellitus, then going into Britain. [601 A.D.]
The following is taken from The Story of Liberty, a curriculum and video course on the story of America. To learn more about The Story of Liberty, Click Here.
The Beginning of the American Revolution – April 19, 1775
April 19th, 2021 is the 246th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. 246 years ago American farmers and militia fought the “British Regulars” (professional soldiers) at Concord and Lexington and chased the redcoats back to Boston. The fight is sometimes called a skirmish, because it was less than a battle. A little over a year after this fight, Americans declared their right to form a new country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first modern republic was born with the actions of regular citizens rejecting a government that ruled without its consent.
The skirmish at Lexington and Concord was fought because the British tried to stop the Americans from preparing for war. In 1774, American leaders at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia petitioned King George III and parliament to restore their rights. When the king and parliament refused and continued to hold the people of Boston under martial law, the Americans decided to mobilize for war. Colonists established illegal, revolutionary governments, collected taxes to fund militia and even funerals for soldiers, and established arsenals, which are warehouses for guns and ammunition. Americans were already well-armed, with each family owning several guns. However, men in villages now trained as soldiers. Some, called minutemen, were chosen and financially supported by town leaders to be prepared to fight within a minute’s notice.
General Gage, the commander of the British army in Boston, wanted to surprise the colonists. He ordered Major Pitcairn to march 1,000 soldiers 20 miles to Concord to destroy colonial ammunition and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage did not want a fight, but wanted take weapons from Americans so they could not fight. However, Americans in Boston learned of this plan and destroyed the surprise. On the night of April 18th, 1775, a Bostonian set two lanterns in the belfry tower of the Old North Church, thus signaling three riders, Dr. Samuel Prescott, William Dawes and Paul Revere, that the British would go to Concord initially by a sea route.
The three riders set off from Boston to Concord, warning the colonists “The Regulars are coming! The Regulars are coming!” The “Regulars” were the professional British soldiers. The three successfully alerted the colonists to arm themselves and meet the British.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775, the American Revolution started. The British Regulars met American militia assembled in Lexington, a village along the road to Concord. When the Regulars met the Americans, it was dark. Major Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse. They just stood there. Then, inexplicably, a shot rang out and the fighting started. The British killed eight and the Americans scattered. The British continued their march to Concord. In Concord, the British found the weapons and destroyed them. However, the Americans managed to defeat a smaller group of the British at the Old North Bridge, and this victory energized the colonists.
The British were now twenty miles away from Boston, in the middle of hostile territory. For the rest of the day, the Regulars marched back to the city, drums beating, in formation, along a narrow road. During this march, Americans took aim at the soldiers, firing behind trees, stone walls, and fences, and then running away when any British soldier would chase them. By the end of the day, Americans had killed nearly 300 British and had lost 85 men. Though a small victory, it was seen as a great triumph of Americans over the strongest empire in the world.
Beginning today, Maundy Thursday, over 2 billion people around the world will begin commemorating and celebrating the Passion of Jesus Christ. As a religious figure, Jesus is known as establishing Christianity. While historians may debate the historical accuracy of the life of Jesus as presented in the Bible, few argue over the significance of Christianity in Western Civilization. Christianity has had and continues to have a preeminent role in the religious, political, and economic lives of those who live in the West.
During the first century, a new religion began that would eventually become the official religion of the Roman Empire and spread throughout the Western world. Jesus Christ was a Jewish carpenter born and raised in Roman-controlled Bethlehem and Nazareth in the ancient Near East. His followers, called Christians, taught that Jesus was the son of God, that he was a savior to all people, and that all people are called to turn from their selfish ways, ask God for forgiveness, and treat each other with love. Three centuries after the death of Christ, Christians compiled this message in the Bible, their holy book. The Bible, in Romans 1:19, 2:14-15 (English Standard Version), states:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…When gentiles [non-Christians] who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…
Christians believe that all people were created in the image of God, and that all people share the same nature. According to Christians, people know what is good or bad because God gave a conscience to all people. This law of nature exists outside of man’s creation. Christians believed this idea over the centuries, and it found expression in the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” by their Creator.
The development of Christianity within the Roman Empire had ramifications not only for the empire, but for all of Western Civilization. The leader of the Roman Empire, the emperor, led the official Roman religion, which was pagan. The emperor took the title of Pontifex Maximus, meaning leader of the official pagan religion of Rome. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity in A.D. 380, however, the emperors ceased being head of the religion. This fell to the bishop of Rome, who was called the Pope, forming a separation between the leader of the political world (the emperor) and the religious world (the Pope). Whereas the emperor formerly held ultimate authority in both the political and religious worlds, he was now limited by the Christian Church.
Governments in Western Civilization have expressed the understanding that the political world should be governed by someone different than the leader of the religious world. In North America, this idea can be seen in the constitutions of the English colonies, and in the United States Constitution, notably in the First Amendment. Americans may worship freely in any religion they choose, and they do not have to belong to a particular religious group. This concept of church and state having separate leaders had its beginnings with the Roman Empire.
President Calvin Coolidge, on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the individual “is endowed with inalienable rights which no majority, however great, and no power of the Government, however broad, can ever be justified in violating. The principle of equality is recognized. It follows inevitably from belief in the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God.” The belief that an individual has rights over the power of government is one of the great ideas of Western Civilization.
Saint Patrick is one of Christianity's most well-known missionaries. Patrick was born in fourth century Roman Britain (c. 390-461) to a loving family of wealth. His parents were most likely successful merchants and administrators of the Roman Empire. On February 27, 380, Roman Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica and declared the official religion in the empire to be the Catholic Church. Patrick was brought up in this faith. He had a privileged childhood as the son of wealthy Roman leaders of Britain, but suffered great hardships for a number of years. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish and changed the course of history.
At the beginning of the medieval ages, many in Europe clung to the pagan religions of the past. Ireland, the island to the west of Britain, was a land where Christianity was unknown. Celts in Ireland followed a belief called Druidism. They believed in many gods, and Druid priests had many practices that we would call barbaric. Druids sacrificed humans to keep their gods happy.
As a sixteen year-old, Patrick’s easy life of comfort and prestige changed forever. Some reports state Patrick had snuck out of his parents’ home and took part in an all-night pagan ritual. Patrick was raised Catholic Christian, but as a young person, he strayed away from his faith and attended this pagan ritual. With dawn breaking, a small band of Irish pirates raided Britain and captured Patrick. He was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery, completely separated from his loving parents. Patrick wrote later that he had left the faith of his family, and for this he was being punished.
For six years, Patrick worked as a common slave in Ireland. At any instant, he could be killed, mutilated, or beaten by his owner. He was far from his home and far from any help his Christian friends could provide. Instead of becoming desperate and sad, though, Patrick spent his time in prayer and reflection. Working as a shepherd for six years, he grew to love the Irish land and people, and yearned to one day teach them the Christian belief. He united his sufferings as a slave to the sufferings of his savior, Christ, and his love for his captors grew.
According to Patrick’s writings, he heard the Heavenly Father speak to him and tell him to escape from slavery and to walk to the coast. A boat would be waiting for him. As a slave, if he were recognized, he would have been put to death! Patrick did as he was told, and there was a boat waiting for him. The captain agreed to take him back to Britain.
Patrick’s parents were so excited to see him, but they were also disappointed to hear what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a priest and return to the people who enslaved him in Ireland. His parents wanted him to get married, become wealthy and important, and raise a family. If he returned to Ireland, wouldn’t he be killed by his former slave owner for escaping? How could he have a family if he became a priest?
Patience is a virtue Patrick practiced. He went to Gaul (France), studied to become a priest, and waited for his calling to go back to Ireland and spread Christianity. At the age of 49, after about 25 years of waiting, he finally received the order to go to Ireland as a bishop to evangelize. He returned, went to his former slave owner, and spoke about Christ. Amazingly, within Bishop Patrick’s lifetime, Ireland became a Christian country! And, since this time Irish missionaries have travelled throughout the world spreading the news of Jesus and his Church.
There are many legends attributed to Patrick in Ireland. For example, some say he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, or that he used a three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity. But, what is not legend is that within his lifetime, Ireland changed from a land of slavery, human sacrifice, and paganism, to a Catholic Christian land, where the slave trade came to a halt, and where murder and tribal warfare decreased.
Along with bringing Christianity to the Irish, Patrick established monasteries that some say saved Western civilization. In the Middle Ages, a monastery was a place where men lived and worshipped, served as doctors and nurses, fed the poor, took care of orphans, and copied important documents. It was the only place of learning in the first centuries after the Roman Empire fell. As Roman law and order gave way to chaos, Irish monks kept working, copying classic texts of the west, and spreading Christianity. For centuries after Patrick died, Irish monks spread both the Christian faith and the classics. It is for this that some historians claim that St. Patrick saved Western Civilization.
To read the writings of Saint Patrick:
Lesson Ideas for Ages 3-11:
1. Look up Ireland on a map. Sketch your own drawing of Ireland and Britain and the rest of continental Europe, or, find a map outline. Color in Ireland green. Ireland is known for being green because it rains so much in Ireland. “Irish weather” means that it is misty and wet outside. This weblink has an excellent outline map of Ireland:
2. Writing Ideas for Ages 12 and older (and for high achieving younger kids!)
a. Take the biography of St. Patrick and try to write one sentence that summarizes each paragraph.
b. Answer this question in a one-paragraph essay, “Was Patrick’s decision to become a priest and return to Ireland crazy, or was it courageous?”
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military leader in the area. In response to this, Iran launched 15 missiles aimed at American soldiers in Iraq. No American was killed, but the Pentagon reported that thirty-four Americans suffered nonimpact injuries. It is important to know the history of the area and the relations between the United States of America and Iran to understand what the current event means.
In 1921, A Persian officer, Reza Khan, orchestrated a coup of Iran, overthrew a dynasty, and took the title of Shah (king) of Iran in 1925. Reza Shah ruled until 1941, when Allied forces invaded Iran to guarantee Iranian oil would help the U.S.A., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union win World War II. The Allies replaced Reza Shah with his son, Mohammad-Reza Shah (simply known as the Shah of Iran). After World War II, the Iranian government moved against American and British interests. Iranians removed the Shah. In 1951, Iran nationalized the British-owned oil industry. Two years later, the United States and Great Britain organized a coup, overthrew the Iranian government, and placed the Shah back in power as king. Throughout his rule, the Shah of Iran instituted democratic reforms. In 1963, women gained the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This democratization of Iran upset the radical Islamic leaders of Iran. They believe that women should not have the right to vote and should be treated as second-class citizens.
The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic 1979 – 2016
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many in Iran were unhappy with the Shah of Iran and his supporters, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. The main leader of the revolution was the Islamic leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who believed that everyone requires guardianship by a leading Islamic leader. The Ayatollah was upset at the Shah’s western ties, believing the west to be evil and decadent. He did not approve that women should have the same rights as men. In 1979, massive protests throughout the country forced the Shah to leave. The Ayatollah took power, and a national vote made Iran an Islamic Republic. Iranians held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from 1979 to 1981. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died and the Ayatollah Khamenei replaced him as the “Supreme Leader.” Iran has a parliamentary system, but every governmental decision has to be approved and is directed by the religious leader the Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the U.S.A. is the “Great Satan,” the source of everything in the world that is evil, it officially hates Israel and seeks to destroy it, and it does not allow any freedom that goes against its strict interpretation of Islam. It publicly states its hatred for the United States and Israel, and, it openly supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, and anyone who opposes the Iranian view of the world. Ayatollah Khamenei uses every method of communication, including Twitter, to detail his plan for eliminating Israel. In Iran, women have much less rights than men, men can have four wives, and the government of Iran punishes those who do not follow the religious laws. For example, the punishment for homosexuality is execution and the punishment for adultery for women is execution.
Since Iran became a theocratic dictatorship, the United States has tried to isolate Iran and work with allies to confront the country. Still, Iran has been successful in sponsoring, arming, and cooperating with terrorists. For a complete list of their decades of murder and terror, simply conduct an internet search with the phrase “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism.”
The Obama Administration and the Iran Nuclear Deal
President Obama thought that the best way to change Iran was not to isolate Iran but to remove all sanctions against the country and to look the other way if Iran sponsored terror. President Obama believed that Iran would eventually join other nations if it were treated as if it were a peaceful country. During the Obama administration, American cooperation with Iran continued even though Iran kept funding and coordinating terrorist acts against Americans and its allies. In the fall of 2015, the Obama administration orchestrated what is called the Iran Nuclear Deal between the U.S.A., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany.
The Agreement between the Six Countries and Iran
President Trump ran for office decrying the Iran Nuclear Deal as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” He argued that the deal gave Iran money to sponsor more terror, did not hinder Iran from building nuclear weapons, endangered Americans and its allies, and allowed the failing Iranian dictatorship to withstand criticism at home. Iran had indeed continued to sponsor terror, and the U.S. could not get Iran to change its ways. In May of 2018, the United States of America officially withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. In 2019, Iran announced it had exceeded the limits to its stockpile of low enriched uranium and began enriching uranium to a higher concentration. It also, essentially, withdrew from the deal.
Qasem Soleimani and Attacks on Americans
Since 1998, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani had been actively involve in planning, directing, and implementing the killing of Americans and its allies in Iraq, as well as actively supporting terrorist organizations in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He was commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was responsible for killing 608 American soldiers during the Iraq War, as well as injuring over 1,000 Americans. He abetted genocide in Syria in support of Bashar Assad, and he aided the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon with military hardware and training that went into use attacking innocent Israelis. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military commander operating in foreign countries. In late December, 2019, Soleimani-backed Iranian militias killed an American contractor and wounded American soldiers in Iraq. Also in December, Soleimani-supported terrorists attacked the American embassy in Iraq. At the time of his killing in Iraq, Soleimani was actively planning to kill more Americans and its allies in the region.
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. President Trump defended the attack by arguing that anybody who kills Americans will be met by force.
Political Unrest in Iran
In response to America’s attack against Soleimani, Iran launched missiles at American military sites in Iraq. At about the same time, the Iranians mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that had just taken off from the Baghdad Airport, killing all passengers on board. Most of the passengers were Iranian citizens. Initially claiming the jet crashed on its own, the Iranian military then admitted its error. In response, thousands of Iranians protested, demanding that the Ayatollah Khamenei step down from terror. The protesters were met with Iranian police action, including being fired upon, beaten, and arrested.
The Trump Policy Regarding Iran
President Trump has warned Iran that if any Americans are harmed due to an Iranian strike, the United States would respond militarily. He tweeted, ““Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites...some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” The 52 sites are supposed to refer to the 52 Americans held hostage in 1979-1980. It appears that the fifteen missiles Iran launched against the Americans did not meet President Trump’s criteria for military retaliation as the missiles did not directly hit Americans. Trump did announce that America would impose “powerful sanctions” against Iran until it changed its ways.
Who was the Real Saint Nicholas, also known as St. Nick, Santa Claus? And...How is Saint Nicholas Remembered in the Czech Republic?
It is late evening, somewhere in Central Europe, and three seemingly incongruent beings are roaming the cities, villages, and mountain towns of this small Slavic land. One is dressed as a bishop from the fourth century, complete with white robe, white beard and mustache, a shepherd’s staff, and mitre (bishop’s hat). Another is wearing horns, dark make-up, black clothes, and a red cape. He is jangling a long and heavy chain and has a black bag he keeps opening up in a threatening manner towards children. The third is an angel, wearing a white robe and wings. The “bishop” and “angel” are smiling gently. The bishop is carrying a bag of goodies to hand out to good kids, while the “devil” is laughing wickedly, jangling his chains, and looking for kids to put in his bag.
As the three visit homes and churches, children are brought to them. The bishop asks the children and parents if they had behaved well the previous year. Before the children can answer, the devil cackles loudly, menacingly jangles his chain, and says, “I know you’ve been a naughty child. You will come with me in my bag and I will take care of you forever.” At this moment, the child comes forth and sings a song, or recites a poem. Little “Jan” assures the bishop and devil that he has been a very good boy. The devil grimaces in pain, and says, “I thought for sure I would get this one.” The angel says, “I knew he was a good boy this year.” Little Jan sighs in relief, receives either a piece of fruit or candy, and the older kids and the parents laugh.
Every year, on the evening of December 5th in the Czech Republic, this play is acted out by thousands of bishops, angels, and devils and millions of families. The bishop, angel, and devil and parents are partners in teaching the children to be good in a way that reminds them of the ramifications of their behavior on Earth.
December 6th is the day set aside in the Roman Catholic Church to remember Saint Nicholas (Svaty Mikulas in Czech). Saint Nicholas was a fourth century bishop who lived on the Mediterranean Sea in the Roman Empire, in present-day Turkey. During Bishop Nicholas’ lifetime, stories abounded of his generosity and of miraculous events associated with him. One story is how a poor family that was considering to sell their daughters into slavery received golden apples by a mysterious person they believed to be Nicholas. Another story is how Nicholas appeared to distressed sailors on the ocean and calmed the seas. Bishop Nicholas was known by all to be incredibly generous to children. (In America, we call him “Santa Claus.”)
In the ninth century, Greek missionaries Cyril and Method converted the Slavic peoples to Christianity and created the various Slavic alphabets. Stories of Saint Nicholas’ generosity spread throughout the Slavic lands and throughout the Christian world. Sometime in the Medieval Ages, the tradition of the benevolent bishop and malevolent devil visiting families began. Originally, children were questioned on their knowledge of the Bible. Today, though, the kids get to escape the devil’s snares by reciting a poem or singing a song.
Nearly all Czech families participate in this tradition, which often takes place in the middle of St. Nicholas parties. Similar festivities on the eve or day of St. Nicholas take place throughout Europe and in some parts of the United States. In many places, it has become a secular holiday, including the Czech Republic. Since the Communist rule of this land from 1948-1989, most Czechs are professed atheists. However, they all still partake in the Svaty Mikulas festitivies, and it appears the children are strongly influenced by Bishop Nicholas, the angel and the devil to be good kids for at least one more year.
1. What day are the Czechs celebrating on December 6th?
2. Why are they celebrating this person?
3. During which years did the Communists control Czechoslovakia?
4. Name one effect Communist rule most likely had on Czechs?
5. What do Americans call Saint Nicholas?
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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