Tag Archives: Bishop Leonidas Polk

Was Judas’ Betrayal of Jesus any worse than the U.S. Episcopal Church’s Betrayal of its own English Heritage?

Today, April 2, marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Confederate States of America as a viable political entity.  There were no memorials or eulogies.  The world, even the South, lives largely in a state of amnesia induced by foreign occupation and subjugated defeat.  We have betrayed our ancestors ideals of constitutional government and genuine freedom by tolerating the most corrupt and perverse government, and a culture filled with lies, that is humanly imaginable.

While serving as President of the CSA, Jefferson Davis once commented on the comparisons to be made between the war of 1861-65 between the Northern and Southern United States and the English Civil War between “Roundhead” Protestant Radicals, led by Oliver Cromwell, and the Church of England and its Constitutional Monarchy, led by the two Kings Charles Edward Stuart, I and II.

Davis commented that the South had inherited the noble Cavalier mantle of King Charles the Martyr and that it was at war with a nation of self-righteous meddlesome bigots.  Davis never understood the close relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Karl Marx, or the historically decisive nature of that alliance.   

But the fact remains that there is a close relationship between the Episcopal Church/Church of England, and the South and its heritage.  Almost all the leaders of the Confederate South, including Jefferson Davis, Alexander Hamilton Stephens, Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, Joseph E. Johnston, and John Bell Hood, and Patrick Cleburne were Episcopalians.  Major exceptions were Judah P. Benjamin (Jewish) and P.T.G. Beauregard (Roman Catholic).

On this day a hundred and fifty years ago, April 2, 1865, General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis evacuated the Confederate Capital at Richmond. It had been a terrible mistake to move the Capital from inaccessible Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, too close to Washington.

But today, on this sad sesquicentennial, I attended Maundy Thursday services at Christ Church Cathedral in the 2900 block of St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, where Confederate General Leonidas Polk was First Bishop of Louisiana, and where that Southern hero’s remains are buried.

Yesterday, Canon Steve Roberts in his Holy Week Wednesday Homily had spoken of betrayal—Judas’ “betrayal of Jesus, of course, being one of the key events of Holy Week. Canon Roberts had spoken of the experience of betrayal in everyday life—“there has to be a relationship of trust, for betrayal to happen…..we cannot be betrayed by strangers who hardly know us.”

I charge again that the Diocese of Louisiana has betrayed the Memory of General Polk by condemning the freedom Polk (and a million other southerners) fought for, and for which so many hundreds of thousands gave their lives.

Polk is a gigantic figure in the history of this place. Even today his name has a visible relationship to this Diocese and to many a parish in this state. His picture is on the walls of Christ Church. His tombstone is the largest single monument to any North American personage at the right hand of the Great Christ Church Altar.

Trinity Episcopal on Jackson Avenue still has “Bishop Polk Hall” as its central and largest meeting place. I do not think it should ever rename that Hall…. because the name of Leonidas Polk is hallowed from Natchitoches Trinity Church where my grandmother Helen was baptized on South.

I ask today, as I have asked before—how can we be true to ourselves if we distain, if we dishonor our heritage?

Could Rome ever disown Saints Peter and Paul? Could Jerusalem ever forget James, the Brother of Jesus, and that City’s own first Bishop? Should England, Greece, Russia, and Scotland ever forget Saints Andrew and Saint George?

No more should Louisiana forget Bishop Leonidas Polk and the Constitutional Government of the Confederate States of America for which His Grace, General Leonidas Polk, fought and died.

On April 10, the 208th Anniversary of the Birth of His Grace, CSA General Leonidas Polk, the First Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana

In thirty days, that is, on April 10, it will be the 208th Anniversary of the Birth of His Grace, General Leonidas Polk, the First Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana.  

OK, the Anglicans were clearly latecomers in Louisiana.  The RCs got here a long time before….although their Bishopric only preceded ours by a scant 48 years.  The RC ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW ORLEANS (NOVÆ AURELIÆ) was only erected on 25 April, 1793, as the Diocese of Saint Louis of New Orleans; raised to its present rank and title of Archdiocese on 19 July, 1850.  Amazingly enough to contemplate, the RC Bishop of New Orleans’ original territory comprised the entire original Louisiana purchase plus both East and West Florida, being bounded on the north by Canadian, on the west by the Rocky Mountains and the Rio Perdito, on the east by the English-speaking RC Diocese of Baltimore, and on the south by the Diocese of Linares and the Archdiocese of Durango.  The present boundaries of the RC Archdiocese include the State of Louisiana, between the twenty-ninth and thirty-first degree of north latitude, an area of 23,208 square miles (constantly shrinking due to bad hydraulic and wetland management, but that is a different story).

So it is no surprise that the political and ecclesiastical history of Louisiana are inextricably intertwined.  But Bishop Polk was, as they say, something completely different from any other prelate of local or even national memory.  He was a fighter.  I think it is important to remember and celebrate his 208th birthday this year because we have the opportunity to combine this celebration with the sesquicentennial memorial of his death and martyrdom on June 14, 2014, the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his death from enemy cannon fire atop Pine Mountain in Cobb County, Georgia.  Cobb County’s county seat is Marietta, and it is the last county guarding the northern suburbs of Atlanta (Marietta is now, pretty much a northern suburb of Atlanta, but in the historical metaphor for Scarlett O’Hara’s mythic reality, it was separate.

And it was there, in the 32nd year of Cobb County’s creation out of the Cherokee nation, that General Leonidas Polk died defending the “Old South” (was it really old when it had only existed for 31 solid years—by it’s 32nd Birthday on 2 December 1864—Cobb County was occupied by Sherman’s troops and thus under the heals of the most brutal enemy any Americans had ever known.  Yes indeed, to Southern Partisans and Confederate Patriots, General Leonidas Polk died a hero to right and Constitutional Government, every bit as much as, perhaps more even, than King Charles the Martyr in January 1648/9.  Oliver Cromwell was probably a lot like Sherman, in his self-righteousness, but he lacked the technology and strength of force to be as savage and brutal.  And oddly enough, I doubt Cromwell would have used his power as brutally against his own people (Roundheads or Cavaliers) even if he had had it.  I could be wrong.

There is a Society of King Charles the Martyr (SKCM) to which my devoutly Anglo-Catholic Father belonged.  I have considered joining it.  And there SHOULD be a Society dedicated to the memory of His Grace, General Leonidas Polk of Louisiana.  If I could find any “fellow travelers” I would certainly organize such a society, and you’d think I’d have an easy time of it.

When in New Orleans, on most Sundays (and on this immediate past Ash Wednesday) I attend services at Christ Church Cathedral on St. Charles & Sixth Street, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana.   His Grace, General Polk, has a magnificent tombstone inside the Cathedral, just to the right of the altar (when facing the Cross) and behind the elaborately carved, elevated wooden pulpit. On other Sundays, more rare in the past but perhaps soon to be more commonly, I attend Holy Eucharist at Trinity Church on Jackson Street, built under the direction of Bishop Polk in the 1850s, with an auditorium called “Bishop Polk Hall.”

And yet everyone in the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana is totally embarrassed by General Leonidas Polk.  “He was a villain” said Christ Church Cathedral Dean David A. duPlantier on Sunday, 20 October of last year (2013), just before delivering a sermon on the Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18: 1-8), which just happens to be one of my favorite texts in the Bible.  And yes, I thought the irony was delicious: that Dean DuPlantier so harshly and unjustly judged the founder of the Church where he preaches….  I have become much colder in my feelings towards Christ Church Cathedral ever since.  How can they dishonor their founder?  How can a people so viciously toss away and condemn their own heritage?  My grandmother was baptized in a Church (Holy Trinity) built by Bishop Polk in Nachitoches, Louisiana even before Trinity on Jackson here in New Orleans.  Holy Trinity in Nachitoches is, I think, the oldest standing Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi.  It may well be the oldest Protestant Church West of the Mississippi.  Trinity on Jackson is, to be sure, East of the Mississippi although only by a few blocks.

I grieve for the disregarded and disrespected heritage of my Southern Ancestors who fought for freedom.  I certainly do not grieve for the passing of slavery, but I think the price was much too high: in no other nation on earth did it require a bloody “civil war” to abolish slavery.   Nor was the War of 1861-65 really either a Civil War nor a War to End Slavery—it was the first experiment in self-righteous Yankee Imperialism by a powerful centralized government designed for world conquest for the benefit of the few, not the many, and above all for the occult purpose of instituting a form of government which can only by called, somewhat ironically, “Corporate Communism”—an oligarchy of institutions sponsored by the government and sponsoring the government, who protest and proclaim that their purpose is to redistribute wealth and grant equality to all people.  

To all people except those who remember and respect history, of course.

 

MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL: The Episcopal Clergy Indicts the Dead and seeks to Smear the Memory and Silence the Voice from the Tomb behind the Pulpit at Christ Church

On this Third Sunday in Advent, two and a half months after addressing my letter to the Bishop of Louisiana (where Bishop Leonidas Polk is buried) and the Clergy of Christ Church Cathedral on St. Charles Avenue and Trinity Church on Jackson Street in New Orleans (whose largest meeting and banquet room is called “Bishop Polk Hall”), I have received not even a whisper of a written response from any clergyman.  https://charleslincoln3.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/1-october-2013-letter-to-bishop-thompson-of-louisiana.pdf

(The Dean of Christ Church, Dean David A. DuPlantier, simply and summarily refused even to speak to me about the topic, saying my perspective and thoughts were unworthy to be discussed and that Bishop Polk was “a villain”.  This all happened on Sunday October 20, 2013, I believe.  After dismissing me and my letter “embracing slavery” and condemning Bishop Polk, Dean DuPlantier then, with a truly remarkable lack of self-consciousness, I think, having just judged me, my culture, my race, and my personal family heritage and historic inheritance as unworthy of discussion, then proceeded to deliver a fine sermon on one of my favorite Bible Passages, the Parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke, 18: 1-9.   I myself found the irony quite delicious.  Dean DuPlantier himself had become the Unjust Judge, and he was passing judgment on the man and the spirit entombed directly behind the pulpit from which he spoke.

But plans move ahead towards this historical travesty and insult to socio-cultural reality, as was just published on Friday the 13th, St. Lucy’s day, by Ms. Orissa Arend, a “New Orleans Mediator, Psychotherapist and Freelance Writer” (who has written a book about the Black Panthers in New Orleans, and their 1970 shootout  and other standoffs with the New Orleans Police, just for example: http://www.uapress.com/titles/sp09/arend.html).  

I find it more than a little ironic that the University of Arksansas advertisement asserts that “Orissa Arend has forced us to see these self-defense militants from every point of view imaginable”, adding that these “self-defense militants . . . creat=[ed] survival programs.”  Now what would Ms. Arend say if I told her that if she studied the history and origins of the Ku Klux Klan, she would discover that (honestly) the (original, 1860s-1870s) Klan MUST BE described in exactly the same terms.  

In any even, Ms. Orissa Arend’s enthusiastic article endorsing the Episcopal Church’s Mass for Racial Reconciliation can be found at: http://www.atthreshold.org/2013/12/13/a-service-of-healing-january-18-2014/.  I maintain that there is neither healing nor reconciliation to be found in distorting history and vilifying our ancestors, but my full response (which I submitted on her blog, but which is “awaiting moderation” and so, she may or may not publish it) follows (in full) herein below:

Dear Ms. Orissa Arend:
I speak for the First Bishop of Louisiana, Confederate General, and War hero in the service of his people and their liberty, whose untimely death in Northern Georgia you celebrate. I speak for the man and the spirit of the Lost Cause buried behind the Pulpit at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.

I ask you, and for all Episcopalians in New Orleans, Louisiana, the South, and the United States of America, to give voice to those with whom you supposedly propose reconciliation: Indeed I ask you—how can there be any reconciliation at all if the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the South are given no voice to speak to the honor of their ancestors and their cause in this supposedly momentous “Mass of Racial Reconciliation.”

President Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans after the opening of Confederate Memorial Hall, attended by Howard, Tilton, and many of the other great leaders of the City. James K. Polk was President of the United States and he often visited his cousin Bishop Leonidas Polk in Louisiana.

Where are the descendants of those who made the South what it is in this whole plan of reconciliation? Are you as happy that half a million Southern Soldiers died in 1861-65 as you are about the death of Bishop Polk? Should Bishop Polk’s remains be disinterred and his bones burnt and scattered in Lake Pontchartrain?

If so, I want nothing more to do with the Episcopal Church, because it will have betrayed the very reasons, the very traditions, which have always caused me to adhere to it.  I  am writing to you in part to ask that you circulate to your readership the letter I wrote to the current Bishop of Louisiana on October 1: https://charleslincoln3.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/1-october-2013-letter-to-bishop-thompson-of-louisiana.pdf.

To this letter I have so far received no reply whatsoever from the Bishop or anyone else although I published it on-line and circulated it to other members of the Diocese of Louisiana, especially here in New Orleans.

I personally can think of nothing more futile and repugnant than a Mass for Racial Reconciliation which falsifies the truth about the origins, nature, and history of Black African Slavery on the one hand, and treats my ancestors, and other people descended from or who may admire the founders of the Episcopal Church in Louisiana, as criminals, outcasts, and victims. Leonidas Polk was a hero and a visionary, as were many if not most of the Confederate leaders.

Ironically, the Confederate vision was one of a free and constitutional government. Even more ironically, the people of America today suffer from multifarious and complex forms of corporate and governmental oppression which portend of a universal slavery for all mankind.

I submit to you that the Presiding Bishop’s proposed Mass for Racial Reconciliation is a sham designed to distract Americans from certain grim realities including the fact that we are headed towards a very dark future, without freedom, without lawfully constituted or ordered government which depends for its authority on a high tech set of chains and whips which make the instruments of chattel slave ownership in the Old South look like the Palaeotechnic toys they were.

In Barack Obama’s America—more blacks will spend a year or more in prison than were ever slaves. More people (white, black and hispanic) will pass through the so-called criminal justice system than were ever black in America. This is the most imprisoning nation in the world. Is it a coincidence that the 13th Amendment which abolished chattel slavery authorized slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for a crime? Or that the standards of due process of law have declined while the likelihood (or now near certainty) of conviction after arrest has risen exponentially in America since the adoption of the 13th Amendment? Does it matter that there really was NO “prison culture” to speak of in America prior to 1861, but ever since 1865, Prison Culture has grown and grown and grown? 

I think the Proposed Mass for Racial Reconciliation should be scrapped until it can be redesigned to address historical truth and present socio-cultural and economic reality. I would submit that THERE CAN BE NO RECONCILIATION UNLESS ALL PARTIES, INCLUDING THE DESCENDANTS AND ADMIRERS OF THE CONFEDERATE GOVERNMENT AND ARMIES AND THEIR CAUSE, ARE ALSO PRESENT AND SPEAKING. ANY RECONCILIATION WITHOUT US WILL BE FALSE AND EPHEMERAL AT BEST, DECEITFUL AND DISHONEST AT WORSE.

Can Racial Reconciliation be achieved by Ignoring or Falsifying History? An Open Letter to the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana regarding “Truth, Honor, and Pride”

I have basically been very happily based in New Orleans, Louisiana, since I arrived here from Maui, Hawaii on December 9 of last year.  You know, there are ups and downs everywhere, but I had missed living in this city ever since I graduated from the Tulane College of Arts & Sciences on May 11, 1980, and have wanted to return here ever since.  I actually did return for several years 1997-2000, but was so wrapped up in my problems in Texas, I was basically bouncing back and forth.  One of the most consistently agreeable aspects of my life in New Orleans has been attending Church at Christ Church Cathedral on St. Charles & 6th Street, occasionally visiting at Trinity on Jackson right around the corner from my temporary home on Prytania (since March 8, 2013). One of the things I love most about New Orleans is its history—basically it’s impossible to take a walk, anywhere in this city, and not confront history face-to-face, it’s everywhere.  Basically, even the majority of the historic architecture in French Quarter really dates from the 19th century city, the actual 18th century buildings number in the dozens at the highest possible count.  The Garden District and “Uptown Audubon” mark a progression through the 19th century into the 20th.  St. Charles itself has been hideously scarred with mid-twentieth century cheap apartment buildings which took the place of many blocks of Victorian houses… but to either side of St. Charles, the historically decimating devastation is less.

How few people realize just how deeply New Orleans was shaped by the ante-bellum era and how loyal it was to the Confederate States of America, ESPECIALLY AFTER (ironically enough) the collapse of that nascent Federal Republic in 1865.

It is also undeniably true that the question of race-relations hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of the people of New Orleans.  The question comes up all the time, usually in emotional and rarely in analytical terms.

Ever since I heard, at the beginning of September, about an “Ecumenical Mass of Racial Reconciliation” being planned for January 12-21, 2014, I have been reflecting on the question of race and history in this wonderful town, this city where by dint of history black Americans first created a kind of “Jazz Aristocracy” recognized all over the world in the 1920s….

I wrote my initial thoughts on this question in a letter I just completed and delivered on Wednesday to the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana and other members of the Clergy at Christ Church and Trinity Church.  

I have been told that in the bad old days of the Civil Rights movement, when the barriers of segregation were first being torn down, they had special “greeters” at Christ Church would take black folks aside and suggest to them that they might be “more comfortable elsewhere.”   The inversion of history is so great, I more than casually wonder whether I’ll now be afforded the same treatment for challenging the modern “politically correct” mythos of race.  

I attach here two versions of my letter to the Bishop and Clergy—only one of which I actually delivered (the October 2, 2013 version in which I reflect on the sinfulness of pride).  

2 October 2013 Letter to Bishop Thompson of Louisiana

1 October 2013 Letter to Bishop Thompson of Louisiana

I owe a great debt to two of my California friends who read over this letter before I delivered it: Shelene Emily Peterson of Belmont and Daniel Christian Mack of San Juan Capistrano.  Shelene keeps my English in line and tries to control my tendency to ramble (obvious with only limited success, although you should see how much she cut out….).  Dan made me realize the error of asserting, oxymoronically, “pride” which is inimical to Christian faith—although it is a critical element of human identity and sanity, it seems to me, that we must love ourselves for what we are.  And our ancestry shapes us, both culturally and genetically, whether we would wish it so or not.