From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Norman Vincent Peale: Is positive thinking enough?

Peale (Library of Congress Photo)
Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking
has had some less-than-positive reviews (which some less-
than-always-positive folks might even call “negative”).

Some might think that Peale’s take on “positive thinking” is sort of a cross between cognitive psychology and auto-hypnosis.  The late Dr. Albert Ellis (well-known cognitive
therapist) spoke about that comparison during an interview
later published by The Intuition Network.  Ellis called Peale’s approach “a good one in a limited way” because “it helps you perform better.”  However, Ellis then cautioned that underlying Peale’s approach is the premise that if I don’t perform better “there’s something rotten about me…”  He also deemed Coue’s “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” auto-hypnotic approach to be “often Pollyannaish thinking.” Ellis explained that Coue “went out of business because people fell on their face and didn’t get better every day.”

Peale, too, very publicly fell on his face.  His assessment of John F. Kennedy’s presidential potential was not only less than positive, but also less than constitutional.  In September 1960, Newsweek reported that Peale, as an alleged spokesperson for the views of 150 of his Protestant colleagues, said that electing a Catholic
president “might even end free speech in America.”  The well-known Protestant theologian Reinhold Neibuhr responded by stating that Peale’s stance showed “blind prejudice.”  Rather than immediately practice some positive ethical resuscitation, Peale instead “went into hiding and threatened to resign from his church.”

This is not to say that Peale’s life and works did not include a heavy dose of the positive.  It is, however, to say that neither people nor life are as simplistic as Peale had claimed.  Christianity, which Peale often referred to as his inspiration, seems to embrace many more shades of gray than the black-and-white thinking that Peale so vigorously espoused.


Copyright May 31, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: The two Rs

Although society emphasizes the three Rs of education, it often seems to neglect the second R of Memorial Day.
During tributes across the land, remembrance is the key
theme.  However, reconciliation was originally meant to be just as important.  In fact, May 30 was initially chosen as this day because it was not the anniversary of a battle.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War – at a time when the torn nation was particularly in need of unified healing.
Wikipedia reports that the American Civil War took its
horrific toll in the following ways:  (1) an overall 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died – 6% in the North and 18% in the South; (2) income per person in the South
dropped to less than 40% of said income in the North.  Even so, the need to move past these atrocities was so dire that reconciliation in some of the hardest hit areas was well under way by the 1880s.

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was one such area.  Grant’s instructions to Sheridan had been to devastate the entire region, and this was done with a vengeance.  In fact, Sheridan was so “successful” that his name became as reviled in those parts as Sherman’s was in Atlanta.  How can people even begin to recover from such a thorough onslaught? 

According to Jonathan Noyales, guest speaker on VFH’s January 31, 2009 Civil War Reconciliation broadcast, it was an incremental process.  Although Robert E. Lee was calling for reconciliation immediately after the war’s end, the human heart needs time to heal its wounds.  It wasn’t until 1883, when Union veterans began feeling safe enough to make return visits to the Shenandoah Valley for reunions, that reconciliation truly began to take hold.  A thousands-strong prayer session was then held by both sides in unison.

In their book War and Reconciliation, Long and Brecke examine the steps to successful civil-war reconciliation.  They conclude that there are four major ones:  “public truth telling, justice short of revenge, redefinition of the identities of former belligerents, and a call for a new relationship.”  As identities are being redefined, unified prayer can be one powerful way of calling for that new relationship.


Copyright May 30, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Baha'u'llah: All from the same dust

Bahaullah's Banishments (By: Jeff3000) 
Long before there was a United Nations, there was Baha'u'llah.  Throughout the 1800s, he preached the coming together of all humanity into one harmonious global society.

Lest the Levins and Limbaughs of today’s world begin finger-pointing “Socialist!  Marxist!  Leftist!” – it seems important to bear in mind that Baha'u'llah was much more of a spiritual leader than a political one.  In fact, he spent the last 24 years of his earthly existence as a political prisoner of the Persian and Ottoman empires.

Baha'u'llah was born in Persia (modern-day Tehran, Iran) in1817, and Wikipedia states that “his ancestry can allegedly be traced back to Abraham through Abraham’s wife Keturah.”  Zoroaster and Jesse (father of Israelite King David, plus a biblically-named ancestor of Jesus) are also mentioned within this explanation of Baha'u'llah’s lineage.  Thirteen long hard years passed after the 1850 execution of his immediate spiritual predecessor, the Bab, before Baha'u'llah declared himself to be not only “the one whose coming the Bab had prophesized,” but also “Him Whom God shall make manifest.”

These types of declarations did not sit too well with the political powers that were, thus explaining Baha'u'llah’s long periods of exile and imprisonment.  This worldly deprivation only served to strengthen his spiritual resolve.  He continued making statements such as this:  O Children of Men!   Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust?  That no one shall exalt himself over the other…  Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth, and dwell in the same land…

Baha'u'llah followed through with a series of letters to world leaders such as the Shah of Iran, Queen Victoria, Napoleon III, Pope Pius IX, and Tsar Alexander II.  In some of these letters, he not only declared himself to be “the promised one of all religions,” but also elaborated upon social principles. He called upon leaders to be just, to resolve problems diplomatically, to reduce the need for ever-growing armies, to take care of the poor, and to unify people through one world religion.       


Copyright May 29, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Patrick Henry's two cents' worth

Although it is now unclear as to whether Patrick Henry actually said “Give me liberty or give me death” – it is quite clear that he regularly put his two cents in on many issues concerning freedom from authoritarianism.

One such issue was aptly named the Two Penny ActThis operatic-sounding title refers to an act that was passed by the Virginia Assembly in 1758.  According to Wikipedia, this “one-year measure allowed Anglican ministers’ salaries to be paid at a fixed rate of two cents per pound of tobacco” at a time when tobacco’s value had well-nigh tripled that.  (Yes, Virginia clergy were “paid” with tobacco back then.)

The Virginia colony had decided to do this because it would otherwise have been quite a burden to keep up
with rising clergy salaries.  Clergy, on the other hand, were not at all happy with receiving only one-third of
the inflated tobacco market value.  The dispute wound up reaching all the way back to King George III in
England via Rev. John Camm, an ardent Tory who was president of the College of William and Mary.

King George then vetoed the Two Penny Act - and Rev. James Maury seized the opportunity to sue “for back wages on behalf of all the ministers involved.”  This greatly infuriated Patrick Henry and other Virginians.  They felt that King George had no right to meddle with their legislative authority.  The case ended up in the Hanover County Courthouse with Colonel John Henry (Patrick’s father) presiding – and with Patrick himself “defending Hanover County against Maury’s claims.”

Patrick Henry was relatively unknown at the time - but did such a brilliant job of defending the colonists’ rights that historians consider this Parson’s Cause case to be a precedent-setting forerunner of the American

And Rev. Maury?  He didn’t even get his two cents’ worth.  The jury ended up awarding him only one penny in “damages.”


Copyright May 28, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 27, 2011

Philosopher: A low-stress occupation?

(The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David)
A 2011 report lists “philosopher” among the 10 least stressful jobs.  Those who are philosophically inclined might be wondering at this point how this could possibly be.  Even a brief glance through the biographies of world-famous philosophers reveals some not-so-relaxing details.

Take Socrates, for instance.  Although he never did write an autobiography (too busy philosophizing), others wrote quite a bit about him.  Xenophon describes him as the quintessential philosopher - in that he had no other job but to go about town asking the big questions.  According to Wikipedia, Aristophanes even parodied him in The Clouds as “a clown who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt.”  Aristophanes also mentioned that Socrates accepted payment for philosophical services rendered.  Socrates is also described as having served in political capacities, often being at odds with his superiors while doing so.  This led to threats of impeachment, imprisonment, and even death.  What finally turned this latter threat into reality were Socrates’ “gadfly” activities.  He would verbally wrangle with
Athens’ most prominent citizens, making them appear guilty of foolishness and wrongdoing.  Although elements of this might have felt like fun at the time, the end result was toxic stress.

And then there’s Nietzsche.  Hardly a walk in the park.  Although Wikipedia reports that his central philosophy involved “an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies,” it seems that his own energies became more and more drained as his own life sadly ebbed.  Albeit the son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche wound up espousing “the death of God.”  As life unfolded, Nietzsche suffered from a host of debilitating illnesses, allegedly including tertiary syphilis.  His radical ideological stances alienated more and more people until he was left practically friendless.  Wikipedia reports that he had also “become in effect unemployable at any German university.”

If these two gentlemen are examples of just how “calming” philosophy can be, then might have been just a wee bit hasty in its occupational reporting. By its very nature, philosophy digs down deep into rough-edged crevices.  That which eventually surfaces goes a long way in determining the true stress levels of a philosopher’s life.


Copyright May 27, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Om and Omer: Does counting on countdowns count?

Barley (USDA Photo)
Having just survived yet another apocalyptic countdown, we can now utilize this “reprieve” to ask ourselves:  What sacred role, if any, does quantification play in the grand Om of things?

At least part of the answer to that question may lie in another
spiritually-linked countdown – one that has taken place every year since ancient times, and one that is currently unfolding – “Counting the Omer” (sefirat ha’omer).

“Counting the Omer” is not just a good idea – it’s a biblical injunction.  Leviticus 23:5-14 gives explicit details for “the Lord’s Passover,” and then Leviticus 23:15-16 calls for the following:  And ye shall count unto you… from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving; seven weeks shall there be complete… shall ye number fifty days…  Deuteronomy 16:9 reiterates:  Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee...  Thus, the omer is counted for 50 days – from Passover to Shavuot.

According to Judaism 101, an “omer” is a unit of measure – specifically in this case, a unit of barley that was cut and brought to the Temple as a Passover offering.  With that begins a daily “Counting of the Omer,” which (after the accompanying blessing) often sounds like this:  Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer.

The numerical count links Passover with Shavuot, thus reminding adherents that “the redemption of slavery” (a Passover reference to the Exodus) was not complete until the Torah had been received (a Shavuot reference to the receiving of the Torah by the Israelites).  “Counting the Omer is also a time of “partial mourning” (with reference to a plague during Rabbi Akiva’s time), and is therefore accompanied by certain sacrifices.  During this time, there are to be no “weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing…”

Although counting represents quantity, it can also remind us of quality.  That is why we count such things as human birthdays and anniversaries.  That is also why “Counting the Omer” can be a mantra-like way of  keeping focused upon life’s ultimate blessings.          


Copyright May 26, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oprah, Orpah: What's in a name?

Naomi, Ruth & Orpah (William Blake)
During a February 1991 Academy of Achievement interview,
Oprah Winfrey discusses her unusual first name.  She points out that “Oprah” spelled backwards is “Harpo” (the name of her production company – also the name of her character’s husband in The Color Purple).

Her birth-certificate name, Orpah, was chosen by her aunt
because it was a biblical name.  Because it is not as common a name as “Ruth” or “Mary,” the spelling and pronunciation was not well understood.  “Orpah” therefore became “Oprah” in the eyes and ears of others, and the newer name stuck.

Who, however, was the biblical Orpah?

In relational terms, she was the wife of Chilion, sister-in-law of Ruth, and daughter-in-law of Naomi (all from the Book of Ruth).  Although Naomi and Chilion were Israelites from Bethlehem, Ruth and Orpah were Moabites.  According to Wikipedia, the ancient Kingdom of Moab was located on a “mountainous strip of land in (today’s) Jordan running along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.”  According to Deuteronomy 34:1,  it was on Moab’s Mount Nebo that Moses was given a view of the Promised Land.  2 Maccabees 2:4-5 tells us that Jeremiah once hid the Ark of the Covenant within a cave on Mount Nebo.

According to Genesis 19:30-38, the Moabites are descendants of the incestuous union between Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and Lot’s eldest daughter.  After having survived the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters had each seduced their father (after deviously getting him drunk) in order to perpetuate their otherwise lost family line.  Lot’s elder daughter gave birth to Moab, and Lot’s younger daughter gave birth to Ben-Ammi (ancestor to the inhabitants of the biblical Kingdom of Ammon).

The existence of the Moabites has been historically verified.  The Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone) bears an inscription by the 9th-century B.C. Moabite King Mesha.  It proclaims victory over an ancient Israelite king.  According to Wikipedia, line 31 of this inscription specifically mentions the House of David.  Besides differing politically, Moabites and Israelites differed religiously.  Whereas many Moabites worshipped the
god Chemosh and the mother-goddess Ashtar, many Israelites condemned these beliefs as blasphemous.

While living in Moab, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah all became widows.  Since the widow’s situation was often a dire one in those days, Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to remain with their people in Moab when she returned to Bethlehem.  Both daughters-in-law at first insisted upon accompanying Naomi back to Bethlehem.  Ruth 1:14 then tells us that “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.”

From a Hebrew-canon perspective, Ruth has been deemed the heroine who chose the one true God.  From King Mesha’s perspective, this story might have been told quite differently.


Copyright May 25, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bob Dylan: Born again and again

(Dylan at St. Lawrence University)
After 70 birthdays, it seems that Bob Dylan just keeps being born again and again.

The first time around, he was born as Robert Zimmerman to a Jewish family from Minnesota.  Thirteen years later, he was born into manhood at his 1954 Bar Mitzvah.  In 1971, well after being born again as folksinger Bob Dylan, Zimmerman visited Israel and met with Rabbi Meir Kahane of the Jewish Defense League (whom he called “a really sincere guy”).  At the time, Time Magazine also reported that Dylan was returning to “his Jewishness” and “reading all kinds of books on Judaism.”

All that was before Dylan boarded the Slow Train to be born yet again as a Christian.  In the late 1970s, he began earnestly studying Christianity after a hotel-room conversion experience.  Upon noticing that Dylan looked quite ill during a concert, a fan had tossed a silver cross upon the stage.  He picked it up and took it back to his room that night.  Dylan later said that Jesus appeared to him as a palpable and divine presence - right there in that Tucson hotel room.  He then studied for months under the tutelage of the Vineyard Fellowship, a Bible-based ministry.  During this time, he also read the apocalyptic works of Hal Lindsey.

Born out of this intensity was Dylan’s acclaimed 1979 “gospel” album, Slow Train Coming.   The most famous song from this album was the Grammy-winning Gotta Serve Somebody.  Throughout the lyrics, Dylan reiterates that – no matter who you are (or who you think you are), “you’re gonna have to serve somebody” (be it the devil or the Lord).

Wikipedia reports that by 1984 Dylan was “distancing himself from the ‘born again’ label.”  He denied ever
being an agnostic in the first place; therefore, “born again” did not seem the right term to him (he also disliked its media-driven triteness).  When asked by Kurt Loder during a Rolling Stone interview whether he belonged to any church or synagogue, Dylan “laughingly” replied:  Not really.  Uh, the Church of the Poison Mind.

Although Dylan has returned in part to his Jewish roots (with some involvement in the Chabad Lubavitch
movement) , he also put out an album of very heartfelt Christmas songs in 2009.  When told during an interview with Bill Flanagan that he delivered the song O Little Town of Bethlehem “like a true believer,” Dylan replied:  Well, I am a true believer.


Copyright May 24, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 23, 2011

Little Mistress Winfrey and James Weldon Johnson

(James Weldon Johnson)
By the third year of Oprah Winfrey's life, she was “rendering recitations” in churches.  During a February 1991 Academy of Achievement interview, Winfrey said that she recited the sermons of James Weldon Johnson in churches all over Nashville. 

These weren’t just any sermons – they were spellbinding renditions of themes ranging from Creation to Judgment Day by a man who was as natural an orator as Oprah herself.  Johnson (1871-1938) was not only a gifted orator, but also a poet, songwriter, journalist, author, professor, lawyer, civil rights activist, anthologist, and politician.  His endeavors ranged from being Theodore Roosevelt’s U.S. consul in South and Central America to writing the melody for Dem Bones to being a major promoter of the Harlem

The sermons that Winfrey recited, Johnson’s most famous ones, were from his 1927 book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.  Johnson had categorized these as “folk sermons” in that they reflected the style of preaching he had heard so many times as a child.  In this folk style of preaching, essentially the same key sermons would be passed on from preacher to preacher, gathering momentum along the way.  His use of the trombone metaphor was in honor of the trombone’s ability to resoundingly express the wide range of human emotions.

Since (many May 21, 2011 warnings to the contrary) Judgment Day has not yet come, here’s a glimpse of
James Weldon Johnson’s interpretation:

And I feel Old Earth a-shuddering--
And I see the graves a-bursting--
And I hear a sound,
A blood-chilling sound.
What sound is that I hear?
It’s the clicking together of the dry bones,
Bone to bone -- the dry bones…

The vivid combination of Johnson’s descriptions and Winfrey’s renditions must have certainly made people
sit up and take notice when they heard such a mighty “word of the Lord.”


Copyright May 23, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke    All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pope's astronomical blessing: Shades of Copernicus

Although Pope Benedict XVI’s recent space-shuttle blessing was a first in terms of its technological aspects, it was far from the first time that a pope has given his “blessing” to astronomical endeavors.

Back in 1533, Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter (a theologican, as well as a secretary to two consecutive popes and a cardinal) presented a series of lectures in Rome concerning the ideas of Nicolaus Copernicus.  Pope Clement VII and some Catholic cardinals were in the audience, and very much liked what they heard.  Cardinal Nikolaus von Schonberg, Archbishop of Capua, was so impressed with these heliocentric ideas that he wrote this in a 1536 letter to Copernicus:  … with the utmost earnestness, I entreat you, most learned sir…  to communicate this discovery of yours to scholars, and at the earliest possible moment to send me your writings on the sphere of the universe together with the tables and whatever else you have that is relevant to this subject…

Pope Clement VII was so pleased with learning about the ideas of Copernicus that he gave Widmannstetter a gift for teaching them to him.  (Clement VII also excommunicated King Henry VIII and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer from the Roman Catholic Church, which set into motion the establishment of an independent Church of England.)  Clement VII is also the one who commissioned Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgment Sistine Chapel fresco.  This fresco is particularly noted for its depiction of Christ as a central sun-god type figure.  Some wonder whether this portrayal was influenced by the ideas of Copernicus.

His successor, Pope Paul III, reigned from 1534 until 1549, during a time when the Protestant Reformation was becoming stronger and stronger.  Being unable to stop this, Paul III instead took steps to launch the Counter Reformation.  He was a great patron of the arts, and The Last Judgment was completed under his leadership.  Copernicus dedicated his opus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, to this pope.

How sad that - within only decades of this “holy marriage” between science and religion  Galileo Galilei was then being persecuted by the Inquisition for upholding Copernicus’ views.  It is especially heartening that today’s pope is once again affirming the bond between astronomy and theology.


Copyright May 22, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Western Shoshone: The most bombed nation on earth

(Yucca Mountain)
Newe Segobia (meaning “People of Mother Earth”) is also known as the Western Shoshone nation.  The land boundaries of this nation have been clearly defined by Article 5 of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty between the Western Bands of the Shoshonee Nation of Indians and the United States of America.  According to, this territory “includes tens of millions of acres, most of Nevada, and portions of Idaho, Utah and Southern California.” reports that not only is this territory “prime real estate for the mining industry,” but it is also being coveted by energy corporations for its geothermal potentialities.  Yucca Mountain, controversial site of the U. S. Department of Energy’s designated nuclear-waste repository, is located within this region, just adjacent to the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Test Site).

Because over a thousand “tests” (bombs) have been exploded at the Nevada Test Site, Newe Segobia has been notoriously called the most bombed nation on earth.  Western Shoshones have been forced to live with the health hazards of this radioactivity for decades.  This is horrible enough; however, their spirituality has been even more severely challenged.

Western Shoshone spirituality is integrally tied to Mother Earth. quotes Carrie Dann, “a traditional tribal member” as stating this about the need to protect Yucca Mountain and other Newe Segobia lands:  The Earth is our mother and land provides us with life, like the water and the air.  To take this land from us will be to lead us into a spiritual death.

Corbin Harney (1920-2007) was a shaman (“spiritual leader”) of the Western Shoshones who devoted his life to protecting the Newe’s land.  Since herbology is another integral part of Western Shoshone religion, he was deeply concerned about the loss of healing plants such as pine nuts and choke cherries.  Because animals are part of the Creator’s family, he also mourned the disappearance of antelopes, deer, groundhogs, and sagehens.  Wikipedia describes a vision that he had concerning water.  Harney is quoted as stating:  I was praying to the water and the spirit of the water told me, ‘Pretty soon, I’m going to look like clean water, but  no one is going to use me’ (which occurs when water is contaminated by radioactivity).

Harney’s words still serve as an urgent reminder:  Let’s not destroy the Mother Earth.  Let’s take care of her, and she will take care of us.


Coypright May 21, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chaz Bono: Is there a karmic prequel?

(Madame Blavatsky)
Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity Bono, has authored a thought-provoking book titled Transition:  The Story of How I Became a Man.  It is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is a coming-into-identity story.

Although the book draws upon childhood memories, those who are karmically inclined might be wondering whether the roots of this transition began way before then.  According to certain types of karmic theory, even though past-life memories can be difficult to consciously access, they nevertheless can significantly influence our
present-life tendencies.

So what might be the karmic influences for someone who feels trapped within a physical body that seems at odds with who they really are?  According to some past-life therapists, this might mean that the person had incarnated within an opposite-gender body enough times to now greatly miss that past identity.

At the University of Virginia, there is a Division of Perceptual Studies that investigates the paranormal.  For a long time, the head of this division was psychiatrist Ian Stevenson.  For more than 40 years, Dr. Stevenson researched thousands of childhood cases of alleged past-life memories.  He considered that reincarnation
might be just as instrumental as biology and environment in affecting personality.  Although some have criticized his research methods, others have heralded his work as being conducted with scientific rigor.  According to, in 95% of Dr. Stevenson’s cases, “the child returns assuming the same sex as in the prior lifetime.”  For the other 5%, life could become quite confusing.

Dr. Jim Tucker has continued this work after Dr. Stevenson’s retirement and death.  He, too, is at the University of Virginia, and heads the Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic there.  Whereas Dr.
Stevenson researched many Asian cases, Dr. Tucker concentrates more upon American ones.  He has suggested that quantum physics may provide some explanations for the existence of consciousness as a non-physical entity.  If this be true, then it may also be possible for consciousness to retain its identity from one incarnation to the next.

Madame Blavatsky, a founder of Theosophy, said this:  The soul is sexless.  It may reincarnate in either sex and it may change from one to the other gender in different lives.


Copyright May 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Malcolm X: Colorblind in Mecca

Terrifying incidents from the childhood of Malcolm X make it understandable that he grew up seeing the world in black and white terms.

Wikipedia reports that three of his father’s brothers “died
violently at the hands of white men” (one was lynched). When Malcolm’s mother was pregnant with him, she was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan.  The year after Malcolm’s 1925 birth, the family wound up moving from their home in Omaha, Nebraska to Lansing, Michigan because of these Klan threats.

The situation in Lansing was also terrifying – this time, tragically so.  When their home was deliberately burned down in 1929, Malcolm’s family managed to escape.  However – in 1931, Malcolm’s father (Earl Little) was run over by a streetcar.  There is some discrepancy as to how this occurred.  The “official” report states that it was an accident. 
Yet, there was talk at the funeral about Little being struck from behind and shoved beneath the streetcar’s wheels by
members of a white supremacist group.

All this went a long way towards turning Malcolm away from the white race.  During his most intense anti-White phase, he would regularly teach that white people were “a race of devils” and that “the demise of the white race was imminent.”  His solution back then was to advocate for “the complete separation of African Americans from white people.”

When Malcolm made his pilgrimage to Mecca in April 1964, he had already begun softening his stance.  He had broken away from the more radical Nation of Islam and had joined the more mainstream Sunni Islam.  While in Saudi Arabia, he was befriended by some high-ranking diplomats.  This was in sharp contrast to his oftentimes pariah status back home.

However, what impressed Malcolm the most were the loving relationships that he witnessed there amongst
Muslims of all races.  In his now-famous Letter from Mecca, Malcolm X wrote:  I could see from this that
perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man…


Copyright May 19, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved