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On this day in the middle of the 18th century, the “Father of American Unitarianism” Reverend Jonathan Mayhew delivered a sermon on social justice that would later be called “the spark that ignited the American Revolution.”
The sermon itself had a rather cumbersome title, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers, but its message was simple: rulers have the right to reign only so long as their reign is just.
Gense-ric (the “Spear King”) leader of the much-maligned Vandals, was one of the last Unitarian Christian leaders in the ancient world. Why would Unitarian Reform want to celebrate the life of a man who sacked Rome, persecuted other Christians, and whose people gave us the word “vandalize”?
The bad reputation of Genseric and his Vandals is a good example of history being written by the victors.
This is not to say that the Spear King and his armies were saints, particularly by the moral standards of the 21st Century. However, compared to the “ecclesiastical mafia” of Trinitarian saint Athanasius* or the cultic totalitarianism of Theodosius “The Great” who declared Nicene Christianity the only permissible religion in the Empire, Genseric was a bleeding-heart liberal of the ancient world.
Henry Knox was the son of a ship’s captain who died when the boy was nine. Henry began working as a bookstore clerk at 12 to support his mother, and later opened his own bookstore. If Knox’s story ended there, it would be a remarkable tale of trial, strength, survival, and ingenuity.
But, Henry Knox was also a soldier during the American Revolution, commissioned a Colonel by George Washington and tasked with bringing 60 tons of artillery from Crown Point and Ticonderoga in upstate New York to the Seige of Boston, a journey of 300 miles over unimproved terrain.
To make Knox’s mission even worse, as he made his way toward the coast, snow began covering the ground. Knox refused to see the heavy snowfall as a hindrance, instead seeking in it some opportunity. Rather than plowing through the snow, he put the cannon on sleds and slid them over it.
It may seem out of place to celebrate a military maneuver as an act of piety, but by accommodating providence rather than resisting it Henry Knox exemplified the spirit of “Thy Will Be Done.” The arrival of these cannon in Boston a mere 56 days after their departure has been described as miraculous, but it was in fact the wise action of Henry Knox that achieved what many believed could not be achieved, by applying his God-given reason to a God-given blessing that others might have seen as a curse.
Today, on the 6th Day of Action, we celebrate Knox’s achievement.
Yesterday was the First of the 12 Days of Action, also known in Unitarian Reform as International Family Day in honor of Saints Maris and Martha, a married couple from the ancient Persian aristocracy, and their sons Audifax and Abakhum.
According to legend, this family immigrated to Rome to give aid to persecuted Christians, including providing proper burial for those martyred.
For this offense, they were tortured and, when they refused to turn away from Christianity, executed: the men were beheaded and burned while Martha was drowned in a well.
This holy day is particularly honored for bringing together peoples of different cultures, nationalities, and social circumstances; for commemorating a marriage based on a mutual sense of mission; and for exemplifying (in the fire/water imagery of their martyrdom) the symbolism of complementary virtues so central to “Tap Root” Christianity’s moral system, yet usually glossed over in what could be called Shallow Root and even Deep Root churches.
Remember this day their bravery in the face of oppression, and their devotion to each other, to their convictions, and to universal justice.
[This is a repost from an earlier Feast of the International Family]
It is quite appropriate that the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. falls on the 9th Day of Defiance in the American Unitarian Reform calendar, in the middle of Nika Week which commemorates competing factions standing together against oppression in the Byzantine Empire, just as multiracial crowds gathered before Dr. King to stand together against Jim Crow oppression in the United States.
But Martin Luther King is significant to AUR for other reasons, not only in his ecumenical attitude, but also the purity of the way he spoke of God’s relationship with Creation and his commitment of character to the will of God.
January 13th is the seventh of the 12 Days of Defiance, celebrating those who stand strong against tyranny. The first day honors St. Lucian, who resisted Pagan oppression during his nine years in prison. The sixth day honors John Hancock, Unitarian and first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The final six days are dedicated to Nika Week, in honor of a moment of defiance in Constantinople during Christianity’s slow slide into the Dark Ages following the adoption of Trinitarianism.
This year, Nika Week begins on the Ultimate Thursday of the dozenal, an extra special occasion!