Monthly Archives: July 2021

Who is the “We”?


Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Psalm 78:23-29

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 6:24-35

Prayer of the Day: O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-5.

I recently took part with a group of Christian friends in a discussion about the politicization of Covid-19 vaccination and its negative effects on public efforts to promote the vaccine and other measures designed to stop the spread of the disease. The discussion soon turned to questions about what exactly is “broken” in our system and how we, presumably as Christians, should be addressing it. I have been reflecting on this and other similar discussions for years now. I always come back to another question of my own: who is the “we” in these deliberations?

To illustrate that point, an old joke is often told about the Lone Ranger and his faithful native American companion, Tonto. While riding out on the Badlands in pursuit of outlaws, the two suddenly find themselves surrounded by a large and well armed band of Sioux. The Lone Ranger turns to his partner and says, “This looks like a pretty dangerous situation, Tonto. What do you think we should do about it?” Tonto replies, “What situation? And who is this ‘we’ you’re talking about white man?” Clearly, how you define a problem and, indeed, whether there even is a problem depends on who is asking.

My take? The problem is that our collective belief in America is dying. The “we” who believe in America no longer form the critical mass required to sustain it. It is getting harder and harder to believe in our essential goodness, in our conviction that we are somehow “exceptional,” that we can do whatever we put our minds to as long as we act in concert. Of course, there have always been many folks who never believed in American that way, who didn’t experience it that way and never felt included in the “we” that privileged white folk use as a prefix for “the people.” Their voices are getting stronger, becoming more articulate and finding their way into public discourse as never before. All of that further undermines belief in the old American mythology and makes those of us who desperately want to believe frantic with existential terror. Witness the near hysteria on the part of Republican legislators over including the history of slavery, segregation and systemic racism in school curriculum. They and their constituents view such educational material as “an attack on America.” They are not altogether wrong about that. These hard truths do represent an attack on the American myths in which so many of us would like to believe.

As the America in which we once believed becomes increasingly difficult for more people to accept, the “we” who believe becomes smaller, more isolated, more threatened and more hostile toward unbelievers. America is no longer the grand promise, the idea to which others must be won over. It is the walled fortress needing protection from infiltration by outsiders and pollution by impure influences. The “city on a hill” resembles more a besieged bunker. For the last of the true believers, America is a dying faith that fewer and fewer find credible, a fading ember that must be kept alive by the dwindling faithful, an outdated belief system that needs fabricated history, junk science, bizarre religion and outlandish conspiracy theories to prop it up. The American faith no longer has a critical mass of adherents to make it function. That is a problem for “we” who still hold this faith. For those who no longer do or never did, maybe not so much. For the “we” living at the margins of American society, this loss of faith on our part means only that more people are beginning to recognize the truth about their American experience, a truth they have lived and known for generations.

I would hasten to add that I am not hostile toward this country. Nor am I indifferent to the fate of the United States of America. There is much about this nation that is noble, beautiful and worth preserving. I believe that if the United States found the courage to face the truth about itself so long suppressed, it could emerge a wiser, more just and compassionate nation. I believe that the United States of America might yet, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” I am just not sure there are enough of us left who are even interested in doing that. If we trust each other so little that we need machine guns to protect ourselves from our own elected government and our neighbors; if we cannot even settle on what constitutes matters of simple fact; if our elected leaders are invoking the second amendment against their political opponents; I have to wonder whether a civil, democratic society is even possible.  I am not sure it makes sense anymore to speak of “we” Americans anymore.   

But now I would like to focus on a different “we,” the one about which Paul speaks in his Letter to the Ephesians. This is the “we” who are of one body animated by one Spirit sharing one calling, one faith, one baptism and one God who is “above all and through all and in all.” Our belief system is not grounded in any nation or idea of a nation. Neither are “we” defined principally by national, ethnic or tribal identity. “We” know that “the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are accounted as dust on the scales.” Isaiah 40:15. Our own is no exception and no different from all of the other great empires that have had their day and now live only in the annuls of history. “We” believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church which is not a kingdom of this world bent on imposing its sovereignty, but a community witnessing to the just and gentle reign of God. “We” do not see ourselves as separate or antagonistic to any outside our number. “We” do not understand ourselves to be singled out for special privilege, but consecrated as a kind of “first fruits” of everything God is determined to share with all creation. 

I am not convinced that “we” church can or should try to solve America’s existential dilemma, though God knows we have tried. Whether under the banner of the social gospel or through the legislative agenda of the religious right, we protestants have seemed obsessed at times with making America something no nation ever has been or can be. In the process, I fear we have become a good deal more American than we are Christian. Thus, when the foundations of the American empire are shaken, our response is very much like that of the Lone Ranger: What are we going to do about this dangerous situation? Tonto’s response seems just as apropos: “What problem? And who is this “we?” That might well be Saint Paul’s response as also. It seems to me that Saint Paul would urge us, as he does the church at Ephesus, to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” He would challenge us to become communities able to thrive in a post American world.

None of this is to say that the church should abandon America or American society. As long as we live in the United States, the health and wellbeing of its people, communities and institutions are key to our wellbeing also. Being “in” America and, insofar as it functions as an ordering power for justice, peace and equity, being “for” America is all well and good. But it seems to me that the church can never be “of” America-or any other nation state. To the contrary, it is precisely by our being exclusively the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that God exposes the temporality and frailty of the nations and the foolishness deifying them. This crucial witness, ever less than perfect in our faith and practice, has been muddled further in American Christianity by our confusion of piety with patriotism, our conflation of the American dream and the reign of God, our mixing of enlightenment metaphors and biblical imagery. Our love for America is surely right, but our faith in American mythology has been tragically misplaced. The sooner we learn that lesson down to the depths of our ecclesiastical souls, the sooner we will become capable of being light to the United States of America-and to the world.

Here is a poem by Claude McKay, a poet whose participation in the “we” of American life was fraught to say the least. It challenges Americans to expand their understanding of who “we” are. It convicts the church on the smallness of its own “we.”   


Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Source:  Liberator (The Library of America, 1921). This poem is in the public domain. Claude McKay (1889-1948) was born Festus Claudius McKay in Nairne Castle, Jamaica. He came to the United States in 1912 to attend the Tuskegee Institute. McKay was shocked by the racism he encountered in this country and that experience of culture shock shaped his career as a writer and poet. McKay became a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a Black American intellectual, social, and artistic movement centered in Harlem, New York spanning the 1920s. His poetry celebrates peasant life in Jamaica, challenges white supremacy in America and lifts up the struggles of black men and women striving to live their lives with dignity in a racist culture. You can learn more about Claude McKay and read more of his poetry on the Poetry Foundation Website.

Sunday, July 26th

Due to numerous factors, I have been unable to produce a reflection on the texts for the coming Sunday. Therefore, I offer a reflection from six years ago which seems not to have grown too stale with age.

Peter's Outer Cape Portico


2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-18
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

PRAYER OF THE DAY:Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth. Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven and share this bread with all the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

John’s account of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand differs from that of Matthew, Mark and Luke in several respects. Perhaps the most significant detail we learn from John is that the people Jesus fed in such a remarkable way responded by trying to seize him by force and make him king. And why not? Jesus would likely make a great king, wouldn’t he?

Yes and no. Jesus understood only too well the nature and pitfalls of empire. He was…

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All We Like Sheep…


Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 23

Ephesians 2:11-22

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Prayer of the Day: O God, powerful and compassionate, you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us. Heal each of us, and make us a whole people, that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“As [Jesus] went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34.

“Like sheep.” That is hardly a complement. Sheep are dependent creatures, having lived under domestication for millennia. They are so helpless that they cannot even right themselves should they happen to get turned on their backs. If all the world’s sheep were released into the wild today, they would surely be on the endangered species list tomorrow. Moreover, sheep are herd animals. They are bred to follow a leader and lost when they have none. That is not how we self made, independent and free thinking Americans like to think of ourselves.

Yet in spite of our assertions of independence, there are times when we appear incredibly sheep like. The Qanon phenomenon is but the most recent illustration of how even people of considerable intelligence can be led down a rabbit hole into a universe of “alternative facts” having absolutely no relationship to reality. According to a Monmouth University poll, one in three Americans still believe that Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that his victory was stolen by fraud-notwithstanding the certification of that election by all fifty states, sixty court decisions rejecting allegations of fraud and a substantial margin of victory for Joe Biden in both the electoral and popular vote. At a recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a large crowed cheered when a prominent “antivaxxer” jeered the Biden administration’s efforts to promote vaccination against Covid-19. How can thinking people be drawn to accept as facts assertions contradicted by the findings of multiple courts, scientific consensus and plain common sense?

People who are frightened, threatened and lack the conceptual tools to figure out why are low hanging fruit for the unscrupulous “shepherds” described by the prophet Jeremiah in Sunday’s lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures. These shepherds offer feckless sheep exactly what they want-a strong leader with easy solutions to complex problems and, frequently, offering up someone or something to blame for their unhappiness. They put a face on the sheeps’ fears and a target, albeit the wrong one, on which to vent their rage. Of course, these shepherds have no interest in the wellbeing of the sheep. They don’t care that, once they have gotten what they need, the flock is scattered and left vulnerable to predators-or to infection by Covid-19. For them, the sheep are tools to be courted for their votes, fleeced for donations and abandoned. Such is the pitiful condition in which Jesus finds the crowd in Sunday’s gospel lesson. Jesus embraces this crowd and begins “to teach them many things.”

How does Jesus go about that? How does he ween the sheep off their delusions? I think the problem here goes far deeper than the much discussed phenomenon of “fake news.” Although I believe that, on the whole, “main stream” media tend to get the facts right far more often than the so-called news outlets of “conservative” media, this is not just a matter of getting the facts right. It has to do with which facts matter, who is relating them and the audience to which they are presented. Those of us who consume mainstream news (and yes, news from all sources these days is packaged as entertainment for popular consumption) ought to be asking whether Britany Spears’ personal legal, medical and financial woes deserve more attention than the fate of millions of Afghan women who may soon be living under the oppressive rule of the Taliban. Should the world care about the outer space joyride of two aged billionaires? Should the harangues of a defeated former president be given any air space at all? Who decides what gets into the news and the prominence it is given? Who is telling us what is news? Should we be accepting at face value the decisions made about what we see on the screen of our chosen news source?  

I believe that we are all more sheep like than we care to admit. With the ability to get the news (or what we are told is news) in real time, the ability to get immediate weather forecasts and the capacity to keep a minute by minute watch on financial markets, we have become slaves to the font of all this data, our digital devices. We have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we need to be connected 24/7, that we must be available at all times of day or night and that we need to be informed of every breaking development as it transpires. In the process of being on top of everything, we are losing the ability to focus on anything. We have lost the capacity to distinguish between the urgent and the important. We are the people the James the Apostle characterizes as “a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6.

The gospel does not tell us specifically the “many things” Jesus taught the people that day. But we know that Jesus taught with an authority grounded in the example of the life he lived, making his the “voice of authority.” We know that Jesus unmasked the hypocrisy of religion that practices piety without pity, judgement without justice and morality without compassion. We know that Jesus called people to share his life shaped by the contours of God’s gentle reign of justice and peace to be lived under the shadow of imperial injustice, violence and cruelty. Everything Jesus ever said flowed from who he was. That is what drew people to him and lent authority to his words. Jesus’ teaching did not consist in the transmission of information, indoctrination or ethical instruction. To be taught by Jesus is to know him, to follow him, to be influenced by friendship with him and shaped by the community of faith in which his Spirit dwells.

Not every significant event is deemed important or newsworthy. Where would CNN and Fox News have been at the dawn of the first century C.E.? I suspect that they might have been in what is now Germany covering Rome’s campaign to expand its empire into northern Europe. Or perhaps they would have been reporting on the massive temple refurbishment project launched by Augustus Caesar in Rome. There was certainly no lack of contentious issues under debate in the imperial senate meriting press scrutiny. But I seriously doubt any news organization would have bothered to report on the birth of a baby to a homeless couple in a Bethlehem barn. Such events are hardly considered newsworthy, but to a mind that has been taught to seek the outbreak of God’s reign in every corner of creation, their true significance becomes visible. What we desperately need and what Jesus offers: “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” If you want to find the good news, you need to look beyond the headlines.

Here is a poem showcasing a different lens through which we might view the world. It is perhaps similar to the way a mind taught by Jesus might view it.

In Search of Prime Residential Real Estate

I’d like to live in a place
Where you can get a cup of coffee
Without having to specify,
Large, very large, jumbo,
Mocha, Columbian or Java.
Let me make my home
In a place so far from
The nearest metropolis
That you can’t get reception
For network stations
Without a computer
And that with difficulty
As there’s no broadband access.
Let history’s great moments
Make their way to me
Through the lens of local news
And humbly take their place
Beneath those truths
That are timeless,
Real and unchanging.
I want to live on open land
Where nothing obstructs my view
Except the sky.
And let that sky be so wide
And so chuck full of stars at night
That nobody looking up into the heavens
Will ever be able to imagine
That he’s any more important
Than a Spring tulip that’s long gone
Before the end of May.
I want to live among simple folk
Who, like that tulip,
Grow strong and beautiful in their season,
Toil at honest labor till it ends,
Fade with grace when it passes,
And expect nothing in return.


The Art of Making Enemies


Amos 7:7-15

Psalm 85:8-13

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 6:14-29

Prayer of the Day: O God, from you come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments; and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.’” Amos 7:10.

“And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’” Amos 7:12-13.

Amaziah’s alarm appears strikingly similar to that of Republican legislatures in roughly half a dozen states that have either adopted or advanced bills purporting to take aim at the teaching of critical race theory, an academic approach that examines how race and racism function in law and society. These lawmakers would do well to heed the wise admonition of Victor Hugo: “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The notion that theories, ideas and statements of fact can be erased by legislative fiat is as laughable as it is pathetic. But to the terrified psyche of white rage and the party that now embodies it, the truth about racism is a word “the land is not able to bear.”

I am not here to defend, explain or critique critical race theory. Scholars, teachers and preachers far more knowledgeable than me have already done that. I understand it well enough, however, to know that its Republican critics haven’t the faintest idea what it actually is. Here is what else I know:

  • The United States Constitution, so far from guaranteeing the Declaration’s bold assertion that “all men are created equal,” counted black Americans as “three fifths of a person,” and that only for purposes determining representation of the states in Congress.
  • Ten of the first twelve presidents of the United States were slaveholders.
  • The routine separation of enslaved black families, wives from husbands and children from parents, for sale and re-sale was a common commercial practice from colonial times until the end of the Civil War.
  • Beating, starvation, rape and torture for the discipline and control of Black slaves was either legal or tolerated by state authorities throughout the southern United States prior to the end of the Civil War.
  • Lynching was not an isolated occurrence, but happened routinely and claimed the lives of at least 3,446 African Americans between 1882 and 1968. Federal and state authorities routinely declined to investigate, prevent, specifically outlaw or prosecute these murders.  
  • In June of 1921 mobs of white residents, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked Black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the ground and from private aircraft and destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the district—at that time the wealthiest Black community in the United States- leaving 36 dead and hundreds hospitalized with injuries.
  • In 1932 the U.S. Public Health Service knowingly withheld life saving antibiotics to Black victims of syphilis in order to study the advanced effects of the disease.
  • Until 1967, interracial marriage between Black and white persons was illegal in nearly half of the states of the U.S. and punishable by imprisonment.
  • The historic (and still existent) practice of “redlining” and systemic discrimination in housing against persons of color which, incidentally, our former president practiced with regularity and was prosecuted during his years as a real estate baron, prevented generations of black families from purchasing homes, thereby depriving them of the chief means of achieving wealth and financial security.

Furthermore, none of these facts were taught throughout my educational experience from kindergarten to high school nor that of my children. What we got was a “whitewashed” version of American history that neglected or, where neglect was impossible, downplayed the story of African Americans in the building and development of our nation. Those of us who grew up believing this sanitized, nationalistic version of the American saga naturally feel unsettled by these truths. They threaten to destroy our illusions of innocence. They are words we are “not able to bear.” But for the sake of our nation’s healing, to make way for repentance and open the door to a better future, they must be spoken.

The words of a prophet are frequently hard to bear. As we learned from last Sunday’s gospel reading and lesson from Ezekiel, speaking words from God will trigger opposition. Prophecy is a dangerous profession. It got Amos deported. John the Baptist lost his head. What are we prepared to lose for the sake of proclaiming the gentle reign of God in a world of nations, rulers and peoples that are not receptive to it? Are we prepared to make enemies for Jesus’ sake? I am not convinced that we are. Our ELCA website boldly declares that “Liberated by our faith, we embrace you as a whole person–questions, complexities and all.” We are fond of making the blanket assurance that “there is a place for you” in our church. I don’t believe we can fairly make that representation-nor should we. If the likes of Stephen Miller, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and their supporters feel comfortable and at home in our church, we are not doing our job. If the MAGA hat wearers find us welcoming, I have to wonder, how prophetic is our preaching? If we are not making any enemies, I have to wonder whether we are making genuine disciples.

Truth is, you can’t follow Jesus without making some enemies along the way. That reality is illustrated in the life and ministry of Clarence Jorden, founder of Koinonia Farm. The Farm was formed as an intentional Christian community established in the State of Georgia back in 1942. Jordan intended for it to be a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.”  For him, this meant a community of believers sharing life and following the example of the first Christian communities as described in the Acts of the Apostles. In order to bear witness to the church as a family in which there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, Koinonia was constituted from its inception as a place where African Americans lived side by side with their white sisters and brothers. Not surprisingly, Koinonia Farm was a frequent target of Klan hostility and government initiated opposition in the deeply segregated south. In his book, Unleashing the Scripture, Duke University professor of religion and ethics Stanley Haueraus relates a story about Koinonia Farm and its founder, Clarence Jordan.

Shortly after Koinonia was founded, Georgia’s state attorney general made several attempts to outlaw the community, confiscate its property and evict the residents. Clarence Jordan sought the help of his brother Robert Jordan, a prominent lawyer with political aspirations. Clarence asked Robert to take on the defense of Koinonia Farm. According to a passage from a book written by James McClendon, the following exchange took place:

“Clarence, I can’t [represent you]. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

We might lose everything too, Bob,” [Clarence replied.]

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be—the cross?”

“That’s right, [Clarence]. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then, [Bob], I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer and not a disciple.”

“Well now, [Robert replied] if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question is” Clarence said, ‘Do you have a church?’”

That’s a good question for us at this juncture. Do we have a church that is the Body of Christ placing itself between the jaws of injustice and its victims? Or are we a community of admirers of Jesus willing to follow him “up to a point” short of the cross? Is peace and harmony within the ecclesiastical household more precious than the peace of Christ that breaks down the hostility between members of the human family? Are we so fearful of dividing the church over the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are willing to settle for unity grounded in something less? What does faithfulness to Jesus look like in the face of concerted efforts to defend white supremacy by undermining voting rights and manipulating public education curricula?

Maybe it’s because I am getting old and losing my filters. Or perhaps I am just too damn tired of being part of a “community of moral deliberation” that never evolves into concrete teaching or action. Or maybe being retired and professionally bullet proof has made me reckless and irresponsible. Attribute whatever motives you like. But what I am now going to say will probably not go down well in some quarters. Though I commend our ELCA leaders for condemning racism and publicly apologizing to our African American siblings for our complicity in their oppression, I wonder why they cannot go the extra mile to challenge us to practice within the Body of Christ the “equity” St. Paul calls for in his second letter to the Corinthian church by making concrete financial reparations to black churches? Not only have we benefited from their oppression, but we have also been enriched by their hymnody, preaching and prophetic witness (See II Corinthians 8:8-15). Is it too much to ask that we now employ our vast financial resources in supporting these churches in their struggle to rebuild their communities?

I have been told by some of our leaders that we need more dialogue, education and anti-racist training before embarking on such a bold initiative. I don’t have anything against any of those things-except that we have been doing all of that from as far back as the 1970s when I started seminary and the needle hasn’t budged. I understand that, given our polity, ELCA bishops cannot mandate, legislate or compel the church to do anything. But as pastors, teachers and theologians they can and should be telling us what we ought to be doing. The same goes for us pastors of congregations.

Will such bold preaching and admonition trigger a backlash? Will it result in more congregations leaving the ELCA? Will it put the position of pastors in danger? Will we wind up making enemies both within and outside of our church? Perhaps. But as long as our heads remain on our shoulders, we shouldn’t be heard to complain. It goes with the territory.

Here is a poem by Charles Mackay on the virtue of having enemies.

You Have no Enemies?

YOU have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

Source: This poem is in the public domain. Charles MacKay (1814-1899) was a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter. He was born in Perth, Scotland. His father was a bombardier in the Royal Artillery. His mother died shortly after his birth. In 1830 he began writing in French in the Courrier Belge and sent English poems to a local newspaper called The Telegraph. In May 1832 he moved to London where he found employment in teaching Italian to the future opera manager, Benjamin Lumley. Mackay engaged in journalism throughout his time in London. In 1834 he was an occasional contributor to The Sun. From the spring of 1835 till 1844 Mackay was assistant sub-editor of The Morning Chronicle .In the autumn of 1844, he moved to Scotland, and became editor of the Glasgow Argus, but resigned in 1847. He returned to London and worked for The Illustrated London News in 1848 and became editor in 1852. Mackay visited North America in the 1850s, publishing his observations as Life and Liberty in America: or Sketches of a Tour of the United States and Canada in 1857–58 (1859). During the Civil War he was a correspondent for The Times. Mackay was twice married—first, during his Glasgow editorship to Rosa Henrietta Vale by whom he had three sons and a daughter. His second marriage was to Mary Elizabeth Mills, likely a previous servant in the household.