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Est. April 5, 2002

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[I learned this hymn years ago. The words have been repeating in my head lately and I wanted to share them with you. I think of it not so much in Christian terms but rather in terms of civil religion, knowing that the next few weeks will provide the opportunity for our elected Senators to make the kind of choice described by Lowell’s verse.

James Russell Lowell, an abolitionist and poet from Cambridge, MA, originally wrote his poem in 1845, in response to the annexation of the slave-holding Texas and the impending war with Mexico. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted it in his We Shall Overcome speech in 1966. The tune was composed by Thomas John Williams in 1890. This version of the hymn, and an additional verse, is from the 1940 Episcopal hymnal.

To learn more, read John B Bellinger III’s article on Lawfare, or Google it. There are many mentions of this poem and versions of both the tune and lyrics on the internet. –Nancy Littlefield, The Black Commentator, Managing Editor]

Once to Every Man and Nation

By James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

Once to every man and nation,

Comes the moment to decide,

In the strife of truth with falsehood,

For the good or evil side;

Some great cause God’s new Messiah,

Off’ring each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever,

twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,

When we share her wretched crust,

Ere her cause bring fame and profit,

And ‘tis prosperous to be just;

Then it is the brave man chooses

While the coward stands aside,

Till the multitude make virtue

Of the faith they had denied.

Though the cause of evil prosper,

Yet ‘tis truth alone is strong;

Though her portion be the scaffold

And upon the throne be wrong;

Yet that scaffold sways the future,

And behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow,

Keeping watch above His own.

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is published Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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