It is the 14th of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The history of the church, and this show, is littered with people whose saintly actions led to a holy martyrdom. You may not agree theologically with all of the saints and martyrs. But there is certainly utility in reflecting on their acts of conscience in the name of Jesus and their work in the face of opposition should be celebrated and remembered.
I often wonder about myself, “how would I react in a time of persecution?”. If I saw injustice and had the means to help, would I? But of course, martyrs aren’t just old-timey church folks extolled in stained glass windows- they can be modern as well.
In 1991 the Anglican Church decided to commemorate a modern martyr. Let me tell you the story of the murder of Jonathan Daniels.
Daniels was born in 1939 in New Hampshire. He was raised in the Christian faith but had doubts about what he thought was a call to ministry. He went to the Virginia Military Academy where he would graduate as the Valedictorian. He went to Harvard but left within a year to study for ordination within the Anglican Church. He enrolled in the seminary in 1962.
At the height of the conflicts over civil rights in the American South Daniels felt convicted to serve. He would travel to Alabama. He wrote “I could not stand by in benevolent dispassion any longer without compromising everything I know and love and value. The imperative was too clear, the stakes too high, my own identity was called too nakedly into question….x I had been blinded by what I saw here (and elsewhere), and the road to Damascus led, for me, back here.”
On August 14th, 1965 he was arrested in Lowndes County for picketing to call attention to “discriminatory hiring practices, unequal treatment of customers and price gouging”
Along with a mostly African American group he was taken to jail in a trash truck. He refused to be bailed out early and stayed 6 days in jail. He and an episcopal priest were then mysteriously let go along with two African American women.
Stopping to get cold drinks they were approached by part-time sheriff Thomas Coleman. He began berating the group telling them to leave or he would shoot their GD heads off. He called the women Black B’s as he held his rifle.
One of the girls, Ruby Sales recounts that Coleman, “aimed his shotgun and Jon pulled me back.” A report goes on to say “Coleman fired. Daniels absorbed such a blast from so close that his body was practically torn in two.” Sales would be inspired to enroll at the same episcopal seminary that Daniels had attended. She would become a giant in the civil rights movement. She would receive her Mdiv and begin a ministry called the “Spirit House Project”.
The killer Coleman was acquitted by a jury of his white peers and afterward, Coleman claimed that he would do it again to other invaders from the North.
Of Daniels, Martin Luther King Jr. said it was “one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry.” “He walked away from the king’s table,”.
Today many Anglican (and other) churches will remember the man who walked away from privilege to serve with the oppressed: Jonathan Daniels, Christian, seminarian, and martyr.
The last word for today comes from Romans 5:
Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14th of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by noted Red Vine aficionado Christopher Gillespie .
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis, “We’re a Twizzlers Family."
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.