Archives For John Adams

johnabigailPart of the beauty of the ‘Letters of John and Abigail Adams’ is that every sentence suggests careful consideration.

There are sentences for example, where John cautions Abigail against openly sharing his letters for fear of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. They reveal a husband and wife, both loving parents who are also very much the exemplary, one for the other, each for God.

‘Their mutual respect and adoration served as evidence that even in an age when women were unable to vote, there were nonetheless marriages in which wives and husbands were true intellectual and emotional equals.’ (History.com)

I picked this book up out of curiosity about its historical and theological significance. As I continue to casually read through them, I am more and more convinced about the gravity of their contents, context and the important message they carry to the world, not just Americans.

Part of a letter written to John in May, 1775, from Abigail, further clarifies my point :

‘The Lord will not cast off his people; neither will He forsake his inheritance. Great events are most certainly in the womb of futurity; and, if the present chastisements which we experience have a proper influence upon our conduct, the event will certainly be in our favour’[i].

The Adams family epistles have contemporary relevance. The most pertinent of which is that they challenge Christians to steer clear of anti-intellectualism. They encourage Christians to engage; to understand current events in light of the biblical texts, and move away from disengaging in informed debate, dismissing it as uninteresting, convoluted and/or unnecessary.

Here are a people on the cusp of necessary conflict; a people not yet prepared for what they hope to avoid; a people who understand the danger of the mob; a people who acknowledge that they bear the burden of responsibilityand are God’s participants in necessary decisions that will require courage, faith, hope, prudence, calm justice and fierce mercy.

The same people who, under God, will stare down the supposed divine right of a king, and challenge his exercise of freedom without restraint.

The same people who will instead assert that under God all are created equal, and that authentic freedom can only come with the caveat of authentic responsibility.

One example is that both John and Abigail looked unfavourably on slavery, made clear by Abigail’s rebuke: ‘I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me— to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this subject.[ii]

Both husband and wife lived out their faith – not in a cloister, reserved pew or in pious appearances.

A constant in the letters are references to biblical texts. Used comfortably, they form an important part of the extraordinary exchange. It might not be so wrong to suggest that these letters read like small sermons, shared between a loving, overburdened husband, and his equally loving and overburdened bride.

Unfortunately, the letters are not without theological issues.

Gaps exist. Such as Abigail’s allusion to a form, of what Shirley Guthrie called, the ‘common heresy’ of Pelagianism (Christian Doctrine, 1994:127) – an ancient misinterpretation of God’s salvation, grace and the role of the responsive sinner.

‘God helps them that help themselves, as King Richard says; and if we can obtain the Divine aid by our own virtue, fortitude, and perseverance, we may be sure of relief.[iii]

In addition, I’m uncertain as to whether or not the countless references to ‘Providence’ are in fact veiled 18th Century Congregationalist references to the Holy Spirit. The context implies they are.

‘I pray for you all, and hope to be prayed for. Certainly there is a Providence; certainly we must depend upon Providence, or we fail; certainly the sincere prayers of good men avail much. But resignation is our duty in all events.[iv]

Nevertheless, reformed theology appears to dominate the politics, parenting philosophy, orthodoxy and sociology. Prayer and references to God’s care, wisdom, provision and guidance are ever-present.

This is not something that is the result of a cultural Christian appendage. To begin with Abigail Adams is openly critical of appearance only faith.

‘General John Burgoyne practices deceit on God himself, by assuming the appearance of great attention to religious worship, when every action of his life is totally abhorrent to all ideas of true religion, virtue, or common honesty.[v]

John affirms this in a similar way stating that:

 ‘The man who violates [destroys] private faith, cancels solemn obligations, whom neither honor nor conscience holds, shall never be knowingly trusted by me. Had I known, when I first voted for a Director of a Hospital, what I heard afterwards, when I was down, I would not have voted as I did. Open, barefaced immorality ought not to be so countenanced.[vi]

The Adams family epistles are unique in that they present an organic living relationship between husband and wife, grounded in God’s freedom. What has caught me by surprise is that God is not reduced to second place. Alongside great concerns, God is still in the forefront of their thoughts, and as a result a good deal of theology permeates the wisdom that informs their actions, wit and dialogue .

One thing grasps me as I read through these letters. That is the relevance they hand out to a contemporary audience still concerned with the matters of God, love, liberty and the caveat of responsibility.

Braintree, 19 August, 1774:

Did ever any kingdom or state regain its liberty, when once it was invaded, without bloodshed? I cannot think of it without horror.
Yet we are told that all the misfortunes of Sparta were occasioned by their too great solicitude for present tranquillity, and, from an excessive love of peace, they neglected the means of making it sure and lasting.[vii]
– Abigail Adams.

History forgotten is history repeated.


References: (Not otherwise linked)

[i] Adams, J & Adams, A. 2012. The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (Kindle Ed). Start Publishing LLC, 7th May , 1775

[ii] Ibid, 24th September , 1774

[iii] Ibid, 16th September , 1775 & John Adam’s agrees with this. See letter 62. 1st October, 1775

[iv] Ibid, John Adams, 8th May , 1775

[v] Ibid, Letter 55. 25th July, 1775

[vi] Ibid, Letter 72. 23rd October, 1775

[vii] Ibid, Letter 13. 19th August, 1774

Image: Abigail and John Adams (Source)

BanishedDuring my second year in college, our innovative church history professor assigned an assessment centred around the PC game, ‘Medieval: Total War’. It was a research project discussing the historicity of the game and whether not the storyline was chronologically accurate.

Since then I haven’t looked at computer gaming the same.

The downside is the inbuilt individualism in many video games that imparts unhealthy expectations, through a “virtual world” that caters to your every decision, want or desire. (I’ve played many and know some of that, of which I speak)

In an offline environment where you’re made into either a hero or a god, the outcomes of such a pseudo reality, are generally a false sense of entitlement, false empowerment and false achievement. Inside such a world the victims are aplenty.

There are also the online environments where the villainous choices of others are rewarded. Their efforts ‘’celebrated’’ on ‘’kill boards’’ that collate both performance, in-game currency and/or other means of measuring skill and ‘’success’’.

Without a fair and well-regulated Eula the online video game ethos is determined by the primary player base. The environment is essentially left governed by Golding-esk mob rule; a ‘Lord of the flies’ dysfunctional society, absent of restraint or consequences.

On the upside, as game developers fine-tune their products, they are beginning to produce serious exceptions to this general rule.

Making the right choice or knowing where to start at first might be overwhelming. It’s something even a seasoned video-gamer will wrestle with from time to time.

The marketplace is overflowing with choice. Therefore investing in the right kind of multi-media material that will enhance home education can be rough. Especially when it comes to software that comes with shiny promises, polished YouTube trailers and walk-throughs.

There is no real blueprint for success here, but there are some questions worth asking yourself:

  • What are the features and benefits?
  • What are the reviews like?
  • Is the storyline in any way supportive/unsupportive of our faith and values?
  • Does the game involve some form of team work?
  • Is the game relevant to the curriculum?
  • Would I be willing to play it, after I’ve paid for it?

Outside some random apps targeted at specific educational goals, parental participation is paramount. This makes room for engagement that empowers relationship. In addition it reinforces online safety guidelines that form a necessary part of all educational norms in an information age.

Curiously enough, albeit in a different age, John Adams writing to his wife once made a similar call:

“The education of our children is never out of my mind. Train them to virtue. Habituate them to industry, activity, and spirit. Make them consider every vice as shameful and unmanly. Fire them with ambition to be useful. Make them disdain to be destitute of any useful or ornamental knowledge or accomplishment. Fix their ambition upon great and solid objects, and their contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones.”
(The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #14 28th August, 1774)

Games that I have found  helpful in this department include:

SimCity Learning outcomes include: economics, government, maths, environment, water and power management, design, architecture, law enforcement, progress, development, travel, industry and sustainability.

Age of Empires II H.D – trade, resource management, diplomacy, history of warfare, technology, medieval history, imperialism, maritime warfare, navigation, and the importance of a good defence.

Banished – agriculture, technology, environment, disaster management, diet, and different building materials. This list would also include the impact of deforestation and mining; the importance of reforestation, community, seasons, education, immigration, Churches, hospitals, and markets; basically Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Minecraft – construction, survival, creativity, exploration, importance of symmetry, agriculture, geology, chemistry, climate, time management, technology – such as the usefulness of boats, powered vs. unpowered railways and imagination.

World of Diving – underwater exploration, scuba diving, marine archaeology, history and marine biology.

Although I am critical of it. My main point here is based upon my own observations, not a moralistic demonization of the technology or a hagiographic overemphasis on the gameplay and their designers.

My sub-points attempt to outline, despite the ironic “barbarianism” that can be found online, how this technology is changing, and how it can be useful for enhancing homeschool curriculum.

All this said, there is no substitute for discernment when making an informed choice.

‘Guard your heart above all else,  for it determines the course of your life.’ (Proverbs 4:23, NLT)

‘Even the ”devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’

(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)

 

I can’t be easy without my pen in my hand, yet I know not what to write.

(John Adams, 1774 The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (Kindle Ed).