Skip to content

BOOK REVIEW – My Grandfather’s Son, Part 1

My Grandfather’s Son by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is nothing short of a revelation.

Since the explosive testimony by Anita Hill during his confirmation hearing, Justice Thomas has been characterized as a boor and a bully – a man of limited intellect who became a traitor to his race, advocating reactionary ideas for the sake of personal advancement.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A Childhood Spent in Poverty

Justice Thomas begins this candid autobiography by describing his Georgia childhood in abject poverty.

“The house in which I was born was a shanty with no bathroom and no electricity except for a single light in the living room.  Kerosene lamps lit the rest of the house.  In the wintertime we plugged up the cracks and holes in the walls with old newspapers.  Water came from a nearby faucet, and we carried it through the woods in old lard buckets.”

Self-Reliance and a Strong Work Ethic

Raised by a strict and stern grandfather, Justice Thomas credits his early upbringing with instilling in him a belief in self-reliance, a strong work ethic, and an independent frame of mind.

Segregation and racial prejudice were as much a fact of existence as were summers of backbreaking labor.

“Our small, soft hands blistered quickly at the start of each summer, but Daddy [the term Justice Thomas used for his grandfather] never let us wear work gloves, which he considered a sign of weakness.  After a few weeks of constant work, the bloody blisters gave way to hard-earned calluses that protected us from pain.  Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life – blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity…”

Education and Faith

Thanks to his grandfather, Justice Thomas received a parochial school education.  Justice Thomas traces his rigorous intellectual training from St. John Vianney Seminary, and Immaculate Conception Abbey, through Holy Cross College (where he was one of six black students in a class of about 550), and finally Yale Law School.

A man of faith, Justice Thomas seriously considered the priesthood.  He abandoned that career path when the Catholic Church failed to take a stand on civil rights.  However, his faith stood him in good stead during the ordeal of the confirmation process.

This review will conclude next week.



Josephine Clofullia a/k/a “The Bearded Lady of Geneva” (1853), Source, Author Thomas Martin Easterly (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Americans use the acronym TLC in a variety of contexts.

Shorthand for “tender loving care” in common parlance, the acronym in a real estate context implies that a property will require anything from small improvements to a total renovation by the buyer.  In car sales, it means much the same thing, i.e. that a vehicle has been neglected and is in need of repairs.

Titillation and A Disturbing Identity

On cable television, the initials identify what was originally known as The Learning Channel.  Initially, TLC favored home improvement, and personal make-over shows.

In recent years, however, the channel has taken on a new and disturbing identity.  TLC seems to have decided that titillation is the route to a wider audience.  The more bizarre the subject matter, the better.

A few examples of the programs featured are listed below:

  • “My Strange Addiction” (2010 to 2015), a reality show profiling individuals engaged in compulsive behaviors ranging from extreme body building to the ingestion of bathroom cleanser and toilet paper.
  • “Sister Wives” (2010 to present), a reality show about a polygamist with four wives and 18 children.
  • “Seeking Sister Wife” (2018 to present), another reality show about polygamous relationships.
  • “My 600-Lb Life” (2012 to present), a reality show which follows morbidly obese men and women.
  • “I Am Jazz” (2015 to present), a reality show about a transgender teenage boy.
  • “Dr. Pimple Popper” (2018 to present), a reality show about a dermatologist who treats disfiguring skin ailments, in gruesome detail.

To be fair, WE now features a program called “Extreme Love” which profiles individuals with “incredible and unusual” relationships, to quote the advertising.  These include a man in his 30s involved with women twice and three times his age; a man obsessed with sex dolls; and a man encouraging his 700 lb girlfriend to gain additional weight.

Lifetime, another cable channel, has a reality show titled “Married at First Sight” in which individuals legally marry a complete stranger.

A 21st Century Freak Show

The argument is put forward that such programs normalize people living on the fringe, removing the burden of shame from them.  These shows are said to broaden the mind, and enlarge our definition of what it is to be human.

In fact, the very opposite is true.  Viewers are participating in the creation of a 21st Century freak show, making a spectacle of the suffering of others, and glamorizing what was once recognized as depraved.

All in the name of enlightenment and entertainment. Read more…

Led to Christ by ISIS

National Evangelical Church of Aleppo, heavily damaged by Syrian Civil War, Author Preacher lad (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

I pass along to you an amazing story by Yuliya Talmazan of NBC News about how ISIS is – inadvertently – leading Syrian Muslims to Christ.  Praise God!

“Four years have passed since the Islamic State group’s fighters were run out of Kobani, a strategic city on the Syrian-Turkish border [northeast of Aleppo], but the militants’ violent and extreme interpretation of Islam has left some questioning their faith.

A new church is attracting converts.  It is the first local Christian place of worship for decades.

‘If ISIS represents Islam, I don’t want to be a Muslim anymore,’ Farhad Jasim, 23, who attends the Church of the Brethren, told NBC News.  ‘Their God is not my God.’

Religious conversions are rare and taboo in Syria, with those who abandon Islam often ostracized by their families and communities.

‘Even under the Syrian regime before the revolution, it was strictly forbidden to change religion from Islam to Christianity or the opposite,’ said Omar, 38, who serves as an administrator at the Protestant church.  (He asked for his last name not to be revealed for safety reasons.  The church’s priest declined to be interviewed.)

‘Changing your religion under ISIS wasn’t even imaginable.  ISIS would kill you immediately,’ he added.

While residents are still dealing with the emotional scars left by the brutality of ISIS, Omar says many people in Kobani have been open-minded about Christianity…”[Continued at ]


Life Under Siege

A Virginia late-term abortion bill would allow abortion during labor.

Though the bill has for the moment been tabled, Gov. Ralph Northam in a radio address assured listeners that if a child survived such an abortion, “the infant would be kept comfortable.  [And] the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue [1].” (Emphasis added.)

This is nothing less than infanticide.

Approximately one in three pregnancies in New York City already ends in abortion [2A].

New York’s Reproductive Health Act now views abortion as a woman’s “fundamental right”, allowed during the third trimester in the absence of fetal viability or to protect the life and health of the mother [2B].

But the term “health” can be broadly interpreted to include both the emotional and psychological health of the mother.  There are no objective medical criteria established.  And any licensed health care practitioner (presumably including a physician’s assistant) can make the determination.

Women’s rights are, in other words, at odds with the rights of the children they bear.  The law, in fact, goes further.

“…because there is no longer any reference whatsoever to unborn children as possible victims of homicide, the law now effectively excludes them from the definition of ‘human person.’ ”

– Sam Sawyer, “What New York’s new abortion law does and doesn’t do” [2C]

New York’s decriminalization of abortion means that domestic violence offenders who cause their partners to lose a child can no longer be prosecuted as severely [4]. Read more…

“Fortress” by Nicodemas Plus Three

Ruins of Byzantine fortress of Nymphea (“Frourio Nimfaias”), Greece, Author User:Gia (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Some readers may be offended by this post, because of its political content.  For that I extend my sincere apologies.  But I do not write this in an effort to advance a political agenda or support a particular party. 

I am neither an expert on border security, nor an advocate of “open” borders.  Certainly, the traffic in illegal drugs, weapons, and human beings is a grave concern.  For all I know, a wall may, in certain locations, constitute as legitimate an element of border defense as electronic surveillance and increased patrols.

Unfortunately, the demand for a wall has come to mean something more. 

The demand for a wall is a demand for security at all costs; for protection against change, and an invading hoard of barbarians; for exclusion of all those “different”, therefore, dangerous.  The demand for a wall has racist overtones, acknowledged or not.

The demand for a wall is prompted by fear, and belief in a zero sum game.  One side must lose, for the other to win.  That both might derive benefit is not a possibility.  So we are told.

Ours is a wealthy nation in a world of poverty.  We can turn our backs on those in need, or find a way to share our resources.  The choice is ours. 

The poem I have reblogged here captures my anxiety – for the welfare of the poor and the welfare of this nation, should we forget them.

“It was snowing that night the wall was completed, not many noticed, tired of the fight.

Yet some…rejoiced in their victory, believing the Enemy was defeated and that they could rest in their holiness once again.

However, the angels in Texas, bowed their heads with tears in their eyes,

began praying for all those stuck inside the Fortress, for those believing that somehow,

in some way, they were righteous, and so having turned their backs

on the poor.”

-Reblogged courtesy of Nicodemas Plus Three

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9).

The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.  But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish” (Ps. 9: 17-18).


Liam’s Lunches of Love

A sixth grader has fed over 2000 homeless men and women in Cambridge, MA.  Liam Hannon makes and distributes lunches, including a handwritten message of encouragement with each [1].

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22: 37-40).

[1]  CBS Boston, WBZ News 4, “12-Year-Old Delivering Lunches, Message Of Kindness To Homeless In Cambridge” by Tashanea Whitlow, 1/13/19,


Religious Freedom at School

Little Red Schoolhouse on Route 662, Talbot County, Maryland, Author Nyttend (PD)

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees both freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  However, the right to express Christian beliefs in a public school setting is often misunderstood.

In interpreting that right, courts frequently rely on the following [1]:

The Equal Access Act of 1984 – This Act requires public secondary schools to allow students to meet for religious speech (including prayer, Bible study, and worship) on the same basis as other student groups which do not relate to curriculum.  The Act is triggered if a school permits at least one such group to meet.  Though the Act by its terms applies only to secondary schools, the Supreme Court in 2001 extended the equal access principle, also, to elementary schools. Read more…

Christianity in Africa

Bete Giyorgis (Church of St. George), Lalibela, Ethiopia, Author Bernard Gagnon (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Christianity did not come to Africa as the result of European colonialism.  Its presence on the continent dates to the time of the Apostles.

Christianity is thought to have been brought to Alexandria, Egypt by Mark around 60 AD [1].  Christian communities existed there by the year 100 AD, if not earlier [2].  The Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament) was begun there.   The Church Fathers Clement, Origen, and Athanasius all resided there [3].

The so called Desert Fathers – early monks, hermits, and ascetics – are known to have lived in the Egyptian desert from the 3rd Century onward [4].  Monasticism was, in fact, developed in Africa under St. Anthony. Read more…

St. Francis of Assisi – The Praises of God

Earliest depiction of St. Francis of Assisi, Benedictine Abbey of Subiaco, Italy (Free Art License)

That most humble of men, St. Francis of Assisi — the 13th Century friar who exchanged a life of luxury for one of abject poverty — had a remarkable capacity to recognize the glory of God in all creation.   This is one of his prayers.

“You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.  You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.  You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Savior.”


Christmas Gifts

“The Star of Bethlehem” by Frederic Leighton (c. 1860), Dahesh Museum of Art (Accession No. 2013.8), NY, Source/Photographer Sotheby’s Auction House (PD-Art, Old-100)

With the last leaf fallen and fields bare, we are confronted by the Christmas season.  In truth, we can hardly avoid it.  Carols blare an invitation to spending orgies.  The Hallelujah Chorus trumpets sales.

There is arguably some precedent for this extended extravagance.  The Wise Men may have traveled as long as two years before reaching their destination.  Throughout, they followed the star.  All to bring birthday gifts.

As Christians, we know, of course, that Jesus was the gift.  The challenge for us, also, is to follow that star; to keep it in sight despite trials and distractions.  It burns brightly still, if we will only choose to see.  He is, after all, the Light of the world. Read more…