Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Committed American Champion For Non-Violence

"Once, a journalist asked Leo Tolstoy who he thought the greatest American writer was. 'Adin Ballou,' Tolstoy answered. The journalist was puzzled. Who? He had never heard of Adin Ballou. Few people had. 

Unfortunately, even today, few people know about Adin Ballou. But I agree with Tolstoy. Not only was Adin Ballou an original thinker and a significant writer, but I consider him one of the most influential Christian peacemakers in our history." (Fr. John Dear, S.J., "Adin Ballou's vision of non-violence", National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 15, 2011)

My long-time friend, former seminary-mate and priest colleague, and brilliant theologian, Jim Fitzgerald, regularly sends me articles of theological, social, and political interest. Today I learned from him about someone totally unknown to me, whose name I'd never heard: Adin Ballou (1803-1890). At this time of the Occupy Movement across the country, I wanted especially to share this with you.

Adin Ballou was Christian minister, very much in the forefront of pacifism, socialism and abolitionism in the U.S., and the founder of the Hopedale Community. Through his long career as a Universalist, and then Unitarian minister, he tirelessly sought social reform through his radical Christian and socialist views.

Born in 1803 on a farm in Cumberland, R.I., to Ariel and Edilda Ballou,  Adin was raised a Six-Principle Baptist until 1813 when his family was converted in a Christian Connexion revival.

Ballou married Abigail Sayles in early 1822, the same year in which he converted to Universalism. Abigail died seven years later, shortly after giving birth to a daughter. Then Ballou himself suffered a life-threatening illness later that year. He was nursed back to health by Lucy Hunt, whom he married a few months later. Hosea Ballou II (1796–1861), an American Universalist minister and first president of Tufts University, officiated at the ceremony.
The Ballous had four children, only one of whom, Abbie, survived. Adin Ballou
died in Hopedale in 1890, and Lucy Ballou died the following year.

Ballou traveled throughout New England, lecturing and debating on practical Christianity, Christian nonresistance, abolition, temperance, and other social issues. He believed that practical Christians were called to make their convictions a reality, thereby initiating a new civilization.

In 1830, Ballou aligned himself with the Restorationists, who were upset with the views among some Universalists: that complete salvation and no punishment would follow death. Although Ballou served the Unitarian church, 1831–1842, he continued to identify himself as a Restorationist. The Restorationists believed that the spiritual growth of sinners could only be acclaimed through God’s justice in the afterlife before they could be restored to God's grace. Ballou agreed to edit and publish the Independent Messenger, a Restorationist publication. His views caused him to lose his pulpit in Milford, MA. In 1831, along with seven other ministers, Ballou established the Massachusetts Association of Universal Restorationists.

Ballou became a Christian pacifist in 1838. He and a few ministerial colleagues and lay people composed the Standard of Practical Christianity in 1839. In it they announced their withdrawal from "the governments of the world." They believed that the dependence on force to maintain order was unjust, and they vowed to not participate in such government. While not acknowledging man's earthly rule, they also didn't rebel or "resist any of their ordinances by physical force." "We cannot employ carnal weapons nor any physical violence whatsoever," they proclaimed, "not even for the preservation of our lives. We cannot render evil for evil ... nor do otherwise than 'love our enemies.'"

Beginning in 1843 Adin Ballou served as president of the New England Non-Resistance Society, working with his friend, William Lloyd Garrison, until they broke over Garrison's support for violence in fighting slavery. In 1846 Ballou published his principal work on pacifism, Christian Non-Resistance. He was also involved with the Universal Peace Union, founded in 1866. During the Civil War, Ballou stood by his pacifist views when other Christian pacifist leaders did not.

In 1837, Ballou publicly announced he was an abolitionist, and lectured on anti-slavery in Pennsylvania in 1846 and in New York in 1848. His antislavery sentiments are exemplified in his 4th of July, 1843 address entitled The Voice of Duty, in which he called on Americans to honor the foundations of the country by not being selective or hypocritical in their judgment of whom should be free: “We honor liberty only when we make her impartial — the same for and to all men.” Ballou also responded to those who claimed that those supporting the abolishment of slavery dishonor the U.S. Constitution. He claimed that he stood “on a higher moral platform than any human compact.” Of the Founding Fathers Ballou said: “I honor them with all my heart for their devotion to right principles, for all the truly noble traits in their character, for their fidelity to their own highest light. But because I honor their love of liberty, must I honor their compromises with slavery?

Through the temperance movement, Ballou outlined "three great practical data in ethics": 1) that righteousness must be taught definitely, specifically, and practically to produce any marked results; 2) that adherents of a cause must be unequivocally pledged to the practice of definitely declared duties; and 3) that such pledged adherents must voluntarily associate under explicit affirmations of a settled purpose to cooperate in exemplifying and diffusing abroad the virtues and excellences to which they are committed, and not act at random in disorganized and aimless individualism.

By 1840, Adin Ballou was convinced that his Christian convictions wouldn't allow him to live in the governments of the world. In 1841, he and the Practical Christians purchased a farm west of Milford, MA. The community settled into Hopedale, as they called it, in 1842. The community came to a practical end in 1856 when two of Ballou’s closest supporters, Ebenezer and George Draper, withdrew their 75% share of the community’s stock to form the successful Hopedale Manufacturing Company. George felt that the community wasn't using sound business practices. Nevertheless, the community continued as a religious group until 1867, when it became the Hopedale Parish and rejoined mainstream Unitarianism. On December 15, 1873, the trustees of the community conveyed all right, title, interest and control over to Community Square. Adin Ballou remained as Hopedale’s pastor throughout its transformation, finally retiring in 1880. Adin Street in the town of Hopedale, MA is named after him.

In a tribute to Adin Ballou, Fr. John Dear, S.J. (National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 15, 2011) says: "...Tolstoy begins his mammoth anti-war masterpiece, The Kingdom of God Is Within You, by describing his discovery of Ballou's writings on Christian nonviolence, and how it affected him. Tolstoy spent the remaining years of his life expounding on Ballou's teachings. Tolstoy even wrote to Ballou and corresponded with him during Ballou's last year. Tolstoy would never have developed his thoughts on peace and nonviolence without Ballou, and Gandhi would certainly never have espoused his visionary nonviolence without Tolstoy. Like other Abolitionists, Adin Ballou based his life on the ethical teachings of Jesus. But Ballou went further. Not only was he faithful to them throughout the terrible 19th century, he articulated a fundamental insistence on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, particularly the fifth antithesis: 'Offer no [violent] resistance to one who does evil.' (Matthew 5:39)".


Peter Reilly CPA said...


I did a little piece on forbes.com on Adin's spiritual connection to Occupy Wall street

Angelo Vecchione said...
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Angelo Vecchione said...
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Angelo Vecchione said...
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Angelo Vecchione said...
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