Reconstructing a Family: Laban Lupo of Robeson County, NC

In putting together a genealogy, knowing who isn’t part of a given family is almost as important as knowing who is. In the case of the Lupos in Virginia and the Carolinas, the exasperating naming conventions make it very difficult to identify who belongs where. Between 1780 and 1820 there were at least four men named William Lupo or Luper in the Carolinas, three of whom were father, son, and grandson, and two of whom were first cousins, close in age, who lived near one another. Two of the sons of James Lupo of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, William and Laban, named sons John, and Laban and James named sons Phillip, who were born within a year of one another. This confusion has led to many errors in attributing descendants. Around 1999, by creating timelines on each individual, I undertook a project to straighten out some of the family lines, and I’m reasonably satisfied that the answers I found correctly sort out who’s related to whom.

One of the best documented of James Lupo’s sons is his youngest, Laban, with much family correspondence to fill in breaks in the official record of estates, land and tax records. Laban Lupo appears in the household of his father, James on the 1782 census of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, and on a tax list there in 1790. James names Laban as one of the executors of his estate in 1789, along with Laban’s brother James, and Samuel Bidgood. Laban later appears on the 1800 census in Robeson County, North Carolina. After 1800, Laban disappears from records, and is not on the 1810 census of Robeson County, NC, though there is a “Beggy Looper” recorded in Robeson County, who appears to be his widow. While Laban is not my direct ancestor, he was the father of a large family of mostly sons, many of whom had large families of their own. I’ve concluded that most of the Lupos in the Carolinas, and many of those in Mississippi and points West are Laban’s descendants.

The 1782 census of Isle of Wight County, Virginia is represented as a listing of heads of household, but I determined that it’s actually a listing of individuals, which means it included minor children. I came to this conclusion by researching Zachariah Lupo, who appears on the list and, based on his age on the 1810 and 1820 census in North Carolina, could not have been born earlier than 1776. Laban is listed with James and Phillip, demonstrating that Laban was still in his father’s household and not married. On the tax list of 1790, Laban is listed with no one in his household between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. In 1800, other than Laban and his wife, no one in his household is over the age of fifteen, suggesting Laban married no earlier than 1785. He appears in Isle of Wight records until 1790, but does not appear in court when his father’s will is presented, nor does he sign off on the acknowledgement of payment for land sold from the estate to John Womble in 1791.

By 1810, Laban no longer appears on the census, but there’s a listing in Robeson County for “Beggy Looper” and the makeup of the household looks similar to Laban’s from 1800, only ten years older. “Looper” is most likely the census takers attempt at Luper, which is a common variant of Lupo, and “Beggy” appears to be a failed rendering of the name Peggy, which is a common nickname for Margaret. There is no one named Margaret or Peggy Lupo listed on the census in 1782, but in 1790, on estate records relating to James Lupo, Margaret Lupo is one of the signers, along with James Lupo, Jr. and his wife, Ann. Combined with the evidence of the 1810 census, and considering that James Lupo did not mention a daughter named Margaret in his will, it’s reasonable to assume that Margaret is Laban’s wife. On the 1820 census, Margaret Luper is found in Richland County, South Carolina, and her age is consistent with “Beggy Looper” in Robeson County in 1810.

Knowing the first name of Laban’s wife, and that Peggy is a common nickname for Margaret, I searched Isle of Wight County records at Ancestry for women named Margaret or Peggy. In 1781, a man by the name of William Robertson of Newport Parish made out his will (recorded 1782) and mentioned son George and daughter Peggy, and stated that George was not yet eighteen. Since I’ve observed that most colonial and post-Revolutionary wills list heirs in order of their ages, I made the assumption that Peggy was also under eighteen, and younger than George. In 1785, Willis Wilson of Newport Parish made out his will and mentioned Margaret Roberts and Mildred “Loopo” — Laban’s first cousin. Apparently, Willis Wilson was guardian to both Margaret and Mildred. Roberts is probably a shortened form of Robertson, as I’ve noted it was common to drop the final “on” in names that ended with “son”. John Johnson, for instance, was often rendered as “John Johns” in official records. Also mentioned are several Bidgoods and William Carrell, both allied families to the Lupos, and, in fact, William Carrell was Mildred Lupo’s grandfather. It also suggests that as of 1785, Margaret Robertson was still regarded as a minor, meaning she was not more than eighteen to twenty years old. “Beggy Looper” in Robeson County, is listed as over forty-five on the 1810 census, meaning she was born no later than 1765, and if she still has a guardian in 1785, this suggests she was born around 1764-1765. While these records do not definitively prove Margaret Robertson became Margaret Lupo, they do indicate that she was known as Peggy, and they put her in close proximity to many families allied with the Lupos, not to mention Laban’s cousin, Millie, who was also a witness to the will of Laban’s father, and they suggest that Margaret was the right age to have been Laban’s wife.

Those researching the family of Laban Lupo owe a great debt to Edmond Summers Lupo and his grandson James Foster Lupo, both ministers in the Methodist church, and to Foster Lupo’s nephew Harold Homer Lupo, who also spent many years researching the family. In an undated letter to a relative, Summers Lupo provides extensive documentation on the family of his father, John Lupo of Lexington County, South Carolina, which is said to have come from his father. In this letter, Summers Lupo names an uncle, Laban, who he states “went to Mississippi” and an Uncle James, who went to North Carolina when Summers was a young child. He also states some of his father’s family settled in Marion County, SC, which is just across the border from Robeson County, where Laban was active until around 1800-1805. Summers Lupo also states his grandfather died before his father, John — said to have been born in 1798 — was old enough to remember his father. This is consistent with Laban’s disappearance after the 1800 census.

Laban’s oldest son appears to be the William Lupo/Luper who went to Marion County, South Carolina between 1810 and 1820. Here again, the naming conventions in the family create a great deal of confusion, as many researchers have made the assumption that the William Luper who went to Marion County, is the same William Luper who appears on the 1800 census in Robeson County. However, I believe the William Luper from 1800 died not long after 1804, when he witnessed the will of Mary Bell. In April of 1805, a woman named Treacy Luper, who appears to be William’s wife or widow, sued a neighbor, Britton Britt, for maintenance of a “base born” child. This appears to have been Gilbert Luper, who showed up in later Robeson County records before moving to Tennessee with his brother Allen. Treacy proves to be an interesting figure, and I’ve concluded her name must have been Teresa or Theresa, which yielded the nickname Treacy. Those researchers who believe William went to Marion County, cite Treacy’s affair with Britton Britt as the cause of William’s departure, but a considerable amount of time elapsed between when Treacy sues Britton Britt and when William shows up in Marion County. Also, there is a William Luper recorded in 1811 as having been appointed to work on the road, suggesting someone by that name still lived in Robeson County well after Treacy’s relationship with Britton Britt ended. No property, tax, or estate records have been found for a William Lupo or Luper in Robeson County, between 1804 and 1811, and if this was the William from 1800, he should have left behind more of a paper trail. Most of the records that have been found relate to Treacy Luper.

A word should be said for Treacy, who comes across in the records as a fairly remarkable woman. In a time when women were lucky if they were even mentioned by name in their husbands estate records, Treacy married twice, and both times seems to have retained the property given to her by her father possibly as part of her dowry. In general, once a woman married, all her property reverted to her husband. The fact that she had sons by her first husband may have been a factor, since they had a valid claim to any property that had belonged to their father and grandfather. Around 1820, Treacy and her son John sold their interest in a slave identified as “Dol” in records. A year later, son William sold his interest, and then he moved with his brother John to Mississippi. My speculation on the situation with Britton Britt was that he may have promised to marry Treacy after her husband died, then backed out after she became pregnant. Young widows with small children didn’t stay single for very long. It says a lot about Treacy that, in a time when women had almost no rights whatsoever, that she was willing to stand up in open court and accuse Britt of getting her pregnant and demand support from him, and she prevailed. Records indicate Treacy married Silas Ivey shortly thereafter, as she’s identified in court records as Treacy Ivey after 1807.

Examining the records left behind yields important clues that help separate William in Robeson County from William in Marion County. William Luper was no older than twenty-five in 1800, meaning he was born no earlier than 1775. In 1797, he witnessed a deed between Gilbert Cox and another individual, meaning that by 1797, William was already associated with Gilbert, and his association was that he was Gilbert’s son-in-law. This indicates that, by 1797, William was already married to Treacy, which meant he was at least twenty to twenty-one years old. This places his birth between 1775 and 1777, too old to have been Laban’s son as some researchers have speculated. If this was the William who went to Marion County, SC, in 1840 he’d have been over sixty, not in his fifties as was William in Marion County. It makes more sense that the William Luper from 1800 was the son of Laban’s brother, William, who was active in Johnston County, North Carolina until around 1795 and who had sons in the right age range to have been Willliam Luper. Laban, on the other hand, had a son between ten and fifteen in 1800, and Beggy Looper had a male in her household listed between sixteen and twenty-five in 1810. This son would have been in his fifties in 1840. Since Laban had a brother named William, and Margaret most likely had a father by this name, it makes sense they’d name their first son William.

In 1820, Margaret Luper can be found in Richland County, SC which bordered Lexington County, where John Lupo married Mary Price in 1819. These were the parents of Edmond Summers Lupo. William and Phillip Luper show up in Marion County, SC on the 1820 census. Both William and Phillip had very large families. On the 1830 census, William’s age is listed as of 40 and under 50, and in 1840, he’s listed as of 50 and under 60, which would indicate he was born 1781-1790. On the 1880 census, his sons Alexander and Alfred record that their father was born in Virginia, where records indicate Laban lived as late as 1790. If William is the male in Laban’s household listed between ten and fifteen in 1800, this would place his birth between 1785 to 1790, or fifty to fifty-five years old in 1840. Records indicate he died in Marion County around 1843. The correspondence from Edmond Summers Lupo indicates his “uncle Laban” moved to Mississippi, and in 1850, a Laban Lupo can be found on the census there.

Many of Laban’s descendants became ministers in the Methodist church, and there’s a strong possibility that Laban himself was a minister, though there are no definitive records to back this up. Professions aren’t listed on the 1800 census, and records have not been found that indicate Laban bought or sold much land in Robeson County, unlike his brother William, who left a considerable paper trail in Johnston County, NC, that suggests he was a tobacco farmer.

Laban Lupo
born 1761-63, Isle of Wight Co., VA;
died before 1810, Robeson Co., NC

m. Margaret (probably Robertson) between 1785-87
born 1764-65, Isle of Wight Co., VA;
died after 1820, Richland Co., SC

Their suspected children:

William, born 1785-90
m. 1. Martha Pittman
m. 2. Desdemona (Barfield or Rogers)

Two daughters, born 1784-90

One daughter, born 1791-1800

Laban, born ca. 1794
m. Delilah Johnson

John, born 1798
m. Mary Price

James, born 1799-1801

Phillip, born 1799-1801
m. Sarah Anna Campbell

References:

1782 State Census of Virginia

Ancestry.com. Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records, 1639-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

1800 & 1810 United States Federal Census of North Carolina

1820 – 1880 United States Federal Census of South Carolina

1850 United States Federal Census of Mississippi

Estate records from Marion County, South Carolina, 1843

Personal correspondence from Edmond Summers Lupo, Laban’s grandson, which was preserved by James Foster Lupo and Harold Homer Lupo.

In the 1990s, I maintained a mailing list of Lupo researchers who exchanged records and research. Among those active on the list were Lou Pero, Kathy Anderson, Melanie Kelly, and Clay Luper. Much valuable information on the family was exchanged via this list.

I also must acknowledge Jo Church Dickerson, who first introduced me to Laban and his family way back in 1988.

Minds of Their Own

Many years ago, when I was in high school, I saw a film talking about Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, which contained a quote from Ibsen on why Nora leaves at the end. While I don’t recall the exact quote, he essentially said that once he knew the character, he knew leaving was her only course of action. At the time, I recall disagreeing, believing that since he was the writer, he could make the characters do whatever he wanted. I now have a clearer understanding of what he meant.

When I was working on my novel The Long-Timers, which is the basis for my current series The Long-Timer Chronicles, my intention was for Charles and Renee Fox, a couple who have been married for more than eleven hundred years, and who were once members of Shakespeare’s acting troupe, to be the main characters. I also created a secondary character, who was murdered by someone posing as Jack the Ripper, who would come back to life and provide a subplot for the main story about the Foxes. Once I started writing, the character who started out as Vickie Seely and became Victoria Wells, began to grow and develop until she completely took over the whole story. Charles and Renee are still very important characters, and the focus of the second book in my series, called Crazy Like the Foxes, but in the original novel, Victoria Wells was definitely the main character and the main focus of the book. She’s also one of my favorite characters that I’ve created.

Writing is a process of discovery for the writer, and as a work progresses, the characters sometimes take on minds of their own. This was certainly the case with Victoria, who started out as a victim, but grew into a strong and independent woman perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Charles and Renee are, largely, the way I initially envisioned them, but since I started with a blank slate with Victoria, she grew along with the novel and finding new facets of her character was one of the great joys of writing the book. What I ended with was certainly not what I imagined when I began writing, and I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

The same has been true of other characters I’ve created. In my full length play, Rebecca, Too, which started out as a script for a short film that was never produced, the title character of Rebecca didn’t even appear in the earliest draft I wrote. When I sat down to expand the short script into a full-length play, I had a lot of notes I’d written on what Rebecca does, but not who she is. As she developed, her character took on new and sometimes dark aspects, all part of becoming a fully formed individual — on paper at least. As writers, we should not be afraid to let our characters become who they should become. We should abandon our preconceptions and constantly ask ourselves is this action true to who he or she is and are there aspects I’m missing?

I would imagine the process is akin to becoming a parent. When a child is born, parents have ideas about how they’d like the child to develop, or the type of person he or she should grow into. As the child matures, however, new aspects of his or her character may emerge the parent wasn’t expecting. The challenge is knowing when to intervene, to correct potentially damaging behaviors or attitudes, and when to step back and allow the child to discover his or her own path in life. This notion is tied to the general human tendency to categorize and define those with whom we associate, making judgments on how a person thinks and feels, based solely on his or her outward behavior. Scratch the surface and a completely different individual may emerge, which is why someone can have a friend one has known since childhood, without ever realizing that person enjoys ballroom dancing or can speak multiple languages.

As a writer, one should never be afraid to explore aspects of a character that diverge from one’s initial notion of who the character is. As a person, one should never simply assume that those with whom one associates share the same beliefs or have the same attitudes as oneself. Sometimes friendship or courtesy may dictate that another person hides aspects of his or her character, believing them to be uncomfortable or potentially disruptive to the friendship. The challenge for us, as individuals, is to be willing to see those we call friends as they truly are, not simply as we would like them to be. While we may learn truths we find discomforting, we may also be laying the groundwork for an even deeper and more meaningful friendship. We all have minds of our own. We should learn to appreciate the fact that those around us do as well and not be afraid to look beyond the outward facade. Who knows what we might discover?

A Tale of Two Sisters Animated Graphic

A Tale of Two Sisters Animated GraphicThe Long-Timer Chronicles: A Tale of Two Sisters, available at Amazon in print and Kindle format. http://amazon.com/author/gmlupo

The Carvings on Stone Mountain, #4

W. W. Roark, J. W. Mehaffey, 1879

This carving is located to the left of the railing about two thirds of the way up the mountain, as one is ascending. It’s in the cluster that includes the carving for Joe Carter and Annie Logan Anderson, and the carving for the Wells cousins and G. A. Goldsmith. In 1880, J. W. Mehaffey was living near several other individuals who appear in carvings on the mountain or are connected to someone who is.

W. W. Roark, J. W. Mehaffy, 1879, Stone Mountain, GA, 8 May 2015

On the 1880 census, the closest one to the date of the carving, John W. “Mahaffey” was living in the household of his brother-in-law Robert J. Hadden. Marriage records from DeKalb County found on Ancestry, show Robert J. Hadden married Mary E. Mahaffey on 8 April 1876 and one two-year-old child, Katie, appears on the census with them in 1880. John is listed as a rock mason on the census and his birthplace is listed as Alabama, though earlier census records contradict this, placing both his birth and that of his father in Georgia.

In 1880, John, his sister and brother-in-law are living in Stone Mountain. A few houses away is the family of Wilburn R. Wells, whose son, Julius (or J. O.) is the subject of another carving near where J. W. Mehaffey’s is located and in the household listed next to J. W. is the Scruggs family, who’ll be connected to G. A. Goldsmith, whose name appears with J. O. Wells. Nearby is the home of John P. Tuggle, the uncle of Annie Logan Anderson, whose name also appears in the cluster of carvings near the railings on Stone Mountain, so, in all probability, the families knew one another. Given that his profession is listed as a rock mason, this makes John Mehaffey another strong candidate for the person responsible for some of the other carvings in the area.

The census in 1870 finds John W. Mehaffey in living in Stone Mountain in the household of John R. Mehaffey The 1870 census doesn’t list family relationships, but John W. is enumerated just below Mary Mehaffey, 63 years old following John R., Mary H Mehaffey, age 16, and John R. Mehaffey, age 4, suggesting John W. is not the son of John R. He is still listed as having been born in Alabama. In 1860, John W. Mahaffey, age 2, is in the household of T. L. Mahaffey, age 31, whose wife’s name is Ruth. Here, John is listed as having been born in Georgia as was T. L. Also in the household is Mary L., Martha L., and Thomas M. Mahaffey. A publicly posted genealogy on Ancestry lists John W. Mehaffey as the son of Thomas L. Mehaffey and Rutha Bradley.

The Atlanta Constitution lists John’s obituary in the 21 October 1903 edition. In it, he’s identified as a stone cutter. John was 46 at the time of his death and lived on Carnegie Way in Atlanta. The obituary mentions that the funeral will be handled by the stone cutter’s union, of which John was a member, and that services were being delayed pending the arrival of his brother, who was said to be in the east.

In 1880, William “Rowark” age 31, is living in the household of Martha A. Beasley in Stone Mountain, listed as Martha’s nephew. Along with him is Nannie Malcolm, identified as Martha’s niece and said to be widowed. Nannie or Nancy shows up on later census listings with William. William’s birthplace is South Carolina, as is that of his father, and his mother’s birthplace is listed as Ireland. His occupation is given as trader.

On the 1870 census, W. W. Roark, age 22, is enumerated with T. J. Turner, 37, a physician and J. A. Turner, with no relationship listed. Here, his occupation is listed as “Clk in Stone”. W. W. and the Turners are listed in Atlanta, Ward 3, Fulton County. In 1860, William W. Roark is in the household of W. W. Roark in Black Hall, Fulton County, GA. Enumerated with him is his older sister, Nancy D. Roark. Also in the household is Martin J., Elizabeth M., Isadora F., and Samuel A. Roark. The family appears on the 1850 census, already in Atlanta (DeKalb County).

William can be found on the 1900 census living with his sister, Nancy. Find A Grave lists his date of death as 1912 and his burial place as Friendship Primitive Baptist Church in Snellville, Gwinnett County, GA. On the back of his headstone, his last name is spelled “Roeark” though it’s listed as “Roark” on the front. No obituary or death notice has been found for William Roark.

Curious old carving near the mountain top

Stone Mountain Carving, 8 May 2015 #3These images are of another carving I discovered when I was walking up the mountain 8 May 2015. I found it when I went right after getting to the top of the railings and walking parallel to the walk-up trail, only on the other side of the wooded area. I spotted it just as I reached the clearing that revealed the final, steep leg of the walk-up trail. I took photos from two angles, but the carving is so faded, it’s difficult to make out the lettering.

Stone Mountain Carving, 8 May 2015 #2It appears to be “I R S” or “I P S”. The wear suggests it’s very old. I’m open to suggestions on what it may represent.

Atlanta Street Scenes, Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #1

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #2Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #3

I took a walk through downtown Atlanta late afternoon of 3 July and snapped some photos of this massive sculpture in SunTrust Plaza at the corner of Baker and Peachtree Streets. I’ve noticed it before while downtown, usually while walking from Peachtree Center MARTA Station to Baker to pick up the PATH trail to Stone Mountain.

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #4

The plaque states it was designed by architect John Portman and based on a smaller sculpture by Paul Manship entitled Maenad.

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #5

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #6

Ballet Olympia, SunTrust Plaza, Atlanta, GA, 3 July 2015 #7

End Times

As a child, growing up in a conservative Christian household and an evangelical church in the South, I was exposed to end times prophecy throughout most of my formative years, and I must admit, I found it very frightening. The thought that, at any minute, people were going to be called up into the heavens, and those left behind would have to suffer through the reign of the Antichrist was the cause of many nightmares, constantly worrying that I wasn’t living the type of life most likely to spare me from the tribulation. Now forty or more years later, we’re well past the 1980s, when most of the prophecies I heard as a child were to be fulfilled and absolutely none of the events have occurred as they were predicted. My guess is, they’ll never be fulfilled.

My main source for end time prophecies when I was younger was Hal Lindsey in his The Late Great Planet Earth, and 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. The Late Great Planet Earth correctly predicted troubles in Iran before the Islamic Revolution occurred there, and Countdown to Armageddon targeted the year 1988 as the time when we’d see the Antichrist rise and take over the world. This estimation came from calculating one generation following when Israel was recognized as a country in 1948, with a generation calculated in biblical terms as forty years. As it turned out, all we got in the United States in 1988 was the election of George H. W. Bush as president, and while he was named as a contender for the Antichrist by some — as many presidents have been — he never took dominion over all the world, nor dictated that those without a certain mark on their hands or foreheads would be unable to buy, sell or trade anything. There were others who used the Quatrains of Nostradamus to predict calamities befalling the earth, not to mention all other manner of doomsday preachers and self-stilled prophets of destruction. Oddly enough, most of this fervor for the end of days quieted down after the year 2000.

The Antichrist holds a particular fascination for those who follow end times prophecy, and many people have been named as strong contenders for the role, with much “evidence” to support the claim. In my lifetime, the following people have been identified as possibilities for the Antichrist: Nelson Rockefeller, Muammar Gaddafi, Ronald Reagan, both Bush presidents, Saddam Hussein, whoever happens to be the Secretary General of the United Nations at any given time, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Hafez al-Assad, Louis Farrakhan, Anwar Sadat, Yasser Arafat, Ted Kennedy, and Barack Obama. Look at that list. While there are a few similarities between say Arafat and al-Assad, there’s almost no common ground between Obama and the Bushes, or Reagan and Rev. Moon. In fact, just about anyone who assumes authority in any capacity worldwide could be said to fulfill many of the requirements of the Antichrist as they are rather vague and couched in symbolic language.

End times prophecy has been part of Christianity since before the beginning, since many cite the Book of Daniel, which predates Christianity by a hundred or more years, as an early Apocalypse. The Gospels tell us that John the Baptist warned his followers, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” and no less an authority than Jesus himself weighed in on the coming of the kingdom. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power” (With some variations, Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:28, Luke 9:27). Despite this, much of what we recognize as end times prophecy comes from two sources, the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and the Apocalypse or Revelation of John in the New Testament. Both books, while certainly apocalyptic, were probably more about the times in which they were written than about some unforeseen era thousands of years removed, just as science fiction writers of today set stories in the future in order to comment on events and occurrences in today’s society. Jules Verne correctly predicted humans would one day be able to travel under the oceans, and H. G. Wells wrote of a futuristic world-wide conflict, yet no one identifies either of them as prophets in the sense of Daniel or John.

Bending the stories in Daniel or Revelation into futuristic prophecies does a disservice to the very real people who suffered very real persecution under dictators like Nero in Rome and Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucids, who were much more the embodiment of the Antichrist than any modern religious or political leader will ever be. Martyrs were martyrs for a reason. They were viciously slaughtered for their beliefs, not simply counseled to wish someone “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Modern Christians in most Western industrialized nations should have a talk with their counterparts in places like Egypt, Pakistan and North Korea if they think that not being allowed to display a nativity scene on public property is the greatest threat to their beliefs. The mere fact that those who profess to be Christians in the United States are able to complain so vehemently every time some public policy goes against their beliefs, demonstrates why claims of persecution often fall on deaf ears. In fact, the greatest threat facing most traditional Christian churches in America today is the rise of more evangelical Christian sects, aggressively recruiting members for their mega-churches.

This is not to say there have not been attacks on believers and places of worship in the United States, but the motivation behind these assaults is usually not the faith of those targeted. The recent murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was motivated by race and not religion, as many such attacks in the U.S. have tended to be. If this had been meant as an attack on Christianity, any church anywhere would have sufficed, but the shooter chose a specific church that’s been a cornerstone of the African American community for more than a century. In fact, prior to the attack in Charleston, and the recent fires at other Black churches throughout the South, most of the times when Christian churches were targeted for violence in the United States over the past century, it was in places like Alabama and Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement, once again targeting African Americans, and most of those who carried out the violence or condoned it professed to be Christians themselves.

With regards to the anticipated “end of days,” it makes absolutely no sense that any sort of supreme being would go to the trouble of creating the world and populating it with all manner of diverse creatures with the singular goal of destroying it. A being that is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-loving should have far more options in dealing with it’s creations than the total destruction of all life on the planet. Throughout the Bible, we see the evolution of this supreme being from the angry and vengeful YHWH of Genesis to the loving heavenly father spoken of by Paul and echoed in the Gospels. Obviously, the world will end some day — scientists have determined it to be inevitable — but to rationalize it as some sort of divine plan of retribution makes a mockery of the notion of a loving and forgiving god who’s in charge of everything. Most parents don’t become parents just to murder their children. This is not to say parents, even mothers, don’t kill their children, but it’s a serious divergence from the norm, rather than commonplace. If humans, the most disruptive species on the planet, can learn to live and let live, certainly the creator of the universe can come to a similar conclusion.

End times predictions and their consequences are exclusively the domain of humans. It’s highly doubtful that reptiles, birds, fish, or other large mammals such as lions, bears, or chimpanzees have provoked the wrath of a supreme being to the extent that all life must be eradicated, yet they’re just as much a part of the world as we are and would suffer equally if such an entity suddenly decided to end everything in a fiery cataclysm just to teach humans a lesson. The dinosaurs existed for millions of years, and no one has ever attributed their mass extinction to the wrath of a supreme being, even though it most likely occurred as a result of a natural phenomenon such as a comet or volcano. Rather than anticipate or even welcome such a cataclysm, humans would be better served trying to make life on earth more manageable, by not driving other species to extinction or using up the Earth’s resources as though they’re our exclusive property to waste as we choose. If we could spend a little time each day trying to make the world a better place, before long, we might just discover the heaven many aspire to is right here on Earth.