Albert Schweitzer vs. Henry Whipple

Welcome to the Faithful Four! From an initial field of 32 saints, we are down to a holy four: Albert Schweitzer, Henry Whipple, Julian of Norwich, and Andrew the Fisherman.

Today it’s Albert vs. Henry. To get to the Faithful Four, Albert defeated Henry Mühlenberg, Thomas the Apostle, and Cornelius the Centurion. While Henry made it past Jackson Kemper, Clare of Assisi, and Canaire.

So, what happens in this round? Well, throughout Lent Madness, our saintly heroes have battled via basic bios, quirks and quotes, and even kitsch. In this round, we let our remaining Celebrity Bloggers loose as they answer the question “Why should Saint XX win the Golden Halo?” In other words, they’ve been charged with letting us know why their particular saint is so awesome. We have also invited them to share their two favorite images of their saints.

The Faithful Four continues today and tomorrow and then, on Spy Wednesday, 24 hours of voting begins to determine the winner of the 2024 Golden Halo.

The end is near! Vote now!

Albert Schweitzer

Over the years when I’ve made it to this round, I like to use it as an opportunity to reflect and think about what this saint means to me as a Christian. This year, the reflective process seems a little bittersweet as I plan to retire from Lent Madness and because I’m in a funny season of life that it is defined by change and transition. It makes me wonder what Albert would do.

And I keep coming back to what I wrote last round, “To be like Albert, you should dress like Albert, while you spend money on the poor. And while dressed like Albert and look like Albert and pray like Albert, you should care for the world like Albert, because the most important gift Albert left the world was love. He knew that if you sprinkled that care, compassion, intentional faith, walking in service to others in dark and ugly places, that’s where you will find true happiness, and consequently, where you will find God as well.”

In the deepest and darkest places of my personal life, the moments where joy sparked again, were when I leaned into service of others. I think this is what Albert found as a missionary. Sure, like any Christian, Albert had his flaws. It’s easy to judge some of his words, actions, or choices from a modern perspective, but he’s also a polymath/genius that went to those places when others would have pursued greatness and fame, but he pursued people (and cats and dogs and music). When I think of Albert, I think of someone who was so in touch with the sound of God within that it came out in every encounter he had and from those encounters with people and music and writing was where joy, peace, happiness, and love bloomed. Albert didn’t seek out success, he sought out God through service and art and healing and consequently success just happened to follow. And I like to think he likely didn’t care about that success as his soul was fed from pursuit of the song God laid on his heart.

As I sit in my season of change, Albert reminds me of my dad. You’ve heard me write this in years’ past, but my dad always whispered to me, “Soft overcomes hard.” Albert once reflected, “constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”  And so, these two men send me a message in this season and hopefully to you as well, that it’s never wrong to try and be a good human, to lean towards love, even when you don’t like nor understand; to turn to service of others, when your thoughts may be all on the self; and to pause when overwhelmed to enjoy a cat, a dog, some beautiful music and the softer things in life, so that the hardness in your heart may be soothed.

Anna Fitch Courie

Henry Whipple

At some point, I remember having a long conversation with my parents. A phrase from that conversation has stuck with me since then, especially since becoming a parent myself – in parenting, and in life, I was told, we only hope “to make the best choices we can with the information we have at the time.”

That phrase has echoed in my head as I consider Henry Benjamin Whipple. We remember Bishop Whipple for being the first Bishop of the Diocese of Minnesota, and for the choices he made in the place he was called to serve. We recall his championing of the rights of indigenous people against the abuses and unkept promises of the Federal government, and for presiding at the ordination of the first Indigenous Episcopal priest, Enmegabowh.

Yet his legacy is complex. We want our saints to be without blemish, yet invariably, they are not; for they are human, and humans are sinful. Augustine was a philanderer; Jerome was cross and grumpy; Paul had a literal body count. Whipple was not without fault – he was by modern standards an assimilationist, believing that the best way to help indigenous people was to make them integrate them into the norms of white American Protestant Christian culture. He was often blind to the privilege he carried, and as such, his desire to share the good news of the gospel most likely didn’t always present itself as a truly free choice to those he was evangelizing – and force, whether implicit or explicit – is not of God.

Yet I can still count him a saint. Because for all his flaws (and they were undoubtedly many), he made the best and most faithful decisions that lay within him with the information he had at the time. When Whipple made his pleas for clemency following the Dakota War of 1862, his public stance brought him scorn and derision of not only his neighbors, but even of many of his fellow bishops. He did it anyway. When the vast sway of public opinion called for genocide and murder, he used his privilege to speak against vengeance and for mercy – to speak for what he understood to be right. When it would have been easy, permissible, and even lauded to remain silent, Whipple spoke out.

The saints, like Bishop Whipple, shine not for their perfection but because their choice to be faithful – each in their time and place – reveal to our eye a broader view of God’s redeeming purpose in our lives and world. For their moments of courage and faithfulness to the call of Jesus Christ, we give thanks; and for those moments in which human nature is transparently evident in their lives, we commend them to Jesus, knowing that what God cannot bless, God will always redeem.

Whipple chose to make the most correct and courageous decisions he could make from the place where he stood; it is for that courage and wisdom that we can give thanks and find hope.

David Sibley

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66 comments on “Albert Schweitzer vs. Henry Whipple”

  1. Bishop Whipple for his "most correct and courageous decisions" -- may he continue as an example for our times.

  2. Sad to know Anna Fitch Currie will be moving on from Lent Madness. Thank you for all your contributions and especially for today’s compelling argument in favor of Albert Schweitzer.
    I voted for Albert in the earlier rounds. Today I had to cast my vote for Henry Whipple. I pray that in today’s world we may all be blessed with the courage to speak out when silence would be so much easier.

  3. The “appreciation” of Albert Schweitzer today was overpoweringly beautiful and poignant. Anna Fitch Courie touched my heart and strengthened my resolve to “lean toward love” and let the hardness of my heart be softened. Anna, you have served your saint well. May God continue to bless and guide you in your time of transition and change. ❤️

  4. Lent Madness has been both informative and fun!
    Thanks and blessings to all of you who initiated this, put it together, contribute, and help, in any way, the process to continue!!
    Deryck D. Richardson

  5. Anna Fitch Currie will be missed! Such a beautiful compelling write up today, as always. Albert is my choice.

  6. I understand being in a season of change and choices. I was set to vote for Albert because of Anna’s write up. Then I read more about Henry and his standing up for what is right. Today in my first meditation this morning was about when did I stand up for what is right. So because of that I had to go with Henry. He did a really hard thing.

  7. From a 21st century perspective, both these men had the assimilationist mindset, but I'm having to go with Henry Whipple.

  8. Wow! Celebrity bloggers, you outdid yourselves today! As a "veteran" Lent Madness player, Anna Fitch Courie, we will miss you, but wish you many blessings as you traverse the new territory in your life. Human imperfection swayed me today, but both pieces were exceptionally well written. Kudos to both of you!

  9. I thought that Schweitzer would probably win it all, and that I would vote for him. As I reread the write-ups, I am struck by the vision of Henry Whipple, who was able to see beyond the "truths" of his time period that viewed native Americans as less than human and not worthy of our love and understanding or of God's protection. This vision is needed by all of us today. I vote for Henry Whipple.

  10. Both these guys had great white savior mindsets, tbh, Voting for Schweitzer only because he did much less damage.

  11. This was an easy one. Whipple has his charms, but was a product of his privilege, and although me mostly did okay with it, he has more flaws (in my personal viewpoint) than Albert. So, today's pen-pen-ultimate vote goes to Al.

  12. I HAVE TO VOTE FOR Whipple because if the continued history he started for us in Minnesota. He bravely rode around what is our state and pointed to the places to build churches. We still have churches in many of those spots. He bravely went to Washington to plead for the Native Americans and was able to be convincing enough to save many. Unfortunately not all. He bravely stood his ground with other bishops when it was not the popular thing to do. He was really a outlier in his time.

  13. Such fine, even-handed, well-considered writeups today from Anna Fitch Courie and David Sibley. (Anna, we'll miss you; David, we hope to hear from you next Lent.) The decision was hard, but I ultimately voted for Albert Schweitzer on account of his compassionate acts and love of music and cats.

  14. As always at this point in Lent Madness, choices are very hard. I love Anna Fitch Courie's image of "the pursuit of the song God laid on [Albert's] heart." But I'm caught even more by David Sibley's honest recognition of Whipple's flaws; his nuanced engagement of whether and how to judge (or not)saints of the past by contemporary standards; and his examination of the two-edged sword of (often unacknowledged) privilege being put to good use. As a very privileged person struggling with how to live that dilemma faithfully myself, Whipple gets my vote.

  15. I am so happy to vote for Albert Schweitzer again, having been taught about him by my dad from an early age. He was an incredible role model as he shows us how to live with love and how to find his joy in service, while drawing sustenance from his faith, music, writing, cats, and dogs. I hope very much he is the final winner--my personal favorite of all the previous Golden Halo winners.

  16. I voted for each of these during the past weeks but today I went with Albert. Anna, your write-up today was especially touching. (Both you and David were great.) Today it’s Albert. Anna, thank you for your wonderful interaction with Lent Madness.

  17. Disappointing write-up on Whipple by David Sibley..... pretty much tanked it for him. A shame to draft in so much negativity at this point of the contest.

    1. I have to disagree. I think that highlighting Henry Whipple's courageous choices in times so different from our own made a compelling case to vote FOR him!

    2. I appreciated the fact that David Sibley addressed Whipple's flaws, and I think it made for a better writeup than ignoring them would have.

  18. Thank you for a beautiful meditation on Schweitzer, Anna. The portrait of Whipple was also compelling, and the choice was difficult.
    Thank you also to the Lent Madness team for this exercise in faith and humor - one of the best paths toward learning. Your enjoyment is contagious!

  19. Thanks so much Anna for your insightful & helpful things you've written over the years & wishing you all the Best in your future. I so loved your such good advice of "sitting w/the changes" Blessings

  20. First, thank you, Anna! I will miss your writings and wish you all the best in 'transition'.
    I would like to see Albert take the Halo - the main reason being to show that science and faith can be in the same vessel. Perhaps it will open the eyes and heart to those who put science above faith.

  21. All honor to Henry Whipple for all the good he did. He was indeed faithful during the time in which he lived, and I have lived long enough to see times and cultural values change. I can see him in the context of his time and culture and, even though I don't approve of everything he believed, I can leave it in the past and in God's forgiving hands.

    I voted for Albert Schweitzer because I have heard about him since I was in elementary school, and I thought even then that he was one of the most remarkable people who had ever lived or ever would. I believe the line, "They lived not only in ages past," in the well known hymn, and he certainly lived in mine.

  22. This was a hard one. Both men were saints in my eyes. Sometimes making choices that are hard and seem to go against what the “popular “ opinion might be seems to be what Bishop Whipple prayerfully did

    That is why I voted for him

  23. Let’s see, Schweitzer’s photo is of him, babes in arms while Whipple’s photo looks as though he’s severely admonishing a young lady whose ankle is showing. Unintended bias?

  24. "Make the best choices we can with the information we have at the time” - Wow. That is sticking with me as a permanent mantra. If I hadn't gotten anything else out of this year's Lent Madness, that would have done it. Thank you, David Sibley!

    But of course I have gotten much more, especially being introduced to people of whom I otherwise would not have heard, and inspired me to learn more about them, like Henry Whipple. He's had my vote from the beginning.

    I have also been inspired to dig deeper into Albert Schweitzer's legacy. I'm sure there are a *lot* of articles about that; I found this one particularly balanced and insightful:

    In conclusion, thank you to Anna Fitch Courie for your beautiful write-ups throughout the years, and best wishes for a good journey ahead!

  25. Ms. Courie, I have to compliment your writing this season. It probably has to do with awarenesss of the transition ahead, savoring the last of the saint-writing; it shows. But between Zita's vivid historical fiction and this devotional of darling Albert, I really think you've outdone yourself this year. It's been a joyful education. You will be missed.

  26. Hate to see Lent Madness end and say goodbye to Anna Courie. Thank you for a challenge again this year.

  27. Both were assimilationists, but Whipple, despite his more "moderate" views than some others at the time, still founded Indian boarding schools. Indian country has centuries of generational trauma from that cultural genocide. I voted for Albert.

  28. Thank you Anna Fitch Courie for your beautiful writing, today and throughout the seasons of Madness. "Constance would go" is just one of the ideas you planted in my heart that (on good days) flowers in my life. Excuse me while I go slip into something more Albert.