Merle Haggard: RIP

Today, on his 79th birthday, one of the greatest American troubadors of all time died at his home in California.

Merle Haggard, born in Oilfield, was the son of migrants from Oklahoma (“Okies”) who settled in a converted boxcar, where he spent the first nine years of his life. His father died when he was nine and from then on, he lived a hard life, getting involved in numerous petty crimes. He didn’t have to go that route because many recognized his talent –even as a youngster. In any event, it all came to an end when he was imprisoned for a botched armed robbery and he spent three years in San Quentin. It wasn’t a charmed life by any stretch of the imagination.

Still, the Lord works in mysterious ways. While at San Quentin, he saw Johnny Cash perform and he became inspired to do something better with his life. (God bless Johnny Cash, his prison ministry was truly grace-filled, in ways we can only guess.) Upon his release, he worked a series of blue-collar jobs and honed his talent, eventually getting a contract with Tally Records. In all, he had thirty-eight chart-topping hits and won the Grammy Award twelve times.

He understood the plight of the working man, something which neither of our two major political parties (beholden as they are to the Oligarchy) do. Nor did he ever forget his hardscrabble past. This was reflected in his voluminous output. “Working Man’s Blues,” “Mama tried,” and “The Bottle Let Me Down.” and others too many to mention; they all came from the heart.

He wasn’t a saint. Married five times, he knew heartbreak well. Known as “the Poet of the Common Man,” there wasn’t any doubt that he loved this country. “Okie from Muskogee” became an anthem not because it was humorous but because it extolled small-town values. Things like hard work, loyalty, and patriotism.

Contrast his output with that of many modern Country musicians, who seem to have imbibed the thuggishness of Hip-Hop and you can’t help but cry. Contrast his plaintive devotion to ordinary people with the “let them eat cake” derision of modern “conservatives” like Kevin Williamson, who recently penned a diatribe in National Review (where else?) openly calling for extinction of the white working class. I can only imagine what a man of Haggard’s caliber would do to the face of such a pathetic specimen as Williamson and the host of other cuckservatives who are actively selling out their country in the name of globalism.

I’ve said enough. Probably too much. It’s Lent. And I’m sad. May God rest his soul.


  1. Joseph Lipper says

    Merle was very special person, and I appreciated how he saw right through politics. I’m reminded by him how our job as Christians is to pray for our President Obama. Here’s a great piece from Merle from his last interview with Rolling Stone in 2015:

    Merle Haggard:
    “It’s really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he’s doing certain things that he’s not. It’s just a big old political game that I don’t want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I’m sure some of it’s true and some of it’s not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.”
    Doyle asked, ‘What’s the biggest lie out there about Obama?’
    Merle Haggard:
    “He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.”

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Many thanks, Joseph! And may the Lord bless you!

    • I don’t know country music artists so well, Patsy Cline and maybe Johnny Cash, others their single hits, “How much is that doggie in the window” classic, Patty Page, however it would seem to me Johnny Cash would not have been so “shmoozed” like Merle Haggard by Obama.
      Also the other country guy, Willie Nelson, he is more melodious than Merle Haggard though they are both somewhat similar sounding. “now the bo weavle you gotta go home now bo weavle ..”

      • Of course an Elvis off the beaten track is “Elvis Back in Memphis” beautiful Americana. When the Grass something and the Parade when its over, or the fair is over ….

      • Joseph Lipper says

        Cy, what we do know was that Johnny Cash was against the Vietnam War, but he did not take a political stand against President Nixon, and he personally supported the troops by going to Vietnam to perform for them.

        His daughter Rosanne Cash said he was also greatly disturbed by the US invasion of Iraq which happened right before he died. She had this to say:

        “He went to sleep not knowing if we had invaded Iraq. It was the last thought on his mind. When he woke up, I was sitting by his side. He looked at me and reached over to pull the television over to him. He was looking at me like, ‘Did it happen?’ I said, ‘Dad, it happened.’ He went, ‘No! No!’ Can you imagine? This is the first thing he thought of when he woke up from a weeklong coma.”

        Another quote from Rosanne Cash:

        “[My dad] didn’t care where you stood politically… [he] could love all stripes, and that’s why all stripes claim him.”

  2. Tommy Katsarellis says

    April 7, 2016
    The Tomos of Autocephaly: Forty-Six Years Later
    SYOSSET, NY [OCA–Archpriest John Jillions]

    The OCA delegation with Russian hierarchs after the granting of autocephaly in April 1970.

    April 10, 1970 is the day that the Orthodox Church in America received the official proclamation [“Tomos”] granting autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church. From then on, the OCA had the freedom to order its own life, both internally and in relation to the other Orthodox Churches around the world. However, to this day the precise meaning of the OCA’s autocephaly has continued to be a source of controversy in the Orthodox world. Indeed, this is a much bigger issue than just the OCA. The very question of what autocephaly means and who has the authority to grant autocephaly remains charged and unsettled, and for that reason could not be included on the agenda of the Great and Holy Council to be held in June of this year. Thankfully, in spite of disagreements over the precise status of the OCA as an autocephalous Church, Eucharistic communion has been preserved, and for that we can be grateful even as we continue to discuss how to resolve the issues of autocephaly and the fragmented state of Orthodoxy in North America.

    The history recounted below is a completely revised, updated and abbreviated version of an article I wrote for the Tenth anniversary of autocephaly in 1980, which appeared in the February and March editions of The Orthodox Church, edited at that time by the late Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, one of the architects of the OCA’s autocephaly.

    On April 10, 1970, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed the autocephaly of the “Metropolia.” Five weeks later, the official Tomos of Autocephaly, signed by all the Russian bishops and stamped with the Patriarchal seal, was handed over to the delegation of the new Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. What had begun in 1794 as the remotest mission of the Russian Church was now added to the list of fourteen other Orthodox autocephalous churches.

    Tremendous confusion over the meaning and implications of this act made it an issue of bitter contention among the various jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church operating in America. The Moscow Patriarchate saw autocephaly as a simple declaration that its mission in America — which for 50 years had been living in de facto autonomy — was now independent, officially and canonically. The motivation to grant autocephaly to one branch of Orthodoxy here was to bring contemporary Orthodox life in step with its canonical tradition and its historical past in America. Autocephaly was viewed as a step toward the full realization of having one bishop in one district and being a local, i.e., American, Church — the ecclesiological and canonical norm of Orthodoxy. Other jurisdictions, however, beginning with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, considered this a rash claim to exclusive jurisdiction, granting a title and rights that are “disproportionate with reality” without consultation with the other jurisdictions that have staked a claim in America.

    At the outbreak of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that ultimately led to the de facto break with the Moscow Patriarchate, the Metropolia already had more than 100 years of history in North America, and not only in Alaska. There were 320 parishes across the US and Canada, half of which came about as a result of the return of Eastern Rite Catholics (“uniates”) in the missionary work started by Saint Alexis Toth in 1892. The directory of parishes in 1918 includes Arabic, Albanian, Serbian, Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian parishes. This is in addition to the many parishes that were mainly Russian, Galician and Carpatho-Russian. There was a clear sense even then that the Mission in North America could embrace the variety of Orthodox peoples under one ecclesiastical head—“One bishop in one place,” according to the Orthodox principle.

    To better understand what led to the proclamation of autocephaly in 1970, it is important to remember that the “Metropolia,” as the OCA was then called, had been living in a canonical limbo since the 1920s. Because of the “Soviet captivity” of the Russian Church, the Metropolia was fairly bold about its claims to de facto canonical autonomy. Nevertheless, regularization of its status was desirable not only to settle its own inner life, but equally to help move toward the realization of Orthodox unity in America. By the 1960s, the internal state of affairs of the Metropolia was stable enough for it to consider options for resolving both its ambiguous status vis-a-vis Moscow and the blatantly uncanonical pluralism of jurisdictions.

    The founders of the OCA’s autocephaly saw the step in 1970 as a temporary measure until the time of that a full autocephaly could include all the Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. The main question in the late 1960s was how to regularize our own status vis-a-vis the Russian Orthodox Church, which at the time was still very much oppressed by the Soviet government. Autocephaly answered that dilemma. But it was equally understood that the OCA’s autocephaly was a step along the way to the full unity of the Orthodox Church in North America.

    In retrospect, there were three routes that could have been taken as the Metropolia contemplated how to regularize its canonical status.

    The Metropolia could seek the patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. But at the time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate believed that the Metropolia should return to its Mother Church, the Moscow Patriarchate. In 1965, the Patriarch of Constantinople had dissolved its Russian Exarchate in Western Europe (since restored) on the grounds that conditions were now “normal” in the Soviet Russia and that Russian Churches in the West should submit to Moscow.
    The most radical solution would have been to declare the Metropolia autocephalous on its own authority. Many of the modern autocephalies in fact began this way, with formal recognition coming years after the de facto break. Clearly, this was not in the interests of a peaceful resolution to the problem of disunity in America.
    The option that was canonically and practically most feasible was to negotiate with the Mother Church, but with the strict proviso that independence be swiftly given. Anything less would be returning to the past, a return which was unacceptable given the increasing heterogeneity of the American Church and the very different social structures under which the two Churches existed at that time—keep in mind that this was still the Soviet period. A return to the Mother Church purely and simply would only have added another jurisdiction to the already jurisdiction-bound Church in America — one more tacit agreement to the status quo of multiple jurisdictions.

    The Metropolia’s reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate began as early as 1961, with informal talks between representatives of Moscow and the Metropolia at the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, India. It was understood that autocephaly was an accepted goal. By 1963, negotiations had been formalized, but the initial talks were inconclusive. They resumed again only in 1968, and this renewed effort was a decisive step forward.

    The negotiations were not kept secret, and the rest of the Orthodox world was informed. But there was a swift and unexpected reaction from Constantinople. The letters of the Ecumenical Patriarch to Moscow were adamant: only an Ecumenical Council, or at the very least the Patriarch of Constantinople himself, has the right to grant autocephaly. The subsequent back-and-forth correspondence is extremely valuable for pinpointing the difficulties raised by the negotiations. (The Saint Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 15:1-2 is a special issue devoted to the OCA autocephaly and includes the correspondence between the Patriarchs of Moscow and Constantinople plus other articles and documents. This was also published separately as Autocephaly, SVS Press, 1971.)

    At the center of the dispute was the very term “autocephaly.” Each side was interpreting the term in quite different ways. To Constantinople, “autocephaly” implied first of all that the OCA was claiming exclusive jurisdiction in America, that it was the only legitimate Orthodox Church in America. For Moscow, the term “autocephaly” had none of the implications that Constantinople claimed it did. Autocephaly meant essentially that the Church, which was formerly under its canonical authority, was now independent. In other words, the whole process of granting autocephaly was “an internal matter of the Russian Orthodox Church.” In contrast, expressing the fear of the Greek Churches, Archbishop Iakovos stated, “They will seek the gradual coercion of others, or the actual subjection to them of all Orthodox churches in America when they believe possible” [Letter to the Patriarch of Antioch, May 1970.] For Moscow, however, there was no question of “interfering in the affairs of other sister Churches, having their own branches in America” [Patriarch Alexis to Patriarch Athenagoras]. There was a great deal of misunderstanding over the 1970 autocephaly because they were not talking about the same thing.

    It is important to remember that autocephaly was not granted simply for the purpose of forming another permanent jurisdiction. The OCA claims, therefore, that while it does not encroach upon the rights of other jurisdictions, its autocephaly was granted as a basis for unity pending agreement between all Orthodox Churches in America—and possibly, a final approval of a future ecumenical council. The Church must be unified but also, as Metropolitan Ireney wrote in 1966, it must be “a local, permanent American Church, bound for all time with this land and with this people.”

    Visit the photo gallery outlining the granting of autocephaly in April 1970.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    “Bound for all time with this land and with this people.”

    Whatever else we have we don’t have that. My concern is that the only way we will have that at this point is if we have marytrs. The Western culture is so antithetical to Orthodox faith. Protestant secularism had inoculated us against the truth no matter how much we quote the Fathers.

    One thing for sure no amount of sanctimonious posturing will produce it. Each of us following Matthew 6 probably would but even that can turn into secular dogooderism.

    The Cross is the way of Christ not figuring out who amongst us are heretics. Believe me, in this culture, we are all deeply infected with heresy, usually multiple ones.

    Let us “take the logs out of our own eyes”

    • M. Stankovich says

      Michael Bauman,

      You are absolutely corrective in your observation, and while it is true that we must all take up the Cross and scrutinize our hearts and our community, we have never been relieved in our responsibility to the Lord Himself: “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20) In saying that, we likewise acknowledge the obvious: 1) the Truth is irresistible except to those whose hearts are hardened, yet, as I noted previously from St. John Climacus

      In any conflict with unbelievers or heretics, we should stop after we have twice reproved them [cf. Titus 3:10]. But where we are dealing with those who are eager to learn the truth, we should never grow tired of doing the right thing [cf. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we do not grow weary.
      Gal. 6:9]. And we should use both situations to test our own steadfastness.

      Or 2) they have not seen the Truth presented in a manner by which it should be irresistible, and that is our fault alone. After us there is no one and nothing but chaos. For this we were chosen, and for this we will answer.