Friday, April 16, 2010

John Pairman (Jock) Brown (5/16/23 - 4/5/10)

John Pairman (Jock) Brown passed away on April 5, 2010. He was a lecturer at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in the sixties, a visiting scholar at GTU and active in Friends of the Library for many years. In addition to his scholarly efforts, much of his activities supported peace and justice through such organizations as the Ecumenical Peace Institute, an arm of Clergy and Laity Concerned.

Brown initiated the Sacred Text lectures at the library in 1993, providing the very first address: What Makes a Text Sacred? The lecture continues as one of GTU's most interesting annual events.

Son of two mathematicians (Eleanor Pairman and Bancroft Brown), he studied mathematics and the classics at Dartmouth and Harvard, served in the US Army Air Corp, and received a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He taught classics at the American University in Beirut and then returned to the US.

Brown was a mentor for Richard York, directing minister of the Berkeley Free Church, which ran from 1967 to 1972. Brown became the resident theologian to the church, applying his profound knowledge of classical literature and the New Testament to the experimental ministry. He was beaten by police without provocation during one of the many protests in the late sixties. Such incidents and the difficulty in finding a hospital that would treat street people, led to founding the free medical clinic in Berkeley. His house became a central point for processing donations to pay legal expenses for those arrested during the initial People's Park protests. His wife Emily Waymouth Brown created and managed Win with Love (4 publications 1969-1971), described as "A Comprehensive Directory of the Liberated Church including Peace organizations; Youth Switchboards; National resource groups; Immigrant aid centers in Canada."

Beginning with a great deal of media attention and influencing the creation of support services on multiple levels in Berkeley, the Free Church collapsed in a whimper of internal struggles in 1971-72. Brown continued his work for peace and wrote his well received writings on Israel and Hellas.

Brown's style is supremely clear. Below is a sample, addressing the need to study the past, from the preface of Ancient Israel and Ancient Greece: Religion Politics and Culture (2003, p x.):
In decades when the human race faces unprecedented dangers--political, military, environmental--I propose that one necessary feature of our response is to study how we got where we are. From the civilizations of the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates we can learn most of all not to repeat their false starts; from Iran ...the dangers of imperialism. Rome, heir to both Israel and Greece, as well as of Iran and the Hellenistic empires, is here seen as a bridge to the ambiguities and dilemmas of our world. In the end, then, this work is a plea for better and deeper understanding of the societies that lie behind us in our best moments."

Brown is well worth further study. His books and articles on Israel and Hellas are available in the library. His efforts for peace and justice, as well as liturgical reform, can be found in materials from the Berkeley Free Church Collection, which links to images on line, and from his books, several of which are on Internet Archive. A few images and two articles about him are at our Digital Content site.

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