Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"AUgusteen" or "A-GUST-in?"

For centuries scholars have been trying to figure how the great Bishop of Hippo's name should correctly be pronounced. I, of course, pronounce it the correct way: "AUgusteen," with the accent on the first syllable and a long "e" sound at the end of the name. Several of my colleagues on the theology side of the aisle insist that the correct pronunciation should be "A-GUST-in" with the accent on the second syllable and the last syllable pronounced as the word "in."

I remember a professor in seminary that used to pronounce the name the way my theology colleagues pronounce it and then he would add, "or "AU-gus-teen" for those who are intellectually challenged!" (I'm not sure those were the exact words but it was something to that effect). With a professor that insistent on a particular pronunciation, I wonder why I chose the alternative, although I could have been in the category he described who used the "AU-gus-teen" pronunciation.

On my final exam in my Reformation class last week, I decided to put my students to the test. An identification question on the test read: "The Correct Pronunciation of the name “Augustine.” The students were then required to explain to me the correct way to pronounce the name. Interestingly, not a single student disagreed with my pronunciation!

I also decided to consult my dissertation advisor, Dr. Bill Pitts, of Baylor University because I figured that he would surely know the right pronunciation. He also agreed with me. He indicated that: (1) the most practical reason for the accent being on the first syllable of the name is to prevent confusion with the "Augustan" age of Roman literature, the era of Emperor Augustus Caesar when the finest of Roman literature flourished; and (2) during the 18th century in England the best writers modeled themselves after the "Augustan" writers in classical antiquity. Consequently, the 18th century is called the "Augustan" period in English Literature. So, Dr. Pitts concludes: "unless one is willing to ignore a huge branch of humanities—namely, literature—it is best to reserve that pronunciation for these two eras of enormously productive literature while using the traditional pronunciation for our most influential theologian."

That settles it for me! I shared all that with my theologian friends and even that won't convince them. I'm open for suggestions!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Balthasar Hubmaier

It was my church history professor and mentor in seminary, W. R. Estep that first introduced me to Balthasar Hubmaier. The first time I saw his name in writing I thought, "how do I prounce it?" But, it didn't take too many class sessions in Dr. Estep's course on the Anabaptists before the name became so common that all of us knew how to pronounce it.

The brilliant Hubmaier was born around 1481 in a small town called Friedberg just outside of Augsburg. He attended the University of Freiburg and there came under the tutelage of the great Catholic theologian Dr. John Eck. Hubmaier completed both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees then followed Eck to the University of Ingolstadt where he received the Doctor of Theology degree. Eck once called Hubmaier the most brilliant student he'd ever been associated with. Because of his great preaching ability and keen theological mind he accepted appointment as preacher at the cathedral in Regensburg in 1516. Five years later he became a parish priest in Waldshut and there came into contact with Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation. Two years later, he became publicly identified with Zwingli’s reform in Zurich, but soon developed Anabaptist ideas.

Along with his preaching, Hubmaier’s pen became a powerful voice for spreading Anabaptist ideas. Soon, he came into conflict with Zwingli and in late 1525 Zwingli had both Hubmaier and his wife arrested. He was forced to enter the pulpit of the Fraum√ľnster in Zurich and recant publicly. As he began to speak instead of recanting he said, “Oh what anguish and travail I have suffered this night over the statements which I myself have made. So I say here and now, I can and I will not recant.” Zwingli immediately stopped Hubmaier and had him arrested again. This time he underwent torture at the hands of Zwingli and eventually produced a written statement recanting of his Anabaptist ideas.

In early 1526 he left Zurich for Nikolsburg in Moravia where once again he took up the Anabaptist cause, this time with greater force than before. Moravia was one of the most tolerant regions in Europe and Hubmaier had a great amount of freedom to preach Anabaptist ideas there. It is estimated that more than 6,000 were baptized in the one year of Hubmaier’s ministry in Nikolsburg. But this year of relative peace was not to last long. The fortune of Anabaptists in Moravia soon changed and Hubmaier was arrested, taken to Vienna, and burned at the stake on March 10, 1528. Although tortured mercilessly for several days before his death, this time he refused to recant. He was urged to confess to a priest and receive last rites before his execution but he steadfastly refused. An eyewitness to his execution described Hubmaier’s death this way:

To the people he said, “O dear brothers, if I have injured any, in word or deed, may he forgive me for the sake of my merciful God. I forgive all those that have done me harm.”

While his clothes were being removed: “From thee also, O Lord, were the clothes stripped. My clothes will I gladly leave here, only preserve my spirit and my soul, I beseech thee!” Then he added in Latin: “O Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” and spoke no more in Latin.

As they rubbed sulphur and gunpowder into his beard, which he wore rather long, he said, “Oh salt me well, salt me well.” And raising his head, he called out: “O dear brothers, pray God that he will give me patience in this my suffering.”

As his beard and hair caught fire, he cried out, “O Jesus, Jesus.”

Associated Baptist Press has this story today about the original writings of Hubmaier: http://www.abpnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3667&Itemid=53.

It seems that in just a few months all the writings of Hubmaier are going to be accessible on the internet. Great news about this nearly forgotten Anabaptist reformer! I have told my classes for years that if Hubmaier had lived out his full lifespan his influence in the 16th century might have rivaled that of Luther and Calvin.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good for Decatur FBC!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article about FBC Decatur and its pastor, Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell. She was selected as the church's first ever female pastor last year. Furthermore, the church, with 2700 members is the largest Baptist church in the South to be headed by a female pastor.

Her presence as pastor of such a prominent Georgia Baptist church has been a thorn in the flesh to the Fundamentalists who control both the SBC and the Georgia Baptist Convention. So, it remains to be seen what action, if any both entities will take toward FBC Decatur. Knowing Fundamentalists as I do, I suspect both entities will seek some kind of "punitive" action toward the church. After all, they can't possibly be seen cooperating with a church that (in their twisted way of thinking) so violates the letter of scripture!

The article can be found at this link:

The best quote in the article is this: "If they would like to ask us to leave the Southern Baptist Convention, I think that’s fine,” Roper said. “I think our new minister is wonderful.”

Good for you Ms. Roper! And good for you all FBC Decatur! What a wonderful example to the rest of the Baptist world!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is This the Future of the BSCNC?

Several bloggers last week, most notably Tony Cartledge, have already included stories about the recent action of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Here's Tony's blog with the wrap-up:


From my point of view, I found one portion of the convention positive since it approved the new relationship between the five colleges and universities and the convention. However, I thought the discussion about the CBF and the giving plans last Wednesday to be particularly nasty. I left the convention thinking to myself that after 15 straight Baptist State Convention meetings, this will probably be my last. I know where I'm not wanted.

I was resolved to all this as I returned home. Then I read Tim Rogers' blog:


I know Tim. I've always had a cordial relationship with him. I find his blog to be interesting. But he has a paragraph in his recent blog that I found to be chilling. He says:

"Also, there needs to be a call now to the head offices in Cary that NC Baptist have clearly stated we are not CBF. Thus, an employee at the convention offices should be a member of a NC Baptist church not one that is dually aligning themselves with the CBF and the BSCNC. We had the clarion call today during the budget vote that we will not even give you an opportunity to send funds through us to the CBF. We certainly should be able to say we want you attending a BSCNC church."

First, I don't know what the "head offices in Cary" means but I assume he means the BSC Executive Director/Treasurer, Milton Hollifield. And, I'll let slide the fact that the plural of "Baptist" is "Baptists" with an "s" added on to the end. But, more importantly, is Mr. Rogers calling for the termination of all BSC employees who belong to churches that may have a few members who choose to give through their church to CBF? I know some segments of the conservative movement in the BSC want a "pure" convention or to put it another way, a convention that promotes only their understanding of theology and the Baptist tradition. But, seriously, is there now going to be an attempt to purify the employees? Perhaps so. Is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 next going to be imposed on convention workers? Maybe. Is this where the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is headed? Is the tent going to be drawn even narrower? Surely, Mr. Rogers is not advocating the mass termination of these employees at the BSC, however many there may be.

I imagine that it would be a terrible thing to be terminated from one's employment. That would especially be the case with the current problems in our economy. Where's the compassion?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-Elect Obama

I am overcome with emotion and pride for my country right now. I haven't felt as proud to be an American since that July night in 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the surface of the moon.

Last summer while I was at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowhsip meeting in Memphis, I went to the National Civil Rights Institute built around the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was killed. I literally stood feet from the spot where he fell to an assassin's bullet. I remember thinking how historic it would be if Senator Barack Obama would be elected president in a few months.

In his last speech in 1968, literally the evening before Dr. King was killed, he said these words:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

I realize that "we, as a people" in that immediate context, referred to the African-American people for whom he was working. But, if I may, I'd like to interpret those words tonight a little bit more broadly. "We, as a people" refers to all Americans and tonight all Americans are standing on the mountaintop with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Our nation is truly better tonight because of this election!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank You Martin Luther!

On this evening, exactly 491 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The "95 Theses" concerned the sale of indulgences (forgiveness of sin in return for a certain amount of money) which, given his shift in theology, particularly his doctrine of salvation, Luther thought was reprehensible.

I have sort of resisted saying that this act "started" the Reformation because I usually like to give some credit to "pre-Reformation" reformers like Hus and Wycliffe. Nevertheless, Luther's protest against the sale of indulgences was the spark that was needed that set off the powder-keg in the 16th century called the Reformation.

And so, this evening, I think it is good to remember and celebrate the life and work of this great man, Martin Luther!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Is a Sad Day For Me

I've been in a melancholy mood today. My mother and father are moving today from the home they have had since 1967 on Trexler Avenue in Rockwell, NC. They have made a decision to move to Aldersgate, a Methodist retirement center in Charlotte. They are getting along in age and although still healthy, they are thinking about the future. There are many reasons why this is the right thing to do. And, I have no doubt about that. In fact, their house sold in 1 week without even having to list it with a realtor! And that was in this current real estate market! It is the right thing for them. They will have a very nice apartment and when they need it, they can transition to a room in the nursing home. Furthermore, it is probably the last really big gift my parents can give to me and my sister (who lives in Charlotte). We will not have to be faced with the terrible question of "what do we do with daddy?" or "what do we do with mama?" So, this definitely is the right thing to do.

Still, I am sad today. For 41 years that little house on Trexler Avenue was my "home." There have been 41 Christmas gatherings there. From sleepy Christmas mornings that suddenly became magical when we realized that Santa had visited, to Christmases of recent years when "mom" and "dad" have become "maw-maw" and "paw-paw." I brought my first high school sweetheart over to that house to meet my parents. I brought friends from college home for weekend visits to that house. I brought my wife Pam to that house 20 years ago all the way from Texas to announce that we were getting married. Every inch of the backyard and the field beside our house still bears the marks of sandlot baseball or football games or lazy summer days playing with neighborhood friends. The walls in that house bespeak many, many happy times. There were also times when we cried together when grandma died or when granddaddy died and other deaths that touched our family. There were stressful times when mom and dad worried about how the next bill would get paid or how they were going to have the money to send my sister and me to college. But, overall, that house is testimony to a wonderful childhood with the best parents that I could have ever hoped for.

I dialed my parents' phone number last night for the last time. I wanted to see how mom and dad were doing. "I don't know if I'm going to get to bed at all tonight," my mother said. "There is still so much to do!" I'd heard those words before. Late nights doing laundry so that we would have clean clothes to wear. Late nights grading papers so her students would have an idea of how they were doing in her class. Late nights cooking for a church covered-dish lunch. Those words were familiar sounding. But, for me, calling the phone number for the last time was emotional. And, talking to momma over the phone was emotional as well. I remembered the week I went to basketball camp the summer of 1969 when I got so homesick that I had to put quarters in a pay phone and call momma. I remembered all the nights from college that I called home to share what was going on in this new academic community I had joined. I remembered calling from Texas so homesick when I first went to seminary in Fort Worth. I have a lifetime of memories calling that number.

A few weeks ago, I moved some furniture to our house which became bedroom suits for my daughters. I was last at the house a few days after that for some more things. I loaded up the van with as many of my dad's tools as I could get and carried them home to Buies Creek. As I put them all up in my toolshed last Saturday, I couldn't help but think that one day my daughters will be gathering my things and splitting them up as well. And one day my daughters will be saying good-bye to the old homeplace also. I guess that's how life goes. We move from one stage to another.

Still, I'm a bit melancholy today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elizabeth Dole's "godless" ad

Today, the Elizabeth Dole campaign put up an ad that is sleazy, makes false claims, and is beneath the dignity of a United States Senator. But, she's behind in the polls and facing possible defeat from State Senator Kay Hagin so the ad smacks of desperation. The fact that Elizabeth Dole is one of the least effective senators in North Carolina history should be what voters are focused on. The fact that even though she grew up in North Carolina, she has lived her adult life outside of the state except when she moved back here to run for Senate should be a matter for the voters to focus upon. The fact that during the six years she has been in the Senate she has hardly visited the state of North Carolina and done absolutely nothing for the state should be the focus of the voters. But instead, in order to hide a shameless lack of effectiveness as a senator, she pulls out a sleazy ad like this.

See the ad for yourself here:


Now for the facts:

(1) Kay Hagan is a devout Christian who teaches Sunday School and is an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, NC. Furthermore, she lives out her faith in practical ways. A family tradition with her husband and children every Christmas morning is to go to the Bell House in Greensboro, a residential facility for severely mentally retarded adults where they cook Christmas morning breakfast for the residents and staff.

(2) The fundraiser in question was held in September and was hosted by more than 40 hosts including Senator John Kerry and furthermore, Hagan has never in her life heard of the "Godless PAC." This is more "guilt by association" that Republicans are playing as desperation "hail Mary" passes.

Don't let Elizabeth Dole get away with this sleaze. Vote for Kay Hagan and put a North Carolinian in the Senate who will truly work for our state.

Friday, October 17, 2008

John McCain "Pals Around" With Terrorists

Most intelligent Americans think that the McCain/Palin suggestion that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists" (in reference to several professional contacts with William Ayers) is simply put, a bunch of horse hockey. The story has been investigated thoroughly by major, reputable investigative journalists and there is simply nothing there. Ayers does not advise Obama. Ayers is not going to have a role in his administration. He is, at the very most, simply someone that Obama knows from Chicago.

Using the McCain campaign's twisted "guilt by association" tactic though, let's talk about G. Gordon Liddy. Those of you that are my college students may not know who he is. He was one of the Watergate conspirators, in fact, the only one that was "unrepentant." He was a true believer in Nixon and what Nixon was doing in the White House. He was the chief operative of the "White House Plumbers" group organized out of the Nixon White House to do domestic and political "dirty tricks" on political opponents. Ultimately, this is where the Watergate break-in came from.

But let's look at bit closer at G. Gordon Liddy. He spent 4 1/2 years in prison for his role in the break-in. He is a convicted felon. Furthermore, he admits in his own autobiography that he once planned to assassinate liberal columnist Jack Anderson with his Watergate co-conspirator E. Howard Hunt. On his radio talk show during the seige on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in 1993, he made this statement to the Branch Davidians, "Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests. ... Kill the sons of bitches." And, perhaps worst of all, he once conspired to fire-bomb the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. where the classified documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg were being stored.

Yes, you heard it right. G. Gordon Liddy was convicted felon, Watergate conspirator, who plotted to kill another American and plotted to fire bomb a Washington, D. C. building. And, he advocated the use of violent force against the American government at the Waco Branch Davidian seige. There are other things about him as well. He is not a nice person to say the least!

And now the clincher. In 1998 G. Gordon Liddy hosted a fundraiser in his own home for the re-election campaign for ???? You got it! John McCain!!! (here's the source: Kamen, Al (March 9, 1998), "A Host With Conviction", The Washington Post: A17) And, over the years, he has referred to McCain as his "old friend" and has contributed thousands of dollars to McCain's campaigns, including at least $1000 in 2008.

So, if Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists" for his supposed association with a man who is a "domestic terrorist," what makes John McCain's association with G. Gordon Liddy any different?

(For a good source that pulls these facts together, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._Gordon_Liddy#cite_note-5)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Need a Caption for This Picture

This photograph was captured last night at the end of the debate between Senators Obama and McCain. You supply the caption.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain Has Not a Shred of Decency Left

After a week of whipping up his supporters into a Nazi-style frenzy against Barack Obama, McCain has nothing but points lost in the polls to show for it. It has not helped his campaign at all. In fact, it has hurt his standing in the polls.

McCain has spent a week raising doubts about the character of Obama, a campaign tactic that is tried and true and quite frankly fair game. However, what McCain has done is that he has gone far beyond standard campaign rhetoric. He and Palin have manipulated the anger of their die-hard believers into focusing their wrath, not on the problems of the economy and how they were created, but on Barack Obama himself. They have done this by portraying him as a dark and sinister character who can't be trusted. They have played into the ignorance of the "low information voters," the folks out there who work hard, obey the laws, try to pay their bills, and have been hit hard by the economic woes. But nevertheless, these people are prone to believe the internet rumors and urban legends about Obama such as the outlandish claim that he is a Muslim. If people believe he's a Muslim, the McCain camp knew that it wouldn't take much to get them to connect the dots by associating him with William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. They have now, for this small segment of the electorate, created a dangerous brew of leading these people to believe that Obama is somehow un-American, an Arab, someone who consorts with terrorists, or even worse, a terrorist himself who is a part of an American sleeper cell.

This has got to stop. Bob Shrum today on the Huffington Post, has a good article about this. He recalls the McCarthy Hearings which ran out of steam when Boston attorney Joseph Welch said to McCarthy, "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last have you left no sense of decency?"

Shrum says that someone should say those words to McCain. Indeed the wrath and anger generated at the McCain/Palin events could cause violence. That's why I say something "Nazi-like" is in a surreal way taking hold. Shrum ends his column tonight with this paragraph:

"The reality is that in an America facing two wars and a mounting economic crisis, these despicable appeals aren't working. Obama's lead is mounting, nationally and in the battleground states. But there is a threat here too that is all too real. When I heard someone in a Palin crowd yell out "traitor" as the candidate lashed out at the Democratic nominee, I thought of the full-page ad that appeared in a Dallas newspaper on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. The headline -- "Wanted for Treason" -- was sprawled across a poster-sized photo of President John F. Kennedy." (Here's the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-shrum/time-to-ask-mccain-have-y_b_133814.html).

God help us!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"I Want My Country Back!"

As he did in 2004 for John Kerry, Bruce Springsteen is on a short tour through swing states working to get Barack Obama elected as president. Here's his short speech in Philadelphia this weekend. I don't know if it has an official title but I have titled it after a phrase in the speech: "I Want My Country Back!"

"Hello Philly,

"I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

"I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

"I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

"I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

"They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

"So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising."

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain and Palin Clearly on the Dark Side

John McCain's campaign is looking more and more desperate. It has been happening ever since he made the statement that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong," then spent the rest of the week bouncing around the economic issue like a pinball bouncing off of rubber bumpers before it finally slides by the flippers. Quite frankly, two weeks ago, McCain scared me to death. At the end of the week, desperate to gain the "upper hand" on the economy issue, he suspended his campaign to go back to D.C. and whip up the Congress into action. Some leader! After he'd been there for a day, one Senator publically begged President Bush to tell John McCain to go back on the campaign trail so that they could get some work done.

So, here we are two weeks later. McCain's dream of being president is clearly slipping away from him. Independents are now polling toward Obama in large numbers. Obama now has a solid lead in all the "Kerry" states and he could possibly turn some solid red states into battleground states. This weekend, Sarah Palin was in Nebraska of all places. When a Republican v.p. candidate has to campaign in Nebraska 30 days before the election, you can bet the party is in trouble.

And then she started the talk about William Ayers. She finally read a newspaper, the New York Times, and saw the story about Obama's very casual connection with Ayers, a 1960s radical who is now a citizen in Chicago. Did he do some very bad things in the 1960s? Yes? Should he have been prosecuted? Yes. But the fact is that (1) He hasn't done any "terrorist" acts in at least 40 years and (2) There is no evidence that Obama has anything more than a casual acquaintance with him. So, here's what Governor "Perky" said about him:
"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." And then she said this: "This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America."

Do you see what's happening here? They are trying to create suspicion about Obama. They are trying to create a narrative about him. They are trying to "swiftboat" him. By saying that he's connected to a 1960s radical, (a terrorist) they lead people to go mentally to his name "Barack Hussein Obama." That then leads to the Jeremiah Wright stuff with the thought that maybe Obama "hates his country." Or, perhaps it plays into the silly paranoia that he's really a Muslim.

Sarah Palin ought to be ashamed of herself. This is sleaze to the power of 10! The McCain Campaign is out of options. So they are slinging mud against the wall hoping something will stick. Here's the thing. Our nation is in perhaps the worst potential crisis of my lifetime. We are fighting a war on two fronts that has no end in sight. Our economy is very close to a deep recession, if not depression. The Dow fell today more than 800 points. People are losing their jobs. Banks are failing. And instead of the McCain Campaign inspiring the electorate with hope. Instead of making voters feel like as Americans we can be strong again. Instead of offering solutions and reasons why they should vote for him, McCain and his surrogates spend the last 3 days talking about a 1960s radical who did dispicable acts when Obama was 8 years old! Talk about out of touch!

Here's what Barack Obama ought to do tomorrow night in the debate. He needs to find the moment when this crap about Ayers comes up. And he ought to say this:

"John, you and I have served together in the U.S. Senate for several years now. We are colleagues. Are you saying that you truly believe that I have been consorting with terrorists who want to destroy our country? Do you stand by that statement? If so, that is a monumental charge to make against a fellow U.S. Senator duly elected by the state of Illinois. If you truly believe this, why are you not calling for hearings? And if William Ayers is so dangerous, why has not the Department of Homeland Security called him in for questioning under the Patriot Act? Do you truly believe this about me? Do you stand by those comments?"

That would put McCain on the defensive and it would electrify the press. Tomorrow's debate should be interesting.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

McCain Missed a "Golden Opportunity"

Last night, the Senate passed the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." That is the formal name of the "Bailout" package that Congress has been working on since last week.

If you read my blog, you will know that I am a partisan Democrat. I just need to say though that I am outraged at what happened last night. The bill was "sweetened" with more than $100 billion in tax cuts mostly for businesses and the middle class. In other words, "PORK!" Now, I am not opposed to tax cuts for the Middle Class and for small business. Neither is Barack Obama. But such things had no place in this bill! Let's get the economy working again and then talk about such things.

Have you heard of some of the things in the "sweetener?" Tax breaks for rum producers in Puerto-Rico and the Virgin Islands? It's in there! "Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children." That is actual language in the bill! Amazing!

But, here's the big picture. If John McCain was truly the "Maverick." If he truly wanted to "shake up Washington" and "take a pen to earmarks." If McCain truly wanted to cut spending, why did he vote "yes" for this bill?

I know we needed some kind of bill to get credit flowing again. And, I'm upset about the pork in this bill. But, wouldn't it have completely shaken up the campaign if last night McCain would have come into the well of the Senate and said something like this:

"My friends, I rise today to register my disapproval of the pork that is in this bill. At the time when our nation is suffering its worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, when the nation is looking to us for leadership, we want to pass a bill with $100 billion of extra spending. I have been campaigning all over the country and telling the nation that when I become president I am going to cut out the wasteful spending in Washington. Well, I'm starting right now by voting against this bill and its pork. And, I call on you Senator Obama to do the same!"

Now, I'm an Obama supporter. But, a speech like that would have been a game changer for McCain. It would have put Obama on the defensive and the press would have still been talking about it today. But McCain missed it. Once again, a sign that he is not what he says he is. McCain is not a Washington outsider (like he's been trying to tell everyone).

So, you take away McCain's "Maverick" persona, what do you have left? An angry old man with 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.

Monday, September 29, 2008

WaMu CEO Walks Away With $20 Million

Alan H. Fishman was CEO of Washington Mutual for 17 days before the bank failed last week. For his 17 days on the job, while investors and employees lose millions, he will walk away with $20 million.

Just more evidence that Wall Street's greed has driven our economy to the brink of disaster. This happened on the Republican watch. They had the White House and the Supreme Court for the last 8 years and Congress for 6 of the last 8 years. They bear the responsibility.


WaMu Gives New CEO Mega Payout as Bank Fails

Nice work — if you can get fired from it.

That's just what one Alan H. Fishman might have thought when he woke up Friday morning.

Fishman was the new chief executive officer for Washingon Mutual — WaMu — the nation's largest savings and loan, which was taken over Thursday night by federal bank regulators and quickly dumped in a fire sale to JPMorgan Chase for the Wal-Mart-like price of $1.9 billion.

But don't cry for Fishman, who reportedly was sky-high — literally — last night, on a flight from New York to Seattle, when WaMu collapsed. Even though he's only been on the job for less than three weeks, he's bailing out with parachute worth close to $20 million, according to an executive compensation analysis conducted for the New York Times by James F. Reda Associates.

That's right, $20 million for 17 days on the job ... and his company failed.

Fishman, who formerly was chairman of Meridian Capital Group, apparently was much coveted by WaMu, which was counting on him to lead the failing thrift out of mortgage troubles that pushed the bank to a $3.3 billion second-quarter loss.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, WaMu threw a $7.5 million bonus at Fishman when it hired him on Sept. 8, and guaranteed him an immediate cash severence of $11.6 million — both of which he gets to keep.

He also was eligible for annual bonuses of up to 365 percent of his annual base pay — set at $1 million — to go with millions of shares of company stock.

Fishman does lose out on a big bonus that would have kicked in had he remained on the job through 2009.

Documents show WaMu was going to pay their new boss $8 million to simply not screw up and get fired — all negotiated as the Seattle-based banking giant's loses climbed to an estimated $20 billion.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Good Word About a Bad Idea

Evidently, the Alliance Defense Fund has come up with an incredibly stupid idea. They want to recruit scores of pastors by this coming Sunday (September 28th) to blatantly endorse political candidates for office. Their purpose is intentionally to provoke I.R.S. investigations of those churches with the goal toward litigating a lawsuit over the matter.

As you are probably aware, a local church is tax-exempt. That means that it cannot be active in endorsing candidates for political office. A local church (or pastor of that church) can speak out on any issue they so desire. But they cannot formally endorse political candidates. If they do so they run the risk of investigation by the I.R.S. and ultimately could lose their tax-exempt status. That means among other things that any donations to that church would no longer count for income tax deductions which would kill the fund-raising efforts for the church's budget.

There are good reasons for this prohibition. First, those of us who love and read history know the problems that are created when the church gets into bed with the state or when the state gets into bed with the church. When the "wall of separation" between the two institutions is breached ultimately, both institutions lose out. All you have to do is read the history of Christianity from the 4th to the 17th centuries and you will see how devastating union of church and state can be for Christianity. Second, the church always needs to have a prophetic voice in society, particularly against the state. When a pastor or church endorses a candidate, that pastor or church ultimately loses the prophetic high ground and no longer maintains objectivity. It makes it much more difficult to speak a prophetic word when that candidate needs it.

Of course, as you can probably guess, their real intention is not to have "freedom" in the pulpit. Their real intention is to find a legal way to allow conservative, megachurch pastors to endorse candidates so that their church members can go to the polls and vote a certain way.

Thankfully, Rev. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Commitee for Religious Liberty has spoken out about this ridiculous idea and has spoken a good word about it. He went into the "lions' den" and discussed the idea on Fox News. Here is a link to a story about his comments in the interview.


Basically, Brent said three things: (1) "Pulpit freedom" is a misnomer because pulpits are already free in America. How many examples can you think of when authorities have broken into a conservative Baptist church and carried away a pastor in handcuffs for preaching out about a social issue such as homosexuality or abortion? How many instances can you think of when a liberal church pastor has had a sermon interrupted by civil authorities and that pastor then taken away for preaching about gay rights or opposing the war? It happens in countries where there is no such thing as religious freedom and separation of church and state. But it does not happen here. Ever heard of the Westboro Baptist Church? As repulsive and abrasive as their pastor is, he still has the freedom to proclaim whatever he wants from the pulpit. Pastors aren't arrested for addressing moral issues from the pulpit. But, if they endorse a candidate, the church is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status and rightly so.

(2) Walker also said that this idea of a "pulpit freedom" sunday is a bad idea because of the dissension that it could create within the body of a local congregation. Let's face it, most congregations are very diverse politically. I have served as interim pastor of congregations that had politicians who represented both the Democratic and Republican parties. I would have been committing clergy suicide if I had climbed into the pulpit and endorsed one candidate over another!

(3) Finally, Walker said that the idea is totally unnecessary. "There is no ground swell of enthusiasm for it. In fact, a recent survey reveals that more than half think religion and politics generally have become too closely tied (52 percent). The number is even higher when asked about the specific practice of endorsing from the pulpit.”

Thank you Brent Walker and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty for speaking a good word about a bad idea!

Monday, September 22, 2008

This is Why I'm Not SBC Anymore

I have two daughters. For the record, if either or both of them ever hear the voice of God calling them to be the pastor of a local church, they will get nothing but my prayers and support. I believe that God calls women to the pastorate. I believe that women are serving as pastors of churches and serving well. I believe that under the cross, both male and female, stand on level ground. Galatians 3:28 is the guiding principle for the way I see this issue:

"There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

The article linked below from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution is to me a clear indication of how out of touch the Southern Baptist Convention is with the times. Instead of being a witness to a post-modern world, the SBC has become a laughingstock and is being rendered completely irrelevant.


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk.

That’s not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it’s one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.

Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors.

Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men.
Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.

“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” Hairston said. “I was pretty shocked.”

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.”
It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.
Southern Baptist representatives at national meetings have adopted statements saying women should not be pastors, but each church is independent. A few churches have selected women, such as Decatur First Baptist, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell preaches each Sunday from the pulpit.

Pastor Tamara Bennett of California is one of the featured pastors on the magazine cover and talks in the article about the challenges of breaking through the stained-glass ceiling.

“God’s assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved,” Bennett said. “Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period.”

Southern Baptists are not the only ones to frown on women preachers. Catholics, the largest Christian denomination in the nation, do not allow women priests. And some conservative evangelical groups, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, do not ordain women.

“We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” Hairston said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

John and Cindy McCain Own 13 Cars!

There are trivial things that come out about presidential candidates during a campaign, especially in the closing weeks and days. And, while they might be dismissed as just that, trivial, they nevertheless do seem to get into the psyche of the electorate and create a narrative that can sometimes work against the candidate.

In 1988 Michael Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention and headed into the fall campaign with something like a 16 point lead in the polls. He ended up being defeated soundly by George H. W. Bush largely because of a photo-op with Dukakis riding in a tank (I still shudder when I think of how ridiculous he looked in that video!) and the famous Willie Horton ad. Of course, Dukakis' response in the presidential debate to the question of whether he'd be in favor of the death penalty if someone raped and murdered his wife didn't help either.

In 2000 Vice-president Al Gore was ridiculed because of a comment he made that was interpreted (or mis-interpreted) to suggest that he invented the internet. Again, this one thing did not cost the election. But it helped to play into a narrative that the electorate formed about him that he sometimes played loosely with the truth.

In 2004 video footage of Senator John Kerry windsurfing somehow played into the narrative that he was elitist and out of touch with Mainstreet.

And so we come to the current presidential election. Already we have had the flap about the number of houses that John McCain owns and his inability to remember how many. And then there was the flap during the summer surrounding McCain's longtime friend and campaign financial advisor, former Senator Phil Graham, who made light of the economic storm clouds on the horizon by saying that we were a "nation of whiners" and that the economic problems were somehow a figment of our imaginations. Then came John McCain's famous line last week about the "fundamentals of our economy are sound." He made this statement on the very day that the financial sector was experiencing the greatest crisis since the Great Depression. Might this statement be looked at in the future as the moment when the campaign turned in the direction of Barack Obama?

Finally, today there is a story out about the number of cars each candidate owns. It seems that John and Cindy McCain own 13 cars and Barack and Michelle Obama own only a Ford Escape Hybrid. Here's the article: http://www.newsweek.com/id/160091/output/print

So here's the question. Is a narrative beginning to develop that John McCain is out of touch with Mainstreet and the average voter in the midst of this terrible economic crisis? If Obama wins the election will we look back on these things and say that this narrative (whether true or false) was what turned the election?

Friday, September 19, 2008

History's Mysteries

The historian in me loves this kind of story!


Ike helps uncover mystery vessel on Ala. coast

The Associated PressFriday, September 19, 2008; 9:15 PM
FORT MORGAN, Ala. -- When the waves from Hurricane Ike receded, they left behind a mystery _ a ragged shipwreck that archeologists say could be a two-masted Civil War schooner that ran aground in 1862 or another ship from some 70 years later. The wreck, about six miles from Fort Morgan, had already been partially uncovered when Hurricane Camille cleared away sand in 1969.

Researchers at the time identified it as the Monticello, a battleship that partially burned when it crashed trying to get past the U.S. Navy and into Mobile Bay during the Civil War.
After examining photos of the wreck post-Ike, Museum of Mobile marine archaeologist Shea McLean agreed it is likely the Monticello, which ran aground in 1862 after sailing from Havana, according to Navy records.

"Based on what we know of ships lost in that area and what I've seen, the Monticello is by far the most likely candidate," McLean said. "You can never be 100 percent certain unless you find the bell with 'Monticello' on it, but this definitely fits."
Other clues indicate it could be an early 20th century schooner that ran aground on the Alabama coast in 1933.

The wrecked ship is 136.9 feet long and 25 feet wide, according to Mike Bailey, site curator at Fort Morgan, who examined it this week. The Monticello was listed in shipping records as 136 feet long, McLean told the Press-Register of Mobile.
But Bailey said a 2000 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the remains were the schooner Rachel, built at Moss Point, Miss., in 1919 and wrecked near Fort Morgan in 1933.

He said the wreckage appears to have components, such as steel cables, that would point to the Rachel rather than an 1860s schooner.
Glenn Forest, another archaeologist who examined the wreck, said a full identification would require an excavation.

"It's a valuable artifact," he said. "They need to get this thing inside before it falls apart or another storm comes along and sends it through those houses there like a bowling ball."
Meanwhile, curious beach-goers have been drawn to the remains of the wooden hull filled with rusted iron fittings. Fort Morgan was used by Confederate soldiers as Union forces attacked in 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

"It's interesting, I can tell you that," said Terri Williams. "I've lived down here most of my life and I've never seen anything like this, and it's been right here."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Interesting Comparisons

A former student emailed me the following this morning. It is probably a bit of an exaggeration but is nevertheless still an interesting read.

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight....

If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

If your name is Barack, you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim. Name your kids Willow , Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

Graduate from Harvard Law School and you are unstable. Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience. If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian. If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife (WHILE SHE WAS FIGHTING BREAST CANCER) and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain's Campaign of Dishonor

After his gaffe yesterday of saying that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," today John McCain spent his efforts trying to convey two messages. (1) He tried to argue that the "fundamentals" he referred to was the American worker. What a stretch!

(2) He and all his surrogates spent the day talking about how Obama would raise taxes and that anyone knows that raising taxes in a bad economy can only make things worse. Obama claims, on the other hand, that he is actually going to cut taxes for the majority of Americans. The only people getting tax increases are the very wealthy. He further clarifies that he wants to simply take the tax code back to where it was during the Clinton presidency, when the economy was arguably the best in American history since WWII.

So, I did some investigation. Who is telling the truth? Here's what I discovered from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/06/09/ST2008060900950.html

What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Paul Krugman on the Lies of the McCain Campaign

John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just distorting the truth with some of their claims. They are liars. Plain and simple.

Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times has a good column out today about this very topic. I enclose it below. The basic theme of the article is that the way a candidate runs a campaign is a good indication of how a candidate will run the White House. And so the conclusion is that if McCain/Palin are out and out lying right now about their records and Barak Obama's records, that is a very good indication that the lies and distortions of the last eight years will continue, perhaps even worse, in a McCain administration.

John McCain has changed. He has sold out completely to the darker forces in the Republican Party. Personally, when I read that Charlie Black was joining the McCain Campaign as an advisor, I realized that the Maverick image of the 2000 presidential election was going to be gone forever. Charlie Black is a lobbyist and is about as sleazy as they come. You can Google his name and find out more about him.

Here is Krugman's column. I think he's on to something.


Blizzard of Lies
Did you hear about how Barack Obama wants to have sex education in kindergarten, and called Sarah Palin a pig? Did you hear about how Ms. Palin told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” when it wanted to buy Alaska a Bridge to Nowhere?
These stories have two things in common: they’re all claims recently made by the McCain campaign — and they’re all out-and-out lies.
Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.
But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.
Take the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, which supposedly gives Ms. Palin credentials as a reformer. Well, when campaigning for governor, Ms. Palin didn’t say “no thanks” — she was all for the bridge, even though it had already become a national scandal, insisting that she would “not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative.”
Oh, and when she finally did decide to cancel the project, she didn’t righteously reject a handout from Washington: she accepted the handout, but spent it on something else. You see, long before she decided to cancel the bridge, Congress had told Alaska that it could keep the federal money originally earmarked for that project and use it elsewhere.
So the whole story of Ms. Palin’s alleged heroic stand against wasteful spending is fiction.
Or take the story of Mr. Obama’s alleged advocacy of kindergarten sex-ed. In reality, he supported legislation calling for “age and developmentally appropriate education”; in the case of young children, that would have meant guidance to help them avoid sexual predators.
And then there’s the claim that Mr. Obama’s use of the ordinary metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” was a sexist smear, and on and on.
Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.
They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”
Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.
One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.
But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern.
I’m not talking about the theory, often advanced as a defense of horse-race political reporting, that the skills needed to run a winning campaign are the same as those needed to run the country. The contrast between the Bush political team’s ruthless effectiveness and the heckuva job done by the Bush administration is living, breathing, bumbling, and, in the case of the emerging Interior Department scandal, coke-snorting and bed-hopping proof to the contrary.
I’m talking, instead, about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.
And now the team that hopes to form the next administration is running a campaign that makes Bush-Cheney 2000 look like something out of a civics class. What does that say about how that team would run the country?
What it says, I’d argue, is that the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering Charles Howard

When I joined the faculty of the Religion Department at Campbell University in 1994, I believe that it was the late Dr. Don Keyser who first mentioned the name “Charles Howard” to me. I had not known Charles Howard and only vaguely recalled hearing his name before I arrived at Campbell. Dr. Keyser was the first occupant of the “Charles Howard Chair of Religion.” It didn’t take very many conversations with Dr. Keyser before I realized how much love, respect, and admiration he had for his former teacher.

In 2001, several years after Dr. Keyser’s retirement, the university bestowed upon me the honor of being the second “Charles Howard Professor of Religion.” Always, in the back of my mind, there has been an interest, a research interest, in knowing more about this man that many of you knew personally. But, there were other research projects, other articles to write, classes to teach, and sermons to prepare. So, my interest in Charles Howard was placed on the “back burner” as a project I’d tackle someday.

When Dr. Keyser passed away two years ago, my interest in Charles Howard began to rekindle. My larger concern was for our Religion majors, that they have some awareness of the great tradition of which they are a part. A very large part of that tradition is the name Charles Barrett Howard. In short, Howard is a legend among Baptists in the South and I wanted Religion majors to have an awareness of him.

Charles Howard was born in Salemburg, North Carolina on December 2, 1900. Both of his parents, two brothers, and one sister died of tuberculosis when Howard was a small child. Although stricken by tuberculosis himself, he survived and was raised by his maternal grandparents. When he was seventeen, he attended North Carolina State University for one year. In 1918 he became a Christian, and very shortly thereafter, influenced by his grandfather’s prayers, he accepted a call to preach. Salemburg Baptist Church licensed him to the ministry and the next day, June 10, 1918, he preached his very first sermon. With further education at Wake Forest College Charles Howard embarked on a career behind the pulpit that would last for 70 years.

I refer to him as a “legend” because his influence can be seen in three areas. First, he was a preacher. He served as pastor of 26 different congregations in North Carolina but he had an understanding with his churches that when an opportunity to preach a revival presented itself, he had to take it. Consequently, he led 1,263 revivals in 700 different churches over his career. He preached more than 20,000 sermons in 23 different states. He preached revivals in five different churches whose pastors had been president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, he preached at state-wide evangelistic conferences, state conventions, Southern Baptist Convention meetings. He preached at associational events, BYPU events, and Baptist Training Union events. He preached 87 times on college and university campuses. For seven decades, the name “Charles Howard” was a household name among Baptists in the South. On a personal note, I can’t tell you the number of times when I have preached in a church here in North Carolina and introduced as the “Charles Howard Professor of Religion,” only to have one or two people come up to me at the conclusion of the service with a Charles Howard story.

Second, Charles Howard needs to be remembered as the first Religion professor at Campbell University. In 1934 he became the pastor of the Buies Creek First Baptist Church, succeeding J.A. Campbell, the founder of our university. A few years later he began teaching Bible at Campbell. This became a full-time position in 1946. In 1959 he became “Professor Emeritus” and entered evangelism fulltime, but did not end his service to the university. He remained active in the life of Campbell College for the rest of his life. When he retired from evangelism in 1973, Campbell once again recruited Howard into service as “Director of Denominational Emphasis,” a position he held until his death in 1988.

Charles Howard was a thorough professor. I have a file that contains some of his tests from his Bible class. Here are some questions from one of his final exams in May, 1958:

*“List the six most prominent characters in the Life of Jesus”
*“List the six most prominent characters in the Book of Acts, putting parentheses after each name and the number of the chapter in which it appears.”
*“List the six most prominent characters in the Life of Paul, putting parentheses after each name and an identifying phrase.”
*“List in chronological order the six persons and groups most largely responsible for the persecution of the early Christian Church.”
*“On the third blank sheet (of paper included) define, at top of sheet, “Pre-Existence,” “Logos,” “Incarnation,” and write a paragraph on the birth of Jesus.”

These are just five of sixteen questions on this final exam suggesting that he was demanding as a professor and that his students knew the Bible when they completed his class.

But that is only part of the story about Howard’s influence as a professor. The other part, the intangible is the tremendous love and respect he received from his students, a reciprocation of the love that he had for his students. I was working with the Charles Howard Papers in the N. C. Baptist Archives at Wake Forest University several weeks ago and found a folder of correspondence between Charles Howard and our late President, Dr. Norman Adrian Wiggins. Dr. Wiggins had Charles Howard as a professor in 1942. His love and admiration for Howard was obvious in the correspondence. At the bottom of one letter, as Dr. Wiggins was prone to do, he scribbled a personal note: “You and Miss Alma mean more to Millie and me than you could possibly know. We will continue to pray for God’s blessings upon you.” Don Keyser once wrote, “I never felt closer to God than when Charles Howard prayed.” Clearly, Charles Howard had that unique ability that all of us who teach college students desire: the ability to challenge both the heart and the mind and gain the love and respect of the student at the same time.

A third reason that we should remember Charles Howard concerns his work as a philanthropist. Although he and Mrs. Howard never earned a salary of more than $3000 per year together they were able to establish and manage a fund called the Howard Memorial Christian Education Fund, named after his parents Betty Cooper and Henry Bizzle Howard, which provided aid to students, faculty, churches, and other Christians who found themselves to be in need. The fund began in 1926 with a $25 gift from Charles Howard to a student who didn’t quite have enough money to enroll at Wake Forest College. Perhaps the most famous loan was in 1928 to J. Winston Pearce. Howard had finally saved up $132 to buy his fianc√©, Alma Dark, an engagement ring. He received a letter from Pearce who was working three part-time jobs but didn’t have enough money to stay at Campbell. He needed a loan of $130. Howard decided to loan the money and forgo the ring.

Such were the meager beginnings of the Fund. To date the fund has distributed more than $4,000,000 in the form of loans, scholarships, and gifts to more than 4,000 students and other Christian workers such as missionaries, pastors, and employees of Christian institutions. The Fund endowed two chairs at Campbell University, the Howard Chair of Religion and the Alma Dark Howard Chair of Church Music. There are also a number of endowed scholarships which bear the name “Howard.” The Fund provided low interest loans to churches for buildings, faculty and staff for mortgages, and to faculty to pursue further education. It supported prison ministries, handicapped ministry, counseling services and the daycare center at Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek.

Charles Howard died twenty years ago this past February 27th. It is appropriate that his name should be remembered, not only among the Campbell University community but also among all North Carolina Baptists. Back in March, at our annual Department of Religion Lecture Series, we dedicated a portrait of Charles Howard which now hangs in the outer office of the Department of Religion here at Campbell. It is a fitting tribute to a man whose life was so closely tied to Campbell University for more than 50 years. In 1968, Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek, Howard’s home church, held a special 50th anniversary celebration of Howard’s ministry. In his sermon, Howard summarized his ministerial philosophy in words still relevant today:
When broad knowledge meets holy fire in the heart of a preacher one of God’s great miracles happens in our world. Knowledge without spiritual fire may make a mere pulpit technician. Spiritual fervor without knowledge may make a fanatic. The marriage of the two may make a prophet of God.

(A version of this article is currently on the website of the Biblical Recorder.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Of All Places to Make Such an Error

If you don't live in North Carolina you are probably still aware of the intense rivalry in sports between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke University Blue Devils. Both schools are superb academic institutions with outstanding sports programs. Many of their teams are ranked nationally in a variety of sports.

Last Saturday, the Tar Heels hired a skydiving team, from a Virginia company called "Ariel Adventures." (The irony of the name makes the story even better!). The skydivers were supposed to parachute into Keenan Stadium on the UNC campus with the game ball for the season opener against McNeese State. Unfortunately, due to cloudy conditions, the pilot of the plane got the wrong location for the stadium. Eight miles away, in Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus, the Blue Devils were in their pre-game warmups for their season opener against James Madison University. Suddenly, out of the sky dropped two skydivers with a game ball who landed perfectly on the field. Unfortunately, they had the wrong stadium. The stunned crowd and shocked players must have wondered if they were under attack. The embarrassed skydivers hurried off the field. No one was hurt. As the News and Observer reported, "The men didn't hit any players on the field. They just hit the wrong field." (http://www.newsobserver.com/1565/story/1201661.html)

What an incredible mistake!

P.S. Last Saturday, Campbell University played its first football game in 58 years before a crowd of more than 5800 fans. Just before the game the elite U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuted into our stadium with the game ball. I'm sure glad they didn't end up at Gardner-Webb!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

God's Will According to Sarah Palin

The Republicans have been on defense this week over all the stories that are coming out of Alaska about Sarah Palin. I'm not even going to mention the issue with her 17 year-old daughter because I truly believe that is a family matter that should be left alone. However, there are other matters such as the "troopergate" story (she's currently under investigation from the Alaska state legislature for misuse of her power as governor), her ties to indicted Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, her flip-flop on the "bridge to nowhere," her membership in the radical fringe group the Alaska Independence Party, and her utter lack of qualifications to be a "heartbeat away from the presidency," etc. There are even stories now out about her time as mayor before she became governor.

All that aside, one of the most troubling revelations came late this afternoon. It surfaced in a video of her giving a speech to the graduating students at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God. You can hear the speech in its entirety here:


The most troubling thing in the video, is the comment she maked about half-way into the speech:

"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we're praying for. That there is a plan and that it is God's plan."

I have serious reservations about someone who has such a twisted theological understanding about the war in Iraq. To say the war was necessary (President Bush's argument) is one thing. To say it is a "task from God" is something that is really, really scary! Wonder if she has ever heard of Jesus' words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

God and Rain

You may have heard of this already. It is Stuart Shepherd of Focus on the Family. Although he is joking here in asking followers to pray for rain to drench the Democrats in Invesco Field last Thursday, I think the comments look even more ironic (or moronic) in light of Hurricane Gustav's path toward New Orleans.

I do request that you pray for the people on the Gulf Coast. I have family in New Orleans. Another Katrina would be a disaster that may destroy the city forever.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain's VP

The whole political world was shocked yesterday by John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential running mate. Many journalists are touting this as a "hail Mary," indicating that it is a sign that the McCain campaign is getting a bit desperate and felt like they needed to shake things up a bit. Certainly, it does give his campaign a certain buzz as they head into their convention next week in Minneapolis.

The next week should tell us a lot about how well Palin's pick is going to play. I suspect that Hurricane Gustav is going to steal a good bit of the Republican thunder next week, even if they delay their convention for a few days. Palin's pick will probably get lost in the shuffle.

For whatever it is worth, here are a few of my observations about Palin. (1) Democrats better not become complacent and celebrate too early about her lack of experience. Remember, George H.W. Bush won with Dan Quayle, who has got to go down as one of the worst VP picks ever. And, remember that in 1988 Dukakis came out of the Democratic Convention with a double-digit lead. The Democrats have a lot of energy right now but they need to continue to push back against the McCain onslaught.

(2) As the journalists begin digging into her background in Alaska, already they are finding some interesting things. See this article for some information about what the two leading newspapers in Alaska have to say about Palin:


She is currently involved in a political scandal and under investigation by the Alaska state legislature for misuse of her office. Evidently, she tried to have her brother-in-law fired from the state police. He and her sister are going through a bitter divorce right now. Palin is being investigated for firing the director of the state police for his refusal to fire Palin's brother-in-law. This scandal will probably dog her throughout the fall election season. Also, according to the article above, her popularity in Alaska is falling rapidly in the midst of the scandal.

(3) Her nomination is being touted as an attempt to win over disaffected Hillary voters. I suppose this is the most sleazy thing about the whole choice by McCain to go with Palin. It is almost as if the McCain campaign said to itself, "Let's find a woman for the ticket. Hillary's voters want to vote for a woman and they will flock to her." Do they not realize that women think for themselves? Do they honestly view women as being so stupid as to not be able to recognize that the only thing that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin have in common is their gender? They agree on none of the issues of this election. Hillary is a moderate-to-progressive Democratic icon. Palin is a newcomer to the political scene that is the darling of the far right of the Republican Party. She is an NRA member, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and believes that "creationism" should be taught in the public schools. I suspect that Hillary will campaign even harder for Obama because of this pick.

(4) The pick of Sarah Palin takes away McCain's most effective argument against Obama, namely, the claim that he is not ready and experienced enough to be president. Palin, with less than two years as governor of a state that has the population of the city of Fort Worth, Texas and before that the mayor of a town in Alaska with less than 10,000 people is woefully unprepared to occupy the oval office in the event of an emergency.

(5) Finally, if the McCain camp wanted to select a woman for the ticket (which I do applaud), is this the very best qualified female in the Republican Party for a 72 year-old presidential candidate who has battled melanoma twice? What about Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas? What about Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina? How about Condie Rice? Perhaps if he wanted to go after moderates and independents, he could have selected Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey. All of these women are light years ahead of Palin in experience.

It is said that the most important decision that a presidential candidate makes is his/her choice of a running mate. From that choice the voting public can get a good glimpse of the candidate's judgment on important decisions. You decide for yourself. Which candidate, Obama or McCain, made the best running mate decision? This was a bold move. It certainly shook up the race. How effective it will be remains to be seen

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Beanstalk Library

I just returned this afternoon from a weekend retreat with my faculty colleagues at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. It was a wonderful weekend. We got a tremendous amount of work done in two very productive meetings Friday night and Saturday morning. We brought our families with us down there which made the time Saturday afternoon and evening especially great. We closed out the weekend with a short devotional time on the beach this morning.

On the way home, I plugged in my iPod and listened to an album by a group called "The Beanstalk Library." The leader of the group is a young man named Ryan Walker. He is the son of a good friend of mine, Brent Walker, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.

I want to recommend the "The Beanstalk Library" to you. Their first album (the one I listened to) is called "America at Night." One song in particular that I really like on the album is "Fog Over My Mind." The Beanstalk Library has good variation with their music blending the best sounds of pop, rock and country in their music. The lyrics to their songs also engage your mind, a trait I always look for in good music. The best songs for me leaving me asking "What do they mean to say with this song?"

Give them a listen. You can find "America at Night" on iTunes or in your local music store. You can check out the band's website here: http://thebeanstalklibrary.net/index2.htm

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Picture Says It All!

Is McCain truly the "maverick?" Or has he joined himself at the hip with George Bush in order to retain the right wing base of the Republican Party?

I don't know the event from which this picture was taken. But, it sure is telling!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Way

I found this on a blog written by Gordon Atkinson called:


I was so touched by it, I thought it worth sharing. Take a moment to relax and read.

The Way of Things
The way governments and businesses treat people. The way people unload their anger on the innocent. The way slick talkers get ahead and the way good people lose in the end.
The way those who believe in God can be so angry. The way people use religion to leverage power. The way spiritual things dry up and become hard and ruined. The way our best intentions still bring pain.
The way bad people take pleasure in the suffering of others. The way good people run out of energy and are consumed by apathy. The way we lose hope because everything is so big. The way innocence leaves the young and cynicism seizes the elderly.
The way the earth bleeds when you cut it. The way mothers protect their children and the way fathers respect that power. The way weeds hold the land when nothing else can. The way tender seedlings shatter concrete and water wears away stone.
The way you can follow beauty to the molecular level and still not find its source. The way all things young are tender and beloved. The way an artist pulls on your heartstrings and the way saints can make you believe again. The way the human face conveys a thousand nuanced emotions.
The way a clean baby smells and the way her feet feel. The way we laugh at everything, even the sad things. The way women cry so easily. The way men try to be strong then burst into tears. The way children trust everyone until we teach them not to.
The way everything big and small, everything physical and emotional, everything that really matters is always falling toward a center of gravity.
And the way that terrible falling to the center tickles your stomach and makes you grieve but also laugh and be so glad that you were a part of it all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm No Fan of Toby Keith

Evidently, the country music singer Toby Keith made a recent appearance on the Stephen Colbert Show last night. Admittedly, I have not watched Stephen Colbert, not for any other reason than I just don't have the time to watch the show regularly.

Keith performed a song last night called, "Beer for My Horses." This blog discusses the appearance and a little bit about the song.


Here are the lyrics:

Well a man come on the 6 o'clock news
said somebody's been shot
somebody's been abused
somebody blew up a building
somebody stole a car
somebody got away
somebody didn't get to far
yeah they didn't get to far

Grand pappy told my pappy back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he'd done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street
For all the people to see

That Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon
And we'll raise up our glasses against evil forces singing
whiskey for my man,
beer for my horses

We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds
too much corruption and crime in the streets
It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground
Send 'em all to their maker and he'll settle 'em down
You can bet he'll set 'em down

Cause Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon
And we'll raise up our glasses against evil forces singing
whiskey for my man,
beer for my horses
whiskey for my men,
beer for my horses

He knew
Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys,
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon
And we'll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singin' whiskey for my man,
beer for my horses
Singing whiskey for my man,
beer for my horses.

Here's the irony. The song claims to be about justice. "Justice is the one thing you should always find." And, it claims, "It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground." But, in reality those who lynched in the old South were the true "outlaws." And, lynching a man, who under our justice system is deemed to be "innocent until proven guilty," deprives him of justice. Lynching therefore is an act of injustice rather than justice.

Toby Keith will probably make lots of money on this song because it taps into some of the deepest fears of white America and I suspect that many of his fans will love this song. But, this song is about lynching. And lynching was one of the darkest sins of the Old South. Rather than glorify the practice in a song, Toby, you ought to be repentant for the acts of your "Grandpappy" and be willing to admit the sin.

Pray for Cecil Sherman

Bloggers Mike Ruffin and the Big Daddy Weave have this post this morning:

From Daniel Vestal:

"We received word today that Dr. Cecil Sherman, founding coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, has been diagnosed with acute leukemia. He is in M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, for tests and possible treatment options. His wife, Dot, continues to be in failing health in Richmond. Please join me in prayer for Cecil and Dot as well as their daughter Eugenia Brown during this difficult time."

For a short time in 1985 Cecil Sherman was my pastor at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth before I moved to Waco. He's been one of my Baptist heroes for a long time. He just recently published his autobiography with Smyth and Helwys Press called By My Own Reckoning." Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Ghost of Tom Joad

If you know me, you know it doesn't take long in a conversation with me before the topic moves to my music hero Bruce Springsteen. In 1995 he released an acoustic album called The Ghost of Tom Joad. It has some really good music on it and its theme of social justice and making the American Dream a reality for all citizens is powerful and is particularly appropriate for our current time, especially with the economy in the tank.

To be honest with you though, I have always liked the "rocker" Springsteen's music better than the "folk singer" Springsteen. So, I bought The Ghost of Tom Joad, listened to it some, but really don't listen to it as much as some of the other albums he has released.

Well, in the midst of the Magic tour, which Springsteen is currently about to wrap up with the E-Street Band, he has released another CD called Magic Tour Highlights. It contains four songs from the tour recorded live with the accompanying video of each song as well.

Particularly moving is the band's performance of "Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy)" with his old friend Danny Federici on the accordion. This was Danny's last appearance with the band. He died just a few months later at the age of 58 (much too young) from Melanoma. He and Springsteen had been friends and played music together for 40 years. Here's a link to Springsteen's eulogy of his old friend at the funeral:


All of the proceeds from this CD go to the "Dan Federici Melanoma Fund" for research into this terrible type of cancer.

My favorite song on the new CD, however, is a performance in Anaheim, CA, where Springsteen brought out Tom Morello (from the group "Rage Against the Machine"). They both played a full band version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." It is a powerful performance.

Here's the link to the Youtube version of the performance:


Here are the lyrics to the song. It is based on the character "Tom Joad" from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

Men walkin' 'long the railroad tracks
Goin' someplace there's no goin' back
Highway patrol choppers comin' up over the ridge
Hot soup on a campfire under the bridge
Shelter line stretchin' 'round the corner
Welcome to the new world order
Families sleepin' in their cars in the Southwest
No home no job no peace no rest
The highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad
He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin' for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land
You got a hole in your belly and gun in your hand
Sleeping on a pillow of solid rock
Bathin' in the city aqueduct
The highway is alive tonight
Where it's headed everybody knows
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
Waitin' on the ghost of Tom Joad
Now Tom said "Mom, wherever there's a cop beatin' a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there's a fight 'gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I'll be there
Wherever there's somebody fightin' for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin' hand
Wherever somebody's strugglin' to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you'll see me."
Well the highway is alive tonight
But nobody's kiddin' nobody about where it goes
I'm sittin' down here in the campfire light
With the ghost of old Tom Joad
Give the song a listen. If you like it go to iTunes and get the CD. It is only $7.99 and it is for a good cause.