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On May 6, 2016, Russell Moore, a prominent Southern Baptist, wrote an editorial for The New York Times (NYT) explaining why Evangelicals should not support Donald Trump.

Yesterday’s post showed to what extremes his views have been taken by other Protestant clergy and laymen, including church discipline. Yikes!

Yet, not one of them is warning Christians against voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, both of whom are pro-choice. Clinton could also be asked any number of questions on unresolved topics over the past few decades.

Therefore, we appear to be receiving a particular sort of message from Moore and those who agree with him.

Unpacking the message

What a number Southern Baptists saw in Moore’s message was the mention of their denomination. Therefore, many of them are taking to heart the advice not to vote for Trump.

Some Evangelicals saw that his article, or citations of it elsewhere, concerned them. Gosh, they thought, it is time to sit up, read and reconsider.

Moore crafted his message cannily and cynically. In essence, he implies that white Evangelicals are inherently racist, beginning with the title, ‘A White Church No More’.

The body of his op-ed piece — which might have been more relevant in the early 1970s rather than now — includes insults to the intelligence such as:

If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.

No one ever said He did.

The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus …

Wow …

And finally:

The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America …

A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock …

Mayberry, for my readers who are not from the US, refers to two 1960s television shows that took place in a fictional small town of the same name: The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. There are very few Mayberries left. America is widely integrated today.

Moore is barking up the wrong tree.

I attended integrated churches — Catholic and, later, Episcopalian — in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. We had Hispanics in the former (suburbs) and blacks in the latter (metropolis). The white congregants made them feel most welcome. They played prominent roles in the guitar Masses (Catholic) or were ushers and greeters (Episcopalian).

I also once attended one of the first big-box Evangelical churches in the area where I lived in the 1970s. There were several black families, all greeted and treated like anyone else in the congregation.

No one cared what colour anyone else was then, nor do they now.

Moore’s Wikipedia entry says that prior to entering the ministry, he was an aide to a Democrat, Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

On this note, in 2015, Moore interviewed some of the presidential candidates at a missions conference during the summer. Interestingly, he did not issue invitations to fellow Southern Baptists — Republicans — Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. Yet, he invited Methodist Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. She declined.

Regardless of his politics now, deep down he appears to be playing a Democrat game. So do the other men mentioned in this post; go to the linked essays therein and read the comments.

In 2016, as the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Moore opposed the views not only of Trump but also Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. He objected to Cruz’s call for a religious test for refugees wishing to enter the United States. He opposed Clinton’s pro-choice stance.

Then, in March, he wrote, also for the NYT, that Christians should vote for a third-party candidate if faced with Clinton and Trump.

Now — in May — he mentions only Trump and gives Clinton a pass.

There is also the matter of churches making money off of resettling refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States. I saw a news show recently that said that immigration officials know where to direct newcomers. There is a list of local churches and charities who will take them in immediately and begin their resettlement.

Voluntary agencies (Volags) — religious and secular — helping out in this regard are paid by the US government, i.e. the taxpayer. Refugee Resettlement Watch has more, including the following:

Below are some of the sources of income for Volags:

a.  $1,850 per refugee (including children) from the State Department.

b.  Up to $2,200 for each refugee by participating in a U.S. DHHS program known as Matching Grant. To get the $2,200, the Volag need only show it spent $200 and gave away $800 worth of donated clothes, furniture or cars.

c. The Volag pockets 25% of every transportation loan it collects from refugees it “sponsors”.

d. All Volag expenses and overhead in the Washington, DC HQ are paid by the U.S. government.

e. For their refugee programs, Volags collect money from all federal grant programs – “Marriage Initiative”, “Faith-based”, “Ownership Society”, etc., as well as from various state and local grants.

The program is so lucrative that in some towns the Catholic Church has lessened support for traditional charity works to put more effort into resettlement …

Public money has thoroughly driven out private money.

Therefore, voluntary refugee and immigrant agencies — including churches — make a lot of money from the taxpayer. Readers may consider this at their leisure.

Evangelical churches in the United States

It is unclear as to why Moore works on the presumption that white Evangelicals are, by definition, anti-immigrant.

Evangelicals are truly a broad church and have different affiliations. Some, like the ELCA, are Lutheran. Others are Pentecostal. Others are independent but affiliate with broader Evangelical groups with similarly-minded theology.

Some are inclined towards the Democratic Party, even when they interpret the Bible literally. Others lean Republican but are openly accepting and welcoming of all who attend their churches.

I have read a lot of Evangelical commentary since I started this blog in 2009. I have not read one racist comment from anyone — layperson, elder or minister.

Why Trump is winning the Evangelical vote

Like every other American, Evangelicals also need to put food on the table and clothes in the wardrobe.

They have homes and health insurance to pay for, cars to run and jobs to keep — or find.

Evangelicals are concerned about the future, especially that of their children and grandchildren.

Trump is the only candidate who talks about job creation and improving the economy. Is it any surprise that people, including Evangelicals, like that message?

For the record

For the record, a Trump insider says the billionaire changed his mind about abortion once his youngest son Barron was born ten years ago. He sometimes tells the story as being about an anonymous third person, because it was an intensely private journey for him to make.

As for enemies foreign and domestic, Trump is the only candidate to point out that terrorism is an issue. He has said in a number of his rallies that he has Muslim friends and business associates in the US and in the Middle East. His proposals for immigration or travel among this religious group have always included either the words ‘temporary’ or ‘until we figure out what’s going on’. Note that, only a few days after he first said this in December 2015, the San Bernardino attack took place. He spoke of Brussels’s dire situation in January. Two attacks on that city took place in March. Meanwhile, the Belgian and French security forces already knew there was a hotbed of extremism in parts of Brussels. That became clear when Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015.

Also note that the no-fly list has been in place since Bush II’s administration. A Muslim family from the UK were banned from flying to the US just before Christmas — under the Obama administration — because Homeland Security suspected a family member of having links to extremists.

With regard to immigration, Trump is careful in his speeches to specify that he supports legal immigration. Can he help it if people like Moore and the media take it out of context? And, yes, there is a rape epidemic affecting Mexican women crossing the border into the US. Even PBS has pointed that out. Why can’t Trump?

In conclusion

Personally, I do not care for whom you vote. That is your business.

However, let’s not be taken in by people saying voting for this or that candidate is immoral and is subject to church discipline. That is absurd and wrong. Voting is an intensely private matter. Let’s nip this in the bud — now!

Singling out one candidate when the others are all equally sinners in one way or another is, in and of itself, morally objectionable.

You can read what clergy have to say at Time.

Archibald G Brown (1844-1922) was a famous English pastor who devoted his ministry and life to the poor in London’s East End.

(Photo credit: ELT Baptist Church)

Brown was the son of a wealthy investment banker and was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, his future wife Anne Bigg invited him to a service at Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. The Metropolitan Tabernacle still exists today.

Although the Metropolitan Tabernacle was a Calvinistic Baptist congregation, the night Brown attended an Anglican lay preacher Stevenson Arthur Blackwood led the service. He asked an unbelieving, somewhat wayward Brown if he was a Christian. When Brown replied in the negative, Blackwood said, ‘How sad’.

Brown was 16 at the time. Afterwards, he went to reflect on Blackwood’s words and his own sinful state. Not only was he converted that day, privately, to Christianity, he went on to train for the ministry under Spurgeon at his Pastor’s College. Brown stood out for Spurgeon. Not only was he the youngest seminarian but the most dedicated to the ministry. Hence the title ‘Spurgeon’s Successor’.

Brown’s first ministry was in Bromley, Kent. However, outside of serving at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, his other pastorates were in London’s East End. He became pastor of the Stepney Green Tabernacle in 1864, which was not well attended. However, by 1867, it was standing room only.

In 1872, he had a new tabernacle built — the East London Tabernacle, which you can see in the photo above. The new church could seat 2,500, although another 500 stood to hear Brown’s powerful preaching. Inside, the tabernacle was massive; you can see more photos of it on the ELT Baptist Church site. Unfortunately, Germans bombed the building in 1944. It took ten years before a new replacement church opened, seating one-fifth of the number of people. The church has since left Baptist alliances and is now affiliated with the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches and through it to Affinity (formerly the British Evangelical Council).

Sadly, Brown was widowed four times. However, two of his wives left him several children. Annie bore six and Brown’s third wife Edith bore him four.

In later years, Edith’s poor health required him to consider relinquishing the pastorate at the East London Tabernacle and leave the capital altogether. Before he could do so, Edith died. Mourning her loss, he felt he could not continue leading his congregation without her and embarked on an international preaching tour combining travel. He returned to London in 1897 and married his fourth wife Hannah.

His subsequent ministries included a pastorate at a Baptist church in south London and a co-pastorate with Spurgeon’s son at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1907. In 1908, Brown became the sole pastor, a role he continued until 1910, when his own health began to fail. He toured and ministered in South Africa and Tasmania. In March 1922, Hannah died. Brown died nine days later on April 2, 1922.

During his lifetime, Brown and his assistant pastors had an intimate knowledge of the East End and its residents. Many were poor, burning their own banisters to stay warm. Others were prostitutes and thieves. Brown opened an orphanage for girls, started a soup kitchen and founded a summer holiday home in Herne Bay, Kent, to provide relief for the people of the East End.

Brown took a dim view of the modern views and erroneous theology creeping into the Church. He agreed with Spurgeon on the errors of fellow Baptist clergy denying that the Bible was divinely inspired. He deeply disapproved of the new social gospel, calling it an invention ‘by the devil’. He also opposed musical instruments in worship and using secular activities as a means of evangelisation. Not surprisingly, many people who thought they knew better ridiculed and criticised him.

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In February 1878, after returning from his travels and newly married to Hannah, Archibald G Brown preached a sermon on hell to young men. The sermon is called ‘The Spiritual Doctrine of Hell’. He gave the address at the East London Tabernacle.

On his trip to Naples in 1877, Brown was struck by the looming Mount Vesuvius on the horizon and went to visit a recently rediscovered Pompeii, much of which was still buried. In August 79 AD, the town experienced a series of earthquakes over several days before Vesuvius erupted.

Wikipedia has a geological account of what happened. However, if anything approached hell on earth, the two days following the earthquakes had to be it. This summarises what happened in Herculaneum and Pompeii (emphases mine):

On the first day of the eruption a fall of white pumice containing clastic fragments of up to 3 centimetres (1.2 in) fell for several hours.[18] It heated the roof tiles to 120–140 °C (248–284 °F).[19] This period would have been the last opportunity to escape. Subsequently a second column deposited a grey pumice with clastics up to 10 cm (3.9 in), temperature unsampled, but presumed to be higher, for 18 hours. These two falls were the Plinian phase. The collapse of the edges of these clouds generated the first dilute PDCs, which must have been devastating to Herculaneum, but did not enter Pompeii.

Early in the morning of the second day the grey cloud began to collapse to a greater degree. Two major surges struck and destroyed Pompeii. Herculaneum and all its population no longer existed. The emplacement temperature range of the first surge was 180–220 °C (356–428 °F), minimum temperatures; of the second, 220–260 °C (428–500 °F). The depositional temperature of the first was 140–300 °C (284–572 °F). Upstream and downstream of the flow it was 300–360 °C (572–680 °F).[20]

The variable temperature of the first surge was due to interaction with the buildings. Any population remaining in structural refuges could not have escaped, as the city was surrounded by gases of incinerating temperatures. The lowest temperatures were in rooms under collapsed roofs. These were as low as 100 °C (212 °F), the boiling point of water.[21] The authors suggest that elements of the bottom of the flow were decoupled from the main flow by topographic irregularities and were made cooler by the introduction of ambient turbulent air. In the second surge the irregularities were gone and the city was as hot as the surrounding environment.

During the last surge, which was very dilute, one meter more of deposits fell over the region.[22]

Now onto Brown’s sermon on hell, which I highly recommend reading in full. Excerpts and summaries follow. Photos are courtesy of Wikipedia.

Brown began by denouncing modern theology, a warning to his audience that they should turn away from error:

Any casual reader of so-called Christian literature must know the distinctive feature of this nineteenth century. There has arisen in the midst of the church an anti-Christ which is known by the name of ‘modern thought’, at whose altars tens of thousands are bowing the knee, and offering their devotion. There is a horrid malaria abroad — a malaria breeding doubt and skepticism, and giving birth to wholesale practical infidelity. Surely the gospel of the present day might be rendered — ‘He who doubts shall be saved, and he who believes shall be counted a fool.’ 

He continued:

The eternal covenant of God is torn up with a glib remark and a smile of contempt by some boy-censor. The threatenings of God are having all the thunder taken out of them; and now let any one venture to say that he believes in such doctrines as the sovereign grace of God, an atoning sacrifice, and a doom of unspeakable horror awaiting the man who dies unconverted — and if he is not derided, he will at least be looked upon with contemptuous pity.

Now, the fiercest onslaught has been made upon the doctrine of God’s severity against sin, and the reason why I have selected this topic this evening is that, somehow or another the evil is finding its way into all the homes of our church members …

There is also an immense amount of jargon about the ‘universal fatherhood’ of God. We are told that God is so good, so kind, so indulgent, that he cannot possibly visit a sinner’s sin with the dire doom that Scripture language declares.

He went on to discuss the letters (epistles) of Peter which mention the flood (Noah) and fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I. Now let us to our first point, namely, that our text shows that GOD’S SEVERITY ON SIN IS A SOLEMN FACT.

He mentions the verse where Peter reminds his converts that God expelled the bad angels from heaven and sent them to hell. There is no reason why He would not do the same to us:

Young men, can you not see that every argument which can be employed against the ultimate punishment of men, applies with equal force against the punishment of the sinful angels? Am I told, as we are repeatedly, that there is such a nobility about man, such a natural grandeur, that it is almost impossible to imagine that God can ever consign so glorious and intellectual a being to perdition!

Regarding the flood, from which Noah and his family were spared:

Come, Mr Modern Thinker — you who are so shocked at the idea of God ever pouring out his wrath on any — how do you account for this? Does this look like ‘universal fatherhood’? Does this look like an indulgent father who knows nothing of righteous indignation against sin? It has been computed that the population of the world at that time was as great as now, owing to the longevity of the race, and yet the waters rose until the few — the eight — who rode in that ark were the sole remnant of a world that God had made.

Come, open your ears and hear the shrieks of the drowning; hear the cries of the strong swimmer in his last agony, and account for it, if you can, on any other ground than that God is a hater of sin — that when the accursed thing reaches a climax, he pours his wrath upon it — ay, though doing so destroys a world he fashioned.

He also spoke about God’s slaying of the first-born in Egypt:

I suppose that in Egypt there were more people than there are in London tonight, and yet in every house the first born was found dead, and from end to end of Egypt’s land a great wail of grief went up. Does that look like ‘universal fatherhood’?

He also discussed the parting of the Red Sea for the Israelites, followed by the swallowing up of Pharaoh and his armies:

their salvation meant the destruction of all the chivalry of Egypt.

He mentioned that some modern thinkers would downplay these examples as all coming from the Old Testament, therefore, ancient history. Furthermore, any vivid portrayals of hell come from mediaeval monks, long dead.

However:

‘Medieval’ is it, to speak about weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth? These words came not from the lips of any mortal man. They fell from the same lips that said, ‘Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Neither Paul, nor Peter, nor any of the apostles, ever uttered such words as leaped from the lips of the Man of Sorrows. Christ’s descriptions of Hell are the most fearful that we have! It is the lips of infinite love that speak of being cut asunder, and about burning with the fire that is never quenched!

II. Now, then, let us look at the next point. THIS PARTICULAR ACT OF SEVERITY MENTIONED IN OUR TEXT, IS TO BE AN EXAMPLE FOR ALL AGES.

At this point, he came to his trip to towns in the Bay of Naples. He described Vesuvius as resembling ivory, a beautiful mountain towering over picturesque, charming villages:

it seemed almost impossible to believe that Vesuvius could do any harm. I was almost inclined to think of Vesuvius as modern thinkers dream of God — that surely all the old fire has burned out. Still, there was some smoke rising which showed me that, though at that time no burning lava was pouring out upon its iron-bound flanks, yet it could do it again.

He toured Herculaneum and Pompeii, which reminded him of what divine punishment and hell must be like:

You must remember that it was not covered with burning lava, as is popularly supposed — that would have destroyed the city. There flowed a torrent of boiling mud which cooled and caked, and then over that there went the burning lava; and this again became like iron, so that there was the city sealed up airtightly, and, for 1,700 years, the world forgot that there was such a place as Pompeii. But we not only saw streets covered with the marks of chariot wheels, and houses with their frescoes. There were other sights sadder far. There were the relics of the past. There I saw the marble table, still standing in the garden as it was left that afternoon; and there was a bottle with the oil still in it; and there was the half eaten loaf of bread.

Yes — but what is that lying there? It is the body of a woman with her face in her hand, seeking to avoid the cinders that were falling. And you can stand there and look upon her, still lying as she cast herself down centuries back. I walked in and out those empty houses in this city of the dead, and I thought of the text, ‘turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, he condemned them with an overthrow’. Sudden was the destruction

The miser was caught as he was counting his hoard; the harlot was arrested in her house of shame; the prisoner was suffocated in his cell, and the sentry as he stood at the gateway.

He wondered if the people saw it as judgement of some sort?

A darkness that might be felt swathed the city. The earth rumbled; then the sea became tortured; and giant waves rolled up upon the trembling shore; and over all there were the lurid flashes from the crater of Vesuvius, while masses of blazing rock went hissing through the air, and the shrieks of the terrified people rose until death triumphed and stilled the clamor!

At that point he sensed Vesuvius speaking to him:

And the mountain muttered these words — ‘I can do it again! I can do it again!’

In his tour of Pompeii, he saw the wrath of God coming again on Judgement Day:

My brethren and sisters, go back and see what God has done. When God smites Judah it is that Israel should take warning, and he who hurled the angels from Heaven to Hell, and drowned the world, and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, has power still to smite. Oh, do not rouse my God to anger. Will you count his longsuffering to be slackness? and because he still lengthens out the time of grace will you presume on it? ‘Escape for your life.’

He concluded:

I have finished, and, as an old preacher once said, ‘Now may God begin.’ I feel that, though we have tried to preach to you earnestly, our language has been but cold and faint. Young men, I do not suppose I shall ever see you all again. It is impossible. But as surely as you are sitting in those pews there is a day coming in which you will find every word we have uttered to be true. There is a day coming in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the earth shall melt with fervent heat, and the trumpet of the archangel shall wax louder and louder! And if you die rejecting Christ you will find yourself, in spite of all that modern thinkers say, doomed to eternal perdition. Fly, then, to Christ, I beseech you. Trust him and he will save you this evening. Rest on his atoning sacrifice, and all sin shall be forgiven you. Go now, and presume no more on God’s patience. Flee from the wrath to come! May God add his blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

I can add little more other than to second this sermon wholeheartedly.

Modern clergy from Brown’s time to the present are hoodwinking us into thinking God will welcome everyone into the heavenly kingdom.

Believe Jesus’s words rather than theirs. There is a second death in hell and it will last forever.

Tomorrow’s post gives a graphic representation of hell by 17th century preacher Thomas Boston.

Stained glass cross crown 3rexesblogspotcomThe concept of Christian Hedonism is new to me.

I first saw mention of it a few days ago on, of all places (one might think), the PuritanBoard forum. One of their Presbyterian contributors goes by the moniker ChristianHedonist.

He links to a 1995 post on the Baptist Desiring God site which discusses the theology behind Christian Hedonism.

There is a danger that Christian Hedonism, which revolves around doing good deeds, could nod towards a works-based semi-Pelagianism, if misunderstood or misapplied. This is why I am unsure of it.

However, for Christians well on the road to sanctification — those who are like Samuel Rutherford or those who are resilient and have a better relationship with our Lord — this type of hedonism focusses on the delight experienced in serving God.

The Desiring God article on Christian Hedonism says, in part (emphasis mine):

As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied, but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues; and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of gray and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory.

We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people

º that “abuse suffered for the Christ [is] greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26);
º that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35);
º that they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Philippians 3:8);
º that the aim of all of Jesus’ commandments is that their joy might be full (John 15:11);
º that if they delight themselves in the Lord he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4);
º that there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6);
º and that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:11).

It seems unlikely that most people could become Christian Hedonists without moving into semi-Pelagian ‘works’.

I, for one, am not yet at that stage, but one day in the future, who knows?

Many years ago my mother had a colleague who had a chaotic home life.

Something dire was always happening to her or her children. They also had ongoing financial problems. Yet, she claimed they were all devout Christians. Mom gave me a daily update on this lady’s life. My word, it would have made a riveting television serial.

My mother found it amazing that this woman often quoted the Bible and then said of her problems:

The Lord will provide.

To Mum and me they seemed to be disconnected from what God wanted them to do. We couldn’t imagine that He wanted them to live in a messy house, fail exams, neglect their health or mismanage their meagre income.

They appeared to be awaiting a miracle.

There are many Christians like this. Not the ones suffering a few years of upsets but those who make it a lifestyle.

Yet, as The Baptist at The Other Christians says in his post ‘Don’t let God be an excuse for you not to act’:

God is helping but you have to do your part. You need to go to the doctor, work with your fellow man, vote…actively participate in the world.  Not doing so is sloth, which is a sin and separates us from God. 

He says that God has given each of us certain gifts that He intends for us to use in our daily lives.

Living an orderly life in line with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes honours God and reflects a good Christian example to others. In other words, it’s a means of evangelising and drawing others to Christ.

My mother’s favourite saying was

God helps those who help themselves.

Note the contrast of her outlook with that of her colleague.

If we want to do well in our studies, we need to apply ourselves. If we want a good marriage, we need to seek the right partner. If we want a new job, we need to present ourselves well at the interview. A good life doesn’t fall into people’s laps. There is a lot of energy, work, wisdom — and prayer — involved.

Even though I am a bit long in the tooth, I still enjoy reading biographies of self-made millionaires and billionaires, past and present. It’s fascinating to read that some of these men and women came from humble origins. They started out by working long and hard at a profession to become not just good at it but excellent. They sharpened their craftsmanship, interpersonal skills and innovative ideas. Not satisfied with that, they continued taking them to the next level. Most of them then started philanthropic funds. Some think of Bill Gates here. I would also add Andrew Carnegie.

Incidentally, the origin of my mother’s favourite saying is not Ben Franklin’s 1757 volume, Poor Richard’s Almanack, but rather Algernon Sydney, a 17th century English parliamentarian, political theorist and philosopher. He included the maxim in his work Discourses Concerning Government, published in 1698. That said, a similar and ancient Greek maxim appears in Aesop’s Fables, namely:

The gods help them that help themselves.

Since that time, manuscripts of Aesop’s Fables have travelled around the world and have been adapted by nearly every culture and major world faith through the millennia.

It was my favourite book as a child. If your children don’t have a copy, please buy them one. With the Bible in pole position, Aesop’s Fables is the next best book for them to reread and treasure.

Reading about Andy Griffith’s demise at the age of 86, millions of Americans must have felt as if part of them had died, too. I know I did.

Although many television fans around the world connect Griffith with his later incarnation as Matlock, for Baby Boomers and their parents, Sheriff Andy Taylor represented the best father and wisest sheriff in America!

Surprisingly, Griffith never won an Emmy for his role as Andy Taylor. However, he was such a great actor that many Americans were shocked to see his promotional advertisements for Barack Obama co-starring television son Opie, director Ron Howard.

SpouseMouse (who is English) and I happened to see his campaign announcement for Obama in 2008. Our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Did Opie talk him into this? Or was he always a Lefty?’

Almost every thread that allows comments on Griffith’s obituary has many from disappointed, if not angry, Americans. We had connected Griffith so closely with Andy Taylor — a modern-day Solomon — that it seemed inconceivable he would promote any political candidate. Sheriff Taylor would have said, ‘This is a free country and I’m not going to influence your choice.’

I don’t know who was behind those adverts, but if it was an Obama operative, it was a cynical move which probably didn’t work very well with devoted viewers of The Andy Griffith Show.  Regardless, this serves to illustrate how closely a good actor is linked with his principal role — and how much we are mistaken in drawing a conclusion between person and persona.

However, although raised early on as a Baptist, Griffith later joined a pietist denomination, the Moravian Church. Many pietists are left-of-centre in their utopian emphasis on love and harmony. And it turns out that Griffith did support Democrat candidates in North Carolina. There are a number of Moravian congregations in Griffith’s home state of North Carolina.

His obituary on Fox News stated:

Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy and as a child sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and for a time contemplated a career in the ministry. But he eventually got a job teaching high school music in Goldsboro.

Moravians settled in the coastal Southern states during colonial days. Regular readers will recall Methodism’s John Wesley. Wesley became an Arminian — free-will Protestant — through his encounters with them:

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them …

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely …

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services …

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God …

Back now to Andy Griffith’s life. Twice divorced, he married a third time and left a widow, Cindi Knight, as well as a daughter from his first marriage to Barbara Bray Edwards.  In 1996, he recorded a CD of hymns which went platinum and won a Grammy Award the following year.

Griffith was buried within five hours of his death. Fox News tells us that he was a private person (emphases mine):

Griffith protected his privacy by building a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him. Strangers who asked where Griffith lived in Manteo [North Carolina] would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith helped Long’s father build the house where the family lived in a community of bohemian artists with little money, sharing quart jars of homemade vegetable soup with each other.

[Close friend Craig] Fincannon described Griffith as the symbol of North Carolina, a role that “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend. With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor.”

The Andy Griffith Show started a trend on CBS for rural sitcoms in or of the South — The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction among them. This genre continued throughout the 1960s until the head of the network, Fred Silverman, pulled the plug on them and made a dramatic switch to purely urban comedy shows which have continued from the 1970s to the present day.

This programming switch is now referred to as the rural purge. It also affected the two other main networks in making shows more ‘relevant’:

The numerous cancellations prompted Pat Buttram (“Mr. Haney” on one of the canceled shows, Green Acres) to make the observation: “It was the year CBS canceled everything with a tree—including Lassie“;[2][3] Lassie actually survived the initial rural purge.

The first rurally-themed show canceled by Silverman was Petticoat Junction. In September 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS. All in the Family premiered in January 1971 as a mid-season replacement. Both series provided the urban demographic, cutting-edge social relevance and ratings that CBS sought.[citation needed] These ratings successes prompted Silverman and the network to cancel Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Hee Haw, Lassie, and The Jim Nabors Hour at the end of the 1970-71 season. Another series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour lasted until the end of the 1971-72 season.

ABC also was looking for younger audiences, and in May 1971 canceled shows that skewed toward rural viewers (such as The Johnny Cash Show) or older viewers (Make Room for Granddaddy and The Lawrence Welk Show). NBC also targeted rural and older oriented programs in its cuts, eliminating long-running programs such as Wild Kingdom, The Andy Williams Show and The Virginian, all of which ran nine seasons or more.

Several shows were still popular when the axe fell:

What made these cancellations puzzling were the fact that they had come prior to 1970, at a time when CBS had yet to air any of their more “sophisticated” shows and gauge their popularity with the television audience. The success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and newer variety shows such as The Flip Wilson Show and The Carol Burnett Show in 1970 would allow for the mass cancellations of most of the now “undesired shows” at the end of 1971 despite their high ratings and popularity. Both Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies had dropped from the Nielsen top 30 by the 1970-71 season, yet both shows continued to win their respective time slots and had a loyal following, warranting renewal for another season. Other shows that were still pulling in even higher ratings when canceled included Mayberry R.F.D. which finished the season at number 15, Hee Haw at number 16, and The Jim Nabors Hour at number 29.[7]Nevertheless, the course had been set by the networks and the shows were cancelled to free up the schedules for newer shows.

The inclusion of demographics into determining a series’ worth to its sponsors meant that high ratings alone did not necessarily warrant a series for renewal. Series such as ABC’s The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were never truly a ratings hit; however, both series appealed to a younger demographic and thus were renewed for three more seasons.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that the shift to nearly exclusive urban and suburban settings — with certain subsequent exceptions, e.g. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie — helped to shape the opinions of America’s viewers. The result was that ‘urban’ was seen as ‘desirable’ and ‘rural’ as ‘backward‘. I would enjoy reading a critique of this, if it exists, showing that the shift helped to denigrate the America which lies between the two coasts. My hypothesis is that the rural purge indirectly gave rise to the term ‘Flyover Country’ and explains why the South is still so despised, despite the fact that many Northerners have moved there for lower taxes or to reunite with families whom they left in the 1950s and 1960s. And let us not forget the clement winter weather and the springtime magnolias which rival England’s!

The Andy Griffith Show differed from the other rural shows, partly because it was modelled on Griffith’s home town of Mount Airy. Griffith loved North Carolina, and the show reflected this. As other journalists have pointed out, we laughed with the characters — not at them.

Griffith’s show demonstrated man’s fallibility in a poignant, instructive yet positive way. We knew that they wanted to do the right thing but, like all humans, couldn’t. Although not outwardly intended as such, the sitcom showed man’s tendency to sin and the healing which biblical values (mercy, forgiveness, obedience) produced. Every episode ended with balanced reconciliation and resolution. Griffith poured his Moravian faith into this gentle comedy, which was full of fun moments.

Viewers are still picking up on this, even if they are unaware of it, because the show has never been off the air since cancellation in 1968. It’s been running for 52 years, most of that time in syndication.

Most of the cast have now gone to their rest. George Lindsey, who played Goober, died in May 2012. Jim Nabors, who went on to star in the spinoff series Gomer Pyle, USMC, is still alive as, of course, is Ron Howard who played Andy’s son Opie.

Griffith and Don Knotts — Deputy Barney Fife — were close friends in real life and remained so until Knotts’s death in 2006. From the start of the show, Griffith let Knotts carry the comedy, for which he won five Emmy Awards.  Griffith decided to play the ‘straight man’, demonstrating fairness and wisdom. Many were the times Sheriff Andy rescued his deputy from a potential accident with his firearm!

Just as Andy Taylor treated everyone equally, he was also an exemplary father to his son Opie. The online obituary comments reveal that children from dysfunctional homes found comfort and encouragement in the programme: there really were good parental models to follow. Those half-hour episodes showed them the positive side of family life.

In 1996, NBC’s Today show featured a series on famous police shows. In this clip, presenter Matt Lauer interviews Griffith and Knotts. They explain how, although the show was set in the present-day, it also portrayed the Mount Airy, NC, which Griffith knew during the 1930s. Yet, even the small Southern town where my family and I lived for a season in the mid-1960s (job transfer for Dad), was similar to the fictional Mayberry — whilst imperfect, there was virtually no crime and many neighbourly values were evident.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Griffith explains that they purposely wanted to keep the show clean and ‘pure’, taking out any questionable jokes:

The next clip is from the backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. It was an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring the late Danny Thomas (Marlo’s father). Thomas, travelling through Mayberry, gets stopped for speeding. He spends time in the cells. Andy Taylor is not only the sheriff but also the Justice of the Peace and the local newspaper editor. Here we see his wisdom as a lawman and shades of Matlock’s canny questioning:

In closing, some fans of the show might be unaware that the theme tune, which Griffith did not whistle, actually has lyrics. Here Griffith sings The Fishin’ Hole:

Rest in peace, Andy — and thanks for the enduring memories!

Further reading:

Andy Griffith – Wikipedia

Rural purge – Wikipedia

‘Legendary television actor Andy Griffith dead at 86’ – Fox News

‘Why People Love The Andy Griffith Show‘ – RCP

‘Andy Griffith sings original lyrics … – Zap2it

‘Andy Griffith — already buried’ – TMZ

‘George “Goober” Lindsey dead …’ – TMZ

A particular quote has popped up in many places on the Internet since the US presidential election in 2008. It’s also appeared on UK websites since then.

I saw it a few days ago on a French forum, so it’s spreading.

The quote comes from Dr Adrian Rogers, a Southern Baptist pastor, broadcaster, author and three-time president of the Southern Baptist Convention. It often carries the date ‘1931’ after it. However, that was the year Rogers was born. He died in 2005 of pneumonia after complications with colon cancer treatments.

It’s important to keep in mind, especially for those deciding on whom to vote for and how far the welfare state can extend.

Wikipedia explains:

the quotation is part of a longer sermon by Dr. Rogers’ from 1984 in a larger series titled God’s Way to Health, Wealth and Wisdom (CDA107),[7] but it also appears as a passage in Dr. Rogers’ 1996 work Ten Secrets for a Successful Family complaining that “by and large our young people do not know either the importance or the value of honest labor”.[8]

Here’s the quote (emphases mine):

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the industrious out of it. You don’t multiply wealth by dividing it. Government cannot give anything to anybody that it doesn’t first take from somebody else. Whenever somebody receives something without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for half of the people to get the idea they don’t have to work because somebody else will work for them, and the other half to get the idea that it does no good to work because they don’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

And this is pretty much where we are today. We’ve reached near parity in the US, UK, France — and no doubt other nations in the West — with regard to workers and those who reap the benefits via the dole and other assistance programmes. Those who work think about scaling back — earning just enough to keep their families afloat.

N.B.: Although the Wikpedia page says that Rogers appeared to support slavery as a biblical position, on the Talk page, his son David wrote:

I know for a fact, personally, that he did not support slavery, with the only exception being a recognition of the Old Testament practice under the theocratic society of Israel, as stipulated by the Old Testament law. He never once suggested, however, that such Old Testament practices, carried out historically in a very specific context, justified in any way the modern-day practice of slavery, either in early American life, or anything similar.

Evidently, the quote by Cecil Sherman, in his autobiography, relaying a supposed personal conversation with my father, hinges on Sherman’s personal credibility. I was not there personally to verify what was or was not said in that conversation. However, I can say that the quote, as stands, in Wikipedia, is totally out of character for what my father may have normally said, and fails to provide the necessary context for understanding it correctly, even if it were recorded accurately.

It is also well known that Mr. Sherman has been actively vocal in his leadership on the opposite pole of my father in denominational politics, and his opposition to the movement with which my father was identified, and may well have motive for manifesting personal bias in the things he says and/or writes about my father.

So — let’s not allow a controversy on the main page to detract from a great quote, applicable to all Western nations.

Now — where did those jobs go?

Over the past few days I have been researching tobacco use by notable Christian clergy and authors.

An article from 2010 at Christian Century, ‘The nicotine journal’ by Rodney Clapp, provides a good précis of famous Christian smokers from the 20th century. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison in Fortress Press’s extra­ordinary new edition of his collected works … remains almost endlessly suggestive and stimulating theologically. But in this reading I noticed how often the imprisoned Luth­eran pastor mentioned tobacco. There are, in fact, no fewer than 20 entries in the index under “Smoking.”

“I am very grateful for any smoking supplies,” Bonhoef­fer mentions in one letter. In another he adds his “special thanks for the smoking supplies and to all the kind donors of cigarettes,” and elsewhere he offers gratitude for “cookies, peaches, and cigarettes.”

Bonhoeffer often re­inforces his gratitude with superlatives and exclamation points. “Maria’s and Mother’s cigarettes were magnificent,” he writes. “I thank Anna very much for the cigarettes.” And: “I thank you very much for everything, also for the cigars and cigarettes from your trip!” He praises a Wolf cigar for its “magical fragrance” and on another occasion declares, “I’ve lit the big cigar and am enjoying it immensely—thanks very much!” When his dear friend Eber­hard Bethge delivers a cigar sent by Karl Barth, Bon­hoeffer finds it so fine that he staggers at its “truly im­probable reality.”

Bonhoeffer’s nicotine en­comia brought to mind other theological figures who smoked. C. S. Lewis incessantly smoked cigarettes and a pipe. J. R. R. Tolkien appeared almost elf­ish in the author photo for The Hobbit, grinning and grip­ping a pipe. Barth, too, liked a pipe but sometimes smoked cigars. Other confirmed smokers in­clude Paul Tillich, Rein­hold Niebuhr, James Gustaf­son and Richard John Neu­haus.

Enthusiastic smokers can also be found in the ranks of conservative evangelicals. The British Baptist C. H. Spur­geon believed cigar drafts prepared his throat for preaching. Chal­lenged on this practice, Spur­geon replied that he would continue unashamedly to “smoke to the glory of God” …

Strenuous objections to tobacco use arise not only in fundamentalist or evangelical circles. When theologian Paul Ramsey appeared on the cover of the Methodist magazine the Christian Advo­cate, it was not his remarks on war but the photo of Ramsey with a pipe in hand that sparked a storm of controversy

Given the health concerns related to smoking, I will attempt no theological apologia for the activity other than observing that the existence of volcanoes—not to mention liturgical incense—suggests a God who apparently has a special interest in fire and smoke.

We cannot be sure about the Presbyterian theologian John Gresham Machen, although Clapp notes that Machen did write his mother about smoking, saying:

When I think what a wonderful aid tobacco is to friendship and Christian patience I have sometimes regretted that I never began to smoke.

Clapp editorialises, making it clear that he has no time for cigarettes, which he is sure are harmful. (Why? Tobacco is tobacco. Smoke is smoke.) His choices are pipes and cigars. Such a rationale surely excludes the ladies who would look a bit eccentric smoking either, although some do.

Setting cigarettes aside, I think pipe and cigar users enjoy smoking because it provides three substantial plea­sures. First, a high-quality cigar or a well-packed pipe presents occasion for patience (as Machen noticed). It takes at least 45 minutes to finish a decent cigar. That is time set aside for backyard meditation or contemplation. Few things better slow down a busy day and bring it in for a relaxed landing than a burning stogie and an iced bourbon.

Second, smoking in the company of others enhances conviviality. Conversation as­sumes a satisfying pace as the talkers pause periodically to draw on their pipes or cigars.

Third, smoking is an excellent aesthetic pleasure. There are the tools—cigar cutters, lighters and pipe cleaners—whose use is a soothing ritual. And smoke itself moves with visual elegance, in serene white or blue undulations, with a languorous ascent into the sky.

The two comments he received are disappointing but typical of our times. ‘The horror!’

Still, it’s good to know of more clergy and notable Christians who enjoyed and appreciated the rituals and comfort which are unique to tobacco.

More to come.

Dr Wryzek’s blog, So What’s the Point? provides a thought-provoking insight into the 21st century Church.

Dr Wryzek has studied theology and has also spent time as a pastor. One of his latest posts, ‘Are Your Church Leaders Doing the Right Thing … Really? (Part 1)’ followed the line of the Episcopalian Mockingbirds on legalism and ‘working’ for the church. The Mockingbirds posited that there were two classes of churchgoers: one which served and one that was served.

Although I wasn’t of this mindset until the last decade, I now believe that many pastors put to ‘work’ the middle and upper-middle class members of the congregation. The class ‘to be served’ is only on the receiving end of their gracious ministrations, as ordered by the pastor. It is another way — perhaps a ‘nudge’ — to get people to redistribute their wealth and time ‘for the church’. Meanwhile, they and their families get left behind.

One proponent of this perspective is a Baptist pastor, the Revd David Platt of the Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, Alabama. Dr Platt is firmly committed to overseas missions, which is laudable. However, from what I have read of his theology on other blogs, it seems that he wants wealthy Americans — I use the term advisedly — to finance his missionary ministry with large sums of money.  Hmm.

Yes, as Christians, we are all called to charity, however, as with fruits of faith, we do this in various ways. We are not cookie-cutters. Platt proposes a ‘Radical Experiment’  which involves, as one would expect, money and time, some of which should be spent in small groups — the ecclesiastical collective flavour of the month.  Small groups often involve public confession of sins which are in general no one else’s business except yours and God’s. In the small group — a pietist innovation from centuries ago — the congregant humbly confesses before the appointed leader. If you’re thinking Communist Party here, you would not be wrong; check out the late ex-Communist Bella Dodd’s story of public confession before the local Party Leader.

I can appreciate Platt’s enthusiasm for missions, but to apply emotional blackmail to faithful Christians who are no doubt are already giving to their church and various charities — free time included — is bang out of order. It is not Platt’s business to coerce people into the redistribution of their wealth, which is really what this is. The Holy Spirit and God’s grace will move Christians towards a decision which is right for them as individuals and families.

Anyway, what happens when the money runs out? People like Platt seem to think it is an endless resource when it is, in fact, as Baroness Thatcher pointed out, quite finite, especially where redistribution (socialism) is concerned.

I’m not saying that Platt is a socialist by any means, but he seems to have fallen into a trap. Jesus’s advice to the rich young man was situation-specific. The young man said that he was faithful to all the commandments. This then begged the question: what was the only thing left which was required of him? Jesus tested him; in today’s parlance: ‘Well, if you’re that good a person, then, please, join My apostles and Me. The only prerequisite is for you to sell your possessions and donate the proceeds to the poor’. In other words, Jesus called the young man out.

It is unlikely that Platt’s congregation and adherents are self-proclaimed keepers of all the Ten Commandments. I certainly am not, even though I keep praying for the grace for increasing sanctification. We are all sinners, and almost all of us would fully admit that. So, why should Platt  feel he is authorised to develop a Radical Experiment for wealth redistribution? In any case, the first word — ‘radical’ — should start ringing alarm bells.

Seriously, if one’s ministry is that compelling — to use language which Platt’s generation would understand — then, money should just come flowing in naturally. Platt shouldn’t even need to hammer on this topic. However, as it is, his move comes across as arrogant and unbiblical — even if he doesn’t intend it to be that way.

I don’t think that Platt, as well meaning as he probably is, is using actual force or cruelty, just emotional blackmail. ‘Look at how much you have and how little they have’.

The Revd Wade Burleson, also a Baptist, has a balanced appraisal of both sides of Platt’s radical idea, accompanied by helpful Bible verses — the best I’ve read yet.

However, there is another aspect to this subject, which might come as news to Platt:

There are many European states which take in many people from the developing world every year. Not just a few dozen, but tens of thousands per Western European nation annually. These migrants do not want Platt’s sort of 19th century missionary charity in their own lands, even if they happily accept it as a stopgap measure; many are looking for economic opportunity in the West.  We European taxpayers provide every assistance to those coming to our countries — at the expense of our own — believe it.

To my American readers: In all sincerity, donate money and time as you wish, but do not give up your holiday homes or bulk savings for the missions unless you can afford to and really want to. We Europeans are redistributing our ‘wealth’ — via taxes — to those arriving from former colonies as well as in tens of billions of euros (pounds, etc.) in foreign aid to their homelands. Therefore, today’s taxes address the material problems the missions once did. This is the truth. So, relax, enjoy your families and contemplate your retirement. May it be an easy and happy one in this time of economic crisis.

But, I digress.

Back to Dr Wryzek, who writes of pastors employing emotional blackmail in more malign ways (emphases mine):

Because once a pastor always a pastor, I’m disturbed (probably in more ways than one!) at the condition many churches and their leaders are in these daysBut, this is nothing new; similar leadership degradation happened to Israel and Ezekiel 34 … describes what Israel’s shepherds did that brought them under God’s judgment and how the problem was solved.

You’ll notice the very first indictment is they used material and monetary resources reserved for the flock, and from the flock, to insure their own personal security and plenty; they became exceedingly fat while the sheep became skinny. Making this number one suggests it is particularly irritating to God (putting it mildly). Next, because of this inordinate self-preoccupation they lost track of the sheep and didn’t bother to go after those who either wandered away (the Hebrew word suggests ‘scared off’) or seek after those who became lost altogether (literally ‘perishing’). Furthermore, they failed to take care of the weak (malnourished), provide healing to the sick and bind up the broken (alludes to treating wounds caused by wolves). Finally, they ruled the remaining sheep (the ones not scared off or not yet dead from neglect) with force and cruelty ...

The ‘force and cruelty’ is a bit more subtle and is very often disguised by ecclesiastical authority (the minister/laity distinction or the so-called ‘Moses’ model of ministry are examples) and tricking the sheep into thinking they exist for the sake of the shepherd instead of the other way around. Using the force of guilt to manipulate a flock into supporting dubious, self-serving programs is one quite effective example. This works by appealing to loyalty for the shepherd (“I’m your loyal pastor so help me out here”), or by using the Bible to coerce some kind of behavior, usually about giving money (“…give to this ministry and God will give back to you even more”). The sheep feel bad if they don’t respond as directed or, much worse, might even feel they’re letting God down and this is just plain cruel.

If any of the above is happening to you or the flock you’re part of at least consider confronting the leadership or find a safe haven somewhere else. Blind loyalty to a person, persons or denomination just because of some ‘past’ good old days or long-standing history isn’t going to cut it because we are in the last days and the kind of ecclesiastical disintegration we are witnessing is a precursor, and contributor, to the great apostasy I think is already beginning (2 Thess. 2:1-3).

Pray for guidance when receiving pastoral requests for time and money. Avoid feeling pressured. Focus on your families’ needs first, then those of others.  Charity begins at home.

A must-watch on BBC2 — ending Friday, March 30, 2012, is Reverse Missionaries.

My heart went out to these three people — two men and a woman — as they make their separate ways to our shores for a brief attempt at evangelising the British.

One would think that the established churches would be doing that, but, no, our intrepid evangelists from Jamaica, Malawi and — this Friday — India see us for the ungodly heathens that we are.

The first programme, featuring Baptist Pastor Franklin Small from Jamaica, showed the challenges he faced in King’s Stanley, Gloucestershire (western England). King’s Stanley is an old village but now also a commuter exurb for people who work in Bristol. Pastor Franklin hoped that people would display a kindly, well-mannered disposition, which they did, except where God was concerned.

Pastor Franklin visited King’s Stanley because his inspiration, the Revd Thomas Burchell, grew up there. Burchell was baptised as a young man into the faith at the Baptist chapel called Shortwood, on the outskirts of town where non-conformists had to worship. Around the 23-minute mark in the film, a lady who lives in the house where Shortwood once stood said that it had four ancient footpaths leading to it, whereby worshippers could come from miles around to attend Sunday services, morning and evening. If you’ve read my posts on non-conformism and pietism (see Christianity / Apologetics page), you will recall that this was common practice. Laws at the time protected the established churches in Europe — Anglican and Lutheran — against renegade (non-conformist) Anabaptists and pietist groups.

The lady who lives at the site of the former Shortwood chapel told Pastor Franklin that a Baptist church of the same name is in St James, Jamaica. He reacted enthusiastically, because although he knew the church, he hadn’t connected it with Burchell. You can read more about Burchell here in an old issue of The Baptist Quarterly.

About Shortwood in Gloucestershire (p. 2) The Baptist Quarterly has this record (emphases mine):

Thomas Burchell was born on 25 December, 1799, at Tetbury in Gloucestershire, and could boast among his ancestors Sir Isaac Newton, while has paternal grandfather was the Baptist minister at Tetbury.

It was while training to be a cloth manufacturer in Nailsworth, that he came under the influence of the Shortwood Baptist Church and from then onwards his thoughts were turned towards the mission field. Once more this little church was to supply a missionary for the island of Jamaica. During this particular period there went out from the fellowship, Mrs. Coultart, Joshua Tinson and his wife, Burchell himself and then his niece Hannah Bancroft who married Samuel Oughton; later in 1840, Jabez Tunley and Eliza Tainton who had married Samuel Hodges of the L.M.S., later to become a Baptist and to serve many years in the West Indies.3

Once in Jamaica, Burchell described his mission work, mentioning the Shortwood church he established there:

Every alternate sabbath is occupied in attending to duties of the church at Gurney’s Mount, or Shortwood, or some other place. In addition to this, I frequently go into the country to preach in the interior, at fifteen or twenty miles distance; and, until lately, I had to supply other places at thirty or even thirty-five miles’ distance: so that when I inform you that last year only, for thirteen successive weeks, I journeyed at an average of one hundred and three miles per week on the affairs of the mission and during ten months travelled three thousand one hundred miles, you will be convinced that my toils were not inconsiderable; especially if you keep in mind the climate, and that there are no public means of conveyance.

How did the Baptists in Gloucestershire come to know about Jamaica? Wikipedia relates:

Burchell, along with James Phillippo (1798–1879), William Knibb and Samuel Oughton was one of the group of early Baptist missionaries sent from England to respond to requests from pioneer African Baptists who had become free from slavery, for support in establishing chapels and education in Jamaica. They were representatives of the Baptist Missionary Society of London and followed the pioneering preaching of the African George Lisle.

And:

It is not uncommon for Jamaican parents to name their children ‘Burchell’; indeed it is almost as popular a Christian name as Manley.

Pastor Franklin was saddened to see that the Baptist church in King’s Stanley had very few members in attendance. He believes that the church needs young people for the next generation of a continuing congregation, so set out to meet them wherever he could — local youth football (soccer) matches and the community centre.

His two possible converts were young Daniel and the considerably older ‘Big Kev’ (he lifted his shirt to show his tattoo). Daniel related that he had been bullied at school, but started playing football at the weekends. He and Pastor Franklin took flyers around town inviting people to church. Big Kev had the pressing issues of disability — heart and respiratory problems. He was thinking about euthanasia. Pastor Franklin was no doubt shocked but didn’t show it. He asked Kev, a churchgoer in his youth, why he fell away from the faith. Kev said that it had a lot to do with the death of his sister in her teens. And these are the big issues: ‘How could God do such a thing if He were loving?’ And ‘If there is a loving God, why am I in such a mess with a cocktail of pills to take every day and a mobility scooter?’ Those weren’t actual quotes; I’m paraphrasing.

Because Pastor Franklin walked around town every day and with such a wide remit — with the local Baptist pastor’s permission — he made a lot of friends in a short space of time. Kev — a hard nut to crack — finally attended Small’s bank holiday church festival, where Pastor Franklin related the story of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-34, also Matthew 8:19-26, Luke 8:40-56). Kev told him afterward that he might just have changed his mind about God — because Pastor Franklin cared enough to visit him at home.  Pastor Franklin advised him to ask for the Lord’s help.

Daniel palled around with Pastor Franklin — because he cared enough to play football with him and the other lads. Daniel did indeed bring his family and a few other people to the Baptist church to hear him preach.

It seems we need a larger presence in our communities of pastors and churchgoers. Pastor Franklin believes the church can bring a community together. The programme showed that he might have a point. However, it might have been little more than a novelty factor — unless our clergy are willing to keep up the momentum. This is why I advocate Bible first, then church. Pastor Franklin would no doubt disagree with that, because he was saved on — and from — the streets of Jamaica in his youth by a local pastor. The film showed that Pastor Franklin has also saved local kids in his Jamaican neighbourhood from a life of crime, largely by engaging with them in football first.

The second episode featured a Charismatic pastor, the Revd John Chilimtsidya from Blantyre, Malawi. Pastor John heads a church which has grown from 25 to 800 people in just a few years. He believes this is thanks to energetic preaching and lively music. I’m not sure about that as a universal rule, but it works for him.

Pastor John travelled to Blantyre, Scotland, to visit the home of his Christian inspiration, the missionary David Livingstone. Yes, he of the ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ with which Henry Morton Stanley supposedly greeted him.

Many of us assume that Livingstone grew up in a privileged household, especially as he had a medical degree. However, he grew up as one of nine family members, spanning three generations, in a one-room ‘house’ — what we would call a studio flat — in lodgings for textile mill workers. (Pastor John could relate, having been one of 12 family members growing up in one room.) Livingstone grew up as a Presbyterian (Church of Scotland), then joined the Congregational Church. The BBC film showed a tour guide at the mill describing how the young Livingstone would perch a Latin grammar book on one end of his spinning machine to read a new word, do what he needed to do on the apparatus, then come back to read its definition. The tour guide related that he was not well-liked by the other boys at the mill.

Wikipedia reveals:

… David, along with many of the Livingstones, was at the age of ten employed in the cotton mill of H. Monteith – David and his brother John worked twelve-hour days as “piecers,” tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines.

Livingstone’s father Neil was very committed to his beliefs, a Sunday School teacher and teetotaller who handed out Christian tracts on his travels as a door to door tea salesman, and who read extensively books on theology, travel and missionary enterprises. This rubbed off on the young David, who became an avid reader, but he also loved scouring the countryside for animal, plant and geological specimens in local limestone quarries. Neil Livingstone had a fear of science books as undermining Christianity and attempted to force him to read nothing but theology, but David’s deep interest in nature and science led him to investigate the relationship between religion and science.[3] When in 1832 he read Philosophy of a Future State by the science teacher, amateur astronomer and church minister Thomas Dick, he found the rationale he needed to reconcile faith and science, and apart from the Bible this book was perhaps his greatest philosophical influence.[4]

Other significant influences in his early life were Thomas Burke, a Blantyre evangelist and David Hogg, his Sabbath School teacher.[4] At age nineteen, David and his father left the Church of Scotland for a local Congregational church, influenced by preachers like Ralph Wardlaw who denied predestinatarian limitations on salvation. Influenced by American revivalistic teachings, Livingstone’s reading of the missionary Karl Gützlaff‘s “Appeal to the Churches of Britain and America on behalf of Chinaenabled him to persuade his father that medical study could advance religious ends.[5]

The film showed that in Malawi, a number of streets and places still bear the names Livingstone and Blantyre. Meanwhile, here in the UK, Livingstone has been largely discredited for having ‘imposed’ Christianity on Africans. He was the source of British jokes and comedy sketches in the 1970s and 1980s, which portrayed him as an inept fool when Stanley happened upon him.  Pastor John would have been most disappointed to find that out.

As it was, Pastor John found the town of Blantyre, near Glasgow (west coast of Scotland), ‘sad’ because of its lack of faith. He had assumed we British would all be full of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, he saw drunken young people falling about the streets of Glasgow when he went out with the local team of Street Pastors.  He was specifically instructed not to evangelise: ‘If it worked, we would do it’. He said that what he saw would have been illegal in Malawi.

Another difficulty for Pastor John was the staid worship in the Congregational Church in Blantyre. Again, fair enough, but we British are a low-key people. Horses for courses. Pastor John wanted to hold a service at the local outdoor skateboarding venue but the older members of the church said that it was a place for young people and that they would be chased away. I can believe it. Anyway, he preached there at a pre-announced day and time. The youths were welcoming and respectful. Then they joined Pastor John and church members at the Congregational Church for a cookout.

Whether that will increase the church, I cannot say. It might have made a difference for some, such as one of the church’s Boy’s Brigade mothers, who had fallen away from the faith, again — like Kev from King’s Stanley — because of a family member’s death. Pastor John helpfully explained that we did not have any say over our entry into this world, nor have we any control over our exit. He said what my mother often said, ‘We don’t know why, but things happen for a reason. God has a plan in mind’. The Boy’s Brigade mother found that helpful, and it seemed to get her back on the road to church.

Both preachers were upset at what they found in the United Kingdom, and rightly so. More than a century of Fabianism has deadened our souls. As Pastor Franklin said, we are spiritually naked, by and large.

To my readers considering a missionary path, there is no finer place to start for English-speakers than the United Kingdom. Please come. If you can bring New Testaments with you, all the better, as the Word of God will be indispensable and a tangible memory of your visit.

Whilst assembling the following sources, I ran across an illustration called ‘God’s Hierarchy’ in the Daily Kos. ‘God’s Hierarchy’ appeared in a 1974 Bill Gothard manual (it’s a must-see but requires permission to use).

Gothard, for my readers outside the United States, is a cultlike Christian leader who has been around for some years, although I had not heard of him until last year. Americans who have come under his influence would say that was a blessing.

‘God’s Hierarchy’ shows God (represented by a triangle and arms) with a hammer in His hand. The hammer — the father of the family — is pounding a huge chisel — the mother.  The chisel as mother is cutting the jewel,  the teenager. That is Gothard’s and the ultraconservative Christian’s idea of the family. It’s not what I grew up with but might be familiar to some of my readers.

So, it was not totally surprising to read about the Islamic version of this linear top-down relationship in the Telegraph. An imam in Catalonia (Spain) is under police investigation for advocating battering ‘errant wives’ (emphases mine):

Abdeslam Laarusi, an imam at the Badr mosque in Terrassa near Barcelona allegedly issued instructions during Friday prayers on how to beat unruly women without leaving telltale marks.

The Muslim cleric advised using “fists and sticks on various parts of the body to avoid breaking bones or drawing blood”, investigators said.

“He provided concrete examples of the manner in which wives should be beaten, how to isolate them inside the family home and how to deny them sexual relations,” said the police in a statement, saying they had received testimony from numerous witnesses.

The imam, a Moroccan immigrant who is married with five children, was called in for questioning by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force, on Tuesday …

Muhammad Kamal Mustafa received a 15-month prison sentence and a 2,160 euros fine for inciting Muslim men to physically abuse their wives in his pamphlet “Women in Islam”.

In it he wrote: “The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body.”

Afterward, whilst browsing my blogroll, I came upon the latest posts from the Sola Sisters about Rick Warren’s continuing overtures to Muslims! One post asks what the King’s Way document actually says, another demonstrates that Saddleback pastors know it is an interfaith document and the third discusses one of Warren’s pastors, Abraham Meulenberg, speaking near Nice (France) in 2011 at an ecumenical conference. Photos show him lecturing on the commonality between Christianity and Islam!

It won’t be long before Warren’s fellow Baptists join him in this effort. It would seem as if the complementarians among them would have lots to learn from their Muslim brothers. (Sarcasm alert.)

Why are we teaming up with these people? Don’t discount for a moment the possibility that there’s more money and more prestige in this for Warren.

Back to domestic violence, however. As Anna Wood writes (please take a few minutes to read her post in full):

A man is abusive because he desires ungodly control over his wife. The sin of abuse lies in the abuser’s court.

When you meet up with an abused woman, remember these things:

When a woman is abused by her husband, it isn’t because

she didn’t submit enough (if she is like most abused women, she is far more submissive than most women ever have to be),

she didn’t obey often enough (in the name of obedience, he has likely commanded things that would disgust and frighten the best of us),

she hasn’t tried hard enough,

she didn’t love him enough,

she didn’t spend enough time in prayer for her husband and for their marriage,

she didn’t study the Word,

didn’t believe the Word

or didn’t try to obey the Word with everything within her.

Without further ado, below are resources which women (especially in North America) might find helpful in case of domestic abuse. Clergy and other church-based workers might also find them useful.

N.B.: I have not read the books, only blog recommendations and the Amazon reviews.

Articles:

Cindy Burrell’s articles

Is substance abuse linked to spouse abuse?

Blogs:

A Cry for Justice

A Wife’s Submission

Submission Tyranny, in Church and Society

The Cross Is All

Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence

Books:

Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion

Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family Dynamics and the sequel

Character Disturbance: the phenomenon of our age

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

Websites:

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (Australia)

Hurt by Love

Not Under Bondage

These are just a few suggestions. There are bound to be many more resources in cyberspace.

End of series

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