Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jody and Britt, Mother's Day, 1957, YangMingShan, Taipei, Taiwan.

Congress Gives Themselve Another Raise

Our courageous, dedicated and selfless Congress has jumped all over the CEOs for their outlandish perks and bonuses. The Senate and House committees all took the stage to let the home folks know how concerned they were for how our tax dollars are wasted by these captains of industry and finance. (If you don't watch C-Span and C-Span2, you miss the best soap opera going.)

What a heroic stance these humble, elected servants make in our nation's capital. Always ready to share a sound bite for us voters on the good things they do for us.

I wish I knew more of what they do for us. They do plenty for themselves. Last December 12, Congress gave themselves another raise. You read that right. A raise while all around them men and women are losing jobs, homes and no telling what else. The very days they spent shaming the CEOs, they knew that they were going to get a raise in pay -- $4,700.

By adjourning without any action, their pay raise was automatic. Not only do they not ask us (their employers) but do everything they can to keep this news from us.

From 1789 to 1815, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily pay) of $6.00 while in session. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1815, when they were paid $1,500 per year.

While the nation is facing the worst financial crisis of our lifetime, the members of Congress give themselves a salary boost. In spite of a $10.6 trillion national debt and a record $438 billion budget deficit for fiscal 2008, Bob Richter of San Antonio, writes, "the members of Congress, not the voters who put them there, decided they deserved more."

Members of Congress get this raise without asking for it. The majority agreed to make the raise automatic unless the constituents found out about it and raised a stink. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for this. The congressmen/women may disagree with each other over what to name a new parking lot, how to hide pork, or how to define a lobbyist -- but they agree without a blush when it comes to a salary bounce.

Janet Borg wrote to the Dallas morning News her thoughts on the matter: "Their oversight on this financial crisis is a fiasco. ... These people have the gall to vote themselves a raise in these economic times. None of them has the backbone to cancel this raise."

All is not lost. Jim Matheson, a Utah congressman, says he has joined forces with the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a government watchdog group to protest this automatic congressional pay raise. Democrat Matheson said: "The notion that Congress should be having an automatic pay raise without even a vote just doesn't pass the smell test."

Tom Schantz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress "ought to step away from the spiked eggnog" urging an emergency vote against the raise. Schantz went on to say, "Members of Congress have the only job in the country whose occupants can set their own salary without regard to performance, profit, or economic climate."

I think Brother Schantz and his fight against government waste should get a raise and enlighten us about our West Texas congressmen.

Individual members of congress are free to refuse their pay increases, and some choose to do so. Anyone know if Congressman Mike Conaway refused the increase? He doesn't mention it on his web site. His quality of recent disclosure has been 100 percent nil. Mr. Conaway (according to Open Secrets) has a net worth from $3.4 to $8.7 million. Does someone with such resources really need a raise? How would he vote if there was an emergency vote against the raise?

If nothing else, this pay raise shows just how out of touch with reality politicians can become. As we tighten our belts, members of Congress will pocket another bonus of our tax dollars.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beginning a new decade of opinions

Brownwood Bulletin: 10 years of Opinions
San Angelo Standard-Times: 1 year of Viewpoints

When asked to do a weekly opinion column for my old hometown newspaper in 1998, I wondered what I could say that would be of any interest to readers.

Editor Gene Deason and Publisher Robert Brincefield and the staff have been most supportive and helpful. They sure did not agree with everything I said, but that is the value of newspapers – differing views bring better discussion and clearer decisions.

Then last January, 2008, Editorial Editor Ty Meighan went out on a limb, so to speak, and now the Concho Valley is full of my opinions. I would guess I have enjoyed the challenge even more than my readers. There have been all kinds of responses to both my wisdom and my ignorance.

It did not take long to find out who my friends were. One reader liked my views so much he cut the column with my photo out and placed it face-up in his parrot's cage. Another offered to show me the state line and find some place else to abode. One reader, who grew up in the area, ask from Austin didn't I know were I was?

Others, were supportive of my efforts to enlighten West Texas society and politics. One reader, a few counties south of here, wrote me that his sister had called from Coleman insisting he not miss my columns. He agreed with his wise sister. Outside the state many former San Angelo and Brownwood residents have written encouragement. What a wonderful way to keep in touch with best little town in Central-West Texas.

One thing for sure (to date) I have not had any shoes or boots thrown at me. Those Iraqi shoes were not what President George W. Bush expected for Christmas. (But he should have – the majority of people in the Middle East do not appreciate what he has done to their lives. This is Mr. Bush's legacy: a lame-duck having to duck! As David Letterman ask last month: Can't Obama start now!)

The shoe-toss was very unfortunate. Mr. Bush should forgive the guy and get him out of jail lest he become another anti-America hero to those of that persuasion. My guess is future journalists will have to take off their shoes before a White House press conference.

Met a young man last week whose dad recently bought a weekly newspaper in Cleburne, near Fort Worth. I thought, wow, how brave can a man be?

Newspapers are folding all over the country. Newspaper corporate boards are laying off reporters right and left. The Chicago Tribune is headed into bankruptcy. Denver's Rocky Mountain News up for sale. In just the last six weeks hundreds and hundreds of writers, reporters, sales persons and technicians have been furloughed or let go across the nation.

Lay offs are getting far too common in all areas of work. Businesses and factories are closing their doors at a rate not seen in living memory. People are hurting in ways many of us cannot imagine. But to lose newspapers is to lose touch with the community heartbeat.

I believe people still like to hold a newspaper in their hands. Cut the size to a tabloid layout, even do away with color, but keep the spirit of the daily paper alive here in Brownwood. Anytime I travel I buy the local newspapers. I daily want to get in touch with a wider world. I want to read the opinions and editorials of professional, informed writers. (I consider myself a professional writer with 20 years of book sales, magazine and newspaper articles, some even translated into Swedish, German and Chinese. I don't consider myself a good writer yet, but I'm working on it.)

With the new year I have a number of ideas that readers have suggested I write about. There are a lot of hobby-horses I would like to ride. (Term means writing on something over and over like riding round and round the carnival hobby horse – preachers do that a lot.) Your suggestions, input and constructive criticisms are welcome. Long-time friend and San Antonio pastor Buckner Fanning liked to say there is no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism hurts. But in small doses constructive criticism can make us a little better.
Time to look forward to an even better year: 2009.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Towery's book on life and work of Lao She, China's Master Storyteller is still in print. He was one of first to expose injustice and "face" parionod society. He was a writer and a Christian, but not a Christian writer. His books are still read in China schools. Along with Lu Xun and Ba Jin he help "born" Modern Chinese Literature.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Today in our town some will spend the day after Christmas resting any way they can. Others will be clearing out the wrapping paper and trying to find the instructions on setting up another electronic toy. Being new films open on Fridays a few might take in a movie. Some might sleep through a boring bowl game.

A large group of citizens go back to work the day after Christmas. School kids will continue their vacation.

While I was sharing these thoughts about the day after Christmas with Uncle Greggo (that is not his real name nor is he my uncle) he ask why I was so ignorant on the day after the first Christmas?

I told Uncle (remember, he was someone's uncle but not mine, unless possibly a distant uncle. Everybody just called him that.) Greggo (also remember that is not his real name, but it is the one he got when he worked on coastal steamers in South Asia.), I told Uncle Greggo I had not given much thought to what happened in far-off Bethlehem the day after the first Christmas.

Well, it seems, our world-traveled uncle, had given it considerable study. "Study," was the word my grandmother Lillie (we called her Mammy) would use when something new came up. She would "study" 'bout it a spell. She had just a few years of school, raised 7 boys and 2 girls and could spell any word anyone could pronounce. She was also half-Cherokee but that is another story.

Uncle Greggo reminded me of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner and the way Coleridge presents him in the classic poem of the sea. "The Wedding-Guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale."

I was not so much constrained as interested in anything my distant uncle might say on the days following the first Christmas.

Matthew, the former tax collector, and Luke, the doctor to Paul the missionary, are the only two gospel writers who include the birth of Jesus in there biographies. It would have been interesting if mother Mary had shared a few more details. No one knew the events better than she did. Luke does say that Mary "pondered these things in her heart," but evidently didn't share them with the good historian-physician. It was probably far too personal for her.

So, without any scriptural hints or historical evidence, we can consider all kinds of possibilities of the days following the first Christmas.

First, we know Jesus to be a toddler when the Wise Men came with their gifts. The Roman Census was over so Bethlehem was back to normal. Mary and Joseph had evidently moved into a house. Possibly stayed with relatives. With all the to-do over the birth I am sure those excited shepherds would have kept them supplied with mutton and milk.

King Herod told the Wise Men to find the child and report back to him so he could honor this "new king." Herod had no intention of honoring him, but to destroy him. Herod was a man of many conspiracies and crimes. It is not surprising he would kill all of Bethlehem's baby boys under 2 years of age. (Matthew 2:13-23 tell this story of human efforts to frustrate the will of God.)

The New Testament has passages from the Old Testament related to this subject. Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah are all quoted foretelling such events. Unfortunately the great Jewish historian, Josephus, is silent on what has come to be known as "The Slaughter of the Innocents."

So from the meager bits Greggo and I gathered it is evident the Holy Family led a pretty normal life in Bethlehem and Egypt after Christmas (a term they never heard, nor anyone else for hundreds if years). The Inn keeper probably became a friendly neighbor after recognizing his rudeness when they first met. The angels were still near but only known by the parents. As we said the shepherd-farmers keep them supplied with good organic foodstuffs.

Even though sorting out the story line is difficult, Uncle Greggo and I agreed on this much: (1) The Christ child was no more welcome at his birth than he has been for centuries; (2) God spoke to Joseph to flee to Egypt and Joseph obeyed God. (3) Hence the light of the world was not extinguished; nor will it ever be snuffed out.

The gaps in the Jesus story were not important enough to be in scripture. What we have is all we need to know of God and to grow in his love and knowledge through the coming days and years.


Britt Towery writes Fridays on the Viewpoint Pages of the San Angelo Standard-Times and the Brownwood Bulletin, two of the best papers in the state of Texas.
SEE TOWERY TALES,( http://www.towerytales.blogspot.com ) A DAILY DIARY BEGUN DEC. 18, 2008 WITH THOUGHTS FROM YEARS Jody and Britt Towery SPENT TOGETHER FROM TEXAS TO CHINA AND BACK. Plus devotional thoughts Along the Way.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This December morning...
I read a good piece on EthicsDaily.com and want to suggest other pieces written by the same pastor: Virginia Baptist CHUCK WARNOCK'S blog: http://www.chuckwarnockblog.wordpress.com
He knows what a seminary student learns after leaving seminary or college. So true.

Monday, December 15, 2008

---- SANTA CLAUS and POGO ----

All over the world Santa Claus is possibly the most easily recognized fictional personality. In various forms, styles and dress this old saint has been around for thousands of years. This character has monks and rakes in his ancestry. It took the father of American political cartooning, Thomas Nast, to create the modern image of Santa Claus.

“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”, said first by novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Never has this adage been so true as in the work of artist Thomas Nast. Nash's caricatures following the Civil War had a great impact on American culture and history.

Though he is practically unknown today, he was responsible for creating many of the popular American icons. Besides making a loveable Santa Claus, his scratchings popularized the Republican Party Elephant and the Democratic Party Donkey. Uncle Sam as we know him today and Columbia are also his inspiration.

He was a Harper's Weekly correspondent during the Civil War, encouraging the boys in blue and sending back drawings of the war. By 1873, Nast was a celebrity after his successful campaign against New York City's infamously corrupt Tweed Ring. (Here is a prayer for more brave political cartoonist – flush out the other corrupt politicians like the Illinois and New York governors.)

In Nast's Harper's Weekly cartoons he exposed what everybody else knew or suspected about party political Boss Tweed. He created the Tammany tiger to express the Tweed's power in New York City.

Nast campaigned for justice in all forms of endeavor. He was like Will Rogers in his regard for political bureaucrats. Today there are a number of political cartoonist that are of the Nast heritage.

When the father of American political cartooning retired at the turn of the century, a newspaper correspondent wrote: "The pressures of the great issues of the Civil War raised up a Lincoln, a Grant and a Nast. Lincoln broad in love, firm in purpose; Grant brave and unyielding; Nast an inspired artist to encourage the hearts of the rulers and the soldiers of the people."

At this season of the year it is fitting to remember one who added s much to the commercial Christmas. His modern image of Santa Claus still remains his most fondly remembered contribution to our culture.

For a twentieth century political cartoonist with a bent toward politics none excels Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo. This long-running (1948-75) daily comic strip was filled with social and political satire. It was so well written that the strips could often be enjoyed by young children and "savvy" adults. Favorite characters were Albert the Alligator, Churchy La Femme and a wise old owl.

Kelly's most famous phrase is "We have met the enemy and he is us," a rallying cry for a generation of conservationists.

Pogo's animal friend's predominant language could be called "swamp-speak." A rural, Southern American dialect. He was never better than when twisting a well-known song like the Christmas Carol "Deck the Halls".

There are at least three versions of this famous Walt Kelly Christmas carol. I like the following rendering:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo!

Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.

Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!

I am famous for my inability to sing anything. That was the case for many years. Then I discovered Walt Kelly's take on songs. When I sing this one, "Deck us all with Boston Charlie," the audience rolls its eyes in amazement. Believe it or not. And with that our house wishes your house a very Merry Christmas this Twenty-0-Eight Year of our Lord.
Libraries a link to the world

As I placed a copy of Grit on the dining room table, my wife Jody exclaimed, "That's the first magazine I ever read!"

A friend in California had sent me a copy because there was an article in that particular issue he wanted me to read.

Jody Long was only 9 and in the third grade in Snow Hill, five miles north of the Collin County community of Farmersville, Texas. Farmersville had a small population then. Only 40 miles north east of Dallas it has grown a great deal in recent years.

Snow Hill, by contrast, is now a wide place in the road with a church or two. The school is gone as are the few stores frequented by the former farmers of Snow Hill.

Every two weeks, the traveling library came to Snow Hill, and what caught Jody's eye was Grit, the weekly newspaper. She wonders today where she got the nickel to pay for it, but she never missed an issue in those formative years. (In their January 10, 1999, issue of Grit, she was given a big write-up with several pictures even.)

Within Grit's pages, she read stories of a world beyond picking cotton in the summer and walking dusty roads to school the rest of the year. There she caught her first glimpse of a larger America and world.

She worked at the soda fountain in Farmersville through her high school years, and she was the first person in her extended family to attend college.

I am especially glad she was able to attend Howard Payne University in Brownwood, for that is where we met in 1947 and were married in 1950. Jody added a college degree to her Bible and Grit knowledge to become a wonderful pastor's wife and later missionary to Taiwan, Hong Kong and the China mainland.

Thanks in no small measure to the traveling library.

I suppose there are still traveling libraries but have not seen any evidence of them. If there are such, they are struggling. Even a city like Philadelphia, Pa., has announced the plan to shutter 11 of its city libraries.

A sign of the times was late in the 20th century when the beautiful Carnegie Libraries were pulled down for more "useful" modern libraries. Many were never replaced. Neighboring Ballinger has one of the few Carnegie Libraries anywhere. The town has been rightly praised for retaining that culture of libraries. (Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie helped build more than 1,700 public libraries in the US between 1881 and 1919.)

Libraries really do matter. This economic downturn is making libraries and their services more valuable than ever. Keeping a community connected and informed.

Libraries have been repositories of wisdom and information since civilization began. Ancient Mesopotamia has thousands of clay tablets that date back 5,000 years. Ancient Egyptian cities reveal papyrus scrolls from 1300-1200 BCE.

The Greeks, later the Persians and Turks great libraries held medical and history that has enhanced our knowledge of them. The monks of the Middle Ages kept the art of storing books until men like Thomas Bray established the first free lending libraries in the American Colonies in the late 1600s.

City and County budgets everywhere are already being cut to the bone. Public officials must not be tempted to trim libraries budgets. They opened the minds of millions of kids. Just ask any librarian or any ordinary young reader, like my own Jody.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


"Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a foreign land." This verse from the Bible is on a plaque in the old Hong Kong Post Office. I am often reminded how true these encouraging words are."

Even with the advent of E-mail, a letter on paper in the mail box is still the most meaningful kind of communication.

A friend from out of state wrote me last week of the "unique sense of commonality I always feel when I read your articles."

He went on to say, "It's not just the sharing of roots -- of Texas, of the depression era, Baptist tutelage, systemic racism -- and on and on. It's that our parallel pilgrimage took us from there to truly alien environs." [He served his Lord in Indonesia and his country in Rome and many places.]

"We were not just giving; we were receiving. We reexamined our roots and came out with some perspectives that, I think, are very hard to come by without comparable uprooting."

Growing up in one culture and going to live in another one is an eye-opening experience. It is a time of seeing our own country and culture with greater understanding. There were the languages to be learned, the customs to be appreciated and new food and friends, made us even more appreciative of America's bounty of freedom and all it has given us.

Letters I received from Pvt. Joe B. Swan during the Korean War gave me an insight to what was going on day-to-day during his life. It was not a dull recounting of the war in general, but what he saw and felt sitting by a bombed out building. His desire to get out of the hell-hole of war. Reminded us to pray more for him and his comrades.

Maybe your war is not such a conflict. But an overwhelming problem or feeling of emptiness. Having someone to talk to about life is good, but writing to a friend is enriching and more lasting. Putting down on paper your fears and needs to a friend helps two ways. It helps you to confide, unburden yourself to someone or just share a thought. It helps the one who reads it. It might just be a few personal words on a Hallmark card, but it is a start.

Writing our feelings and experiences to a trusted someone helps us deal with our life. (Especially if we are only making a living and not a life.)

All we usually get in the mail is bills or unwanted "bargains." But to get a envelope with beautiful stamp and letter inside can make the difference in the rest of the day. To carefully open it and pause for a moment, reading and remembering. You are blessed because your friend thought enough to take the time to put some thoughts on paper, spend the 43 cents for a stamp, and actually mail it to you.

Next Thursday some will go over the river and through the woods to grandma's house. There will be times for memories and sharing of gratitude. Football may get more attention than it deserves. (Nurses and teachers may be laid off, but football goes on forever. Why so many layoffs just before a time set aside for thanksgiving and remembering the Savior's birth?)

Others will eat alone. Their family is far away or broken in some tragic, unfortunate way. Some will break bread with the homeless and less fortunate.

For those of us who have lived abroad know how important letters are at such a time. We also have seen first-hand that while we feast (most of us), the vast majority of the world's peoples will not eat. To them it is just another day of trying to make ends meet: in city slums like Rio; in desert refugee camps in Darfur; in the jungle wars in the Congo; and our too-often forgotten troops and the natives of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a simple reminder and suggestion. As we are thankful for all our blessings, pause this week to remember those with less. Search out a way to help. None should ever feel left out. Then sit down and write a note to a friend you have not seen or heard from in a long time. If you're neighbor or friend has a person in the military, get their address and write them. It's like cold water to a weary soul.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -- Psalm 118:24

DICK AND ANN BAKER, newly weds in Fort Worth. Above visiting Towerys in Hong Kong long ago. Margaret Ann Self Baker went to Glory Nov. 8, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sacrifice -- a rare commodity

There is a lot more talk about sacrifice than there is evidence of the same. Sacrifice is the giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something considered to be of more value or importance. Sacrifice is at the heart of both the Old and New Testaments. It is evident in most of the world's religions.

Sacrifice is the message of Jesus. In his life and words he reminds us that "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” The Golden Rule keeps punching us in our conscience and heart, that we should do to others what we would want them to do to us.

Someone is hungry and in need, Americans by nature come to their aid. It is second nature for most Americans to reach out and help others. Not looking for a reward or a crown. Just doing it because it is right. To each of us much is given, and much will be required.

Sacrifice is a core Christian practice.

Sacrifice was something we did during World War II. Many hundreds of thousands of families gave the ultimate sacrifice serving and dying in our military. Even if a family had the money, they could not buy a new automobile. None were manufactured for civilians from 1943 through 1945. Gasoline was rationed along with many items like butter, sugar. and rubber automobile tires. Re-treads on tires were common, costly and not too reliable.

Of all the questions put to those running for president and vice-president, sacrifice has come up only once. In the second Presidential Debate, NBC's Tom Brokaw ask both men that as president, "what sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?”

Neither of the senators running for president had an answer. We have become used to politicians side-stepping direct questions, but this time they needed to step up to the plate and speak the truth as they know it. Neither one wanted to go on the record and honestly tell us that rough times are ahead and we are going to be asked to sacrifice in one way or another.

Senator McCain went first and said some government programs may need to be eliminated. There was nothing concrete in his response. He is going to examine every agency and every bureaucracy of government since many are not working. Also he will eliminate earmarks. Nothing about sacrifice.

Senator Obama began his answer by criticizing President George W. Bush, after 9/11, urging the American people to go shopping. He then said that was not sacrifice when the people were hungry for leadership. Instead of addressing the question Obama used some of his campaign points. Nothing about sacrifice.

Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, asks "Why would two card-carrying Christians evade the issue of sacrifice in a nation where the overwhelming majority professes faith and a significant slice say the nation is Christian?

If our politicians do not attempt to lead, then men of the cloth, the "reverends," deacons, elders and laity must lead in this time of financial crisis. Religious leaders of every stripe need to call out the flocks to a deeper dedication and resolve. Some sacrifice is ahead and is time to wake up and take responsibility. Today is not the time for the lowest elements of our society to continue wandering in the wastelands.

Sacrifice for the common good has been in the back of the third balcony long enough. Sacrifice for the common good must be brought to the orchestra seats or even better, onto the center stage.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


According to the Religious News Service, four in 10 Americans believe religious leaders should be permitted to endorse political candidates from their pulpits -- and do so without losing their tax-exempt status. That is scary.

Some preachers are now promoting a political candidate from the pulpit. A few weeks ago some 30 pastors took part in what they called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." One young pastor here in San Angelo was reported in the Standard-Times as planning to take part in such a "showdown." Those participating claim they have the First Amendment in their corner.

Claiming suppression of the freedom of speech was one of the battle cries from the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian law firm based in Arizona. This is the latest of many attempts to bring politics into the worship services of American churches.

Tax-exempt churches do not file returns and are under no obligation to divulge their finances to donors, the government or the public. This is the reason the televangelists left the non-profit category (where financial reports are demanded) and organized into churches. It is also why most mega-churches and all televanglist "churches" have more lawyers on their staffs than ordained ministers. And they have needed them in numerous law suits of moral cover-ups from adultery to fraud. Now they will need them as they attempt to break Internal Revenue Service laws.

Mainline churches and many religious organizations are 100 percent transparent in what they receive in offerings and how they use them. But not the televangelists. Their followers are so hoodwinked they see no problem with their leaders having jet aircrafts, Bentleys and outrageous salaries and mansions. Now they want to promote their political choices from their pulpits.

David Barton, president of Wall Builders (www.wallbuilders.com), a nonprofit organization dedicated to a reinterpretation of American history, wrote, while Texas Republican Party vice-chairman, that the United States is a "Christian nation" and believes the separation of church and state is a "myth." Barton visited hundreds of churches telling them it was not illegal for them to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. (See "Behind the Scenes," Trinity Broadcasting Network, August 22, 2006.)

Rodney L. Parsley, Ohio-based televangelist, spoke at a press conference in support of the "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act." This an Ohio legislature bill that would lift the Internal Revenue Service ban on electioneering from the pulpit. These guys are serious. Most Americans are not even aware of their agendas, much less their existence.

Beside breaking the law, promoting a candidate from the pulpit would divide many church fellowships. Deacons meetings I have been in have enough possibilities for division without taking sides on political candidates. Talking about issues is not the same thing. Churches and pastors should be fully informed of local and national issues. Politics should be shared at the town square, grocery store or courthouse steps. (Sometimes it is not a good idea at home!)

The Washington-based watchdog group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has filed six complaints with the Internal Revenue Service after dozens of clergy participated in a challenge to rules that ban politicking from the pulpit.

"These pastors flagrantly violated the law and now must deal with the consequences," said the Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

Earlier generations of fundamentalist Christians were on the margin of American churches. They did little social work and condemned those who did. But the last twenty years, their new approach is what Richard V. Pierard (professor of history emeritus, Indiana State University and Gordon College) calls a "political gospel." I call it a “false gospel.” Historic Christianity has proven that when church and state are united, corruption and wars increased. Keeping religion and government under different heads ensures both function better. Spirituality and civic pride enrich a church's service. Personal spirituality can enhance government and politics.

It is not a myth that government runs better without being tied to a religious establishment. If it were up to me, I would not give any tax exemptions to any religious bodies or churches, temples, synagogues or mosques.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


China gets hammered again in the annual report on international religious freedom, as they do every year. Having visited (not as a tourist) churches in cities and villages in 21 of China's provinces I have to admit there is not the freedom of religion enjoyed (and exploited) by believers in America.

Instead of constantly criticize Christians in China, learn something of the history, culture and present society and how the churches have more wide-spread freedom and access to grow in grace than anytime since the seventh century Syrians were there.

There is a limited freedom of worship in China today. With friends in national and local leadership positions, I have over the years come to realize that as long as they stay out of politics and stick to the Bible they are usually ignored by the government Religious Affairs Office.

The majority of the "persecution" of Christians there, like here, is from ignorance. They are not arresting believers to make them change their faith, or deny their faith, as is so often the case in some lands, but for all kinds of corrupt and to some uninformed "patriotic" duty.

China has no televangelists. For that they can be grateful. The money-making prosperity preaching of most TV preachers has no message for China (or anyone else). I know some televangelists have made efforts to get on China television. They may claim to be there and claim to smuggle Bibles to the suffering Christians with your offerings.

There are also no mass meeting in stadiums and the churches do not advertise as we do. But they can share their faith one on one, study their Bible (12 million Bibles published a year now in Nanjing) have a much better life than under Mao.

The foreign missionary-sending groups continue to spread their message using the "cloak and dagger" covert way, but have added little to the grassroots growth of Christianity in China. Clandestine mission work is illegal in China. Not as religious persecution but as a law in a communist-led government that sees little use for any religion.

Working with the existing churches may not be as exciting as sneaking a tract to someone on a bus, or secret meetings that cause new believers to think Christianity is illegal, but it is laying a good foundation.

Winning a soul to Jesus is not enough. That person needs to be tied to a local church or brotherhood. They need the encouragement from open worship and deeper Bible study in their own language.

A group from the First Baptist Church of San Angelo went to China for a few weeks in 2007. I offered to help prepare the way for them, but got no takers. When they returned not one of them even saw, much less attended a Chinese church. I asked why? The group leader believed the open churches were communist controlled. Exposing their work on a college campus might get them arrested.

And so it goes. There is injustice in China, just like the rest of the world. They have no corner on cruelty, corruption, greed, or persecution in their land anymore than America. We have all sinned against the God of glory. As Buckner Fannin said it many times: We all alike sin, but not all sin alike.

Britt Towery was China Liaison for the SBC IMB and now lives in San Angelo, TX www.britt-towery.blogspot.com for more of his comments.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The people are the trustees of the airways

I listen to a lot of local radio programming. The talk shows in this radio market are entirely one-sided propaganda. Sawn Hannity opens his showing every afternoon calling it the "Stop the Obama Express." How subtle is that?

Tammy Bruce sounds like someone from another planet. Bill O'Reilly (king of spin); comedian Rush Limbaugh (With talent on loan from God). Rush's perverse sense of humor, pronounces "God" is a most disrespectable tone. Michael Savage (he says entire areas of the Middle East should be utterly destroyed, and 99 percent of Autistic children are brats who've not been corrected.); Laura Ingraham (President Bush can do no wrong); Michelle Malkin (hates the Fairness Doctrine); Glenn Beck (on the second team).

This column is too short to say more. Unfortunately those who disagree have already quit reading. I understand how it might be in your interest to stay in the dark. I suggest for a more in-depth look at the subject, get Rory O'Connor's book "Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio." As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts."

So here are some my opinions (fact-checked) of a couple of Christian leaders' political opinions. These are the two I wrote about recently who defended the rights to torture.

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, recently taped a radio program with Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson.

Most of their radio "dialogue" revolved around the coming presidential election. I did not hear the program. That is like writing a book review having never read the book. But I trust the transcript to be true to the broadcast.

Mohler said at one point, "I do not endorse candidates" and went on a lengthy diatribe against the liberal Barack Obama, whose "general trajectory is at odds with many of the things we hold most precious." He did not elaborate.

The seminary president (stressing he is not endorsing anyone) John McCain would be the clear choice this fall. After all, McCain is against same-sex marriage. What a thin little unimportant issue with the world falling apart and our economy diving deeper into a depression. (Excuse my using that "d" word, but having grown up in the Great Depression makes me uneasy about the direction the country is being taken.)

In the old gangster movies when they took somebody "for a ride," you knew he was in trouble. This country has been taken for a ride for nearly eight years.

There are more far-reaching problems than if the homosexuals hold a parade. This fall our troops will have spent eight winters in Afghanistan. We went there to get Osama bin Laden. The tall Arab has accomplished far more than he ever dreamed. Killing him now would only make things worse. Yes, they can get worse.

I don't like to write from the cheap seats, but nothing sells like immoral tales. When John McCain was a Navy Captain, with little chance to make admiral, he began his affair with his present wife before he divorced his first. The first wife suffered through those years praying for his release from the Hanoi P.O.W. camp.

There was a time when divorce was frowned upon. For me, divorce is still a tragic and sad occasion. I don't know how Mohler with his strict family values, can so easily overlook this moral lapse especially since the Navy does not allow such goings-on.

Dobson likes Senator McCain's pro-life votes and that he favors marriage between and man and woman. And homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children. This seems to fit in with the agenda of a great many one-issue voters. It makes about as much sense as voting for someone who smokes a pipe instead of a cigar.

Dobson said McCain "seems to understand the Muslim threat, which matters a lot to me. I'm very concerned about that." The radical Muslim threat is real. Dobson left out the word "radical" because he and John Hagee and Rod Parsley see the Iraq invasion and occupation more as a religious war. Apparently a remedial grasp of history is no longer necessary to have a talk show.

The Federal Communications Commission took the view in 1949 that station licensees were "public trustees." Called the Fairness Doctrine it was to afford reasonable opportunity for discussions of contrasting points of view. In the 1980s when the Reagan Administration got on its deregulation sweep the Fairness Doctrine was dissolved. That is why there is such imbalance in radio and television presentations of issues. Ultra-conservative radio talk shows were born.

The airwaves may belong to the people, but until the Fairness Doctrine is reinstated it will be controlled by those of the far right persuasion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

AUGUST 8, 2008, 8:08 PM CHINA OLYMPICS OPEN 8-8-08

As you read this the every-four year Olympiad is already underway in China. China is thirteen or fourteen hours ahead of Texas time. So those going to work around eight in Texas (except El Paso) this Friday morning can know the sun is setting on first full day of the Olympics in China.

The dates China chose for their first time to host the Olympics is 8-8-08. All those eights make it a unique date. Eight is pronounced "baa," as in Mary Had A Little Lamb, but a tad shorter. The months of the year are named after the numbers 1 to 12, January to December.

The number eight (ba) is auspicious in Chinese, as it is in rhyme pronounced like the word "fa" (fa qian, which is part of the expression meaning "to become wealthy").

Thousands of couples in Beijing took out marriage licenses to have the ceremony on August 8, 2008. The automobile license plate with only the number eight goes for millions of U.S. dollars. There were many bids in Beijing to get that number.

China has opened two large press centers. They are the largest ever provided for the press. It is estimated that 21,000 foreign and domestic reporters will cover the games. China has been promising press freedom during the Olympics for some time. They will allow journalists complete freedom, including unfettered access use of the Internet.

Hard as they try the Chinese are too paranoid to offer real, open access. Tiananmen Square, the entrance to the Forbidden City, in Beijing's center is off-limits. The foreign networks are still arguing for some time there. China government has yet to admit to the death and injury their army did to the peaceful protesting students at Tiananmen June 4, 1989. I know the students were peaceful. I was there walking among them for days before the crackdown.

Taiwan is going to Beijing Olympics as China: Taipei. Since the 1960 Rome Olympics Taiwan has not been permitted to use the name Republic of China. That year Taiwan's hero was Iron Man C.K. Yang (Yang Chuan Kwang). At Rome he won the silver medal in the decathlon to Rafer Johnson. Johnson had to come a close second in the final race to beat out Yang. Johnson won the race and the gold medal for the decathlon.

Yang was from the Amis tribe of Taiwanese aborigines. The Iron Man of Asia suffered from liver cancer and died January 28, 2007.

The young C.K. Yang had a chance meeting in Taiwan with two-time Olympic decathlon champion Bob Mathias and was inspired to become the world's greatest decathlete. He went to UCLA and trained with Rafer Johnson. Yang was fifth in the 1964 Olympics.

Becky Hammon, of the San Antonio Silver Spurs, is one of the best guards in the Women's National Basketball Association was not picked to be on the Olympic basketball team. The Russians invited her to play for them and will pay her $1 million to boot. Some called her unpatriotic to play for Russia. The Olympic is not about politics. The athletes are playing for the greatest prize in sports. Not for one flag or another.

One Silver Spur is going to play for the USA. She is former Notre Dame player, Ruth Riley. Her sister Rachel was in Iraq as an Arabic linguist and later a Blackhawk pilot.

Riley writes (see the Silver Spurs web site) that Rachel was "medically discharged with severe depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). But in all reality, my ... sister, [is] in essence still missing in action."

Ruth writes her sister's opponent is far greater than can be faced on a basketball court. Every day Rachel faces in her mind the anger, frustration, doubt, hopelessness and depression brought to her in the war. Ruth wants more people to be aware of the thousands of our military who are going through such a hell on earth.

When you watch the USA women's basketball team in the Olympics keep an eye out for Ruth Riley and pray for her sister Rachel and all those who battle with PTSD.


Britt Towery, free-lance writer, lives in San Angelo. Comments welcomed: bet@suddenlink.net

Friday, July 11, 2008


I was teaching at the Hong Kong Baptist Seminary and Hal Wingo, Time-Life correspondent in Hong Kong at the time, rang me up and ask if I knew anything about a Bible School that granted advanced higher education degrees in Hong Kong. Life Magazine was doing a series on the diploma mills based in the United States, but located around the world.

We drove out to the address on the brochure and found one of the few vacant lots in Hong Kong's New Territories. Nothing like what the Florida-based "church" organization promised.

That was many years ago and such fraudulent schools are still pulling in the money and disrespecting the ministry. The unfortunate fact is the largest Baptist denomination now is led by a man who purchased his degrees from a diploma mill. The Southern Baptist Convention at their June meeting elected as president, "Dr." Johnny Hunt, a pastor with two dubious diplomas (one a doctorate) from a diploma mill called Covington Theological Seminary.

Having studied more than three years under men like Ray Summers, H.C. Brown, Jesse Northcutt, Robert Baker, Stewart Newman and Huber Drumright, I find it difficult to respect those who have not paid the price in real study to lead a church or convention.

A few Sundays ago the New York Times carried a news story about Dixie and Steven K. Randock Sr., who ran a diploma mill St. Regis University. They were convicted for mail and wire fraud for the way they ran their operation. They had provided thousands of degree for people in over 130 countries, making in the progress over $7 million.

St. Regis University turned out to be a network of web sites, some telephones and a huge bunch of bank accounts. The trial revealed they had created other phony institutions such as James Monroe University and Robertstown University. For one of their "schools" they used a picture of a castle that was the birthplace of Winston Churchill as if it were the campus.

It is unbelievable that an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 fake degrees are sold in this country a year. Some of these degrees were bought and used by federal employees. A Government Accountability Office of the Federal Government reported more than half of the 463 of these federal employees worked for the Department of Defense.

When I am asked what kind of doctor I am, I tell them not the kind that helps sick folks – or anyone else. With all this talk of fake diplomas flying around I should confess my Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree "with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto appertaining..." came from the Howard Payne University of Brownwood, Texas.

I would be the first to tell you I do not deserve such an honor. That statement of fact would be seconded by a host of alumni, including a lot of colleagues and one particular deacon in a San Antonio church.

Less than a month later that university's president was out of a job. I have given a lot of thought to the sequence of events and wonder if that ceremony of honoring me had anything to do with his leaving. If so, I am sure he would join that San Antonio deacon I deserve no such honor.

Some honorary degrees can have a healing effect. Back in '99 I witness the honoring of two men by Sanford University in Birmingham, Alabama, that helped heal wounds between Taiwan and China.

Faye Pearson, a former colleague, led the university to honor Wen-zao Han (Han Wenzao) and Chow Lien-Hua (Zhou Lianhua). Han of China and Chow of Taiwan knew of each other on Shanghai campuses before the Communist regime came to power in 1949. Both serving their Lord in different ways in countries still at war with each other.

Dr. Chow was pastor to Taiwan's President Chiang Kai-shek, seminary professor and world-renowned scholar. Dr. Han the right-hand man of Bishop K. H. Ting through the difficult days in China and afterwards as head of the Amity Foundation that has published over 50 million Bibles in China.

The two "Chinas" as Taiwan and mainland China have been called, are growing closer together. Taiwanese businessmen were among the first to invest and open factories on the mainland in the 1980s. I did not expect to live to see daily flights between Taipei and Shanghai or Beijing in my lifetime. Those flights began July 1 and the plan is to have 36 flights a week in the near future.

Britt Towery
San Angelo, Texas

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Iraq Invasion Total Mistake

Anyone who has read my musing over the last few years knows my deep skepticism regarding going to war in Iraq. Nothing in the last three years has convinced me it was a very wise or necessary thing to do.

No facts have come forward to prove war was the only way to help the Iraqi peoples. But it seems to have been the only thing given serious consideration.

Even President Bush’s own Methodist ministers were not given a chance to suggest another way. He did talk to some Protestants about the war, but they were of the fundamentalist war-like type. The Fundamentalists (like Jerry Falwell and the present leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention) told Mr. Bush what he wanted to hear. They are convinced, as are the “Left Behind” authors, that there must be a great war in the Middle East so Bible prophecy can be accomplished.

When I write such things it is not to disparage the Bible, but the extreme literal and sometimes weird interpretations some preachers put on prophecy – which is a minor part of the sacred book – and beyond my understanding. The Bible is not a road map, it is not a key to the future. It is an attempt to point us toward God, to better understand Him and become light and salt to our world.

Christian history is too full of war and hate. Nothing makes a man’s blood boil to the degree religion does. This is a perversion of the faith and has the opposite result of true religion. This is not the Lord Jesus’ fault, but the error of his followers in every age. And yet the people for the war are the ones proclaiming the need for “moral values.”

The Puritans did their best to kill off the Indians rather than try to convert them. The First Thanksgiving legend has blinded us to how the Puritans tried to set up a theocracy and did not allow any other view but theirs. No dissent was tolerated. (They also made it a crime to celebrate Christmas!) Fortunately there were those who strove for liberty like Roger Williams. He made friends of the Indians rather than kill them. Roger Williams and later men like Isaac Backus and John Leland with Jefferson and Madison made sure the Constitution had a Bill of Rights. These men knew what moral values were. Many had suffered in prison and died for such values as the freedom of speech and religion.

“Moral values” are what many voters claim as their reason for keeping President Bush in power. War is against all moral values. War is the very opposite of good morals and common sense (especially when the “enemy” was no threat to us). Moral values includes more than a stand on abortion or single-sex marriage. (Single-sex marriage will not destroy America as much as lightly treated and even encouraged adulterous behavior.) Moral values are clearly listed in the New Testament: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These moral values are not getting much publicity these days.

Moral values are how we treat the homeless, the poor, the disenfranchised and caring about those we might not want to associate with. When we help someone who can do absolutely nothing for us, that is what I consider a good deed. Only doing what is in our own best interest can grow a very selfish life or nation.

This war of our very wealthy nation against a poor and dying country is possibly the lowest point in American history. It has been entered into and continues to be led by misguided and at worst, deeply wrong-thinking people.

To cry for moral values, the whole scope of morals needs to be included. Not just a few pet peeves and politically correct slogans of, sincere but history-illiterate, fanatics.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Support You Local Pastor

Support Your Local Pastor

(First published in the column "Along The Way" of the Brownwood Bulletin,

Brownwood, Texas, Feb. 17, 2006 by Britt Towery)

I am weary of the way my Christian faith has been hijacked by some men and women of the cloth (TV style).

Take Pat Robertson of the infamous 700 Club. For years he has been telling his television viewers about God. But his God always seems to be short of money.

Brother Pat says God is angry because of America's sin, and sends a great hurricane to wipe out New Orleans.

His latest telegram from God revealed God's punishment of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon is fighting for his life and is being punished by God simply for giving Gaza back to the original owners, the Palestinians. (Actually the Gaza Strip's original owners were the Philistines, but few of them are left.)

Sharon, according to Robertson's gospel, should not "divide God's land." The Bible is a lot of things, but it is not a book of land deeds. This great world is here for all God's creatures to enjoy. (A sign in front of a church read: "God's Wrath Level: High.")

Robertson said the same thing about Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when he was assassinated in 1995. Rabin was close to a peaceful settlement with the Arabs. (Fundamentalist Christians do not want peace, but Armageddon. Example: The tragic, senseless on-going three year war with Iraq.)

Some will remember following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, that Robertson and (the late) Prophet Jerry Falwell announced that feminists, gays and secularists were responsible!

Brother Falwell is the same one who some years ago wanted the Marines to invade the Philippines. I was there at the time and the reaction was, "who is this crazy Baptist?"

Last August Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson always comes on later to "explain" what he meant. I don't recall any of the Old Testament prophets back-peddling as much as Robertson does.

Just when you might think it was safe to watch some Christian television, Jimmy Swaggart is back! You may remember his perverted sexual escapades in the 80s. He is back on cable via Black Entertainment Television and Spike TV.

Paul Crouch and the Wig (wife Jan with three-story hair-do) probably are making the most money of all the televangelists. I read where Paul is paid $159,500 a year as president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Jan gets $165,100 as vice president. They have homes in California and Tennessee. TBN owns nine homes on 66 acres called Shiloh Ranch near Colleyville, Texas (yet their God always needs more money).

Science Fiction writer and founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, said: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

While that may be true, it is evident that today's televangelists have found a more lucrative way – using (and abusing) the Bible as a means to get rich. Give to Benny Hinn, so he can buy another Rolex. Check out these preachers who have hi-jacked the Christian faith for their own enrichment: Paula White, Robert Tilton (another one back from prison), Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, Marilyn Hickey, Joyce Meyer, Jack Van Impe and Rod Parsley. Parsley is a valued advisor to our own Texas governor.

Some folks might say I should not be so disrespectful of television evangelists. Much of the Bible warns about the false, misleading prophets. If revealing the truth about them helps just one person from giving away their rent money, then this was worth writing. They have built personal mansions with the gifts from people who could not afford it.

Apparently none of them want to wait for the mansions Jesus promised awaits in heaven. They want the green and all that goes with it now. Instead, give your time, energy and gifts to your local church; paraphrasing the title of an old James Garner movie:
"Support your local PASTOR."

Democracy Grows as Truth & Openess Prevail

Originally published Brownwood Bulletin and San Angelo Standard-Times, May 9, 2008
by Britt Towery

Most of us would love to see more democracy in the nations of the world. Just suppose the Middle East had a fledging democracy fifty-plus years ago. Iran did have a thriving and growing democracy, until August 1953.

The election of Muhammad Mosaddeq as the Prime Minister of Iran was hailed throughout the country for a return to respectable status for ancient Persia.

Had Iran's democracy not been stifled by an American Central Intelligence Agency-led coup, the last fifty years would have been very different. Very possibly today's tragedy in Iraq could have been avoided had British and American interests not overthrown Mosaddeq in 1953.

This tale of intrigue and woe has been pushed to the dusty back shelves of America's memory. But not so with the Iranians. It was part of the reason that the American embassy personnel were made hostages in Tehran in 1979.

According to Stephen Kinazer's 2003 book "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle Eastern Terror," the United States, pressured by the British, carried out a secret operation to overthrow the Iranian Prime Minister, Muhammad Mosaddeq and restore the shah to the throne.

After World War II Asian and African countries began pulling away from the out-dated European colonial world. "The white man's burden," as Rudyard Kipling so aptly called it was taking that "burden" on themselves. They were seeking to run their own peoples their own way.

In Iran, it was all about oil and the British were not willing for Mosaddeq's plan to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which made Britain a lot of money.

Mosaddeq was a well-educated pro-Marxist, but hardly a friend of the Soviet Russians. All British plans to discredit him failed. So MI-5 (British Intelligence) turned to America's CIA chief Dullas with their coup plans.

The British had tried to get President Truman to help them but he refused. Now with a new administration in power they jumped at the chance to get American help in overthrowing Mosaddeq. Two weeks after General Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 the word went around of the threat of Soviet Communism in Iran.

Under the cover of the Red threat, the Dulles brothers (One was Secretary of State and one was CIA chief.), convinced the administration to send Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, to carry out a covert mission in Iraq.

Roosevelt's mission: see that Prime Minister Mosaddeq is overthrown. The British knew they would lose the Iranian oil unless he was removed. The covert operation worked. Stranger than fiction: The democracy that Iran admired in America was shattering their democratic future.

With the Shah back on the Peacock throne freedoms for the people quickly disappeared and Britain and America backed the new repressive regime. All these years we could have been friends – but oil was more important. Earlier in the 20th century Iran looked to the West in becoming more democratic. They got no help then either.

We have short memories. Even shorter attention spans. When the onslaught in Afghanistan began in October, 2001, we have forgotten that Iran help us in those early days. We seem to have a knack for misreading the times, for taking the side of the oppressor. The choice is often the lesser of two evils, but it sure would help if our government could get it right for a change and soon.

The end of last week the USS Abraham Lincoln steamed into the Persian Gulf as another show of force to Iran. The very same ship from which President Bush proclaimed five years ago that hostilities were over in Iraq and we had prevailed.

No democracy can succeed without honesty and truth in dealing with its own people and the nations of the world.


Britt Towery is a San Angelo resident, author and free-lance writer. Comments are welcome. His e-mail: bet@suddenlink.net or the San Angelo Standard-Times, www.gosanangelo.com and the Brownwood Bulletin, www.brownwoodbulletin.com


By Britt Towery

Mark Twain in March, 1905, was outraged by the American military invasion of the Philippines. As a result he sat down and wrote "The War Prayer." He sent it to Harper's Bazaar. Being a women's magazine, it was rejected. It wasn't published until after his death. World War I was in progress and publishers thought it to be timely. It appeared first in Harper's Monthly, November, 1916.

The story, as Mark Twain tells it, unfolds on a Sunday morning when the battalions were to leave for the front. The minister led a beautiful prayer for the troops with great eloquence. How they "would bring the foe to flight" and they "be submerged in golden seas of glory!"

A merciful and loving Father God would "watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory."

It was a lovely and timely prayer the minister offered for the soldiers. A prayer offered over and over in land after land and war after war. Then came the part of the story that kept it from being published for so long.

Twain's story continues: After the minister's prayer "an aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister."

The aged stranger said: "I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; ... He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it ..."

The stranger faces the minister and congregation, saying, "You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!'"

The stranger says he is there to express the unspoken part of the prayer, the part that was in all their hearts, but they were unable to speak or dwell upon. He then commanded the congregation to pray with them. "Listen!" He said as he held the attention of the entire congregation.

This was when the stranger prayed for their "young patriots to smite the foe ... tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells ... help us to lay waste their humble homes ... help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief ... " and on and on he prayed about the horrors that would come to the other side if their prayers were answered. The innocents. The homeless. The cripple and wounded.

The stranger concludes his prayer: "If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it."

Twain's "War Prayer" is not one that is heard from pulpits, then or now. It is painful, but truthful. It unmasks all the glory of war and the weird idea that God would take sides with anybody in war. Mark Twain ends his story with one interesting comment: "It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said."


50 Million Bibles Published in China

50 Million Chinese Bibles Published In China

In announcing the 50 millionth Bible printed by the Amity Printing Company of Nanjing, China, the head of Religious Affairs announced that Chinese Bibles will be made available at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Special worship services will be provided in whatever language necessary.

Cao Shengjie, President of the China Christian Council and personal friend of mine, said that the Olympics is a great opportunity for sharing between Chinese Christians and Christians around the world.

The Amity Printing Press (now the Amity Development Company) was begun in 1988 with the cooperation of the United Bible Societies of the world. It was an effort stressing the Chinese should depend upon themselves in Bible publishing as well as church development. They have been producing 6 million Bibles a year, and this year that total has been doubled to 12 million.

I like to remind folks that the only product made in China and not sold at Wal-Mart is the Chinese Bible (This may not be true for long as Amity has printed 9 million Bibles in 75 different languages, including English.) They have exported Bible in English, German, Spanish, French, Russian together with many African languages.

The Post-Denominational Christian churches of China have responded, as have other faiths in China, to the suffering of those caught up in the most devastating earthquake there since 1976. The China government's response has been better than earlier crisis. The response by Burma's mad generals to the cyclone that ravaged their coast and crops has been inhumane. The dictators are afraid to let foreigners in to help. They think everybody else is as bad and corrupt as they are. So they trust no one.

Following the tragic ten-year (1966-76) China "Cultural Revolution" (it was neither cultural or revolutionary) the churches were allowed to claim their property back and begin worship again. They decided, being such a minority, they would no longer split up as Western Denominations but just be Christian churches. That fresh re-opening began in 1979.

Many Western church denominations were skeptical as this new approach began to take hold in China. If Christianity was to survive in China and even flourish, the Chinese themselves must lead the way. They welcomed foreign Christians, but not missionaries. This was a hard new approach that most foreign missionary groups agreed with. Southern Baptists chose to ignore local and national leadership and began covert work. So they and some others chose "cloak and dagger" secret Christian witness in China. Which is absolutely unnecessary. Christianity is one of five officially-recognized religions in China.

The Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Christian denominations caught the vision early and have been strong supporters in ways that encourage the churches of China. There are still home-gatherings (called "house churches" and sometimes "underground churches") all over the country. The majority of these work with the "open" churches of the China Christian Council. Many of the churches seat over 5,000., and have all kinds of theology, just like in the West. They have all the problems of churches around the world, plus knowing how to work with an un-believing government.

Christ prayed his followers would become one, as he and the Father were one. From day one after the resurrection Christians have seldom been able to do that. At least the Chinese churches are giving it a try. With Bible printing and devotional and theological books coming off the presses China's Christians are in the most hopeful and open society they have known in centuries. They have limited freedoms, but are doing much more with their adjusted freedoms than many other places are.

As one Chinese elder said, "Our responsibility is to properly nurture our grassroots believers." By taking the best parts of Western Denominational church order and liturgy, and with mutual respect grow from a fragile unity to a church that can bless the world.

In my mail last week I received a copy of a book my friend and China colleague, Philip L. Wickeri, has just published. (Orbis Books, titled: "Reconstructing Christianity in China; K. H. Ting and the Chinese Church.") With primary sources in Chinese and other languages, Philip has produced a remarkable record of how the churches have come to where they are in the 21 century. Today Philip is Hewlett Professor of Missions at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Another colleague of long ago, Daniel Bays of Calvin College, says it is a "'must read', for everyone who cares about the church in China."


Britt Towery with his wife Jody, taught in the Nanjing, China, Seminary in 1989. He is a native of Brownwood and resident of San Angelo. Contact: bet@suddenlink.net