Sunday, April 26, 2009

NOBODY likes bad news, even in tough times

A Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah, in the Sixth century B.C.E., prophesied an unavoidable disaster coming upon Jerusalem and what was left of the divided kingdom of Israel. He began his campaign to wake up the people in his home village, which immediately rejected him. He complained to God of this treatment, saying, I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

Little wonder Jeremiah is called "the weeping prophet." No one would give him the time of day. They saw him as a fool when he told his own people what a mess they were in. Jeremiah remembered that two hundred years earlier, the Assyrians wiped out Israel's northern kingdom. Now he is saying the same fate was coming to Jerusalem and the southern kingdom.

No one likes bad news. It is discouraging to think you are barefoot on a slippery slope. It is disappointing to realize your city walls are no longer strong enough. It is frightening to think that the Babylonian armies were out there in the dark somewhere.

Jerusalem, an ancient city even then, could not accept a prophet who talked of their sin and faithlessness. This is the great City of David. Hard times are coming Jeremiah kept saying. They knew they were the chosen of God, and things would be better if Jeremiah would leave town. This Jeremiah must be a false prophet, otherwise he would not "run us down" before the world.

Because of their pride and arrogance, the people of Jerusalem could not accept the truth. To them, Jeremiah was the problem. He had put a shadow over the land. So they kept a few idols around and didn't go to the temple much. He shouldn't run down our country. If they were not throwing rocks at him, they were laughing at who they considered the village idiot.

This resulted in the people getting their way in the coming destruction. Jeremiah was so outspoken about the doom that was coming, King Zedekiah saw Jeremiah as an outlaw. This traitor should be dealt with. They wanted to live in a land without a discouraging word. Jeremiah was locked up in the King's dungeon. (Somewhat the way President Woodrow Wilson's party treated a rival candidate once.)

Eventually his prison time saved his life. The enemy came and destroyed the city and temple. After his release, he tried to ease the overwhelming pain of those not carried away captive. God still cared for them in their suffering. Not heeding the truth had turned the people into homeless refugees. The people, sitting in their rags in crumbling hovels were not impressed with that word either.

Some finally realized their problem was turning truth into a lie and refusing to take the long hard road to recovery. Without knowing it at the time, they were the last of the once rich Kingdom of Israel. It was annihilated. (An aside: The 1948 re-establishment of Israel, through the U.N., has no connection with the Israel of the Bible.)

There are modern-day prophets insisting America is failing and needs to return to God. Save America from itself. Where were these people when credit card companies re-invented usury? Where were these people when Iraq was invaded on false pretexts? Where were these people when our highest officials turned to torture? Where were these people when suspected terrorists were shipped off to countries for torture? Where were we when people could be arrested and never tried? Where were we amid the outrages of the last decade?

The protests of today's bad government is a bit late and off target. These are difficult times. We don't need to be reminded, but consider how long this fall has been coming. Consider that there has been little oversight by anyone on anything. Making mistakes and misjudgments without learning anything from them. Blaming the present government only covers the real problems. Protest is good when the facts are used. Playing the blame game solved nothing in old Jerusalem and will solve nothing in today's government.

Craig Ferguson on the CBS Late Late Show had a solution: "President Obama is doing too much or he is not doing enough, or he is doing it wrong. It is the new president's time before the firing squad. I think everybody should just calm down. Give Obama four years. See what he can do. Then if he’s a miserable failure, we’ll do what we did with George W. Bush and elect him to a second term."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"LIBERAL" not a dirty word

The anti-liberal followers of the population need to do what I did recently. I got out my dictionary and looked up the definitions of the world LIBERAL. (1) Liberals are tolerant of different views and standards of behavior in others; (2) Liberals favor gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute wealth more evenly and protect the personal freedom of the individual; (3) Liberals are generous with money, time, or some other asset; (4) Liberals are concerned with general cultural matters and broadening of the mind.

As a noun, a liberal is somebody who favors tolerance or reform. Synonyms of the word: open-minded, moderate, freethinking and noninterventionist.

Once we know the meaning of the word and the neighborhood in which it lives, who would not want to be called a liberal?

Look at the history of our country. Liberals got us good food and drug acts; got women the right to vote; Social Security (which I appreciate more every day) was created by liberals; got the Civil Rights Act passed; passed the Clean Air Act; passed the Clean Water Act; opposed slavery early on; making the 13 colonies separate the powers of church and state, and pushed for leaving the British Empire and founding the United States of American.

And probably as important would be liberals insight to the founding of human rights movements and pushing treaties like the Geneva Conventions on war. Set the pattern after WWII to put on trial and convict German war criminals. We could use politicians with guts to put more modern war criminals on trial.

So the next time you are called a "liberal," take it as a badge of honor and be proud to be in such company.


Nothing has changed, war mongers are still with us

During World War I, Harry Emerson Fosdick published a prayer for the Germans: "O God, bless Germany! At war with her people we hate them not at all. . . .We acknowledge before Thee our part in the world's iniquity. . . .We dare not stand in thy sight and accuse Germany as though she alone were guilty of our international disgrace. We all are guilty."

Charles Biddle, an American pilot, responded to Fosdick's prayer by pledging to kill as many "Huns" as he could, saying that "if Christianity requires us to forgive them I am afraid I am no Christian" This Fosdick prayer for the enemy was in the March issue of Church History.

In my "fan mail" now and then I hear from readers that remind me of pilot Charles Biddle. They not only simply disagree when I write on problems like torture, but stress their hatred and believe torture is good and fruitful. One such reader disagreed when I wrote torture was immoral and illegal. His blunt word for me reveal the condition of too many Americans today. At the end of his harangue, he closed with: "If you are a Christian, then I do not want to be one!"

Friday, April 17, 2009


President Barack Obama, wife and daughters, are seeking the right church home for them. According to the Boston Globe, they was a church that matches their faith and that has a youth ministry suitable for their two girls. As would be expected, they want a church that is active in helping the needy. The president has a problem the rest of us don't. Security is a factor, for his family and for the membership to not feel services would become a circus or show affair.

Finding the place one is comfortable in worship and fellowship is the secret to spiritual growth. I have a weird idea that Baptist spend far too much time on enlisting "prospects" and setting baptism records, than growing disciples. Just a thought. There are more Baptists in other denominations than most Baptists would like to admit. And with more attention given in Sunday school Baptists might not lose so many kids when they leave home.

From the time I was ordained to the Defense of the Gospel (that is what the certificate says), March 21, 1951, my intention was never to build any part of a denomination. I did work for one as a home and foreign missionary, but it mattered little to me, then and even more today, who baptizes the most or if we did what the state or national leadership pushed in the way of programs.

I might be a tad stubborn. I have heard such rumors, but I didn't intend any harm. That is probably why John Mark left his cousin Barnabas and Paul when they were missionarying (a new word). I've been told years ago there were over 25 distinct Baptist denominations in USA. By now there must be a hundred. So many now, that the name Baptist is left off a bunch of them. Wonder why that is?

How sweet it is, to no longer have that guilt feeling if I miss BYPU or don't get to church three or four times a week. My health is good, but I am just not up to being a Baptist anymore. My Methodist mother would be pleased and my Presbyterian cousin would too to know that in retirement we enjoy Sunday morning worship in downtown San Angelo's First Presbyterian Church.- - - - - Mosaic photo at top is part of a wall mural two stories high on side of one of the buildings of the Catholic LaSalle school on Boundary Steet, Kowloon, Hong Kong. The artist is Francisco "Pablo" Borbora, now living in Mexico. When he lived in Hong Kong he did many outstanding mosaics there and in Macao.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Let Curiosity Be Your Guide

To most Americans today (April 15) is tax day. But long before Europeans found the New World, there was born on this date one of the world's greatest men of curiosity.

Leonardo da Vinci was born April 15, 1452, as an illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant woman near Florence, Italy. His 67 years on earth had him an accomplished scientist, engineer, inventor, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Nothing brings quality to life like curiosity and Leonardo had a double portion of curiosity.

Lately I have had dreams that seem more real than life. Leonardo once said in that connection: "Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?"

Other quotes from the great man:

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

"Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it."

"Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation ... even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind."

"A well-spent day brings happy sleep."

Now, go pay your taxes, grin and bear it, and let curiosity be your guide.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Take a Walk FOR HEALTH

Good ole Dr. Harvey got my attention today when he "suggested" I get more exercise. I use the word suggested rather loosely here. He was serious. Little movement now will mean it might be impossible to move later. Move, walk and have a life is worth a little more sweat now. So Jody and I walked over to the physical therapy center (half a mile) and spent an hour doing what is right. Now, it must become a habit and not a spurt of guilt. (Dr. Harvey is not really old)

Mark Twain, who never smoked more than one cigar at a time, always has something to say on this subject. "The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd druther not."

Which brings me to a more recent advocate of health. But, I find I best not heed the wisdom of former SBC President Jimmy R. Allen, who told me when he got an urge to exercise, he would lie down till the urge passed.

"Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit," says the Good Book.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Prayer of Confession

My prayer on this holy day we call Easter is one of thankfulness. Thankful to be called a child of God; a most unworthy one. You have overcome the powers of sin and death and promises of life and love that never ends. I confess I am among those who took part in your wounds simply by my stubborn, rebellious, and selfish ways. Thank you Eternal Father for forgiving my foolish mistakes, my hurtful words, and shameful deeds. With thankful hearts Jody and I look forward to the after-resurrection days. A-men.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dick Cheney, Friend or Foe?

The other day I was informed that former Vice-President Dick Cheney was the greatest vice-president American ever had. Greater than John Nance Garner, Hannibal Hamlin, or John C. Calhoun.

I countered by asking if Cheney was greater than Schuyler Colfax or William A. Wheeler, or Dan Quayle? No. All the other vice-presidents were mere party flunkies or favorite sons. None had the power and winning personality of Dick Cheney. Cheney was strong regarding his convictions, even to ignoring the sitting president. He was a firm believer in taking charge even if the situation did not demand it.

Back in ancient history when, as a young man and Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford, Cheney urged the president to be more forceful as president. Later while serving in congress, he did not see congress and the Executive as equal. It was for the president to lead. To take command and get done what should be done.

Dick Cheney had only praise when he was in congress for those involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. He wrote the minority report after the participants were proven guilty. To him they were patriots. One of the "patriots" works today for the Fox News outfit, Lt. Col. Oliver North. (I am sure he is well-know in West Texas for every office, store or bank I visit has the television tuned to Fox News.)

Back in the fall of 1986, it was revealed that for some time agents of the United States government had been running an illegal operation to sell weapons to Iran and funnel the profits to the Contras, a military organization dedicated to overthrowing the leftist government of Nicaragua.

The illegal Iran-Contra operations in 1986 found the Reagan Administration officials deliberately deceiving the Congress and the public about the these operations.

Fourteen Reagan Administration officials were charged with criminal acts. Eleven convictions and guilty pleas were entered. Several of the guilty were issued pre-trial pardons by President George H. W. Bush, as he was going out of office in 1993. These illegal activities were done with the knowledge of President Reagan, then Vice President George H. W. Bush and William Casey, head of the CIA. Unfortunately, congressmen/women chose not to impeach the guilty. As usual, they were more interested in getting re-elected.

It was this Iran-Contra affair that Congressman Dick Cheney's joint committee Minority Report chose denied any significant crime had occurred. George H. W. Bush (#41), when he became president, rewarded Dick Cheney by making him the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Talking with this man, who thought Cheney was a great vice president, began in a casual way. I wondered what he thought of Cheney's remark that America was no longer safe with him out of office. For the past month, Cheney has been showing up everywhere with speeches and opinions of how good the Bush administration was and how bad the Obama administration is. When Cheney was in office he was seldom available for interviews. Cheney still feels the war was good, "we won it," he said more than once.

The leopard cannot change his spots, nor the tiger his stripes. Neither can history be re-arranged to suit the loser. Instead of a PR campaign to revise recent history, let the historians, now and future, fill us in on what went on in the offices of the most secretive vice president in history.

I wanted to mention some recent Cheney appearances to the Cheney-believer. It would have been embarrassing to him. Like the time (October 24, 2006) when Cheney was questioned about waterboarding. To him it was not torture, his brilliant reply: "A no-brainer."

Torture, as viewed by the former vice president, is a war crime. Torture would not have been an issue had the White House listened to a few knowledgeable people. For instance, Henry Kolm, who was a part of the U.S. intelligence team that interrogated Nazi POWs during World War II. He said: "We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture."

Before the Iraq war began the world's greatest vice-president was asked (9-16-01) if there was any evidence of Saddam Hussein being involved in the September 9/11 tragedy. His reply then: "No." A year later, he (12-2-02) changed that and said: "[Saddam's] regime has had high-level contacts with al-Qaeda going back a decade." That was as wrong as the mysterious WMD fairy tale.

Beginning last month, the former vice president, along with Karl Rove, ad nauseam, have been attempting to re-write the history of the Bush (#43) White House years.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

China Still Fears Free Press

The last days of December, 2008, journalist Hu Jia (photo, right), his wife, Zeng Jinyan, grandmother and six-week-old daughter were sleeping soundly in their Beijing apartment. When, at 3:00 AM, about 20 policemen burst in, cut their phone lines and disconnected his Internet. Hu Jia was immediately arrested and taken to a detention center. Why? Hu Jia was dangerous because he has been "subverting state authority."

Hu Jia is a well-known humanitarian activist. He has been defending prisoners of conscience, and China's failure to keep their word and laws. On paper, China claims to have law. In real life justice and law are orphans there.

He made ample use of the Internet, where he has a blog, to expose the government's acts of repression on those who defend human rights.

Days after his arrest, the police told his wife, Zeng Jinyan, they were looking for articles Hu had posted online. They were especially looking for stories and remarks regarding last August's Olympics. (Zeng Jinyan was named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2006.)

Last November Hu used his webcam to address a European parliamentary hearing on human rights. He said China had promised they would lighten up on dissidents before the Olympics. The chief of police was on the Olympic organizing committee. He kept none of the promises to lighten up on people's freedoms. So China got the 2008 Olympic Games. But they never let up on strong-arm tactics. By letting the world know the truth was too much for the police state to tolerate. (The European parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering called for Hu’s release. The American Embassy has looked into the arrest and trial. USA has absolutely no leverage.)

Hu Jia was sentenced April 3, 2008, to three-and-a-half years' jail and another year's denial of political rights. His crime: "inciting subversion of state authority." The Chinese pull this accusation out of the hat constantly. The People's Republic of China does not release any details on arrests or trials.

The Hu apartment is surrounded by 10 police cars and more than two dozen armed policemen. Zeng is not allowed to have contact with anyone and has been threatened if she does not cooperate.

Hu's lawyers, Li Jinsong and Li Fangping, were not allowed to see him. His case was classified as a "state secret." Li Jinsong was put under house arrest in his hotel for a day. Li Fangping was "advised" not to visit Hu's home or try to talk to his wife. Beijing lawyer Xu Zhiyong sent an open letter to China's President Hu Jintao criticising Hu Jia’s arrest.

A call for release for Hu was signed by 90 well-known Chinese activists, writers and lawyers. The letter called his arrest "unacceptable."

After some German journalists talked with Zeng through a window, the police installed a heavy curtain and told journalists to delete any photos they may have taken.

Chinese bloggers are behind Hu and continue to post comments about the arrest. They write messages of comfort and support. These are quickly censored by the officials.

It is difficult to comprehend such repression going on openly. And there being little concern around the world. Hu is an honest man who loves his country or he would have left long ago. He wants China to be a more open society, quit being so dominated by paranoid new technocrats. Their actions show their fear of losing control. In January his lawyers requested he be released on medical grounds until his trial. That was ignored.

Journalists with Radio Free Asia were told by one observer, "There were eight or nine state security agents [police] stationed outside when we arrived, but they called for reinforcements." Another group, Reporters Without Borders, are working for justice in the case.

It took two months of international outrage toward China and support for Hu that the authorities allowed Zeng to visit her husband. Such support relaxed the strangle hold the government had on the situation. China only reacts, and then very slowly, when the truth becomes known around the world. This week foreign tourists have been welcomed back to Tibet.

So last Friday, in spite of pleas from the European Parlament and western powers, Hu Jia was give his sentence. Hu and Zeng and many like them are fearless in demanding transparency and press freedom.

We in the free world are taking our press freedom far too lightly. If the press is muzzled, or run by cliques or corporations, you can say good bye to all the other freedoms, one by one.

The American government is deep in financial debt to China. On the other hand, the Chinese government is in debt to us. A moral debt to humanity; opposition to giving dignity to their fellow man.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Baptist Missions in China, 1938

April 7, 1938: President Herman C.E. Liu Assassinated

The Empire of Japan began World War II with the attack at China's Marco Polo Bridge in the early 1930s. They occupied Shanghai and east to Wuhan and north to Beijing. Japan fought the both Chinese Communist (Mao Zedong) and Nationalist armies (Chiang Kai-shek) until the war's end in September, 1945.

There are many little-known heroes of those war years in China. On today's date (April 7) in 1938, Shanghai University President Herman C.E. Liu was assassinated as he waited for a bus. The Japanese killed him. He was not someone the Japanese war lords could manage. He loved China, his Lord and the university. He would not be a puppet for them as the Last Emperor of China was in Manchuria.

Over a hundred years ago the American Baptist Mission Society and the Southern Baptist Convention Mission Board did a fine thing: they cooperated in the founding of a great Baptist university in the city of Shanghai. It was the University of Shanghai in sight of the Huangpu River, and not far from the famous Bund (waterfront-boardwalk of the International concession).

The school turned out pastors, teachers, scientist and businessmen for half a century. After the Communist won the civil war in 1949, the school was continued but not as a Christian institution. The school has had many names the last 50 years. Jody and I helped place many Christian teachers to teach English there beginning in the mid 1980s. June Rose Garrott, Lynn Yarborough, Ron and Ina Winstead, Loyal and Ilse Gould and others were good and fine witnesses to the school that gave many of their own for God and country.

Southern Baptist missionaries Glenn Morris and Buford Nichols and their wives were in Shanghai when the Communist army entered the city. They were ragged, poor country boys who had never seen a two-story building, much less skyscrapers and beautiful French apartment blocks in Shanghai, the Pearl of the Orient.

There was no battle. They just walked in. Pearl Johnson, a missionary from South Carolina, was in Qingdao (Ch'ing Tao) at the time and said one reason the Communist armies won was their manner. They did not rob and rape the people, but came through the land with a song and made a good impression on the villagers.

Years later President Liu's son taught in Hong Kong Baptist University where we met him. He also taught at Belmont University in Tennessee. The Chinese government made Herman C.E. Liu a hero of the revolution. With more openings in China we may learn of others who gave their all for China and the Lord God.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Why So Prone To Wander?

God of compassion, who has revealed the light of your glory, the love of your concern, your constant care over us -- Why would we ever turn away? -- Why do we keep on being distracted by our own plans? -- We speak when we should be listening, and act when we should wait. Thank you Lord for your patience as we pilgrims learn to live and grow where you have planted us, faithfully surrendered like a rose or sagebrush.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

History-making Bears

Baylor University Bears nearly pulled it out! The NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden was won tonight by Penn State, 69-61. Baylor was runner up here to Kentucky in 1948. That was the great team headed by Jackie Robinson (the Texas Robinson, not the California and Dodger one). The Bears came through at the end of the season defeating Texas, Kansas, Georgetown, Va. Tech, Auburn and San Diego State and end the season with their heads held high. As the Aggies always say, "We didn't lose, just ran out of time." (Photo Waco Tribune Herald, with gratitude)