Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"In the cross of Christ I glory" Hymn from Macau

Macau, China, where "In the cross of Christ I glory" hymn was born.

Macau, China: A Hymn of the Cross

In this pre-casino days when the Portuguese Province of Macau was the first European settlement in East Asia, it looked like this but not as big.

St. Paul's Cathedral (built from 1582-1602) can be seen upper left, after the 19th century typhoon and fire. An old Fort is upper right. The Southern Baptist mission house is in the neighborhood just below the Portuguese fort. The distant hills are not so far away. They are in the Guangdong province of southern China. Macau is less than an hour away by jet-foil.

Sir John Bowring, when he was governor of Hong Kong, visited Macau after the great typhoon and fire that destroyed the Cathedral. He was inspired with the mangled cross high up on the Cathedral. He went on to write the hymn "In the cross of Christ I glory, tow'ring o'er the wrecks of time..."

Wish we had more governors like Brother Bowring.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The name CHRISTIAN has been hi-jacked

Time to “take back” the Christian name and influence

Back a few years when we lived in Fort Worth, still one my favorite towns, Jody and I visited the Birchman Avenue Baptist Church to hear the famous Lester Roloff preach.

Hearing Lester on his daily radio program made me curious to see and hear him in person. He was apt to break out in song right in the middle of his sermon.

He would sashay into song at the end of every 15-minute broadcast with, “One sat alone / beside the highway begging / then Jesus came / and washed his sins away.”

Lester was a real spellbinder; he was ahead of his time and missed out on the riches to be made in televangelistic preaching. He died when his private plane crashed in East Texas in 1982. He was not so much flamboyant as he was common, which really attracted South Texas farmers and peasants.

Lester Roloff got into trouble in 1967 with his unorthodox, yet Christian fundamentalist, management practices of his Rebekah Home for Girls in Corpus Christi became public. For one thing, Lester went all out in promoting and using the Bible verse: “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

In 1973 the Texas Attorney General finally had enough complaints to take him to court. Brother Lester (that’s what everyone called him) was prosecuted for his excessive corporal punishment of the girls. Lester said on the stand: “Better a pink bottom than a black soul.” The attorney said he was more concerned with bottoms “that are blue, black and bloody.”

(It is not important to the story, but Lester Roloff was a graduate of Baylor University. The school is not likely to build a statue for him anytime soon. Actually, old BU would rather forget Bro. Lester. While on the subject, BU also hates to admit Willie Nelson once went to the world’s largest Baptist university. They ought to name a music building after him.)

Weird as it was, Roloff got a lot of support as Kathryn Joyce, author of “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,” wrote recently in an expose of abusive teen homes. Roloff passed off the scene but his co-workers moved on to cause even greater misery for young girls and more shame on the name of Christ in Missouri. Wiley Cameron, who worked for 35 years with Roloff opened “New Beginnings” home for girls.

In 1998 Cameron’s group returned to Texas after then-Gov. George W. Bush deregulated the activities of faith-based groups in Texas. Later Wiley Cameron was chosen to serve on Bush’s peer-review board for Christian children’s agencies in Texas.

Abuse charges emerge all the time in Texas, Missouri, George and Florida. State legislatures consistently look the other way. “We the People” can’t get a hearing on this immoral practice of consecration camps for teens.

The situation is made even more tragic when “faith,” and particular “Christian” terms are tied to the shameful practice. These modern day pirates go about their nefarious ways, hiding behind that very thick, dark and misleading “faith-based” curtain.

These groups are powerful. They are also good at stirring up fear when they are exposed. Nothing like a little fear to rouse the troops. (Typical tactic of the G. O. P. and their appendage “tea parties.” But, I digress.)

Anytime someone suggest more oversight on faith-based programs, especially those “reforming” teens, they whip out several myths: Christians are being persecuted; regulations are bad; government want to control the churches, etc.

When bills come up in State legislatures that would curb such abusive projects as those begun by Lester Roloff clones the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs will oppose it.

Martin Luther King, Jr is not the only one with “a dream.” I hope to see the name “Christian” vindicated and restored to its proper status, and no longer abused by these shysters.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tea Party Worries About Sharia law

A Big Tea Party For Everyone

The announcement was shouted from the rooftops, loud and clear: It’s party Time! Everybody is invited! Refreshments will be provided! There will be free drinks for all! There is but one minor inconvenience, there will be no beer, hard liquor or cider, not even coffee on the table.

The drink of choice will be tea. Tea, with or without sugar, ice cold, hot or tepid, black or red, tea made to make your taste buds rejoice as if you were in an old time brush arbor spiritual revival.

Feel free to bring along any good fruit flavors to add to the mix and savor the moment. Nothing like having a party where everyone’s special tastes are met.

The promoters next announced, nay, proclaimed to all West Texans: A significant event was appearing in their very city, right down the street, in your neighborhood, where every girl is like the one next door, and all the boys are great football stars just like their dads, and mothers who volunteer for every worthy cause.

Since the party is for everyone’s tea-liking taste why not just call it a Tea Party? Make it ‘The Place Where Everybody Is Somebody.”

Tea -- Oolong, light or dark, black or red, green or white, Hibiscus or Rooibos, even chai and wellness teas -- will be on the serving table. All the blends are sure to quince your thirst at this great American Tea Party.

It should be noted this Tea Party does not have any relationship with The Republic of Tea Company that claims to be the leading purveyor of premium teas. A tea has to be of the greatest quality to have the approval of those who gather around the exalted Tea Party table. Few are elevated to that status.

Tea leaves are prepared and cured using various methods. Sometimes they are run through hot and boiling water. There will be no boiling water at the Tea Party. The tea to be ready to consume just like good old Kool Aid. A drink preferred by a variety of less cultivated parties.

The Tea Party we envision is a breed apart. It cares for all kinds of people – even those who do not drink tea. Also they are occasionally opposed to fear-mongering. At an earlier, sparsely attended Tea Party, major time was given to informing Americans there is much to fear from the Muslim’s Sharia law.

In America today, an anti-Muslim sentiment is boiling over in a most ridiculous way. Ultra-conservatives are now publicly promoting the notion that Sharia law is going to displace our Supreme Court and do away with our Magna Carter freedoms. It is all a big secret as to how the clandestine Muslims are going to do this. But do it, they are, says the elders of the Tea Party.

Islamic law has for centuries kept Muslim government and religion tied together with Sharia law. It is a guide for devout Muslims. America is not at risk of falling under the sway of Sharia law. Get over it! It will not happen even if Oklahoma’s legislative gurus keep making laws to ban something we don’t even have, and are not getting.

When I was young there was supposed to be a communist under every bed and around every corner. Never found one. Senator Joe McCarthy was the chief nut job then.

Don’t be afraid of Sharia law, the Tea Party will be on the front lines defending the laws the Founding Fathers who gave their blood, fortunes and estates for democratic law. The Tea Party, after this next big meeting, will have all the facts to show there is no cause for alarm. Or is this writer merely naïve? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? (For the younger readers: that is the opening line of the radio drama, “The Shadow.”)

If you are going to the Tea Party, remember to bring a brown paper bag lunch. Nothing nourishing will be served, just the Tea Party’s own home-made-up-tea.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Prince Flowing Mane from Paint Creek

Another Texican running for President

“Heavens to Betsy,” Aunt Mae might have said had she heard the flowing mane-blessed present governor of Texas announce his intention of running for the office of the President of the United States of America.

To us nephews and nieces, Aunt Mae, along with her older sister, Aunt Martha, were viewed as powerful women. They had opinions and could care less if they were ignored. They knew what they knew and were proud of it. Only the stupid would disagree with Aunt Martha --- at least until out of sight.

Aunt Martha smoked. I don’t mean politically, I mean literally she smoked. She loved her Chesterfields. During the war she smoked Wings. The Wings brand had a war plane card in each pack. Once she knew that I knew she smoked, she saved the airplane cards for me.

Back in those days most ladies did not smoke – at least not in public. Aunt Mae took a dim view of her older sister smoking. But it never became an issue with them. It wouldn’t have made any difference “no how,” they’d say.

Uncle Louis and Aunt Martha got married after World War I. He grew up in Borger, Texas, and then went off to drive an ambulance in that “war to end all wars.” Ernest Hemingway described Uncle Louis well in one of his war stories. I can’t prove that, but am pretty sure he would have made a stirring character in a Hemingway book.

So much time has passed in Texas since these two aunts and Uncle Louis graced the scene. These were the depression 30s and war 40s. Compared to today it was like living on a distant planet.

They were probably Democratic Party believers. Then again, everybody was in Texas in those days. No self-respecting man, woman, boy or girl would be anything else. Republicans, in those days, were just a generation away from the Yankee carpet-baggers that did more harm to the south than any cotton-pickin’ boil weevil.

They knew first-hand what happens when a Republican president sets up business in the oval office. Ask those who have been there: What do you get? Whadeyeget? You get a full-scale, one hundred percent depression, complete with anxiety, misery, hardship, and utter hopelessness, that eventually led to another war.

When the carpet-bagger Republicans finally left, Texas could say the Civil War was over and Texas was safe in the hands of the Democratic Party.

It would stay that way for over 100 years. A veritable heaven on earth. Then in the late 1950s when justice prevailed and black kids could begin to get a better education, both Republican and Democratic whites fled to the suburbs. Avoiding the trauma of “mixed schooling.”

Democrats-in-name only also fled the party and became Republicans. And the Republican Party and its new “tea party” image has put a pall over Texas and much of the country.

“Heavenly days,” puts it too mildly as we think of another good-old-boy with Republican hues being in the White House. Having never been prone to the use of curses, gutter, low-life language, I can express it no better than exclaim, “Holy Moses, what’s next?”

According to right-wing Protestant radio stations, like the American Family Radio, Prince Flowing Mane from Paint Creek is already assured to bring Christianity back to the White House and free it of the not-really-an American, Muslim-loving, pretend president.

Heavenly Days. Saints preserve us. Whadeyeget? Another day older and deeper in (censored).

[Set to be published in Aug 26 edition of Brownwood (TX) Bulletin and San Angelo (TX) Standard-Times dailies]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ross Coggins, 1927-2011

For some years now I have had the pleasure of corresponding with a friend from out of the past. But recently my e-mails to Ross Coggins were not acknowledged.

Today word came from friends in Singapore of his passing. I knew his health was failing, but his notes and phone conversations were never about his condition. His insight into our devolving government changes and to the plight of the Christian community were great food for thought. He shared a poem he had written for a loved one in his family of friends that I was able to share when my dear friend Joe Swan died in 2008. Now the poet is gone.

I first met Ross and his lovely wife, Annette, in Hong Kong. They were appointed Southern Baptist missionaries to Indonesia in 1955. At state affairs, mostly social affairs, he met Sukarno, the first Indonesian president. His stories of the old dictator were interesting, but this is not the place for such sidelights.

Ross was looking to buy a camera in our favorite camera-hole-of-a-shop just across from the Grand Hotel in Tsimshatsui district of Kowloon.

A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Ross attended the University of Texas and received his B.A. at Baylor University, Waco, Texas and a B.D. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. He was the Associate Director of Student Work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, before going to Indonesia.
After language study the Coggins worked in Surabaya and Bandung, before taking a new challenge with the United States Federal Government Aid Agencies. He was stationed in Rome and the islands of the Caribbean, among other places.

He should be well-know to Southern Baptists for his hymn “Send me, O Lord, send me.” In 1976 his poem “The Development Set” was published and can be found on several web sights even now. It speaks of his burden to help sick and dying peoples through their governments all over the globe.

He did not travel around the world telling poor countries what they should do and how they should change. He tried to persuade rich countries to change the policies and behaviors that hinder the poorest of nations to prosper.
Here are excerpts from “The Development Set”
by Ross Coggins showing through satire how little we really care:

Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;

Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.

We discuss malnutrition over steaks 

And plan hunger talks during coffee breaks. 

Whether Asian floods or African drought, 

We face each issue with open mouth.

We bring in consultants whose circumlocution 

Raises difficulties for every solution -- 

Thus guaranteeing continued good eating

By showing the need for another meeting.

Or say, "That's fine in practice, but don't you see:

It doesn't work out in theory!" 

A few may find this incomprehensible, 

But most will admire you as deep and sensible.

Development set homes are extremely chic,
Full of carvings, curios, and draped with batik.
Eye-level photographs subtly assure
That your host is at home with the great and the poor.
Enough of these verses - on with the mission! 

Our task is as broad as the human condition!

Just pray god the biblical promise is true:

The poor ye shall always have with you.

Ross, may your spirit continue to help those of us still here to make a difference rather than just take up space.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Poets are naive on Mexico drug war

Javier Sicilia, poet essayist from Cuernavaca, Mexico, held a peace rally in El Paso this summer. His criticisms of the Mexican government has grown stronger since the death of his son. He said, “I have begun to learn the names of the 40,000 dead, who died crying out for justice.”

Sicilla also placed some of the blame on the United States. The drug consumption of the States is the basic problem. The desire for drugs here is at the heart of this tragic situation.

Add to the mix, the United States provides weapons, meant to help, but only make the situation worse. Gun shows abound along the border. These gun sellers and their gaudy shows are legal, but deadly.

The rival gangs in Mexico are creeps who see only dollar signs. These “scum of the earth” Mexicans bandit-armies have proven that human life of their own people mean nothing to them. It is now an undeclared war. There is little prospect of it ending until the United States makes some sensible changes in the drug laws.

To have such a war right in our own back yard is not acceptable. But it goes on, just as it has for years. When it becomes personal, in the case of Javier Sicilla, we stand up and complain.

Add to the mix, the United States provides weapons, meant to help, but only make the situation worse. Gun shows abound along the border. These gun sellers and their gaudy shows are legal, but deadly.

Oscar Menendez, filmmaker and friend of Sicllia, says: “he is very hurt by the death of is son.” Mexico. Like the States have had many protests and marches , but they soon fade away. Menendez, however is on record as saying, “I think this one will be different. We’re in it for the long fight. Javier is not going to drop this.”

A poet has a way of touching the hearts of the people. He can put the problem in a context for thinking people, on both sides of the border, to get serious about this war.

To bring us up to date, last March Sicilia’s 24-year-old son, Juan Francisco, and six of his friends were killed by drug cartel criminal goons in Cuernavaca.

The local police have little power in this war. The Army has come and only made things worse. The evident corruption of government institutions makes it difficult for anyone trying to live a normal life.

Sicllia, in his letter to the government, trys to get the point across that the obsnece number of deaths has become an epidemic in the countryside.

In Mexico City’s main square over 90,000 people gathered to protest the inaction of government to the crisis. Mexico President Felipe Calderon has a lot to answer for. It is said that Ciudad Juarez alone has had 9,000 killed since 2007.

In Juarez, just across the little stream known as the Rio Grande, El Paso slumbers in peace. The Texas city is safe from the slaughter because it makes a good transfer point and does not upset the local government. Washington, DC. Is a long ways away.

To be so close to a war should be unnerving, but it does not seem to strike a cord of care. To just blame El Paso is wrong, for San Angelo is not all that far from the Rio Grande. The Texas-Mexico border is long and what hurts on one side affects the other side.

Austin is closer than the politicians realize. They need to wake up to the realities of war next door. When we “Remember the Alamo,” be good to recall who won the battle in that little mission in San Antonio.

Poets are naïve.

Enjoy Life "in the now," It has an expiration date!

Enjoy life now... It has an expiration date!
Living in the “now” is what living is all about. What has gone before is gone forever, unless we choose to keep on re-living it in our faulty memories. What is yet to come, always hinges on “possibilities.” We can’t live today on what is past, good, bad or questionable. We can’t live today on what may or may not happen in the coming days or our possible future predicaments.

I am writing today’s opinion piece to myself. I am writing this for myself. So, if anyone takes the time to read it, know it is a simple statement of what I need to tell myself today (and truthfully, every day).
It is definitely true that the “now,” this day, this hour, this moment is all I have. I try to remind myself that it should be lived to the fullest, enjoyed with every breath.

All the experts keep telling me, “Don’t clutter up your life with what could have been.” “Don’t lose your only ‘today’ worrying about what might be around the corner.”

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” So said Pulitzer Prize recipient Annie Dillard. Everyday there are ‘moments’ that make the day a joy, or at least pleasurable. The ‘now’ moments are undoubtedly our most valuable commodity.

Wise old gurus stress ‘time’ as the greatest of our possessions. Many of the Bible’s parables and stories urge the wise use of time. Recognizing that the time-now-in-our-hands is all we have --- and it can be a liberating force evolving into a “life lived at its fullest.”

Time is like studying a foreign language – no matter how hard I study, if I do use the language, I lose it. Time is a gift to be appreciated, even treasured or cherished, otherwise I lose it. “Cherish the moment” may sound too sentimental or preachy, but it sure beats just “spending” time or even worse, “killing” time. Today is too valuable for me to let slip away on whims, grudges, resentments, or slights encountered along life’s way.

Al Capp, the creator of one of my all-time favorite comic strips, Li’l Abner, lost his left leg at the age of nine. He wrote a memoir with the up-beat, positive title: “My Well Balanced Life On A Wooden Leg.” He didn’t let the loss of a leg ruin the rest of his days. His cheerful autobiographical essays attest to his living in the “now.”

So, I am saying to myself, enjoy life “now”... right here and now! For life has an expiration date!