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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bonhoeffer, The Tea Party and the Politics of Stupidity

   This last week I have been deep into a reading of Charles Marsh's bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Strange Glory. This magnificent biography transcends the politics of our time but one strong analogy stands out, at least in my interpretation; The Nazi brownshirts with which religious life in Germany became complicitous, and America's current Tea Party.

    This morning I talked to Amanda in Southern Baptist Trey Gowdy's D.C. office and jake in the office of Ok's James Lankford. Lankford is an ordained Southern Baptist minister now running for US Senate from Oklahoma. Billy Graham goes to Trey's church, FBC Spartanburg, South Carolina.
    Amanda says she has read the Metaxas bio of Bonhoeffer.

   On Page 341 of a Strange Glory we see the analogy:  "...civil courage, the discipline of dissent had been trampled beneath the mobs and the masses. The issue of ultimate responsibility had in these dark circumstnaces, become a 'question not of how I extricate myself heroically from a situation but [of how] a coming generation is to go on living'.  Then there is the seeming prosaic  matter of stupidity, which in Bonhoeffer's estimation is as dangerous an enemy of the good as evil itself. One may wage protest against evil; evil can be exposed and, if ned be, overcome by force. But stupidity mounts a broad and insidious defense in this way: ' Facts that contradict one's prejudgment simply need not be believed...-, and when facts are irrefutablethey are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental' Great caution is needed to challenge stupidity....

  End quote

    Eric Metaxas biography of DB has been embraced by the Tea Party. reported to me Metaxas accompanied Rick Santorum in the S.C. PPresidential Primary of 2012 and spoke to Republican women in Myrtle Beach at the site of the great GOP debate there.

   Metaxas , a devotee of Watergate's Chuck Colson and Southern Baptist fundamentalism, is the subject of a Christian Century piece of three or so years ago, easily googled Bonhoeffer Hijacked.

    It is a travesty of Bonhoeffer's legacy to make him a tool of Roger Ailes and and the Koch Brothers, N.C "s art Pope's Tea Party.

     A good bit of this as a careful reading of Molly Worthen's analysis of Francis Schaeffer--Apostles of Reason-- in conjunction with Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America should be self evident to anyone but the borderline illiterate.

    There is a spate of books recently including the two above that deserve careful reading, especially in the inner circles of folks like Gowdy and Lankford who espouse a "Christian World View". Others include Steven Miller's recent work on the Dangers of Reagan and the Evangelicals, and my friend Randall Balmer's new bio on the religious pilgrimage of President  Carter

     Bonhoeffer's said he heard the Gospel Preached in America in the Negro Churches.

     I think Marsh is telling us Everybody Singing about  Hebn Ain't going there.

   I don't have the corner on the definitive interpretation of Marsh and Bonhoeffer for our current milieu. But here is an Altar Call, An Invitation to take s straightforward look at the Marsh biography, the Life of Bonhoeffer, A Strange Glory.

    At a minimum folks like Gowdy and Lankford--Charles Pickering and his Alliance Defending Freedom, the BGEA, The SBC  and their counselors, supporters should give it a thorough examination and soul searching.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Football and Fornication

   Yesterday about 20 minutes into the second hour of the ESPN Paul Finebaum Radio Show I called in. Got in right before Tommy Tubberville the former Coach of the Auburn Tigers.

    I called in to offer my thoughts on a caller last week who was hurt cause some staffer for ESPN, a Woman, said she didn't care for Tim Tebow's Jesus.

   Paul's a secular Jew, but I volunteered my Dad was a Baptist preacher and I Loved Jesus as much as the next guy, but I could understand the woman's point. Tuesday the vote in the GOP primary was between "devout" Christians and Solid Christians.

    I think George Wallace Race card of the 60s has been parlayed into Karl Rove and Mike Hubbard's Religion card in Bama of the Twenty Teens. Check out McDaniel in Mississippi and the Restoration movement. I think the case can be made it's all a milder version of the Brown Shirts Bonhoeffer resisted in Germany.

   I told Paul that and told him I was reading Charles Marsh's new bio Bonhoeffer. Tod him about the Yale Proff, native West Texas Baptist boy named Siman with an A who had an easily googled review over the weekend in the WSJ Paul ought to read.

    For that weight and other asides Paul said he had to read my blog. I hope he is; he'll be in good company.

    In the opening of his review Siman says until the wiser than most youth pastor who came to his town in the 60's about the only thing they prayed over west of San Angelo was "football and fornication". Paul asked which came first.
  Woody Allen aint the only Jew with a sense of humor. Brett Morgen liked the song Footsteps of Jesus.

   I'm gonna do a blog review of Finebaum's book when it ocmes out in August; gonna adjudicate it somewhere on the George Singleton to Roy Blount spectrum. And I got a a few other ideas for the show.

    I got word this morning I got a new batch of blog readers in Upstate S.C. Here is what they need to know. It was Charles E Daniel himself who first introduced Roger Milliken to Strom Thurmond. That was in 1956. If they'll read Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America, they'll know a lot more, be much more deserving readers of what another Upstater named my "illustrious" blog.

   God Bless America and all the boys who sacrificed on D Day 70 years ago. Help them understand rightly understood they did it for more than Mike Hubbard would hold up as the standard in Alabama.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Bonhoeffer in Alabama

     In the Spring of 1931 Dietrich Bonhoeffer rode up HWY 11 through NE Alabama right in front of my Mother's house. She woulda been 7 then about to turn 8 on July 6 in a month or so.
     Now Reading my acquaintance/friend Charles Marsh's bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes even more transcendent the life of my Mother, an otherwise anonymous person of the 20th Century as her Saintly life, though flawed and very human, was at a fleeting moment twenty yards from the great Christian martyr of the 20th Century.

     I have been enchanted, in wonder these last few days reading Marsh's biography. It is even stronger knowing his metastasized witness and telling of the Civil Rights era in Mississippi adds and overshadows the drama of my family's days in South Carolina. We are both Baptist preacher's sons; I am about 5 years older than Marsh. If nothing else knowing his work, his memoir of Laurel Mississippi, and now this majestic, transcendent biography; well if I never touched the hem of Jesus Garment I can say I pretty much know Paul and Silas.

   Marsh's Chapter "I heard the Gospel Preached in the Negro  Churches" makes a strong case it's not too much a stretch of Divine Imagination to see Marsh as a John the Baptist come to announce God's Kingdom in America's Civil Rights Movement 20 years after Hitler had Bonhoeffer killed. In fact as Marsh points out it is quite likely Bonhoeffer heard MLKing's predecessor at Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, the legend Vernon Johns preach at Abysinnian in NYC in 31. And in his 9 months at Union Seminay in NYC, Marsh befriended Franklin Fisher son of the then pastor of Birmingham Alabama's 16th Street Baptist Church.
   In a letter to his brother Karl, Dietrich wrote there is a movement forming here in America for people of color. Bonhoeffer told his brother they will be leaving much more than a collection of lively songs and Negro Spirituals.
   Another Bonhoeffer friend at Union, Myles Horton later established the training Center in Monteagle, Tennessee where the famous photo of Rosa Parks and MLKing was taken in 56 and used by the Birch Society and White Citizens Councils on Billboards all over the Southeast to say they were at a Communist Tranining Center.  A deacon in my Dad's church in Gaffney, South Carolina saw the billboard and it made a believer outta him.

    There are grand moments throughout in this story. One that was strong for me registered from an oft told anecdote of my father in his sermons about the Profession of faith of George W. Truett in Hayesville, North Carolina in the 1870s. On the loafers bench on the town square the next day when talk got to the Baptist church the news one nothing much had happened, just a boy got saved.
    That boy was George Truett who many say was the most remarkable Baptist in America the first half of the 20th Century.

    Likewise, Bonhoeffer in 32 as a 26 year old young an is preaching an Advent Sermon to a congregation of about 40 souls, as Marsh says as if he was preaching to the Whole World. And so he was. I've heard and read many great sermons, but this ranks up in the top eschelon.

    And again before he became a martyr for the ages, August 28, 1934 at Fano Denmark Bonhoeffer is preaching to a gathering of European Progressive Christians on the Unity of the Faith. This time to about 200. He got a standing ovation.

    These moments as the story builds, are gripping, even if you happen to be a Unbeliever.

    The easily googled Cardus Review, and Sunday's WSJ Wiman review shout out this is a book you must read if your Christian Pilgrimage is of any value to you.

     All I can do is add a few incidentals and maybe a tweak on Schleiermacher and Bonhoeffer;  but that for later.

   One thing I was proud to see was Wiman of Yale  in WSJ accent Marsh's storytelling gift. I was in the Spirit already when I read Marsh telling of Bonhoeffer's comfort in hearing faintly on the winds, church hymns on Sunday mornings from his jail cell. Reminded me of James Wood's Review of Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.  So in the eternal congregation of Bonhoeffer I offer this quote:


Robert Grainier, the protagonist of Train Dreams, cannot or will not tell his own story, and so Johnson tells it for him, which is to say about him. Whereas The Name of the World grants us a mere slice of Reed’s life (the novel spans a period of roughly a year) Grainier’s life is presented in something like its entirety. He is born at or around the dawn of the 20th century and dies in the late ‘60s, having been a laborer and man of faith all of his days. Here he is on a visit to Bonners Ferry, the Idaho town on whose outskirts he lives:

“Over on Second Street, the Methodist congregation was singing. The town of Bonners made no other sound. Grainier still went to services some rare times, when a trip to town coincided. People spoke nicely to him there, people recognized him from the days when he’d attended regularly with Gladys, but he generally regretted going. He very often wept in church. Living up the Moyea with plenty of small chores to distract him, he forgot he was a sad man. When the hymns began, he remembered.”

 If you are a literate person and there are a few others in your congregation who can understand the English language, take up a collection Sunday. Get a copy for the church Library. At a minimum go to a nearby Barnes and Noble and Read the Chapter: "I Heard the Gospel Preached in the Negro Churches". Read the context for Bonhoeffer ridin in front of Momma's house.