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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, November 13, 2018

Molly Worthen has advice for Furman Seeking Abraham

    After much attention to the yearlong Furman Seeking Abraham project--see previous blog--I was gonna hold off till the start of next year for next installment. But after some conversations the last four days coinciding with the arrival of the Fall 2018 issue of Christian Ethics Today and sterling most timely article by Molly Worthen I'm posting something now, with every intention of saying more in January.

      I have been a big fan of Worthen since reading her definitive work on inerrancy a few years ago, Apostles of Reason. In my view it was a devastating look at the bogus front Al Mohler, Adrian Rogers, and the right winger enthusiasts Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson used as a feint for the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

     Now with some perceptions that initiatives like Furman's 2015 booklet Commemorating 50 Years of Desegregation at Furman and most recently the heralded Seeking Abraham look at the founding father's slaveholding and major influence in the Secessionist move in the South are also moving Furman rapidly away from the best of its Baptist history toward a secular,  identitly politics institution,  Molly Worthen's recent address could not be more timely

     I called the Baugh Center for Baptist Studies at Atlanta Campus of Mercer University this morning to alert them to some of the concerns at Furman. I take some comfort in new President Davis bona fides, her Baptist roots and her network of Administrators with shared time at Baylor, David Underwood now President of Mercer, and Randall Obrien, soon to retire at Carlyle Marney's legacy Carson Newman.

      As conversations have happened rapidly the last 17 days or so, I am a little relieved some of the alarms  Furman was racing downhill to be an entirely secular institution in just thirty short years since the official break with SC Baptists; some of those alarms have been calmed, suspicions tempered.

    Still it has registered with me what a magnificent job Furman historian Courtney Tollison did in the 2015 booklet on Desegregation at Furman as a tipping point in Furman's declining relationship with SC Baptists. The excerpt in the 2015 booklet is definitive, part of her dissertation for her Doctorate at USCarolina circa 2002.

    And on Nov 19 in a few weeks, newly Vanderbilt PHD, Furman undergrad Ansley Quiros book on the Civil Rights movement in Albany Georgia will include a tribute to three Great Baptists with Furman ties, Marshall Frady, Martin England, and a former pastor of FBC Newport Tn where I was born in 53 who was in Americus Ga during the Civil Rights upheaval there.

   At same time it is of concern several folks in key leadership positions at Furman are far short of a working conversational knowledge of Frady and England, their deep Baptist roots that made them champions in the Civil Rights era,  among others.

    In jest Ive been saying with all the statues recommended by the Seeking Abraham report, one should go outside Bon Secours Arena, site of the old Greenville Auditorium the Big Box Where Furman played its home Basketball games, a statue of Frady holding a Pepsi Cup for Jesse Jackson to spit in.

    Frady was a biographer of Jackson and they had an agreement whoever died first the other would do the eulogy. Frady Passed in 2004 and Jackson delivered the eulogy in Augusta Georgia, with former Furman Chaplain Jim Pitts in attendance with TC Smith on a mission from Civil Rights legend Will D Campbell to read a tribute for Frady.

    None of this, nor mention of Martin England as a courier of ML Kings letter from the Bham Jail are in the two booklets now promoted at Furman.

    England and TC Smith marched with King and the Civil Rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery, and Frady's legendary relationship with Jesse Jackson was well known in many circles at Furman till recently.

    So here is hoping the education goes both ways in the ensuing conversations as Seeking Abraham takes traction.

    More later.

     For further consideration, I am hoping whoever is key in Furman's direction whether the President's office, the Provost or the President of the faculty, when it comes to the difficult tension between diversity, identity politics and political correctness Furman will always have a place for the likes of Molly Worthen and this Pulitzer prize winner, and that pocket of enthusiasms will not be looked on as a stepchild especially with a heritage as rich as that of LD Johnson, Albert Blackwell, Martin England, Marshall Frady and their friends Will D Campbell and Carlyle Marney. What follows is quoted from James Wood recent review of Marilynne Robinson in the New Yorker: 

But Robinson is illiberal and unfashionably fierce in her devotion to this Protestant tradition; she is voluble in defense of silence. She loathes the complacent idleness whereby contemporary Americans dismiss Puritanism and turn John Calvin, its great proponent, into an obscure, moralizing bigot: “We are forever drawing up indictments against the past, then refusing to let it testify in its own behalf—it is so very guilty, after all. Such attention as we give to it is usually vindictive and incurious and therefore incompetent.” We flinch from Puritanism because it placed sin at the center of life, but then, as she tartly reminds us, “Americans never think of themselves as sharing fully in the human condition, and therefore beset as all humankind is beset.” Calvin believed in our “total depravity,” our utter fallenness, but this was not necessarily a cruel condemnation. “The belief that we are all sinners gives us excellent grounds for forgiveness and self-forgiveness, and is kindlier than any expectation that we might be saints, even while it affirms the standards all of us fail to attain,” Robinson writes in her essay “Puritans and Prigs.” Nowadays, she argues, educated Americans are prigs, not Puritans, quick to pour judgment on anyone who fails to toe the right political line. Soft moralizing has replaced hard moralizing, but at least those old hard moralists admitted to being moralists.
I do not always enjoy Robinson’s ecstasies, but I admire the obdurateness with which she describes the difficult joys of a faith that will please neither evangelicals nor secularists. Above all, there is the precision and lyrical power of her language, and the way it embodies a struggle—the fight with words, the contemporary writer’s fight with the history of words and the presence of literary tradition, the fight to use the best words to describe both the visible and the invisible world. Here, for instance, is how the narrator of “Housekeeping,” Robinson’s first novel, describes her dead grandmother, who lies in bed with her arms wide open and her head flung back: “It was as if, drowning in air, she had leaped toward ether.” In the same novel, the narrator imagines her grandmother pinning sheets to a clothesline, on a windy day—“Say that when she had pinned three corners to the lines it began to billow and leap in her hands, to flutter and tremble, and to glare with the light, and that the throes of the thing were as gleeful and strong as if a spirit were dancing in its cerements.” “Cerements,” an old word for burial cloth, is Robinson in her Melvillean mode, and is one of many moments in her earlier work when she sounds like the antiquarian Cormac McCarthy. But stronger than that fancy word is the plain and lovely “the throes of the thing,” with its animism and its homemade alliteration.



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