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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 www.clsnet.org 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, May 21, 2024

Seventy first birthday party and musings

  Sometimes the best parties are the ones you throw for yourself so I decided to go to the 34th annual Greek Festival downtown Greenville SC May 18 and imagine they all showed up for me.

    Had to walk a couple football fields after I parked outside the offices of Willimon's Buncombe ST UMC on Richardson Street. Was with a cane and a Walking stick. When I got to entrance line was down the street halfway to Henry's BBQ so I decided people of good will would let a struggling senior in.

   I got to the skewers tent to make sure I was at the right place and looked up where I would be in that line and went there. Some asshole confronted me and said you broke in line to get in and it seems you cant help yourself. I said excuse me I 'll just get behind you as the good folks behind him had no problem. Then I said to Mr. AHole you're gonna vote for Trump aren't you. He said that didnt have anything to do with it. I said it has everything to do with it. He took offense when I asked him if he'd ever accepted Jesus Christ as his Personal Saviour. Then he told me he was an Afghan vet and could kick my ass all over the Festival lot. I asked him if he killed any women and children while he was over there. He told me to shut the Fbomb up.

     I thought the Mother fuddrucker woulda got a clue from my Anton Chigurh tee for the Occasion: " Call it Friendo."
     As an Aside, another day another George Singleton character straight out of his short stories. Aside is the title of George latest, an attempt at non ficition.

    I decided the punk was wasnt worth any further escalation and turned to the nice folks behind me and told them some of Uncle Fremont's best jokes.

     The skewer was good. Also got a greed pizza and a Yuro, thirty four dollars worth of goods.

    There were nicer folks on the grounds including two Bosox Fans with whom I shared the Leon Culberson story--he almost married Aunt Virginia according to family lore--as saved for posterity in David Halberstam's The Teammates. 

     From there  to Judson bookstore on Main. Got a six dollar tee, my last and had a great conversation with an open minded Bob Jones Grad who's husband is going to med school at Duke. And then spoke to a late forty year old who was holding on pretty good and volunteered were you the homecoming queen or first runner up. She gave me a wry no offense taken smile. The face didnt quite live up to the derrierre but I give her an honest 7.5
      On the street out front talked to a woman from Newberry who was in the courthouse for the Pee Wee Gaskins trial but didnt know who Lee Atwater was. And a fellow from St Louis who said the whole Ferguson  mess was only two city blocks on a suburb Main street and the rest of the vicinity was a never mind. Also a fellow there with a great Texaco Cap
       Went by to see my sister who had two Cormac McCarthy books for me, the Passenger and Stella Maris package, and a great chocolate pie almost as good as Mommas.
    So wasnt bad for seventy one. A good day all in all

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Pulitzers Marilynne Robinson does grand job explaining Biblical Truths from the Get Go

You're gonna have to do some background reading for this blog to make much sense. Begin with Sunday School for the last twenty years at a minimum then James Wood Review in the New Yorker. He does a spectacular job I think the March 14 print issue. And it's online.

     Ive met both of them, Wood at a Sewanee writers conference and Marilynne Robinson, professing Christian, Pulitzer prize winner and author of the new book on Genesis.

     Here are two salient quotes I will dance around later, one on page 126 and the other page 132. In addition to something to think about the rest of the year and taunt other thinkers, I think in my 8th decade I finally got the characters right in the story of Laman , Leah and Rachel, Jacob the father and his sons Benjamin and Joseph after he fathered many by Leah to get a shot at Rachel.

     Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. The writer Ron Rash does  Biblical justice to his fictional Rachel in his novel Serena. She loses a father in a knife fight but lives through the birth of her son and does not have a second child. 

   On page 126 Robinson says: " Modern anthropology has tended to build upward or downward and outward from reductionists defintions, humankind as naked ape, as phenotype of the selfish gene. Biblical anthropology begins with an exalted conception of humanity, then ponders our errors and deficiencies and our capacities for grace and truth, within the world of meaningful freedom created for them by an omnipotent God. This seems paradoxical, but sustaining paradox is the genius of the text."

    And page 138 : "Jacob is sometimes seen as a picaresque figure, the kind of prankster found in folktales....But writers understand and use the methods of storytellers. These ancient writers would surely have listened to the lore of their culture with intense interest, and reverence as well, and have found it authenticated by signs of ancient origins. Our Popular culture is the product of capital and technology and marketing. It is a best guess at interests and tastes that it also instills and exploits. It has only accidental points of contact with collective identity or memory. At the same time, a modern prejudice to associate theologically important narrative with folktale is often to diminish its capacity for meaning."
   Genesis moves quickly from Creation to the intimate Stories of Jacob and Laman, Rachel and Leah. the fact that we have love and grief in the deepest reaches of our soul "only make them more astonishing, over against the roaring cosmos.That they exist at all can only be proof of a tender solicitude".

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Criswell Redux, His trombone and John Phillip Sousa

 This is a followup on Criswell and the Hagiography of his suck up, patronizing disciple O S Hawkins.  Come back to this as I am posting the rough draft but plan to refine and do some add ons and perspective

    I have read the bio since my first take. Got the book on Friday and pretty much devoured it over the weekend. History will record Criswell as a demagogue bastard Baptist in the big scheme of things, but Hawkins hagiography embellishes the humanity of the rascal and some of those tales are charming.

    Its like one of my Dad's Stories of My Grandmother's oldest brother Bill Helton born in the 1890s outside Pigeon Forge Tennessee where he lived all his life, the oldest of nine brother and another sister. He Told my Dad that in the thirties a visiting preacher came through the hollers for a ten day revival and stayed with a family. The wife was devout but the husband a well known moonshiner. The preacher spent one day making shine with the husband. The preacher left the steal early for the services and the shiner on the way home stopped by the open window church during mid service. He later told Uncle Bill " knowing what that rascal had been up to all day making shine with me, he was preaching in such a way, it brought tears to my eyes."

      Such was the gift of W A Criswell. I was charmed by the story last night of his mother taking him from Tex Line Texas over to Amarillo in the Panhandle because the accreditation of the public school in  TEXLINE was in Question where as Amarillo High had strong credibility.

      Criswell as incoming Junior soon was first chair in the trombone section of the High School and city wide civic band. John Phillips Sousa himself came to town circa 1915 and directed the band in Stars and Stripes forever which evoked a five minute standing ovation.

    It was just a few months before that George W. Truett, likely the greatest Baptist of the first half of the 20th Century visited the FBC of Amarillo one Sunday morning and shook hands with a sixteen year old Criswell and said God Bless You.

    I was baptized in Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville NC, birthplace of Truett where he lived his first 20 years before the family went to Texas So I have skin, at least water, in the game.

    In Baptist circles that was as big as the famous handshake of JFK and Bill Clinton when Clinton was 17

     More later 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

W A Criswell and the "Nigger Nigger Nigger" strategy

I got the book today April 12. Will write a Criswell Redux soon. Hawkins does address Criswell 1956 race baiting speech and says it was one of WA top three regrets. Talks about Criswell sermon the Sunday after the JKF assassination, Nov 24 1963 where he dismissed it as result of atheistic communism. Cursory reading does not talk about Criswell and Bill Moyers. It does turn up some interesting stories about predecessor George W. Truett where the Truett legacy is diminished somewhat on the race issue.

O S Hawkins has written a biography of the mid 20th Century demagogue and influential Southern Baptist Preacher WA Criswell. An in house effort there is an exhaustive  review at Baptist News Global

    Criswell gave a scorching address at the 1956 statewide Baptist preacher's conference in Columbia SC where he said among other things "I wouldnt let my daughter within two city blocks of a big Black Buck"; and "You wouldnt call a chigger a chiggerow, now would ya." 

    He got hoots and howls on both counts and the next day at the invitation of Strom Thurmond addressed a joint session of the SC Legislature.
     My Dad's seminary proff at SEBTS at Wake Forest NC followed and said "WA Criswell doesnt speak for me."
    This episode has been thoroughly written up by Curtis Freeman of the house of Baptist studies at Duke University. You can google it up for the title Dead from the Neck Up.
     I have not read Hawkins book yet, just the review. But I will be surprised if I find reference to Criswell the race baiter in the hagiography, nor any imagination from an honest look at Wuthnow's Rough Country on how Texas Southern Baptists shaped the modern day Republican Party.
     I am convinced Robert Jones has Criswell's number in his piece of a couple years ago Shutting Down CRT Debate, Religion News. There he quotes the Lee Atwater memo where he famously said you can't say nigger nigger nigger anymore so the GOP has to come up with new issues and strategies to get in the head of the white working class vote. Abortion and Guns and Critical Race Theory put the sheen on the politics Criswell mastered at FBC Dallas and in the Southern Baptist Convention.
     There is a lesser version a twin sister of FBC Dallas and the Criswell strategy at FBC Spartanburg SC. There the Heritage foundation shows every sign of replacing the John Birch Society of Criswell's FBC Dallas and Trey Gowdy is the poster child. It is not insignificant that Billy Graham was a member of two Baptist churches: Dallas and FBC Spartanburg.
     Likely also missing from Hawkins account is reference to the book Dallas 1963 where the strong case is made Dallas Loaded the Gun, but Oswald pulled the trigger. The Sunday before the assassination Criswell preached a demagogic anti Catholic sermon. And criswell could be counted on in the shadows in all kinds of slime ball politics now championed by super Trumper Bobby Jeffress now in the Dallas pulpit.
    In the early nineties a British tv station came over to do a documentary on FBC Dallas, Criswell and Paige Patterson. I hope the bio explores that significant moment.
     What I would like to see is a biography that explores his relationship with Jesse Helms. Also widen to other leading SBC Churches beside Spartanburg to include Bellevue in Memphis and FBC Jacksonville Florida, home of the Eagle Forum Woman of the year for 2018 Tim Tebow's Momma Pam. Jerry Vines a pastor there came from West Rome Ga also infested with the Birch Society who congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is thick in the Criswell legacy.
     Hawkins makes a big do of Criswell torn between J Frank Norris and WA Criswell. Jill Lepore who's stellar recent history of America, These Truths, mentions Norris and how his fundamentalism shaped a voting block, and gives even greater attention to the sisters in the Cause, Phyliss Schlafly's Eagle Forum also entangled in Baptist Politics and the plowing of the SBC to make it fertile for MAGA land.
    So all the colorful stories aside including his challenge to young preachers to get em a good conservative woman cause the sex will be so good when they die they will have to haul em off in a wheelbarrow; the famous Wheelbarrow sermon.
     I was in the audience in San Antonio when he called preachers who didnt toe his literal interpretation of the KJV, He called em skunks. All them preachers about ten thousand of em who didnt know their ass from a Hole in the ground, they loved it.
      So Criswell could bring you tears while he dangled your soul over the bottom pits of Hell, but his preparation for Reagan and a more disastrous Donald Trump cannot be forgive. The Old Testament would define him as a Bastard for the best of the Baptist tradition, and Judge Frank Johnson and Abraham Lincoln would see him the same For America and any version of a more perfect Union.

Tuesday, April 02, 2024

MAGA Underbelly, guest blog

David Strain teaches college in Arkansas. He goes by the Family Dollar Fuhrer. Some of this is a little strong but written with affection and frustration with many dear to us all who got caught up in MAGA. But God Damn the venal folks who are playing them in Jesus name, like Fox at Five, Yellowhammer News in Bama, Jeffress at FBC Dallas and the staff at FBC Spartanburg who ought to know better. And their theologian in residence at NGU Tony Beam  . And the Heritage Foundation  


AT THE PIFFLE HOUR . . . .


For what it’s worth, it’s not true that I exult in the ongoing humiliation of white evangelicals at the slimy paws of one Donald J. Trump.  Most white evangelicals I know are good people—and good Christians.  For forty-five years, though, they’ve been the frog in the stove pot.  As the despicable reprobates who’ve led them have slowly raised the temperature on the burner, they’ve just kept adjusting, sensing that something is wrong but not being able to identify just what.  And since virtually all of their friends are in the same pot, they don’t have a very easy means of figuring out their dilemma.  They look on with consternation as America becomes a post-Christian nation.  And it causes them deep pain to see that, for the most part, their children—and especially their grandchildren—want nothing to do with their faith (and often aren’t even polite about it).  And they can’t begin to fathom that they’re the reason.

So why am I so deliriously happy that one Donald J. Trump celebrated Holy Week by hawking his very own GodBlesstheKlan Bible?  Because the political and religious leaders who have hitched their star to Christian nationalism are some of the vilest scum mothers in the history of the world.  Most have proved time and again they’d peddle their asses at the mall—and give a group discount.  Still, even though they’re the Anti-Christ’s evil little elves, most still possess a vestigial sense of decency—even if the impulse is faint in most.  They feel the humiliation.  Yet every time their Family Dollar Fuhrer humiliates them, I see the hand of God.  She’s doing Her very best to make them see how utterly reprehensible they’ve become, how absolutely they pollute the church, how unforgivably they impede the Beloved Community.  Sure, I enjoy watching them writhe—I’ll admit it.  (Those bastards are lower than the Yankees—and I mean by a lot!)  But I’d also like to see them saved from the wrath to come.  (There but for the grace . . . .)  Plus, I’d like to see what would happen if they started feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking in the stranger, loving the unloveable—instead of just hating and nursing perceived grievances.  Many are quite talented.  Until now, they’ve whored their talents for dog shit.  This poor, sad old world would be so much better if they started using them as directed (see Mount, Sermon on the).

Thursday, February 29, 2024

In the Blood with the Jordans of North Alabama and the Silent Cavalry of the Civil War

   

Like a lot of the country I was not familiar with Sacred Harp singing till I saw the Oscar award winning movie Cold Mountain. Mark Morgan had read the book by Charles Frazier in which Lucas Black  of Moulton Alabama Starred. He had key scenes around the Battle of Petersburg in the Civil War  where the voices of the Ivey Family of Henegar come in strong on the soundtrack with the Idumea ( 47 on the bottom)  which boisterously raises the existential question "And Am I Born to die, to lay this body down."

     I was near perfect attendance at Pine Grove and the July 4 singing in Henegar for 15 years after. At one point as my Grandfather Jordan taught school at Pine Grove about a crow fly of a mile and a half from the house, I asked the legendary Bud Oliver if any of my grandfather or Mother's generation were singers. He said yes your Grandfather Jordan brother Roscoe, Uncle Rock , came to a lot of singings but like you, Fox, he couldn't sing worth a darn. We called him "Cake' cause he came for the food.

   My Mother's cousin Eulene Reed  of Lookout Mtn and the Sacred Harp community told me a fascinating tale about seven years ago about a near lynching and almost murder on  Lookout Mountain Mtn . You can see the place where it almost all went down from the porch of the House I lived in for thirty years on land that was in the family since the 1930s. My Grandfather was born in the vicinity in 1881 and his father John Sanders Jordan and brother and JS brother  Henry Rufus both fought for the Union during the Civil war.

   Eulene's great Grandfather didn't believe in Slavery. The Home Guard in South DeKalb County came to his house down around the curve if you take a right at the ST Reed Place top of Lookout Mtn looking for him. He got word and wandered out into a cornfield. The HG got his wife and took her to the barn and threw a rope over an eave and noosed her hangin. She told em they could hang her till she died but she wasn't gonna help em in the least.


     They did discover somehow he had ran into the cornfield and they shot it up pretty good but never saw him. I guess they ran out of ammo. Story was later he got to the brow and hollered to kin he made it alive.

   Eulene is one of his direct descendants.

    She said a retarded son was born soon after the incident. Her ggrandfather went to the neighbor in the confederate and told him if he didn't apologize for noosing up his wife and the resulting injury to his newborn he was gonna kill him if he didn't get on his knees and pray for  forgiveness.

    They both had a salvation moment in that ordeal and Eulene's Great Grandfather became a Baptist Preacher.

    This story told to Eulene by Barrett Ashley   is extra mustard for me at least  in  Augusts when I sing at Pine Grove, especially the verse of my friend  Sam Hodges Great great great Grandfather Fitzpatrick, a Rebel of Crawford County Georgia,  whose dying words from injuries in the Battle of Petersburg Va near the end of the war,  were from the  Sacred Harp hymn Jesus can make a dying bed, soft as downy pillows are.

       "such are the chips through which defining traits marinate across generations of families that don't quite buy into the commanding culture. It's a mysterious process, difficult to calibrate, and especially daunting when it comes to rescuing unheralded difference makers from the scrap bin of history."


   Ed Bridges, a graduate of Marshall Frady and my Furman University, was the state archivist for Thirty years in Montgomery. He wrote the Bicentennial history of the state and has thrity grand pages on the Civil War and Reconstruction in his book. He has a great summation of the claims of groups like the Sons and  Daughters of the Confederacy which were taught in the public schools of Alabama and across the nation up until just a few years ago. I think the following quote should be memorized by all honors students across the state. Bridges lists four errant claims taught by the sophomoric he says:  " Although specific historical examples could be produced to support each of these claims , taken as a whole they amounted to a rewriting of history that  distorted it fundamental ways. Ed Bridges page 159


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Column for Gaffney's Cherokee Chronicle

    A Rafael Perez had a collumn in the Jan 30 Cherokee Chronicle of my hometown of Gaffney South Carolina. I do not know Mr. Perez on any family name like that but I have been away for some time.

     Perez column was an assault of the capacity of Joe Biden to succeed himself as President.

     Maybe Perez didnt see the Insurrection, nor the several legal entanglements Donald Trump is involved nor his connections to christian Nationalism. Maybe he missed the books by Adam Kinzinger and Tim Alberta and the January issue of the Atlantic magazine devoted to the case Donald Trump is a Rube and would be a disaster in a second term with his politics of Grievance, Vindictiveness and Resentment.
     The Bible, the Old Testament in Particular has a word for Trump and that word is Bastard.
      Joe Biden is not my first choice to lead the Democratic Ticket.  That Said America could easily survive a second term of Biden, even one Term of Nikki Haley though I have severe reservations about the Clemson trustee embrace of Charlie Kirk and his poisonous Turning Point USA.
     See Tim Aberta on that matter.
     Dietrich Bonhoeffer would find Trump Appalling. His likeness is in bust in Westminster Abbey with Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero as one of the three great Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century.
       The SC GOP primary will be a test of the character of South Carolina. I hope Cherokee County can pass it with a vote for Nikki Haley, to head the country slouching back in the right direction.