“It’s Not About A Piece Of Cloth”


Note added on 6/28/2015 — Chosen as one the noteworthy posts on “The Methodist Blogs Weekly Links of Note“!  Thanks to Allan Bevere!


On more than one occasion I have said that I am “Southern born and Southern bred, and when I die I will be Southern dead.” But I have also noted that doesn’t mean that I hold onto many Southern traditions. I supposed that is because, even though my roots are in the South and I was born in Virginia and went to school in the south, I have lived in other places as well.

And in living in those other places, I have had the chance to compare how it is to live in all of the places. And somewhere along the line, probably about the time I began the 7th grade, I began to sense and see that some things were not quite right.

Let’s be honest, we are not going to see how are lives are different or the places where we live are different if we have nothing to compare them to. If we are not aware there is a difference between life in, say New York, and perhaps Alabama, then we will think that life is the same.

I remember when I first moved to New York and everybody was thinking that being the Governor of Texas was like being the Governor of New York. And while, politically speaking, the Governor of New York is a very powerful political person, there are four individuals in Texas with more political power than the governor of Texas (see “The Differing Voices Of Truth”). Because I had lived in both states, and because I had read Molly Ivins, I knew this; it came as a shock to many people who naturally assumed that all governors were essentially the same.

And while I was growing up, living in four different locations before elementary school and then going to five elementary schools for six years (because my father was an officer in the United States Air Force), I probably didn’t notice anything. But I probably wasn’t old enough to comprehend any differences there might have been in the places I lived.

But that all changed around the time I was twelve. Twelve is that age when we begin to notice the world around us and begin to think about what is happening. And one of the first things that I remember is an incident that took place when I went to the movies with my two brothers in Lexington, North Carolina. Lexington is my mother’s hometown and we had gone there to visit her parents, our grandparents. It was in the early 1960s and while the theater where the move was showing was a public theater, it was still segregated.

And somehow, my two brothers and I ended up in the segregated portion of the theater. What I remember most about that was trying to get back into the “whites only” section but having my way blocked by a gate that only swung one way, preventing blacks from going into the white section. It would have been easy enough to think to pull the gate instead of pushing on it but when you are in the dark with two younger brothers and you aren’t much older than 12, such thoughts aren’t easy to come by (I first described this in “Lexington, North Carolina”).

And when I began the 7th grade at Bellingrath Junior High School in Montgomery, Alabama, I found that my parents had to buy my school books instead of my getting them from the teacher at the beginning of school, as had been the case in all the schools I had attended before then. I know that the reason for this didn’t immediately sink in but when I went to school in Colorado and Missouri and got my books from the school, I had to ask myself why that was.

Maybe that year at Bellingrath was an anomaly but when we moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1966 I was reminded that there were people who still did not want all students to have a fair education. Oh, this time, I got the books I needed from the teachers but I found out that the band only got $50.00 for music, supplies, uniforms, and instruments (as did the choir). And if the band wanted or needed additional funds, they had to come from the Parents’ Association. That meant that schools in the higher income sections. of Shelby County had better equipment and more music than did the schools in the lower income sections.

Now, understand that this was all very, very legal. The law said that all schools had to be treated equally so you just limited what you gave to each school. But understand this, whether you call it segregation or not, when you do something to affect one group of people, it will affect other groups as well. But no group is going to understand this if they never find out that they are being mistreated, abused, or limited in some way. It will only become apparent when you have a chance to compare what is happening to you to what is happening to others.

And those who are in power will do whatever it takes to keep the system that gives them power in place. And that is as true today as it was fifty years ago when I was living in Alabama.

There are those who have the Confederate battle flags taken down with one or two given to museums and the others put or thrown away. And while that is a good thing, we have to remember that it is a symbol of too many bad things. And removing a piece of cloth from public display does nothing to change the beliefs or actions of those who used that cloth as their symbol; they will simply find another symbol to use.

The challenge we are faced with today is one that we have been faced with from time immemorial and that is to see that racism, sexism, ageism, and all other forms of discrimination are merely attempts by some individuals to do whatever it takes to gather all the power and wealth that they can. Until we understand that all individuals have the same rights and that our task is to work for that equality, then nothing will change. Taking down a flag will not remove the centuries of teaching that taught there were differences in people because of the color of their skin.

But we must begin to seek the changes that will allow everyone, whomever they may be, to have the same rights and privileges as everyone else. We have to begin with one simple note – when you do something that keeps someone else back, others will be affected by it as well. And when you spend all your time working to keep someone back, you cannot be moving forward yourself. Do you remember the conversation Alice had with the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass?

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

We will not see the effects of that changes we must make immediately; the causes of discrimination are too deeply ingrained in all that we say and do. But if we do not begin to seek the changes that are really needed, then no change will ever occur.

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Children Learn What They Live


I thought that, in light of what happened at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last evening, this was appropriate .  There was a time when I thought we were making progress but now I am not so sure.  But I do know that whatever is wrong with country that allows hatred, anger, and violence to be dominant will not be changed overnight.  It will take time and the learning process must begin today.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, PhD


If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

“Notes On Academic Freedom”


As I will discuss in a post that I am presently working no (“Science Issues For The 2016 Political Season”), I think one of the major issues that need to be discussed during the 2016 political season is academic freedom.

It strikes me that there are those in this country who are not comfortable with other individuals learning. Power seems to come much easier when you can control what others know and you find ways to limit creative thought. And it does not matter whether we are talking about

Let me first start by noting that academic freedom does not give you the right to teach whatever you feel like teaching. In the case of science, this means that you cannot teach creationism or its updated counterpart, intelligent design, as an alternative to evolution. It is not that scientists are trying to censor thought or limit the debate but those who advocate creationism tend to ignore the established rules of scientific inquiry when arguing their side of the issue. They have the right to do so but not in the classroom. I will say this though, if proponents of creationism can provide a rationale way for individuals to work the details by themselves, they are free to do that.

With that in mind, here is a summary of my posts dealing with academic freedom:

In The Beginning” – posted on 16 May 2008; this included a list of academic professionals who were threatened because they refused to accept “intelligent design” as an alternative to the theory of evolution. One of the individuals on the list taught at an institution where I had been a faculty member; I mentioned another of the listed individuals (Richard Colling) in the next post (“The Dilemma of Science and Faith”).

“The Dilemma Of Science and Faith” – posted on 21 January 2009

To Teach Or Not To Teach” – posted on 3 September 2009

How Ironic” – posted on 21 October 2009; this was followed by “Very Interesting” – posted on 29 October 2009. It dealt with issues of academic freedom at Ball State University.

The Nature of Academic Freedom” – posted on 17 March 2010 (there was a report in this morning’s “Inside Higher Education – Jury Backs Professor Fired By Erskine College” that the college I mentioned in this posted (Erskine College) violated the rights of an English professor and awarded him $600,000. The issue appears that the professor encouraged critical thinking by his students and the need to study science in a way that did not conform literally to the Bible, which would have been in conflict with the college’s philosophy.

The Clash of Science, Culture, and Politics” – posted on 29 May 2012

Continuing Thoughts On Academic Freedom” – posted on 10 August 2013 (part of this post discussed the hiring of an advocated for intelligent design by a department of physics and astronomy).

Further Thoughts On Academic Freedom” – posted 12 March 2015

“How Will They Know?”


In a conversation the other day, someone noted that I was a liberal Christian. Now, in one of my earlier posts, I noted that I didn’t think that there was such a thing as a conservative Christian, simply because the demands of Christianity often times, in my view, conflict with conservatism.

I know that there are some who feel that religion and politics should not mix and there are problems with one side dictates to the other.  I also feel that many people today do not have a true understanding of what being a Christian, liberal or otherwise, means and that many people think that feel that the declaration that one is a Christian automatically excludes being a liberal and that the declaration that being a liberal automatically excludes one from being religiously active.

One of my favorite quotes come from the movie “A Man For All Seasons”. I do not recall the setting in which this exchange took place but it speaks to not only the aspect of being a Christian in today’s society but to a lot of what we need to do.

Sir Thomas More: Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one.

Richard Rich: If I was, who would know it?

Sir Thomas More: You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

The one thing that I think we have had a hard time with in our society today is, first, putting the others on that list, and second, making sure that they have priority. I think sometimes that many conservatives do not think about the others in the equation; it is all about what they do.

The more predominant voices of conservative Christianity tend to expound on what they think you need to do but do, in my mind, very little to do what it is that Jesus Christ wanted us to do when he first walked the back roads of the Galilee.

Many a preacher, in many a denomination, will state that the Great Commission is the sole purpose of Christianity.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 16 – 20 in the New International Version)

But reread this passage as it translated in The Message,

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Note how Jesus’ command changes from “make” to “train”. To further show this, read how Clarence Jordan translated the same patch in his Cotton Patch Gospel translation of Matthew,

Well, the eleven students traveled to Alabama, to the mountain which Jesus had selected for them. When they saw him they accepted him as their Lord, but some couldn’t make up their minds. James came over to them and said, “Every right to rule in both the spiritual and physical realms has been given to me. As you travel, then, make students of all races and initiate them into the family of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to live by all that I outlined for you. And you know, I am right in there with you – all the time – until the last inning.”

I think it is important to notice that the emphasis was on teaching. Teaching cannot be accomplished (as we are finding out) by simply forcing people to learn things. We are finding out that many people who proclaim themselves Christians do not have a firm understanding of the Bible in terms of the words written or the meaning and context of the words. (And study after study show that we are a Biblically illiterate society).

When Jesus began His mission, he proclaimed that He had come to bring the Good News to the people, to offer food for the hungry (and I think he meant both physical and spiritual hunger), to heal the sick, and relieve the oppression of the people. In the end, that is what one has to do if one says they are a Christian. Because if you are not actively involved in the ministries of Christ, then it becomes very difficult to teach others as Christ taught us.

Now, you may say that you do those things and that you don’t need a church, Jesus Christ, or for that matter, God to do those things. So why are you doing it? For what purpose do you do good?

Do you partake in acts of charity and kindness because it is the right thing to do (what was it that Spock said to Kirk that one time when Kirk asked if it was the logical thing to do? No, it was the human thing to do.) or do you seek justification for your own existence?

I know there are those who feel that to profess a belief in God is at time irrational and perhaps illogical (or even something worse). But I cannot help wondering from where we get our sense of good and evil. In Genesis we read of God commanding Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And you know the rest of the story, which has several versions, depending on your point of view. But if you feel that this knowledge of good and evil does not come from God and our own actions, then where does it come from? And how will you deal with it?

In the end, I will profess to believe that there is a God. I do so, knowing that God created all I see in the physical world in which I live and the universe through which this planet travels. I also believe that my own abilities to think and create, to understand right and wrong, good and evil, come from this same Creator. I have chosen to walk the path that was first walked by Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago over the dusty back roads of the Galilee. I do not think that story is a myth because it is still told today and because of how it was told two thousand years ago (see my notes in “The Other Side Of The Universe” on this).

I do not think that my job is to make you believe as I do. I have come to know that there are many paths to heaven and that my responsibility is to show you the one on which I walk. And to show you is to teach you in the ways of Christ, as He asked me to do some two thousand years ago.

You may disagree with me and I know that many on both sides of the spectrum will. But when someone asks, “How will they know?,” I will reply through my words, thoughts, deeds, and action.

The Two Important Issues For 2015 And 2016


I was thinking about this the other day but ran into problems with my computer and lost most of the work. So I am going to try and doing it again.

First, I prompted to post this today because I had another chance to review the life of Robert F. Kennedy. This piece will echo some of the thoughts that I posted back in March when I posted “So You Want To Be President?”

The one thing that amazes me are the differences in the 1968 campaign and today’s Presidential campaigns. Maybe it is just me but the campaigns back seem to actually focus on the issues and, while there was negative campaigning back then, it wasn’t to the extent we have today.

And how many of today’s candidates can quote Greek writers, such as Aeschylus, from memory as did Robert Kennedy? How many of today’s politicians, let alone Presidential candidates, would challenge the political system as Robert Kennedy did when he posed the question to white South Africans, “Suppose God Is Black”, or when he spoke to white medical students about serving the poor and needy (see “To Build a New Community” for a link to references of that speech).

Which, of any, of today’s candidates, could do as Robert Kennedy did on the night that Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed and go into the poorer part of Indianapolis and speak of the tragedy on personal terms. Let’s remember that night, when violence erupted in almost every city in this country, it was calm in Indianapolis. I do not think that many of today’s candidates would be able to do anything similar, so used to blaming someone when there is a problem.

Both President Kennedy and Senator Kennedy spoke in terms of paragraphs, not sound bites, and they expected those who listened to them to know the references that they made. Today’s politicians merely reflect the current state of learning in this country, which is to say, limited.

That is why I think one of the major political issues in the coming months has to be the state of education in this country today. Instead of moving forward, creating thinkers and people capable of analyzing complex and multiple issues, we are creating a population of followers who have surrendered their thought process to a group of individuals who feel their duty is to do our thinking for us. Instead of providing the information for us to use, this group has taken it upon themselves to tell us what to think and what to do.

Our schools transformed from institutions of thinking and creativity into mere assembly lines, churning out numerous copies of the same product day after day. We argue about what is being taught, more so because I think we can’t do the work ourselves. If we were more involved in the process of learning and understanding what we need to learn, we might be better prepared to deal with those who would say that “they know what is best and we should just shut up and follow orders.”

For me, it would seem that first, we need to be more involved in what is happening in our schools today and we need to push our schools to do more that prepares students for tomorrow. And yes, I know this will cost money.

But we need to stop and look at where our money is going these days and wonder if we can’t stop funding wars and start funding education. We might find that tomorrow will be a lot better that way.

The second issue that we need to face is a moral one. Part of the moral dilemma that we are faced with is that we find it very easy to condemn others while not accepting blame for our sins. We have ignored what Christ said one day, “Listen, you phony, first pull the plank from your eye and then you’ll be able to see better to get the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 5 – The Cotton Patch Gospels).

There are as many in the sectarian world as there are in the secular world who have made it their providence to tell us how to live our lives will telling us to ignore how they live theirs.

We cannot begin to build a world of peace when we live in a constant state of war and where individuals who claim to be speaking for God proclaim a message of hatred and exclusion. We cannot begin to build God’s Kingdom here on earth, in what form it may take, if there are those among us who would proclaim that they and only they know the true word of God.

They will tell you, in no uncertain terms that there is only way to achieve true salvation and that if you do not chose that path, you will have chosen a path to total and final condemnation. I have heard that call countless times before in my life and, each time that I have heard it, I have walked away. It is not that I don’t believe in what they are saying but because I don’t think they have the right or authority to tell me what I have to do.

But I know what path I have chosen to walk and I also know that it may not be the path that others will choose. If a person believes in God and what that means, does it matter whether they believe as I do or that I believe as they do?

What I know is that I do not have the power, the right, or authority to tell others that they must walk the same path as I. But if I feel that the path that I walk is the better path, then what I have to do is show them, through my words, my deeds and my actions, what is gaining by walking with me.

What is needed at this time and on this planet is the beginning of a revival to understand why we are here and why we must work with each other instead of against each other.

We must understand what it means to do good and how that is achieved. And let’s face it, if you are doing good because you think it will somehow save you, you need to understand that it doesn’t work that way, no matter what else you may believe. One does good for what others receive, not what one receives.

The first of this issues will be decided at the ballot box but the second one can only be decided individually in one’s heart and soul. And it will take action on both issues if we are to truly make this a better world.