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FREEDOM FROM FEAR

July 26, 2014
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In the State of the Union Address, delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four fundamental freedoms that should be the rights of human beings everywhere in the world:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom for every person to worship in his or her own way
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

“The Four Freedoms” speech inspired a set of four paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, accompanied by essays on the Four Freedoms.

Every freedom carries with it certain responsibilities. Perhaps the Bill of Rights should include a companion Bill of Responsibility.

During the month of July, this column will feature the Four Freedoms and the responsibilities that accompany them. This is the fourth in the series:

Freedom from Fear

On the very day of Bill Drake’s funeral, while hundreds of friends and family were gathered at Memorial Auditorium to pay respects to Bill and to support his family, Bill’s radio studio was broken into and vandalized. It was an ordinary crime made more heinous by the occasion. Read more…

THE DESIDERATA

July 25, 2014
St. Paul Baltimore

I was ordained on April 1, 1970. That’s right! I was ordained on April Fools Day.

Perhaps you can imagine the jokes and the teasing that simple fact has prompted.

Clare and I were members of Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. I was two months away from graduation from Seminary. Dr. John Claypool was our pastor. He was also my professor of preaching at Southern Seminary. It was appropriate that John would chaire my ordination council and preach my ordination sermon. In the homily, he used a poem entitled “The Desiderata.”  The Latin word meaning desired things.

At the ordination service, the church presented a Bible to me. John had placed an abbreviated copy of the poem inside the Bible as a bookmark.

That copy indicates that the poem was written in 1692 at Old St. Paul’s Church, in Baltimore, Maryland. Read more…

FREEDOM FROM WANT

July 19, 2014
FREEDOM FROM WANT

In the State of the Union Address, delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four fundamental freedoms that should be the rights of human beings everywhere in the world:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom for  every person to worship in his or her own way
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

“The Four Freedoms” speech inspired a set of four paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, accompanied by essays on the Four Freedoms.

Every freedom carries with it certain responsibilities. Perhaps the Bill of Rights should include a companion Bill of Responsibility.

During the month of July, this column will feature the Four Freedoms and the responsibilities that accompany them. This is the third in the series:

Freedom from Want

“Eat your vegetables,” my grandmother would say. “Just think of the starving children in China.”

Though I usually enjoyed vegetables, I would have been quite willing to share my broccoli, asparagus, or cauliflower to keep children in China, or anywhere else, from starving. Since I was told that was not possible, I habitually became a member of the clean plate club.

I am certain that cleaning my plate did nothing to stave off the pangs of world hunger. In fact, overconsumption as a part of our American way of life does much to contribute to the problem of world hunger. If the grain, used to fatten livestock so we can enjoy a tender marbled steak, was converted to food for the world and distributed equally, there would be no world hunger. If the grain, used in our country to manufacture alcoholic beverages, was converted to food for the malnourished, the world could be free from hunger. The amount of pet food sold in the United States exceeds the quantity of food eaten by humans in many third world countries.

While much of the world is malnourished, the number one health problem in America is obesity. Only on American television can audiences view a reality show entitled “The Biggest Loser,” a show in which overweight people compete to see who can drop the most pounds. The simple truth is that we consume far more than our fair share.

Classical Christianity developed the idea of seven mortal transgressions. Many conservative Christian churches would quickly defrock a priest or dismiss a pastor for violating six of those seven deadly sins. But the one that is often encouraged by churches for their clergy – the sin of gluttony.

I preached a revival at a country church in the lower part of the county several years ago.  On the final night of services, we enjoyed a church picnic. An alarmingly large man, carrying a dinner-size paper plate, sat beside me.  His plate sagged under a heaping portion of strawberry shortcake. I thought for a moment that the folding chair beneath him would buckle under his weight.  The shortcake might have become the proverbial last straw.

When the last morsel of the dessert disappeared, the man turned to me and said, “Now, preacher, that’s the way we’re gonna’ eat in heaven.”

I thought, probably sooner than later.

Years ago, I attended a church dinner designed to raise awareness about the problem of world hunger. Tickets to the dinner were priced at five dollars each. As we entered the room, an arrangement of tables formed a large square around the perimeter of the room. We were all seated at the table facing the center of the room. After we were seated, each of us was served a small bowl of steamed brown rice and a cup of tepid water. There were no napkins or utensils. We used our fingers to eat the rice.

In the center of the room was a table for four. It was set with a fine linen tablecloth and napkins and place settings of sterling silver and fine china. A family was seated at the table and served a meal of Kentucky Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and dessert. The family of four was offered a second helping as the rest of us watched.

When the meal was over, each of us had an opportunity to reflect on the experience. Each of us felt that our consciousness had certainly been raised. All but four of us were still hungry. The most significant comment came from the mother of the well-fed family. “I felt ashamed and embarrassed,” she said.

For most of us the problem of world hunger is not a concern. Even when we see pictures of malnourished and starving children from the region of Darfur in the Sudan, our attention is quickly diverted to a commercial for fast food. For most of us, the problem of world hunger is out-of-sight, out-of-mind. We just don’t think about it. In fact, we prefer not to.

Perhaps the best way to grasp the magnitude of the problem was presented by a physician friend who had returned from a medical mission trip to Chad, the western neighbor of Sudan in Northern Africa.  Imagine that the morning news headlined the chilling story that the entire population of Anderson, South Carolina, had been wiped out overnight by a frightening plague. The next morning we learned that the entire city of Greenwood was blotted out by the same virulent strain. The third morning brought news that all the residents of Mauldin had died. The fourth day, the entire population of Greer was lost. Imagine our horror at the advancing pestilence.

The number of people who die from hunger each day is equivalent to the population of a medium-sized city, about 24,000 people. The gravity of the problem is discouraging and makes us wonder if there is anything we can do. Cleaning our plates has not helped.

Some time ago, a young minister was invited to lead a revival in the mountains of Kentucky. He and his wife traveled to the community and were greeted with warm hospitality by the pastor and the congregation. Following the Sunday evening service, they went to the humble home of an elderly couple, their host family for the week.

As supper was finished and dark approached, the old man said, “We’re going to bed now. You young folks can sit by the fire as long as you’d like. If you need something, please just make yourselves at home and get whatever you need. If you need something, and you can’t find it, please wake us up, and we’ll get it for you.  If you need something, and you can’t find it, and you wake us up, and we don’t have it, well, then, we’ll just teach you how to get along without it.”

Freedom from want, everywhere in the world, can only be realized when people in our part of the world learn to simplify.

We have to learn to get along without some of the things we think we need, so that there will be enough to go around for those who need so much.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION

July 13, 2014
Freedom of Religion

In the State of the Union Address, delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four fundamental freedoms that should be the rights of human beings everywhere in the world:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom for  every person to worship in his or her own way
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

“The Four Freedoms” speech inspired a set of four paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, accompanied by essays on the Four Freedoms.

Every freedom carries with it certain responsibilities. Perhaps the Bill of Rights should include a companion Bill of Responsibility.

During the month of July, my “By the Way” column written for the H-J Weekly will feature the Four Freedoms and the responsibilities that accompany them.

For this week: FREEDOM OF RELIGION

One bright summer day in July 1986, I was traveling with a vanload of Boy Scouts to a national conference in Michigan. I drove north on Interstate 75 through the rolling green cornfields of Ohio. Every small town had a cluster of silos, communities of modest homes, and always a church or two. It was America the way I had always thought of our country. I was with Boy Scouts driving through amber waves of grain in the heartland All along the way were symbols of religious faith – red brick or white wooden churches.

Near Toledo, Ohio, we crossed a high bridge. As we made our descent on the other side, I was startled by the sight that suddenly appeared before me. In the middle of a cornfield, was an imposing, gleaming Islamic mosque, its shining dome surrounded by four tall minarets. I had seen mosques in other places in the world, especially on a visit I made to Egypt as a teenager. But seeing a mosque in an Ohio cornfield took me by surprise. On that day, my vision of America expanded. My understanding of freedom of religion was stretched and enlarged.

Although many of the original thirteen colonies were established by the founders to escape religious persecution, they were not always tolerant of other forms of worship. For example, Roger Williams, a Baptist, created a new colony in Rhode Island to escape persecution in the Puritan-dominated colony of Massachusetts.

Among the original colonies, South Carolina was one of the most open to religious diversity. South Carolina was founded, not for religious freedom, but as a commercial enterprise. The eight Lord Proprietors knew that it was good business to allow people who were willing to work to enter the colony. Religious freedom was a part of the bargain. A tour of downtown Charleston today reveals a variety of places of worship ranging from the French Huguenot Church to First Scots Presbyterian Church to Beth Elohim, one of the first synagogues in America.

Freedom of religion is codified in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That simple statement is the basis for the freedom that some call a fundamental human right.

When I was in the tenth grade my homeroom was a teacher new to Spartanburg High School. He taught physics and seemed to have little interest in our homeroom class. He took the roll and kept order until the bell rang for the first period class. There was a Holy Bible on the desk. I’ll never forget that one the first day of school, he picked up the Bible, looked at it, and tossed it in the trash can. We were all astounded!

That was his first and last year at Spartanburg High School. The man was actually just a few years ahead of his time. The United Sates Supreme Court has been vigilant in forbidding public schools to interfere with Americans’ constitutional right to follow their own consciences when it comes to religion. In 1962, the justices ruled that official prayer had no place in public education.

When North Carolina Senator Sam Erwin, a strong defender of the Constitution, was asked his opinion about the place of prayer in public schools, the wise statesman quipped, “There will always be prayer in public schools as long as there are algebra tests.”

Few issues in American public life have created more controversy than religion and public education. Ninety percent of America’s youngsters attend public schools. These students come from homes that represent many different religious beliefs. The Supreme Court decision emphasized the imperative that public schools respect the beliefs of everyone. The schools can best do this by not sponsoring religious worship. Students are free to pray as they choose, privately.

Senator Erwin stressed America’s public schools should be welcoming to all children and decisions about religious education should be left to parents and to their places of worship.

Disrespect for another’s religious freedom has been the cause of unholy wars and horrible atrocities. The Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the Holocaust are but a few examples. When freedom of religion is not a value, countries have become embroiled in centuries of conflict

Harvard professor, Lawrence Kohlberg, studied moral development in many different cultures. He asserted that there is one moral precept that is common to all. Though it is stated differently from one group to another, the basic concept is the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat the other person the way you want to be treated.

Camp Croft, in Spartanburg County, was a United States Army training facility during World War II. Following the war, the Army decommissioned the camp. Four buildings, all military chapels, were made available for purchase. The Baptists bought two, and the Methodists purchased two. Two of the structures were moved to new locations. One, situated near Fairforest Creek on Highway 56, became Golightly Methodist Church. The other relocated building was moved to Duncan Park and named Morningside Baptist Church. The chapels that remained on the original site became Croft Baptist Church and St. Luke’s Methodist Church.

In 1946, my dad was asked by First Baptist Church to begin a mission church in one of the old army chapels. After seven years of hard work, the mission became Croft Baptist Church. Much of the refurbishing of the chapel was completed with building materials from the family business, Neely Lumber Company.

Years later another house of worship was built in the Camp Croft area, less than a mile from Croft Baptist Church. My dad remembers the day when a man of Asian extraction entered the lumberyard to purchase materials to build a Buddhist temple. Over a period of several months, the man returned often, sometimes bringing Buddhist monks with him, to buy building products.

When the bright yellow temple was completed, the saffron-robed monks invited my dad to visit their new place of worship. Dad took a grandson along. The grandson observed, “The same lumberyard that provided materials for the Baptist Church, supplied materials for the Buddhist Temple. Both faiths have a place to worship in freedom.”

Perhaps only in America can a Baptist deacon visit a Buddhist temple and take delight in their shared sense of religious liberrty. It can only happen when people live by the Golden Rule.

THOUGHT FOR A MONDAY MORNING

July 7, 2014
MOUNTAIN ROAD

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
― Thomas Merton

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

July 6, 2014
FREEDOM OF SPEECH

In the State of the Union Address, delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt enumerated four fundamental freedoms that should be the rights of human beings everywhere in the world:

  1. Freedom of speech and expression
  2. Freedom for  every person to worship in his or her own way
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

“The Four Freedoms” speech inspired a set of four paintings by Norman Rockwell. They were printed in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, accompanied by essays on the Four Freedoms.

Every freedom carries with it certain responsibilities. Perhaps the Bill of Rights should include a companion Bill of Responsibility.

During the month of July, my “By the Way” column written for the H-J Weekly will feature the Four Freedoms and the responsibilities that accompany them.

For this week: FREEDOM OF SPEECH

I overheard a conversation between a coach and a referee at a basketball game. Actually, it was a shouting match. Everybody in the gymnasium heard it.

“You ought to give up refereeing before you ruin the game of basketball!”

“If you were any kind of a coach, you would teach your team how to play the game!”

“They could play the game if you weren’t such a whistle-happy idiot.”

“You can’t say that to me! I’ll throw you out of this game!”

“This is a free country with freedom of speech. I can say whatever I want to say!”

“Then you’ll say it outside sitting on the bus in the parking lot!”

With that the referee ejected the coach from the game and the gym.

Was the coach right? Does freedom of speech mean we can say anything to or about anybody? Let’s consider four points. Read more…

SOGGY TOMATO SANDWICHES

July 4, 2014
tomato sandwich

A friend brought us home-grown tomatoes this week., just in time for the holiday

There is nothing finer than a soggy tomato sandwich.

These were the sandwiches of choice for the annual Neely Family Fourth of July Picnic.

In our home this is a favorite Kitchen Sink Sandwich. We enjoy them while tomatoes are in season.

2 vine-ripe tomatoes

Duke’s Real Mayonnaise

6 slices of white bread

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

  • Take six slices of white bread. Don’t use anything that is good for you – just plain old white sandwich bread.
  • Slather Duke’s Real Mayonnaise heavily on all six slices. Only use Duke’s. Use about twice as much mayonnaise as you ordinarily would.
  • Grind fresh black pepper on all six pieces of bread.
  • Slice vine-ripe tomatoes thinly and stack them three layers deep on three pieces of the bread.
  • Salt the tomato slices.
  • Mash, not lightly press, the remaining three pieces of bread, mayonnaise side down, on top of the tomatoes.
  • Turn the sandwiches over and mash again.
  • Cut the three sandwiches in half. Let them come to room temperature.
  • Stand over the kitchen sink to enjoy these juicy sandwiches.
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