Christians for Trump

The election looms, and to help President Trump win re-election I recommend a new group to  help him. Christians for Trump will place signs, canvass neighborhoods, and be present at polling locations. In order to be a member, each citizen must pay a membership fee of $25, and sign the following pledge:

  1. As a Christian for Trump member, I trust that God will guide both President Trump and our country.
  2. As a Christian for Trump member, I will disregard President Trump’s sometimes vulgar language, such as taking the Lord’s name in vain, because none of us are perfect
  3. As a Christian for Trump member, I will recognize that the multitude of women who have accused him of assault are celebrity seekers, nothing more than modern-day Jezebels
  4. As a Christian for Trump member, I will deny the accusations concerning his racism as fake news from BLM and other radical left organizations
  5. As a Christian for Trump member, I will work to support the belief that President Trump expressed to Woodward: That we are not to panic, and the pandemic will go away
  6. As a Christian for Trump member, I will trust him and not the CDC or FDA
  7. As a Christian for Trump member, I will believe in the Dow, not the jobless rates and fading small businesses
  8. As a Christian for Trump member, I will support the practices of ICE and the sub-contractors who build cages for children
  9. As a Christian for Trump member, I will contribute funds to help build the wall to keep rapists, drug dealers,  and other criminals out of America
  10. As a Christian for Trump member, I  will support a third term for him if  that is what he decides he deserves and is best for America

____________________, signed on this  date, _____________

Deacon Qualifications

The Baptist church I attend is conducting its annual election for deacons, which is a fellowship I belong to. Part of our process is to interview any candidate for election to make certain each one understands and fully appreciates the call of serving as a deacon.  In the interview the qualifications followed by our church are reviewed, and while we stress the Biblical qualifications stated in the New Testament, we may be different in some ways from other Baptist churches; for instance, we allow females to serve as deacons. Although churches and other houses of worship follow different qualifications for being a deacon or elder or whatever a lay servant is called, a list of certain expectations is shared by churches.

Because we are Baptist, we expect any deacon to be a member of our church, of a certain age, married to one spouse or single, a Christ follower, a provider for his or her family, a person willing to serve the community, and more. For  instance, we would not allow a known “winebibber” to be a deacon nor would we allow a contentious person to be a deacon. We want church members who desire fellowship and unity and growth. Any church member who models that behavior, we want in our fellowship of deacons.

I have been busy with these thoughts because of our coming deacon election, but also because of the national election for a president. As I think of the expectations we have for a deacon, I realize that President Trump, if he were a member of  our church, could not be considered for serving in our deacon fellowship. The only qualification he has is he is  not a “winebibber.” But he qualifies in no other way: He takes the name of the Lord in vain, he slanders opponents and reporters he disagrees with, he has over a dozen women who accuse him of assault, his mean spirit is on display in every gathering, he lies, he takes no responsibility for anything, he seems to love only money, and on and on.

I know that he is President of  the United States and not a member of our church. But as we approach this important election I am saddened by the fact that he would not qualify to be considered a deacon in our small church. Should not all leaders of countries identify with some faith, something larger than himself or herself. Larger than us all.

Abner and Coats

When King David sought peace with the  northern kingdom, he asked to meet Abner, the popular leader of the kingdom. The two leaders met and parted in peace. On hearing of this new alliance, King David’s military commander Joab asked to  meet with Abner, whom he viewed as a threat to his  power. Upon seeing Abner walk towards him, Joab stuck out his hand in peace but stabbed him in the stomach, leaving him to bleed to death in the road. When David heard of Abner’s death, he made lamentation and fasted in sorrow, but declared he had nothing to do with his death. So much for Abner trusting King David and his commander.

I thought of  this sordid tale from 2 Samuel when I read Chapter 4 of Rage, Bob Woodward’s new book on the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. Woodward early in his book sets the stage by telling how Trump built his cabinet. One of his earliest recruits is Senator Dan Coats who was talked into joining the Trump group by Mike Pence. 

Every Christ follower should read this chapter of Rage before voting and then ask if  the  Trump/Pence ticket is one any Christ follower can support.

Super Spreaders

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News/AP a wedding reception in early August held at an isolated inn has been traced to more than 175 cases of the virus and at least seven deaths. None of these people attended the reception. Only about 65 close family members and friends were on the illegal guest list for the rustic celebration, but its sad affect has reached beyond the guest list. In fact, the minister who officiated has ten cases of the virus in his home church. And, we continue having spreader events such as motorcycle rallies, political gatherings, and social protests. Now, we have football, too.

We deceive ourselves! This past Saturday, I saw the end of the Norte Dame football game when the players stood, each six feet apart, to sing the school song. Then they all walked or jogged into a tunnel, most touching the good luck sign, before being squeezed into a stairway, now shoulder pad to pad. So much for social distancing.

As we know from recordings of President Trump made by Bob Woodward, this is a virus 5x as deadly as the flu, and it is an airborne one. But we act as if we are, like the Baptist minister who conducted the Millinocket wedding, immune to this deadly and costly pandemic.

We may have some success at a lack of super spreader clusters, such as Duke University now experiences. But I think the airborne virus will eventually conquer us unless we follow science and isolate it, and  that can be done by only one way short of a vaccine. We must bite the hard pill and isolate ourselves to rid us of this scourge.

Paul Mills

            Driving out of the cemetery, my wife and I passed the worker’s truck. Parked a respectable distance from the gravesite we had just left, it was loaded with the equipment and supplies needed for its work:  Shovels, rakes, and folded, green pads that were designed to imitate grass. An attached trailer carried a small backhoe. Soon, after all the friends, family, loved ones, and funeral home employees had left, the workers would drive the truck with its load down the hill to finish the covering of a life. This grave was like all the others in the cemetery, just newer; but also different because it was Paul’s, one of The Greatest Generation.

In 1998 Tom Brokaw published The Greatest Generation, an examination of American’s lives who were born between WW I and WW II. Paul was born in 1926, not many years after the Spanish Flu and WW I, and just in time for the Great Depression. Later, after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and entered WW II.

The Greatest Generation is called that because they endured the hardships of the Great Depression, then a world at war.  But the lessons from the Great Depression and the war are what helped form the character of Americans like Paul. During the Great Depression they learned the value of a strong work ethic, being frugal, and “making do.” During the war they fought, died, sacrificed, and joined forces to defeat an evil so that the world would be a better place. Yet their struggles did not make them bitter or resentful but caring and loving and appreciative of each other and a stable life.  Their fight against the evil threatening the world was just what they had to do.

Paul and Jean were the first people we met at FBC of Mooresville. On our first visit, they welcomed us and on the second visit Jean told us, “We’re so glad you returned.” That was over three years ago, but I still recall their kind words and impeccable manner and dress. However, before many Sundays, they stopped attending church for health reasons, but their imprint had been made on my wife and me.

These were my thoughts yesterday as I listened to the minister, sang the songs, and heard the shared memories of a son-in-law. The small, well-dressed man we knew from Sunday Service had helped establish a local church. He had led a full, vibrant life in his beloved community, and he was loved dearly by his family and friends.  We had met him late in his  life, but as I watched his grandsons tearfully carry his flag-draped casket from the hearse to the grave, I was reminded that while I had met Paul late in his life, I was still fortunate to have known him at all because, even in those waning days, he exhibited courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. His experiences in a depression and war had marked him; however,  the mark was not a stain but a badge of honor. Brokaw used the adjective greatest, and that is fine. However, other adjectives such as magnificent, extraordinary, or grand well-describe Paul and his generation. But the adjective is of no matter because Paul and his are The Great Generation.

I suppose that by the time we had arrived home from the service, the workmen had finished their task and Paul had, as King David wrote, “gone the way of the world.” But he and all his generation-the soldiers, the planters of victory gardens, the ship builders, the children who collected metal for the war cause, and more-are honored by those of us who still value honesty, loyalty, sacrifice, and duty to a just cause. They are not “suckers” or “losers” as some think, but lives lived for a common good. They made our world safer and better. We owe them to continue their work.

Dean, David, Jimmy, and Coach

A local writer shared a story recently about his first year of playing organized football. He writes how miserable his first game as a 7th grader was and that the coach kept him after practice to make him do extra drills as punishment because he failed to successfully block an opponent. As if that were not enough, two teammates who played in the backfield were waiting for him and used their superior physical powers to demonstrate what it felt like when tackled by the opponent he kept missing to block. And finally, at the entrance of the locker room stood two hefty linemen to teach him one more lesson. However, the writer went on to explain how he used those experiences for life lessons on getting along with people and being a team player. I am glad he manages to gauge the experience as he does.

However, I see so much wrong with the tale he shared. In no words does he write of his coach or teammates taking the time to teach him how to correct what he was doing wrong. He was just plummeted for his mistakes in blocking. The coach and players seem to be first-class bullies in my opinion.

When I was a 10th grader (high school was 10-12 grades), I so  wanted to play football. One hot, August practice of 1961 the coach had be line up to catch punts. The  first one that came  to me somehow landed in my arms and as the rumbling herd approached me I threw the ball to a coach. I was then moved to the sideline to watch. Later, as we were all taking showers, a senior named Dale yelled at me in a mocking tone, “There’s I don’t want the ball Barbee.” No soap or water could remove that stinging stain. Somehow I remained on the team only managing to hold blocking dummies during practices.

That winter I joined the wrestling team and was the 13th member of a team of twelve varsity wrestlers. I wrestled some “preliminary” matches and won some but lost many. Twelve wrestlers received varsity letters; I got the experience.

But there was the baseball team in the spring. In tryouts I was in the batter’s box taking my swings to show the coach that I could hit. I  kept trying to hit the ball, but it kept being somewhere my bat was not. Then Jimmy the varsity catcher said, “Don’t try so hard.” What kid would not follow the words of a varsity player, but it was to no avail, and I was cut from the team.

The next year, my 11th grade year, I knew my career as a football player was suspect and after one of the summer scrimmages I was one of a small group cut from the team. But an assistant coach, Bob Mauldin, told me as I was turning in my gear that he needed me on the wrestling team. Because of the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before he had been away on duty, but this year he was back. And he “needed me.”

Winter came and so did wrestling season. But by then I was madly in love with a  girl and at an early practice I told the team captain David that I was quitting the team to get a job for money to woo my new love. Like Coach Mauldin earlier that school year, David talked with me telling me how much the team needed me. Those words again!

The writer’s story last week  brought these memories back. My experience was not, fortunately, like his except for Dale, the older player who ridiculed me instead of helping me. I fear that too many older players are like Dale, but I am so glad that Jimmy the catcher, Coach Mauldin, and David our  team captain were kind. I did not play on the baseball team as I said, but I still hear Jimmy’s words of encouragement, not scorn. Coach Mauldin and David needed me, so I stayed  and as Robert Frost writes, “ And that has made all the difference.”

Coach

 

This story is fiction, but it all happened

 

Parents of the wrestling coach were of two camps: He was the greatest or he was the worst. Some of the parents wanted to take their complaints to the school board, but some supported Coach fully. They all did agree on one thing, however, and that was they had to come to some consensus for the sake of their children. That is how the meeting that I attended came about. Names are absent to protect their sons and daughters.

Parent A thanked all for attending and offered his view that Coach was doing a fine job with his team, even if he was “rough around the edges” at times. After all, Parent A observed, The team had won two state titles in  the last five years and had crowned many individual state champions in the past ten years.

Yes, answered Parent B, but what do you say about his seating chart in his classroom?

What do you mean? another parent asked.

Well, explained Parent B, he has all the more attractive girls assigned to seats near his desk and the boys are assigned to seats next to the  door and what girls are left he seats at the back of the classroom. Don’t you find that creepy?

No, of course not responded Parent C, Coach is as good a teacher as he is a coach, he knows what he is doing. Don’t make a big deal of his seating chart.

Well, asked Parent D, what about the way he  has the cheerleaders ride in the front of the bus with him to away meets?

Parent C again answered that Coach has good reasons for what he does.  I admit it’s kinda’ strange, but he does win. That what’s he’s paid to do.

Ghee, someone said from the back of the room, is that all some of you care about, how his  teams win or lose?

Parent A said, Look, Coach made our son a two-time state champion. He’s looking for his third crown. I could care less how coach surrounds himself with some of the prettier girls in our school. Has he ever done anything illegal with one in all his years here. NO, and that one syllable was screamed.

Another parent asked about the episode the year before concerning the scabies infection.

What do you mean? asked a parent new to the team.

Well, she answered, my son told me that when the health department gave the team the lotion to use against the infection, the coach demonstrated how to apply the lotion by applying it to the back and nape of the neck of Wrestler X, one of his favorites and one of the best wrestler.

You must be mistaken the new parent gasped.

Oh, come on, Parent C exclaimed, Coach had to do that so that the boys would know how to apply the lotion correctly to the backs of each other. It’s the same as showing a  move.

I find that creepy said some parent from the back.

Well, it must have worked said Parent A because the infection was quickly cured, and our  team went on to win Regionals and placed in States.

Parent E who had not spoken asked, Are any of you concerned with his tough and often crude language?

Yes, chimed in Parent B, I find it awful and so does my son. He tells me that in practices Coach’s language is often foul and full of crude observations. He ridicules people during practices.

Okay, answered Parent C, this has gone on enough. Coach has some ways that are, well, irregular. He is crude at times in ways I wish he were not. He cusses. But he has made our  boys winners on the mat and that is what matters.

Parent A chimed in, Yea, so what if he is not the most polished coach and that he likes to do things his way. He is  teaching our boys to win and that’s what matters. Thank you all for coming.

The accord had been reached.

To an Undecided Voter

In the Washington Post of August 29, 2020 is an interesting article by Cleve Wootson who profiles a retired couple who live in Bloomington, Indiana. Mr. Wootson examines the struggle Mr. and Mrs. Mike Baker have concerning the coming presidential election. Most of the article focuses on Mike Baker’s struggle between the personality of Trump and his achievements. Baker says, “There’s so many of these issues that on the surface seem like this administration has somewhat delivered. I don’t think having a proper immigration policy is a bad thing. Total lawlessness is not a good thing. There’s a lot of these things that I think have happened that I think are good long term.”

The Bakers represent many voters, I imagine, but one more quotation from Mike Baker is of special interest to me. He is quoted by Wootson,  “It’s all about the economy. If your family doesn’t have any money or a job, it doesn’t matter about your religion. It doesn’t matter about your politics if you can’t put food on the table.”

I suggest to Mike Baker that religion always matters and even more in a time of trouble. No reader of the Gospels can find where Jesus offers anyone a test based on moral equivalency. Every person He encounters is told to live a right life, to “ go forth and sin no more” as he tells the Samaritan woman He encounters at the well. His disciples are told over and over that His way is the narrow way, but one which leads to eternal life. As my mother would say, “Right is right and wrong is nobody.”

I have friends who profess to be Christ followers, and some of them offer me the same thinking as Mr. Baker. In fact, before Sunday School after Trump’s speech in East Carolina University, I asked a believer in Trump what he thought of his taking the Lord’s name in vain three times in his speech. The man calmly replied, “No one’s perfect.”

Indeed! But as Christ followers we are commanded to “sin no more”, and not to judge others. However, when we see someone act in mean, spiteful, lying ways, we are not to excuse that behavior by saying, “But, ….”

Take a moment and recall some of  President Trump’s words and deeds: Sharing how he grabs women; saying that Senator John McCain is not a hero; his vindictiveness to Lt. Col. Vindman; his lies; his rudeness to reporters; his refusing to take any responsibility; his refusal to obey subpoenas; and more. These acts and words are a revealing Trump’s character.  No rationalization can excuse him, and we are foolish to believe him and his toadies.

Mr. Baker, President Trump is not an honorable person. He cares only for himself and will lead us to  doom if we allow him to by voting for him because we rationalize that he may be despicable, but he does some good.  We should not be guilty of moral equivalency.

A Letter to Mr. LeBron James

 

Hello Mr. James, and while we do not know each other, I know of you and your well-deserved reputation as a person  and basketball player. I appreciate how you  manage those two  roles in the arena of public  life.

This week Jared Kushner said:  “The NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially. They have that luxury, which is great. Look, with the NBA, I think there is a lot of activism and they’ve put a lot of slogans out, but what I think we need is to turn that from slogans and signals into actual action that’s going to solve the problem.” He also said that he would reach out to you on  Thursday.

Mr. James, I do not know if Kushner reached out to you, but if he did not, I encourage you to reach out to him and do as James Baldwin did in May 1963 for the wealthy born Robert Kennedy. At Kennedy’s request, Baldwin gathered some people together (Lorraine Hansberry was one) to help Kennedy understand the struggle Blacks faced in America. According to all present, the meeting was not a huge success. Yet it happened, and we all know how Kennedy did change eventually.

By his words quoted above, Mr. Kushner shows that he  has no understanding of where you and so many other NBA players have come from, where you are now, and the stress you and  your families live under each day. What you all are doing is not a luxury, but a hard-earned right and duty to protest. What you all are doing is more than slogans and empty action. But Mr.  Kushner does not feel or understand this. He is one more person in the way of the battle to end the systemic racism our country faces.

Mr. James, I suggest you gather some players/coaches such as Chris Webber and Doc Rivers. Then meet with Mr. Kushner in Akron, Detroit, Chicago, and other cities to show him where you began. Then talk with him about your journeys. Do not shout but show him the Black of your lives and what that color has required of you. Teach him, Mr. James as Mr. Baldwin taught Mr. Kennedy. He may grasp the truth and change, but that will be his choice.

Respectfully,

Roger Barbee

 

Jo Ann and the Black-eyed Susans

 

During these days of late August, I am watching the side garden transition slowly from summer to fall. The black-eyed Susans  (Rudbeckias hirta) are the first to show their change from one season to the next. Most of the native variety we have lost their rich, yellow, open-faced flowers that remind me of a wide-eyed youngster full of excitement and wonder. But most of the golden petals of full summer have fallen to the garden floor to rot leaving each stem holding at its top the dark eyed center of summer now transformed to a dark cluster of seeds.

The black-eyed Susan is an easy and pleasing plant for a garden. While there are many varieties, our is the native one of local meadows. Known by several names, we prefer the one used here. But, what an odd name that leads to question:  “Who is Susan that the plant is named for?” One internet search tells that legend says the name “originated from an Old English poem written by John Gay (1685-1732) entitled ‘Sweet William’s Farewell To Black-Eyed Susan’. True or not, it is a sweet poem of William telling Susan that her love will keep him safe while he is away fighting in a war.

Legend aside, the late-summer garden needs attention. One task of a gardener has a dreadful name: Dead heading. But the act is not as bad as it sounds since the removal of spent flowers is good for a plant because more energy for growth will be spent on the plant, not the bygone flower. And some folks will say that the flower looks better without what is left of a flower. However, we will not dead head the black-eyed Susans just yet.

One recent evening, Mary Ann and I were watching the birds at the birdbath. She asked me did I see the slight movement of a black-eyed Susan stem? I  did, and we watched as a female American goldfinch held onto the stem while eating from the dark cluster of seeds. The tiny body barley had enough weight to cause the stem to  bob and weave as she pecked at the seed cluster. Like several female species, this finch did not have the bright colors of a male, but her dark grey and subtle brown had its own beauty, and we  enjoyed watching her finding food on what some people would see as a “dead” plant. While she has a proper name, we refer to her species as “Jo Ann” to honor Mary Ann’s deceased mother, an avid admirer of birds. Although we came late to bird watching, Mary Ann and I now realize the joy of birds, and we are fortunate that we have Jo Ann’s copy of Peterson Guide complete with her  bird-list of sighted species. But the “Jo Ann” is not alone, and in fact they are joined in feasting on the seed heads of the black-eyed Susan by Carolina chickadees, brown-headed nuthatches, titmice, and others that feed on the ground hidden by the heavy, dark green leaves of the black-eyed Susans.

However, the days slowly roll towards Labor Day, and all the Susans will soon be void of those lovely, yellow-gold petals. But we will not rush out to dead head them. The fine Canadian writer and poet, Patrick Lane, writes that “The gardener has nothing but time.” He also writes, “My garden is a living place,  not just a showroom for flowers and plants.” He is correct and since there is no reason to rush the dead heading and in that way allowing more life to be in the small side garden, Mary Ann and I will enjoy watching the birds feasting, especially the Jo Anns.