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Bonhoeffer Author Metaxas at First Baptist Charleston

            Eric Metaxas is the featured speaker for the John A. Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston at 5p.m. on Sunday, January 15 and Monday morning January 16, at 10a.m. Both of his lectures followed by questions and answers will center on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The program will be in the church sanctuary and the public is encouraged to attend. There is no admission fee. Parking is at 48 Meeting Street across from the Richard Russell House. The author’s books will be available for purchase.

            “As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author.  Eric Metaxas implores us to remember, “A man determined to do the will of God radically, courageously and joyfully – even to the point of death.”

             Metaxas is the author of two New York Times bestselling biographies, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace:  William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. This book became a movie.   Bonhoeffer has been named as the best Christian book of the year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Metaxas received the Canterbury Medal, the Becket Fund’s highest honor in recognition of courage in defense of religious liberty.  

            The lectures celebrate the life and work of the late Dr. John A. Hamrick long time pastor of First Baptist Church and the founding president of what is now Charleston Southern University. Special music will be presented by David Templeton, minister of music and worship and Beverly Bradley, organist.

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Say That It Isn’t True

            “Four out of five Americans, regardless of party or religious affiliation, think the lack of respectful discourse in our political system is a serious problem.” This is from a report by the Public Religion Research Institute released on November 11, 2010.  Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in California, is quoted in The Christian Century about the findings. ”We’ve had heated public debates before, but the level of discourse in this campaign and even following the campaign is atrocious.”

            “There’s a real hostility now and Christians with very strong and more conservative convictions really don’t seem to be contributing much to a civil discourse and a calming of the heated discussions in the larger culture,” Mouw thinks. “Evangelicals are more accustomed to inflammatory rhetoric from the pulpit and therefore don’t see it as a problem in politics.”  A third of white evangelicals think the past election was more positive than those of recent years. This is a significantly higher percentage than with white mainline Protestants and Catholics.

            If Dr. Mouw is correct in his assessment of the situation, what does this say about white evangelicals and their relationship to the Sermon on the Mount? What about, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God?”(Matthew 5:9) Are we as Christians free to commit verbal terrorism on our brothers and sisters who do not agree with us? Are pastors who indulge in hyperbolic language consciously or unconsciously giving permission to their hearers to verbally savage their opponents?

            According to the report, white evangelicals and Republicans are less likely than other Americans to say that the 2010 election’s tone was more negative than past campaigns.

            Rabbi Steve Gutow,  president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said, “I don’t think this country, and I don’t think our community are going to make good decisions if people can’t talk to each other rationally and pragmatically. We need to lean back, talk to each other, look each other in the eye and respect each other’s humanity. Calls for civility have clear religious roots. In Judaism, Talmudic study encourages back and forth conversation.”

            The Apostle Peter tells Christians to express their convictions “With gentleness and reverence.” Mouw noted. “In the world where our Savior has not yet returned to make all things right, we’re going to have to find our way of coping in the present and trying to do as much good as we can without oppressing other people, and without bearing false wittiness against other people.”

            In its new Statement on Civility the JCPA states that Jews pledge to “Treat others with decency and honor and to set ourselves as models for civil discourse, even when we disagree with each other.”  We could all benefit from following that pledge.

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Shull on Say Something Nice Sunday

The Rev. Andrew Shull, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodruff, SC,  preached a wonderful sermon dealing with the importance of words on Say Something Nice Sunday June 6. He followed it up on Sunday night and then again at the Wednesday night prayer service. His sermon is very thought provoking and includes several meaningful illustrations. Several of the members there told me what a terrific celebration it was.

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FBC – Woodruff, SC Will Celebrate June 6

Carol and I had a wonderful trip to Woodruff, SC where I spoke to the Golden Age Club of First Baptist Church. These wonderful Christian people greeted us with great hospitality. We reconnected with many old friends and made new ones. My topic dealt with the observance of Say Something Nice Sunday on June 6. My talk included some examples of encouragement I had received in Woodruff growing up there. I also stressed the importance of our communication reflecting our belief in Jesus and that our speech should honor Him. I am happy to say that First Baptist Church of Woodruff will join this year’s observance on June 6. If you are in the Woodruff area, you would find a great warm welcome with these folks.

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