Posts Tagged Christian

Faith: A Journey for All – Jimmy Carter – ethicsdaily.com

 

Mitch Carnell – 

'Faith: A Journey for All' | Mitch Carnell, Jimmy Carter, Book Reviews, Baptists, Social Justice

Jimmy Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront, Carnell says. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)

One of my birthday presents this year was accompanied by a great compliment.

My son gave me Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Faith: A Journey for All,” and said, “Dad, this sounds like you.”

It was an over-the-top compliment, but I sincerely hope that it is true.

There is not much that surprises in this new volume, but it does remind me of the Baptist faith that surrounded me in my formative years.

Yes, segregation was in full flower, but, even then, it was beginning to fray at the edges.

My parents were products of their time and place, but to their everlasting credit, they never taught my sister and me to hate. They knew that we would not live in the same world that they had experienced.

The message of love for all people was preached from the pulpit every Sunday, just not practiced toward the local African-American population. One of the great ironies was that we took our offering to support missions for those living in Africa.

Carter touches on all of the hot-button issues, especially the struggles within the Southern Baptist Convention that moved this great body from a position where the Bible was the only creed to a hard-and-fast creedal denomination.

The before-unassailable belief in soul competence of the individual was trampled along with the time-honored independence of the local congregation.

Carter says that three words describe this type of fundamentalism: pride, domination and exclusion.

He contrasts these views with the teachings of Jesus: humility, servanthood of leaders and breaking down barriers between people.

The most important statement in the book is, “Christians should be known by our love and our laughter.”

Carter’s love for every human being and the planet shines through loud and clear.

Considering the current arguments against social justice, Carter comes down solidly on the side of social justice with our obligations to the poor and disenfranchised at the forefront.

The press often wondered how such a spirit like Jimmy Carter’s could emerge from what most considered a dark, provincial, unsophisticated background.

If one grew up in the same Southern Baptist churches at the time that Carter and I did, it is not a mystery.

The gospel lessons were presented in such a way that they took hold in a receptive soul.

There was no doubt in my young mind that God loves every human being. The problem was reconciling the teachings with the practices I saw around me.

Jimmy Carter had the great influence of his mother and her social involvement as a model.

In addition to his mother, he was greatly influenced by the theological writings of Karl Barth, William Sloane Coffin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Joshua Herschel, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.

He also gives great credit for his way of thinking to Millard and Linda Fuller, Dr. Bill Foege and Admiral Hyman Rickover.

One name on his list of influencers that surprises me is that of his brother, Billy. He pays great tribute to him.

Carter has taught Sunday School classes for most of his adult life. He has written extensively about his faith and has practiced his humanity before the entire world.

In this book, he states his basic philosophy very succinctly, “My general attitude toward life is that of thanksgiving and joy, not anxiety or fear. In my weekly Bible lessons at our church, I teach that our Creator God is available at any moment to any of us for guidance, solace, forgiveness or to meet other personal needs.”

He also emphasizes the importance of prayer in his life. At 93 years old, Jimmy Carter states, “Faith is not just a noun, but a verb.”

I cannot recommend this book too highly. Reading it and reflecting on its contents constitute pure joy.

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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Say Something Nice Sunday June 3 Join the Movement

On June 3, all churches, all denominations and all faith groups are encouraged to join in the celebration of the 12th.  Say Something Nice Sunday. Originating at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the movement has gained followers from almost every denomination across the US and some in the UK.

The Rev. Marshall Blalock, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and The Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, have both endorsed the program. There is nothing to buy.

Why Have a Say Something Nice Sunday? The simple answer is that words are powerful. Words have the power to build or destroy. Words have the power to heal or wound. With our words we have the power to build up a Christian community or to destroy it.

Nowhere are words more powerful than within the church. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Words take on a life unto themselves. Once they are given life they are on their way for good or evil.

This special day is an opportunity to build the community of faith, strengthen relationships and heal old wounds. Our national discourse has become so strident and even in religious circles the rhetoric is often far from Christ-like. In Philippians 1:27 we read, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

This is a day to say thank you to those who make our lives better just by being a part of them. This is a day to recognize those who contribute to our lives in specific ways. This is a day to apologize for words spoken in frustration, anger or disappointment.

One suggestion in addition to the main sermon is to use it as a theme for the Children’s Sermon as Robin Boston will do at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston.

Mitch Carnell, Chair of the Ecumenical Committee said, “One day is one day, but perhaps we can stretch it to two days and then just maybe if we encourage one another and ask for God’s help, we might change the world!”

Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the page. Scroll down to Say Something Nice Sunday. There is also a Say Something Nice Day for secular celebration on June 1 every year.

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Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference Refreshes and Inspires

In August I spent five wonderful days at the Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin. I had wanted to go there ever since my friend, Don Bynum, told me about it.  I was attending the 68th Annual Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference. Green Lake is a beautiful place far away from any population center. It took no time to feel relaxed. Carol and Jan joined me on the trip. They toured while I attended sessions.

The people I met were gracious, interesting, thoughtful, and creative. I made wonderful new friends including Rev. Jim Wooten and his wife, Becky. Jim is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Beaufort, SC. and a fantastically funny story teller. The three of us were there for the first time. Jim is the former pastor at Earl Street Baptist Church in Greenville, SC where I attended as an undergraduate at Furman University long before Jim’s tenure.

Kris Wood did a great job organizing the conference. The speakers were both helpful and inspiring.  Lin Johnson and Wendy Walters both offered wonderful assistance.  Dr. Linda Locke, a former public school administrator, is a crusader against bullying. We talked a lot about the importance of words. She writes and speaks on the subject. I bought a recording of soothing piano music by fellow attendee Darlene Davis. I continue to play it. It is wonderful.

An unexpected bonus was the number of well-mannered college students there from Bethel University attending a leadership conference. One young woman took the time to educate me about Converge Baptists which is the former Swedish Baptist General Conference.

The morning meditations led by Rev. Karen Gygax Rodrigues, pastor of the local Federated Church were very thought provoking and instructive.  She also played the piano, guitar and sang. The church is supported by American Baptists, United Church of Christ and United Methodists.

I welcomed the opportunity to promote Say Something Nice Sunday. Before I left I was excited to learn that the Green Lake Conference Center (American Baptists) will join our movement as will the Immanuel Baptist Church in Minot, North Dakota. Rev. Brian Skar brought a group of volunteers from his church in Minot to do work on the buildings and grounds while he was in sessions. He led a series of devotional services for teenagers in the evenings.

I learned a lot. Met wonderful people, but most of all I was refreshed and inspired, I was reminded daily of the goodness of people and the splendor of God’s creation

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Political Talk: Temper Your Words, Open Your Heart – www.ethicsdaily.com

Political Talk: Temper Your Words, Open Your Heart

Mitch Carnell
Friday, October 7, 2016 6:53 am
Section: EthicsDaily.com’s Latest Articles

President Obama struck the right note when speaking about the police shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“We need to temper our words and open our hearts,” he said following the mid-July killing of three officers.

Words are powerful. They have the power to build up or tear down, calm people down or stir them up.

Arthur Caliandro, the late senior pastor at Marble Collegiate Church, once asserted, “You can never know that your words will be received the way you intended because you do not know what that person has gone through.”

Most people are able to hear hot political speech and let it roll off them, but a few internalize those words – and those words take over that person’s thoughts and actions.

Hate speech is dangerous. You do not know the listener’s state of mind.

The rhetoric in the current presidential campaign is already at a fever pitch with, I fear, much worse to come.

In today’s unsettled political climate, we all need to take a step back, take a deep breath and moderate our speech and behavior.

The president has shown exemplary restraint in responding to his critics. He has the right demeanor that is needed in these times. He has pleaded for calm and civil speech.

Some see this behavior as weakness, but, in reality, such restraint demands enormous strength. Self-control and self-restraint are hallmarks of a Christian communicator.

Parents should discuss these matters with their children and explain to them the power of words.

The wounds inflicted with sticks and stones will heal, but those inflicted with words may never heal and will continue to fester.

Harsh, unkind, hateful words spoken by those who are significant in a person’s life may have an impact that will scar that life forever.

There is a gigantic role for churches to play under these circumstances. They can promote small discussion groups and hold seminars. They can teach people how to conduct themselves in threatening situations.

Here is an opportunity for churches to become more relevant to modern life. Unfortunately, too many churches have elected to become part of the problem.

They use their powerful voices to arouse discontent and sow seeds of disharmony.

The Bible is filled with sound advice on how Christians are to respond to hostile or threatening behavior. People of good will can find solutions even in the face of overwhelming odds.

It is hard to listen to one another when so many of us are so far apart in our thinking, but we can do it. We must do it for the sake of our society.

We must continually ask ourselves: Do our words accurately reflect our claim to be Christian?

Christian civility must become more than a slogan. It must become the way we operate on a daily basis. As Christians, we must communicate in such a way as to reflect the teachings of Jesus.

Christian communication doesn’t mean surrendering our beliefs. It does require us to treat the other with the same respect we demand for ourselves no matter how much we disagree with his or her position.

In fact, the more deeply we disagree with another’s position, the more careful we need to be in fashioning our response.

There are times when the best response is to acknowledge that our disagreements are so profound that we simply agree to disagree and end the conversation.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” He and his wife, Carol, are members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He blogs at MitchCarnell.comand ChristianCivility.com

Christian communication doesn’t mean surrendering our beliefs. It does require us to treat the other with the same respect we demand for ourselves no matter how much we disagree with his or her position.

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