Posts Tagged history


PSALMS 95: 2 …Let us come before His presence with Thanksgiving and make a joyful noise unto Him in song.

I just opened an e-mail from a dear friend calling upon us to commence an oral history of our dear family. This call is extremely timely in an era of disintegrating morality and loss of respect for others. Only when we honor the values given us by our forefathers and mothers do we have a benchmark upon which to anchor our soul. Only when we celebrate the special high points of our common faith can we raise the discourse from the profane to the sacred. God asks us no less and expects a great deal more.

As I bowed my head to lead the family prayer today at the Thanksgiving feast I called on the Lord to grant me the honor that lived in the day, the special meal comprising a long list of great family recipes was prepared with love and forethought and gathered and prepared by our adult daughter. So many great memories of culinary excellence preceded it and each year it grew in perfection. It made it not just another holiday but a sacred event that bound us together and connected us to God’s blessing.

God gives us such a sacred sampler in life, in a week marked by the loss of a dear friend and newspaper editor, and a struggle with healthcare emerged this special moment to connect us again to His great gifts. Yet we often toss these blessings aside and dwell on the worst of times. We linger on mindless tweets that seek to point out the worst in others that seek to separate us from God’s special blessing.

I call today to my many readers to start a special family history pointing out the best in our kin that made us a family, to list the times we have benefited from their skill, love and care and to use at least one example to build a better life that we share with others. In this way we push back the wall of hatred and ignorance that is urged on us by the electronic wizards of our time. Our examples will grow into a sacred text we can share with our family and provide a cushion upon which to build an honorable life. This is David’s special wish and song…a celebration for all time. May God bless and keep you and grant you peace as we honor Him and each other in verse.



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The Soul of American Discourse – The Rev’d Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt – Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary

German notion of Zeitgeist or “spirit of the times” was first promulgated as an alternative to the theory that great men and women are the ones who shape our history.  There are difficulties with both theories, of course. On the one hand, influential figures can make a dramatic difference.   Witness, for example, the sweeping impact of people like Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, or Eleanor Roosevelt.  It is also true, however, that talented people are themselves a product of their times.  World War II decisively shaped Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, for example, and it is difficult to imagine a biography of Roosevelt without the crucible of that war.

The debate over whether history is shaped by Zeitgeist or great women and men is, then, really a false alternative.  Individuals do have a decisive impact on history.  No individual makes choices that are not conditioned by the “spirit of the times,” and no one exercises freedom in a vacuum.  But there are also times when our leaders and the spirit of the times are all but indistinguishable in their temperament or soul, leaving us to wonder whether the climate in which we live has shaped our leaders or our leaders have shaped the times.

We are living in one of those moments, in part perhaps, because we now live in such instant connection with one another that neither our culture, nor our leaders possess enough distance from the other to recognize both the influence of our times, or the contingent nature of the choices that individuals make.  Things could be different, but we don’t seem to possess the will to make them different.

The result is a presidential election in which narrative is more important than fact, in which falsehood and distortions are a regular feature of both candidates’ campaigns, in which a discussion of issues has taken a backseat to a conversation about the personalities of the candidates, in which the language of division has supplanted language about shared goals, and in which the issue of looking presidential has taken precedence over the question of being presidential.

Similarly, although reporting on the election has occasionally touched on the issues, a far greater amount of time has been spent measuring public opinion.  Reporters give very little attention to the nature of the challenges that we face, the complexities involved, the facts that are available, the policies we might pursue, and the intended, as well as unintended consequences of the choices we might make.

Sadly, however, we can hardly blame the candidates and the press alone.  Check the comments section on any article, follow your Facebook feed, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or any of the social media and it is clear that the conversation among those of us who are mere voters is much the same.

From the vantage point of the question, “What drives history?” our leaders and the tenor of American discourse seem to be on the same page: The candidates do not offer an alternative to the spirit of the times.  The media does not press for something different, and we as voters do not insist that our leaders function differently.  It is tempting to conclude that it is not just the spirit of the times, but the soul of American discourse that is in peril.

There are things we can do to save that soul:

  1. We can insist on integrity and take the candidates to task for lying and for behavior that disqualifies them.
  1. We can insist that they discuss the issues.
  1. We can drill down and examine the intended and unintended consequences of the policies that they recommend.
  1. We can abandon an exclusive commitment to the special interests of the tribes to which we belong and pay attention to the greater good of all Americans.
  1. We can remind the candidates (and their parties) that we are electing a leader for the entire nation and not just the voters that they believe they will need to be elected to office.
  1. But if any of those remedies are to take hold, we will also need to be even handed in our insistence that both candidates, not just one of them conform to those expectations.

If we do, we might find that groups of people can both save the soul of the times and nurture a new kind of leader.



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A Tribute to H. Leon McBeth by Charles Deweese – ABP -05-03-13

Dr. McBeth was the first speaker for the John A. Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina.

Longtime church historian Leon McBeth is remembered as “one of the true freedom-loving Baptists of recent times.”

By Charles Deweese

Dr. H. Leon McBeth died this week in Fort Worth, Texas. Prior to his retirement, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1962 to 2003.

This professor of Baptist history made an indelible mark on tens of thousands of students and readers. He guided many students through doctoral programs in church history. He wrote voluminously. He lectured widely. And he served as chair of the SBC Historical Commission and president of the Southern Baptist Historical Society. His roles in the history of Texas Baptists are legendary.

As a teacher and lecturer, Leon had an uncanny ability to drive straight to the heart of his topics, to present his material in scholarly, yet popular, fashion, and to inject wit and humor into much of what he said. He possessed a caring personality, refusing to put down students or others who might disagree with any of his points.

Leon produced many of the most important books in Baptist history in the past 35 years. Examples include: Women in Baptist Life (1979) — my personal and cherished copy includes Leon’s handwritten note: “To Charles Deweese, dear friend and colleague in ministry, Leon McBeth, Ridgecrest, 1980;” The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (1987); A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (1990); and Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History (1998).

In 2008, co-editors Michael E. Williams Sr., and Walter B. Shurden released Turning Points in Baptist History: A Festschrift in Honor of Harry Leon McBeth.

In the early 1990s, the Baptist Sunday School Board refused to publish Leon’s official centennial history of that board. That experience opened both his eyes and the eyes of millions of Baptists to the fact that religious fundamentalism was alive and well in the SBC, even to the point of marginalizing the deliberately balanced writings of an excellent Baptist historian.

I gained the wonderful opportunity to get to know Leon personally while I served on the staff of the SBC Historical Commission between 1973 and 1994. During that time, Leon served on the commission’s board of directors from 1976 until 1983, including service as chair.

He also served as president of the Southern Baptist Historical Society in 1978-79. In both capacities, he radiated affirming support for the two organizations and for their staff members. In 1989, the commission presented him its Distinguished Service Award.

Leon’s legacy continues on through students and readers nationwide and worldwide. He epitomized the best that Baptist history could offer because of his wide participation in every facet of this theological discipline. He made friends far and wide.

He understood the issues at stake in denominational discussions. While he at times walked what appeared to be a very careful line, those of us who knew him well know full well that he was one of the true freedom-loving Baptists of recent times; and that he had gained that awareness by studying pivotal documents of our common Baptist heritage.

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Random Acts of Kindness – 95

There is someone who wants to share your love of history. Share your love of history with her or him. You will be glad that you did.

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