Thursday, November 30

What Comes After

On this day in1864, the decisive Battle of Franklin was fought in and around the idyllic little town just south of Nashville. Though the forces of the Confederate Army under the command of General Hill technically won the engagement, their losses were so great that they never were able to muster a full fighting force again, thus heralding the end of the bitter War Between the States.

During the battle, Northern partisans captured E.M. Bounds, a chaplain for the Southern troops. In later years he would become renowned as a pious pastor and a brilliant theologian—perhaps best known for his many fine books on prayer. He would often reflect on how the horrific experience of war, captivity, and loss had shaped his character and tempered his virtue.

Bounds asserted, "All of life is but preparation for what comes after." Though slightly wounded, ravenously hungry, bitterly cold, and now made servile, Bounds understood that the past is but a prelude to the future and that the present is necessarily tutelage in an unending process and thus not to be chaffed at. He went on to say, "The primer of faith is never closed for the child of God. It's lessons never end. No matter what circumstances may bode, we remain under the bar of instruction forever. Every incident builds upon the last and anticipates the next."

Wednesday, November 29

On the Bandwagon

John Quincy Adams once quipped, "Anyone who actually wants to be president is probably not qualified." Today, for the first time, I have begun to think that Bill Frist might actually be qualified. It wasn't a reassessment of his Senate career that changed my mind. It wasn't some new policy proposal or platform that he issued. Rather, it was his statement that he has decided not to run for president. To my mind, it is the sanest decision he has made during his political career. Here is what he said:

My dad in his later years wanted to impart some wisdom to his grandchildren and great grandchildren he would never meet. One thing he wrote that has stuck with me--in fact been a clarion call to me--was "there is so much good to do in the world and so many ways to do it."

Politics is a noble occupation. Medicine is a noble profession. Service to others underlies both.

The people of Tennessee elected me twice to the U. S. Senate, and I was humbled and honored by their support and every day I did my best to serve them with integrity and common sense.

Twelve years ago, I pledged to the people of Tennessee that I would serve two terms in the Senate--to serve as a true citizen legislator--and then return home. I said I'd come to the Senate with 20 years experience in healing, spend 12 years serving in Washington, then go right back to Tennessee to live where I grew up. I've never deviated from that commitment. And I will do just that.

In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.

Karyn and I will take a sabbatical from public life. At this point a return to private life will allow me to return to my professional roots as a healer and to refocus my creative energies on innovative solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges Americans face.

"We have been blessed with the prayers and support of countless individuals around the country who have shared our vision of making America a better place. We thank you and pledge to represent these values in our daily lives and wherever our journey takes us next.

I especially thank Karyn, who has honored me with her love every step along the way. And to our sons, Harrison, Jonathan and Bryan and our extended family: your support and love has sustained me both in and out of politics.

That call from my father still rings true, so we will explore ways to continue to serve outside of politics. Politics for us was never an end--it was a means--a means to serve our country and humanity, to improve lives. And for that opportunity I am truly grateful.

Karyn and I will seek the best opportunity to serve. I may eventually return to what I've done for most of my adult life, heal through medicine and health.

In the short term, I will resume my regular medical mission trips as a doctor around the world to serve those in poverty, in famine, and in civil war. I will continue to be a strong voice to fix what is broken in our health care system and to address the issues of clean water and public health globally. We will stay actively engaged in policy issues affecting the lives of Americans.

"The time for Karyn and me to leave Washington has arrived and we do so with tremendous respect for the institution of the Senate and for my colleagues, for our government, for our President, for the genius of the American people, and for the enduring principles of freedom and liberty upon which our country has prospered.

He doesn't want to be president! What a novel, noble notion! Now, at long last, I think I could actually get on a "Draft Frist" bandwagon.

Tuesday, November 28

Taper Time

I am now down to the last few days before the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. My training has gone well and now I am in my final taper (that's fancy runner talk for "resting up a bit before the big day," or something like that). Alas, I am also having to keep a close eye on weather. We've had spectacular temperatures and glorious weather ever since Thanksgiving. But, it looks as if that is about to change rather dramatically. A cold front starts blowing through tonight. By Saturday, we should have clear skies again. But, temperatures could be in the low twenties for the start of the race. Yikes! So, I am having to prepare accordingly!

Of course, the primary reason go to all this trouble is to raise awareness and finances for the Memphis hospital that has done more than any other single institution to pioneer new treatments for children's cancer. Won't you help me support the remarkable ministry of St. Jude to children and families battling cancer? I won't even ask you to run in the cold with me! Just donate to this very worthy cause and come back to visit my st. jude sponsor site often. Tell others about what I'm trying to do. Learn how my effort to help find cures and save lives is going.

Oh yes, and do pray for the run itself! A lot can happen to old bones like mine over the course of 26.2 miles.

Monday, November 27

Recovering Conquered Lands

The idea of some kind of a just war to avenge the Muslim subjugation of Christian lands first occurred to Pope Gregory VII, and then to his successor Victor III, but affairs closer to home kept them both more than a little preoccupied. Soon though, stories of gross atrocities against captive churches began to reach Europe. The brutal conquest of Egypt, Syria, and Iraq sent shudders of fear throughout the kingdoms of the West. The penetration of Moslem armies into Spain, France, and Italy and the slaughter of whole communities of believers shook their confidence even more. The vulnerability of the once invulnerable Byzantine empire was utterly terrifying to them. And horrific stories of the occupation of the "Holy Land"--Jerusalem and Palestine--and the desecration of the beloved and historic sites of the Christian faith there distressed them no end. Soon, they could no longer ignore such abscesses of despotism.

At the Council of Clermont on this day in 1095, Pope Urban II issued a call for concerted and forthright action that was heard throughout Europe: "From the confines of Jerusalem and from the city of Constantinople a horrible tale has gone forth. An accursed people, a people utterly alienated from God, has invaded the lands of those Christians and depopulated them by the sword, plundering, and fire."

He went on to list in detail the outrages of Ji'had and Dhimma: the plunder of churches, the rape of Christian women, the torture of priests and monks, the pilfering of villages and towns, and the occupation of the territories. He appealed to both their sense of Christian mercy and their sense of covenantal honor: "Recall the greatness of Charlemagne. O most valiant soldiers, descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate. Let all hatred between you depart, all quarrels end, all wars cease. Start upon the road to the Holy Sepulcher, to tear that land from a wicked race and subject it to yourselves thereby restoring it to Christ. I call you to take the cross and redeem defiled Jerusalem."

Immediately a stirring chant arose from the crowd there at Clermont: Deus Vult, "God wills it." It was a chant that would quickly spread throughout Europe. The following year, their campaign of liberation the historians now call the "Crusades" began in earnest resulting in the emancipation of all the lands from Edessa to the Gaza--including the city of Jerusalem--less than four years later.

Sunday, November 26

Stir-Up Sunday

Stirring Day or Stir-Up Sunday, as it is sometimes called, is the Sunday before Advent--usually falling on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. A holiday borrowed from the Victorians, it provides a wonderful way to make the transition into the Advent season. On this day mothers and grandmothers gather their whole family into the kitchen, assign various chopping, stirring, measuring, and clean-up tasks and bake the Christmas Plum Pudding together. Then, pudding baked and ageing nicely in a cool, dark spot, they relax with the feeling of satisfaction that although the busy Yuletide season is soon to be upon them, at least some of the preparation for Christmas Dinner was completed. The preparation has begun.


Saturday, November 25

On the Run, Again

One week from today, I plan to run the Memphis St. Jude Marathon for the third year in a row. Once again, I am running for a very special cause. Even though I have tapped the fundraising well quite a few times this year already, I will be trying to raise funds for essential cancer research. With the diagnosis of my dear friends Todd Burleson and Wes King with cancer during the past couple of years and the continuing battle against the dread disease by two of my students here in Franklin and three of my correspondence students in New York and Texas, I am more committed to this cause and this work than ever before. My goal is to raise $1000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital this year. Won't you help?

The reason I picked St. Jude as the focus of my fundraising efforts is actually very simple to explain: this nationally renowned children's charity hospital is one of the most remarkable and effective medical research institutions anywhere in the world. St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 foreign countries. And yet ability to pay is never an issue because St. Jude is the only pediatric research center where families never pay for treatment not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. Not one penny! Not ever! Zip! Zilch! Nada!

The treatment of children and the onging research at St. Jude includes work in bone marrow transplantation, chemotherapy, the biochemistry of normal and cancerous cells, radiation treatment, blood diseases, resistance to therapy, viruses, hereditary diseases, infectious diseases, and psychological effects of catastrophic illnesses. Vital work, indeed. And again, always made available to families regardless of their financial means.

Obviously, this kind of care is very expensive. Won't you help me support the remarkable ministry of St. Jude to children and families battling cancer? Please donate now and come back to visit my st. jude sponsor site often. Tell others about what I'm trying to do. Learn how my effort to help find cures and save lives is going. Oh yes, and do pray for my training!

Tuesday, November 21

What a Great Week to Read!

The newest King's Meadow Study Center ministry newsletter is now available online--if for some strage and unexplainable reason you are not already a subscriber.

This month I have a long, long article on the influence of the Scots in the American founding era. I tried my utmost to exhort our esteemed editor, Dave Raymond, to do some serious cutting, but he left the article pretty much in its original state, for better or for worse. But speaking of our esteemed editor, Dave has a great review of the influential David McCullough book, 1776, that really ought not be missed. Then, there are two reports, one from the always enlightening Greg Wilbur, and another from the delightfully gifted Blair Sadler, on our most recent event, our annual film festival.

Got some good curl-up-in-an-easy-chair-by-the-fire time this holiday week? Catch up on all the doings here at the study center--it'll be a good warm up for that new Tim Powers novel or perhaps the new Colin Thubron book on the Silk Road or maybe even the new R.C. Sproul exposition on the Westminster Standards or, if you're like me, all three of those plus the L.L. Bean catalog, the latest Chesterton Review, and of course, the Sabbath Scripture Readings of Chalmers! Oh, what a great week to read!

Monday, November 20

The 63 Tacos

The cover story of the latest Texas Monthly is, "The 63 Tacos You Must Eat Before You Die" by the ever vigilant Patricia Sharpe. Now, that really is news I can use. My issue arrived just in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Thank goodness. As a result, I am even now resetting my palate accordingly.

Friday, November 17

Tristan Gylberd on Bookstores

"Browsing is but one of the many time-honored traditions that have been heedlessly cast aside amidst the hustle and bustle of modernity. Nevertheless, it is a habit that seems almost as natural as breathing in a bookstore. Whether it is a fine old antiquarian dealer with dusty shelves, dark labyrinthine rooms, and hidden treasures amidst every stack or a familiar neighborhood shop featuring fresh coffee, warm conversations, and the latest bestsellers, readers relish the comfortable haunts of their determined hunts nearly as much as they love the books they ultimately find there."

"A bookstore is an earthly elysium. In some strange way, it seems to represent so much of what man aspires to and it embodies so much of what man yearns for. Like a well-stocked library, a good used bookstore can be a sort of nexus of piety and sensuality, of holiness and seduction. Such sanctuaries from the hustle bustle of everyday life are in some sense cenacles of virtue, vessels of erudition, arks of prudence, towers of wisdom, domains of meekness, bastions of strength, and thuribles of sanctity as well as crucibles of dissipation, throne rooms of desire, caryatids of opulence, repositories of salaciousness, milieus of concupiscence, and trusses of extravagance."

"The creative arts consist of signs. Thus, if images are, as Aristotle long ago asserted, the literature of the layman, then books consist of signs of signs. And thus, bookshops consist of signs of signs of signs. They are thus, the truest of all the creative arts—combining rhythm, tone, structure, progression, logic, melody, heft, texture, redolence, cipher, perspective, harmony, balance, epic, symbol, emblem, saga, craftsmanship, hue, lyric, form, function, ballad, and sanctity. They are united in their variety and varied in their unity, unique in their diversity and diverse in their apt assembly. They are sustained by a law at once heavenly and worldly. The rich fragrance of hand-oiled Moroccan leathers, the visual panoply of deep natural hues, the effluvium of fine vellum, the hollow ring of sequestered silence, the sacred spectacle of light filtered through high dusty windows, and the hush of monkish thoughtfulness combine to grant fine antiquarian bookstores an air of amplitude. The total effect is of a concert of alluring terrestrial beauty and majestic supernatural signals."

Thursday, November 16

A Tale of Two Men

The great Scottish historian and social critic, Thomas Carlyle, believed that the meaning of history might be best understood as we turn our attentions to the heroes who act boldly and decisively on the stage of the world. If Carlyle was even partly right then Western culture could well be considered the tale of two men: Augustine and Aquinas.

Both men are numbered among the most brilliant and influential writers and thinkers of all time. Both men rose from obscurity to launch movements that literally changed the course of whole civilizations. Both men transcended their quiet, contemplative, and pious lifestyles to become champions of stunning intellectual and social reform. Both men are considered among the greatest of the saints of the church.

Augustine lived during the waning days of the Roman Empire and was one of the most remarkable men Africa ever produced. He studied rhetoric at the great University of Carthage in order to become a lawyer, but later gave up his plan to for a career in teaching. His study of rhetorical philosophy, with an emphasis on Pagan Greek thought, resulted in a complete renunciation of Christianity. He lived a self-confessedly debauched life, including keeping a mistress for fifteen years by whom he had a son. In pursuit of opportunities to improve his academic standing he took teaching posts, first in Rome and later in Milan. It was in Milan that he fell under the sway of the eloquent bishop Ambrose. After a long and tortured battle of the soul, described in his classic autobiography Confessions, Augustine was converted under Ambrose's ministry and was baptized.

After some two years of intensive training, he returned to Africa and established a scholastic community in Hippo. There he founded a classical school, a kind of prototype for the modern university devoted to study, writing, and the work of cultural transformation. The school was famed for its emphasis on logic, rhetoric, art, music, politics, theology, and philosophy. But it was equally recognized for the brilliance of its founder.

Soon the steadfastness, holiness, and giftedness of Augustine was recognized and he was ordained, though very much against his own objections. And a few years later he was elevated to the bishopric of the city. He was a devoted pastor, but his writing was where he made his greatest impact. During his career he wrote more than a thousand works, including 242 books. Most of these quite brilliant writings have endured the test of time. But he is probably best known for his manifesto of faith, The City of God.

According to Martin Luther, this one book “set the very course of Western Civilization.” According to John Knox, it is the very essence of “incisive Christian thought applied to the circumstances of theis poor fallen world.” When Peter Lombard compiled his Sentences, providing the Medieval world with its basic handbook of theology, he acknowledged his “supreme debt” to the “masterful work” of Augustine in City. When Gratian compiled the principle handbook of canon law, he too recognized the “vital import” of the “seminal foundations” laid by Augustine’s City. Cassiodorus and Boethius both relied heavily on Augustine’s worldview paradigm as exposited in City as well as his tripartite arx axiom methodology in establishing the Western pattern of covenantal and classical education. Anselm, Petrarch, Pascal, and Kierkegaard all counted The City of God as their first and primary intellectual influence. Indeed, this one book has had an astonishing influence on the shaping of our culture for centuries.

Thomas Aquinas was born into a well-connected Italian family, related to the Emperors Henry VI and Frederick II as well as the royal families of Aragon, Castile, and France, during the high Medieval Age. Landulph, his father, was Count of Aquino; Theodora, his mother, Countess of Teano. He showed early promise as a student and was marked by a deep and profound piety. At the university he quickly surpassed his professors and his parents hoped he might establish himself as a lawyer or diplomat. But he yielded to a call into the Dominican Order. The whole city of Naples was said to have wondered that such a noble young man should don the garb of poor friar and his family, appalled, his family had him confined two years in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca in an effort to dissuade him from his holy intentions. He refused to relent however and finally he was released to the monastery.

In Paris and Cologne he studied under the most brilliant mind of the age, Albert Magnus. But it was not long before the wisdom of Aquinas outstripped that of even Albert. After obtaining his doctorate, Aquinas began to write; soon his remarkable mind made its mark on the world. He was nearly as prolific as Augustine, composing hundreds of works and dozens of books. But like Augustine, his reputation rests on his magnum opus, a systematic theology entitled the Summa.

Like the City of God, the Summa quickly altered the course of men and nations. Virtually every Roman Catholic theologian since Aquinas has found in the Summa all the language, categories, and philosophical frameworks for faith. G.K. Chesterton called it the “North Star of Western thought.” Hilaire Belloc called it the “loadstone of orthodoxy.” And Pope John Paul II asserted that it was an “indispensable guide to the Christian world and life view.”

Given all this, you might be tempted to think that Augustine and Aquinas were very similar men, thinking very similar thoughts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

While Augustine categorically rejected the principles of Greek philosophy, including the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas embraced them and wove them into his Christian understanding of the world. Augustine thought in black and white; Aquinas thought in various shades of grey. Augustine drew a line through all of history; on one side was the “City of God” on the other was the “City of Man;” nearly every fact, every event, every idea, and every movement could be sorted out on one side of the divide or the other. Aquinas drew lines of distinction as well, but they were far more complex, subtle, and broad. Augustine thought in exclusive Biblical categories. Aquinas thought in inclusive philosophical categories. Augustine drew inferences from Scriptural ideas. Aquinas drew inferences from Aristotelian ideas. Philosophers and theologians have said that Augustine’s ideas were based largely on antithesis while the ideas of Aquinas were based largely on synthesis. And never the twain shall meet.

Wednesday, November 15

The Articles of Confederation

The first constitution of the newly independent American nation was sent to the states for ratification on this day in 1777--though it would be amended in July of 1778 and not actually adopted until March of 1781. Throughout most of the War for Independence therefore, the federal union was held together by a provisional government and both the nascent Presidency and the assembled Congress had only such powers as the states afforded them by proxy. The new constitution, called The Articles of Confederation, enumerated the powers of both the federation and of the individual states and was heralded as a great leap forward in republicanism.

The document began with a clear delineation of powers and authorities, “To all to whom these presents shall come, we the undersigned delegates of the states affixed to our names send greeting. Whereas, The delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven, and in the second year of the independence of America, agree to certain articles of confederation and perpetual union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in the words following, viz: Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Done at Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America.”

The Articles actually were written in 1776 and 1777 during the early part of the American Revolution by a committee of the Second Continental Congress. The head of the committee, John Dickinson, presented a report on the proposed articles to the Congress on July 12, 1776, eight days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Dickinson initially proposed a strong central government, with control over the western lands, equal representation for the states, and the power to levy taxes.

Because of their bitter experience with Great Britain, the thirteen states feared a powerful central government; consequently, they changed Dickinson’s proposed articles drastically before they sent them to all the states for ratification. The Continental Congress had been careful to give the states as much independence as possible and to specify the limited functions of the federal government. Despite these precautions, several years passed before all the states ratified the articles. The delay resulted from preoccupation with the revolution and from disagreements among the states.

The final document laid out a kind of decentralized authority and a mixed government of checks and balances. Though it was eventually superceded by the new Constitution of 1789, the Articles of Confederation set the pattern for virtually all the guaranteed liberties that would become the hallmark of the American experiment in freedom.

Monday, November 13

Parish Pres

In September of this year, the elders of Christ Community Church (PCA) in Franklin, Tennessee completed the first stages of a strategic planning process committing that congregation to a new vision for church planting--among many other things. Putting feet to that vision immediately, they issued a call to me--asking me to consider launching the inaugural work.

After praying, thinking, praying, dreaming, and praying for the better part of a month, Karen and I accepted their call. We were already working with City Church (PCA) in East Nashville and so had gotten a good taste of the excitement and opportunities for ministry impact that a church plant affords. And so, just a few weeks later, on November 8, 2006, the first group of elders for this new work in Franklin gathered together and officially constituted Parish Presbyterian Church as a mission of Christ Community and the Nashville Presbytery, named a provisional session, and reaffirmed the call for me to be their organizing pastor.

That night, the provisional elders, Brent Moelker, Grant Hensley, Jim Smith, John Scherrer, Bill Iverson, Mike Felts, Danny Ketchum, and Louis Huesmann had a joyous season of prayer and thanksgiving as I reminded them that the vision of a “parish model” means that the new church will “go deep and go slow.” No razzle-dazzle. No hoopla. No blitzkrieg of programming. Just in-depth Bible teaching, worship marked by reverence and awe, intentionality in both community and outreach, a focus on covenantal succession among our children, and purposeful mission to our city. It is a distinctive vision--what will be, we pray, an authentic Kingdom vision.

Services will begin Sunday evenings in Advent. We sent out our first e-newsletter just yesterday. More information will be forthcoming on our still-under-construction website. Obvious, things are now moving very quickly. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, November 12

Parish Presbyterian Church

It is now official! Parish Presbyterian Church (PCA) In Franklin, Tennessee has been constituted as a mission of Christ Community Church and the Nashville Presbytery. Evening services will commence the first Sunday of Advent. The provisional elders have called me to be the organizing pastor. And, for that, I am extremely excited and grateful. Visit our temporary website for more information.

The Pulpit

William Cowper (1731-1800) was an influential English poet and hymn writer who, with his spiritual mentor John Newton, helped to dramatically reform the character and canon of Evangelical hymnody. His long lyrical excursus on everyday British life, The Task, includes this beautiful reminder of the unlikely power of preaching:

The pulpit, (and I name it fill'd
With solemn awe, that bids me well beware
With what intent I touch that holy thing);
The pulpit (when the satirist has at last,
Strutting and vapouring in an empty school,
Spent all his force, and made no proselyte);
I say, the pulpit (in the sober use
Of its legitimate, peculiar pow'rs)
Must stand acknowledg'd, while the world shall stand,
The most important and effectual guard,
Support, and ornament of Virtue's cause.

Wednesday, November 8

Fluttering Only a Fringe

The midterm elections of 1994 resulted in Republicans winning a majority in the Senate while at the same time gaining control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It looks like today, that result has been finally, decisively reversed. For losers and winners alike, it is essential to remember that politics is important. But it is not all important. That is not just a modern phenomenon. It has always been a fact of life.

Many who live and die by the electoral sword will certainly be shocked to discover that most of the grand glorious headline making events in the political realm today will go down in the annals of time as mere backdrops to the real drama of everyday banalities. But it is so.

As much emphasis as is placed on campaigns, primaries, caucuses, conventions, elections, statutes, administrations, surveys, polls, trends, and policies these days, most of us know full well that the import of fellow workers, next door neighbors, close friends, and family members is actually far greater. Despite all the hype, hoopla, and hysteria of sensational turns of events, the affairs of ordinary people who tend their gardens and raise their children and perfect their trades and mind their businesses are, in the end, more important. Just like they always have been. Just like they always will be.

That is the great lesson of history. It is simply that ordinary people doing ordinary things are ultimately who and what determine the outcome of human events not princes or populists issuing decrees. It is that laborers and workmen, cousins and acquaintances can upend the expectations of the brilliant and the glamorous, the expert and the meticulous. It is that simple folks doing mundane chores can literally change the course of history because they are the stuff of which history is made. They are who and what make the world go round. As G.K. Chesterton has aptly observed, "The greatest political storm flutters only a fringe of humanity."

Thus, what many presume to be electoral apathy is merely electoral ambivalence. It is not that the American people believe that politics is insignificant. It is just a recognition that in the end, there are any number of things in life that are more significant.

Most of us would have to agree with the astute political axiom of commentator George Will, "Almost nothing is as important as almost everything in Washington is made to appear. And the importance of a Washington event is apt to be inversely proportional to the attention it receives."

Eugene McCarthy, once the darling of the New Left, also said it well, "Being in politics is like being a football coach; you have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it’s important."

Intuitively, we know that is true. Especially on days like today.

Sozzled with preposterous false expectations and bedazzled by a ceaseless chatter of well meant platitudes, the media and the ideologues have told the truth about the falsehood that they tell. Like all the other quacks and conycatchers now crowding the public trough in Washington, their suppositions drift ethereally above normal logical processes and pass into the murky domain of transcendental metaphysics. Such is to be expected. That is their job. And they have done it.

So now, it is time for us to do our job--back in the real world.

No More Plagued

On this day in 1787, Richard Allen and a number of other African American Methodists arrived at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to attend Sunday services. They were directed toward a newly built seating gallery, and mistakenly sat in its "white" section. During a prayer, white ushers pulled the black worshippers to their feet and demanded that they sit in the "proper" section. Humiliated, Allen--a former slave from Delaware who had joined the Wesleyan movement because of its work against slavery and who eventually became a licensed Methodist preacher--and several others left the church at the prayer's end. "They were no more plagued with us in the church," he later said dryly.

Similar indignities were suffered by African American Christians all across both the North and the South. There were incidents where children were refused baptism because white pastors refused to take the infants into their arms. Likewise free black parishioners were often forced to wait until all the whites had been served the Lord's Supper before they were admitted to the table. There were even conflicts over access to cemeteries.

In response to such discrimination, African American Methodists in Baltimore and Philadelphia began holding separate prayer meetings as early as 1786, two years after Methodism had made its way to American shores. Allen tried to buy a separate building for such meetings, but abandoned his plan in the face of white hostility. Recognizing the importance of black self-reliance, Allen, Absalom Jones, and others had formed the Free African Society--a benevolent organization whose commitment to abolition and the aiding of blacks in times of need became a model for other societies nationwide. But they were still dependent on dominant Methodist institutions.

By 1794 Philadelphia's black Methodists had raised enough money to build their own church, which a majority of the congregation voted to align with the Episcopalians rather than the Methodists. They named it the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. Allen, however, believed that "no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of the colored people as well as the Methodists, for the plain and simple gospel suits best for any people." Thus, he purchased a blacksmith shop with his own money and converted it into a storefront church. Methodist Bishop Frances Asbury named it the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

By 1816 black Methodists, still facing persistent discrimination, had come to believe that separate churches were not enough. Allen and a number of other prominent African American pastors decided to organize under the name the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Afterward, they successfully sued for independence before the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, Richard Allen became the first AME bishop.

Tuesday, November 7


Karen and I stood in line almost two hours on this dreary, rainy evening in order to cast our votes--so much for our effecient new voting machines. I never dreamed that I would go to such lengths and still only have candidates to vote against rather than candidates to vote for--so much for the present state of American politics.

Planning for Next Year

The Little School That Could

Franklin Classical School is little. By design. We focus on academics. On purpose. We keep our tuition as low as we possibly can. In principle. Our resources are thus quite limited. Of necessity. So, it probably surprises a lot of floks when they see FCS do big things. Really big things. Like staging the Uttermost 3-day, 175-mile, duathlon. Like presenting a first-rate cultural award to a national figure like Jan Karon. Like winning state and national titles in football.

Uh, say what?

Yep. You read it right. Little bitty Franklin Classical School went undefeated this year in football. Little bitty Franklin Classical School went on to the playoffs and won the Tennessee state title. Little bitty Franklin Classical School then proceeded to win the National Christian Athletic League title.

Wow! I'm amazed. And, ever so grateful for the Lord's bounteous grace, mercy, and blessing.

Saturday, November 4

Chalmers Award

Following a wonderful evening, I'm posing here with the Chalmers Cultural Vision Award that I had presented to Jan Karon just moments before.

Best-selling author, Jan Karon, speaks during a special assembly at Franklin Classical School this past week.

Thursday, November 2

Jan Karon and the Chalmers Award

Tonight, in a special ceremony with a thousand of her fans in attendance, I will be privileged to give Jan Karon, the New York Times bestselling author of the Mitford series, the first Chalmers Cultural Vision Award. For the award itself, we commissioned Caleb Faires, a remarkably gifted sculptor, to create a beautiful original bronze. I was so wowed by the finished work that I just had to share it with you--as well as with Jan:

Just click on the image for a closer look at the sculpture. Isn't it wonderful?

I'll do my best to post some photos of the gala event sometime over the weekend--or at the latest, early this next week.

Wednesday, November 1

All Saints' Day

In the earliest years of the Church, so many martyrs died for their faith, Christians set aside special days to honor them. For example, in 607 Emperor Phocas presented the beautiful Roman Pantheon to the Church. Pope Boniface IV quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the other Pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to all the martyrs who had suffered during the Roman persecution in the first three hundred years after Christ--that great cloud of witnesses to the Christian faith. The venerable old building was renamed "All Saints Chapel" and a festival was set aside to remember the courage and the sacrifice of the faithful. Originally celebrated on May 1, the festival was eventually moved to the first day of November by Pope Gregory IV. It was, in a very real sense, the Church's first commemoration of "thanksgiving."