Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Power of the Pen to Effect Needed Change

There lived in the mid-1800's a fiery evangelist named Lyman Beecher. His son, Henry Ward Beecher, became a famous minister in New York, and the evangelist's daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wound up becoming well known in her own right while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The young Harriet was an abolitionist. She detested slavery. Harriet agonized in the 1850's over the flourishing slave trade south of the Mason Dixon line. But what, she thought, could this poor, relatively unknown daughter of an evangelist do to stem the growing tide of slave trade and stop the efforts of slave traders to expand slavery into the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska?

I can write, thought Harriet. That's what I can do. And write she did.

Harriet Beecher Stowe poured out her anger into a novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, that won immediate acclaim in the North and infamy in the South. More than three hundred thousand copies were sold in 1852, its first year in print, and over two million copies were sold during the next decade making it the bestselling novel in American history at the time - and according to proportion to population, it remains the bestselling American novel ever.

The book was adapted to the stage and countless thousands of Americans felt the author's agony over slavery in the character of Tom, who is eventually beaten to death by his master, Simon Legree. Audiences and readers also felt the author's hope and inspiration in defeating slavery through the escape of Eliza and her five-year-old son via the Underground Railroad. The nation became effected by the pen of a young daughter of an American evangelist.

According to Harry Stout, author of Upon the Altar of the Nation, Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe during the Civil War and reputedly greeted her with these words:

So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war."

As those of who are parents tasked with the responsiblitity of properly training our children, we would do well to remember that the power of the pen shall never diminish. The keyboard may be the new instrument, but the ability to organize ideas through writing shall always wield tremendous power. Those who believe only the visual moves the massses simply need to be reminded that the all visual mediums (movies, television, videos, etc. . . ) follow scripts.

For all you Christians out there who write, keep it up. In the end, the kingdom of Christ is advanced. And for all you young people who play X-Box - consider dropping the controller and picking up a keyboard or a pen and write. It's far more satisfying to make history by doing good for the world than to simply watch the world go by.

In His Grace,



Rex Ray said...

Thanks for the encouragement. Last week, I entered a class of ‘Creative Writing’.

I answer why I was taking the class by saying I wanted to write a scrip for a movie about the disagreements of Christians in the early church.

If this 75 year old doesn’t make it, maybe the person that sat next to me will…my 11 year old granddaughter.

We were asked to choose from 20 topics of ‘what if and how the world would be different’.

Unknown to each other, we both chose: “If humans had never been able to talk.”

Hey! That might solve our friction today. Huh? said...

Good for your Rex.

Keep us posted on your progress.


Anonymous said...

Good comments, Wade. Thanks a million.
Florence in KY

brob said...


what do you think of Frank Cox running for Pres. I am from Oklahoma originally, and really believe he is our best choice so far. Just curious no motive here.

Brian Blackburn said...

I predicted it in my January 1, 2008 post. Frank Cox was considering a run two years ago, but backed out - and Frank Page backed in.

Lin said...

"Those who believe only the visual moves the massses simply need to be reminded that the all visual mediums (movies, television, videos, etc. . . ) follow scripts."

How true. But I would add that today we are bombarded with millions of 'visuals' everyday. We are on overload and every single visual is competing with all the others for our attention.

With all the technology/entertainment we have today, there is a reason why books still sell well.

I can remember the first time I read UTC...I was about 10. It left a lasting impression and I have read it several times since. Oh, and I love reading about Lincoln. He sure had a way with cutting to the heart of the matter with humor.

Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals is excellent for a look at how Lincoln dealt with conflict within his cabinet.

Scotte Hodel said...

"And for all you young people who play X-Box - consider dropping the controller and picking up a keyboard or a pen and write."

This comment completely misses the point of your post, but ought to be said. An IMB missionary to the Middle East was shocked to discover that, as an X-box Halo champion, his son could gain a platform for the gospel in difficult to reach locales.

I don't recommend that all missionary minded parents require their children to practice Halo 6 days out of the week, but it's worth noting that with different gifts come different opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Wade, for many of us, your post today is a clarion reminder of how you have demonstrated by example through writing your heartfelt concerns on this blog for the past two plus years. Perhaps, the two most recent Chairmen of the IMB BoT (though sadly, in this Okie's opinion, they bear little else in common with our 16th President of the U.S.A.), are convinced that your efforts have stirred something of a "war", as well, from their perspective.

However, there are many others who are eternally grateful for your stand on the issues of SBC doctrines being dictated by the decrees of certain agencies of the Cconvention. It was you who made so many aware for the first time of the behind the scene political power brokering tactics being exercised against anyone who had/has the courage to stand up against such actions. It was you who exhibited the courage to respectfully and graciously challenge those who pursued said practices to be held accountable for their actions.

Their responses subsequently proved your assertions to be true, when they similarly attempted to destroy you for making public what they intended to keep under a cloak of secrecy. However, it is now evident that, to their shame, the political machinations they pursued behind closed doors meetings and secret backroom strategy planning sessions had little to do with international missions, while they plotted additional magisterial power plays.

Wade, this Christian wholeheartedly agrees with your exhortation calling others to pick up their pens (or, as the case may be, to chair up to their computer keyboards) in similar worthwhile causes, this Okie is praying that you are being led and encouraged to continue to be a champion for the rank and file Southern Baptists who look to you for leadership and inspiration. May our gracious Lord richly bless you in His calling for you!

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb said...


I would simply hope that when the X-Box champion shares the gospel, there will be the ability to articulate the good news because the disciplines of writing, reading and thinking were not abandoned. I would think that the young man in the case you mention will be able to do so.

Scotte Hodel said...

"I would simply hope that ... there will be the ability to articulate the good news because the disciplines of writing, reading and thinking were not abandoned. "

As a college professor, I share your goal. Occasionally I even get to help a few students hone their skills. :-)

DT Boy said...

I entered the blogging world about a year and half ago as a way of expanding the student ministry at our church. Thanks to sitemeter I have noticed that ip address from around the world have ended up at my site. It boggles my mind how God has used the words I write in some many different places.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Thanks to your blog and those who comment here I have learned so much. Of late I have been particularly blessed my your mother's writings.

Charlie Mac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mac said...

FYI, I had posted two comments which were incorrect or mis-leading in information. I learned that a poster could remove his own comments and have done so.
In the language of today.
Mac McFatter
Semmes, AL

John Daly said...

I'm simply in awe of people who have taken stands regardless of the cost. While I "boldly" say I'll never deny Christ with a pistol to my head, how about the many choices that I may make throughout any given day? When people see a redeemed life, they'll be more inclined to believe in the Redeemer. I'm sure Harriet Beacher Stowe underwent an avalance of persecution and I'm also sure that she wouldn't trade in any of it as it no doubt brought her closer to her God.

Steve said...

I have often wondered what Harriet Beacher Stowe thought when Mr. Lincoln (our greatest President) said that to her.

Today's crusaders must champion human rights. The victors probably won't be threatened with instant death, but more of an economic weapon may be used. The nation that was once called "Great" Britain has been informed (through its spineless olympic association) that there will be no political or other dissent tolerated from its athletes in the Peking/Beijing Olympic Games this summer, in contrast to previously made assurances of no interference. Let's see if the real believers in human rights are heard from.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that Uncle Tom's Cabin did more harm than good. It perpetuated all kinds of stereotypes (and is even responsible for creating a few) that have lingered and plagued the African Americans in this country for years. The pen is mighty, but a careless pen is deadly.

Carl Duffy said...


Don't know that I would necessarily disagree.


ml said...

Wade, very Piperesque aka Don't Waste Your Life a highly recommended read along the lines of your post.

docjoc said...


While Uncle Tom's Cabin is certainly not an accurate historic account, it sparked in me an understanding of the suffering that many blacks endured.

Where I lived here in Oklaoma, I did not know one black person. They lived on the other side of town. They did not go to my school.

Our church always spoke only of the natives in Africa who we were to be concerned with...not the blacks who lived lived just across town.

We practiced the odd idea of described by the saying "I love mankind, its people that I can't stand."

Anonymous said...

"It's far more satisfying to make history by doing good for the world than to simply watch the world go by."

Is that quote originally yours? If it is can I use that (giving you credit of course)? said...

Original Josh.

It may not be profound but it is original.


Sure you may use it.


Only By His Grace said...

Ah, me. What heroes we pick. I think "Uncle Tom's Cabin" keeps reminding us just how evil our three hundred and sixty years of slavery was; not much like a "Christian Nation" that is for sure. We would like to forget, but those doggone Blacks just keep bringing up what it was really like. It seems truth will just not go away. The apartheid in the south was still slavery (1606-1866; 1866-1966).

Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Phil in Norman.

Rex Ray said...

Only By His Grace,
You asked on your blog, “What in the world was wrong with Hemphill? Was he liberal, too?”

Hemphill was no more liberal than Dilday. Patterson told Dilday, “You’re conservative all right, BUT you’re not one of us.”

Hemphill was conservative AND “one of us”, BUT he was too nice a Christian for ‘dirty work.’

That’s why he had to go and Patterson had to come to be the ‘hatchet man’; much like your poem, except the ‘blood’ is from good Christians who are not “one of us”, and who are not male.

Rex Ray said...

I should have said, “…who are not “one of us”, and some because they are not male.

DL said...

Great post, Wade. I just read it to my nine and ten year old children. We homeschool them, and I always tell them that writers have always set the agenda of world events. It was great to show them a practical example, especially since they've been immersed in Civil War history since September.

Only By His Grace said...

Rex Ray,
I appreciate your insight. I am a theological conservative, probably to the right of most who comment here on Wade's blog.

I included the poem because I find it impossible to put myself in the shoes of a black person or see with their eyes what they as a people have experienced in America. Their view of Uncle Tom's Cabin is far different than ours.

Dave Miller said...

Rex Ray, Russell Dilday might have been a nice guy, but he was not a conservative in the SBC definition. He advocated something called limited inerrancy (which is sort of a logical non-sequitor). Another term for limited inerrancy is errancy - the belief that there are errors in the Bible.

I was at SWBTS under his administration and have no particular axe to grind with Dilday. However, when the SBC demanded that its agency heads and professors accept inerrancy, Dilday was on borrowed time.

If you use the general definition, it might be fair to describe Dilday as conservative. It is not true in the SBC (ie inerrancy-based) definition of the term.

I don't know about you. I'll bet you cheered for the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Dave Miller said...

In regards to Wade's post - the thing about writing is that it forces you to clarify and streamline your thinking. You can only write clearly if you think clearly.

It is frustrating to read a blog (not Wade's - he's always pretty clear) or a comment and wonder, "What was he trying to say?"

I am convinced the key to good writing is clear thinking.

Jeff said...

Dave, Are you a runner? I am getting back on the running trail.
I'll post more at your site.


Rex Ray said...

Thanks to Phil in Norman, Oklahoma.

Dave Miller,
I see you have a different opinion of Dilday than the one I expressed about him being a conservative.

Let’s see…I quoted that Patterson agreed Dilday was a conservative. Who did you quote?
Have you read Dilday’s book? In his book, he writes every Word of the Bible was breathed by God.

You said, “…the SBC demanded that its agency heads and professors accept inerrancy…” Do you believe the SBC had the authority to go beyond the BFM with their demands?

Since the SBC picked one of eight definitions the Chicago group made on ‘inerrancy’, how can the SBC be sure they picked the correct one to demand those under their control to accept their choice?

In fact, the one they picked says in Exposition C, paragraph 6: for any discrepancy that cannot be explained would one day be seen as an “illusion.”

Dave, on December 2, you replied to their statement by saying:
“The phrase “illusions” in the exposition does not refer to the Bible, but to those apparent contradictions in the Bible. No part of the Bible is an illusion, but the contradiction itself is an illusion.”

Let’s see…what did you say?
1. “Illusions” does not refer to the Bible.
2. “Illusions” refer to “those apparent contradiction in the Bible.
3. The contradiction is an illusion.
4. No part of the Bible is an illusion.

Yep, that’s what you said. The only trouble; #2 and #3 contradict #1 and #4.
Oh, I get it; you’re giving an example of an illusion. #2 and #3 are illusions.

I’d say I’m sorry for making fun, but in light of your comment yesterday; (It is frustrating to read a comment and wonder, “What was he trying to say?) I think you have it coming.

Since you didn’t disagree with what I said about Hemphill and Patterson, I guess we agree on that point.

BTW, you lost your bet on the Super Bowl. I hope your pleasant personality (I really mean that) will continue and I agree with what you said a long ways back: “I enjoy these discussions”. Maybe “clear thinking” on Wade’s blog, will prevail and we will all be set free.