Friday, August 29, 2008

The Labor and Toil Involved in Entering His Rest

This weekend is the symbolic close of the American summer with the observance of Labor Day on Monday. Labor Day was instituted by Congress in 1894 as a national holiday in celebration and appreciation of “the working (or laboring) citizens” of the United States. The Labor Day holiday, however, has given those of us who follow Christ an excellent object lesson regarding the hardest thing a laboring human being will ever be called upon to do.

Most of our lives are spent “laboring and toiling” and we are all taught from the earliest age that there is great profit in such labor. The same mentality permeates religion, and people everywhere, naturally bent toward toil and labor, are called upon by religious leaders to "labor and toil" for God, as seen in the prophet of Islam's own words . . .

"O mankind, Verily you are ever toiling on towards your Lord --painfully toiling-- and you shall meet Him." (Inshiqaq 84:6).

Or as in the Book of Moroni, a book of the Mormon religion, where it is written . . .

"For if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness . . ." (Book of Moroni 8:6).

Labor and Toil in the Heart from the Biblical Perspective

Israel's King David, however, under inspiration of the Spirit of God, calls the heart filled with "toil and labor" a wicked heart. David begins Psalm 10 by asking God "Why do you hide yourself in my time of trouble?" (v.1). David then points out that his trouble comes from the wicked who oppress him. He describes how the wicked man hunts down others for his advantage, and how he always seem to prosper materially. David then declares that there is no room for God in the heart of the wicked; he doesn't have time for Him (vs. 2-5). David concludes his description of a wicked man by saying his mouth is filled with "cursing and deceit and oppression" (v. 7). Then David makes a startling statement:

Under his tongue are mischief and iniquity" (Psalm 10:7 ESV).

The average reader of the Bible, particularly those of us cultured in Southern Baptist lingo, will read that verse and gloss right over "mischief and iniquity." We consider those words to be fancy Bible words for "sin." Yet, if all we think David is saying is that the wicked have hearts of sin we will miss the rich teaching of this text.

"A heart full of mischief and iniquity" is a very specific phrase in the original. The word "mischief" is the Hebrew word amel and has as its root the idea of labor and toil, or more precisely, the suffering that comes from it. It does not mean deviousness, or what we might call mischievousness, but rather it means "the dissatisfaction that comes in life because we work, toil, and labor, and never find real contentment." The same Hebrew word is used by Moses in Psalm 90:10, "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble (Heb: amel)."

The second descriptive word is "iniquity." It is the Hebrew word awen (pronounced and often transliterated aven). This word refers to the trouble caused by idolatry that arises from emptiness, as we human substitute things for God. When the city called Bethel (literally, "the house of God") became a place filled with idolaters, God commanded the prophet to change the city's name to Bethaven (Hosea 10:5). Bethaven has the Hebrew word aven as a suffix to describe the idolatry within the city. "Aven" in the heart represents a person who lives life working to find fulfillment or happiness in work, or material success, or fame, or achievement or anything else, and never finds real contentment. This is why the word is translated "vanity" in the King James Version, as in Solomon's heartfelt cry about life, "All is vanity." It is this toiling (amel), idolatrous (aven), dissatisfied heart that leads to a mouth full of cursing and deceit.

Therefore, when you hear cursing, or swearing, or taking God's name in vain; or when you hear people lying and catch people being deceptive; or when you listen as people "slice and dice" others with their cutting, biting words - all these kinds of speech are nothing but symptoms of an idolatrous heart. We would be wise not to focus on the treatment of the symptoms, but rather, show the cursed man the cure. Too often, we Southern Baptists focus on the syptoms of a wicked culture (homosexuality, adultery, sexual immorality, taking the Lord's name in vain), and never understand the root cause of such behavior, or show our culture the power of Jesus Christ to cure the heart.

"Under the Tongue" Is a Description of the Heart

When David writes about the wicked man saying, "under his tongue are mischief and iniquity," he is showing us the source of the problem. David does not say in his tongue. Nor does he say from his tongue; David says under his tongue. One commentator points out that this phrase "under his tongue" may be an allusion to certain vipers in Middle Eastern deserts that carry poison bags "under their tongues." Regardless, the phrase "under the tongue" is David's way of pointing to the heart of a man. As the old Puritan John Trapp put it, "Cursing men are cursed men." Just as the temperature taken "under the tongue" is an indication of the health of a human body, so the words that flow from a person's mouth is indicative of what it is like "under the tongue" or in that person's heart. When someone curses, lies, and speaks oppressively, it should cause everyone to look deeper.

The Soul That Finds Rest Has Found It In Christ

The Christian life is also a life of “labor” or “toil.” You may, however, be surprised in what way the Bible speaks of labor for the believer. Most Christians just assume that the Bible encourages us to “labor” for good, or to “work” by doing acts of service as in the old American hymn “Toiling On.” In reality, the Bible tells the believer to “labor” to enter His rest.

The heart that is struggling to find satisfaction in this life must come to the realization that there is ultimate and absolute emptiness in finding contentment in anything other than Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor . . . and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). The writer of Hebrews puts it like this, "If you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts . . . [lest you] not enter his rest" (Hebrews 3:8, 11a).

To enter Christ' rest involves a specific change within the heart. "For he that is entered into Christ’s rest , he also has ceased from his own works. Let us labor therefore to enter into His rest . . ." (Hebrews 4:11). Do you see the irony in that last verse? Let us "labor and toil" to enter His rest.
The hardest thing you will ever do as a believer in Christ (your labor), the most difficult chore you will ever take on as a follower of Christ (your toil), the toughest task every one of us will face as one who trusts in Jesus Christ (your work) is to learn how to enter His rest. You must work at it.

"Labor and toil" in the heart to gain the approval of God or man is not something the Bible commends. The only labor God accepts is that labor involved in throwing off EVERYTHING that does not lead your soul to rest in Christ. All other labor and toil is simply a search for satisfaction in life, and it is empty (vain) and leads to idolatry. When you miss out on the rest that comes from Christ, then you look to a spouse, or a boat, or a job, or a reputation, or a career, or money, or sensual pleasures, or a hobby, or religion, or prestige, or any thousands of other idols to take the place of Jesus Christ, who alone can give the soul rest.

This Labor Day weekend is a time to refocus. It is a time to labor to rest in Christ . I choose to trust nothing of my own actions for, promises to, or commitments toward God, and I believe that Christ either accomplished for me all I will ever eternally need, and He gives it to me freely, or I will never receive it at all. I am choosing this day to not sweat the spiritual stuff. I am resting in Him.

Every fiber of your naturally wicked heart will urge you to labor for God, and you are called upon by God to resist such temptation. Rest. Every brain cell that fires in your head will tell you that free grace cannot be true. God calls you to resist such thinking. Rest. Every worldly, man oriented religion will call you a heretic, and tell you will have to labor, fight and toil for God. God tells you to turn away from religion and enter a relationship with His Son. Rest.

Jesus was clear. "Come unto me all ye that are laboring and weighed down . . . and I will give you rest."

Toil this weekend against every demonic thought that calls upon you to bargain with God for His favor. Labor this weekend to suppress every thought that would lead you to proposition God ("I will do this for you God, if you will do this for me"), and simply rest that He will always do for you what is best. Work this weekend to throw off the urge to be religious by living as if God is dependent upon you for His favor to be displayed, and realize that He sings and dances with joy over the soul that rests in His Son, and showers unmerited grace upon all who have labored to TRUST HIM.

The priests in the Old Testament were commanded to wear linen. The Jewish forefathers passed down the oral tradition to their children that the priests were commanded by God to wear linen because there "was not to be a drop of sweat in the holy Presence of God."

This weekend, I don't plan to sweat. I've found my Rest.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homosexuality, Adultery, Sexual Immorality, a Woman Preaching Christ; Grave Moral Concerns

Irving Bible Church, Irving, Texas, 2008

This past Sunday, as reported by Sam Hodges of The Dallas Morning News, Mrs. Jackie Roese preached the Sunday morning message to the 3,500 people who attended the Irving Bible Church. Jackie preached, according to Executive Pastor Steve Roese (who is also Jackie's husband) "under the authority of an elder board that will continue to be all male."

Elders of Irving Bible Church spent 18 months studying the question of women in ministry, including whether women should be allowed to preach. Their key conclusions were:

(1). The accounts of creation and the fall (Genesis 1-3) reveal a fundamental equality between men and women.
(2). Women exercised significant ministry roles of teaching and leading with God's blessing in both the Old and New Testaments.
(3). Though the role of women was historically limited, the progress of revelation indicates an ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.
(4). Key New Testament passages restricting women's roles were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all time and places.
(5). Though women are free to use all of their giftedness in teaching and leading the church, the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.

This last point, number five, is precisely what the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states in Article VI on the church; "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." Conclusions 1-4 are interpretations of the elders of the Irving Bible Church, supported by a 24 page White Paper that is linked on the front page of the church's website. Through their interpretation of the infallible text, and after identifying the particular giftedness for teaching possessed by Mrs. Roese, the elders requested she teach during the Sunday morning worship service.

The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, stated that Irving Bible's Church decision to have the Executive Pastor's wife preach last Sunday morning was "a matter of grave moral concern." The Council, including Southern Baptists Paige and Dorothy Patterson, Al Mohler, Bruce Ware and others plan to publicly express their "moral" concerns over what happened at Irving Bible Church last Sunday. Tom Nelson, pastor of a neighboring Bible church to Irving's Bible Church, expressed the sentiments of the Council when he stated to the Dallas Morning News, "I believe this issue is the carrier of a virus by which liberalism will enter the evangelical church. [Since she was allowed to preach], then maybe the Bible will not be finally true on premarital sex, the homosexual issue, adultery or any other moral issue."

Some days I really wonder if God intentionally made us who are conservative evangelicals mentally dull. To be a trophy of grace means you have to be in need of His favor, and maybe that from which we need to be rescued is moral stupidity. Let me show you what I mean.

(1). Irving Bible Church is a conservative, evangelical church that believes the Bible - as evidenced by their White Paper. Their conclusions on women's ministry in the church parallel EXACTLY those of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
(2). On secondary issues, such as whether or not a woman can preach or teach in the congregation under the authority of male elders (and in Irving Bible's case, the woman's husband), the Irving Bible Church says the Bible allows it. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood says the Bible does not allow it. Fine. There is disagreement.
(3). But those fellow conservatives who disagree with Irving Bible Church's conclusions, including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, have called the decision of Irving Bible concern "a matter of grave moral concern."
(4). Irving Bible Church and her godly, Bible believing elders are now being compared to people who condone sodomy, adultery, and sexual immoral activity - all because a woman who believes in the inerrant, infallible Word of God, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners in need of a Savior. Ugh.

Folks, this is precisely what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message forbids a woman from serving as Senior Pastor. But a small, select group of SBC leaders are seeking to force an interpretation of the Bible that goes well BEYOND the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message on ALL Southern Baptists. Women, say these leaders, cannot teach the Bible (or Hebrew) to men; women can't lead men on the mission field by being in a position of "authority" over men (and thus women are being removed from administrative positions in the IMB); no Southern Baptist woman can serve as a hospital, business, or military chaplain; and no woman can "preach" the gospel in a local church (without risk of being placed in the category of "moral concerns") - even though EVERY ONE OF THESE ISSUES is not addressed by the 2000 BFM!

Southern Baptist women should work at home, teach the kids, do the dishes, and for HEAVEN'S SAKE, never, ever think about teaching a man anything about the Bible! That is, unless your name is Beth Moore and you pull in $750,000 an event for LifeWay at rallies and Bible studies across the nation attended by both men and women.

I personally agree with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message on male eldership (pastors), and our pastoral staff at Emmanuel has eight men in that role. So does Irving Bible Church. Why, then the name calling? I shiver when I hear my fellow evangelicals call a church that asks a woman to preach the gospel on Sunday morning a church of "grave moral concern." WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT FEMALE PASTORS!

That my friends, is an illustration of what I see happening in the SBC. We have been told cooperation is around affirmation of the 2000 BFM, but a select group of leaders have narrowed the doctrinal parameters of cooperation by forcing conformity of belief on doctrines that FAR EXCEED the 2000 BFM.

Somebody has got to stand up and say enough.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Self-Imposed Break Over: "Baptist Identity," the New IMB Doctrinal Policies, and the SBC

The self-imposed blog sabbatical regarding Southern Baptist Convention issues is over. I have accomplished the goals I established when it began last spring, and I will blog on Convention issues as the need arises.

Baptist Identity

There is a movement within the Southern Baptist Convention called "Baptist Identity" (sometimes the synonym "Baptist Distinctives" is used) that is pushing for a doctrinal conformity among all Southern Baptist on doctrines not addressed by the 2000 BFM. This doctrinal "Identity," at least from the perspective of its proponents, defines who it is that is a 'true' Southern Baptist and can thus mandate who it is that can serve the Convention as missionaries, trustees, and denominational leaders. Initially, the 2000 BFM was used as the club of accountability, and missionaries who entered Southern Baptist service by signing the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and refused, on matters of principle, to sign the 2000 BFM, were dismissed from missionary service for not being "one of us." Unfortunately, the club of accountability is now being carried by well-placed trustees who are arbitrarily deciding who is, and who is not, a genuine Southern Baptist.

This "Baptist Identity" movement within the Southern Baptist Convention is similarly patterned in leadership (not theology) after the Christian Identity movement, working as a loose network of extremely conservative Christian churches and religious organizations that revolve around the writings or speeches of well known national leaders. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Professor Malcolm Yarnell, Professor Keith Eitel, the Caner brothers, and a handful of others form the face of the theological leaders and spokesmen of this Baptist Identity movement. All of these men are gospel-believing, conservative, Southern Baptist Christian men. The problem is that they are articulating a Baptist Identity and postulating Baptist Distinctives that go well beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. If you disagree with Baptist Identity leaders on closed communion, praying privately in tongues, elders, the qualifications of the baptizer, the recipients of the Great Commission, moderation, eschatology, and the like, you are labeled as either liberal, psuedo-Baptist, or the catch all "not one of us" (as in the nomination speech for SBC Vice-President Jim Richards where it was repeatedly stated, "He's one of us!"). And, Baptist Identity leaders have successfully vetted SBC trustees to ensure that the vast majority of new trustees think like they do.

An Illustration of Baptist Identity Among SBC Trustees

When the trustees of International Mission Board adopted new doctrinal policies that exceeded the Baptist Faith and Message on November 15, 2005 (the day Adrian Rogers died), the Baptist Identity movement had successfully excluded from the mission field hundreds of otherwise qualified Southern Baptists that they did not consider being "one of us." The outcry across the Convention against the trustees adoption of these policies, including the passage of the 2007 Garner Motion, did little to stifle the attempts of Baptist Identity advocates to continue to push for doctrinal conformity on things that exceed the Baptist Faith and Message.

As an IMB trustee between 2005-2008, I asked repeatedly for the "rationale" behind the new doctrinal policies. I had not been given one single piece of paper, not one shred of evidence that the adoption of the new doctrinal policies would help our cooperative mission work. On the contrary, the President of the International Mission Board, the administrative staff of the IMB, and the Candidate Consultants of the IMB, and the Regional Leaders of the IMB all told me our cooperative mission work would be harmed by the adoption of these new doctrinal policies by ripping the fabric of cooperation. Eventually, trustee John Floyd told me that trustees had the right to establish any doctrinal parameters of cooperation they desired - particularly if it involved Baptist Identity, regardless of whether or not the new doctrinal policies exceeded the 2000 BFM. Then, six months after the new policies were adopted, Hatley and trustee leaders issued a paper giving, for the first time, the rationale for the new "doctrinal" policies - Baptist Identity.

When IMB trustee chairman Tom Hatley released to the press the rationale for the passage of the new doctrinal policies at the IMB, a rationale distributed only after a Convention uproar over the new policies, the very phrase "Baptist Identity" was used as the reason for the passage of the new doctrinal policies. The May 20, 2006, paper entitled Rationale for Guidelines Regarding Tongues and Prayer Language stated, "The heart of these issues (the new doctrinal policies) is the candidate qualification known as Southern "Baptist Identity." There are two key phrases that speak directly to Southern Baptist Identity: "The majority of Southern Baptist churches" . . . and "the majority of Southern Baptists." The (new doctrinal) policies . . . reflect the practice of the vast majority of Southern Baptists.

IMB trustee leadership's Baptist Identity rationale for the new policies is defective in logic on at least three fronts:

(1). The only consensus doctrinal statement is the 2000 BFM and the new "doctrinal" policies do not reflect a consensus opinion. In fact, a Lifeway survey released in 2007 showed over 50% of Southern Baptist pastors believed the praying in tongues was a legitimate spiritual gift. Regardless,
(2). The new policies exceed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, and thus, the demand for cooperating Southern Baptist churches to conform to the ideology of a select group of "Baptist Identity" IMB trustees rips the fabric of Southern Baptist cooperative mission work.
(3). If our Baptist forefathers would have ever been told by people claiming to be Baptist that the test of "orthodoxy" would have been "majority opinion," they would have assuredly told those claimants they themselves were disqualified from being considered "true" Baptists. Throughout history, Baptists have been known as "dissenters," which by definition means, dissenting from "the majority." To reach a point in the 21st Century that some actually believe Baptists must "conform" to a majority opinion, rather than cooperate with dissenters, is to deny our Baptist heritage.

The Baptist Identity Movement Must Be Overcome by Gospel Cooperation

Giving to the Cooperative Program in 2008 is down. Receipts for the 2007 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering were $15 million dollars short of the goal. The trustees of the International Mission Board voted at their last meeting to tap $3 million dollars of reserve money just to meet the annual budget. Young Southern Baptists are searching elsewhere for gospel missions cooperation and conservative values.

There is much at stake. If the Baptist Identity movement is allowed to define who we are as Southern Baptists, we will eventually be so split and fragmented that the number of Southern Baptists will resemble the numbers in membership at the local Landmark, Fundamental, Pre-Millenial, Closed-Communion, KJV, Cessationist, Male Leadership Only, Culture Hating, independent Baptist Church down the street.

At some point there will be Southern Baptist leaders who will arise and courageously stop the Baptist Identity train by leading our Southern Baptist Convention into a gospel resurgence through personally resisting the forces that would lead our Convention into separatist oblivion by demanding doctrinal conformity in areas that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything to do with their narrow, ideological views of what it means to be a Baptist. I just hope our Convention can survive until that happens.

In His Grace,


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dennis Jernigan and Winter Live Broadcasting

Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma has a host of wonderful families who compose our church fellowship. One such family, the Winters, own some of the largest cattle sale barns in this part of the United States.

Mark Winter has branched out from selling cattle for Winter Livestock via live auctions over the internet to also broadcasting church worship services - LIVE - via the internet. Emmanuel recently switched to Winter Live, and our worship services are now broadcast live at 11:00 a.m. Central Time every Sunday. This past Sunday, August 17, we were led in worship by nationally acclaimed worship/leader, songwriter Dennis Jernigan.

I would encourage you to watch Emmanuel's worship service from this past Sunday. You will need to enter your name and email address to create an account to watch the service, but we do not send you anything from our church, nor do we share you email address with anyone else, it is just the way we can know the number of people who are watching our broadcast. Once you create your account, you may watch any of the services, including archived worship services. I would encourage those of you who are pastors or staff members who are looking for an opportunity to broadcast your worship services over the internet, to log into our service and pay close attention to the large size of the Winter Live viewer, the quality of the broadcast, and the multiple opportunities afforded your members who are unable to participate in your worship service on the campus, but can stay in contact with you and your church ministries via the internet.

Mark Winter told me today that his company can help get any church, no matter the size, started in broadcasting their worship services. Though our church has some television quality cameras, Mark says internet broadcasting can be done with just one $400 video camera purchased by the church. His company provides all the equipment needed to broadcast over the internet, and the costs are extraordinarily low. For more information, contact Mark Winter at their offices (620) 225-4159 or after hours (5:00 p.m. Central) at (620) 408-8998.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Setting the Record Straight: Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth, Boston Corbett and the Enid Connection

As one third of the manuscript on the book about the fiasco at the IMB nears completion, an enjoyable diversion has necessitated a post, breaking a three month blogging sabbatical. This post aims to correct the record of a startling connection between the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Enid, Oklahoma.

The historical account of the actual assassination of our sixteenth President of the United States is without factual dispute. What has been open for debate is the number of men (and women) involved in the conspiracy to either kill or kidnap President Lincoln. The Lincoln Conspiracy, a 1977 book by David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr., seeks to prove that in 1865 Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War, and other Radical Republican allies, sought to kidnap Lincoln. They intended to hide Lincoln for a time while bogus articles of impeachment were drafted to remove him as President. The primary motivations for this plot were strong opposition to Lincoln's liberal Reconstruction plans and the loss of profits due to Lincoln's restrictions on the cotton trade during the U.S. Civil War. When the kidnapping was called off, famous actor John Wilkes Booth, one of the co-conspirators in the plot, took matters in his own hands and assassinated the President. After Booth's diary was found by the Union soldiers who shot him, the pages that would have implicated Stanton and others were removed by Stanton's War Department detective who was on the scene, accounting for the eighteen missing pages in Booth's diary. Many Lincoln conspiracy theories abound, as evidenced by the fictional/fantasy 2007 Hollywood movie based on one such conspiracy, entitled National Treasure 2. But most conspiracy theories have little or no credible basis and soon die for lack of scientific, historical, or ultimately public interest.

But one of the most bizarre Lincoln conspiracy theories seems to have very long legs. The New York Times and other international major newspapers continue to follow the story of the Enid Booth Legend.

Booth's Descendents Believe Booth Died in Enid, Oklahoma

The account of how John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., and then escaped by making his way to southern Virginia, where he hid with his accomplice David Herold in the Garrett family barn until Union troops discovered them both, is summarized here. It is without dispute that Union soldiers surrounded the Garrett barn and Herold gave himself up. He was later hanged by the United States government for conspiracy to commit murder of the President. It is in dispute, however, by Booth's descendents, whether or not John Wilkes Booth died at the Garrett barn on April 26, 1865, twelve days after he shot the President. Booth's family alleges that another man, holding Booth's belongings, was shot and killed by a Union soldier who had stuck his rifle through the wooden slats of the barn and fired. The Union soldier who fired his weapon, an evangelical Christian by the name of Boston Corbett, violated the direct orders of his superior officer by firing, but later explained his actions, according to modern biographer James Swanson, with these words; "Providence directed me." Boston Corbett was himself arrested for conspiracy to commit murder of President Lincoln, chiefly for killing the assassin who could have explained why he did what he did and identifying any others involved. But Boston Corbett himself was later exonerated by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who declared, "The traitor is dead. The patriot lives."

Booth's family believes Edwin Stanton and the War Department detective on the scene went to great efforts to cover up the identity of the man who was killed in Garrett's barn. They say that a simple farm hand, helping both Booth and Herold that night, was the man killed, and Booth was escaped. Their argument is summarized in the legal documents that comprise the 1994 lawsuit Kline vs. Green Mount Cemetery, where the Booth family urges exhumation of the body buried in Green Mount Cemetery to prove that another man, not Booth, was killed by Boston Corbett. In an attempt to prove the necessity to exhume the body, the plaintiffs in the case used the Enid Booth Legend as the basis for their belief that John Wilkes Booth actually committed suicide 38 years later in Enid, Oklahoma, at the age of 65.

The Most Famous Mummy Since King Tut

I've lived in Enid for sixteen years and am very familiar with the Booth legend. The History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and several Civil War authors have made their way to Enid in order to either film or research the story. I have taken several people to downtown Enid on field trips to explain the bizarre Booth legend and have recounted it countless times. A simple search of internet sites will bring you reams of printable material on the subject, but this blog is designed to give you a concise history of the Booth Legend in order to correct a recent error in the Oklahoma Historical Chronicle concerning Boston Corbett, the man historians say killed John Wilkes Booth.

Contemporary newspaper accounts for January, 1903, record for us that a man named David E. George killed himself by strychnine poisoning in room number 4 of the old Grand Hotel, which was located on the second floor of what is now Garfield Furniture in downtown Enid. Strychnine poisoning causes a very agonizing death, and when people heard the screaming from room 4, they couldn't get through the locked door, so they vaulted a young child through the transom above, and the door was unlocked from the inside. The adults sought to assist the dying David E. George only to be shocked at his audible confession that he was, in fact, John Wilkes Booth. George died shortly thereafter, and the furniture store owner across the street, who served as the funeral home director as well (as was common in those days), took possession of the body until next of kin could be located.

The body was carefully prepared by Penniman Furniture Store and Funeral Home, using materials now outlawed, and as a result, the body was mummified within hours. Stories circulated in newspapers across the United States that the real John Wilkes Booth had died in Enid, Oklahoma and was on display in the window of the Penniman Funeral home, awaiting next of kin to claim the body. Within ten days of his death, several prominent Enid businessmen had performed analysis of the handwriting on the George suicide note, comparing it with a note feartured in the Harper Brother's Pictorial History of the Civil War, that the United States Government says came from the handwriting of John Wilkes Booth. The similarities were uncanny. In addition, physicians examined the body and noticed similarities to wounds known to be consistent with wounds suffered by John Wilkes Booth, including a broken tibia, a facial/neck scar, and a crushed thumb.

An attorney in Memphis named Finis Bates read a newspaper account of George's death and made his way to Enid to see if David George was the same man he knew as John St. Helen in Granbury, Texas in the 1870's. It seems that Finis Bates, who by the way is the grandfather of actress Kathy Bates, was friends with John St. Helen, and on one occasion, when John St. Helen was seriously ill (he thought near death), he confided to Finis Bates that he was John Wilkes Booth. Upon recovery, St. Helen denied ever saying he was Booth. Yet, a while later, a United States Federal Marshall showed up in Grandbury, Texas, asking questions about John St. Helen. It seems when people went to look for Mr. St. Helen, he had mysteriously disappeared. Finis Bates never forgot his friend, and wondered if David George could be the same man.

Finis Bates rushed to Enid to check it out. Upon arriving in Enid, Bates headed to the Pennimann Furniture Store and Funeral Home to see the body of David E. George. Yes! This was the man he had known as John St. Helen. Finis Bates, an attorney and skilled at getting things accomplished, obtained the mummy and took it back to Memphis. He spent five years conducting research to prepare a book about this matter, all the while hiding the mummy in his garage during this time. In 1908, Bates released his book entitled The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth.

Soon the mummy was on display around the United States in special exhibits, including World Fairs, circus shows, and college campus lectures. At one time in the 1940's Henry Ford expressed interest in purchasing the mummy, but he soon publically revealed his own personal disbelief in the Enid Booth Legend. The mummy was eventually sold by Finis Bates to a travelling circus, but the trail of ownership eventually became lost, as well as the mummy itself, with the last public appearance being in the mid 1970's. Were the mummy to reappear because someone discovered stored in a warehouse, it would cause quite a stir on several fronts. In addition, the owner would stand to make millions because of the recent Booth lawsuit and publicity in light of modern advances in scientific analysis, including DNA.

The Sentence That Caused Me to Fall Out of My Chair

I am personally skeptical of the Enid Booth Legend. David E. George/alias John St. Helen/alias John Wilkes Booth is a fascinating person, but I remain unconvinced he was John Wilkes Booth. The man who really interests me is Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot the man alleged to be John Wilkes Booth in the Garrett barn. Not many people know much about Boston Corbett, including historians. However, he is a man that should be studied.

Particularly since the prestigious Oklahoma Historical Society wrote in its May 22, 2008 Historical Chronicle Magazine that "Boston Corbett is buried in Enid." This sentence is the last sentence of the article written by highly respected historian Dr. Guy Logsdon. I called Dr. Logsdon at his home in Tulsa and asked him for his source material for his statement. He assured me that he had it but it could possibly take a few weeks for him to find it. I respect Dr. Logsdon and look forward to him providing the source material for his statement, but until he does, I felt it appropriate to place the only source material I have on Boston Corbett's death on this blog. Dr. Logsdon's research may well prove mine to be insufficient, and if he is, indeed, correct on his assertion that Boston Corbett is buried in Enid, then other historians looking into the Lincoln assassination may not feel as inclined to call this fact "coincidence."

Truthfully, when I read the May 22, 2008 Oklahoma Historical Chronicle article that asserted Boston Corbett was buried in Enid, I about fell out of my chair. I am friends with the owner of Bass Construction, Bob Barry, whose grandfather, Henry B. "Heiney" Bass, was considered the premier historian on Abraham Lincoln in his day. Heiney was close friends with Carl Sandburg, Harry Truman and other lovers of history, and would make an annual trip to the Truman Library to discuss historical research regarding the Civil War. Heiney, who died in 1975, is in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and his entire library is in the Western Heritage Museum at Oklahoma University. This library contains the largest collection of Lincoln poetry in the world, including a few either written by Lincoln's own hand, or signed by Lincoln, that would be worth today millions of dollars.

Heiney's grandson, Bob, has donated to me a copy of his grandfather's personal journals where Heiney writes about Lincoln, Corbett, Booth, David George and the Enid collection. History records for us the bizarre antics of Boston Corbett (self-castration, growing his hair like Jesus, breaking up a mock Kansas Legislative Sesssion, etc.), but Heiney Bass tells us in his journal something that very few people know. He writes on February 15, 1959 that

Boston Corbett appeared in Enid, Oklahoma. Kansas authorities were relieved to be rid of the troublesome hero and made no effort to secure his return. For some time Boston Corbett peddled patent medicine for W.W. Garrit and Company of Topeka. Then his shadowy figure faded away. No authentic report of his ultimate fate has ever been recorded. Whether he died in Enid and found a burial place in a potter's field or drifted on seems to be veiled in eternal silence.

If Dr. Guy Logsdon has uncovered that Boston Corbett is actually buried in Enid, Oklahoma, then this little hamlet in northwestern Oklahoma may have much more to do with Lincoln's assassination than heretofore told.

Time will tell.