"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We Are Family: Racial Prejudice and the Superficial Division of Skin Color

Richardson Twins
"From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." (Acts 17:26)

With racial prejudice and ethnic hostility on the rise in America, it is good to remember that every human being comes from one man. We human beings--black, white, beige, red, yellow--are all people of color; we just have varying amounts. Science has not been able to determine what causes human skin pigmentation, but within us all, there is the biological potential for every kind of skin color. Truth is, skin color is one of the most superficial division of humans there is. For example, the Richardson twins pictured above, Kaydon and Layton, share the same mother and father, and were born on the same day in July of 2006.  Modern geneticists are proving what the Bible has long declared: All male genetic markers can be traced back to a single male and mitochondrial DNA in human beings go back to a single female. To be prejudiced against someone else because of his or her color is to reject your own family.

The Hodgson Family
Another example is the Hodgson family (pictured to the left). Mrs. Hodgson gave birth to fraternal "black and white" twins, Remee and Kian, in April of 2005. Mom and dad have a darker color of skin pigmentation, but modern genetics have shown--and the Hodgson family proves--that skin color can vary within a generation. The idea that we are "different" from one another because of our "skin color" is foreign to logic, genetics and the Bible. We come from one man, and therefore, we are one family. Christianity has long advocated the belief that every human being is related to every other human being, but in a world dominated by the false teaching of human evolution, racial superiority becomes the norm. Now, science is catching up with the truth of Scripture.

The Durrant Twins
A stunning example of the ability for color in human beings to vary within a single generation--and an anecdote that reinforces the superficiality of  dividing over skin color--- is the Durrant twins. Dean and Alison Durrant, gave birth to TWO sets of fraternal twins. The first differing colored twin girls (pictured to the right), were born in 2001, and the second set of differing-colored twin girls (the two baby sisters held by their older sisters) were born in November 2008. The four cute Durrant girls share the same father and mother, but all four vary in their individual degree of skin color. The cultural biases of our youth may linger with us and make us uncomfortable around people from other cultures, but the next time you are tempted to think someone is different than you because of "skin color," you need to remember your Bible and this little post on genetics. We are all family. We share the same father.

The Bible describes a common ancestor for all the nations, and in Genesis 10 we have the Table of Nations which traces the spread and boundaries of the nations from the three sons of Noah--Shem, Ham and Japheth. The descendants of Shem are the Semitic peoples, the descendants of Ham are the African peoples (the original name for Egypt was Ham), and the descendants of Japheth are the Indo/European peoples (see map). God he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands, but we are one family who share a common ancestor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stop It!

A person who watches the Sunday morning Bible study from Emmanuel Enid via the Internet noticed I said "Stop it!" during last Sunday's message on Hebrews 13:7 and it reminded her of a classic Bob Newheart comedy routine, which she forwarded to me. I laughed out loud. This is not only the kind of counseling I would attend, it is the kind of counseling I would prefer to give, all things being equal.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oklahoma's Historic Fort Arbuckle

Colonel Norman A. Lamb, United States Army (retired), is pictured here sitting on top of the state marker announcing the location of  the historic U.S. Fort Arbuckle (est. 1851) in south central Oklahoma. Norman's military background is quite impressive. He was the U.S. Army liaison to West Point from Oklahoma for over a decade,  the Secretary of Veteran Affairs for a record setting nineteen years (serving in this cabinet position under three separate governors), and a multi-term Oklahoma state senator, holding various legislative leadership positions in the state assembly. His son, Todd Lamb, is the current Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, and in the opinion of many (including me), the next Governor of Oklahoma.

I've met very few people who are able to converse on Oklahoma and United States history with the ease of Norman Lamb. Norman is 78 years young. He went with me yesterday as I made hospital visits in OKC and then on to Falls Creek, the world's largest youth encampment. Norman had mentioned to me that he wanted to see the location of the historic Fort Arbuckle. Over the last decade I've become friends with the homeowners who live on the grounds of the former fort as I did research for Red Earth Courage and Enid's Night of Generals.

So yesterday Norman and I made our way to the site of the old fort. We ended up having a wonderful visit with a woman named Porte (pronounced Porshe) who has lived on the grounds of the old Fort Arbuckle  for over fifty years. Her husband's parents lived on the site of the old fort as well, and that is where her husband was born over seventy years ago. After giving her a copy of one of my books, she gave me a pistol ball from an old Patterson "cap and ball" revolver that had been embedded in the grounds of the old fort. She also gave me one of the earliest .44 caliber bullets made for the infamous Smith and Wesson revolver that won the west, also discovered on the grounds of the fort.

Fort Arbuckle was established April 19, 1851 by Captain Randolph B. Marcy. He chose a location on Wild Horse Creek, just west of the creek's mouth at the Washita River, in what is now south central Oklahoma. The location was just north of a range of mountains that the French trappers and Indians called the Ouachita Mountains, but the soldiers spelled phonetically  "Washita" Mountains (same with the river that runs near the mountains). Captain Marcy named the new frontier fort he established Fort Arbuckle in honor of the respected General Matthew Arbuckle who had died of cholera just a little over a week earlier (April 11, 1851) at Fort Smith (Arkansas). The Ouachita Mountains south of the fort would eventually take the name Arbuckle Mountains because of their close proximity to Fort Arbuckle.

Fort Arbuckle was built by the United States army to protect the recently relocated eastern civilized Indian tribes--primarily the Chickasaws and Choctaws--from the native Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne Plainsmen Indians who did not take kindly to other Indian tribes encroaching on their lands. The United States had signed treaties with the civilized tribes that guaranteed their protection in "Indian Territory" and Oklahoma's earliest history is the story of the locating and establishment of military forts (Fort Smith, Fort Gibson, Fort Towson, Fort Washita, Fort Arbuckle, Fort Cobb, Fort Sill) for the purpose of protecting civilized Indians from Plainsmen Indians. The soldiers stationed at these forts also ended up protecting wagon trains that crossed through "Indian Territory" on their way to the gold fields of California (think Lone Ranger).

In the 1820's, 30's, 40's and 50's the finest graduates of West Point were assigned as officers to Indian Territory, to the land that would eventually become Oklahoma. Though Oklahoma's Native American history stretches back for centuries, the earliest white settlers in Oklahoma were soldiers. Most people don't know that as late as 1801, 2 out of 3 white Americans lived within fifty miles of the Atlantic ocean.  There were only four roads over the Appalachian Mountains that headed west. Anything west of the Appalachians was considered frontier, and no American lived west of the Mississippi until after 1803 and the Louisiana Purchase. Our nation has exploded in growth in a short 200 years. It's hard for young people today to fathom what America was like as late as fifty years after Independence Day (July 4, 1776).

Fort Arbuckle was closed in the spring of 1870 when a new fort opened, the massive and still existing Fort Sill. Because of Fort Arbuckle's short tenure as a military fort, most people have forgotten about it. The old fort was located seven miles west of the today's Davis, Oklahoma just north of Highway 7. Even today, when it rains hard, you can find treasures that surface from their burial places on the grounds of old Fort Arbuckle. My friends have found pistols, rifles, plates, perfume bottles, forks, knives, and a host of other artifacts. Fort Arbuckle is a state treasure trove of history. Though there are many things I could tell you about why Fort Arbuckle has an important place in Oklahoma and U.S. history, I'll give you just four:

(1). Captain Marcy, who founded Fort Arbuckle on April 19, 1851, would explore the headwaters of the Red River (the river that divides Oklahoma and Texas) the following year (1852). Accompanying Captain Marcy for that Red River exploration was a young lieutenant named George B. McClellan.  Young George would eventually fall in love with Captain Marcy's daughter Mary Ellen (Nelly) Marcy, and the two would marry. McClellan would later be promoted to General at the beginning of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln would eventually appoint McClellan as the General-in-Chief of the entire Union Army. Lincoln famously fired McClellan for not being aggressive enough in taking the fight to the Confederates, a trait of reticence probably developed back when McClellan and Marcy made a major mistake in charting the Red River. McClellan, however, was a proud man and took offense at his sacking. He ran against Abraham Lincoln in 1864 for the Presidency of the United States. McClellan would lose the Democratic nomination and Lincoln would be assassinated in April 1865. General's McClellan and Marcy had the beginnings of their long relationship in the Indian Territory that we now call Oklahoma and the old fort we call Arbuckle.

(2). The first secret mission of the Civil War (as recorded in the Official Records) had as its target destination Fort Arbuckle. Young Lieutenant William Averell was commissioned by Abraham Lincoln and Winfield Scott to dress as a confederate and make his way from Washington, D.C. by train to St. Louis (where the railroad ended just west at Rolla, Missouri), from Rolla to Fort Smith via stage coach, and then from Fort Smith to Fort Arbuckle on a horse. Averell carried a handwritten order that Union troops stationed in Indian Territory were to evacuate to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and then to other locations to the east. Lincoln needed his finest officers and troops to help defend the Union. In essence, the U.S. government's commitment to protect the Indian nations was abandoned. The story of Averell's horseback ride through Indian Territory to Fort Arbuckle, chased by confederates the entire five day journey from Fort Smith, is one of the most amazing unknown stories of the Civil War and forms the basis of the two books Red Earth Courage and Enid's Night of Generals. The mile and a half train of troops and dependents that left Fort Arbuckle on May 3, 1861 and headed north (guided by the legendary Delaware Indian Black Beaver) would include many future Union Generals and Medal of Honor recipients who would help defeat the Confederacy.

(3). Most Americans have forefathers who came to the plains of the Midwest and the west coast of the America's during the 1849 Gold Rush or later. These western pioneers usually rode by wagon train in groups of 50 to 70 people. The mandatory guidebook for that journey west of the Mississippi was written by Fort Arbuckle's founder Randolph Marcy. The book was entitled The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions. The United States government printed it, every wagon train had multiple copies of it, and it told in detail how to spot peaceful or hostile Indians, how to find water, how to start a fire, how to protect the camp at night, and a host of other invaluable guidelines. A first edition copy of this book, originally published in 1859, will cost you thousands of dollars. It was the best selling book in America from 1860 to 1885. The author was the founder and first commander at Fort Arbuckle.

(4). The historic Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Arbuckle after the Civil War. I will be writing a future post on the importance of these freed slaves who served in the United States army at a later date, but their presence alone at Fort Arbuckle makes this fort extremely important.

So, yesterday was a very interesting day for me with Norman Lamb. It's great to have friends who are as interested in connecting the historical dots as I.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Female Empowerment via Classy Modesty

Whether you agree or disagree with the premise and/or solution, one has to admire a young, female MBA who sees a problem and provides a solution. Jessica Rey is known among many for her role on television as one of the White Power Rangers. Her new book, Decent Exposure, is causing a stir in the culture. Jessica's video is nine minutes long and well worth your time to watch.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

God Needs Not the Help of a Material Sword of Steel to Assist the Sword of the Spirit in Affairs of the Conscience

Independence Day in the United States is a time for national celebration and reflection. This year evangelical Christians in America may be feeling somewhat subdued because it seems that our civil government is abandoning some of the fundamental principles upon which our country was founded. I'm not so sure but that our focus is wrong. It is vigorously argued by some that America was not founded as a Christian nation. I tend to agree.  America was founded on the principles of liberty and freedom--freedom of conscience; freedom of religion; freedom of speech; freedom of the press; freedom of commerce, etc...

Evangelicals maybe should be more concerned that Americans never lose their individual freedoms. I  don't think we ought to be as dismayed that our civil government loses an alleged allegiance to Christian principles. For example, when our civil government recognizes the equality of gay marriages, or takes "In God We Trust" off of our coinage, or removes the Ten Commandments from public display in government buildings, or is led by a President or others who might be atheists, Buddhists, Muslim or followers of any other religion but Christianity, I think we Christians should not be nonplussed. Our civil government was founded on the principle that the power of government resides in the people, and truth be known, we now have people in America who want gay marriage recognized; people who are not Christians, and people who say they are tired of being treated like second-class Americans because they are not Christians. We now have leaders in America who reflect the religious pluralism and societal paganism of the majority of Americans who put them in office.

Again, we evangelical Christians in America should be unfazed by these changes.

God needs not the help of a material sword to assist the sword of the Spirit in affairs of the conscience. That sentence (and this post's title) comes from a line in Roger Williams' 1644 treatise The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution. Roger Williams (1603-1683), founder of Providence, Rhode Island and the first Baptist congregation in America, wrote his treatise after being evicted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because he disagreed with the merging of the church and the civil government in that colony.

Roger Williams did not get along with John Cotton, the preeminent Anglican minister in Massachusetts who believed in the merging of the church and the government.  Cotton believed that all Americans should Christians, and the government should use capital punishment for those who denied the fundamental Christian teachings of the church. Roger Williams left Massachusetts and wrote The Bloudy Tenant as a refutation of Cotton's Presbyterian and Anglican church polity that advocates the merging of church and civil government.

During this 4th of July week, as we evangelicals think about America and the freedoms we enjoy, I would encourage us to reflect on the biblical arguments of Roger Williams as to why the people of God should never be too concerned about living in a country where the civil government or civil leaders do not recognize the Judeo-Christian God of the Old or New Testaments or any of the teachings found in the Scriptures. I have updated Roger Williams archaic English, but you can read the original text of The Bloudy Tenant of Persecution here.
"Abraham lived among the Canaanites a long time, yet he believed contrary to the Canaanites regarding Religion (see Genesis 13:7. and16:13). Again, Abraham also lived in Gerar, and the pagan King Abimelech gave him freedom to abide in his land (see Genesis 20, 21. 23,  24).  
Isaac also dwelt in Gerar, yet he believed contrary to King Abimelech regarding Religion (see Genesis 26).
Jacob lived 20 years in the same house with his Uncle Laban, yet he believed differently than his uncle when it came to Religion (see Genesis 31).
The people of Israel dwelt for 430 years in the infamous land of Egypt, and afterwards 70 years in Babylon, during which time they differed in Religion from the heads and leaders of both States (see Exodus 1, 2 and 2 Chronicles 36).
Coming to the time of Christ,  the people of Israel lived under the Romans, where there were different sects of Religion, like the Herodians, the Scribes and that of the Pharisees, as well as the Libertines, the Thudaans and the Samaritans, besides the  common Religion of the Jews, and that of Christ and his Apostles--all of which differed from the common Religion of the State of Rome which was the worship of Diana, which almost the whole pagan world then worshipped.
All these lived under the Government of Caesar, and their religion was not hurtful to the commonwealth of Rome, for they rendered to Caesar that which was his (taxes), and as to their Religion and consciences towards God, Caesar left them to themselves,  having no dominion over their souls and consciences."

If someone objects to Williams' observations of Rome by saying it was the Roman civil government who put Christians to death after the resurrection of Christ, it must be remembered that the orthodox Hebrew Jews were the first to persecute the followers of Jesus (one religion persecuting another), and only when the Jews revolted against the civil government of Rome by force did the Romans come to put down the Jewish revolt (70 A.D.). Later, when Roman emperors left the principles of individual freedoms upon which the Roman empire had been built, Christians began to be persecuted.

It is the loss of individual freedoms that will eventually cause any country to collapse upon itself.

So, as we celebrate July the 4th and Independence Day in America this year, let us evangelicals not make the mistake of moaning the loss of Christian America. Any god that requires the sword of government to demand allegiance from a country's subjects is not the one true God of Scripture. Roger Williams understood this, and so should we.

That which we must guard against in this country is the loss of ndividual freedoms as well as increasing government intrusion into--and coercion of--the individual, regardless of a citizen's religion or lack thereof.