Tag Archive | Alabama

Not Satisfied with Half the Picture: My Quest for Truth Beyond Tradition

In April 2017, Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler sent out invitations to participate in a book project with the working title, Ten From The Nations: Exploring the Torah Awakening Among Non-Jews. Her motivation is to increase awareness of the fact that we are witnessing the gradual fulfillment of Zechariah 8:23. She did so by compiling testimonies from non-Jews who have experienced a Torah awakening of some sort, and from Jews who are actively building relationships with those who are stepping forward from the nations. Her book includes the voices of Christian Zionists, Bnei Noach, Ephraimites, Gerim and more.
It is an honor to be one of those invited to submit a testimony. What follows is the story of my journey into an appreciation of Torah and the Hebraic roots of my Christian faith.
For more information on Ten From The Nations, visit http://www.tenfromthenations.com/.

For the first few years of my life, people fell into one of two categories:  white, or black.  Then the rules changed and the world got complicated.

Scenes of my formative years. Left: going to church in Pensacola, Florida, with my father and older sister in 1962. Right: Dawson Memorial Baptist Church (with Pastor Edgar M. Arendall) and Briarwood Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama.

The world into which I was born was white, Southern, and Baptist.  That was in 1961, when the requirements of my father’s career in insurance caused my parents to depart from their native Alabama and take up temporary residence in Pensacola, Florida.  As we moved back to Alabama in 1963, the Civil Rights Movement entered its most active stage.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail, sit-ins and marches defied segregationist strongholds, and the Federal Government took steps to correct a longstanding injustice.  Little of this turmoil impacted me until 1968, when a Federal judge ordered the desegregation of Birmingham’s public schools.  One day I went to school with my all-white third grade class of about 20 students; the next day the class had swelled to over forty, half of whom were black.

I cannot say whether the addition of so many new playmates of color caused any trauma to myself, but I know that it shook my parents to their core.  At the end of that academic year, they removed my brother and me from the public school, opting to make the financial sacrifice of placing us in the sanctuary of a Christian academy where we could receive a better education.  It also had the advantage in their eyes of being an all-white school.

Well, almost.  What may have escaped their notice was that Briarwood Christian School had a non-discrimination admissions policy.  That explains the presence of one black child in the kindergarten – the only black child enrolled there during my years at Briarwood.  My education was hardly interracial, and yet this turn of events triggered inexorable alterations to my worldview.  By the age of 8, I learned that the antiseptic white society into which I had been born was less utopian than I had been taught.  There was a world of color awaiting my exploration, and a host of questions that the scripted answers could not begin to satisfy.

What I had been taught was not all wrong.  Much of it was right, but it was incomplete.  So was the worldview of my black counterparts –much of it quite right, but incomplete.  Our combined worldviews formed a far more complete picture, with the white perspective filling gaps in the black perspective, and vice versa.  Thus my education proceeded along two parallel tracks:  a formal track provided by the teachers and preachers at school and church; and an informal track hidden in the recesses of my heart and soul and mind.  The hidden track evaluated everything presented to it, often reaching conclusions at odds with the accepted norms.  Hence the reason it remained hidden.

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Remembering ALL Our Roots

This is a season of reflection at The Barking Fox.  Part of the reason is getting settled at last in our new home in North Carolina.  There is no hiding the fact that I am a Southern boy, with roots growing to a depth of 200 years in Alabama and nearly three centuries in the Carolinas.  Hopefully I will have opportunity to explore those roots and share any findings that would be of interest to others.

bfb160918-keith-greenWhat has reminded me of a central part of my roots has been the opportunity to listen to worship music that has ministered to my soul for as long as I have been on this earth. Recently I shared one of those songs by the late Keith Green.  Now I share another:  an old hymn made new again as I pondered its meaning.  

In the Baptist Hymnal on my bookshelf its is called There Is a Fountain.  The lyrics come not only from Scripture (Zechariah 13:1), but from the life experience of William Cowper, an Englishman who penned these words in the same era that my Scottish-American ancestors began their contribution to the history of this continent. 

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
Wash all my sins away
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away

Ever since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
And shall be till I die
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die

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How Names Matter

Eagle Scout Badge and Medal (Source:  SageVenture.com)

Eagle Scout Badge and Medal (Source: SageVenture.com)

In recent days I had the great honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote address to my nephew Daniel on the occasion of his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.  Those familiar with the Boy Scouts of America and with Scouting around the world understand that earning the highest rank in that organization is no small accomplishment.  In pursuing this goal to the end, Daniel, like his older brother Austin and his father, proved at an early age that he is worthy of honor and of great responsibility.  That is a large part of the message I gave to Daniel and to those gathered for the occasion.  I publish it here in hope that this message may be an encouragement and exhortation to others.


For Daniel Victor McCarn at His Eagle Court of Honor

February 27, 2015

Daniel, this day of recognition has been long in coming.  All of us rejoice with you that it has come at last.  We recognize you for your considerable accomplishments in attaining the rank of Eagle.  Those accomplishments are worthy of celebration and remembrance, but I will let others speak of them.  What I want to address with you is something greater than what you do.  I would like to consider who you are.

By way of introducing this subject I invite you to consider three men who have become legendary in the annals of Texas history.  Today the names of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barrett Travis exist in a space far removed from the reality these men occupied in their lifetimes.  We know them as the great heroes of the Alamo, men who stood bravely against overwhelming odds in the noble cause of freedom.  It is fitting to remember them at this time, the anniversary of the Siege of the Alamo which began on February 23, 1836, and ended thirteen days later on March 6 in the great battle that claimed the lives of these heroes.

Like barnacles on a ship, legends have encrusted the names of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  After 179 years it is hard to distinguish myth from truth.  Those who remember them at all remember them either as heroes or as villains, depending on the point of view.  There is enough of both in each man to justify each perception.  But who were they in reality?  When we strip away the layers of time and legend, what do we find?  We find flawed men like all of us whose ordinary lives played out in the crucible of extraordinary times.

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Fox Byte 5775 #11: VaYigash (And He Drew Near)

וַיִּגַּשׁ

Billy Bowlegs and Chiefs of the Seminole Indians Gleason's Pictorial, Boston, Saturday, October 23, 1852 (Source:  "Billy Bowlegs and Suite", Seminole Nation, I.T.)

Billy Bowlegs and Chiefs of the Seminole Indians
Gleason’s Pictorial, Boston, Saturday, October 23, 1852 (Source: “Billy Bowlegs and Suite”, Seminole Nation, I.T.)

It has been more than 500 years since Christopher Columbus mistakenly identified the indigenous peoples of the Americas as “Indians”, and yet that name has remained the popular collective label for the many hundreds of nations more accurately identified by their own names, such as Arawak, Pequot, Lakota, Yaqui, Quechua, and Navajo.  Many of these nations have ceased to exist, the victims of disease, war, enslavement, and cultural genocide.  Others have come into existence as dispersed and diminished peoples have merged to make new nations.  Still others have persisted in their identity to this day, enduring beyond hope as distinct peoples.  All of those things describe the Seminole Nation, which now resides in the states of Oklahoma and Florida.  The Seminoles did not become a distinct people until late in the 18th century, when remnants of the Muskogee (Creek) and other peoples of Florida and what is now Georgia and Alabama combined to form a new nation.  The Spanish called them cimarrones, meaning runaways, or free people.  This term referred to the fact that the tribe included many escaped slaves, both African and Native American, who had joined with others from broken, scattered tribes.  In the Muskogee tongue, cimarrones became semulon-e, and eventually Seminole.

This people who originally were not a people soon developed a strong sense of national identity which compelled them to resist all efforts to conquer them.  They fought against the Spanish, the English, the Creeks, and, inevitably, the Americans.  Three bitter wars from 1817 to 1858 left the Seminole Nation broken and divided, but still unconquered.  Most of the surviving Seminoles were removed by the United States government to Oklahoma, but a remnant remained in the swamps of southwestern Florida, where they remain to this day.  The Florida Seminoles are unique among Native American peoples in that they alone have never signed a treaty of peace with the United States.  Those who were removed to Oklahoma may have agreed to peace with the U.S., but they maintained a fierce independence in their new land.  Efforts to integrate them into the Creek Nation of Oklahoma met with determined resistance.  In time the Seminole remnant in Oklahoma reestablished their tribal identity, and today exist as a separate and distinct nation.[1]

It may come as a surprise, but the greatest story in the Bible is about a nation created from a people who were not a people.  The tale begins with the account of Joseph and his brothers, but the story as yet has no ending.

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Fox Byte 5775 #8: VaYishlach (And He Sent)

וַיִּשְׁלַח

Florida State University, where the seeds of my first great crisis of faith matured.  (FSU Westcott Building, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Florida State University, where the seeds of my first great crisis of faith matured. (FSU Westcott Building, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

There was a time I wrestled with God.  The wrestling match began in my teenage years, when I detected certain inconsistencies in the instruction handed down from my elders.  From my Southern Baptist church and family I learned that God had given free will to every human being, and that we could choose whether to follow Him or not.  From my Presbyterian school I learned that God had foreordained everything, and that a process called predestination somehow influenced the choices we make.  This was not the only inconsistency encountered in my Christian upbringing; there were and still are many.  The question of free will and predestination, however, shaped the context of my wrestling with God from the beginning.  I had no reason to doubt the sincerity of my elders, nor had I reason to question the truth of what they taught me.  What I questioned was how these seemingly incompatible truths fit together.  I still do not have the answer, but a very wise man helped me find a way through the dilemma.  He was my Bible teacher.  One day in class someone asked him to explain which was correct, free will or predestination.  He may have been the only person in the school qualified to answer that question.  He was an ordained Baptist minister, and had had ample opportunity to consider the subject as he taught Bible in our Presbyterian academy.  His answer was surprisingly Hebraic, both imminently satisfying and frightfully frustrating:  he asked us if both concepts were present in the Bible.  When we said yes, he said, “Then they both must be true.”  And that was the end of the matter.

And the beginning.

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