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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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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