Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017, column: 'Just call me Jerry'

AC's Bible Chair director to retire this month
By Mike Haynes
            Jerry Klein’s devout mother made sure he was raised in the church, but with a father who went to the mountains on Sundays, Klein was confused about religion when he enrolled at Cameron College in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1965.
            The recent Walters High School graduate took an Old Testament class because his friends were taking it, and he soon tried out the Bible Chair at Cameron.
            “Going to campus ministry and being surrounded by college students who really wanted to be there – we weren’t there because mama made us go,” he said. “The sincere faith of so many of them was really what made the biggest difference in my life – just seeing that faith in action made me want to be a part of it.”
Jerry Klein teaches a class
at Amarillo College.
(Photo courtesy
The Ranger/Amarillo College)

            So much so that Klein, 69, is retiring this month as director of the Amarillo Bible Chair at Amarillo College, closing a long career bookended with college ministry.
            Another influence has been Gene Byrd, who taught that Cameron Old Testament class and many years later was Klein’s boss at AC as vice president and dean of instruction.
            “Sitting with him at the student union, he asked us all kinds of questions about ourselves, and he helped me believe I could get through college and become a college teacher and major in Bible and philosophy and could figure out what I believed and maybe figure out myself,” Klein recalled.
            After graduating from Cameron (then a junior college, now a university) in 1967, he completed a bachelor’s degree in Bible and philosophy at Oklahoma Christian University in 1969. He met his wife, Janie, there. “I graduated from Oklahoma Christian, but the best thing that happened to me there was finding her,” he said.
            The newlyweds moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where Jerry earned a master’s in theology in 1974 at the Harding University graduate school. His first job was as a Bible Chair director at Henderson State University in Arkansas, and since then he has been a preacher, a church staff member, a professor and that first love, a college ministry leader – including two stints at AC beginning in 1982.
            About preaching, he said, “That was not me.” He believes he was OK, but because of his student experience at Cameron, leading a Bible Chair “is all I really wanted to do.”
            Plenty of people think he made the right choice as he combined an intellectual mind with Christian compassion.
            “The first time I came across his name was in a footnote in a Greek grammar book,” said Jon Kohler, director since 2002 of AC’s other full-time ministry, the Bible Chair of the Southwest. “He had corrected the author. Then I came to AC, and there’s Jerry Klein.”
            In addition to leading student ministry, Klein has taught academic religion and philosophy classes and plans to continue some teaching.
            “He built the religion program at AC,” Kohler said. “His fingerprints are all over it. And he has a gentleness that invites you in.”
Jerry Klein (Photo courtesy
The Ranger/Amarillo College)
        Samantha Jewett, an AC counselor, has taken six religion courses under Klein. “Jerry is one of the most well-read and intelligent people I have ever met,” she said. “Yet he is so humble that this brilliant man tells his students, ‘Please just call me Jerry.’
            “He allows students to think for themselves. He inspires students to want to read and learn more. Through his teaching, he has brought me closer to God.”
            Such inspiration is not an overt part of Klein’s classes at the state-supported college. “I allow the students in my classes to express whatever point of view they want to express, and when I grade their papers, I tell them their conclusions never have to agree with mine, but their conclusions have to be reasonable,” he said. “That gives students from many different religious backgrounds an opportunity to hear other points of view.”
            Melodie Hefley, a recent Tascosa graduate and a religion major, took Klein’s Life of Christ class this spring. “He was very focused on teaching us material not just so we could pass the class but so we could get something out of it personally,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m not here to push my religion on you. I’m here to teach you so you can come to your own conclusions.’ He’s adamant about that.”
              Even at the church-supported Bible Chair across the street from campus, Klein’s approach is nurturing, not dogmatic. Painted on a wall and printed on his business card is the slogan, “A Place To Make Your Faith Your Own.”
            Through Christian club Kappa Chi, Klein has led students in meetings, devotionals, meals and retreats. “You can’t bless anybody if you can’t get them in your building,” he said, “if you can’t sit down with them in the College Union Building.” His wife Janie’s cookies have been one attraction, just one of her many support roles.
            Mural Worthey is coming from Virginia to take Klein’s Bible Chair position July 1. It will be a new era as Klein’s health issues pull him away from his dream job.
            “I’ve tried to be the best teacher I could be,” he said. “And I’ve tried to love the students, be there to encourage them and laugh with them and cry with them.
            “I found what I wanted to be, and I got to be it, and not many can look back on their life and say they did what they wanted to do right where they wanted to do it.”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017, column:
Case for Christ's resurrection remains strong
By Mike Haynes
             And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (I Cor. 15:17-19, NIV)
            Plenty of people do pity those of us who believe that Jesus Christ of Nazareth died on a Roman cross, was buried in a nearby tomb, came alive again and interacted with many people for 40 days before ascending into heaven. Some just don’t buy it.

            If Jesus’ effects on us are limited to this material world, the King James Bible puts it, “we are of all men most miserable,” and the Message version says, “we’re a pretty sorry lot.”
            The physical resurrection is the foundational belief of Christianity and the historical event that followers of Christ celebrate on this Easter Sunday. C.S. Lewis wrote in his 1947 book, “Miracles,” that for the first-century disciples, to “preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection.”
            It’s a key element in the current movie, “The Case for Christ,” which recounts real-life newspaper-reporter-turned-minister Lee Strobel’s journey from atheism to faith. While the film, based on Strobel’s 1998 book of the same name, probably will draw mostly a church crowd, several reviewers have indicated it’s subtle enough to appeal to thoughtful skeptics.
            “The atheists and nonbelievers in ‘The Case for Christ’ don’t have horns and tails, or even mustaches for twirling,” wrote Steven Greydanus of the National Catholic Register. “The conflict turns on faith and unbelief, but believers and unbelievers aren’t cast as natural enemies.”
                The movie shows Strobel as a successful 1980s Chicago Tribune reporter who, when his wife becomes a Christian, sets out to bring harmony back to their marriage by proving that Christianity can’t be true. His interviewing and reporting skills result in a conclusion he didn’t expect.
Dr. Craig Blomberg
Denver Theological Seminary
               Strobel went on to lead the Willow Creek church in a Chicago suburb and currently is a teaching pastor at Woodlands Church in the Houston area, where he also teaches at Houston Baptist University. He followed “The Case for Christ” with several other “The Case for…” books. In “The Case for Easter,” a 95-page excerpt from the first book, he focuses on the resurrection.
                Strobel interviews experts in three areas: (1) medical evidence showing that Jesus could not have survived the cruelty of the cross, (2) the reliability of accounts that his body was missing from the tomb and (3) the evidence that Jesus was seen alive after his death.
                Some of that material is presented in the current movie.
                Another objection to the truth of Christ’s resurrection is that similar accounts exist of gods in other religions. Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary shot down that argument during an interview with Tommy Politz at Hillside Christian Church last week.
                Blomberg said the resurrection stories most similar to that of Jesus all are post-Christian. “If anybody’s borrowing from anybody, other religions in the Greco-Roman world were trying to make a way for themselves by looking like Christianity,” he said.

                “Not one of them, before or after, ever even claims that a man, known to have lived during the lifetime of people still around – there’s no question about his humanity, not some mythical character of old – was seen bodily raised from the dead.”
            Lubbock native and Houston trial attorney Mark Lanier also addresses the issue in his 2014 book, “Christianity on Trial.” Using legal arguments, Lanier shows the likelihood that the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection are true. But he also looks at the why.
            “Christ’s death allows a just God to set aside the immorality and impurity of humanity and accord humanity a resurrection into perfection, just as Christ was resurrected. …
            “It was not some harebrained idea concocted by a few fishermen, a tax collector and a budding rabbi that somehow caught fire amid a dreadful and documented persecution, finally arriving three hundred years later as a legal religion. It was the facts – no more and no less.”

            Some Christians refer to Easter as Resurrection Day, which is fitting. For those who believe in the message of Jesus, it’s a day to rejoice not only that he defeated death, but that he did it for us, too.            

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017, column:
2 Panhandle authors examine spirituality
By Mike Haynes
            The Texas Panhandle may not be known as a haven for authors, but we’ve had a few good ones pop up the past 100 years or so, and two of them have notable books out now.
            One’s a novel and one’s a reference book, so they really have only one common element: spirituality.
            If you know the soil and the grass of area farms and ranches; or if you appreciate unrequited love and relationship dilemmas; or if you’re into World War II aircraft and Nazi intrigue; or if you
ponder heavy questions about God; or if you just like writing that describes all of the above in descriptive, poetic ways, you might want to try “Jesse’s Seed,” a fictional saga by Sam Pakan (late 2015, Athanatos Publishing Group).
            Pakan grew up on a ranch near Shamrock, so the introduction of his main character, David, and David’s disapproving father, Jesse, is full of sweat and hot sun and horse-training tools such as hackamores and halters. It feels accurate for the early 1940s, and it’s expressed lyrically:
            “A squeal quivered on the heavy air. David sank his ax into the cedar, turned to see a colt skitter along the road, black as tarnished silver, every line an echo of perfection.” “David pulled a rope from the saddle and tied it to an oak that held its weight like wisdom bending toward the water-smooth sand…”
            The story flows from the ranch to Army basic training to a B-17 bomber gunner’s perch to the French resistance to cat-and-mouse schemes with a Nazi officer. Baby-boomer Pakan didn’t experience the WWII details himself, but it’s obvious his research was extensive. He learned from Commemorative Air Force experts how a gunner’s knees press against Plexiglas, how a flight crew used the onboard intercom.
         Through it all, characters emerge that the reader cares for, which might be the key that keeps pages turning. David longs for the wife of his best friend, a minister back home. He regrets his biggest mistake. He trusts his new best friend, a soldier named Bear. And constantly on his mind is another friend, the black stallion Dancer.
            I wouldn’t call “Jesse’s Seed” a Christian book, but a good story with Christian elements. David struggles with a lack of confidence in himself and in God, and the author maintains a restrained touch as he develops questions of faith. David understands that his magnificent horse knows nothing of the divine, being satisfied with nature and freedom. “But man was born hungry for something more,” David thinks, “something that made him discontent with only what he saw and tasted and felt.”
            The only frustration with this thoughtful, suspenseful novel is that some plot lines remain hanging at the end. That’s because Pakan plans to release a sequel soon.
            Amarillo native Jason Boyett’s latest book is “12 Major World Religions” (2016, Zephyros Press), a straightforward reference work with basic facts and explanations of faiths from Christianity to Zoroastrianism.
            Boyett’s background is Christian, but he’s trained in journalism, so he has done a good job of researching and reporting in a neutral way on key aspects of all 12 religions in the book. For each religion, he includes a timeline and summarizes major beliefs, major texts, ceremonial practices and key people in that faith’s history. For example, the Judaism section briefly identifies 12 figures, from the patriarch Abraham to Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister who died in 1978.
            The author offers brief predictions for the future, and as a bonus, he throws in sections on the ancient religions of Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Nordic region.
            Boyett has written more than a dozen books, and his style sometimes is a little irreverent and definitely chuckle-inducing, such as in his other 2016 release, “Greek Mythology: Timeless Tales from the Ancients.” This time, he sticks to the facts, but the book has a more lively style than, say, the comparative religion textbook I read in college in the 1970s.

            And it has pictures. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

March 5, 2017, column:

Alister McGrath defends concept of God

By Mike Haynes
            One of the good things about Alister McGrath is that a couple of West Texans can understand the Oxford professor’s British accent. Another is that despite the fact McGrath has three doctorates – in molecular biophysics, theology and intellectual history – from Oxford, most of his lecture in Houston last month didn’t fly over the heads of me or my wife, Kathy.
            The best takeaway from his presentation at Lanier Theological Library, however, was the content. McGrath offered a convincing defense of the concept that there is a God. His topic was “The Big Questions: Richard Dawkins vs. C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life.”
            Dawkins, also an Oxford scholar and author of “The God Delusion,” wasn’t there and Lewis,
Oxford University Professor Alister McGrath speaks on the
topic, “Richard Dawkins vs. C.S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life”
Feb. 4 at Lanier Theological Library in Houston. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
another Oxford and Cambridge scholar and author of many Christian books, died in 1963. But McGrath has debated the atheist Dawkins in person, and host Mark Lanier called McGrath “the leading authority on C.S. Lewis in the world alive today.”
            I can offer only a small chip from the topic’s iceberg here, but I urge readers to watch the lecture video, which should be at before this month is over. An excellent video of a panel discussion involving Lanier, McGrath, two Lipscomb University professors and a Rice University astrobiologist already is online there.
            Like Lewis, McGrath was an atheist himself before changing his mind after arriving at Oxford.  “Lewis became a Christian because of his perception that it offered a better explanation of things than his atheism,” McGrath said. “Actually, that’s my story as well.
            “Dawkins takes the view that you can only believe what can be proven by reason or by science. He even says faith is a kind of mental illness. He is convinced there is something wrong with people who believe in God.”
            McGrath said Lewis, on the other hand, realized that “most of the really important things in life lie beyond rational or scientific proof” but are not irrational or unscientific.
            Evidence always is subject to interpretation, McGrath pointed out. “There are many cases where scientific evidence allows several outcomes,” he said. “Science changes, not because it’s irrational but because of this constant process of checking things out.
            “A hundred years ago, scientists had a radically different view of the origin of the universe than they do now.” McGrath said that then, a sudden beginning of the universe was considered nonsense. Now, most scientists believe in “the big bang,” a theory with which he said atheists initially weren’t comfortable.  “Science is provisional,” he said. “And it hasn’t reached its end.”
            Dawkins believes everything has a scientific explanation; McGrath said Lewis asked whether science is just “part of the picture.” McGrath used an analogy suggested by Frank Rhodes, a geology professor and former Cornell University president:
            “Imagine a kettle boiling. Why is the kettle boiling? Because there is energy being supplied, which raises the water temperature to its boiling point.” But he said there is another reason the kettle is boiling. “I wanted to make myself a pot of tea.”
            “Does the fact that explanation one is right mean that explanation two is wrong?” McGrath asked. “No! Does the fact that explanation two is right mean that explanation one is wrong? No!
Oxford University Professor Alister McGrath, right, answers
an audience question read by attorney Mark Lanier at a
lecture Feb. 4 at Lanier Theological Library in Houston.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            “The two explanations go together to lead to a bigger, a more reliable picture of what is actually going on. Science is part of the bigger picture, but it’s not all of the picture. They are two different answers, but answers that are complementary and not competitive.
            “We don’t want to just know how things work; we want to know what they mean. Science helps us, but there are deeper questions that science cannot answer.”
            McGrath said Christianity explains meaning, values and the difference in good and bad, while atheism is at a loss in those areas. Lewis was effective in showing the richness of faith, he said.
            “Lewis was able to offer this imaginative vision of Christianity,” he said. “By which I do not mean a made-up vision; I mean the real thing with its rich, imaginative potential, fully explained and illustrated in stories like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” which captures people’s imagination.”
            McGrath recalled Lewis’ sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” delivered at Oxford in 1941: “He says, ‘Look, our culture is spellbound by the idea that there is this world and there is nothing else. How do we break that spell? We’ve got to cast an even better spell; we’ve got to tell an even better story and show that we’ve got something to say that both captures the imagination and makes sense.”

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jan. 29, 2017, column: Luther used 'modern' technology to spread the Reformation

Luther used ‘modern’ technology to spread the Reformation
By Mike Haynes
            The print shop was busy with men arranging type and hanging freshly inked sheets up to dry. Johann Rhau-Grunenberg’s operation in the town of a few thousand people on the Elbe River was small, but work was steady because of the new university that had been established in 1502.
            Faculty brought course materials to be printed for their students, and occasional books and pamphlets came off the presses. But after 1517, one professor in particular was a frequent visitor to the shop. He also was a writer, a monk and a preacher at the city church, and he tended to micro-manage the editing of his pages and even the look of the type and occasional illustrations.
This statue of Martin Luther stands
in front of the Frauenkirche
(Church of Our Lady) in Dresden,
Germany. Luther is credited with starting
the Protestant Reformation in 1517,
and this year will feature many 500th
anniversary observances.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            He was Martin Luther, and almost entirely because of his ideas and his use of the relatively new printing industry, he turned the German town of Wittenberg into the center of European printing for much of the 16th century.

           Of course, Luther was responsible for much more than that. We know him as the initial leader of the Protestant Reformation, the radical break of churches from the Roman Catholic establishment that spread quickly across Europe. That swift growth of the ideas of a little-known monk and his supporters came about because Luther understood how to use the revolutionary technology of the printing press, according to historian Andrew Pettegree, author of the 2015 book, “Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation.”
            Most scholars cite that year exactly five centuries ago as the start of the Reformation because on Oct. 31, 1517, a document Luther had written and that had been printed locally was posted on the door of the Wittenberg church. It was the famous “95 Theses,” his list of complaints about the church and the pope.
            No one knows whether Luther himself nailed the document to the door, which served as a bulletin board for the university. It wasn’t uncommon for faculty to post questions and comments, inviting others to debate them in public.
            In this case, rather than the ideas being relegated to a one-time discussion, they were reprinted and circulated across Germany. They included concepts such as people reading the Bible for themselves rather than relying on clergy to feed it to them; salvation by faith alone; and the rejection of abuses in the Catholic Church such as the sale of indulgences, or pardons for sins. The ideas gained traction, and within a year or two, Luther was a nationwide celebrity. Pettegree, using modern terminology, writes that Luther now had his own “brand.”
            Luther even had his own graphic artist to create a visual element for his message: Lucas Cranach, his Wittenberg neighbor who created portraits of Luther and drawings for his publications.
            The new theology and views on church organization spawned a war of words between Luther and his opponents, both in public hearings and in pamphlets and books. Pettegree’s research shows that from 1502 to 1516, Wittenberg printers published about eight books a year. From 1517 to 1546, the year Luther died, the city’s printers published an average of 91 works a year – primarily because of the dynamic monk and the controversy he stirred.
            Luther was the 16th century equivalent of a social media master. He surely would have used Twitter had it been invented, as his adversaries would have, too. In fact, some of the “95 Theses” would have fit nicely into 140 characters, such as No. 27: “They preach man-made doctrines who say that so soon as the coin jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out of purgatory,” and No. 54: “Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on the Word.”
            His cause ultimately succeeded, but in his day he had enemies as bitter as those opposing Donald Trump and his tweets today.
            Even when Luther’s life was under threat and he was holed up in Wartburg Castle, he worked on translating the Bible into German with secret messengers delivering his manuscripts to the Wittenberg presses and returning proofs for him to correct.  
            Luther again will be in the public eye in 2017 as travel agents promote visiting Wittenberg, Worms and other German cities on “the Luther trail,” and more Luther books are published. “Christianity Today” magazine’s January/February edition highlighted him on the cover with the blurb, “His Reformation Still Looks Pretty Great at 500.”
            In that magazine, Yale professor Bruce Gordon notes that Pettegree’s book presents Luther as “the first media star of the printing age” and quotes “Brand Luther”: “Print and public communication would never be the same again.”
            Neither would western Christianity.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dec. 25, 2016, column: Step out of your comfort zone and meet your fellow man

Step out of your comfort zone and meet your fellow man

By Mike Haynes
            As soon as I knew I would retire from Amarillo College and would have time for an early December trip, Kathy and I booked one of those Viking river cruises that you see advertised with enticing pictures and seducing words on Panhandle PBS.
            We planned it for more than a year to celebrate what I consider a significant milestone for any married couple: our 25th anniversary.
            I suppose one reason we’re compatible is that we’re perfectly happy to do things just as a pair. We don’t hate group activities, but we tend to be more comfortable, for example, watching “Poldark” on … yes, Panhandle PBS, than being “social.”
            But on a cruise, you sit with other people for three meals a day, and we’re not socially inept (at least Kathy isn’t), so over 11 days, we did manage to make some friends.
The Christmas market in Old Town Square in Prague,
Czech Republic, has the gothic Tyn Church
and baroque-style buildings as a backdrop.
The church structure dates to 1385.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)

            We certainly recommend travel, and I could write pages about the wonderful sights and sounds we experienced: the beautiful parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, that you see in the Viking commercials; four young singers recreating “Sound of Music” tunes in Salzburg, Austria; drinking apricot-like nectar at a monastery near Krems, Austria; touring artist Albrecht Durer’s 16th century house in Nuremberg, Germany; and watching the lights on a three-story tree dance to the “William Tell Overture” at the brilliant Christmas market in Prague, Czech Republic.
            Christmas certainly is on bright display in those town square markets across central Europe, although the “reason for the season” is more commercial and cultural than spiritual on a continent that gets more secular every year.
            Our trip was delightful in part because of the castles and cathedrals, sausage and trdelnik pastry, but also because Kathy and I didn’t stay in our two-person cocoon. We were reminded that people who might seem distant turn out to be just as friendly as we West Texans.
            Steve and Gina had New York accents that, if you believe the movies, are supposed to indicate … well, stereotypical New Yorkers. But guess who volunteered to lend his camera battery charger and even trusted me to mail it back to him? Steve from Long Island.
            The two gray-haired women from Pennsylvania turned out to be retired teachers with fascinating travel stories about Cuba and China – one of whom has a son in Midland, Texas.
            After venturing a conversation with another retired teacher from Missouri, we found out she grew up in Brownfield, Texas. Janice from Nashville and Lynn from Illinois take annual trips together since they retired from the insurance industry, and we got to enjoy Janice’s Tennessee accent and goodbye hugs from Lynn.
            Aleksandar, our ship’s maĆ®tre d’ from Bosnia, noticed my Dallas Mavericks shirt and was eager to inform us that we were just 100 kilometers from the German hometown of Mav star Dirk Nowitzki.
            It’s obvious, but strangers become real people when you get to know them personally. The tall man with the hat who seemed to never smile during a tour of Vienna turned into a retired mechanical engineer from St. Louis who’s been to Amarillo. The ice was broken with the cute couple from Georgia when Kathy complimented them on their attentiveness to each other.
            Maybe that’s one reason the Father sent his Son to Earth 2,000 years ago – so we could get to know him better. As Jesus experienced humanity firsthand, those people who met him in the flesh saw God directly rather than as a name on a scroll.
            Emmanuel – “God with us” – Jesus the Messiah – still is available for a personal relationship with each human being. Christianity is not a religion of just of ritual and going through motions but of a direct connection.
            We can observe God and his creation, but for the real experience, we have to initiate a conversation. We have to talk to him.  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nov. 20, 2016, column:
Give me a break, Randy Ray!
By Mike Haynes
            Give me a break, Randy Ray!
            Let’s see: What are some of the topics that have occupied my thoughts and reading for years? Texas Tech sports. The Alamo. My hometown, McLean. C.S. Lewis. The Beatles.
            And what topics did Randy Ray choose for a class at West Texas A&M University and a follow-up trip next summer?
            C.S. Lewis and the Beatles.
            I should be teaching that class.
            OK, Ray, who teaches audio and video production, media management and media history at WT, is the one who came up with the idea. And I’m really not mad at him; I’m thrilled that someone
is taking seriously two of my main interests.
            After first thinking, “What could an intellectual Christian writer and the most famous band in the world have in common?,” I believe it makes more sense than a lot of topics taught in colleges these days.
            The title of the course – which Ray and history professor Dr. Marty Kuhlman will teach next spring, followed by a summer study abroad trip to England – is “A Hard Day’s Night in Narnia: A Study of British Influences on American Culture.”
            At first glance, the only common denominator of Lewis and the Fab Four seems to be that both were British – John, Paul, George and Ringo from Liverpool and Lewis an Oxford and Cambridge scholar. And the Beatles took off just as Lewis left us. He died on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day as John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley. That was only a few weeks before the Ed Sullivan Show appearances that brought Beatlemania to America.
            But both have had huge influences on U.S. popular (the Beatles) and spiritual (Lewis) culture.
            “Even though they’re both very British, they’re very different,” Ray said. “I want to show the polar opposites of the different kinds of British influence that we’ve gotten.
            “Lewis is unique in the way his writing is still so relevant more than 50 years after his death. I think it remains relevant because of the way he made deep thinking approachable to everyone.
            “And without doubt, the Beatles influenced popular music culture more than any other artist ever has or probably ever will. Their influence shook the entire world.”
            Although Lewis died at age 65 as the young Beatles were on the cusp of their global fame, the height of his popularity came after the 1960s reign of those purveyors of “yeah, yeah, yeah” and “Let It Be.” “Mere Christianity,” one of his most well-known adult books, and the “Chronicles of Narnia” children’s books were published in the 1950s, but it was a couple of decades later that a large number of Americans discovered them.
            Lewis has had his largest impact on American evangelicals, but his adult Christian writing also is appreciated in mainstream Protestant churches as well as Catholic circles. Lewis himself attended Holy Trinity Church, an Anglican congregation a half mile from his Oxford home, the Kilns.
            And the Narnia stories carried his influence into millions of American households. The Narnia movies that were hits from 2005 to 2010 expanded it.
            Ray said he expects 20 to 30 students in the class. So far, most of them have expressed more interest in Lewis than the Beatles. His own fascination with Lewis’ writing began in Pampa when he came home from junior high and picked up a book that belonged to his mom and dad.
            “Why do my parents have a book called ‘The Screwtape Letters’ written by some Oxford professor,” he recalled thinking.  “It was just so different. I also love the fact that with Lewis, just a little goes such a long ways. There is so much packed into every sentence. And I think that’s pretty rare in writing – to carry that much weight with every word.”
            Ray isn’t as big a Beatles fan as I am, but he has played bass in bands for years. “In the music industry, you can’t not appreciate what the Beatles did,” he said. “They were a game-changer. You cannot have a music conversation with anyone without it eventually leading to the Beatles.
            “And I don’t think you can go to any church in America without eventually hearing a C.S. Lewis quote. Anytime there’s anything out of the ordinary – the presidential election, 9-11 – people are throwing Lewis in there; what was his take on it?”
            Students in the class have reason to be excited, because the July 17-23 trip will include a tour of Lewis’ longtime home; Magdalen College, where he taught in Oxford; and the Eagle and Child pub, where Lewis and his writing friends, the Inklings, met.
            The trip also will hit the homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon and the famed Cavern Club in Liverpool and Abbey Road Studios in London.
            To paraphrase a little band from Liverpool, I know the students will be a lovely audience, and I hope they will enjoy the show.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Oct. 16, 2016, column:

Wheelers' faith: An Amarillo legacy

By Mike Haynes
            You might say that Roy Wheeler built Hillside Christian Church.
            Of course, he would say the Lord built it, and he’d be right. But consider this:
            Many years ago, Amarillo residents Jim and Laura Sims had visited Paramount Terrace Christian Church, the forerunner of Hillside, a few times. While on vacation, Jim was involved in a gas leak at the house where they were staying, and his hands were burned badly. Jim was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where he was treated and began recuperating.
            Meanwhile, Paramount Terrace Senior Minister Roy Wheeler was on a church trip. While at
Roy and Elnore Wheeler
the Dallas airport changing planes, he called in to his assistant, Pat Strickland, who had heard about Jim Sims’ accident, and she told Roy about it.
            Roy skipped his connecting flight and rushed to Parkland Hospital to see this man who had been visiting the church. The relationship was strengthened, Jim recovered, and before long, Jim and Laura Sims were members of PTCC.
            Fast forward to the mid-2000s. PTCC leaders had decided to leave the location on Mays Avenue near Western Street for the corner of Hillside and Soncy and change the church’s name to reflect the move. Architect Jim Sims was the primary designer of the new building.
            The physical structure is one thing, but Roy’s visit to an injured man who wasn’t even a member of the church is just one of a multitude of personal connections he made that resulted in a small, independent Christian congregation growing into a megachurch. The senior minister from 1966 to 1999, he remained active in ministry until his health started declining. But during those 33 years, he was a go-getter.
              “I would make two or three appointments three or four nights a week for him,” Strickland recalled. “Roy would go to their homes and meet people, and many of them joined the church. They felt the love he exuded from the pulpit, plus his personal contact with them.”
            Roy and Elnore Wheeler, both turning 85 next month, quietly left Amarillo this summer almost exactly 50 years after they arrived from Missouri. Because of health issues, they moved close to their son, Rick Wheeler, who leads a church in Derby, Kan. Another son, Randy, is a minister in Michigan. Oldest son Ron preached for a while but would up doing work such as designing an operational system for Dallas Area Rapid Transit.
          Of course, Hillside had a going-away reception, but the Wheelers’ exit didn’t get the community attention that, for example, the late Dr. Winfred Moore did at milestones in his life. A friend told me he thinks Roy’s influence on Amarillo for half a century rivaled that of the First Baptist legend, bringing “a church that wasn’t going anywhere” into the status of a megachurch.
            Ironically, what made the megachurch was the personal touch.
            Longtime Sunday school teacher Jim McKee said his wife, Lana, remembers she always got a “Roy hug” every time he saw her. The McKees first visited PTCC in 1985, looking for “a nondenominational church that was soundly Bible-based,” Jim McKee said. “We immediately wanted to join, so Roy came to our home to speak with us and answer questions. We joined the next Sunday.”
            Another former assistant, Diana Schmidtman, and her family preceded the Wheelers at PTCC. She was a charter member in 1955. “The way he endeared himself to my family was when my brother, a jet pilot, had his plane shot down in 1968,” Schmidtman said. “Roy was just so wonderful to our family. If we didn’t like him before, we loved him after that.”
            “Roy’s idea of the church was that it’s a hospital for the hurting,” Strickland said. “It didn’t make a difference what your background was or where you came from. He loved people and wanted to tell them about the Lord.
            “If he was in the pulpit and saw somebody in the audience he didn’t know, after church he would go through the guest cards. If they didn’t fill out a card, he would tell me to find out who they were the next time.
            “He loved to know everything about everybody that he dealt with.”
            In some ways, Elnore Wheeler was a typical minister’s wife, supporting her husband and leading church activities. But she really wasn’t typical.
            “She was such a caring, people person,” Strickland said. “Her heart was in missions. If she couldn’t go, she sent money. She taught in the women’s prison, and she went to Russia several times with Roy. I think she helped in an orphanage at Chernobyl.”
            Anyone who spent much time at the church between Sundays knew Elnore’s impact.
            “We always knew Elnore to be a quiet servant,” Jim McKee said, “reaching out and helping kids and the downcast. She always worked behind the scenes. Things would get done somehow, but if you backtracked to the source, very often you would find Elnore Wheeler at the beginning.”
            Roy Wheeler has been well-known across the country, especially in independent Christian circles. He was a frequent conference speaker and in his heyday, he preached at two or three revivals a year in other churches. Strickland said he did mission work in Belarus 17 times, often with Elnore by his side. He baptized the parents of his Belarussian interpreter, Luda. He visited Jamaica many times to help minister friend Vincent Graham.  
            Roy’s fluid, measured speaking style, solidly scriptural but non-threatening, attracted thousands to the gospel – and to PTCC – over three decades. He said he favored “a positive approach to Christianity” but constantly challenged the congregation of his “undenominational” church with the idea that “God calls us all to be ministers if we’re Christians.”
            A factor in his 1999 retirement was his voice, which had begun fading with a rare vocal cord condition. But when his preaching became rare, he kept his eyes and ears open for people who were hurting.
            “There’s no one like him,” Schmidtman said. “If you were ever in trouble, he’s the one you wanted. He was a great shepherd.”
            “He was a lover of people and wanted them to know the Lord,” Strickland said.
            Roy and Elnore, those of us whom you’ve touched thank you.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sept. 11, 2016, column:
There is healing in remembering
By Mike Haynes
            Just before last Christmas, my wife, Kathy, and I stood in line with hundreds of people, most wrapped in coats, warm hats, gloves and scarves, in cold New York City. We waited to enter a gleaming new building. Reassuringly in this age of terrorism, New York police officers in black helmets were stationed nearby, each with both hands on his military-style weapon.
Photos of and information about all 2,977 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001,
 attacks – in addition to the six people killed in the 1993 bombing at
 the World Trade Center – are on display at the National
 September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            One of many signs directing foot traffic toward the building was an orange one that said, “9/11 Families, 9/11 Rescue & Recovery Workers and Museum Members … Enter Here.”
            The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has been open since May 2014. Now we’ve reached the 15th anniversary of the horrific events of that fall day in 2001, and I miss the unity America had after three airliners struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the two massive World Trade Center towers where Kathy and I were standing last December.

           It also is disappointing that the opening of the memorial and museum and of the shining new One World Trade Center that pierces the sky next to it in November 2014 have received so little attention.
            Yes, both events were in the news, as was the opening of the glitzy World Trade Center retail mall just last month. But how much notice have we given to the triumph of rebuilding compared to the continuing fear of terrorist acts and the focus on U.S. racial issues?     I’d bet that average Americans know more about which celebrity is dissing whom or which football player is disparaging the national anthem than they do about New York’s comeback from 9-11.
Steel girders from the base of the original World Trade Center
stand tall  in the underground National September 11 Memorial
 and Museum in New York City. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
            That isn’t true of our 19-year-old niece, Maria, and her friends who toured the 9-11 museum shortly after it opened. As Kathy and I did later, Maria found deep significance in the artifacts and displays – from a damaged, 30-foot U.S. flag displayed in the below-ground facility to huge steel beams from the original towers to a pair of Winnie the Pooh earmuffs that belonged to a sixth grade girl who was on one of the hijacked planes.

           That day 15 years ago was an event, like Pearl Harbor, that shouldn’t be lost to future generations. In the Old Testament, Joshua thought it important for the people of Israel to mark with stones the spot where the Ark of the Covenant had crossed the Jordan River. “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:7)
            But we can’t just look back. Life goes on. After the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, the Israelites eventually rebuilt the temple. Nehemiah then noticed that the city’s walls remained in ruins, and he organized their reconstruction. “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no
The Winnie the Pooh earmuffs and the red library card, left,
belonged to sixth grader Asia Cottom, who was on one of the
9-11 hijacked airplanes. The Peter Rabbit doll belonged
to 2-year-old Christine Hanson, who also was on one of the planes.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
longer be in disgrace.” (Nehemiah 2:17)
            Sept. 11, 2001, didn’t bestow disgrace on our country. But rebuilding showed our resolve. The memorial makes sure we won’t forget the 2,977 people who died then or the six who died in the 1993 WTC bombing.
            The rise of One World Trade Center, glassy and futuristic, proved that business and tourism would return to lower Manhattan. And the new mall, which on the outside looks like a white, soaring eagle and on the inside offers upscale shopping from Apple to Michael Kors, puts American capitalism on display again in lower Manhattan.
            But the memorial and museum take us from the materialistic to the human. They remind us of American values – first responders rushing into buildings that are about to collapse, a husband’s phone message to his family as he suspects he won’t survive, a survivor praying for others as he makes his way down flights of stairs to safety.
            Some have tried to keep the most important American value – trust in God – out of the memorial as much as possible. But it’s there, whether in a cross-shaped metal beam or in trinkets people have left in their grief. On a Statue of Liberty replica covered with small items such as a red, white and blue bracelet and a little Texas flag, I saw a wooden, ornamental cross. A few inches away was a piece of paper on which it appeared a child had drawn a U.S. flag and had written, “God bless
us every one.”
            People of all races and beliefs were killed that day in 2001. Let’s remember the unity that followed.  
One World Trade Center, 1,776 feet high,
opened in 2014, 13 years after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks took down the two
World Trade Center towers.
(Photo by Mike Haynes) 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Aug. 7, 2016, column:
Missionaries transform hearts, find joy on other side of the globe
By Mike Haynes
            Charlie Webb grew up on a Texas Panhandle ranch. She played sports at a small school, made great grades, was a regular at the Methodist church and has a loving family. She’ll be a sophomore horticulture major at Texas A&M this fall.
            Yet one of the most meaningful moments of her life so far happened on a bus ride through
Charlie Webb of McLean
makes her way down a
Ugandan street in May as a
group of motorcyclists passes by. 
Uganda in May.
            Charlie is one of many examples of church members young and old who have stepped out of their air-conditioned buildings to spread the Christian message in various ways, serving and learning on mission trips in what has become a small world. Or to her, maybe a big one.
             After two days of travel from Amarillo to Gulu, Uganda – including an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam, another eight hours on a plane to Entebbe and six hours on a bus to Gulu – the McLean native emailed her supporters, “The world is gigantic, y’all.”
            She was the group’s designated reporter and sent updates a few times during the two-week trip sponsored by Antioch Community Church in College Station. Because she was perceptive and descriptive, she gets much of this space:
            “On the bus ride to Gulu we bonded over the sights of the big city, Entebbe, and the rolling plains/jungle of Africa. Our bus ride was punctuated with many laughs and many naps and one adventure of buying pineapples and mangos. …
            “We are specifically looking for people of peace (Luke 10:1-12) and people who are seeking something more than money or good health for their life (Matt. 13:1-23). We want to try and help these people develop a personal relationship with Jesus so that when we ... leave, they can effectively share and spread the gospel with the help of the Holy Spirit. …
            “We are not trying to share the gospel 20 times a day. We aren’t trying to get five people a day baptized. We aren’t having 15 people say the prayer of salvation. My point is that we aren’t after a
McLean's Charlie Webb in Uganda
certain number of bodies to simply say they believe in Jesus.
            “We are trying to transform hearts. And since we are after people’s hearts, it could very well mean that we only spend our entire time here pouring into a very small handful of people. … If the people here have shallow faith, they can’t effectively share with others after we’re gone. … We want to create something here that will last in the long term. …”
            Charlie sent reports from co-missionaries Abigayle, Jonathan, Tyler and Margret, each of whom touched the heart of at least one Gulu resident. But Charlie herself summed it up well to her email recipients:
            “I wish you could know what it’s like to dance in the rain and have this realization that you’re in Africa. I wish you could experience the joy of dancing with a little girl for Jesus. … I wish you could see the miracle of healing. … I wish you could understand how precious water is in other cultures. … I wish you could taste the foods of the Ugandan culture.
            “I wish you could know what it’s like to walk down the street and have everyone stare at you because of your skin color. … I wish you would understand what it’s like for all items to be secondhand. …
            “I wish you could experience being immersed in a different culture but coming to the honest conclusion that we’re all just human beings and that no matter how different we look or act, we all
Charlie Webb, fourth from right, poses on top of a bus
with some of her Uganda mission teammates from
College Station in the African nation in May. 
experience the same thoughts and feelings. … We share the same big blue planet, the same moon and the same big bright star; we’re all just trying to live this life as best as we can and hoping that it will be worth it in the end.”
            The group took time out for a safari where she and the 16 other young people saw elephants, giraffes, warthogs, monkeys, crocodiles and a lion. But it wasn’t the sights of Africa that made the biggest impression on Charlie.
            “On the bus ride back we had this random sing-along/dance party. We had the windows open. The sun was setting. And as I was sitting there basking in the cool, humid, evening wind, I looked around at our group and had this overwhelming sense of love and joy. …
            “It’s a moment when your heart is so full of love or joy that it feels weightless. … It’s a moment when there isn’t a trace of fear or worry or stress. … I don’t know that I’ve ever felt such a sense of family and community from people I’ve only really known for a little more than a week. … And six months ago I had no clue that I would be in Africa with 16 other amazing, godly people who I’ve known for less than a year. …

            “Now I have 16 people I can truly call brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Saturday, July 02, 2016

July 2, 2016, column:
Sometimes all it takes is faith in God
By Mike Haynes
            Iris Warneford had finished business school and landed a bookkeeping position at age 16. For her job in London, she took the train from her family home in Harrow, 30 minutes northwest of the center of the city.
            Her father and brothers were painters and decorators, and her mother worked hard at chores such as stirring the clothes with a wooden stick as they boiled in a pot on the stove.
            Iris was in the habit of attending dances and occasionally going to the cinema when, in 1939, newspapers and radio announced that England was at war with Germany.
            “And then the bombing started,” she recalled last month just before leaving Amarillo after half a century to live in Bryan, closer to her children.
Iris and Wayne Houghton are shown just before their marriage
in Harrow, England, in the World War II era.
            Iris was a war bride, one of many English women who married American soldiers. She became Iris Houghton when she wed Coloradan Wayne Houghton, and they wound up spending most of their lives in Amarillo.
            Iris saw firsthand the Blitz, Nazi Germany’s sustained bombing of London and other British cities. “They did an awful lot of damage,” she said in her still-strong British accent. “They bombed Buckingham Palace – not a lot of damage. They bombed Westminster Abbey.
            “That’s to break the spirit of the people; that’s what that is. But it didn’t work, of course. It was the other way around; it just toughened you up. It was worrisome at times, but I never was frightened.”
            The suburb of Harrow wasn’t spared. “We lost all our windows,” Iris said. “Our front door was blown off. One block over – you know, the houses are connected – it took half the block.
            “Every night before it got dark, the air raid warden would come over to see if you had a visitor or if you were not there.” That check was in case a bomb fell. “They didn’t want to dig, take manpower, if there was nobody there,” she said.
            Faith in God and in the nation’s resolve kept citizens calm and carrying on. Iris’ family was Protestant. She was married in the local Church of England parish, and her parents are buried there. But meeting Wayne Houghton put her on course to an Amarillo church she attended for 45 years.
            Wayne was a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force, stationed near London. Laughing, she recalled her father’s advice: “He said, ‘Iris, you can go with the Canadians, you can go with the Australians, even the New Zealanders, but don’t go with those Yanks.’ I looked right at him and said, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy, I won’t.’”
Iris Houghton thanks her Sunday school
class  at Hillside Christian Church in
Amarillo in April 2016 just before
moving to Bryan.
 (Photo by Mike Haynes)
After rudely, according to Iris, asking only her to dance and not her friends, she and Wayne dated and were married in Harrow. After their daughter, Marykay, was born in England, they moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, and eventually to Amarillo, where Wayne worked for the post office and Iris for Pioneer Natural Gas. They later had a son, Bob.
Looking for a church in the 1960s, the Houghtons heard about a new one meeting in a school, Paramount Terrace Christian. Minister Roy Wheeler and his wife, Elnore, were giving it a growth spurt, and the Houghtons joined within two weeks of visiting. Iris stayed through this April (Wayne died in 1995), having seen the church’s move and name change to Hillside Christian.
“We loved it. Still love it,” she said.
At age 92, she’s adjusting to a new home in Bryan. But Iris has been through the Blitz. She’s heard the overhead buzzing of “doodlebugs” and wondered where those Nazi V-1 bombs would drop. She has moved to a new country where she was welcomed but where the tea isn’t made properly and she waited 18 years to become a citizen in order to avoid offending her parents. She’s still  keen on the queen – 33 months younger than Iris – but she’ll appreciate the fireworks on July Fourth.
Leaving Amarillo friends after decades of church and community activity is hard, but no worse than having a brother with PTSD after he was evacuated from a French beach in 1940, a brother-in-law killed in Africa in that same war, losing a faithful husband and grieving a Marine grandson who died in the Middle East in recent years.
And she certainly knows the upside of life. Scores of Hillside Christian friends hugged and laughed with her before she moved downstate. Even remembering that European war, her face brightened as she described its end 71 years ago:
            “People were dancing in the street, the flags waving – oh, we were so glad it was over.”                                                                      

Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 21, 2016, column:
Blessed are the meek...
(Not sure the headline fits the topic exactly, but close enough. I don't write the headlines.)
By Mike Haynes
            Three alma maters are on my resume now even though I never took a class at the third.
            The first two are McLean High School and Texas Tech University. The third is Amarillo College, where other than taking a country and western dance class with my wife, I’ve never been a student.
            But after 25 years on the faculty, I consider AC one of my schools.
            I’ll try not to name names here; there’s too much danger of leaving someone out. But my niece who graduated at McLean last night says we’ve both been seniors this year. Yes, the AC commencement May 13 was my last time to wear a cap and gown to honor the outgoing Badgers.
            The morning after hundreds walked the civic center stage, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. I was uneasy but wasn’t sure why. Really, I’m OK with retiring, because I have plenty of other challenges ahead. But I think it relates to the blog of another retiring faculty member who said he’ll miss not knowing next year’s crop of students – and the next – and the next…
Group photo No. 1: Amarillo College journalism students
and advisers, February 1992.
            In my case, I’ll miss the students I didn’t get to know well but wish I had – such as the young woman who, in her end-of-semester presentation, mentioned in passing that her husband had died in a car wreck a few years ago. I suspect returning to school was part of her plan to rebuild her life after tragedy. It made me think of James in the New Testament urging Christians to take care of widows and orphans.
            Of course, I’ll miss the students I do know well, some from decades ago and some from this spring. Newspaper people know the satisfaction that comes after the last page goes to press, and I’ve had student editors and their sidekicks saunter into my office late at night to savor the work they’ve just completed and to get me to tell them honestly whether I thought it was good.
            Sometimes those talks would morph into the students unloading their worries on me or tentatively revealing some of their dreams.
            And I’ll miss co-workers from across the campuses, from night custodians to teachers in other departments to those journalism colleagues I got to know best. One reason I’m OK with retiring is that I’m leaving the Matney Mass Media program in the hands of a professor who’s talented and energetic – better at the job than me – and who will have good people to help her lead and counsel next year’s crop.
            I started at AC as a journalist first and a teacher second. I hope I grew in the second role as I kept up with journalism becoming mass communication and now mass media. I love technology, but I’ll be happy to back off from the 24/7 digital news cycle.
Group photo No. 25: Amarillo College mass media students
and advisers, December 2015.

            If there’s anything I’m good at, it came from my grandad. I grew up seeing him treating a native American manual laborer the same as he treated a congressman. That belief in personal equality runs through my family, and I hope I showed it at AC as I interacted with first-generation students who couldn’t afford textbooks to talented writers who needed little from me to maintenance men to the college president.
            It’s simply the Golden Rule, affirmed in the Bible by Matthew, and I believe my family’s faithful church background has much to do with any success I’ve had with students and with fellow educators.
            I’m not the exception. It’s just tradition in the Texas Panhandle, including at Amarillo College. I’ve experienced 25 of AC’s 86 years, and for the most part, the school has been a place where people support each other and put students first.
            Before leaving, I made sure to secure copies of 25 group photos, each taken a year apart, of our journalism students and advisers. I wish I had the same for the seven years I advised Texas Tech publications. I’ll look at the pictures occasionally, never completely letting go of those people. And I’ll keep watching for their successes.
            Kathy and I haven’t done much country and western dancing since that AC class. But she’s the other reason I’m OK with giving up a rewarding career. She helped me write that chapter, and I’ll need her to proofread the next one.
                                                              * * *
            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at the Amarillo Globe-News or Go to for other recent columns.