Sunday, July 08, 2018

July 8, 2018, column:

Finding a stand in secular-spiritual divide in education

By Mike Haynes
            When I taught mass media at Amarillo College, I stayed away from discussing religion or politics in class.
I didn’t want to hide the fact that I was a believer in Christ, so when talking about advertising, I might say something like, “On our way to church Sunday, Kathy and I saw a new digital billboard at Hillside and I-27.” And once a semester, I would hand out one of my Faith columns as part of a collection of writing examples.
            I have no regrets about keeping quiet on politics, but looking back, I may have been more cautious than necessary as I tried not to push my spiritual beliefs on the students.
It’s OK (and legal, even at a public institution) to reveal where your moral compass comes from as long as it’s part of an open discussion and you’re not pressuring students in any way. I knew a faculty member who started each semester introducing himself – including the fact that he was a Christian. Another friend who taught in high school would, at some point in the year, ask his students what guided their moral decisions. Without judgment, he would tell them his own guiding light was the Bible. Neither of those guys overdid it by preaching their own worldviews.
That isn’t so in many public college and university classrooms. Most professors at secular schools teach from what they may consider to be neutral perspectives, but according to a native of Wichita Falls who teaches at Claremont Graduate University in California, they are more biased than they think.
Mary Poplin’s latest book is “Is Reality Secular? Testing the Assumptions of Four Global
Mary Poplin
Worldviews.” She also has edited “Christianity and the Secular Border Patrol: The Loss of Judeo-Christian Knowledge,” an essay collection. She told Christianity Today magazine that the purpose of the latter book is “to make explicit that secularism is a sort of umbrella of ideologies defined by its exclusion of religion, primarily of Christian voices. …
“Secularism defines itself by what it is not; it has no agreed-upon moral compass, so it’s an umbrella for anything from the far right to the far left and everything in between – as long as it’s not religious.
“As Stanley Fish says, secularism has survived by pretending to be neutral, but it’s anything but neutral.”
It’s well-documented that many professors in public higher education openly promote their personal political and religious views, brazenly attempting to convert their students to the “correct” ideas. Rarely do those ideas include Judeo-Christian belief.
Poplin told CT magazine that university leaders often think their schools are the free, open marketplace of ideas, “But it’s the free marketplace of certain ideas and the closed marketplace of other ideas.”
So while believers in God censor themselves to avoid accusations of proselytizing, others fill their impressionable students with their version of “truth.” Contrast that approach with Poplin’s:
“When I’m teaching pedagogies, I teach critical theory – Marxism, feminism, etc. – and I also teach a Christian perspective,” she said. “I present the alternatives because I’m at a secular university. But even if we were at a Christian university, I would want the students to know the range of explanations … What are the options here?”
The University of California-Berkeley is notorious as a hotbed of radical ideas and protests. Few would see it as welcoming to Judeo-Christian ideas, but author and Presbyterian minister Ryan Pemberton believes Christians can lovingly start to erase that ideological barrier. He wrote in CT magazine that God doesn’t separate secular and sacred spaces.
Ryan Pemberton

God is no more present in the small towns, suburbs and cities in which our students grew up than in Berkeley,” Pemberton wrote. Even in a setting where opposing views have bred hatred and violence, civility and love can prosper.
Pemberton oversees a Christian student gathering place near UC-Berkeley where he says strangers are welcome no matter their views or beliefs. He recalled a night when two students with opposite political opinions had a respectful conversation about how to lovingly respond to a controversial campus speaker.
When we gather as the church, we are reminded that our political commitments are not what unites us. God is,” he wrote. “…Gathering as the church reshapes how we relate to one another.”
Pemberton quoted a member of the Presbyterian church next door to the student center:
“I couldn’t believe it when I pulled into the parking lot and saw a Trump sticker beside their First Pres bumper sticker. When I realized whose car it was, I realized not only am I in a small group with that person, but I love them.”
Poplin proposes several responses to the secular-spiritual divide in education, one of which is building Christian communities on the edge of campuses.
“We need to understand that this is the way we’re probably going to have to live for a while,” she said. “…I don’t think we can be na├»ve and expect to be invited in to secular universities.”
As for the educators, she said they should be aware of how secularism excludes other ideas and consider “Where do secular theories and Judeo-Christian thought overlap, and where do they part ways? And what does the Judeo-Christian tradition add to the conversation?”
                                                                    * * *
            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at haynescolumn@gmail.com. Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10, 2018, column:

She was a testament to friendship and faith

By Mike Haynes
            Mark, Kathy and I stood quietly on one of the white beaches of St. Petersburg, Florida, looking west at the Gulf of Mexico. Mark had driven us there hoping to show us a glorious sunset, but clouds on the edge of subtropical storm Alberto were preventing that.
            Still, the muted glow of the sun could be seen behind the bluish cloud bank and above the
Sallyann and Kathy hold the poodle Pierre in Amarillo in
1970 near the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
(Photo by Peggy Tredway)
larger-than-normal waves flowing in. Light was reflected on the wet sand. Even without orange in the sky, it was a beautiful sight.
            The only flaw in the scene was that there were three instead of four of us. What had drawn Kathy and I to Florida near the end of May was the memorial service for Mark’s wife of 36 years, Sallyann.
            Although Sallyann, 59, had spent most of her childhood in Kansas and some of it in Amarillo, where she met Kathy in the third grade, she loved the beach. She had decided early on that she’d like to live in Florida, and she and Mark had achieved that goal, raising four children in various Sunshine State locations.
            What made Mark’s new heartache bearable was the fact that the two of them and their children all have been followers of Jesus Christ for most of their lives. We know the promise about eternity that Christ gave his disciples not long before his death: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2, KJV)
            That assurance is familiar to many in the Texas Panhandle, where belief still is strong. It also is where Sallyann received some of her foundational faith as her family was active in Paramount Terrace Christian Church in their short time in Amarillo.
            They were here long enough for her and Kathy to become fast friends, listening to Monkees records after school and learning about God in the church youth group. After Sallyann’s family moved to Kansas, their families took frequent vacations together. The two girls spent a year as roommates at a Bible college. They were in each other’s weddings.
            After marriage, their connection loosened to phone calls a couple of times a year, but around 2000, they stepped it up. Sallyann visited Amarillo, and the four of us took some trips together.
On a St. Petersburg, Florida, beach, Kathy and Mark
contemplate a loss. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
            So the first half of Proverbs 17:17 was going well: “A friend loves at all times…” Then came a cancer diagnosis five years ago, and the second part of that verse became obvious: “…and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
            I take “brother” to also mean “sister,” and I feel blessed to have witnessed a close sisterhood that intensified in difficult times. When Kathy flew to see her friend in Florida, she figured out a way to take Wienerschnitzel chili dogs – Sallyann’s favorite – with her on the plane. She gave encouraging words while listening to updates on cancer treatment. Sallyann reciprocated in many ways, including stitching “Sally-n-Kathy BF 1967-4ever” on an afghan she made for her friend last year.
            To be honest, I intended to write this column more generally about friendship and faith with a brief mention of my wife and her friend. But I think they are too good a model to keep to myself and our families. I know many other such friendships flourish, but this is the one I know most about. And it’s one that also includes a father above.
            The obituary said, “God was first in every area of Sallyann’s life from how she read through the Bible in a year 15-plus times to her commitment to her marriage, children and church.” I saw firsthand that those words aren’t just platitudes. On our trips together, Mark and Sallyann spent time each morning on a condo porch or a cruise ship deck praying and reading scripture.
Clouds and waves decorate a view of the Gulf of Mexico from a
St. Petersburg, Florida, beach. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)

At the memorial service, a cousin’s words were read recalling Sallyann’s dream decades ago in which God told her she was to work with the deaf. She did teach deaf students for 17 years, and on the day she left us, her deaf, autistic and adopted son, Chris, graduated from high school.
            I’m sure there are lessons in this story that I have yet to grasp. I’ve learned a few from watching the servant’s heart of Sallyann’s husband and the love from her children. I suspect I could glean even more from opening my own Bible more often. And maybe enhancing it with a West Texas sunset.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 13, 2018, column:
In rural areas, pastors find ways to emphasize unity

By Mike Haynes
            When two pastors – one Methodist and one nondenominational – get together on one platform, both are going to have to do a little adjusting.
            That’s what happened last Sunday when the young Casey Carter of One Way Church in McLean and the little-bit-older Thacker Haynes of the United Methodist churches in McLean and Heald preached one sermon like a ping-pong match, tossing words back and forth to each other but with all aimed at their combined congregations.
            The joint service in the One Way sanctuary – it’s the biggest in town – drew 316 people in the community of less than 800, followed by a free barbecue dinner.
It usually takes a six-man football game to bring that many people together in eastern Gray County. This time, the focus was Jesus Christ.
Thacker Haynes, left, and Casey Carter, right, preached one sermon
together May 6 at One Way Church in McLean. Haynes is pastor of
the United Methodist churches in McLean and Heald, and Carter
is pastor of the One Way nondenominational church.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
The combined worship event was a logical affirmation of cooperative ministry that’s been going on for at least a couple of years. Carter and Haynes (full disclosure: my cousin) have worked together in a 12-step ministry, Bible studies, a Christmas kids’ gifts outreach, a rodeo ministry in Clarendon and a youth program that has brought 75 kindergarten through high school students from all three churches together weekly.
The pastors’ flocks have worked side by side in a small town where each church wouldn’t have as much impact separately.
It’s about the only way for the Christian population to get anything done for the Kingdom in small rural towns,” Haynes said.
One accomplishment was 15 children who had professed Christ, several of whom were baptized after the joint sermon Sunday. In a little Panhandle town, that’s a lot. Carter, Haynes and layman Jeremiah Soto split the duties in the baptistry, built when the facility was First Baptist Church. Methodists usually sprinkle, but Haynes has handled plenty of immersions, too, in a pond near his house.
Such differences often keep Christians apart. Gene Shelburne, Amarillo’s longtime minister, Bible teacher and author who also writes for this and other newspapers, published a book in 2004 called, “The Quest for Unity: An Appeal for Oneness Among All Believers in Christ.”
Shelburne lists questions that drive wedges between Christians – some that seem to be
preferences, such as what to call the preacher, whether to raise hands in worship and whether to sing new songs or old songs.
He calls other questions “weightier” – such as whether to speak in tongues, what happens in the end times and whether salvation is by works or grace.
“Whole denominations have been created because Christians can’t agree on questions like these,” Shelburne writes.
The sermon by Carter and Haynes used the story in II Kings 4 about a woman whose husband has died, and she is at the mercy of creditors. The only item of value she has is a small jar of olive oil. The prophet Elisha tells her to ask all her neighbors for empty jars, then pour her olive oil into each of them.
The woman has faith in the prophet, and her few drops of oil fill all the vessels, giving her wealth enough to pay her bills.
The preachers last Sunday had asked members of all three churches to bring ceramic jars, which were displayed in front of the platform. They compared the neighbors in Kings 4 to the Christians who’ve been working in their youth and other ministries, regardless of church affiliation.
After the sermon, excerpts of Billy Graham messages were shown on two video screens, which was fitting because in addition to leading so many individuals to God, Graham also brought Christians of all kinds of churches together in worship and in ministry, especially in parachurch organizations.
In his book, Shelburne grants that “significant doctrinal issues divide Christ’s followers.” But he says that more often, “we allow ourselves to be estranged from each other in the Lord because we just don’t like the way the other person chooses to worship or evangelize. We don’t ‘do church’ the same.”
About 20 young boys and girls last Sunday clapped and sang, “When those gates are open wide, I’m gonna sit at Jesus’ side, I’m gonna sing, I’m gonna shout, ‘Praise the Lord!’”
Those smiling kids didn’t care which of the three churches they were from.
       

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April 15, 2018, column:

Learn from Billy Graham how to slow down with grace

By Mike Haynes
            My mother was not comfortable getting old. By the time she was 83, deteriorating health had forced her to slow down from the constant multitasking she had been used to for more than six decades.
Raising five kids, nonstop cooking, playing the church organ and hosting bridge club were just a few of the activities that kept this ranch woman busy, so Joyce Haynes was reluctant to spend increasing hours in a living room recliner during 2013, the last year of her life.
Talking to her Methodist pastor nephew, Thacker, helped her adjust to the new normal. And a book on a table next to her chair was another encouragement. It was “Nearing Home,” by Billy Graham.
Subtitled, “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” the evangelist’s 2011 book was one of his last and was timely for Mom. I believe she took to heart Graham’s advice that “Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mom said she hoped her children would read “Nearing Home.” I haven’t yet, but I sure did benefit from the renewed attention to Graham after his death this Feb. 21 at age 99. Like many, I read about his life online, in newspapers and magazines, watched a TV special on his career and listened to his sermons on satellite radio. I was reminded of something I, along with my family, have seen since the 1950s: that this man was an admirable Christian example.
One of those replayed sermons was from September 1975 at Texas Tech’s Jones Stadium in Lubbock. It was the second time I’d heard it, because I attended several of the eight nights of the West Texas Billy Graham Crusade that year. It was just one of many ways this man of God touched me.
Still burned into my memory are the brilliant stadium lights that seemed to turn the green-turfed home of the Red Raiders into two acres of heaven. As Graham preached on topics such as “Angels,” “Jaws” (the movie came out that summer) and “The Cost of Not Following Jesus,” he was backed up by sports figures (Tech and Baylor football coaches Steve Sloan and Grant Teaff and Oklahoma quarterback Steve Davis), singers (Ethel Waters, Beverly Terrell and Norma Zimmer) and others.
And of course, Graham’s longtime team members Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea were ever-present.
I lived in Lubbock then, working at the Avalanche-Journal newspaper, where one of my jobs was placing Graham’s regular “My Answer” column on a page. I didn’t know that a girl named Kathy rode down from Amarillo in a bus with her Paramount Terrace Christian Church youth group to see Billy Graham. She was impressed with the size of the audience, which ranged from 20,000 to 30,000 each night in the then-47,000-seat stadium. Fifteen years later, I met Kathy at that same church and married her in 1991.
Billy Graham West Texas Crusade, 1975, Lubbock, Texas
            Graham has inspired me since the black-and-white TV days. My brother, David, remembers watching the crusades with our grandmother after color came along. In high school, my friend Alan signed me up for a free subscription to “Decision,” the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. That eventually led to my attending the Decision School of Christian Writing in Minnesota in 1979, where I toured the BGEA headquarters and heard now-famous author Philip Yancey speak about the need for more quality in Christian writing.
            In 2000, I nervously did a phone interview with Franklin Graham in advance of Amarillo’s Franklin Graham Festival as the Graham son was beginning to fill his father’s role. I wrote about spiritual issues for this newspaper and for the Canyon publication, “Upbeat Reporter,” but what sticks in my mind is Franklin pointing out the difference between Texas and North Carolina barbecue.
            One of the few magazines I still subscribe to is the intelligent and insightful “Christianity Today,” founded by Billy Graham.
            If “America’s preacher” has had such influence on me and my family, how many others around the world have been attracted to Jesus by this man who stuck to one message, the gospel of Christ?
            Upon Graham’s death, Lubbock pastor Mitch Wilson told Ray Westbrook of the Avalanche-Journal he also had attended the 1975 crusade.
            “I was just overwhelmed with those simple, clear, concise words of truth that drew me in,” Wilson recalled.
              Like my mother, Billy Graham finally had to slow down. And like her, he finished well.
                                                                    * * *
            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at haynescolumn@gmail.com. Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March 18, 2018, column:

Lewis argued for Christian faith in multiple writing genres


By Mike Haynes
            When people find out I’m a Beatles fan, they often ask which is my favorite song by the greatest band in history. Although on any given day I could pick a different one, I always reply, “I Saw Her Standing There,” because it’s fun, energetic rock ’n’ roll and because for me, the “Her” is my wife, Kathy.
            Nobody has asked who my most admired Christians are, but I do have a short list. There could be many more, but my Fab Three are Billy Graham, John Wesley and C.S. Lewis, now all in heaven forever with the only one really worthy of praise.
            In his almost 65 years on Earth, Lewis preached only a few sermons. His interaction with people in person was limited pretty much to those he encountered in his career as an Oxford and Cambridge professor. The British intellectual didn’t reach millions in stadiums and on television like Graham, and he didn’t start a new Christian movement like Wesley.
            But man, you could argue that his impact for God was right up there with anyone. Before and after his 1963 death, more than 120 million copies of his “Chronicles of Narnia” children’s books, which have a definite Christian theme, have been sold, according to the Steve Laube publishing agency. That number doesn’t include millions more of his overtly Christian books such as “Mere Christianity” and “The Screwtape Letters,” his science fiction novels or his scholarly writing on literature.
            Lewis is exceptional in that his arguments for the Christian faith and his subtle promotion of it in multiple writing genres appeal to all kinds of Christians, including evangelicals, Catholics and mainstream Protestants.
             So it isn’t surprising that even Amarillo, Texas, has at least one group that meets monthly to discuss his books, his life and his ideas.

            The Lewis Underground meets at 5:30 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month, usually in the clubhouse of the River Falls Apartments. It’s associated informally with the C.S. Lewis Foundation, based in Redlands, California, established in 1986. The foundation owns the Kilns, Lewis’ home in Oxford, England, which hosts visiting scholars and seminars, and stages regular Christian events.
            The Underground and the foundation don’t worship Lewis. Here’s a statement that both groups follow: “Inspired by the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the vision of the C.S. Lewis Foundation is to restore a vital Christian presence throughout higher education, the arts and the culture at large.”
            Many would agree that education, the arts and our culture all need a new infusion of Christian principles, and the local group is expanding its own presence by planning free public events.
            The first will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 26, at the Bible Chair of the Southwest at 512 SW 22nd Ave., across the street from Amarillo College. Although the organizers expect lots of college students to attend, the program will be of interest to anyone attracted to the ideas I’ve mentioned above.
            Dr. Mike Bellah, retired from the AC English department, will talk briefly about the concepts of friendship in Lewis’ writings. Randy Ray, who teaches mass media at West Texas A&M University, will bring some WT students to talk about their 2017 study trip to Oxford and Lewis’ stomping grounds. And Kirk Manton, a Trinity Fellowship staffer and a CSL Foundation regional representative, will talk about the foundation and its activities.
            On the arts front, Amarillo’s Randy Palmer will play and sing, and graphic artist Cody Watson will show his recent work. Local writer Nan Rinella will offer “low tea” in the form of English tea and scones.
            In “Mere Christianity,” Lewis called the world “enemy-occupied territory.” “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise,” he wrote, “and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
            The Lewis Underground, with its March 26 event and its monthly meetings, seeks to participate in that spiritual mission.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Feb. 18, 2018, column:
Standing in the cold was worth it to hear prayer at Mount Vernon
By Mike Haynes
            For someone who has trudged through snowy streets in blizzard conditions to help reenact the Boston Tea Party, I suppose it wasn’t that difficult to spend less than an hour in 32-degree weather – wind chill 16 degrees – to honor George Washington.
A Mount Vernon staff member, left, supervises a ceremony
Jan. 6 at the tomb of George and Martha Washington
in Virginia as two volunteers prepare to
move a wreath into the tomb.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            In December 2003, my wife, Kathy, and I were in Boston for a Simon and Garfunkel reunion concert. It so happens that on Dec. 16 each year, people gather at the Old South Meeting House, then march several blocks to Boston Harbor, where folks in 18th century costumes throw fake tea boxes off a small ship into the water.
            Knowing it probably would be our only chance to participate in defying British taxation, we walked the whole way to the harbor with snow blowing into our faces. Then we called a taxi as fast as we could.
            Fast-forward 14-plus years, and we found ourselves last month at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate outside Washington, D.C. No blizzard this time, but it was freezing as we waited with six other hardy tourists for the daily wreath-laying at Washington’s tomb.
            Considering the weather and the small crowd, the woman in charge of the ceremony asked whether we’d like to speed things up by not unfurling the American flag. A young woman said no, we should include the flag, so our group saw the entire event – although in the frigid air, there was no dillydallying.
            The short ceremony was impressive for a couple of reasons.
            One was the fact that anyone would brave the cold just to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, hear a prayer read aloud and to place a wreath in front of the two white, stone monuments containing the remains of George and Martha Washington.
            A young Asian man in the group volunteered to help place the wreath. He saw me taking photos and afterward asked if I would email some to him. He said the ceremony was so meaningful to him that he wanted to remember it. Putting his address into my phone, I found out that he worked at the University of Maryland, but he said he was leaving soon to return to China. He showed more reverence for the first president than I think many Americans would.
A man who was identified as a U.S. military
veteran reads George Washington's prayer
for America at a wreath-laying ceremony
Jan. 6 at the Washington tomb at Mount
Vernon, Virginia. (Photo by Mike Haynes) 
            Another aspect of the event that struck me was the natural inclusion of religion at the tomb and in the ceremony. A well-worn stone on the wall of the crypt is engraved with John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
            Washington clearly was a believer, more so than some of the other founders of the nation. He was open in welcoming various Christian denominations and minority religions and opposed an official state church like most of Europe had experienced for centuries, but in his 1796 farewell address upon leaving the presidency, he left no doubt that religion should play an important role in public life:
            “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
            At the ceremony last month, another young man who said he was a U.S. military veteran stepped forward to read Washington’s prayer for America, which the retiring general included in letters to the 13 state governors in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War.
            Wearing gloves and a canvas jacket, the young veteran solemnly read the first commander-in-chief’s prayer from a clipboard. With Washington’s birthday coming up Feb. 22 and considering the discord in the nation today, I believe it’s fitting to repeat all of it:
            “I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have the United States in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech thee, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

            Kathy and I take pride in our Boston Tea Party march through a blizzard, but we also are grateful that we didn’t let the cold keep us from hearing that prayer in front of the tomb of a statesman.


Friday, February 09, 2018

Feb. 7, 2018, story:
Late Amarillo businessman served in England during WWII

(This is a front-page story, not one of my Faith columns.)
By Mike Haynes
            A black-and-white photo shows Bob Williams and other Americans marching in an English village with local residents, young and old, dressed in their Sunday best, watching from the edge of the dirt street.
The scene helps illustrate the relationship between the United States and Great Britain during World War II as about 3 million U.S. soldiers were stationed on the British Isles or passed through to continental Europe during the war.
Capt. Bob Williams, right foreground, marches in
a village near Thorpe Abbotts Army Air Base
in England while he was stationed there
during World War II.
(Photo courtesy Medora Williams)

For Williams, a longtime Amarillo businessman who died in January, two months short of his 99th birthday, the bond between G.I.s and Brits was a good one. In an interview just after New Year’s, he said he and his buddies got along fine with the English people during his four years at the Thorpe Abbotts air base near Norwich in eastern England.
“He has fond memories of them,” said his wife, Medora, 77, who helped with the interview because of Williams’ health condition. “He would give them his cigarettes, because he didn’t smoke, and they’d give him eggs.”
Great Britain had been at war with Germany since 1939, and after Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States began sending troops across both the Pacific and the Atlantic. Williams was one of several thousand who reached England in 1942 on the British ship Queen Elizabeth.
The Lorena, Texas, native had enlisted before Pearl Harbor and recalled that during the voyage to England, the British broadcaster William Joyce, known as “Lord Haw-Haw,” was announcing the location coordinates of the Queen Elizabeth on the radio. Joyce was a Nazi propagandist based in Hamburg.
To avoid Nazi U-boats, the ship traveled as far south as Jamaica on the trip to England. Of course, Williams said, the Queen Elizabeth was heavily armed.
Unable to complete flight training because of an inner ear problem, Capt. Robert Henry Williams became an administrator at the Thorpe Abbotts base, home of the 100th Bomber Group, known as the “Bloody 100th.” He was an Army Air Corps captain in the 351st Bombardment Squadron, handling such duties as transportation, payroll and sorting the belongings of the many airmen who didn’t make it back from bombing runs over Germany and other sites in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Among Bob Williams' World War II memorabilia
are his Eisenhower-style Army jacket, his
certificate appointing him as an Army Air Corps
captain, his dog tags and a silk map used by
airmen flying over Europe.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
“He had to go through their personal effects and make sure there wasn’t anything the family didn’t need to see,” Medora said. “It was not easy duty. These were friends he had gotten acquainted with.”
London is known as a key target of German air raids, but other parts of England also suffered attacks. According to a military magazine clip in Williams’ scrapbook, English bases were laid out haphazardly, but on purpose, to protect from raids. If barracks and other facilities had been neatly arranged together, bombing damage could have been more serious. Thorpe Abbotts’ spread-out design also allowed more room for growing food in the days of strict rationing.
“All we got to eat for the first three months was ‘Billy beef stew,’” Williams said. “For breakfast, they’d put biscuits on it. It was corned beef from Argentina.”
Thorpe Abbots was attacked only twice, Williams said, with no loss of life. “We were strafed,” he said. “German fighter pilots strafed us.” But like Londoners, the base residents were accustomed to spending time in bomb shelters, and returning planes occasionally executed crash landings.
Williams said his group lost 273 bombers during the war during runs over factories, bridges and other German targets. He recalled one mission over the Netherlands that airlifted provisions to the population. His base was directly west across the English Channel from Amsterdam.
“Our planes dropped food over Holland,” he said. “They were hurting for food, and we flew
Bob Williams and his wife, Medora,
spent much of their retirement time on
fishing trips. Williams owned Builders
Supply in Amarillo for many years.
(Photo courtesy Medora Williams)
over at 500 feet.”
American servicemen in England who stayed as long as Williams certainly knew the cold weather and the landscape. Medora described the available transportation.
“He had a bicycle,” she said. “That’s what he had to ride into town on. She said bicycles had to be pushed up and over stiles, or steps that allowed them to go over railroad tracks.
Williams’ World War II scrapbook was a 2010 gift from Air Force friend Bob Spellacy. It includes photos of life on the base as well as copies of mission reports. A July 30, 1943, report provides a word picture of a bombing operation over Kassel, Germany. Some excerpts:
“Target and bombs away at 0935. … Terrific damage seen throughout. Large mushroom like column of smoke seen immediately rising to between 15 and 20,000 ft. … Flak and fighters followed us from coast to target and return. … Over target, flak concentrated and accurate. Received hits on our plane and most every plane received flak holes. We had about 7 or 8 flak holes …
“Hard to distinguish between enemy and P47’s but didn’t fire unless attacked. … 100th Grp. lost no planes, but other groups lost between 4 & 6 planes. Am a firm believer in tighter and tighter formations. …”
Capt. Bob Williams
The group leader ended with this recommendation:
“Suggest that new pilots fly 100 hours of battle formation, very closely, before tackling Gerry. It would prevent 80% of ship losses.” “Gerry” or “Jerry” was a term referring to the German enemy.
Another report included a personal complaint:
“All crews suffered severe cold. Wish to h--- they’d send us some electric suits to replace those that won’t work. It is impossible to work efficiently at hi alt. under very cold weather otherwise.”
The planes had names such as “War Eagle,” “Salvo Sal,” “Our Baby,” “Rosie’s Riveters,” “Just A-Snappin’” and “Piccadilly Lilly.”
An Oct. 8, 1943, mission to Bremen, Germany, illustrates the origin of the name, “Bloody 100th.” Of 21 bombers on the mission, seven – and their crews – did not return.
Williams didn’t fly on bombing missions, but he and others on the ground enabled them to happen. He saw the reports and knew who did and didn’t return to base. At his passing last month, he decreased by one the roughly 558,000 living American World War II survivors, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. About 16 million Americans
Capt. Bob Williams displays a crab during downtime
while stationed in England during World War II.
(Photo courtesy Medora Williams)
served in the war, and in Texas, just over 30,000 remain.
Williams came home on another British ship, the Queen Mary. He said it normally carried about 4,000 people but that 24,000 crowded onto its decks for the return trip at war’s end.
“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of when they came back,” Medora said. “It was really something.”
As a civilian in Amarillo since 1946, Williams completed his degree at the University of Texas at Austin and became a partner and later full owner of Builders Supply at 7th and Travis. He met Medora, a Houston native, on a fishing outing, and they were married for 40 years. One of their mutual loves was fishing. “He’s owned a lot of boats,” she said.
After a memorial service at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, Williams was buried in Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Katherine Lynn Davis. Survivors include his wife, Medora of Amarillo; his sister, Martha Harper of Salado; a niece; a nephew; two stepsons; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In his last week, Williams did not feel well enough to talk much. But the pride in his Army Air Force service showed through as he finished talking to a visitor:
“Medora, show him my Army jacket.”
Bob Williams' World War II scrapbook contains this dollar
bill with signatures of  Gen. Carl Spaatz and Gen. Jimmy
Doolittle.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jan. 28, 2018, story:

Director with Amarillo ties says Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., is nonsectarian

By Mike Haynes
            The new Museum of the Bible appears to be a good fit with the Smithsonian and other national museums in Washington, D.C. Its director, Dr. Tony Zeiss certainly thinks so.
            Zeiss, who took over as the MOTB executive director in 2017 three days after retiring from
Dr. Tony Zeiss
Museum of the Bible
executive director
(MOTB photo)
32 years as a community college president, said in his office Jan. 10 that the $500 million museum funded primarily by Hobby Lobby’s Green family presents its ancient manuscripts and cyber-technology in a neutral way in order to reach a wide audience.
            But he pointed out that people already versed in the Bible – such as many Texas Panhandle residents – will feel at home in the renovated refrigeration building just one subway stop from the National Mall.
            “We don’t interpret the Bible; we don’t promote any one faith tradition; we don’t promote any religion. We’re nonsectarian,” Zeiss said. “And we had to do that for obvious reasons. You limit your audience if you try to say, ‘This is just for Catholics, or this is just for Jewish people, or this is just for Protestants.
“The Bible is the foundation for at least seven, probably more, faith traditions, so we want to honor all of those, but really, we just want to focus on the Bible. We think the Bible will speak for itself.
“And I know the great people in West Texas, that’s what they would say. We don’t have to flaunt one thing or another; we just say, ‘Hey, let people get engaged with the Bible, and it will speak for itself.”
The illumiNations exhibit at Museum of the Bible highlights the universal
accessibility of the Bible with versions in more than 2,000 languages showcased.
Visitors can touch and read the books on the shelves, and the museum
still seeks to obtain copies in more languages. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
Zeiss, 71, has some credibility when talking about Texans.  The Indiana native’s Texas wife, Beth, is from Copperas Cove. He was a dean at Central Texas College in Killeen, where Beth was a library director. Zeiss, a Church of Christ Sunday school teacher, was on the board of Dallas-based motivational speaker Zig Ziglar for eight years.
As an educator, Zeiss said he has spoken at Amarillo College, and he is a longtime friend of former AC President Bud Joyner. And he has been an outdoor writer for Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine and for Centex Sportsman.
In addition, Zeiss has written more than 20 books on leadership, history and other topics.
The MOTB features documents that excite scholars, such as the Codex Climaci Rescriptus, which was one of the first artifacts the Greens bought in 2009. The CCR is a fifth to ninth century document that features Syriac script written over Greek biblical text that has been scratched off but is readable with multi-spectral imaging. Such modern technology is used by MOTB researchers, and museum visitors also will see high-tech features on each of the four main floors.
Christianity Today magazine cover,
November 2017
The cover of Christianity Today magazine last November, the month the facility opened, showed a Bible under glass. Zeiss said that image could be misleading; he described the $42 million spent on technology and interactive activities such as video tables where guests can write their own reactions with their fingers and the Hebrew Bible 45-minute walk-through experience that includes a realistic, brightly burning bush from the book of Genesis.
“The fire department heard about it and came over here to see it, not realizing there’s no fire to it,” Zeiss said.
Years before the museum opened, its staff was posting Facebook videos and other social media items with scholars explaining biblical art, pieces of Egyptian papyrus or the ongoing construction of the “World of Jesus of Nazareth.”
“We’ve created as much of an interactive experience as possible,” Zeiss said. “Especially, you look at millennials and younger, that’s what they want; that’s what they’ve grown up with.
The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., includes a replica of the press
on which Johannes Gutenberg printed his Latin Bible in 1455 in Mainz, Germany.
The Gutenberg Bible was the first complete book printed in Europe with
movable type. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
“We were up somewhere just below the Louvre in terms of hits on social media. People want to know about it. And they sense that we’re making history here.”
He also recommended a New Testament video in a wraparound theater.
“I took Ambassador Ron Dermer from Israel and his family on a tour, and they liked that as much as they like the Hebrew Bible experience,” he said.
Dermer’s involvement is typical of the wide net the museum has spread in its exhibits, research and education efforts. He said the MOTB board wanted to avoid criticism of its quality and focus.
“We knew we needed academic credibility from the get-go, or we would get all sorts of criticism,” Zeiss said. “You’re going to get it anyway; it’s the Bible, probably one of the most criticized books in the history of mankind.
“So we have used over 100 scholars to vet everything you read, every video you watch, every word you hear, for accuracy and authenticity.
“That in itself was a huge task, because we had Hebrew scholars, Catholic scholars, Protestant scholars and scholars of no faith. To get them to come together and synthesize all of that, to come together and agree on how these things should be presented, was pretty major.”
Some religion-based attractions, such as the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, promote a particular Christian agenda.
“We’re not,” Zeiss said. “That’s how we were able to achieve loans from world-class museums around the world. This is the first, as far as I know, comprehensive, world-class museum to the Bible in history.”
The MOTB has attracted temporary exhibits from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Vatican, the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Germany, and from Jewish libraries in Amsterdam. Zeiss said the Israeli collection is from the national museum in Jerusalem.
“They have never loaned out their artifacts before, but they believe in this concept, and so they have an entire gallery and sent over 1,250 artifacts,” he said.
A temporary exhibit on the song, “Amazing Grace,” coincided with a musical in the MOTB’s World Stage Theater and focused on the role the anti-slavery movement played in John Newton’s writing the celebrated song.
Another example of the museum’s ecumenical approach is the year-long residency of Rabbi
Rabbi Eliezer Adam of Jerusalem is a scribe spending a year
at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Adams
demonstrates to visitors how scribes copied the Torah centuries ago.
 (Photo by Mike Haynes)
Eliezer Adam, who Zeiss said is a certified scribe from Jerusalem. Adam works at a small desk, allowing visitors to watch him write portions of the Torah in the manner done centuries ago.
“You ought to see how he captures people’s attention,” Zeiss said.
Beyond the D.C. building, the MOTB has wide-ranging research and educational programs. The Scholars Initiative pairs college students with academic experts, and a digital-based curriculum ties in with the MOTB’s three areas of focus: the Bible’s history, narrative and impact.
            About 100,000 high school students in Israel already are beta-testing the material, Zeiss said, along with 40,000 in Great Britain and some at U.S. Christian private schools. “Again, it’s nonsectarian,” Zeiss said. “It’s just about the Bible.”
            As president of community colleges in Pueblo, Colorado, and Charlotte, North Carolina, Zeiss was known for getting projects done and raising funds for them. Now he faces a challenge of generating more than $36 million a year to operate a museum with 170 full-time and 35 part-time employees. Admission to the MOTB is free, so income comes from gift shop and other sales, museum member donations and guests’ suggested donations.
             Then-Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan told Charlotte Magazine in 2012, “What I love about Dr. Zeiss is that he’s passionate about whatever he’s passionate about. And he’s passionate about many things.”

            One of those things is the Bible, which seems to make him a good fit for this museum. “That’s why I’m here,” he said.