Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dec. 17, 2017, column:
Learning new things every day is exciting
By Mike Haynes
            An Amarillo College student told me last week that her mother puts sugar and a crushed pain killer tablet in their Christmas tree’s water to keep the tree fresh longer.
            My reply was, “Well, you learn something new every day.”
            That holiday practice may or may not be a sound one, but I hadn’t heard of it before. And it reminded me that in 2017, I’ve had more opportunities than ever to discover how little I know.
It doesn’t bother me; in fact, it’s exciting.
            A few years ago when I was receiving a writing-related honor, my parents also gave me a little trophy that included small human figures climbing up a stack of books. The base had a quote from Benjamin Disraeli:
            “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”
            Here’s a list of a few people who have highlighted my ignorance in 2017:
Martin Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses” to the
door of the Wittenburg church in 1517 has been
much noted in 2017, but few outside the academic
community know that although Luther escaped
harm for his criticism of the Catholic Church, others
didn’t. In November, West Texas A&M University
hosted a display of original documents from the
Remnant Trust, including Luther’s 1528 account
of “The Execution of Leonhard Kaiser.” Kaiser
was a Luther supporter who was burned at
the stake in 1527 for his Protestant views. 

·         Dr. Bruce Brasington, West Texas A&M history professor. I had read a book about Martin Luther in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and even perused a copy of Luther’s famous “95 theses.” Then I watched a video of Brasington’s Remnant Trust lecture on the Reformation last month and realized how my knowledge of Luther is the tip of the iceberg. The WT historian quoted supporters and detractors of the German theologian through the centuries, including John Adams and Frederick Douglas, who both wrote that he inspired freedom, and John Locke, who said Luther just replaced Catholic intolerance with his own.
·         Jerry Klein, Jon Kohler and Mural Worthey, Amarillo College Bible chair directors. Those three men are trained in the field, so of course they know more than most of us. But hearing their views in weekly Bible studies has impressed upon me that they and many local ministers are founts of biblical knowledge, not to mention wisdom.
·         Dr. Andrew Hay, Denver Seminary’s West Texas site director. Yes, you can earn a seminary degree in Amarillo. I didn’t go that route, but I took four religion “lite” courses that Hay taught, ending this May. You have to concentrate to keep up with the many theological ideas, controversies and heresies in Christianity from the first century to now. Have you thought about gnosticism and why the early church rejected it? Did you know that some sermons you’ve heard originated with early church fathers such as Polycarp, who probably knew some of Jesus’ disciples and died as a martyr?
·         C.S. Lewis’ book, “Surprised by Joy.” Most known for “Mere Christianity” and the Narnia children’s books, Oxford professor Lewis may have been the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century. Anywhere you start in his writings is going to spur your imagination and your intellect. I find myself re-reading sentence after sentence to unpack the meaning I missed the first time. And members of an Amarillo C.S. Lewis group dig deeper than I would on my own.
The Remnant Trust, based at Texas Tech University,
provided this 1528 account by Martin Luther
of “The Execution of Leonhard Kaiser” as part
of a display at West Texas A&M University in
November 2017. 
·         Joy Jordan-Lake’s new novel, “A Tangled Mercy.” Jordan-Lake, who wrote Amarillo College’s 2014 Common Reader book, has a new fictional story based on a real planned revolt in 1822 by slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. The book hits your emotions with great impact, and it also lets you know that the Charleston church that was the center of that 1822 attempted uprising is the same church that was the scene of the racist mass shooting in 2015.
I could go on. Each of those people has shown me just in a few months how much is to be learned from the past. This week, a friend posted this quote on Facebook from St. Augustine, one of those church fathers:
“A person does not go wrong when he knows that he does not know something, but only when he thinks he knows something he does not know.”
     I want to actually know a lot. But one cool thing about Christianity is that in the end, you really don’t have to know whether Luther was good or bad for the world or what the Arian heresy is. You just need to know that man is separated from God, that belief in Jesus Christ fixes that problem and that our response should be to love God and to love each other.
That’s all it takes for us to appreciate Luke 2:10-11:

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nov. 12, 2017, column:
Collectors, others peruse ancient texts at OKC convention
By Mike Haynes
            Narrow, portable tables lined three walls of a hotel meeting room in Oklahoma City. They were filled with neatly arranged Bibles, church-related books and pages of ancient Bibles, some for sale and some just for display.
            The tables held everything from a single page of the original 1611 King James Bible to a four-inch-thick German book, also from the 1600s, containing sermons and scripture commentary in 1,344 pages. Above the German book was a note asking anyone in the room whether they could identify the author; the title page was missing.
Ancient and more recent Bibles and related
material were on display at the
International Society of Bible Collectors
convention in October in Oklahoma City.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)

            It was likely that someone attending the two-day convention of the International Society of Bible Collectors might have had the answer to the question. It was a small group, but the men and a few women making up this organization included seminary professors, former missionaries, pastors, a retired Air Force chaplain, authors, a retired physician and sellers of old Bibles.
            When these people say “old,” they don’t mean Grandmother’s family Bible from 1900. For the most part, they collect Bibles from the 1600s and before, and they are fascinated with the story of the various translations and editions that have transmitted God’s Word from ancient Hebrew times to handwritten copies in the Middle Ages to Gutenberg’s revolution in the 1450s to the Bibles the pilgrims brought to America – which weren’t the King James Version, by the way, but the English-language Geneva Bible, which was more popular in 1620, especially with the Puritans.
            The 2017 meeting was in Oklahoma City because that’s the home of Hobby Lobby, whose owners, the Green family, started collecting ancient Bibles and artifacts in 2009. The Greens have expanded that endeavor so fast that on Nov. 17, the Museum of the Bible will open in Washington, D.C., three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
            The D.C. museum won’t just show off dusty old Bibles; it is a high-tech, eight-story, $500 million facility funded by the Greens and private donations. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you will.
            Much of the Green collection is stored in Oklahoma City when it isn’t rotated for display in
Amy Van Dyke, Oklahoma City exhibition curator for Museum
of the Bible, gives a presentation on art and the Bible at the
International Society of Bible Collectors convention in October.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
Washington, and the ISBC members got to visit a cold warehouse to see items such as a piece of papyrus, around 2,000 years old, with Psalms 95-97 on it in Greek. A museum scholar displayed a letter written in 1518 by Martin Luther while on his way to be questioned at Augsburg, Germany. The letter includes the sentence, “I stand here fixed,” expressed three years before Luther reportedly said, “Here I stand” at a famous interrogation at Worms.
            Back at the hotel meeting room, members of the Bible group spoke on such topics as “The 21st Century Relevance of a 17th Century Bible Translation,” in which Dr. Donald Brake said the 1611 King James version’s language still is important although modern translations can be better for study. Dr. John Hellstern discussed, “Bible Collectors: Why do we do what we do?”
This 4-inch by 6-inch manuscript Bible,
possibly created by a professional scribe
in Paris in the early 1200s, was on display
at a Bible collectors’ convention in
Oklahoma City in October.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            And while there is a strong similarity to stamp or coin collecting, this group has an underlying commonality that goes beyond just accumulating stuff. I asked Hellstern about his work in England as a military chaplain, and he was proud that 103 soldiers had been baptized during his three years there. Part of the purpose of the ISBC, founded in 1964, is “promoting the preservation, study and understanding of the Bible…”

            Several of the members give presentations in their hometowns that focus on the sacrifices people have made through the centuries to ensure that the Bible has been copied, printed and distributed. Brake, Hellstern and others have donated their collections to the Dunham Bible Museum at Houston Baptist University.
            And a stained edition of the Geneva Bible, printed in London the same year as the first KJV, rested on a table with a note that that read: “It survived 406 years! In a cardboard cover! … Maybe it is not good if yours survives that long! Read your Bible every day.”
            I have the Bible collecting bug myself, which is why I drove to OKC for the convention. I restrained myself and bought only a $25 page from a 1582 Catholic Bible. I wasn’t in the market for the three-inch-thick French Bible from the 1200s, transcribed by hand on 4- by 6-inch pages with colorful embellishments. Its asking price was $50,000.

            The next ISBC convention will be next fall in Washington, D.C. I’m not waiting until then to visit that new museum.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Oct. 8, 2017, column:
Downhome stories don't mean sitcom is unsophisticated
(If you click on the link above, ignore the newspaper's headline. It doesn't reflect what the column says. The headline you see here is closer. I don't write the newspaper headlines.)
By Mike Haynes
            One of the TV comedies that Kathy and I faithfully record is in its ninth and last season.
            The producers of “The Middle” have decided to stop while it’s still hale and hearty. It will be missed – not only because, as one fan said, it’s “finally a show I can watch with my family,” but because despite its small-town, folksy theme, its writing and cast are up there in quality with those of supposedly more sophisticated shows.
            “The Middle” chronicles the foibles of the Heck family in fictional Orson, Indiana – in the
The main characters in "The Middle" are the Heck
family, clockwise from center: Frankie,  Mike,
Sue, Axl and Brick. 
middle of the country geographically and culturally, thus its title.
            The Heck clan consists of Mike (Neil Flynn, formerly of “Scrubs”) and Frankie (Patricia Heaton, formerly of “Everybody Loves Raymond”), the parents who often are inept but keep family values in their sights; the snarky son, Axl (Charlie McDermott), who gets by on his charm and athletic ability; the daughter, Sue (Eden Sher), who is the definition of anonymous loser but has a sweet smile through every failure; and the bookworm, Brick (Atticus Shaffer), whose many tics include repeating words in whispers. (Whispers.)
            The sitcom probably hasn’t broken any new ground, but it certainly reflects the traditional values of many Americans, including religious values. The Hecks attend church (most of the time), they feel guilty about not always volunteering for community projects, and Sue finds inspiration in her youth minster, Rev. Tim Tom (Paul Hipp), who dispenses advice to young people with his guitar and spontaneous lyrics.
            “Jesus was a teenager, too,” Rev. Tim Tom sings. “Beneath the long hair and pimples, King of the Jews. A lonely teenage savior no one could understand. Awkward on the outside, but inside a wise young man. Yeah, Jesus was a teenager, too.”
That example may not be entirely scriptural, but it’s obvious someone involved in the show understands church life. One who does is Heaton, a Cleveland native whose Frankie character isn’t quite as organized or sensible as her Debra Barone in “Raymond.”
            Heaton, who has won three Emmys, made headlines in 2003 when she walked out of the American Music Awards without giving her scheduled live introduction to a video package. She was fed up by what she called “an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks” by performers on stage.
            She has spoken often about her faith and told Christianity Today magazine that her Hollywood success is a result of God opening doors. In 2014, she was an executive producer and star of “Moms’ Night Out,” a movie with a strong Christian message.
             My wife and I do like another show, also in its ninth season, that has been more of a pop culture darling – I think because it emphasizes diversity and social issues. “Modern Family,” set in suburban L.A., is one of the most intelligently funny sitcoms on the air and features a talented cast, hilarious situations and great physical comedy. It has won more awards than “The Middle.”
            At first glance, many probably see the two comedies as polar opposites, like they’re the sitcom counterparts to the mod “Laugh-In” and the folksy “Heehaw” of the 1960s and 1970s. If they dismiss “The Middle” as lightweight cornpone, though, they’re wrong.
            The humor in both shows comes from mostly plausible situations and realistic conversations, not from a series of one-liners followed by a laugh-track.
            I suspect “The Middle” initially appeals to people with more conservative lifestyles and to middle class folks; to others, those can be negatives. But people who live between the coasts identify with a family that mishandles money, whose kids worry not about getting into a prestigious college but into any college and whose daughter tries out for every high school group and always gets rejected.
            Lots of middle Americans also get it when Brick goes to church camp or when the Hecks would rather get to the all-you-can-eat buffet than endure a counseling session with a new pastor. “The Middle” isn’t a show about religion, but it treats belief as a genuine part of life that occasionally crops up in the plot.
The Hecks come across as a family that quarrels but sticks together. Consider this exchange:
            Mike: “They’re good kids. If this is the worst of it, we’ll be fine.” Frankie: “You’re right. We’re lucky.” Mike: “Very lucky.” Frankie: “Of course, we could be luckier.” Mike “Don’t I know it.”
            I can see Kathy and I buying the complete series on DVD – but like the Hecks would, only after it drops to half-price. (Half-price.)
                                                                    * * *

            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.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sept. 3, 2017, column:
Folks from Texas Panhandle join trip to Oxbridge
By Mike Haynes
            Two of the most beautiful places on the planet are settings for some of the most enlightening intellectual encounters in the world.
            The rising spires of Oxford University and the shining river flowing next to Cambridge University both stir thoughts and emotions in the minds of students, faculty and visitors to those ancient English towns.
            For 10 days this summer, scores of men and women soaked up academic and spiritual refreshment in those surroundings at the C.S. Lewis Foundation Summer Institute, popularly known as Oxbridge.
             And four Amarillo area people were instrumental in making Oxbridge happen.
The technical team for the 2017 C.S. Lewis Summer Institute at Oxford and
Cambridge, England, included three men from Great Britain, two from
Colorado and from the Amarillo area, George Hutcheson, lower left;
Randy Ray, lower right; Ryan Putman, center; and Kirk Manton, second
from right in back row. (Photo by Lancia E. Smith for the C.S. Lewis Foundation)
          The event occurs once every three years, and the 2017 edition explored the theme, “Irrigating Deserts and Cultivating Gardens: Pursuing Calling with Purpose and Hope.” The topic came from something the renowned scholar and Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote in “The Abolition of Man” in 1943:
  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.”
            That statement fits well with Lewis’ consistent encouragement of imagination, which the C.S. Lewis Foundation also does. “Advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression” is part of the foundation’s mission, and those who attend Oxbridge rub elbows for a week and a half with scholars, clergy, musicians and artists – half while staying in rooms of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford and half at Cambridge’s Robinson College.
            Amarillo has had a presence at several of the triennial Oxbridge events. As he has before, Trinity Fellowship staff member, poet and photographer Kirk Manton headed up the 2017 volunteer technical team that also included Randy Ray, a West Texas A&M University communication faculty member; Ryan Putman of Amarillo and George Hutcheson of Dallas and formerly of Amarillo. In 2011, Amarilloan Daniel Innis assisted Manton at Oxbridge.
Longtime CSL Foundation volunteer and writer Nan Rinella has helped with Oxbridge and other foundation events but wasn’t able to make it to England this summer.
“This work has afforded me the opportunity to serve God in ways I never would have thought possible,” Manton said. “I have been able to combine three of the great passions of my life: my love of serving God with my technical skills related to lighting, sound and video, my joy of seeing my friends get the opportunities to travel and fulfill their dreams of exploring the life and locations associated with C.S. Lewis and our rich Christian heritage in England, as well as feed my love for the academic life focused on the mind and imagination, integrated with a deep faith and spiritual renewal.”
Some of that Oxbridge renewal from July 24 to Aug. 3 was inspired by speakers such as author Larry Crabb; Helen Mitchell, who writes about faith and work; Stan Mattson, founder of the CSL Foundation; and Walter Hooper, who was C.S. Lewis’ personal secretary in the last months of Lewis’ life in 1963.
Artists included Malcolm Guite, an Anglican priest, a fellow of Girton College at Cambridge, a poet and founder of the rock band, Mystery Train; the Ad Deum Dance Company from Houston; and the City of Oxford Orchestra.
Those men and women were only a few of the speakers and artists on the program.
The Amarillo technical crew was joined by three British men and two from Colorado. They were working but also got to experience much of the institute.
“I loved my time at Oxbridge,” said Ray, a Pampa native. “For those of us who have a deep appreciation for C.S. Lewis, it provided a chance to get to know this hero of the faith better.
“I walked Addison’s Walk, where Lewis made his conversion to Christianity. I saw where he taught at Oxford and Cambridge. I went to the local pubs where he met with his colleagues (including J.R.R. Tolkien, the “Lord of the Rings” author). I even had the unique privilege of spending the night in his bedroom at his home, the Kilns.
“Those few days of walking in his steps made a profound impact on me.”
The CSL Foundation owns the Kilns, where Lewis and his brother, Warnie, lived even after Lewis left Oxford to teach at Cambridge.        
            The academic setting might sound daunting to some, but according to the foundation’s website,, Oxbridge “is for anyone interested in the theme,” whether they are laypeople, professors, business people, clergy, students or teachers.
            “What is common is a love of faith, learning, fellowship and the arts.”
            If those criteria apply to you, I suggest saving up for Oxbridge 2020.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017, column:
By Mike Haynes
            My grandfather, John C. Haynes, died at age 95. I’m not sure what were the last things he counted, but he was well aware of numbers.
            Grandad, as we called him, could do math in his head faster than I could turn on a calculator. He taught his grandkids how to count to 20 in Spanish. And milestones were a big deal to him.
            He had been a Gulf Oil distributor, a rancher and a mayor, but he also learned much when, as a young man, he worked in area banks. He recalled the day when Charles Goodnight came in to his office – I believe in Pampa – to sign some paperwork.
John C. Haynes

            From his bank experience, Grandad passed on to us how to properly fold a business letter and how to keep good records. And he did plenty of record-keeping in his head.
            We joked about all his 50-year-old stories, but his memory was impressive. He knew how many acres were donated to build the McLean golf course in 1927; the number of miles covered by the Bunion Derby, the 1928 race from Los Angeles to New York that crossed the Texas Panhandle and included football legend Red Grange; and of course, the number of bulls and heifers that were branded on the ranch each summer.
            He also counted inconsequential things such as pieces of baling wire he picked up around the barn and the white strings that were pulled from tow sacks. After he lost most of his sight, Grandad did a lot of walking – and he counted his steps. He could tell you how many paces it was from our house to his pasture two miles away.
            He was curious. He would ask an adult grandchild, “Well now, honey, how much do you weigh these days?”
            And those milestones. He wanted us to know about his 50th year in the Masonic Lodge, the same for the Lions Club, his charter membership in the Methodist Church and that he had moved as a child from Missouri to Texas in 1909.
            Noticing significant events extends to my parents’ generation. My mother played the organ at church for three decades. At age 86, Dad just got his second hole-in-one with a seven-iron on the eighth hole at that McLean golf course.
            So you can see where I got the urge to note a small milestone this month. I have just passed 20 years of writing this column. I had done columns for the Amarillo Globe-News since 1991, but in 1997 then-executive editor Cathy Martindale asked me to write for the new Beliefs and Ethics section, later renamed the Faith section. I leaped at the chance.
             I suppose my two main goals have been variety and a positive attitude. As I told my Amarillo College journalism students, an opinion column can be many things, and I’ve tried to fill this space with different types of writing.
Topics have included the role of religion in “Star Wars,” the Kairos prison ministry, the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, differences between evangelical and mainline Protestant churches, a local woman who became a synagogue cantor, a nun who graduated from AC, styles of music and dress at church, a visit to Wesley Chapel in London, intelligent design, a rodeo ministry, Hollywood’s treatment of religion, Franklin Graham’s 2000 festival at Dick Bivins Stadium – and many mentions of my hometown; my family; travels with my wife, Kathy; and Christian writer C.S. Lewis.
I’ve managed to find religion angles for the Beatles, “Downton Abbey,” Travis’ 1836 letter from the Alamo, author Harper Lee and area Indian battles.
I get the most positive feedback when I write about personal, nostalgic and local topics such as Christmas Eve services or the passing on of family or friends. But I also like to touch on history, theology, compelling books and inspiring people.
            All along, I’ve kept in mind column No. 1, in which I recalled a talk by Philip Yancey. The best-selling author had said that many Christians are satisfied with good intentions rather than effectively competing in a creative way with destructive trends in popular culture. And I quoted the late writer Bob Briner:
“… there’s a better way to do something about it than simply preach against it. The best way to stop the spread of evil is to replace it with something good.”
I want to keep documenting and commenting on people, places and events in a way that shows the truth and rewards of the Christian message.
Grandad died a few months after that first religion column. And not that anyone’s counting, but this is column No. 397.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 23, 2017, story:
Navigating business and faith

New Amarillo baseball owner also heads up Christian group

By Mike Haynes
            Amarillo and Texas Panhandle residents know D.G. Elmore as the face of the Elmore Sports Group, which plans to move the AA San Antonio Missions baseball team into Amarillo’s future $45.5 million baseball stadium in 2019.
            Elmore certainly is a leader in sports business as well as heading up travel, food and other enterprises. But ballpark crowds and wheeling and dealing aren’t the only priorities for the 59-year-old Indiana resident. He also puts great importance on one-on-one interactions where the topic is a little more lofty.

D.G. Elmore
           He’s chairman of the U.S. board of directors of the international Christian organization the Navigators, and he’s as comfortable talking about making disciples as he is about making profits.
            “I came to faith in high school through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” he said in a July 11 interview. The spiritual growth of Elmore and his wife, Gini, grew when they got involved in couples Bible studies in college.
            “We had been walking with Christ a number of years, but it was through the Navigators ministry at Indiana University that we learned how to really become practical disciples, how to walk with Jesus,” he said.
            The Navigators have been around since the 1930s, when young Californian Dawson Trotman took 2 Timothy 2:2 to heart and began a ministry of teaching Christian basics to others, who would pass on the teachings in a chain of personal relationships. The international headquarters are in Colorado Springs.
            Elmore said the organization complements local churches. “We come alongside people and help them grow in a one-on-one relationship which supplements what the church does,” he said. “The Navigators has zero interest in being a church.”
            Locally, Mitch and Jaylene Williamson lead the Navigator ministry at West Texas A&M University. Bruce and Rosie Das, who started the WT group, still head up Navigator Bible studies in the area. Amarillo College had a group sponsored by David Ziegler until Ziegler retired from AC last year.
D.G. Elmore speaks at a June news conference
announcing the new Amarillo baseball team.
(Photo by Michael Schumacher/Amarillo Globe-News)
            Elmore has been U.S. board chairman since 2011. He is just the fourth person in the position, having succeeded 80-year-old Jerry White, a retired Air Force major general, author and still a nationally competitive handball player.
            “Our DNA is about making disciples and doing it one-on-one,” Elmore said. “It’s not events. It’s not large groups. It is meeting with people over coffee, it’s meeting with people for a meal, talking about where they’re at in their relationship with Christ.”
            Fans of the new Amarillo baseball team or patrons of other events at the stadium won’t necessarily see overt displays of the Christian message, although Elmore said most of his company’s other ballparks have a “faith night” along with other special promotions.
            “We’ll be looking for all sorts of entertainment to go along with baseball,” he said. “Certainly Christian acts would fall in line with that. When we had our team in Birmingham, we partnered up with an evangelist, we’d bring in a Christian band, and usually if there was a player who was a really strong follower of Christ, they would give their testimony.
            “In other cases, it’s much more low key, where faith night is one night where we’re trying to get a bunch of the churches to come out and generally have a Christian band playing afterwards or before.
            “Whether it’s a church group from a smaller community in the Panhandle or a larger church in Amarillo, we want every night to be one of those nights where they’re going to feel like this is a great event and a good time to be together.”
            Over a baseball season, however, Elmore said the plan is for everyone to feel comfortable, whatever their beliefs. For those interested, beer will be sold at the games.
            “All of minor league baseball is about family-friendly, affordable entertainment,” he said. “We want to bring that for everybody. We’re trying to create that type of environment that anybody and everybody can have a great time enjoying an evening at the ballpark.
            “I think it’s going to be awesome in Amarillo and in the Panhandle.
            “Our desire is to serve and care for and love our fans in the way that we believe a follower of Christ should care for a community. Whatever religion, non-religion, if they feel cared for and served, that’s fine. I think that’s how Christ really wants us to operate in society: to communicate love and care for people wherever they’re at.”
            Elmore isn’t new to Texas or Amarillo. His law and master’s degrees are from Indiana University, but his bachelor’s degree is from SMU in Dallas. His freshman roommate was from Amarillo. But his base is Bloomington, Indiana, where he helped start a local group 25 years ago called Men’s Life.
             “It was started before all the churches had men’s groups, before Promise Keepers,” he said. “We currently have a quarterly men’s luncheon where we bring in a guest speaker to share how their faith in Christ interacts with the world they live in, whether it’s in Congress or in business or in medicine, how that all connects.”
            Elmore said Amarillo baseball fans won’t see Christian banners hanging in the new stadium. “If there are people who have zero interest in Christ, I just want them to have the aroma of Christ when they come into our ballpark,” he said. He paraphrased the advice attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Always preach Christ, and only if necessary, use words.”
            “That’s how I see helping people move toward Jesus – how I love them and how I serve them – not by handing them a tract, not by hanging a cross up. I want them to say, ‘There’s something different about that guy.’”

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25, 2017, column:
Kentucky exhibits will stimulate your thinking
By Mike Haynes
            On vacation in the “hollers” of eastern Kentucky, in the heart of Hatfield-McCoy feud country, you wouldn’t expect to see a world-class archeological exhibit from Israel.
            Yet that’s exactly what Kathy and I toured this summer in Pikeville, Kentucky.
Khirbet El-Maqatir Exhibit Director
Tommy Chamberlin displays potsherds
at least 2,000 years old at the York House
in Pikeville, Kentucky, this month.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            We were interested in how Kathy’s mom, Peggy, is kin to the McCoys – by marriage, it turns out. And cousin Joey took us on a fun and fascinating survey of Hatfield-McCoy sites, including the location of the “hog trial” that escalated the violence.
            But in the restored 1870s York House, two doors down from the final home of feud participant Randolph McCoy, we saw artifacts that were quite a bit older than the house.
          A brick, about a foot square, from Nebuchadnezzar’s temple in Babylon was one of hundreds of items in a temporary exhibit in this university town of 7,300 people. On the brick, dated about 570 B.C., is a cuneiform inscription of the biblical king’s name.
            We saw a “tear-catcher,” maybe three inches high, from 2,000 years ago. The ancients used the little glass bottles to capture their tears – sometimes to place in tombs to honor the dead.
              We got to hold in our hands a couple of items, including sling stones from the Roman era but similar to those of King David’s time 1,000 years before. These stones were up to tennis ball size and heavy; it’s easy to see how much damage they could have done to Goliath’s forehead at more than 100 mph.
            Most of the artifacts, on display at least until late summer, are from digs at the Khirbet El-Maqatir site north of Jerusalem, which has yielded material from four time periods. The latest artifacts are from a Byzantine monastery (A.D. 375-525), and the oldest date to a Bronze Age fortress (1500-1406 B.C.)
Archeologists with the Associates for Biblical Research
estimate that this sling stone is from the Roman period
in Israel, or about 2,000 years old.It’s on display
at the Khirbet El-Maqatir Exhibit in Pikeville, Kentucky.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            Exhibit Director Tommy Chamberlin told us that archeologists with the Associates for Biblical Research believe the site not only may be the location of the Old Testament city of Ai, conquered by Joshua, but also the New Testament village of Ephraim. John 11:54 says Jesus “withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his
disciples” before entering Jerusalem for his trial and crucifixion.
            So Kathy and I may have handled some pottery sherds that Jesus or his followers touched. Probably not, but maybe.
            The enthusiastic Chamberlin was leaving days later for another dig in Israel, but we had more history in store right there in Kentucky. After the family visit near Pikeville, Kathy, Peggy and I made a stop at the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Ark Encounter near Williamstown, Kentucky
is a complete museum with three decks of exhibits.
The full-size Noah’s Ark between Cincinnati, Ohio,
and Lexington, Kentucky, is 510 feet long,
85 feet wide and 51 feet tall.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)

            Again, we were pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect Disney-like quality from the two Christian attractions, but that’s what we got, from first-rate animations depicting the biblical flood to the 510-foot-long ark built to the specs of Genesis.
            Whether you believe the literal interpretation of Genesis as the museum and ark creators do, both sights – at separate locations 45 miles apart – are worth the admission fees. The museum has beautiful, Universal Studios-worthy depictions of the Garden of Eden plus an outdoor petting zoo and much more. The red serpent certainly is creepy.
Noah lets a dove go through a skylight in this
static display inside the Ark Encounter
near Williamstown, Kentucky.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            The ark is basically a three-floor walking museum showing what it might have been like for Noah, his family and all those animals living for a year on the immense vessel. Hundreds of pottery jugs, wooden cages and lifelike animals fill in details left out in the biblical account.
            Of course, the modern version is air-conditioned and has plenty of restrooms – and a gift shop, of course.
            Plus, it includes dinosaurs; but even if you’re skeptical that those reptiles and humans lived at the same time, this ark is worth seeing.
            Before guests exit either the Creation Museum or the ark, they have a chance to read wall displays tying in the entire Christian narrative from creation to the story of Jesus and how it applies today.
            Cousin Joey recalled how his aunt never wanted to leave the steep hills of eastern Kentucky. She would place her hands in a V-shape, indicating those hills on each side of her “holler,” and say that in that valley, she felt safe in the hands of God.

            Whatever your specific beliefs about the Creator, Kentucky offers plenty of opportunity to stimulate your thinking. 

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.”