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.”