Wednesday, July 28, 2010

War Heroes and Victims

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO
Although we've gotten off schedule here in the hot days of July, the Ozark Uncle's almost 14-year-old grandson, James Brown, and I try to walk a trail in the area once a week.  James is keen into nature while his younger brother, Louis, age 12, is the athlete (soccer goalie/golfer) in the family.  Thus, Grandpa Brown's field trips generally involve one grandchild or another which makes for a great time always.
James "the Genius" Brown
The Brown family has lots of little traditions, and the Ozark Uncle has several personal ones; for example, one is never play the same golf course twice in a row (course familiarity breeds good scores which leads to false self-image of said golfer's ability--actually the Ozark Uncle has never had this problem regardless).  Another is to never walk the same set of trails twice in a row--the Ozark Uncle gets bored easily.  Last, having tried it once, the Ozark Uncle vows never to piss in the wind (especially in southwest Kansas -- background story forthcoming in a future post).

File photo from Wilson's Creek Site
In late June, James and I had chosen for our weekly excursion the foot trails at Wilson's Creek Battlefield about eight miles southwest of Springfield.  We parked the Ozark Uncle's 2003 Ford Escape on the Confederate (east) side of  Wilson's Creek near the hill where on the morning of August 10, 1861, Pulaski's Confederate cannon bombarded the Union lines on Bloody Hill across the creek valley to the west.

Knowing Bloody Hill was the tallest, Papa Brown had planned a hike that would allow the pair of us to trudge  up to the apex of Bloody Hill before heading back to the Ford Escape; under this plan, he allowed himself a downhill walk for the last half of the trek.  So not far from the parked Escape we found the path that led to the top of Pulaski Battery Hill; there we took time to discuss the cannon on display and look across the creek valley toward Bloody Hill.

File Photo of Battery Hill
Immediately James declared that the cannon was really a Howitzer; he noted the green corrosion on the chamber and tapped his knuckles near the barrel end to bring out its bell ringing quality.  At the time, I was dubious about the cannon being a Howitzer, but did not dispute my grandson's claim.  A wise move on the Ozark Uncle's part because alas a quick check on the internet later in the day confirmed that, yes, these cannon pieces were called Howitzers, the same name as the enhanced versions that appeared in the World Wars of the 20th Century.

From Pulaski's hill, we headed down the "wire road" which dates back before the Civil War; it was actually used by the Confederates on their trek out of Arkansas to their camp site at Wilson's Creek.   Had we been on that road in 1861, we would have seen thousands of men camped out in this valley along the creek.  While many were dressed in Confederate gray, other types and colors of uniforms were used.  Uniform confusion would lead to the Union defeat that day in 1861.  (The scapegoat for the Union became Col. Franz Sigel who advanced his brigade from the south right into a unit he thought was Union because of its blue uniforms when in fact it was a Confederate unit--he was routed and that turned the tide toward the Confederates).

File photo of Wilson's Creek
I digress, back to 2010.  For James and me, crossing over Wilson's Creek to the west or Union side is by way of an old iron bridge with a wood plank floor.  Although built after the Civil War, the bridge has historical charm to it.  James and I stopped on the bridge and looked down into the murky waters and noted a warning sign suggesting that the water was too polluted to even be entered.   These polluted waters flow out of Springfield toward the James River and finally into Table Rock Lake where thousands of people flock to swim, boat or fish each year.  Is pollution a current problem for the tourist-laden recreational lake?  It certainly is.

Having spied some bubbles surfacing on the water, James suggested that the creek might still have some fish in it but otherwise, it really looked like it might be one of those "dead zones" we hear about in our oceans.   With a sigh, I said: "James, you, your children and your grandchildren are going to be faced with cleaning up what my generation has done.  But I have confidence you can do it"  He nodded in agreement but his mind well could have gone straight to the thought of having children and no further.  We're bonding, and we can and probably will talk about just about anything including having children on our future treks.

Once across the old bridge to the Union side of the creek, we found a trail that veered off to the northwest toward the apex of Bloody Hill.  On it is a monument marking the spot where the Union's Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was shot off his horse and died; not long afterward, the Union forces, in some disarray, retreated back to Springfield, and the battlefield was left to the remaining Confederate Army and the casualties from both sides.  On the orders of the Confederate officers, Lyon's dead body was immediately removed to a nearby farmhouse so that it would not be dishonored or abused by the enlisted men.

File photo of Lyon's Monument
Once we reached the top of Bloody Hill, James and I saw the small monument placed there for Gen. Lyon several decades ago.  "That's an obelisk," James the genius stated matter-of-factly.  Incredible is the data base of knowledge he has already harnessed in 13 short years.

Now half way through our hike and getting rather thirsty, both of us pined for the same creature comfort (a 59 cent 32-oz cold soda from one of the area's many Kum-N-Go convenience stores).

Perhaps being disrespectful, we bypassed seeing and reflecting at "the sink hole" where the bodies of at least 30 Union soldiers were buried in a hurried manner right after the conflict ended.  There may be some unrecovered bodies in it.

At that moment, though, all we wanted was to leave and find the Ford Escape.  We started our descent back down the trail toward the Ford Escape with James well in the lead--but apparently not far enough ahead.  The Ozark Uncle used the opportunity to relieve himself of bodily gases.  "Grandpa! I can't believe you did that," James exclaimed.  We laughed about it, and I decided that James knows a little more about Grandpa each we go time out.  My retort was, "James, you didn't know your Grandpa was an Old Fart?!"

During all of his visits to Wilson's Creek Battlefield over the years, the Ozark Uncle always reflects on the price paid by the combatants and their families in a conflict that pitted Americans against Americans--sometimes even blood relatives.
The Ozark Uncle's
Henry Curtis Gunnels
in his Union blues.
Records of the Ozark Uncle's ancestors indicate their propensity to join the Missouri Union ranks while the ancestors of his wife, Joy, were all in the Arkansas Confederate ranks.  Being on the west side of the Mississippi River, all our ancestors probably focused mainly on surviving the war and keeping their land if they had any.  They owned no slaves; so they were involved in a conflict not really of their own choosing--maybe they had opinions about state sovereignty or pride, but that was just about it.  With that in mind, I perceive that loved ones who suffered a casualty weren't really war heroes but victims of circumstances over which they had little control.  (Three of the Ozark Uncle's four great-grandfathers enlisted in the Union army for short periods of time -- some of the time they were in what was called "Home Guards" where they stayed in current Douglas County, MO to protect the county as best they could.  Ken's fourth great-grandfather, William Burton, was murdered by Confederate bushwhackers in his native Douglas County, MO, around 45 miles north of the Arkansas line).

The Ozark Uncle is a hard one for people to classify or pigeon hole.  His perspectives on most issues (e.g., abortion, environment, gays, guns, health care, immigration, politics, religion, taxes or welfare) are uniquely personal to him.  He is free to share his perspective (as in this blog) if one has the time for a lengthy discussion.  His views are not easily stated in a few words.

As in the Christian Bible, the Ozark Uncle struggles to say he's in one camp like that of Cephus or Paul (1 Cor. 1:12).  He hesitates to say he is "pro-life" or "pro-choice" because, to do so, he is inadvertently thrown into a group defined in a incredibly specific way by unknown people with an agenda toward one side of that issue.   One can find parallel classification terms on all the issues listed above (for example, saying one is pro-gun or pro-environment can lead to similar classification errors of a person).

Source: VietnamW
Regarding war, the Ozark Uncle is hard to classify as well -- he is neither a hawk nor a dove.  Now 65 years old, the Ozark Uncle has always, always, always supported American troops who are in harm's way.  His war would have been in Vietnam during the last half of the 1960s for which he legally registered but was never called.  He heard all the protests and the card burning during that war, and he didn't like it.  As much as he tries to be a forgiving and forgetting soul, he has had an awfully hard time dealing with Jane Fonda's visit to the enemy side of that war.  It was an incredibly stupid act for which I feel Ms. Fonda is probably asking forgiveness every night before she goes to bed.

To this day, the Ozark Uncle has a special feeling for the soldiers who went in his place to that conflict in "Nam" with its unique horrors.  Specific to that war, generally one got drafted into that conflict--it wasn't a choice as it is now.  Those who returned were immediate heroes to the Ozark Uncle even though they came home to less than a hero's welcome.  Yet, when reading about the way in which leadership prosecuted that war, one can easily build a case for also calling the 'Nam vets victims.

Thinking back to all the conflicts in which the United States has entered during my adult life, I remember being in agreement with the start up of every action, and oftentimes I wished we would have gotten there earlier.  I was ecstatic about our entry into Afghanistan after 9/11, and I accepted Colin Powell's "evidence" to the United Nations about WMDs in Iraq but it didn't totally feel right (now, I believe wonder if we had elected Sen. John McCain in 2000 instead of George W. Bush, we probably would never have gone to Iraq).

Yet as the latest conflicts (Iraq and Afghanistan) have waged on, the Ozark Uncle's radar is always picking up signals that our reasons for being in those places are foggy at best.  Yet withdrawal seems to present very real consequences too that are beyond the Ozark Uncle's understanding.  What has changed in the Ozark Uncle is his growing lack of confidence in military leadership both at the Pentagon and in the White House.  This perception didn't start with the current administration but has been building for at least a couple of decades.

With all this uncertainly about Afghanistan that is front page news right now, I have to ask myself "Are the young soldiers dying in those places heroes?"  They most certainly are, but I have a deep fear that the second classification, that of victim, may raise it's ugly head some day soon.  The Ozark Uncle intends to write more on the issue of heroes versus victims.  The subject is very unsettling to him.  Troop morale is so important, and it's hard to be objective without undercutting the troops' efforts.  It's a dilemma.

An unbiased and informed view is difficult to find by the average American on our country's military presence on foreign soil.  Presently, one of the Ozark Uncle's ever changing rules of thumb is to listen to (1) academics whose specialty is the country in which the conflict is occurring (they know the background from before the conflict), and (2) retired military officers who have never worked in the Pentagon (they know what is really happening now and are willing to share it in an unbiased and open way).

I'm not sure the average journalist can see the whole picture, and I absolutely ignore "the suits" across the Potomac from the Pentagon in Washington at each end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  The job of all "suits" whether they be the President, his/her cabinet, Congressional members or staff, is not to tell us the truth but to sway public opinion in a way that supports their goals for the nation.  If you and I were there we'd probably do the same thing.  (I once held a relatively high administrative position at a large University; while in that position I held the belief perception that truth was the best policy--needless to say I had my head handed to me on a platter!)

The Ozark Uncle's perspective has been influenced greatly by the book, Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, by retired Lt. Col., Andrew J. Bacevich.  It was published in August 2008 before the Presidential election.  Bacevich's perspective caused me to see the political parties and Washington in a totally different light.  He provided me peace in the knowledge that the system is broken and not fixable by either party.  I took this point of view to the ballot box in November of 2008, and I was prepared to accept whoever (whomever, hell I don't know which) won the elections.  Bacevich is billed as a conservative who sees things as they really are, not what he wishes them to be.

Bacevich has his book chapters organized around the themes--the economy, politics, and the military, all three of which he describes as being in a state of crisis.  Presently my copy is with a retired political science professor.  I'm wanting feedback on Bacevich's political view.  My background as a former accounting professor helped me to evaluate his economy section.  His military view seemed a little like "sour grapes" but was well reasoned.

As my fellow blogger, Terry Hampton, wrote this past weekend, we should evaluate the authors we read.  Look for their agendas and signs of credibility.  Many of us need to read her post entitled "Consider What You Hear."

Below is the uplifting third grade video sent to me by a cousin around Memorial Day -- it's incredibly appropriate and a nice way to end this post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tolerance for Perspectives

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO 65809
IF you had the power to sort of wave a magic wand and make one change in America, what would it be?  Would it relate to one of the mainstream issues that dominate our current news (e.g., immigration, religion, environment, war or taxation)?  No offense intended, but hopefully you won't wish that "The American People" (a terribly fractured group) think and act just like you think and act.
Tolerance for Different Perspectives
FOR the Ozark Uncle, his one wave of the wand would cause each American to become more tolerant of the different perspectives of other Americans.   The word perspective is generally defined as a "point of view based on one's opinions, beliefs and experiences." [] From his own perspective, the Ozark Uncle feels that is the nation's biggest problem.  Everyone seems to "anchor" onto a position and becomes stubborn and obstinate. 
THE drawing at left of a railroad track represents a perspective--a vanishing point perspective in that the tracks merge in the distance to one point.  We all have different perspectives even of this drawing, and that is the central point of the posts on the Ozark Uncle's blog.  Please fellow Americans, can we all try to respect and tolerate all points of view?
THE Ozark Uncle knows his wish would take a magic wand or some other kind of miracle.  We Americans are seemingly clustered into groups according to a certain perspective, and we stop trying to understand other views.  Additionally, we choose one or two daily information sources (i.e., a certain "news" channel, newspaper or maybe even a specific TV evangelist) that cement our perspectives to where our view can't be changed.  In the Ozark Uncle's opinion, being unable to engage in  continued evaluation of a person's perspectives is neither mentally nor spiritually healthy.
Palestinian-Israeli Perspectives--the Ozark Uncle is perplexed.
NOT just in America, it's worldwide--intolerance of different perspectives in virtually every country. A case in point is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Joy and I have learned so much about this from our dear friend, Mareen.  
MAREEN is a well-educated woman of the Jewish faith, and she keeps well abreast of the Palestinian-Israeli situation using a series of international news outlets that range from Al Jazerra to Singapore's Strait Times.  She's the first to acknowledge that her perspective is bias toward the belief that the Jews are God's chosen people and heirs to the Holy Land.  Still, Mareen is unique--she's constantly evaluating her perspective regarding the Palestinian question.  Through Mareen, I've learned that even the citizens of Israel have different perspectives on the issue--essentially two groups that are either hawks or doves.
ON June 24, Mareen sent me a news item from the Israeli news service,  The news item reported that a YouTube video of a Palestinian children's choir was getting a lot of views, and the singing group has become very popular among Arabs.  Apparently the video was produced by a Jordanian group called "Birds of Paradise."  Not knowing how long the video entitled "When We Die as Martyrs" will stay on line, I've transcribed the lyrics as follows:

{Young girl sings}
When we die as martyrs, we will go to heaven

No, don't say we are too young, this life has turned us into grownups
Without Palestine, what meaning is there in childhood?
Even if they give us the whole World it won't make us forget her, no, no
My country and my blood are for her sake
 {Adult sings}
Children, you have fulfilled your religious obligation
There is no God by Allah and the martyr is Allah's favorite
You have taught us the meaning of manhood
 {Young girl prays}
O Allah, with your mercy I shall be assisted
O vital and enduring God 

O merciful of mercifuls O noble of nobles
O Allah, Protect Islam and the Muslims
O Allah, Save the Children of Palestine
O Allah, take revenge for us
O Allah, answer our prayers.  Amen.

YOU may have to view the video more than once to catch it but there is one scene where children with Jewish skullcaps (Kippahs) are in the background with toy assault rifles.

THE article included this quote: "Journalist Fawzia Nasir al-Naeem wrote in the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Jazirah that [Birds of Paradise] is one of the most widely distributed children's song groups in the Arab world, and it seems to have crossed the ocean to Canada and Britain." She added that the group represents a new wave in Jihadist youth indoctrination, as it is child-friendly, as opposed to previous Jihadist programs.
What Is a Martyr Anyway?

BECAUSE of the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide bombings and subsequent suicide bombings in Iraq.  the word martyr has deviated far from its original meaning of  "...somebody who suffers persecution and death for the people, a country or an organization, or refusing to renounce a belief, usually religious, political or rights." [].  Until the 1990s, the only martyrs I had heard of were early Christians and Joan of Arc.  Tending to be a little on the naïve side, the Ozark Uncle even viewed the Palestinian video as simply suggesting the children's willingness to die at the hands of Israeli aggression--not through suicide-terrorist acts.  
Ozark Uncle's Perspective?  Uh Well, You See....Hell, I don't know.
THE Ozark Uncle is struggling with a comfortable perspective about (1) the video, (2) its possible exploitation of children and (3) even the whole concept of what is a martyr.  The Ozark Uncle cannot readily share his friend Mareen's view because he honestly doesn't know who, if anyone, should possess a given parcel of land on this earth (including his own).  From a distant and uninformed point of view, he senses that the Palestinian-Israeli issue is all about land possession and governance over it.  An old and recurring story in recorded history. 
THE Ozark Uncle's and Mareen's eastern Springfield homes each sit on land less than a mile from the James River.  This river's banks were enjoyed by little Osage Indian children and their families for a couple thousand of years before the white man's land ownership system took over.  While it would take another miracle for the Osage tribe, I have to imagine how I'd feel if somehow they were able to regain power and come take back their lands including my house and Mareen's.  
Is the Gaza Strip Another Indian Reservation?
AS outlined in earlier posts, the Ozark Uncle's perspectives have been fluctuating both during and after his 2010 Lonesome Road Trip through Arkansas and Oklahoma in May.  Right after his trip, the Ozark Uncle took the advice of a friend and read Dennis McAuliffe's Bloodland about the 1920s murders of wealthy Osage Indians in Oklahoma by greedy white men. 
Actually, McAuliffe only re-awakened the Ozark Uncle's to native American mistreatment--he was already sensitized in the 1970s when he read Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
DID the native Americans come to hate white Americans as much as Palestinians hate Israelis?  Well probably even more so if that's possible.  I'm sure the proud Osage Indians would love to have made that Jordanian video 150 years ago. 
DID McAuliffe's book give me any new perspectives?  Actually two: one regarding the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder (hang on Cathie, this is the post that any Alsup would love to read or write), and the other about the Indian Reservation system.  
WELL, in his book, McAuliffe talks about the American government's use of Indian Reservations as a way to control and effectively wipe out an unwanted race of people.  Then, according to McAuliffe, in the 1950s, the white South African government was researching how to corral its unwanted race of black people.  Their research led them to the United States, not to study how black Americans had been treated, but how the reservation system effectively eradicated most Indian tribes by the end of the 1800s.
Non-Christian, Non-Jewish, Non-Muslim--How Does One Form a Perspective?
THE 2007 Palestinian map at left shows those areas under Palestinian authority in green and the rest under Israeli control.  From this map, one can see why Palestinians get alarmed when new Jewish settlements are set up in the West Bank.  It's eerily similar to the encroachments of white settlers onto the Osage Reservation in southeastern Kansas in the 1830s.  
AMERICA is reported to be a Christian nation, and my old Nazarene friends, Guy and Doris Gettys, God rest their souls, preached to me often the need to support Israel because of, as I recall, an interpretation of the Book of Revelations in the Christian Bible.  Once Israel is defeated, the end is near--or something like that.   That Revelations book was hard for the Ozark Uncle to read in his Christian years and even harder to interpret.  Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant movement back in the 15th Century, reportedly felt so unsure about that Book of Revelations that he felt it should have been left on the cutting room floor as the chapter selection committee did its work. 
End This Damn Thing, Brown.
THIS post is going nowhere--it's not settling anything.  All of recorded history confirms that land goes to the one with the biggest stick.  Without a magic wand or some divine intervention, this Palestinian issue will not be solved except in the same way as recorded history--through armed conflict aided by the Indian Reservation concept.  
BUT the Ozark Uncle has made a resolution--inform himself about the history of how we got to this point.  That's something Christians, Jews and Muslims should all do--and if possible try to be tolerant of all perspectives.  Still, if this earth is turning one-hundred years from now, it wouldn't surprise me if historians will be talking about the similarities between the Palestinians and the Osage Indian tribe.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Pivotal Moment -- Baptists Turn Green

by Ken Brown
Springfield, MO
     Returning home from a Sunday walk (June 27) with my 13-year old grandson at Wilson's Creek Battlefield, I went through my daily survey of internet news and stopped at the National Public Radio site (NPR).  The following headline caught my eye, An Evangelical Crusade To Go Green With God.  Reading about the recent action taken by the Southern Baptist Convention caused the Ozark Uncle to realize that one of his perceptions was about to change: the multi-year marriage between corporate America and the Christian community regarding the environment is on the rocks (or in this case, "in the sand").
Baptists Turn Green
     The topic of the NPR report was a mid-June resolution passed at the Orlando FL meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention calling on both the government and Southern Baptist congregations: "to act determinatively and with undeterred resolve to end this crisis ... to ensure full corporate accountability for damages, clean-up and restoration ... and to ensure that government and private industry are not again caught without planning for such possibilities." 
     Apparently a key player in the Convention's resolution was Dr. Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist seminary dean and Louisville pastor. The NPR article quoted him as saying on his blog: "The Gulf spill has the potential to be a defining moment for evangelicals, he says, much like Roe v. Wade activated the evangelical anti-abortion movement."
Unholy Alliance Ends?
     Readers, remember that the Ozark Uncle tries to live through perceptions, not beliefs.  The following is only his perception and will change as more information is received.  He admits to few biases -- but one is against all types of large institutions whether they be profit, nonprofit, religious or governmental.  When faced with an internal crisis, the leaders of large institutions seem most likely to make decisions based on what is best for their entity, not the people it serves.
     Another Ozark Uncle perception is about the relationship of  mainstream Christian leaders and the business world.  Starting in the late 1980s and continuing all the way up to the recent BP drilling tragedy, the Ozark Uncle has sensed there existed an implicit, if not explicit, understanding between the Moral Majority leaders and the corporate world that the former will get its wish (outlawing abortion, for example) if those same religious leaders would support deregulation and lackadaisical oversight for the corporate world as it pursues its ongoing profit motives.
     Now, I'm not an environmentalist; however, I do lament that probably only one spring in my native Douglas County, MO now has drinkable water whereas 60 years ago it had hundreds.  But, from the Ozark Uncle's perspective, Christianity has been asked to believe that (a) global warming is a myth, or (b) if it isn't, human pollution isn't causing it.  
     I never could understand why my non-denominational Christian Bible study group at Glendale Christian Church here in Springfield, and their fellow Christians across America seemed to feel that this climate change issue was an argument on which they had to align with the polluters.  The only reason I could come up with was that a pact had been made in political back rooms that resulted in a tit-for-tat deal.  In the 1980s and 1990s, (as part of the strategy) Christian authors and pundits lined up to create the rationale for this odd marriage of issues.  One such author was Steve Farrar.
Around 2008, my Bible study group that I attended went through a multi-week discussion of the 2001 version of Steve Farrar's Standing Tall: How a Man Can Protect His Family.  (Farrar is pictured at the left).  One chapter in the book is devoted to the argument that God gave this planet to humans to use and abuse as they see fit.  His biblical support was Baal worship that got the Israelis in trouble in the old testament.  Apparently they worshiped the sun and earth.  
     As well, Farrar capitalized on continued Christian disdain for Al Gore, the environmentalist, and Bill Clinton; thus he was able to create an open and shut case--Christians need not be concerned with the environment.
      My comment to the study group was that had he written his book in 2008 (when we discussed the book), he might greatly alter that chapter.  Now, today, I suspect he's considering a total rewrite or perhaps omitting the chapter all together.
Public Face of Christianity 
     Jerry Falwell (deceased in 2007), Pat Robertson (still kicking but an incredibly loose cannon) and James Dobson (retired in 2010) were interviewed on major news channels on a regular basis in the 1990s and well into the 2000s.  They were the public face of the Moral Majority and Christianity for that matter.  
     But news reports during the winter of 2007-08 suggested to me that Dr. Dobson might have been frustrated that Christians had been short changed in Washington.
Even earlier than that, I remember a National Public Radio interview with a leader of the Evangelicals whose name I cannot remember (perhaps Dr. Don Argue with the National Association of Evangelicals but I'm not sure).  The interviewee had at the time been visiting with Dr. Dobson and encouraging his Focus on the Family group to embrace environmental issues.  Reportedly, Dr. Dobson's reply was to the effect that the environmental issue, although compelling, would dilute his followers' efforts toward the single most important goal of all--that was to overturn Roe v. Wade.
     In early 2008, the Ozark Uncle was still watching the major cable news channels (a practice that was stopped over a year ago when he finally realized it was a waste of time and even counterproductive). Memorable during that period was a January 2008 interview of Dr. Dobson by a Fox News anchor.  
     This was early in the Presidential primary process and, at the time, the network's owner, Rupert Murdoch, was pushing Rudy Giuliani for President.  The anchor was apparently told by producers to try to get Dr. Dobson to say that he could support Giuliani.  After several attempts that bordered on the third degree, the anchor failed in that effort.  It was also at that time that I perceived Dr. Dobson was getting tired of the political arena and probably feeling frustrated at Christianity's attempt to legislate morality.
Who Becomes the Public Face?
     With Falwell and Dobson gone, the Ozark Uncle is wondering who will surface as the public face to address a new Christian view of environmental issues.  I'm not being sarcastic when I say: Why not Sarah Palin?  (The link would allow one to contribute to SarahPAC.  Does anyone have a better site? It's all I could find for her.).  
     Sincerely, I've become a great admirer of what Ms. Palin has accomplished.  Her 15 minutes of fame are going to put her into the history books.  The Ozark Uncle perceives that fundamentally (1) she's going to do what is best for her family first and foremost.  And (2) at the end of the day, Sarah P is a Christian first and a politician second.  
     Right now she's squeezing all she can out of the political arena.  It seems she's looking over her shoulder to see where the conservative crowd is headed and adjusting her direction accordingly in the hopes that she can stay in front.  At the right time, she could become the face of the Moral Majority, and have an incredible impact.  She gets my vote.  
    Can she tap dance around her Drill-Baby-Drill?  Sure!  Of course!  She can always use the Ozark Uncle's perception approach and just say new information was processed to change it.
Perspective Comes from Early Religious Experiences
     Is the Ozark Uncle a credible source to write about Christianity?  He's not a believer and therefore not a Christian.  But he loves Jesus and Christians.  His early religious experiences affected him in ways that can never be undone.  For example, this post on the relationship between mainstream religion and politics is heavily influenced by his early lessons learned at the Faith Baptist Church in Wichita, KS during the early 1960s.  Separation of religion and politics was preached there almost every Sunday.    
     Somewhere in a Wichita Kansas grave the Rev. Roy Davis, "Brother Roy" to his followers, is rolling over again and again about religion's meddling in politics during the past 30 years.  (Note--Brother Roy was a great influence on my life and hundreds if not thousands of others.  He loved Jesus, his family and his church including me.  But he represents the end of a religious era that is no longer mainstream and a theology that I ultimately rejected.  Please, if anything I say in my description below seems to demean him, it is in no way my intension).  
     Fifty years ago, the Ozark Uncle was an impressionable 15-year old in the front pews of Faith Baptist Church in Wichita.  The church called itself an independent one and what was preached from the pulpit was at the discretion of Brother Roy.  Sunday after Sunday, I heard Rev. Davis preach fire and brimstone.  "Focus on Jesus and nothing else" was his message.  But, he also preached that government and politicians were in essence "Caesar".  We, as Christians, should "...render unto Caesar" our tax dollars and avoid that whole arena while going about God's business.  
     A few years earlier, Jesus had lifted Brother Roy from the fires of hell after many years of alcohol and sinful living.  I have to smile...while he was saved from hell, he drove his car like a bat out of one.  He bragged in the pulpit about how, when stopped for speeding, he would slip his large worn Bible on the dashboard, and make sure the officer knew he was a Baptist minister.  According to him, it worked every time.
     A church budget did not exist at Faith Baptist because such a document presumed a future, and God could come back at any moment.  Although a teenager but yet a male, I was welcome at the monthly "Men's Business Meeting."  The middle aged Boeing airplane worker sitting next to me stood up one night and suggested having a budget.  To this day, I can feel the heat that descended on him from the leader of the meeting, Brother Roy.  The meeting didn't end until he preached a sermon right then and there.
     With regard to other churches, Brother Roy preached that Southern Baptists were lukewarm at best and all Church of Christ members wanted to do was argue.  I honestly don't remember the issues of abortion, homosexuality or the environment being discussed in Brother Roy's sermons.  His message was simple--trust in God, keep one's personal house in order, and stay on the straight and narrow path.  
     John Carradine, the actor, is pictured at left.  Having no picture of Brother Roy, the Ozark Uncle is substituting John's because of their similarities -- tall, thin almost emaciated bodies and deep bass voices.  Unfortunately, Rev. Roy had neither the refined nor educated speech that John possessed.  So readers, try to imagine a drawling Oklahoma farm boy voice with John Carradine's body--I know, it's not easy.
     Rev. Davis had a sunken chest and raspy cough from years of cigarettes, a bad habit that may still have haunted him then--but I'm not sure.  He struggled with saliva control and had to wipe his sleeve across his mouth several times each service.  He was dynamic and his stage presence was memorable.  
     Brother Roy preached "spare the rod and spoil the child," and I always had a sense of dread (no doubt false) for his children as the family loaded in the car after services.  But, from what little I've learned since, his PKs (preachers' kids) turned out fine and remained faithful.   My perception is that Ks don't do that unless they see their P practicing what he preaches.
     My split with Rev. Davis and Faith Baptist Church came in 1963 at the age of 18.  I chose to attend a state college, now called Emporia (KS) State University.  Brother Roy wanted me to head off to Baptist Bible College right here in Springfield, a place that had graduated a young and relatively unknown Jerry Falwell not too many years earlier.
     I can still remember our embrace after services on an autumn Kansas Sunday in 1963 before heading up the road to Emporia.  Brother Roy's sunken chest and his tall frame seemed to loom over me at the door as he repeated again to me "...that state college up there will make you lose the faith, boy."  I assured him I would be steadfast--but he was right.  Although continuing on to attend various religious institutions--Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Christian, Church of Christ-- for another thirty years, my tenure with Rev. Brother Roy Davis and Faith Baptist Church of Wichita was almost over.
     1964 marked the last year I attended one of Brother Roy's services.  Along with me was a little Missouri Bootheel gal named Joy Neal I had met in ESU's William Allen White Library during my first semester there (we would later marry and we just had our 45th wedding anniversary last month--read our story the Ozark Uncle's web site).  
     Joy had insisted I attend her Church of Christ which, compared to the lively Baptist services, hardly seemed like a religious experience at all.  But my interest in Joy had grown to the point where she was brought to Wichita to meet my mother and brother.  Included was a free ticket for her to attend one of Brother Roy's services.
     Little is remembered about the Sunday service that day except my constant dread of our inevitable exit past Brother Roy at the back door after the invitation.  When that dreaded time came, I braced up and thought I did a fairly good job of introducing them to each other.  
      And almost immediately, Brother Roy, with his biggest and best good-humored smile, asked this young lady: "...and where do you go to church?"  My heart sank.  His smile didn't change when he got her unabashed reply--only because I think it was kind of paralyzed on his face.  The exact subsequent dialog between the two now escapes me, but a definite hint of contention came forth from both parties with the young lady neither flinching nor bat an eye.
    A lame attempt at levity on my part gave me enough of an edge in the conversation to drag her on out the door.  But before they were out of sight of each other, I imagined Brother Roy sending her brain waves that said "Bring that boy back!" and her return message in ESP code was "He's mine now...ha.ha.ha.ha.HA!"
Change is the Only Constant
      The few consistent readers of this blog--The Brown Perspective--know that if there is any message here at all, it is to encourage one to be open-minded on all issues.  Leaving the Baptist church for the Church of Christ changed a lot of my perceptions about worship, the Bible and its interpretation.  Also discovered was the fact that Churches of Christ think that all Baptists want to do it argue!
      The Ozark Uncle left the Church of Christ in both mind and spirit many years before his body left the fellowship.  Almost 20 years ago, he went through that excruciating "Peter thing" by denying Christ publicly.  To this day, I remember keeping count and looking up toward the skies on the third denial.
      Today, I enjoy observing Christianity both from within the church buildings and through discussions with Christians.  For example, a visit to the 8,000 seat mega-church, James River Assembly of God, is a sight to behold--Pastor John Lindell has a delivery and a message that leaves me misty-eyed every time I visit--an outpouring that makes the members think I want to go to the altar, and they begin nudging me that way which creates an awkward moment.
     Christianity has and is changing so much, and I wish change weren't so stressful on many Christians.  Once, my friend and Bible scholar, Dr. Charles Hedrick, very eloquently wrote in the Springfield News-Leader how God may never change but our definition of God changes as the human race changes.  He got some hate mail over that one.  
      This post is all about a major change in subject matter that may start being preached from pulpits all over the land--protection of the environment.  The Ozark Uncle's uneducated guess (or perhaps false hope) is that Christianity's embrace of green energy will lead to corporate entities recognizing business opportunities in the field thereby creating jobs.  Anyway life will go on but constantly changing and that is one thing the Ozark Uncle really believes.  
       But will Christianity ever get Roe v. Wade overturned?  And will Creationism become mainstream?  Well, the Ozark Uncle has his radar out looking for signs and will post his perspective here.  
       Thanks for reading to the end.