Category: Christianity

Always do the right thing

Da Mayor: “Always do the right thing.”
Mookie: “That’s it?”
Da Mayor: “That’s it.”
Mookie: “I got it, I’m gone.”
Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee (1989)

Did Dr. George S. Benson apologize for his racism?

That was, without a doubt, one of the first questions that came to mind among the leadership at Harding University when the online petition to change the name of the campus auditorium from George S. Benson Auditorium to Botham Jean Auditorium dropped in June 2020.

I also believe–very strongly–there was a “Drop what you’re doing!”, five alarm fire, all-hands-on-deck search for an exonerating piece of evidence that would have shown that George Benson apologized, showed remorse, or otherwise recanted the obviously racist views that he held and expressed openly in the 1950s and 60s.

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It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 2

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no, no

That’s just the way it is
And some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

–Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


During the academic year 1954-55, an unknown person in the Harding College (now Harding University) admissions office received an application from a young man named Wilbert Neal Whitley who lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Chapel protests, or hey, someone really *is* awake!

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

–1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV

I am indebted to Harding University President Dr. Bruce McLarty for sharing Larry Bills’ story at the beginning of his message to the Harding community about the 18,000-plus signature petition to remove George S. Benson’s name from the auditorium on campus and rename it after Botham Jean.  This was, for me at least, an unforeseen development driven in part by public and alumni reaction to the story I published in the Arkansas Times on the Statement of Attitude protest by Harding students in 1957 during the Little Rock Crisis but one which I accepted with dutiful resignation if not outright enthusiasm.

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It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 1

“Said, hey little boy you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said, hey old man how can you stand
To think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules?

He said, ‘son
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is’
Ah, but don’t you believe them”

Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


When Larry Bills, Harding College Class of 1958 music education major, stood to lead all three stanzas of the school’s Alma Mater near the conclusion of the school’s annual Black and Gold Homecoming Banquet in 2018, it was the realization of a decades-old dream birthed by the disparity between the way it is and the way it should be.

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Recent correspondence

On 06/24/2020 6:15 PM MICHAEL BROWN  <                         > wrote:
Hi Bill,
Greetings from Alabama, where we strive to not only be #1 in college football, but new coronavirus infections per capita as well. Roll Tide.
I imagine Mark or “JN Armstrong” have already sent you this, but I thought I would pass it along just in case:  https://harding.edu/benson
Of course it could never be otherwise. I find it all very wearisome. However, I did take note of McLarty’s dismissive description of my literary quest for truth as a mere “newspaper article,” the subtext being, of course, “Fake news!”
People still don’t get it.
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Name Them, One By One

“There’s a story called the ‘Cowtail Switch’ from Liberia that states that as long as a person’s name is spoken, they are never truly forgotten.”

–Laconia “Lott” Therrio, therapist, chaplain, professional storyteller, first African American student association president, Harding University

From the beginning, I believed that my story about a large group of white, Christian college students in the 1950s protesting racial segregation, at the same time as, and in the shadow of, one of the American Civil Rights Movement’s early battles at Little Rock Central High, had the “legs” to travel far.

But only now, three months after publishing my story ‘Distinctions Which God Has Not Made’ in the Arkansas Times, can I truly see just how far–and deep–it ran.

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Tokens: Small Word, Big Show

Tokens: don’t be deceived by the smallness of the word.

Reminiscent of a tiny, plastic disc–stand-in currency–used to make some small purchase, or a gesture made for the sake of appearances, the word takes on a richer and deeper meaning in the context of that delightful mixture of music, mirth and musings that is the Tokens show, Lipscomb University professor Lee Camp’s “Prairie Home Companion”-like, live radio-style brainchild. The show, now a widely-recognized thread running through the fabric of the Nashville entertainment scene, is no counterfeit coin.

Tokens transcends mere entertainment, ascending instead to the level of education, even enlightenment.

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The 947th Signature

If there is one question that animated my efforts and drove me to spend the hundreds of hours of research necessary to write this article in The Arkansas Times (be sure to read the Author’s Note, as well), it is “Would I have signed?”

If someone had asked me in 1957, in the early days of the American civil rights movement when passions were rising to fever pitch, to put my name on the line for desegregation and make one small step toward integration, would I have signed?

Bottom line, I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of: Nine hundred and forty-six Harding students, faculty and staff did, and I’m proud of each and every one of them and thankful for the progress that my alma mater has made since those difficult days.

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Robert Rex Meyers: Student, Soldier, Professor, Preacher, “Heretic”–My Friend

Robert Rex Meyers was born in 1923 and raised by loving and devout parents on a three hundred acre farm in the eastern hills of Oklahoma near Henrietta. From an early age, he would rise early in the morning and plow the land, sowing seeds in the rich, moist earth in much the same way he would later plant ideas in the fertile minds of eager students. He studied the Bible and was baptized by a traveling black evangelist named R.N. Hogan in a small, fundamentalist Church of Christ, but it was his full-bodied immersion in the deep waters of natural revelation, the whisper of God in the rustling of wind-kissed leaves and the fragrant incense of meadow grass, that would eventually set his heart aflame.

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Three Lessons I Learned At Central High

Last week, I returned to high school.

Fortunately, nobody had rescinded my diploma. Neither had I landed in one of those fish-out-of-water, “impotence” dreams where the hapless, middle-age man, who has long since forgotten the difference between a sine and cosine, is thrown into an advanced geometry class full of National Merit Scholars.

Instead, I visited Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, where nine black students, aka the “Little Rock Nine,” dared to enter her shiny portals of learning in September, 1957, thereby ending ending racial segregation in Little Rock public schools. They were blocked on the first attempt by Arkansas National Guardsmen acting under orders of Governor Orval Faubus who had sworn not to allow the black students to enroll.

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