Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Looking Back

Forgive me if I continue down memory lane in this posting, but we have been doing some cleaning and rearranging at our house, and I came across a paper I wrote when I was in college. OK, I haven't saved all the papers I wrote in college or seminary, but this is a very special paper to me.

Let me set the context. In 1965, I was a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, a public university. My major was history with a minor in religion and philosophy. At the time, there was not a single African-American student at the college. Our sister institution, Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi) had been integrated about two years earlier with the assistance of the Army. I was taking an ethics course with Robert Arrington, a young professor still working on his doctorate who was, to the best of my knowledge, not a Christian. When we were assigned a term paper, I asked Mr. Arrington if I could write a paper on "Christian Ethics and Racial Discrimination." He not only said "yes," he encouraged me to do so.

With the assistance of Louie Farmer, my Baptist Student Union director, and Harold Kitchings, pastor of University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, I was able to come up with some great resources. I was introduced to Baptist ethicists T. B Maston (not knowing I would one day be campus minister at his alma mater, Carson-Newman) and Henlee Barnette. I even had access to a paper written by Kirby Godsey (future president of Mercer University) at New Orleans Seminary. Of course, I also read Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph McGill, and some representative segregationists.

As I read it today, I think the paper holds up pretty well, especially the final paragraph: "If there is any fault in the modern Christian, it is a lack of understanding of what Christ was talking about. Many see Jesus Christ only as an extension of themselves, hindered by the same worries and prejudices. As long as this type of thinking continues, Christ will remain to many people only a Jewish philosopher who taught a rather interesting philosophy of love two thousand years ago, and nothing more. Can Christianity work? Rather, let us ask, has it been tried? "

I am grateful to my professor for encouraging me to tackle this project, to Louie Farmer and Harold Kitchings for taking the time to help a young student broaden his horizons, and to those courageous writers who took a stand for what was right when it was not popular. These folks helped to prepare me for the new world that was breaking into our lives.

By the way, I got an "A" on the paper.


foxofbama said...

Saw your blog tagged by ethicsdaily.com
Curious, are you versed in Charles Marsh's great work God's Long Summer; and Tim Tyson's Blood Done Sign my Name.
Marsh does great work with Doug Hudgins and EY Mullins, work I hope you can use for future blogs as well as to advise the CN Board of Trustees on True Vine Baptist.
Looking for future blogs from you on this subject to see where you have evolved.
Also keep an eye on my "conservative" friend here in Alabama as Civil Rights era has evolved into a differently nuanced conviction for him.
His blog is www.johnkillian.blogspot.com

Dr. Danny Chisholm said...

YOu got me thinking about some influential professors from seminary who have now been retired or replaced. I came through NOBTS at a good time and was thinking about those days as I unpacked boxes. So glad to have had Joe Trull, Paul Robertson, JTerry YOung, and Don Minton as mentors.

Ircel said...

I have read Marsh's book, but not Tyson's.

When I left USM, I was commissioned in US Army; first company commander was an African-American; I had no problem with this, but cannot say the same for some of my fellow officers.

While I was director of collegiate ministries for Tennessee Baptist Convention, we employed the first full-time African-American campus minister and at least four part-time campus workers.

One of the greatest experiences in recent years has been teaching two classes at the Central Baptist seminary site in Murfreesboro that have included several African-American students. It has been fun!