Reverend Joshua J. Whitfield, pastoral administrator for St. Rita Catholic Community in Dallas, and a frequent contributor to The Dallas morning News writes a lengthy piece which, very interestingly, from beginning to end he admits his prejudice and perception condemned Nicholas Sandmann. At the beginning of the article and at the end he admits his prejudices and condemnation without apology against the young man because he wore THE HAT.
The Reverend’s repeated refrain is ‘THE HAT.’ ‘That Hat’ that for him – not the student, not the other students, not anyone else wearing ‘THE HAT’ but “for him” he “immediately recalled the darker images of our past, specifically those background faces in pictures from a half-century ago, those cold, gleeful, indifferent faces preserved in black and white photos of 1960s sit-ins.” He admits that what is driving him is his perception and prejudice. His perceptions drive him to relate what he sees in a smiling young man with “images of Charlottesville; my mind couldn’t help but draw in dark lines on my brain all those ignorant, angry men — and from there, other images and fears, both the history and future of our inhumanity.” (side note-a quick perusal of Charlottesville revealed no photos of folks wearing THE HAT).
The Reverend then notes that the wider story was “more complex” and that “perhaps my first associations were wrong.” He then admits that what we have is a “world collapsed into media” which has “conditioned each of us to render judgments based on imagery and aesthetics [he swings back around to this] alone” which he admits that he “did in an instant” joining the throng of “confused fools taunting each other.” In all of this he sees in this “surrealist play” “no weakening of the tribes” because there were “no conversions” and I would add because there were no conversations, which he himself has failed to engage.
He identifies the essence of the icon of the “strange scene at the foot of the Lincoln memorial” as “an image of two people not speaking to each other” (one wonders why Nathan Phillips chose to chant instead of converse).
Then the Reverend places himself squarely in the middle of this icon and returns to his admitted and insurmountable prejudice. THE HAT, is something he “can’t get over”, “an image” he can’t help but “associate with other images” in his mind, revealing, because he has apparently decided not to try to understand, much less speak to Nicholas Sandmann, not Nicholas’s values and intents but rather Reverend Joshua’s inferences, perceptions, and prejudices. He would rather Nicholas align himself with Reverend Joshua Whitfield’s “aesthetics” and wear, not THE HAT but rather one of Reverend Joshua’s choosing, a hat imbued with his iconic aesthetics. He would rather Nathan ensure that his image did not trigger some “darker image” in Reverend Joshua’s (or any number of other folk’s whose inferences and perceptions that Nathan has no inkling nor control over) admittedly highly prejudiced and trigger-able mind which he states (and demonstrates repeatedly in this article) causes him to “render judgments based on imagery [THE HAT!!] and aesthetics.”
The Reverend expounds at length about the problems of our society revealed by the violent and unreasoned responses to one Catholic young man standing and smiling respectfully after being approached by an old Indian chanting incoherently in his face. No comment on why Nathan Phillips did not put down his drum and converse with Nicholas Phillips about the black men hurling expletives and racial slurs at him and his group. No comment of Reverend Joshua being triggered by confrontation of the boys being slammed and slandered by him and those like him who happily and quickly attack with no pause or probing (did it affect the Reverend at all?), only a concern because Nicholas Sandmann wore THE HAT.
The truth is that Nicholas’s Christianity was not demonstrated by what hat he wore, be it to the Reverend’s liking or for some other aesthetic, but by the fact that he was at a march to support the life of the unborn. But, the Reverend was more concerned for what is for him first in Catholicism-“witness and beauty” apparently demonstrated, not by what you stand up for in a march but by what hat you wear. THE HAT for the Reverend “betrays a Christianity . . . hollow of imagination and guts [really? After what Nicholas has gone through?!] and covers itself in the pathetic mantal of political interest” which in this case goes very much counter to the Reverend’s political interests apparently.
He sees this as a failure of Christianity’s confrontation with a society, which in this case, swirls violently around the life of the unborn. He admits throughout this article that what he perceives as a failure is born in his own mind, perceptions, and prejudices because he solidly sides, not with the young man who is marching to protest the wanton and widespread slaughter of the unborn (1 million annually) but with those who, like Reverend Joshua Whitfield, allowed their prejudices and perceptions to attack and hate Nicholas Sandman because he wore THE HAT.
But, Someone suggested that if I put up my Humility Award (its huge!) it would immediately be recalled.
I am The Librarian at SEBTS. I am paid fairly decently to spend someone else’s money on all the books I want to buy. I have also been given a key to the building that has all of the books!
As a Professor my sister has noted that I am paid to read. To tell others what I have read. To tell others what I think about what I have read. To test others on what I think.
I have been invited here today to tell you what I think.
It is based on what I have read.
In God’s Word.
I am going to tell you about what Holy Writ says about Humility.
Some of you may be surprised how much the Bible says about humility.
Now, you may ask—Reverend, Major, Doctor, Professor Madden, what does One of the Few, One of the Proud know about Humility? Don’t you guys say that ‘It’s hard to be humble when you are one of the Finest.’ Indeed we do.
But, my children, have you not heard or read
That only Nixon could go to China?
That only Johnston could enact the Civil Rights Act?
And Surely you Geeks and Nerds know
Only Kirk could go to the Klingons!
Few can tell you about humility as well as one of the Proud!
When I read Philippians chapter two, I see that the passage contains the wonderful, magnificent, unfathomable statement on the mystery of Christology.
But, Christology is not Paul’s main point—
It is an illustration, an example.
The focus is on humility and more concern for others than for ourselves.
Paul’s thesis is:
‘If the God of the universe can so humble himself so should we!!’
If he can come so infinitelyfar for us, even the least attractive of us,
Can we not come a much shorter distance
in our own relationships with each other.
So many of us loudly proclaim the love of God verbally but fail to proclaim it in our relationships with each other.
So too, many have found that the most difficult thing about loving God is loving those whom he loves!
If He can so humble himself as to cross the universe and eternity to find you and me,
Can we not cross the road, cross the foyer, cross the room
to find each other?
I am not talking about meeting someone to share the gospel
—we have little trouble exhorting each other to that
—I am talking about simply crossing over to share a piece of bread, a cup of water, a warm coat, a bit of conversation, a smile.
And not just with a lost stranger
—with our Christian brothers and sisters!
Have you noticed that in many families, those closest to us are treated worse than strangers?
Can you truly claim to love the lost
when you can’t demonstrate love for a fellow believer?
Of all the wonderful and clever tracks folks have come up with to get someone to consider the good news of God’s salvation, the best track ever that you can present is your own personal love and kindness shown in everyday acts of love and mercy to both the lost and the saved.
Do that and others will see the love of God and Christ in you
And then they will be more apt to listen to you
and the message of Christ that you bear.
You may ask, why am I bringing this up here, in a seminary chapel
We are all seminarians here, we are all training for the ministry
and dedicating ourselves to spreading the gospel.
We are all godly, are we not?
Why tell us?
Because we Christians need to lecture each other regularly on what it means to be humble, to put others before us. It is not an easy thing to do
The need for reminders is the reason the Bible is as big as it is,
Else all that would be needed is one sentence—
Love God, Love your neighbor.
But too often we forget these and we need to be reminded
And reminded often.
A few people know what the two great commandments mean.
Many need the expansion to the Ten.
Most need the reminder of the Six Hundred and Thirteen!
A real time example may illustrate this.
At The Library we have had more than one ‘Christian Ministerial Pastor Wannabe’ get angry and arrogant and upset about a fine they incurred due to their own neglect—accidental or purposeful, and yell at and berate our part time student workers.
They seem to ask our students
Do you not know that I have been ordained of God to spread the gospel and you want me to be concerned with a petty fine!
I am on God’s Mission—concern me not with your trivialities!!
They didn’t have the courage to bring their lack of Christian behavior to one of our supervisors or to me but rather bullied one of our students.
This happens more than once a year.
And it doesn’t only happen at The Library.
The Truth is, Our Christianity doesn’t always show through when we encounter someone who has inadvertently shown us our sin.
How many of us have shown our less than Christian side to a clerk or a waitress or some other lost soul whose only encounter with Christianity that day was with a ‘jerk’ who did not live the love of Christ that they professed?
Folks, we need to remind each other about humility
About our love of neighbor,
That is truly how, on a daily basis, we demonstrate our love of God.
We need to recognize the value of a simple life, a life lived by simply putting God and his concerns above us and our desires,
and putting others and their needs before our own.
Here are some practical, everyday, office things—
Be nice to library workers!
Follow Dr. Akin’s admonition—be nice to waiters! And to clerks!
Be nice to those who appear to be in the most humble of jobs,
Certainly more humble than that high exalted position you are in!
They may be the people that God has put in your path to testyou and see if you truly love him by demonstrating how much you love those who are his.
If you are in your office, at your computer, working on a very important project (Facebook) and someone stops by to talk to you or ask you a question,
Treat them as if Danny Akin walked in!
Take your eyes off of the computer, turn around, greet them,
Look them in the eye and give them your full attention.
Don’t let James, the brother of our Lord, note that you pay more attention to only those you consider important and not the more humble folks of the world.
SHOW NO PARTIALITY when it comes to anyone who comes to see you.
Heck, they thought you were important enough to come visit, you should consider them important enough to turn away from the computer and whatever might be on it (Facebook).
If you are a pastor and go across the world on a mission trip to spread the good news of God and his love—a wonderful and noble endeavor to be sure—and one that more could be doing—
Make sure that you have first crossed the building
to get to know those that work with you here.
I have known folks that cross continents spreading the gospel but have not crossed the room to talk to someone who is sharing in God’s work with them.
Often completely lost strangers are treated better than fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ!
But isn’t that how families treat each other?
This is a lesson I learned from a Marine General.
Tall, lanky, John C. Fegan, with his chief of staff, the rather short, Col. Blue, would weekly walk the decks of the Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego and stop by and see how folks were doing.
He stopped by PFC Madden’s office, sat down and asked him how it was going.
If Marine Generals have figured out that it is good business to see what even PFCs are up to, make sure that you as Christian leaders do so as well!
Some pastors and Christian leaders get very much caught up in God’s calling on their lives and the vision and mission that they think that God has given them.
But, at the same time they have forgotten
(or too often it never crossed their minds)
that God has called others to work in his kingdom too.
Some ‘Christian leaders’ who, because of their ‘vision’, have set aside, neglected, and destroyed fellow Christians because they were perceived as interfering with the great leader’s vision.
Don’t you know that you are not the only one God has called to work for his kingdom?
The Secretary or Janitor is just as called
to their station as you are to yours.
Chances are they may be more faithful in their calling than you are in yours!
Let me say that again,
You are not the only one called by God in your organization.
Others are not there to serve you and your vision!
You are all there to work together for the kingdom of God
and each and every person is there at God’s behest—not yours!
Their job and calling is just as valuable to God as you and your calling!
If you have not read 1 Corinthian chapter 12 let me introduce you to it or remind you what Paul writes:
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker/lower/not as important are indispensable,23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we should bestow as great an honor, and our unpresentable parts should be treated with greater dignity,24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Don’t get into your head that you are the one indispensible cog to God’s wheel
And the lesser folk are just tools to your end to be discarded at your whim and treated as you desire.
This happens way too often in Christian circles and leadership
and people are hurt and the message is too often irrevocably damaged.
And don’t think that your calling is the one great calling that everyone else should likewise be doing!
The greatest calling before God
is the calling that He gave to You for His Purpose and for His Glory!
You may be called to be a missionary by God. GREAT!
You may be called to be a pastor by God. JUST AS GREAT!
You may be called to be an accountant by God. AGAIN, JUST AS GREAT!
It is great to be called to be a librarian,
a Janitor, a Framer, a Plumber
Anything that you can name—those are all legitimate callings of God on someone’s life and just as important to him as any other calling.
The error would be to ignore your calling for one that someone else thinks is more important.
Your calling by God is your calling.
Someone else’s calling is their calling—one should not desire the calling of the other but faithfully fulfill the calling God as given them.
God has a purpose for youwhere you are.
For his good pleasure and for his glory!
If you find yourself moving into a position of leadership in an organization, do not forget that those who are there when you arrive were put there by God.
Their service to him does not depend on your whims and fancies. If you would be faithful to God then be faithful to his, to those whom he has given their own calling and mission whom you now find yourself partnered with.
You will not be someone’s lord and master.
If you are faithful, you will be their pastor—one concerned for them and their needs, even at the cost of your needs, fame, and glory.
Another lesson from Marine Corps Theology. Any Marine leader, Corporal and above, knows, when the chow line forms, the leader gets his chow after his Marines do. The larger the organization, the later the leader waits to eat. A good shepherd sees to the needs of the sheep before he serves his own needs.
Be wary of the praises of men. Do not think that the pay and accolades that you receive from men here are any indication of what awaits you after you cross the Jordan.
Pay and fame mean nothing to the creator of the universe.
You will be judged,
Not on great buildings and great programs you come up with
But on how you treat people.
Do you want to beat the bushes for money for some grand building project to name after someone with the big pockets?
Why not find the money for those God has given you the power to help?
Do you think that God is looking down your balance sheet to find evidence of your love in the number of buildings you raised up, or the number of awards you received, or the number of boards you are on?
If you have read Matthew 25 you then know that what God will be searching for as proof of your love for him is your love for those who are his. It is not the love and praises that men have for you that he looks for but the genuine love you have shown and demonstrated to others.
I asked a friend of mine one day why he did not do Meals on Wheels like some of us here do. He said it was because he could not leave a track or present the Gospel to those whom he would be giving a meal. He seemed to be looking for a single, short term encounter.
But when I look at Matthew 25
I see that the sheep are known by the shepherd by the fact that they gave someone to drink, something to eat, clothes to wear.
It doesn’t say that they gave someone something to drink And a Track
or they gave someone something to eat And a Track
But that they simply gave what that person needed at that time, be it drink, or food, or clothes, or a friendly visit at the right time.
What did James say? ‘If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that’?
My observation of God’s way of doing things is that if you provide someone what they physically need out of love they will then let you do something about providing to them what they spiritually need.
The demonstration of your love of a person in their physical need is a reflection of your love for them in their spiritual need. Jesus did that all the time. His physical acts of mercy, in the providing of food and drink and healing, was the proof to folks of his ability to do something about people’s need of spiritual food and drink.
Remember when he said, ‘your sins are forgiven’
And they questioned his ability to do so
And then he proved it by providing for that person’s physical healing?
His lesson to us in that is that your demonstrated love of a person’s earthly needs will show to God, and to them, your love for their spiritual needs and God will then give you the opportunity to provide that.
Another recommendation while I have such a large, captive audience.
Many are caught up in the extremes.
Extreme sports, extreme exercises, extremes in everything.
This often finds itself reflected in our having guests in our pulpits, those whom the world looks up to because they have done extreme things.
The word for them is ‘celebrity’. Sports figures, successful business men, famous individuals, are asked to come to our churches and from the pulpit tell us what they have done for God.
This comes from the Finney evangelism model—find famous people to speak and your pews will be filled!
Let me recommend another tack.
Don’t look for those who have done great things for God
But find those whom God has done great things for them.
And look to what is truly great. The things that gain people celebrity, I suggest, is not what God considers great. What is truly great is not always nor easily recognized. Probably because we look with the eyes of men.
Remember when Samuel was sent to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel and Judah? Remember that God made a distinction between how man viewed things and how God viewed things. Samuel looked to the biggest and greatest among the sons of Jesse but God chose the smallest of his sons. God sees differently than we do.
Here is my lesson on this. When it comes to inviting someone to stand in the pulpit to speak, look as God would. Look for those whom God has done great things for and who can tell others of those great things but who aren’t easily recognized—those who are not celebrities.
What do I mean by great? Let me give you some examples of people that I know whom God has done great things in their lives.
These you should invited to speak at your church.
You have seen Mr. Eugene Smith on campus. Anyone who has been here for the last several decades has seen him here, humbling going about his work, the work God has set for him. He serves God and us by doing the little, mundane things around here so that we greater folk can bury our noses in books. He cared for a sick wife for many years before losing her. Yet he still works here every day with the most cheerful demeanor on campus, serving his Lord most wonderfully—doing well and faithfully what God has called him to. I suggest that he could tell you of God in his life.
In The Library, in the back in technical services, Steve Frary is gifted by God to buy books. He is the one that ensures that the books you need for your classes and your brilliant papers are on the shelves of the library.
He is expert in this task.
He is also going on twenty years as a double lung transplant recipient.
He was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that kills most people early in their lives. God gave him the gift of two non-diseased lungs over twenty years ago. You would not know this unless you knew to ask him. You could not tell it by his demeanor—the praise of God is on his lips constantly. Ask him to tell you about the mighty things that God has done in his life.
Tom Innes is faithfully ensuring that the Francis Schaeffer collection is digitized and made available to researchers. God has gifted him in this. He is also the father of two very special needs children. His oldest daughter, English, has severe mental problems and is on some strong medication and currently resides in a home for people with those problems. She has only been there a little over a year. Tom and his wife Elaine had her at home for most of her eighteen years, dealing on a daily basis since her childhood with a person that it takes several folks to care for her now. And English has a brother. His name is Latham and he is a down’s syndrome child. Many of you probably know how difficult it is to care for a downs child.
God has worked in Tom and Elaine’s lives, has done great things for them by giving them the strength to care for those two special needs children and keep their marriage together. If you check statistics, most men bail on children like that. Tom and Elaine have learned to rely on God and he has gifted them with each other. And the praises of God is constantly on their lips. Ask Tom or Elaine to come speak to your church.
Michelle Shinholser is the newest member of the Library officer staff. Many of you may remember that she helped you at Lifeway. She is in The Library now and every once in a while we have to remind her that she can’t charge for the books and that the books will come back and that’s ok. Michelle and her husband Stephen are the parents of two special boys, Cody and Lance. I know that several of you suffer from diabetes, probably type two. So does Cody and Lance. And they also have type one. Their sugars and insulin are all over the chart and it takes constant attention to their blood work on the part of their parents. They get sick often just from the diabetes but they also are very vulnerable to regular diseases due to their fragile health and are in constant need of monitoring. Michelle and Steve can tell you of the goodness of God and the strength that he has given them to deal on a daily basis with their sons and their precarious health. And they are always remarking on the goodness and mercies of God. Ask them to come speak to your community of believers.
One of the most well known folks at The Library is Teresé Jerose. You probably know her as the great helper of library patrons in need of serious library research or technical help. She is the one who makes The Library function well and do its job.
Teresé and her husband David lived their lives with no children—the LORD had seen fit to give them only each other.
Until two years ago.
In their not quite advanced years David’s nephew and his wife, due to their stupidity and lifestyle, were forced by the courts to give up their children, Jace and Michael. Now these two boys are a couple of good looking healthy kids, physically. But they came to Teresé and David with some serious problems that came about because of how their parents raised them. God gave to Teresé and David some special needs boys who needed some very special parenting, parenting that did not have the advantage of starting with the boys from day one—as infants. They got Jace and Michael after they had started school and after they had been severely damaged. They had to take on two young boys who needed special attention. But they will tell you about the strength and mercy of God that they have tapped into to raise these two children in the ways of God and in his love. They will be happy to tell you of God’s mercy, strength, wisdom and blessings.
I could tell you about Cathy, a public school teacher who daily witnesses to the grace of God and mercies of Christ. She and her husband had wanted at least six children. But God gave them two very special needs boys. Michael and Nathan were both born severely handicapped. Michael was bed bound his entire fourteen years. Though Nathan could roll around he was still a quadriplegic. Their diapers had to be changed several times every day and to feed them took between an hour or two per meal. Michael passed away at age fourteen and Nathan at age eighteen. But Cathy and her husband can tell you about the daily strengths and mercies God showed them in the lives of those two boys, what a difference they made in their lives. They sing God’s praises to this day because of his mercies. They could also tell you of their daughter Emily who had very special needs brothers, whose brothers never played with her. But God blessed her too and now she is a teacher that God has blessed with a healthy son. Cathy and her husband, and Emily their daughter, could speak at length of God’s strength, mercy, and greatness.
Lee Jefferys, the Planter and Pastor of Open Road Community Church, ministers to the homeless, to the more humble of this world. He shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with the unchurched—As he says—from the crack house to the penthouse, 8-80, blind crippled or crazy. You can ride in, drive in or call in and he will welcome you in regardless of your dress or your mess. He has stories to tell of the transformational power of Jesus Christ!
So, if you are looking for someone to tell your church or group about the extremes of God’s mercy, love and strength, look not to someone who can tell you all about what they have done for God but rather look to Lee, Eugene, Steve, Tom, Michelle, Teresé and to Cathy. These folks can tell you about the daily, long term great things that God has done for them and their spouses in coping with the challenges that he has brought to them for his glory. Listen closely and you will hear the praises of God’s name from their mouths despite what looks to us like insurmountable issues, and problems, and challenges. In the eyes of men they are not the celebrities too many churches look to to speak from their pulpits. But in the eyes of God they are heroes. They are the ones who will tell you about what he has done for them for his good pleasure and for his glory through his son Jesus Christ.
The gospel message is getting out by those like these who are going out and talking to the lost in their daily lives.
These are the folks in the pews whose ‘going’ out is to the work place, to what some consider mundane jobs, but where lost people are. They are those who daily encounter, interact with, and engage the lost every day. Most times that witness isn’t a track or a presentation of the four spiritual laws—it is the presentation of the life and power of Christ in their own lives. It is the love of Christ presented daily in their own changed, transformed lives that the lost witness every day.
These folks are missionaries, they are doers of the Great Commission, they are folks who ‘go’ everyday to encounter the lost in their jobs, in their workplaces.
You want an effective and widespread Gospel witness?
Train these folks.
And how you train them is not always the monologue of a sermon
But the dialogue of the Sunday School classroom.
There the issues of the world are encountered, there the questions are engaged and hashed out, there the difficulties are discussed and fought over.
You want an effective witness to the lost of the world
Train your Sunday School teachers!
who teach those
who are ‘going’ out every single day to encounter lost folks.
Teach the Sunday school teachers what you have been taught here about the Bible (and its languages!), about theology, about church history, about all of the things you learned in your classes.
About how to use libraries and research tools!
I leave you with the lesson of Elijah from the book of Kings. Remember that after his great victory at Mt. Carmel he was chased south to Horeb by Jezebel.
In the depths of his despair and self pity when God asked him ‘What are you doing here Elijah’ he answered ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars and killed your servant the prophets with the sword.
And I alone am left.’
But he wasn’t alone was he? You are not alone nor will be alone.
You will not be the only one God has called and spoken too.
Like Elijah, you will not be the only servant of God where you are going.
There will be many others there too, serving as faithfully,
Serving as zealously as you.
Look up and see them. Treat them as partners and fellow servants.