My Photo

Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birmingham Jew attempts to solve Football Riddle in the South

Sports fans, this blog is a work in progress. I'm posting as it evolves so if you like what you read at all, come back August 4 or so for hopefully the perfected version, the final draft. 

                                       A. Billy Fox and Raymond Parker

 I guess a little of it is genetic disposition, calling in talk radio. When we lived in Gaffney, South Carolina my Dad was a regular on Big WAGI FM. Raymond Parker had a live community program two hours every weekday morning. Other than Bob Prevatte's Weekly Fall Friday Head Coaching report on the Gaffney Indians, I guess my Dad was there more often than anybody else. For about five years he would call in from some big national city to give Raymond and Cherokee County S.C. a report on the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

   He and Raymond weren't one in a timin. You could hear em clear in a big circumference for fifty miles including Greenville, S.C. and Charlotte, N.C.

    Opening day of Major League Baseball Dad would go by every year after he dropped me and my brother or sister off for school and take a shot at Quoting Casey at the Bat for Raymond. About the third verse every year he'd get a little fuzzy, Raymond would say how much he appreciated the first two verses and for Billy to come back next year when maybe he could go the distance; in the meantime he'd most likely see him in a few days to talk about some other goings on in town.

    With that in the blood sooner or later I was destined to call the Paul Finebaum show.

   Or as Linda's friend says, Karl Childer's date says in Slingblade,  if you like pricin items as much as I do, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

 Paul Finebaum, born in New York of Jewish ancestry, educated in Knoxville, longtime sports columnist for papers in Alabama, and the last several years a Radio Jock Talk show host now on the verge of iconography with his recent elevation to ESPN afternoon primetime radio and TV, has a new book coming out August 4.

    I've called his show on several occasions since October 2012; had a good start with Bama QB Greg McElroy as One Rhodes Scholar to another. Paul said: "This ought to be good."

    I'm gonna blog review his book mostly sight unseen, so come back to this post often the next six weeks or so.

  A better though much less read book will come out later this year on SEC Football as religion. It's author Remillard has an easily googled review of Randall Balmer on his new bio of President Carter.

   Here is about the best call I can make; I've already peaked on his show, but wanted to show proof of participation as this blog in progress evolves.

   I come in about the 13th minute on June 30:

                               B.      Finebaum, Rick Bragg, etc. Paul's place
                                 in the World of Southern Lit
                                          and Humor

      Roughly, Paul Finebaum comes in something in the bottom tier of a mid Major. He's no Roy Blount, doesn't come Close to George Singleton thought the world's of Singleton's Half Mammals of Dixie overlap. Finebaum may best Lewis Grizzard by a tad with Finebaum's better tales, but that jury is still out. In a few years where the consensus rank Finebaum's My Conference, your Conference against Warren St. John's Yellowhammer book may be the defining rank.

    Paul did make a feature in the New Yorker and you can't take that away from him. I'll link that article of which Finebaum seems to be very proud at the end of this blog.

                                    C. Nick Saban

    Paul was doing quite well as a Birmingham Post Herald and syndicated talk show host a long time before Nick Saban came to town, but his recent fortunes have gone to much higher places, the one above the stratosphere--isn't that the ionoshphere--in the last seven years of the Saban era at Ubama. If somebody did a content analysis of the Finebaum show the four hours it is on air every weekday afternoon, you'd hear the name Nick Saban at least three times on average every minute. So forty minutes to the hour, for four hours, what's that, that's 480 a weekday afternoon, and a heckuvalot in a year.

    Ron Higgins who has covered the SEC for 35 years had this to say about Saban last week from SEC Media Days second week, this one at ESPN compound in Bristol Connecticut:  Quoting a recent AP story: Higgins said You'd have thought Alabama woulda found somebody a little more stable, quicker--lamenting the string of coaches since the Bear who have averaged out at 3 and half years or so till Saban--than they did but Nick was absolutely the right guy for that job. You have to win there, you have to let everybody know your the boss.BEcause everybody in that state thanks they're a football expert. That's part of the DNA in Alabama. All the fans think they know Football. All the FOOTBALL WRITERS think they know football.You have to basically tell them all to go to Hell

  End Quote

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The legacy of Bill Hull and the FBC Spartanburg Truth Conference

Yesterday in the mail I got the Spring issue of Christian Ethics Today whose current editor is Pat Anderson,  Furman grad of the class of 65, two years after Marshall Frady. Among the many sterling articles in this issue-- including two by my friend Randall Balmer whose recent book looks at the makings of the desertion of many Southern Baptists from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential election--is a tribute to Baptist thinker and pastor William E. Hull by Baptist scholar Budy Shurden.

   The politics of  the Balmer analysis of Carter's defeat is now incarnated in a seminar to be held at Billy Graham and Fox News darling Trey Gowdy home church this September in Spartanburg., South Carolina.

     The Tribute to  Hull, an Abraham Lincoln of religious life in the 20th Century, A Baptist gift to Christendom along with the likes of Martin King, Carlyle Marney, George W. Truett and Upstate South Carolina's L.D. Johnson, is analogous and prophetic to Bonhoeffer's thoughts on the politics of stupidity in the recent Marsh bio the the great 20th Century martyr.  (see my recent blog on that topic)

    Here is one thought of Hull in that tribute.

I tried to make the

gospel creditable to thinking people

of whatever faith or of no faith who

were put off by the mindlessness

that is epidemic in many pulpits. I

knew that my preaching would be

appreciated best by a minority, but

I quickly realized that Christianity

must speak persuasively not only to

the majority who follow but to the

minority who lead.

   But you won't see that display in Spartanburg. They will feature Eric Metaxas whom the Christian Century examines in a piece titled Bonhoeffer Hijacked; and David Barton who was discarded several yeaqrs ago for his views on the founding fathers.

    Giberson and Stephens have taken a caustic look in their book The Anointed.

    Here is hoping Wofford College in Spartanburg, their longtime Trustee Will Willimon, even the editorial staff of the Herald Journal take a look at the ideology of the Tea Party Church at Prayer, informed by Molly Worthen's take on Francis Schaeffer in her new book The Apostles of Reason; Balmer's investigation of the rogue Baptists FBC Spartanburg continue to celebrate; and Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America.

    The Baptists the likes of Bill Hull tried to lead will find FBC Spartanburg's exercise this September nauseating.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Blackberry Theology

  Curtis Freeman, a Duke Div Baptist specialist who has written up my Dad's and my hero Stewart A Newman, is all over facebook today with pics of the blackberries he picked and the wonderful cobbler his wife made.

   Freeman also has a fascination with a copperhead snake that keeps turnin up in his yard. Ron Rash calls em satinbacks, or maybe that's the rattler.

   I got some berries right outside the window here in Bama but my cobbler makers have moved off and I'm suffering, and the logistics aren't working out to get some to Aunt Juanita's cobbler in Rome Ga. I called Cousin Reba but she put me off on Cousin Martha and I haven't worked that out yet.

    Not a perfect telling here, but couldn't let it all pass without a reference to Billy Sunday Birt and my Dad's outtings with High School Principal  Wayne Whiteside in Gaffney in the early 70's. I asked Dad once what those chat were like as they waded out deep into the thicket smelling of kerosene. It was rich conversation.

    You have all the elements, the heat, the humidity, the thorns, the threat of a diamondbacked rattler, human sweat. Ripe mix for revelations of Old Testament proportions.

     Billy Sunday Birt was a serial killer in North Georgia in the 60's, who confessed to 40 murders. He accepted Jesus as his Saviour in the 90s and was taken unshackled to Winder Georgia where his son Baptized him. You got to figure his Godly mother naming him after the biggest evangelist turn of the 19th into the 20th had something to do with it.

     Who am I to judge.

     A friend and I wrote a screenplay fictionalizing those circumstances. There is a blackberry picking seen in it.

     Brad Pitt was raised Baptist out in Missouri. If you can get this blog to him, we'd love to talk if he wants to. President Carter's staffer Jody Powell read well into the story before he died.

    This one's ripe for the pickin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bonhoeffer, The Tea Party and the Politics of Stupidity

   This last week I have been deep into a reading of Charles Marsh's bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Strange Glory. This magnificent biography transcends the politics of our time but one strong analogy stands out, at least in my interpretation; The Nazi brownshirts with which religious life in Germany became complicitous, and America's current Tea Party.

    This morning I talked to Amanda in Southern Baptist Trey Gowdy's D.C. office and jake in the office of Ok's James Lankford. Lankford is an ordained Southern Baptist minister now running for US Senate from Oklahoma. Billy Graham goes to Trey's church, FBC Spartanburg, South Carolina.
    Amanda says she has read the Metaxas bio of Bonhoeffer.

   On Page 341 of a Strange Glory we see the analogy:  "...civil courage, the discipline of dissent had been trampled beneath the mobs and the masses. The issue of ultimate responsibility had in these dark circumstnaces, become a 'question not of how I extricate myself heroically from a situation but [of how] a coming generation is to go on living'.  Then there is the seeming prosaic  matter of stupidity, which in Bonhoeffer's estimation is as dangerous an enemy of the good as evil itself. One may wage protest against evil; evil can be exposed and, if ned be, overcome by force. But stupidity mounts a broad and insidious defense in this way: ' Facts that contradict one's prejudgment simply need not be believed...-, and when facts are irrefutablethey are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental' Great caution is needed to challenge stupidity....

  End quote

    Eric Metaxas biography of DB has been embraced by the Tea Party. reported to me Metaxas accompanied Rick Santorum in the S.C. PPresidential Primary of 2012 and spoke to Republican women in Myrtle Beach at the site of the great GOP debate there.

   Metaxas , a devotee of Watergate's Chuck Colson and Southern Baptist fundamentalism, is the subject of a Christian Century piece of three or so years ago, easily googled Bonhoeffer Hijacked.

    It is a travesty of Bonhoeffer's legacy to make him a tool of Roger Ailes and and the Koch Brothers, N.C "s art Pope's Tea Party.

     A good bit of this as a careful reading of Molly Worthen's analysis of Francis Schaeffer--Apostles of Reason-- in conjunction with Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America should be self evident to anyone but the borderline illiterate.

    There is a spate of books recently including the two above that deserve careful reading, especially in the inner circles of folks like Gowdy and Lankford who espouse a "Christian World View". Others include Steven Miller's recent work on the Dangers of Reagan and the Evangelicals, and my friend Randall Balmer's new bio on the religious pilgrimage of President  Carter

     Bonhoeffer's said he heard the Gospel Preached in America in the Negro Churches.

     I think Marsh is telling us Everybody Singing about  Hebn Ain't going there.

   I don't have the corner on the definitive interpretation of Marsh and Bonhoeffer for our current milieu. But here is an Altar Call, An Invitation to take s straightforward look at the Marsh biography, the Life of Bonhoeffer, A Strange Glory.

    At a minimum folks like Gowdy and Lankford--Charles Pickering and his Alliance Defending Freedom, the BGEA, The SBC  and their counselors, supporters should give it a thorough examination and soul searching.


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Football and Fornication

   Yesterday about 20 minutes into the second hour of the ESPN Paul Finebaum Radio Show I called in. Got in right before Tommy Tubberville the former Coach of the Auburn Tigers.

    I called in to offer my thoughts on a caller last week who was hurt cause some staffer for ESPN, a Woman, said she didn't care for Tim Tebow's Jesus.

   Paul's a secular Jew, but I volunteered my Dad was a Baptist preacher and I Loved Jesus as much as the next guy, but I could understand the woman's point. Tuesday the vote in the GOP primary was between "devout" Christians and Solid Christians.

    I think George Wallace Race card of the 60s has been parlayed into Karl Rove and Mike Hubbard's Religion card in Bama of the Twenty Teens. Check out McDaniel in Mississippi and the Restoration movement. I think the case can be made it's all a milder version of the Brown Shirts Bonhoeffer resisted in Germany.

   I told Paul that and told him I was reading Charles Marsh's new bio Bonhoeffer. Tod him about the Yale Proff, native West Texas Baptist boy named Siman with an A who had an easily googled review over the weekend in the WSJ Paul ought to read.

    For that weight and other asides Paul said he had to read my blog. I hope he is; he'll be in good company.

    In the opening of his review Siman says until the wiser than most youth pastor who came to his town in the 60's about the only thing they prayed over west of San Angelo was "football and fornication". Paul asked which came first.
  Woody Allen aint the only Jew with a sense of humor. Brett Morgen liked the song Footsteps of Jesus.

   I'm gonna do a blog review of Finebaum's book when it ocmes out in August; gonna adjudicate it somewhere on the George Singleton to Roy Blount spectrum. And I got a a few other ideas for the show.

    I got word this morning I got a new batch of blog readers in Upstate S.C. Here is what they need to know. It was Charles E Daniel himself who first introduced Roger Milliken to Strom Thurmond. That was in 1956. If they'll read Joe Crespino's Strom Thurmond's America, they'll know a lot more, be much more deserving readers of what another Upstater named my "illustrious" blog.

   God Bless America and all the boys who sacrificed on D Day 70 years ago. Help them understand rightly understood they did it for more than Mike Hubbard would hold up as the standard in Alabama.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Bonhoeffer in Alabama

     In the Spring of 1931 Dietrich Bonhoeffer rode up HWY 11 through NE Alabama right in front of my Mother's house. She woulda been 7 then about to turn 8 on July 6 in a month or so.
     Now Reading my acquaintance/friend Charles Marsh's bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes even more transcendent the life of my Mother, an otherwise anonymous person of the 20th Century as her Saintly life, though flawed and very human, was at a fleeting moment twenty yards from the great Christian martyr of the 20th Century.

     I have been enchanted, in wonder these last few days reading Marsh's biography. It is even stronger knowing his metastasized witness and telling of the Civil Rights era in Mississippi adds and overshadows the drama of my family's days in South Carolina. We are both Baptist preacher's sons; I am about 5 years older than Marsh. If nothing else knowing his work, his memoir of Laurel Mississippi, and now this majestic, transcendent biography; well if I never touched the hem of Jesus Garment I can say I pretty much know Paul and Silas.

   Marsh's Chapter "I heard the Gospel Preached in the Negro  Churches" makes a strong case it's not too much a stretch of Divine Imagination to see Marsh as a John the Baptist come to announce God's Kingdom in America's Civil Rights Movement 20 years after Hitler had Bonhoeffer killed. In fact as Marsh points out it is quite likely Bonhoeffer heard MLKing's predecessor at Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, the legend Vernon Johns preach at Abysinnian in NYC in 31. And in his 9 months at Union Seminay in NYC, Marsh befriended Franklin Fisher son of the then pastor of Birmingham Alabama's 16th Street Baptist Church.
   In a letter to his brother Karl, Dietrich wrote there is a movement forming here in America for people of color. Bonhoeffer told his brother they will be leaving much more than a collection of lively songs and Negro Spirituals.
   Another Bonhoeffer friend at Union, Myles Horton later established the training Center in Monteagle, Tennessee where the famous photo of Rosa Parks and MLKing was taken in 56 and used by the Birch Society and White Citizens Councils on Billboards all over the Southeast to say they were at a Communist Tranining Center.  A deacon in my Dad's church in Gaffney, South Carolina saw the billboard and it made a believer outta him.

    There are grand moments throughout in this story. One that was strong for me registered from an oft told anecdote of my father in his sermons about the Profession of faith of George W. Truett in Hayesville, North Carolina in the 1870s. On the loafers bench on the town square the next day when talk got to the Baptist church the news one nothing much had happened, just a boy got saved.
    That boy was George Truett who many say was the most remarkable Baptist in America the first half of the 20th Century.

    Likewise, Bonhoeffer in 32 as a 26 year old young an is preaching an Advent Sermon to a congregation of about 40 souls, as Marsh says as if he was preaching to the Whole World. And so he was. I've heard and read many great sermons, but this ranks up in the top eschelon.

    And again before he became a martyr for the ages, August 28, 1934 at Fano Denmark Bonhoeffer is preaching to a gathering of European Progressive Christians on the Unity of the Faith. This time to about 200. He got a standing ovation.

    These moments as the story builds, are gripping, even if you happen to be a Unbeliever.

    The easily googled Cardus Review, and Sunday's WSJ Wiman review shout out this is a book you must read if your Christian Pilgrimage is of any value to you.

     All I can do is add a few incidentals and maybe a tweak on Schleiermacher and Bonhoeffer;  but that for later.

   One thing I was proud to see was Wiman of Yale  in WSJ accent Marsh's storytelling gift. I was in the Spirit already when I read Marsh telling of Bonhoeffer's comfort in hearing faintly on the winds, church hymns on Sunday mornings from his jail cell. Reminded me of James Wood's Review of Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.  So in the eternal congregation of Bonhoeffer I offer this quote:


Robert Grainier, the protagonist of Train Dreams, cannot or will not tell his own story, and so Johnson tells it for him, which is to say about him. Whereas The Name of the World grants us a mere slice of Reed’s life (the novel spans a period of roughly a year) Grainier’s life is presented in something like its entirety. He is born at or around the dawn of the 20th century and dies in the late ‘60s, having been a laborer and man of faith all of his days. Here he is on a visit to Bonners Ferry, the Idaho town on whose outskirts he lives:

“Over on Second Street, the Methodist congregation was singing. The town of Bonners made no other sound. Grainier still went to services some rare times, when a trip to town coincided. People spoke nicely to him there, people recognized him from the days when he’d attended regularly with Gladys, but he generally regretted going. He very often wept in church. Living up the Moyea with plenty of small chores to distract him, he forgot he was a sad man. When the hymns began, he remembered.”

 If you are a literate person and there are a few others in your congregation who can understand the English language, take up a collection Sunday. Get a copy for the church Library. At a minimum go to a nearby Barnes and Noble and Read the Chapter: "I Heard the Gospel Preached in the Negro Churches". Read the context for Bonhoeffer ridin in front of Momma's house.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Turn it up, Alabama

  Over the weekend finally got a viewing of Twenty Feet from Stardom, the documentary on the backup singers for some of the greatest Rocknroll songs of the 60s and 70s. Merry Clayton is the marquee personality. She did the original "Rape, Murder" on the Stones Gimme Shelter. She and Mick Recollect in the doc.

   But thesegment that takes it all for me in this transcendent documentary is the collage they stream, the visuals for her experience with Lynrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama. Great two minute history, takes you right back there.

    Merry's version roughly was in 74 why would any black woman want to sing about Alabama. But she was counseled she would understand in time. She says her first thought it was a slap in the face, but then she thought, unh hunh, we got your sweet home Alabama; we gonna sing you anyway and we gonna sing the crap out of you.

    Beautiful. See the film and see the segment several times.

    To Temper her version read Mark Kemp's exegesis of same song in Dixie Lullaby. Go to the index and find political interpretations. Fascinatin.

   Find this film on pay perview, RecBox, Whatever. If you were born between 46 and 1960 you got no excuses.

     Here is not the exact clip but should get you close to her winning personality and legacy: