Saturday, July 21, 2012

In Memory of Old Teeth

July 21, 1968 marked the passing of my Papaw, the Rev. Kenneth Hicks.  He was a former hobo who struggled with alcohol before turning to Christ through the faithful witness of his wife, my Granny – the granddaughter of moonshiner Bill Birchfield.

Papaw represented a bygone generation of “old-time” country preachers, the kind who work up into an exhaling rhythm.  He was a hard preacher.  But his doctrine was perfectly orthodox and biblically literate.  Papaw personally knew men like Oliver B. Greene (The Gospel Hour) and Harold Sightler (The Bright Spot Hour) and was heavily influenced by their no-nonsense, straightforward presentation of substitutionary penal atonement and call to practical holiness in a life “worthy of God.”  A few years ago I listened to recovered audio tapes of his sermons and was pleasantly surprised by their clear and forceful logic.  No rabbit trails, no hobby horses, no sensationalism.  He represented the emotionalist tradition of Appalachian Christianity without succumbing to the baser elements of folk religion.

That’s not to say Papaw was an exemplary man.  By the grace of God he was what he was – a faithful preacher of the gospel.  But he, like all believers, proved Luther’s dictum of simul iustus et peccator.  He had his moments – like the time he and another preacher left my tired and thirsty dad, then a youngster, for hours while he set up for their tent-meeting.  Papaw wasn’t particularly great with small children, either.  I used to actually dread going to visit him because of his annoying habit of sticking his false teeth out at me.  He had a devilish sense of humor.  “Don’t want to see old teeth,” I used to mumble.

Foibles aside, when he passed away his home on the ridge above Harriman, TN was covered with hundreds of mourners – friends, neighbors, and former parishioners from his sundry pastorates.  On a sultry July’s dusk as I sat on the tailgate of an stationwagon eating Pop Tarts with a couple of pretty teenage girls I had never met before, I realized that my Papaw had had a far-reaching impact on the lives of many people from the Cumberland Plateau to the Blue Ridge.

At the end of his last sermon, preached the very day he passed, he asked the congregation to repeat this refrain:

Saved by the blood of the crucified one
All hail to the Father, all hail to the Son
All hail to the Spirit, the great three in one
Saved by the blood of the crucified one

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Patriot

George Mason (1725-1792) was an Anglican Christian who, although having never attended
school a day in his life, voraciously availed himself to his uncle's library (perhaps the prototypical American unschooler). He was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), an Anti-federalist, a Virginia delegate who opposed the new Constitution, and agitator for a Bill of Rights to be added to that document.

Here is the Virginia Declaration for our contemplation on this Fourth of July holiday.

SECTION I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

SEC. 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

SEC. 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

SEC. 4. That no man, or set of men, are entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community, but in consideration of public services; which, not being descendible, neither ought the offices of magistrate, legislator, or judge to be hereditary.

SEC. 5. That the legislative and executive powers of the state should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and that the members of the two first may be restrained from oppression, by feeling and participating the burdens of the people, they should, at fixed periods, be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in wh ich all, or any part, of the former members, to be again eligible, or ineligible, as the laws shall direct.

SEC. 6. That elections of members to serve as representatives of the people, in assembly, ought to be free; and that all men, having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community, have the right of suffrage and cannot be taxed or deprived of their property for public uses without their own consent, or that of their representatives so elected, nor bound by any law to which they have not, in like manner, assented for the public good.

SEC. 7. That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and ought not to be exercised.

SEC. 8. That in all capital or criminal prosecutions a man hath a right to demand the cause and nature of his accusation, to be confronted with the accusers and witnesses, to call for evidence in his favor, and to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of twelve men of his vicinage, without whose unanimous consent he cannot be found guilty; nor can he be compelled to give evidence against himself; that no man be deprived of his liberty, except by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers.

SEC. 9. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

SEC. 10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.

SEC. 11. That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other and ought to be held sacred.

SEC. 12. That the freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.

SEC. 13. That a well-regulated militia, or composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.

SEC. 14. That the people have a right to uniform government; and, therefore, that no government separate from or independent of the government of Virginia ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.

SEC. 15. That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

SEC. 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.