Winston Churchill; A Flawed Man Who Saved a Nation

 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

1st Timothy [1:15]

Winston Churchill would commonly wake up late in the morning. And many days start off with a stiff drink. Usually gruff to the staff and he had a tendency to lose his temper. Many days he smoked four or more cigars, had a bottle of Champagne, and drank Scotch late into the night. His language could be crude, and he could anger easily.

His political and military record was spotted with questionable decisions. He convinced a future king to marry a commoner, which eliminated any chance for the person to become king. During World War 1, his decision to outflank the Turks cost twenty-five thousand lives in Gallipoli. His decision in 1925 to return the British currency to the Gold Standard of valuation helped put the United kingdom into a depression. He also believed in the superiority of the British people, which led to him having an Imperialistic view of the British colonies.

Churchill was a very complicated person, with many flaws. Even today, many will argue his weaknesses. Especially in our current times of judging people solely on their weaknesses. Recently, in London, his statue was vandalized, and word racist was inscribed on his statue.

There is another side to Churchill than just his weaknesses. He had a very rare human quality of being able to stay principled when others pressed for quick solutions.  He stood up when others chose to sit down. Churchill through a mixture of luck and have no one else to pick, became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940. A difficult time in history, with the Nazi’s invading many Western European countries. In fact, at the exact time, he was made Prime Minister, the entire British army was trapped on the coast of France by the Nazis. As the Nazi’s took over country after country, the British Army was pushed to the sea near Dunkirk, France. Three hundred thousand soldiers looking at certain death or imprisonment.

Most of the politicians who had placed this army in this precarious position insisted that Churchill negotiate a peace deal with Hitler. Churchill said, no! He knew full well that any deal with Hitler would not be honored. Churchill also knew that the British people would rather fight than surrender. Churchill spent days convincing the politicians they were wrong, and eventually, King Edward agreed. Later, Churchill finally received the full support of the government through a rousing speech in Parliament. Any peace deal with Hitler was off the table and the United Kingdom then stood alone against tyranny.

Churchill also pushed the military to not give up on the soldiers trapped in Dunkirk. Inspiring local fishermen and sailors to use their boats to sail to Dunkirk to rescue the trapped army. In a valiant moved called Operation Dynamo; almost nine hundred civilian boats went to Dunkirk and brought home the army. While the military leaders stood by with no offer of help, Churchill inspired a nation to go get the army.

Behind Churchill stood the British people, bravely standing up to a vicious and evil force intent on taking over the United Kingdom and the world. When there was no one left to stand up to Hitler, Churchill and the British people stood alone. The United States scarred by World War 1, desired to stay neutral. This was only the beginning of the difficult days that laid ahead.

Churchill navigated his country through the Battle of Britain, where night after night cities were bombed. He helped his country get through the Battle of the Atlantic when German U boats sought to sink merchant ships delivering desperately needed food and supplies. He encouraged his scientist to develop a radar system that helped the British air force defend their country.

He mobilized the people through speeches of encouragement. He convinced C.S. Lewis to go on the radio each night and offer hope to the British people. People rallied around him because he could get the best out of people and his bravado saved Britain. Today’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson recently said; he saved this country — and the whole of Europe — from fascist and racist tyranny.”

Five years after those dark days and many more difficult situations, the Nazi’s were defeated, and the United Kingdom survived. That July Churchill was voted out of office.

In today’s verse, Paul called himself the Chief of all sinners. But Paul was the great leader who propelled Christianity from the backwaters of Judea to an international faith. Today, his skillfully worded prose, is as meaningful to us, as they were to those from the past. Surely this great advocator for Jesus, Paul, was a good and honorable person. Yet he stilled claimed he was the Chief Sinner. And It is true that Paul could at times be very arrogant and other times less than tolerable. And these actions embarrassed Paul, which is why he called himself the Chief Sinner.

Each of us has had regrettable moments, some of us more than others. However, If we turn to evaluate people exclusively by their weaknesses, the world will not be a better place. For all would be banished. Churchill wouldn’t have saved Europe, nor Paul emerges as one of the great leaders of Christianity.

Humankind is very complicated and judgment that comes to easy will eventually sink us. Jesus died on a cross for a reason. To end the judgment of our sin and we became redeemed. Perhaps forgiveness can be a new fashionable way of life. I certainly know that this is what Jesus would want.

There will always be a clucking Nay-Sayers, who seek to destroy.  Forgetting where the world be without Churchill and Paul. And Jesus wants us to be forgivers and not judges. Jesus knows our frailties but also knows our capacity to do far more good.

I pray for the day when we look for the good in people and not just at the bad…

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Our Brokenness Lets God Light In!

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in….”

Ernest Hemingway

“Kintsukuroi” is the traditional Japanese method of repairing pottery with precious metal so the repair becomes part of the history of the item.

Although you might see Hemingway and a Japanese repairman as opposites; I believe God has a defined purpose that intertwines both ideas.  We are all flawed or broken in some way, some minor, some severe. God’s healing power and presence come in through the cracks in our human armor; and as we are healed, our experience becomes a precious tool and reminder that nothing is impossible with God.  Those cracks then become the wisdom for us to help and heal others.

We are called to be healed and be healers.  Turn towards the light of God and feel the cracks fill in with Divine Peace!

Praying with you, and for you!

Pastor Lou Strugala

NJSP Chaplain

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“I Can’t Speak, But I can Listen”

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Luke [10:27]

One of the things I struggle with is helping people standing on corners with cardboard signs asking for help. My problem is that I don’t always give money unless they are older and obviously in need. I have the misguided impression that if you are young and appear to be able, I feel that helping is enabling these folks. In effect, judging them as lazy. My wife, Connie, on the other hand, is always fishing for money to hand over to the people we see on the corner. For years, I have struggled with this, and in my darker moments, I get very judgmental and refuse to help.

Recently, I came across a story about Luke McAllister, that changed my mind. Luke is twenty and lives in Camarillo, California. Each Saturday, he goes to Trader Joe’s with his father and hands out packages to homeless people. The packages are made with Ziploc bags that contain a bottle of water, two-dollar bills, and food items that won’t go bad in the heat of the sun.

Luke is a very different young man. First, he is a non-verbal autistic person. He is twenty years old and attends the Camarillo Church of Christ with his parents. Luke also suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks. As such, the church leaves the back row reserved for Luke and his parents. This allows Luke to get up and walk outside to relieve his panic attacks without being noticed.

Luke got this idea to hand out packets to the homeless during his weekend shopping visits with his dad. He noticed a number of homeless people and wondered how he could help. He explains why as follows; I have been given an incredible support system, and it scares me to think about traveling alone in this world, but that is the reality for so many, If I can ease a scared soul, my trials are not so bad.

While Luke is non-verbal, he can express himself using an Alphabet board and his iPad. His iPad has an APP that allows the computer to speak his words as he writes them. The church quickly found out what he was doing and they themselves began distributing packets and established  Luke’s Ministry. Later other local churches joined in. Using his iPad, he spoke in front of the congregation to explain how he assembled the packets. His father stood next to him to soothe him as he delivered his message.

Luke will tell you; I can’t speak, but I can listen. But he can speak, just not the way other people can. He speaks mechanically through a computer, more importantly, he speaks very loudly through his actions. Luke really does listen, through processing what he sees and understanding what it means. His words are trapped in his mind, and it is hard for Luke to relay back that he is really listening, but he is always hearing. Luke stands as another one of those examples of how God uses humble and ordinary people to be servants.

As I read more about Luke’s story, I got my answers about why I shouldn’t be so narrow-minded about helping the homeless in my community. The first is the gratitude that is expressed by those who receive the packets. In interviews with the recipients of Luke’s packages, to a person they were thankful. The second is Luke’s own words, where he says; I care greatly for the homeless, I care for individuals I see in immediate need. I care intensely about individuals in need who are directionless. 

In many ways, Luke is a modern-day Good Samaritan. Today’s verse comes from the Good Samaritan story in Luke. Which brings us to the Bible verses in Luke [10:27]-37 that describes the story of the Good Samaritan, where it says;

He answered, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Normally, I don’t post full-length Bible texts, but for me, this is an important lesson. In this story, we find two well education religious leaders who pass by a man who has been beaten. Yet the third, not a religious leader, stops to help.

And this is the point, no matter how much we say we are religious it doesn’t matter unless we put our beliefs into action, much like Luke does. To truly love our neighbor, putting aside our preconceived bias is very important. We are not to judge, but love. Now you can see why I consider Luke a modern-day Good Samaritan. Luke cares intensely about those who are living in difficult conditions and helps, while not judging.

Off to the supermarket, I will go, based on this story. To shop for my packets for the homeless. My packets will include a bottle of water, a five-dollar bill, and food similar to what I carried while hiking the Appalachian Trail last year; Belvita cookies, raisins, and beef jerky. I will leave these packages in my car and hand them out whenever I see a homeless person.

What a valuable lesson from a person who is trapped in his own mind, but through his overwhelming love and desire to help his neighbor he has found a way to speak and contribute mightily to the world.

By the way, the name Luke means, the bright one or light. Luke certainly lives up to his name.

 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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If You Love Your Enemies, You Will Soon Run Out Of Enemies

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Matthew [5:44]

Each morning I read and create Twitter posts or tweets. One of my favorite things to do is read what the everyday Twitter person has to say theologically. And each day, I get a new insight and become amazed at how astute and thoughtful the tweets are. Recently, I read; If you love your enemies, you will soon run out of enemies. As I thought about this statement throughout the day I became convinced that if  I and others held this attitude, what a better world it would be.

Imagine if we all held this attitude. There would be no Cancel Culture. More people would be forgiven. And certainly, there would a whole lot more critical thinking. Instead of us reacting, there would be far more compassion and thoughtfulness in the world. So, I really appreciated this tweet and let the person know how much his tweet made me think.

On the same day, I came across an article about Julian Edelman. Julian is a former MVP of the Superbowl and is also Jewish. I know that people who know me will roll their eyes because I chose to write about one of my favorite NFL stars, who play on my favorite team the Patriots. But bear with me, this is a great story.

Earlier in the week, DeSean Jackson posted a very anti-Semitic quote on Instagram. So repulsive, I will not quote it, other than to say he defamed our Jewish brothers and sisters using a quote from Hitler.

Jackson’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, immediately and publicly,  strongly condemned the post. Not only that they had long discussions with Jackson and encouraged him to get to know the Jewish community better. By the way, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, is Jewish.

Now back to Edelman. Edelman in a response posted on Instagram; This world needs a little more love, compassion, and empathy. Julian also reached out to Jackson privately and then posted on Instagram that he and Jackson have agreed to have a deeper conversation. Edelman and Jackson both agreed to visit together with the Holocaust museum and the National Museum of African American History. Then afterward, both will have a conversation to educate each other and grow together.

Likewise, Mitchell Swartz, an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs and Jewish, expressed his point of view about Jackson’s comment by saying;  Our platforms as athletes are a powerful tool, and with them comes immense responsibility. We can all do better. Yes, I agree, not just athletes, but all of us can do better.

I also especially admire how Jackson’s team, the Philadelphia Eagles, handled the situation. They immediately denounced Jackson’s point of view. While at the same time treated the situation as a chance to talk with Jackson. The owner, Jeffrey Lurie, didn’t immediately fire Jackson, instead, he tried to get Jackson to see his point of view. Since that conversation, to Jackson’s credit, he has apologized twice and agreed to begin working with Jewish outreach programs. As well, Jackson has accepted an invitation to visit Auschwitz.

In a world where it has become so easy to dismiss people when they make a mistake, this is a heartening story. A model for the Cancel Culture Mob to follow. So much of our country’s problems should be handled this way. A deep recognition that we all make mistakes and should be given a chance to hear the other side’s point of view. Being Cancelled only creates more hostility.

Edelman didn’t attack Jackson, instead, he looked for an opportunity to create a friend and ally. He posted the following to explain his position; I have seen DeSean play in his career, make outstanding football plays, we’ve communicated over social media. I’ve got nothing but respect for his game. I know he said some ugly things, but I do see an opportunity to have a conversation.

Edelman, Swartz, and Lurie could have said and done some ugly things to Jackson, like firing him and turning their back to Jackson. Instead, they sought to build bridges of understanding. In a time when it has become fashionable to do the opposite.

Perhaps no group has suffered more violence than our Jewish brothers in sisters, during the Holocaust two-thirds of the entire Jewish European population was murdered or six million people. We should also know that twenty percent of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to the Jewish community. Each year, up to forty percent of the Oscars are awarded to a Jewish artist, director, or producer. Amazing statistics when you consider at close to fifteen million, they represent less than  1% of the world’s population.

I am so amazed that a group of people, who have been so persecuted, produce so much for our society. They don’t seek to play the victim. They instead look to build.

Jesus has told us; But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. These actions towards Jackson are what Jesus was talking about. Jesus is simply asking us to look to build up and not tear down. To treat every person respectfully and when we disagree, disagree with love.

Too often lately, I see how people are quickly dismissed. I see people ending friendship over just one point of difference. Instead of trying to understand and being balanced, too many are easily offended. They cancel friendships and lose the opportunity to know more.

As I thought about this story and Desean Jackson, my Twitter friend is right; If you love your enemies, you will soon run out of enemies. It doesn’t surprise me that our Jewish brothers and sisters gave us an example of what Jesus was talking about. What kind of world would we live in if we followed Jesus’s request and my friend’s advice?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

A Joyful Heart 

A joyful heart is a heart in which something new is being born…..”

Henri Nouwen

Father Henri stated in such simple terms such deep theological thoughts.  I wonder how many of us are resistant to new things or ways of living, that we block God’s joy from our hearts.

The above statement invites us to experience growth, accomplishment, and new ways of thinking that allows our hearts freedom to feel the love and peace that only comes from accepting the Creator’s love.  As we allow new to be born within, joy becomes our gift to others!

“Joyful, joyful we adore Thee….”

Praying for you

Pastor Lou Strugala

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

Refreshing Your Soul

The Almighty makes me lie down in green pastures. God leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Names’ sake…”

Psalm 23:2-3

Yesterday I was given a remarkable gift: rest. You see I, like many of you, live my life in overdrive 24/7.  There’s always something more to do, someone else to care for, another crisis to deal with.

Yesterday God gave me the gift of rest.

Oh don’t get me wrong; the day started just as hectic as any other, at 4 am.  But the morning brought God’s healing grace over my soul.  I had positive conversations regarding these texts and who they are reaching. We are creating a new support group for caregivers and a bit of good financial news for the churches’ feeding ministry.   I drove to a secluded spot at Atsion lake to record a video devotional and felt God’s peace as the water rippled.

You see God led me to a tranquil place to breathe in Creation and pause. God restored my soul at the water’s edge and gave me rest.

Please take a moment today to appreciate some of the little things in your life, and pause.

Refreshment of your spirit is waiting…

Praying with you…

Pastor Lou Strugala

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Does it Help to Cancel and Erase Aunt Jemima?

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you; this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark [12:41]-44

I recently read that Quaker Oats was eliminating the Aunt Jemima brand and was going to change the name on the syrup and other products that the name promoted. I wondered to myself, is this fair to the families of the woman who originally was used to create this image? As well as, was this just another one of those all too familiar, quick fixes to solve a problem? A ready, fire and then aim approach to addressing a problem

On the surface, this name and image represent a strong connection to slavery and racism. Aunt Jemima represents the prototype of a Mammy from the 19th century. A black slave cook for white families. It is clearly a name and image that represents the extraordinarily unfair treatment of our African American brothers and sisters.

But who was the first Aunt Jemima? And why are her relatives so upset with this decision by Quaker Oats. Well, she was Nancy Green, born into slavery in 1834. After the Civil war, in which she lost her husband and children, she moved to Chicago with the family that she had become their cook.

At the age of 59, Judge Walker whom she cooked for, recommended to the R.T. Davis Milling Company that she be hired to represent their brand. Thus, Nancy Green became their image to promote their product, pre-mixed pancake mix. At the same time, Ms. Green became the first African American corporate spokesperson. As well as, one of the first female corporate spokesperson.

At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, she became an instant hit. Setting her off on a career promoting the brand. She was given a lifetime contract and she was the hit of many fairs, food stores, and festivals. Often promoted on large billboards with her picture.

Despite her lifetime contract, she was replaced because she refused to travel to Paris to promote the product. In 1910, at the age of 76, she was back working as a housekeeper. She died in 1923 in a bad car accident.

But there is far more to this woman when you dig deeper. She co-founded the largest African church in the United States, Olivet Baptist Church. Using her stature she became a spokesperson and activist in Chicago for equal rights and to end poverty. She lived not angry at her treatment but always trying to help others out.

You also should know that when she died, she was buried in an unmarked grave in Chicago’s Oakwood Cemetery. Thanks to a local Chicago historical society, in March 2020, she finally received her headstone.

When family members heard about the decision to eliminate her from the brand, they were upset. Feeling that important family history was being eliminated. African American YouTube star, Anthony Brian Logan, has called this decision an insult to black history.

I point this out because it isn’t clear that eliminating Aunt Jemima has widespread support. In fact, many disagree. Making we wonder; instead of eliminating Aunt Jemima, perhaps we should consider a way to recognize and honor her. After all, she was America’s first African American corporate spokesperson. More importantly, she was a very early civil rights activist and she helped start the largest African American church in the United States.

My thinking here is that while she used to portray a dark side of American lore, she did far more good. And how does canceling Ms. Green recognized this good? I agree with her family, it would be a shame to erase her from history. Instead, shouldn’t we lift up a woman who did so much good.

Instead of dressing her up like a mammy, why doesn’t Quaker Oats create an image of her as an early civil rights activist and call their brand; Ms. Green’s. And at the same time create a marketing campaign that explains why the change. Quaker Oats has made significant profits off of Nancy Green, perhaps they could share some of these profits to support Ms. Green’s causes.

Now you might think these are radical ideas, they aren’t. Think about how Jesus would want her honored. Perhaps the same way he honored the widow, in the Parable of the Widow. A woman who had been mistreated in the world, but still gave all she had to make the world a better place. Jesus certainly would want the world to know about the good Ms. Green did, as he did with the widow from today’s verse.

In the age of Cancelling, we should change to being an age of Correcting. Just because something is fashionable, like the current fad of canceling, it doesn’t mean it’s right. It is not hard to be brave when it is the fashionable thing to do. Real bravery is thinking things through and then acting, instead of being fearful of backlash and reacting.

Nancy Green gave all she had and died pennilessly. Canceling her solves little. Instead, let’s rejoice at what she accomplished and use her example to follow in our lives. That’s what Quaker Oats should do, rebrand her as the champion she became.

Jesus wants us to honor heroes, not cancel them.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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Lou Strugala; God’s Servant

The Lord is merciful and compassionate; slow to anger, and giving of kindness and love……”

Psalm 145:8

Note from Dr. Hartman

Every Monday and Wednesday, our website, A Closer Walk With Jesus, posts a message from Pastor Lou Strugala. Today’s message from Lou is a story about how he served his Lord on an eventful Sunday. You should know, Lou is very humble and only seeks the ways of the Lord. I assigned the title today, and Lou would object if he knew in advance.

I am always amazed at Lou’s heart and depth of faith.

What follows is his recent Saturday and I thought you should know what a wonderful Pastor Lou is for our country.

Saturday was one of those typical Jersey summer days; humidity and temperature about equal, and the sun adding a bit to help bake.  I received notification early of a fatality in one of the communities where I serve as a police chaplain and arrived at the scene a short time later.  Praying for the young man was about all that I could do as we all were waiting for the investigation to run its’ course.  While there, we received word of a fatal car accident, and it was felt by all I could be of more service there.

I knew many of the officers and firefighters on the scene, and had prayed with the NJ State Police Sergeant and crew at a diner in the past.

As we waited for the painstaking and thorough investigation with multiple agencies involved, I observed this Psalmist’s verse being lived out.  God was working through everyone on the scene in so many ways.  Here are just a few.

The main concern was for the family of the deceased: it was imperative to be 100% certain of the young man’s identity.  The secondary concern was for everyone on the scene:  I lost count of how many times I heard “Pastor Lou, you ok?”  Or a certain person is having a tough time; can I have him talk to you?”  Do you need water?  We have some coffee if you’d like… and on and on.   Kindness

And finally, when we went to the parents’ home, the officer showed tenderness and compassion that only comes as a gift from God in sharing news that turns a family upside down.

God was present through all the events that day; and I wanted to take this time to say “Thank you” to all our first responders. You will always be in my thoughts and prayers; and I wish you peace and safety!

Pastor Lou Strugala

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Jesus’s Lesson About Freedom Through Prayer

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..”

Jesus of Nazareth

Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus’ followers had a simple request, and from that request, we have a prayer that has lasted centuries all over the earth. Simple, yet complex.

You see, this prayer shows clearly our inter-dependence on God’s providence to achieve a true independence from the trials and evils of this world. Reliance on God provides the strength to work together to achieve freedom like no other.

And working together means working with all people. Not just the ones we choose. We will never have true freedom until all people are given their daily bread.

As we celebrate our freedoms in this great experiment called America, let us become even more aware of our dependence on one another and the positive results that occur when we work together in faith!

God Bless America!
Praying for you!

Pastor Lou

Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

 Mom’s Prove Humankind is Wonderfully Made by God

So God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Genesis [1:27]

Listen before reading; It’s a wonderful world, By Louis Armstrong

I recently had a difficult discussion with a very good friend about the state of goodness in humankind. One which I have frequently with others as well. The discussion always starts with people telling me; I have way too rosy a view on the condition of humankind. In these discussions, I am told about the Doctrine of Original Sin and the state of the world today. Some will say that humankind is thoroughly and totally depraved. I always disagree. It is not that I don’t think we all sin and do things not pleasing to Jesus, but it is the severity of the state of humankind with which I disagree. Rather than thinking of us as totally depraved, I see humankind as mostly good with a tendency to sin.

Sometimes I  am told, my viewpoint is not Biblical. However, when I read the description of how humankind was created in the Bible, I read; God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, this makes me feel correct in my viewpoint. This verse is important;  the verse is in the first chapter of the first book in the Bible, Genesis 1:1. For me this means something. Being one of the first proclamations in the Bible, for me, it is the basis and start of a discussion about our state of goodness. It convinces me that we are all made in the image of God. Where we go from there is our free will, but it still remains we are at least made in the image of God.

Next, let’s go to the Doctrine of Original Sin. By the way, this is not a Doctrine created by God, rather it was thought up by Saint Augustine. To validate this, type into Google; who created the Doctrine of Original Sin, the first thing you will see is Saint Augustine. Some have interpreted this doctrine as proof of the total depravity of humankind. However, when I read the arguments by scholars, I find a range from a tendency to sin to all the way to total depravity.

The source of this thought on the Doctrine of Sin by Augustine is from Romans [5:12]-21. But nowhere in these verses do we see the words, total depravity. Rather in verse eighteen, we see, Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people. This is my point, even one act of bad behavior means we have sinned and are sinners. But it doesn’t mean we are all totally depraved.

This is where I think people have taken this to far. Augustine himself was no angel. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is, “Give me chastity, but not yet.” We should also remember before Augustine came to Christ, he led a life far more depraved than many. Making me think about one of the things I have noticed in life, that you see the world as you see yourself. My thesis here is that Augustine assigned to humankind a condition that existed within himself, but not all of humankind.

So it isn’t Biblical that we are all totally depraved. Our own experiences in life can affect how we think about sin. Our guide should be what it actually says in the Bible and our own thinking derived from our life experiences. Our life experiences when connected with the Bible; are real and should be considered.

Now before we go too far, it doesn’t mean I don’t think we all have sinned and need the cross for our redemption.  I certainly do! But I don’t believe in total depravity for all humankind.

For instance, when I think of my mom, I don’t see total depravity. I see someone who raised, as my father would say, five only children. Each and every one of her children she doted on and looked out for. Always putting her kids and my father ahead of herself. Each child thought they were the favorite, only to discover in later life, we all thought the same way.

On summer days, she would drive all five of us children to Sebago lake for a day in the sun and swimming. Not just one day a week, most days! Everything about the day was for us. She prepared everything, and sat and watched her children play and swim.

During the school year, she became our personal taxi cab driver. Driving us to our athletic visits or music lessons. Most days there wasn’t much time for herself. She did the groceries, always with the thought of what her family liked. Today, these same meals are legendary. Even at the age of sixty-six, I crave these meals.

On my last visit to see her, I watched silently as she was making brownies. I saw her patience and thoughtfulness in making these delights from my past. There was total concentration on her part, and I could feel the worry about whether these brownies would be good enough for her family.

Now I know many others have moms like my mom, and some don’t. But from what I have seen, most do. The reason for pointing this out is that even if one person, like my mom, isn’t totally depraved, than people who interpret Augustine’s argument about all are totally depraved are wrong.

Likewise, I see this same goodness in my brothers and sisters. As well as, with the very many people that I worked within my career and my friends. Likewise, with the family I married into, all my brothers and sister-in-law’s have hearts of gold. Carolyn, my wife’s mom, is so very similar to my mom with her own goodness. Connie’s dad, Bill, has always been more concerned about his children and their spouses than himself.

So I am sorry, I can’t join the totally depraved crew and their thoughts. And this isn’t because I don’t know there is evil in this world. Or that I haven’t seen flaws in those around me. And certainly, I myself, many times should have and could have been better.

And this doesn’t mean that I don’t see the need for Jesus and the cross to redeem us, it is just simply, I don’t see this much evil in the world.

By the way, as soon as the news, as it always does, gets too negative, my mom changes the channel. She knows the world as it really is, filled with wonderful things and God’s love.

Listen to this song by Louis Armstrong and you will see what my mom sees, It’s a Wonderful World.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash