February 25, 2020

  1. Kayne, Out West. What is the Superstar Doing in Wyoming? (New York Times)
  2. How the Fight for Racial Justice Pushed Charleston Beyond the Segregated Hour (RNS)
  3. Presiding Bishop Joins Other Christian Leaders Opposing Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Social Services (Episcopal News Service)
  4. Church Wipes Out Medical Debt for Thousands in Kentucky (WTVQ)
  5. Appeals Court Upholds Trump Administration Rules Against Title X for Abortion Funding (Fox News)
  6. Supreme Court Will Hear a Philadelphia Dispute Over Same-Sex Foster Parents (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  7. Devos’ Proposed New Rules Would Allow Religion-Based Discrimination by Student Groups (Forbes)
  8. Baptist Cooperate to Spread Gospel Message in Turkey (EthicsDaily)

Humor, hope and mercy fill the pages of an American imam’s life story

By John D. Pierce

My favorite line among so many in Cloud Miles: A Remarkable Journey of Mercy, Peace and Purpose (2020, Nurturing Faith) is when Imam Imad Enchassi recalls receiving and responding to an ugly message posted on his Facebook page.

With typical, though inexcusable ignorance and hostility so often aimed at Muslims and immigrants, of which Imad is both, the poster urged: “Take your shania law back to islam and your dessert country.” (I added the italics.)

“I couldn’t help myself,” writes Imad. “I had to reply: ‘Shania is a country music singer; Islam is not a country; and dessert is something you eat.’”

To meet Imad is to know a most gracious, well-humored and caring person.

To read his life story is to marvel at how he has lived through war, ongoing discrimination and the travails of a refugee — and done so with great success and, more importantly, with mercy and love beyond degree.

The book includes Imad’s dramatic, firsthand account of going from a suspect (John Mo #2) to a community healer following the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. April 19 will mark the 25th anniversary of that cowardly attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children in a daycare.

Imad Enchassi, Ph.D., is senior imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, the Chair of Islamic Studies at Oklahoma City University, and visiting professor at two Christian theology schools. In 2010, he was named a “Religious Visionary of the Year” by the Daily Oklahoman.

He has founded several charitable and educational organizations in Oklahoma City — named for the Catholic nun who taught him as a refugee. Of her, he writes: “Although I was not a Christian, Ms. Rahma had shown me what it meant to be one.”

His compassion and ecumenism grew out of his upbringing in a war zone where he survived the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Beirut, Lebanon.

“When you grow up in a war zone you will come to school and see empty desks with pictures of your classmates sitting on top. This means your friends are casualties of war,” he writes. “Funny they call the dead in war ‘casualties’ as though there is something casual about it. It is shocking every time.”

He added that certain words should not go together: “I did not have much education back then, but I knew ‘civil’ and ‘war’ were words that should cancel each other out.”

Former Okla. Governor Brad Henry called Imad “a master of storytelling and finding common ground among people of all faiths.”

Gov. Henry called the newly released Cloud Miles “a compelling read that made me think more critically about relationships and, at times, made me laugh out loud and moved me to tears. I highly recommend this book.”

The mixture of tears and laughter flow from Imad recounting stories of family members who were forced from their homes but not from hope; his boyish encounter with bigger-than-life visitor, Muhammad Ali; his compassionate response as a White Helmet volunteer when surrounded by carnage and death; and saying good-bye to family at age 17 to find new life and a new mission of mercy and peace in the United States.

“Through it all, he finds the best in other people, and makes us laugh at the same time,” said Robin R. Meyers, author of several books including Saving Jesus from the Church and Saving God from Religion.

“If you want to feel better about the human spirit, and truly understand the faith of our Muslim sisters and brothers, then read this book, and then get to know your neighbors,” said Meyers. “Nothing would please my favorite imam more.”

Cloud Miles: A Remarkable Journey of Mercy, Peace and Purpose is available now from Nurturing Faith. Click here to order.



February 24, 2020

  1. Cleveland Church Raises $40,000 to Help Pay Off Lunch Debt in Nine School Districts (Fox8)
  2. Trump or No Trump, US Evangelicals Aren’t Custodians of the World’s Gospel Witness (RNS)
  3. Evangelical Christian Sues US Postal Service Over Mandatory Work on Sundays (Christian Post)
  4. Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Unholy Alliance with Israeli Rabbis (Jerusalem Post)
  5. China: Religious Groups Step into the Coronavirus Crisis (New York Times)
  6. Europe: An Orthodox Christian Schism in Ukraine Echoes Around the World (The Economist)

February 19, 2020

  1. Kentucky Man Wins $150k in Lawsuit After He Was Denied Request to Have ‘I’m God’ License Plate (People)
  2. SBC Removes Church With Registered Sex Offender Pastor (New York Times)
  3. Historian: Why Sexual Predator Trump is Different Than Reagan, Either Bush, Dole, McCain or Romney – He’s Evil (History News Network)
  4. Historian: The Problem with the ‘Reluctant Trump’ Vote (Religion News Service)
  5. D.C.’s Chief Medical Examiner is Also a Minister at a Baptist Church in Northwest (WJLA)

When Jerry Clower came to Ringgold because we didn’t know any better

By John D. Pierce

This is a tribute to my friend and high school classmate Tim Clark, whose life we will celebrate on Thursday afternoon (Feb. 20) at Ringgold (Ga.) United Methodist Church.

Like classes before us, the Ringgold High class of 1974 wanted to leave a gift to our alma mater. A traditional way of doing that was to host a talent show called “Spring Follies.”

Perhaps we were more motivated because of moving into a newly constructed school facility for our senior year. (That not-so-new building was rattled by a tornado in 2011.)

Along with fellow senior David Key, Tim and I cooked up a crazy idea: Let’s invite Jerry Clower to our Spring Follies.

For those too young to know or too old to remember, Clower was a former Mississippi fertilizer salesman turned popular country comic and a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Not knowing any better, we three Ringgold boys tracked down his agent to see if Jerry could come. To our surprise, talent agent Tandy Rice (surely thinking we were responsible adults instead of naïve teens) said that due to a cancellation there was an opening on April 26, 1974 — the date of our Spring Follies — and that Jerry could be there for $1,500.

That was a lot of money in ’73-’74 when McDonald’s newly introduced Quarter Pounder cost 60 cents. The performance fee was more than I’d paid for my first car.

But, somehow, Tim, David and I convinced high school principal Richard Clark to sign the contract with our promise to have the massive sum of money in his hands before the show. Then we went to work — and it was fun.

We printed tickets to sell in advance — and designed a simple but adequate program to receive the light blue ink of a mimeograph. Thumbing through the Yellow Pages, we found every place in the Chattanooga area that sold McCulloch chain saws — a product Jerry mentioned in his humorous tales.

We visited those hardware and feed-and-seed stores, selling ads and offering a couple of tickets to see ol’ Jerry in person. The money was coming in.

David Carlock, who lived in the Boynton community as I did, worked for WDEF in Chattanooga. I asked for his help and he responded favorably.

At the Chattanooga airport in April 1974, Jerry Clower greets Tim Clark as I look on.

When Jerry landed at Chattanooga’s Lovell Field on April 26, 1974, Tim, David Key and I were there to welcome him. So was Mr. Carlock, with a mic in hand and a trailing cameraman.

Later I wondered why Jerry didn’t just make the short drive from Nashville, but the airport arrival of an Opry star was more dramatic.

With the arrival interview playing on Channel 12 and WDEF radio, the word was getting around about the show in Ringgold. Jerry also appeared on the afternoon radio show with host “Jolly Cholly.”

Tim and I were listening in when Jerry said in his distinct and loud Southern voice: “Woo! These boys done brought the clean entertainer to town.”

He urged everyone to come out to Ringgold that evening — and it seemed like they did.

I don’t recall how much money we raised. The senior gift, I believe, had something to do with stocking the new high school cafeteria. But all of that didn’t really matter.

What I remember most is the great satisfaction Tim, David and I, along with our many classmates, teachers and other friends throughout Ringgold, had that evening. And I can only imagine the relief Mr. Clark felt, knowing he’d not have to explain to the school board why RHS was $1,500 in the hole.

Soon after arriving at the airport, Jerry had mentioned to us that Ringgold had rung a bell in his mind but he couldn’t remember why. Then it hit him: he recalled reading in the newspaper about David Moss, Ringgold High’s finest athlete who’d gone to University of Tennessee to play basketball the year before.

Cancer had been found in David’s knee and his leg had been amputated recently. He was home, near the high school, recovering. I told Jerry that I’d taken a couple of tickets to David’s house a few days ago and that he would be at the show.

I’ll never forget that night in the Ringgold High gym, after students and other local talent provided some toe-tappin’ country music, and Jerry Clower in his bright yellow suit and white patent leather boots took the stage. He pointed out that David was the real star in that building — and dedicated the show to him.

Tragically, David’s cancer — like Tim’s decades later — became widespread and he died in December 1980. The high school gym is named in his memory. And, like Tim, he was beloved throughout the community.

Last year, when moving from Macon to Gainesville, Ga., I came across my high school yearbook from our senior year. I like to remind classmate and yearbook editor Nancy Poston that her recruitment of me to that staff was my introduction to journalism.

However, I might have spent more time that year selling chainsaw ads for a flimsy program.

Along with classmates Randy Black and Dennis Wallace, Tim Clark (right) and I enjoyed an evening at SunTrust Park in 2018.

In the back of that yearbook, my friend Tim had written about the many good times shared with our classmates — especially the night Jerry Clower came to Ringgold because we didn’t know any better than to invite him.

After signing his name, Tim had scribbled a P.S. in my yearbook, quoting something Jerry Clower had said to us: “Keep looking up!”

I repeated those words back to him last week, through a video I sent to another classmate and friend, Letha White Edmonds, who shared it with Tim in his final days.

We love and miss you, Tim. But we will do our best to keep looking up. We know you’d want it that way.

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Digital subscribers may scroll to the bottom of this post to access the current Teaching Resources password. Published bimonthly (in print or digital access), Nurturing Faith Journal is an autonomous, national journal offering thoughtful analysis, inspiring features and helpful resources for Christian living. With abundant original content found nowhere else, this high-quality, 64-page magazine focuses […]

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Worth Repeating

“That was the command from the ordination, to be ordained as an evangelist and continue his work in television and the media with families and children.” Joanne Rogers, 91, on her late husband Fred seeing the space between the TV and viewer as “holy ground” (RNS) “Decreasing stigma happens all the way from the sermon […]

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Jesus is full of truth and grace. Are we?

There is a familiar biblical affirmation from Christmastide that travels well into and through the Lenten season as well. It is the revelation that the one who became the incarnation of the invisible God was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This does not appear to be a passing thought for the fourth gospel […]

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Trailblazing editor Walker Knight left his mark on Christian journalism Storytelling is ineffective, even misleading, if detached from its social context. So believed Walker Leigh Knight. Therefore, the veteran journalist told stories of Southern Baptist missions in America within the changing cultural shifts of the 1960s and ’70s. Many Baptists of the South, however, were […]

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Road cycling is my hobby and my preferred method for maintaining physical fitness. One of the cycling blogs I read regularly contains an entry titled, “Predictions for the 2020s.” It inspired me to reflect on my predictions for Christianity in America in the new decade. Here are my ideas for 10 developments the next decade […]

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MILESTONE MET: Nurturing Faith publishes 100th book and keeps rolling

Three-time author Jon R. Roebuck’s latest book, Creating Space, marked a milestone for Nurturing Faith. It was the publishing ministry’s 100th title. It all began as a casual conversation with veteran publisher David Cassady, founder of the creative services firm Faithlab, about the changing technology of publishing and the continuing demand for both print and […]

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Nurturing Ethics: God’s call for creation caretakers

We witnessed with horror as fire took hold of Australia. Quickly, deadly flames swept over 14 million acres across the country’s six states. Just one week into a new year, approximately 480 million animals had already perished thus far, with the country’s koala population reduced by one-third. More tragically, 24 persons died in the same […]

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Redemptive Reconciler: John Perkins on race, relationship and finding ‘the language of love’

KELLER, Texas— When longtime reconciliation advocate John Perkins took the stage at a conference of multiethnic church leaders last year, they gave him a standing ovation and kept standing as he counseled them. “You will find me in the so-called white church; you will find me in the so-called black church. But I’m there to […]

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Resistance or resilience: A critical distinction

This column is provided in collaboration with the Center for Healthy Churches ( Two of the more important words for a congregation to ponder in the 2020s are RESISTANT and RESILIENT. The word that better describes your congregation (and you) may determine whether your congregation is viable in the next 10 years. Observers of the […]

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THEOLOGY IN THE PEWS: Shared mission

In my last column I suggested that the ultimate unity of the church is not to be found in agreement on matters related primarily to its teaching and practices, particularly since these are disputed, but rather in the living presence of Christ in its midst. The reality of this presence is one of the promises […]

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Doing good–for free

As a campus minister (my earlier vocation), I would often warn students that if they consider themselves “too busy” to do good at that stage in life it will be an even easier excuse when they have full-time jobs and families. I was using that line once again during a Bible study luncheon in the […]

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THE LIGHTER SIDE: The gospel for short people

I had been at our church for two Sundays when I said, “The podium is tall and I’m not. Do we have other pulpits?” The response was sarcastic: “It was good enough for Martin Luther King Jr. when he preached here. But if you want something better, we’ll start looking immediately.” I later learned that […]

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OUT of EXILE: A spiritual view of stroke recovery

Long ago I wrote columns titled “After the Sermon” for this publication, describing my early struggles as a stroke survivor at age 34. Now, at age 67, I look back in celebration of a miraculous recovery and unimagined blessings. I now add an update on these past 33 years of following Jesus down some very […]

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RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS: Richard M. Nixon (1969–1974): Part 1

It was a dark and stormy night in American politics. During a time of upheaval, “millions of Americans believed their time-honored values were being swept away by an insurgent left,” wrote historian David Greenberg. To conservatives, liberal opposition to a beloved Republican president represented an “attack on their mores and way of life.” While evidence […]

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What if? Finding answers in relationships

For years I have contemplated the shrinking churches of which I have been a participating member. What are we missing? Why don’t people come to these places I love and enjoy? What can we do? Quite frankly, such questions have consumed a lot of my thinking and prayers. Recently, however, I have felt an answer […]

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DIGGIN’ IT: Have we erred on Ur?

For years, most Bible readers have assumed that Abraham’s hometown should be identified with the great city of Ur, located in southern Mesopotamia, an area known in ancient times as Sumer. The area is now in southern Iraq; the site of Ur is near the modern city of Basra. From the time of Leonard Wooley’s […]

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PRIVILEGE & POWER: Historical survey shows Christianity’s current conflicts go beyond familiar labels

“White evangelicals are terrified that liberals want to extinguish their rights,” reads a modern headline. “‘Christian’ is no longer a religious faith — it’s white identity politics,” blares another. There is much substance — and history — behind both. CONSERVATIVE CRITICISM As a recent Christianity Today editorial observed, many fearful evangelicals have placed their hope […]

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