Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Family Portraits # 1

I have advertized some mentors & colleagues and heroes, so, as a break from my depression over a nation, including many U.S. Christians, who favor torture, I thought I’d upload a few family pictures.

This is my father, Lynsey (Lynn) White, and his new wife, Kay. (My mother died 3 years ago this December.) Kay has grown children, too.

Papa was in the U.S. Navy (Shore Patrol) when I was small. He opposed the Vietnam War but since he didn’t oppose all wars, he knew he wouldn’t qualify as a CO and couldn’t see himself running to Canada. So, he joined the Navy and then was almost sent to ‘Nam anyway! Although we have never agreed about pacifism, I learned to stand up for my convictions from Papa and to reject nationalism.

Papa & Mom were bit players in the Freedom (Civil Rights) Movement, especially the St. Augustine, FL campaign of ’64. I grew up with pictures of major Civil Rights leaders. We lived in a mostly-black community in Orlando until I went to high school in Jacksonville Beach. I was one of 3 white people in my Junior High when bussing began and, of course, I was bussed nowhere because I was already in a mostly black school. My deep opposition to racism in all forms was learned at home.

That doesn’t mean that my folks were perfect. Although neither had issues with African-Americans, my mother, whose father was briefly captured by the Japanese in WWII, struggled all her life against prejudiced feelings against Asians–though probably no Asian person who met her ever suspected. When I dated Lourdis Medellata, a Filipino girl, both my folks had to work at welcoming her, although my father’s issue was that Lourdis was Catholic! They knew the difference between personal racial prejudice and institutional/structural racism and that justice and reconciliation, though related, were not identical.

When I was a teen (and going through my rebellious, skeptical, agnostic phase), Papa was first a hospital administrator and then a United Methodist pastor–second career. (How I ended up Baptist is a long story.) We housed people in our home who could not afford a place of their own until they could–only asking that they contribute to the family grocery bill since there were 6 kids! When one person left for their own place, we took in another. I only learned to call this the biblical practice of hospitality much later.

Papa retired to Texas, his family home, and lives just north of Dallas. He details cars and trucks for an auto dealer. Kay is a retired office manager. From a Pentecostal (Assemblies of God) background, Kay is still adjusting to a Methodist parish with a woman pastor. Papa teaches Sunday School there and is involved in Stephen ministry. He also builds houses with Habitat for Humanity and has led his church to be involved in the Micah Challenge to abolish poverty. At my nudging, Papa has begun to visit (infrequently) the Dallas chapter of Veterans for Peace. He is still not a pacifist, but the current U.S. path of preemptive war has upset him more than anything since ‘Nam. Papa supported Gulf War I (though he thought Bush I invaded before all peaceful means for getting Saddam out of Kuwait had yet been tried) and the invasion of Afghanistan, but not the current Iraq War/Occupation, nor the assault on democracy at home in the name of spreading it abroad.

I don’t know Kay well enough, yet, to know her opinions. I think she was raised in a tradition that said Christians were apolitical.

Other family members soon. Posted by Picasa


October 2, 2006 - Posted by | family


  1. Michael,

    It does seem that many of us go though that skeptical/agnostic phase during the teenage years. I would love to hear in a future post how you became a baptist.

    You may be interested in a comment on my Balmer post. The infamous Gregory Tomlin (author of the CBF pieces at Baptist Press) has responded to Balmer’s anti-torture article with an interesting scenario.

    I can gladly respond to his questions. However, as a Peace Activist with years and years of more experience and knowledge than myself – you’re likely the most qualified person I know to answer Tomlin’s question. If you do find a moment…

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | October 2, 2006

  2. Michael,

    Can you recommend a good book on Gospel Nonviolence – a primer of sorts?

    Also, any good Baptist-written books on this topic?


    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | October 2, 2006

  3. Sure. I think the strongest theological argument is John Howard Yoder’s _The Politics of Jesus_, but that’s NOT easy reading. (I’ve worn out 4 copies in 20 years and am convinced that there is still more depth in this work that I’ve not yet caught. Plus, I’ve read everything else Yoder published at least once.)

    A very brief, easy-to-read work is Walter Wink’s Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way. This is great for adult church studies.

    An excellent introduction that is written by a Baptist is Dan Buttry’s, Christian Peacemaking, published by Judson Press. See also Martin Luther King, Jr.’s _Strength to Love_ & Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited.

    Clarence Jordan’s _The Sermon on the Mount_. Long out of print is a great brief little book by an American Baptist evangelical philosopher named Culbert Rutenber called _The Dagger and the Cross_.

    All of these works will have footnotes and bibliographies that will lead you elsewhere for exploration in more depth biblically, theologically, and about pragmatic questions.

    One final Baptist work is Glen H. Stassen’s _Living the Sermon on the Mount_ just published in August.

    That’s more than enough to get you started. Subscribe to the Baptist Peacemaker for more and make plans now to come to the 2007 annual meeting of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America–this time in Berea KY in July.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | October 2, 2006

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