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“When a nation’s young men are conservative, its funeral bell is already rung.” Henry Ward Beecher The left/liberal/ progressive political magazine for Bryan/College Station A Journal of Opinion, Comment, and Investigation P.O. Box 2711 College Station, TX 77841-2711 Email: [email protected] touchstone/ “Dialogue,” from page 2 \(deriving general principles from particular for ascertaining knowledge about the world…. In his book, Bishop Spong does essentially two things: First, he illustrates the most common assumptions of mainstream Christian beliefs and points out how many of the stories in the Bible \(e.g., the virgin birth, physical resurgiven what we know today. Second, he offers some of his own speculation about what “truth” there might be beyond the boundaries of scientific knowledge. What he does not do is make any claims of absolute certainty which is exactly what Mr. Buckareff accuses him of doing. By starting his critique with a personal attack, Mr. Buckareff displays a sure sign of his own intellectual insecurity. He says that Spong is “neither a professional theologian nor a biblical scholar.” So what? Is there some sort of scholarship aptitude test that one must pass before writing a book about the Bible or theology? The test of scholarship is whether a piece of work is capable of withstanding the rigors of independent verification and peer review. Not surprisingly, Mr. Buckareff fails to get specific about why Spong’s book fails this standard. Also, Spong readily acknowledges the debt he owes to the great biblical scholars of the last two centuries. Just because Spong was not the first writer to suggest that the creation stories in Genesis are not literally true does not mean that he can’t come to the same conclusion. Mr. Buckareff also accuses Spong of being a “theological liberal fundamentalist.” From this, I can only imagine that Mr. Buckareff has not read the book. Nowhere does Spong make any claims of inerrancy or absolute truth, which is a central feature of fundamentalism. I cannot understand why Mr. Buckareff thinks that Spong forcing the reader to “accept his variety of theological skepticism.” Funny. That’s what the church in the sixteenth century said about Copernicus when he discovered that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the solar system. Now who’s the fundamentalist? Stephen P. Agan Houston DOWN MEMORY LANE The Observer’s August 20 issue with its story about Emma Tenayuca \(“The Voice That Shook on a nostalgia trip. “Emma graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1934 where she excelled in debate.” I too was a Brackenridge High debater in the mid thirties. I remember that we were all impressed that Emma was a Communist. Other debaters were Depression/New Deal radicals, but we were not that daring. It was a sign of the times that the debate topic for 1934 was government ownership and operation government ownership of utilities. A high point in the life of a debater was the attendance at fall tournaments sponsored by high schools around the state, as practice for the Interscholastic League contests the following spring. In Fall, 1934 we couldn’t find a car for the trip to Abilene. I suggested that we see if we could borrow a car from the local utility. Several of us paid a call on the C.E.O of San Antonio’s privately owned utility, suggesting that he should have an interest in seeing that high school students were well informed on the subject up for debate. After a brief consultation with his attorney about liability, he agreed to provide a car. Although we drew for either the affirmative or negative side of the question just before each debate, we left him with the impression that we would be supporting his side of the issue. In the early thirties, Lyndon Johnson had coached debate for only one year in Houston, but he had become a legend in debate circles. Our coach, E.C. Barksdale, a colorful character and Johnson’s friend, was the same sort of hard-driving, demanding coach. I remember his quoting Johnson’s observation that he hoped his students could learn through “social osmosis” by attending the tournaments. By 1935, Johnson was Director of the Texas N.Y.A. program. Barksdale later went on to teach at Johnson’s alma mater, Southwest State Teachers College of San Marcos. The Observer quotes Henry B. Gonzalez as saying of Emma, “She pinned my ears back when we debated.” I do not remember Gonzalez as a Brackenridge debater, but I remember two from Jefferson High. Brackenridge debaters scorned the Jefferson debaters as rich kids from the North Side, a view that might have been questioned by Fred Schmidt and Bernard Rapoport. I don’t remember how far we went in Emma’s senior year, but in the spring of 1935 I was a member of the team that was defeated in the finals at the state meet. I lost touch with Emma when I entered U.T. in the fall of 1935, and joined Dean Parlin’s new Plan II program. I saw Emma once more in 1938, when I went to San Antonio with a group of U.T. students to support Emma and the pecan shellers’ strike. In later years as I noticed news items about Emma I thought of looking her up sometime and renewing acquaintance. But I never did. Another thing I don’t remember I think I may have been a charter subscriber to the Observer. Helen Bownds Austin AGGIE CONUNDRUM To have one letter from a professor of philosophy in an Observer Dialogue column is a memorable occasion. To have two of them in the same issue from the same university \(Texas most smacks of conspiracy. But at least they are reading the Observer. I had heard nothing but good reports of Spong’s latest book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die until I read Professor Buckar eff s letter. Now I think I’ll look into the book. If Buckareff s label of Spong as a “theological liberal fundamentalist” seems to stick I will have to reorganize my labeling system. Walt Ligon Pentwater, Michigan HELL NO! Just read “The Last Puritan” by Michael King again?” “Hell no! Once was enough!” Marvin Olasky’s remarkable ascent to celebrity in the field of “disciplining the needy” was driven the old-fashioned way by the emotional force of dogmatic certainty. And, in case you haven’t noticed, Olasky’s brainchild, “conservative compassion,” is just warmed-over Christian charity a centuries-old tried and proven failure in alleviating poverty. A political system that pretends it cannot decently provide for its very young, its sick and its old, without depending on religion, is not only dysfunctional, it is profoundly undemocratic. Ted Corin Austin ACLU CENTRAL TEXAS CHAPTER invites you to our noon Forum the last Friday of every month. Fun’ s Cafeteria Banquet Room in Northcross Mall, Austin. SEPTEMBER 17, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15