As we embark on this three-week journey to discover GRIT at GateWay I feel pulled, like a moth to a candle flame, to delve into a spiritual mish mash of Ed’s sermon, John Wayne, True Grit and Dr. Ben Carson. Believe it or not, the movie, True Grit, was first released in 1969 staring John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn and featured the rhinestone cowboy, Glen Campbell. Many folks today are only familiar with the 2010 remake starring Jeff Bridges. The original was one of the last 10 of over 170 films made by John Wayne in his career before he succumbed to cancer. His career spanned decades and his place in Hollywood stardom is legendary and subject to much symbolic rhetoric. For instance, resolving an issue or coming into a situation with bravado, force, and a no-nonsense “my way” thinking is referred by many as acting “John Wayne.” The symbolic nature of John Wayne is indelibly etched in America.
The recurring theme of True Grit, John Wayne-style, revolved around one’s character reflected in the true content of the heart. It was more than courage. It was wholeheartedness that followed through in action come injury, life or death. As in many of Wayne’s movie characters, being responsible for your choices and one’s heart was key. It appeared this held true whether John Wayne played a role in the cinema or lived his life in society or politics. Perhaps his views on white supremacy can be in part explained by the notion that leadership and governance are conferred when ability and personal responsibility are shown. His 1971 comments in an interview if made today would result in a firestorm of outrage. As it were, an Assembly Member’s attempt back in 2016 to declare a state-designated John Wayne Day fell far short of necessary votes in the halls of the Legislature. One way or another, John Wayne, was always “in your face.”
This past Friday I was on the treadmill again at the gym watching the Dr. Martin Luther King Day proclamation ceremony at the White House on the screens overhead. (If you go to Atlanta, I truly encourage you to go check out the MLK National Historic Center, The King Center and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church all adjacent to one another. I believe you will be impressed as I was about the Christ-centered and powered life of Dr. King.) President Trump, flanked by members of his staff, relatives of Dr. King and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, spoke then signed the official proclamation. I was particularly interested because of the current political frenzy over the President’s alleged racist-fueled remarks about Haiti and African nations and how this would play out in commemorating one of the greatest American heroes for truth, justice, and racial equality. The President spoke with laudable and appropriate words of praise and reference to racial equality followed by gracious remarks by Dr. King’s nephew. Finally, Dr. Carson was given the podium and in his brief remarks was the picture of poise, grace, competence, and peace as he quoted, “all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator” with emphasis on Creator. In the midst of the storm, here is Dr. Carson working out his faith and working through his Salvation. I have the feeling when the Sower cast His seeds, Dr. Carson was the “good” soil. Half-hearted, he is not. In his stratospheric context, Dr. Ben is growing, influencing and continuing to bear fruit in his illustrious career.
As we begin 2018, Ed challenges us to assess if we are cold-hearted, half-hearted or whole-hearted in relationship to Jesus Christ. We do not need to run around in the highly charged, high atmosphere and highly visible circles such as Dr. Carson to make a difference. Whole-heartedness makes all the difference in your workplace, social circle, marriage, parenting, family context or your engagement with the community of people who do not know the one and true God. As you move ahead in 2018 will the Truth and Life of God’s Holy Word fall on good soil?