1989 Last Word Columns

The Risk Factor (January 1989) – During my senior year in high school a group of women somewhere in the nation started a movement to have all competitive team sports — especially football — removed from public schools. Team sports, they complained, were too traumatic. Children, they argued, should not be led to believe their team could win, then suffer the trauma of losing. They should only play games where everyone wins…

A Tip Worth Taking (February 1989) – It was Ghandi, legend has it, who said, “I would be a follower of Christ were it not for Christians.” A restaurant waitress from Pueblo, Colorado, struggling with that same problem, asked, “Why are Christians so rude to waitresses?”…

Hope For All of Us (March 1989) – Eleven years ago, my daddy died. It was Sunday afternoon. We had just come in from church and the phone was ringing. It was my mother in Vero Beach…

Choosing to Obey God (April 1989) – I was fresh out of seminary and the new pastor of a Baptist Church in a little South Carolina town when Martin Luther King led his famous march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama. We did a lot of talking about racial segregation in our deacons’ meetings those days. Everyone was defensive…

The Spirit of Murder (May 1989)- One early morning in January the lights in the Florida State Penitentiary flickered and dimmed as the executioner pulled a switch in the death chamber. More than 4,000 volts of electricity surged through the body of Ted Bundy, who was strapped in the three-legged oak chair known as Old Sparky…

Peace in Israel (June 1989) – The night before I left Jerusalem there was a riot on the Temple Mount. Fifteen thousand Moslems had gathered inside the 40-acre area surrounding the Mosque of Omar, the huge golden dome which dominates the Jerusalem skyline…

Jesus and Capitol Punishment (July 1989) – On December 23, 1973, a 20-year-old Carl Songer, high on drugs, shot and killed a state trooper who had found him sleeping in the back of a stolen car…

The Roach Busters (August 1989) – There was a message on my answering machine. Usually my secretary takes these off, but she was out, so I sat down and played back the tape. The accent was “down-South black,” warm and comfortable, the kind I grew up with working with my father’s pickers in the Florida citrus groves…

A Different Drumbeat (September 1989) – Is Jimmy Swaggart starting a denomination? Is it possible that 20 years from now there will be a sizable group of churches known as Swaggartans? Such as Lutherans. Or Wesleyans…

A Scout’s Honor (October 1989) – No book influenced my young life more than the Boy Scouts handbook. In it I found a wonderful world of semaphore flags, sheepshanks, clove hitches, lean-tos and reflector ovens. It was my personal guidebook from the time I was 12 until I was 16. It took me from Tenderfoot, through the exciting world of merit badges, all the way to the coveted rank of Eagle Scout…

Giving Thanks (November 1989) – I stood in my den last August, stunned, watching my TV. There was Jim Bakker being half-dragged, half-led from his lawyer’s office in Charlotte. His hair disheveled, his shirt pulled out at the waist. His face anguished in fear. His wrists in handcuffs. His ankles in leg irons. Federal marshals put him into the backseat of a car where he collapsed. He was later driven to a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, and committed to the psychiatric wing for evaluation…

My Finest Christmas (December 1989) –  I had known for several months that my body could not maintain the pace.  The time was December 1979 — 10 years ago. The pressures in our church had brought us to another crisis stage…