Current Events Monday: Courage for Today
If you’re looking for some good news this morning, consider the efforts of local high school students providing for refugees in Central Texas. The students primarily focus on locating necessities for people who recently fled Afghanistan and abusive Taliban rule. You can read the full story by clicking on the following link: Texas students collect sewing machines for refugees (kxan.com).
The courage of some refugees in the face of crisis can be awe-inspiring. Some years ago, I was blessed to serve alongside a pastor of Karen-speaking refugees from Myanmar (formerly called Burma). The church I served at the time provided space for the refugee church to worship and learn English. The pastor told me harrowing stories of escaping military forces by crawling on his stomach all night in rugged terrain. He also mourned the loss of his father, who was shot and killed in his attempt to flee. Even though I could not exactly wrap my head around the political and social complexities that led to my friend’s escape, of this I was certain: this man and his congregation were courageous believers in the face of murderous dangers. What he told me sounded like stories from the book of Acts.
When hard-pressed about our faith in Christ, even to the point of risking our lives and reputations, would we be as courageous as our refugee brothers and sisters? It is helpful to know that we may not have to look far for encouragement and inspiration. Along with the stories of our persecuted but thriving refugee friends, we can find encouragement from our own Texas history.
The date of November 19, 1854 is a memorable one for courageous believers in Texas. On that day, Sam Houston formally joined the Independence Baptist Church and was baptized. For General Houston, his profession of faith in Christ was a long time coming. Born to a nominally religious family in Tennessee, Sam preferred the company of Cherokee Indians with whom he became quite friendly, even to the point of taking on some of their mystical religious practices. The Cherokees even named him “Big Drunk,” not only for his large stature but also for his ability to down copious amounts of whiskey.
Houston’s second marriage to wife Margaret proved a significant blessing of God. Through her witness to Sam, he stopped drinking, started attending church, and feverishly began to study the Bible. It seemed that the Holy Spirit truly was behind Houston’s newfound religious momentum. Some years before this experience, Houston had converted to Catholicism briefly to obtain a land-grant. Margaret helped Sam understand that faith in Christ was not something to be used for political expediency.
Consider also how Sam Houston’s developing faith could have prompted him to take courageous and oftentimes lonely stances on controversial legislation during his time in the U.S. Senate. For example, Houston voted against the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which repealed the Missouri Compromise and hastened the advancement of slavery and the violence accompanying it. One can argue that the Kansas-Nebraska Act almost made the Civil War an inevitability.
Houston’s votes in the Senate drummed up immense vitriol among most Texans by the late 1850s. Could you imagine a time with Houston would be hated by some Texans? It did happen. In 1857, Sam ran for Governor and was called all sorts of names by newspapers of the time. Houston took the gloves off, however, and even sometimes his shirt. On some occasions, he would get so riled up in stump speeches on hot days that he would rip off his shirt in a tirade against secession. Voters soundly defeated Houston at the polls and preferred that he live the rest of his life in obscurity. He however ran once again for Governor in 1859, hard pressing his opponents on their secessionist and pro-slavery views. In a major blow to the Southern establishment, Houston somehow prevailed in the Governor’s race. But how long could he head off the coming Civil War?
Throughout 1860, Houston faced unbelievable pressure to cave to secessionist causes. Horrid lynchings occurred in Henderson, a powder keg exploded behind Houston’s hotel room on a visit to Waco, and an assassin tried to take his life in Belton. Houston faced down the assassin by taking out his own gun and saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, keep your seats. It is nothing but a fice (a word meaning “small dog”) barking at the lion in his den.” The assassin relented.
By March of 1861, Houston could no longer hold back the tide of secession. The state seceded from the Union and pronounced the Governor’s seat vacant since Houston would not take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. In a rather brief written rebuttal, Houston said, “In the name of your rights and liberty, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and my own manhood…I refuse to take this oath.”
When Christ gets the heart of a willing and faithful servant, courage seems sure to follow. From the refugee pastor fleeing a nationalistic military to a war hero who fought for the rights of all men, let us be encouraged today to stand up for Christ and what is right, regardless of the cost to our popularity or reputations.