Second Hand Baptists
October 3 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Second Hand Baptists | Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Friday, Oct. 3, 2003

Second Hand Baptists

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

One of the better movies I have seen is "Second Hand Lions," a redemptive tale that involves one aged lioness who lives in a cornfield, two aging brothers who spent most of their adult lives in Africa, and a quiet boy who gives the old men one more reason to live.

Michael Caine and Robert Duvall play crotchety Garth and Hub McCann, Texas boys who journeyed to France on a lark just in advance of World War I. After touring Europe, they were shanghaied into a North African post with the French Foreign Legion. Garth later led safaris throughout Africa, but Hub remained in the Legion, fighting other wars and battling heroically against the slave trade.

Forty years later, getting old and feeling all used up, the brothers returned to their rustic home place to die. Locals knew them as eccentrics who lived frugally but were rumored to have millions stashed away.

When a shy adolescent named Walter is thrust upon them by an irresponsible niece, Garth and Hub grudgingly take him in. The kid grows on the brothers, however, as he turns to them for guidance, trusting them to teach him how to become a man.

In a most memorable scene, Hub gives to Walter an excerpt from a speech on what it means to be a man. It is a speech he has given countless times for other young men, whether they were soldiers under his command or young punks in need of a strong hand.

Hub tells Walter there are some things a man has to believe in. Walter, a trusting child who has been lied to all of his life, asks, "But what if they're not true?"

And Hub replies: "Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honor, virtue and courage mean everything; that money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. That love - true love - never dies. Doesn't matter if they're true or not. A man should believe in those things anyway, because they are the things worth believing in."

Hub was not suggesting that truth does not matter. He simply had enough experience with pain, betrayal and evil to know that the things he believed in did not always happen. Even so, he believed in those things to the point of basing his life on them, because those were the things worth believing.

These are days in which many of us feel like second hand Baptists. We have seen enough dismay, discord and disappointment to wonder if the things we claim as Baptist distinctives are still true.

Even so, there are things we ought to believe simply because they are things worth believing in. That Baptists are basically cooperative. That faith, trust and conscience are crucial; that dominion and demand mean nothing. That a common mission will triumph over division. That love - Christ's kind of love - always guides our behavior.

These things may not always be true in our experience, but that is no reason to give up on them. Baptists should believe these things anyway, because these are the things worth believing in. These are the things that have made Baptists what they are and who they are for 400 years. These are things worth standing for, worth praying for, worth living for - whether they are true in our current experience or not.

These are not only "the times that try men's souls," as Thomas Payne said, but times that try our faith, our hopes, our beliefs. They can be difficult days to be Baptist, days that tempt us to give up. Indeed, some have walked away from their identity as Southern Baptists, as North Carolina Baptists, even as Baptists, period. Others are edging in that direction.

But, maybe the times that try us the most are the times when we need to believe the most, when we need to trust against the evidence, when we need to hope against hope, when we need to hold tightly those things that are worth believing because that is what makes us who we are.

In the movie, young Walter begged the old "second hand lion" to stay alive and alert until he was old enough to hear the rest of the speech.

We may be second hand Baptists, but there is life in us yet, and there are things we know that are not only worth believing in, but worth passing on to another generation.

We wear Baptist boots, and when we die, let it be with our boots on.

10/3/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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