Tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Can you believe it? We are here. For those of us who follow the church year we have been at work for a month now with Advent and now we come to the climax of this celebration but not of the Christian story. For this event marks the beginning of the Christian story. The incarnation is the divine coming in flesh to bring new hope, peace, joy and love. And so this weekend we light our final candle-the Christ candle and celebrate tomorrow as we usher in this wonderful time.
The world’s oddest dictator has died. Kim Jong II led North Korea and is my vote for the oddest dictator in my lifetime. He took the reigns from his father (who was weird and cruel) and now his son gets to lead. I’m not sure it will get much better but I do pray for a better scenario in North Korea. I know the US is trying again to work a better relationship out but it has been a tense situation for a long time.
I love biographies. I recently read Steve Jobs book (great) and an older Waylon Jennings (an autobiography). I love them all. Let me tell you about a new one I just read.
It’s Christmas time and you might be getting gift cards from Amazon or other book stores so I thought I would make a suggestion for your reading. The book “The Shooting Salvationist” is a great read. The book is written by David R. Stokes.
This is a different kind of biography. It mainly focuses on one part of Norris’ life though he does give background on his life.
And who is this ‘shooting salvationist’ and what makes this book so fascinating?
Norris was a well known fundamentalist Texas Baptist preacher in the 1920s who was the pastor of the first real mega church (in the thousands) who delved into local politics and in the pulpit called names and got into all kinds of controversy. Then one day in his office a man (unarmed) comes in and tells him to back off or he’ll kill him. The man leaves. He is then shot multiple times to death by the preacher. The question is did Norris shoot him in the back as he left (then the man turned was shot several more times and fell into the corner of the office to die) or did he come back in and threaten the pastor and fearing for his life be shot multiple times?
This happened on a Saturday and Norris would preach as usual the next day.
Following this shooting Norris was charged with murder and went on trail. This trail was the OJ Simpson trail of his day.
What a story! I was familiar with Norris and the controversies he created in Baptist and American life. I knew about this shooting but I didn’t really know all the details. This book was a must read that I couldn’t put down.
Norris was the pastor of First Baptist in Fort Worth. He had a radio program heard by thousands and published a tabloid paper read by 10s of thousands. He fought with the Southern Baptists (claimed they were too liberal) and with Texas Baptists. He railed against Roman Catholics and local politicians. His personal battles with the government of Fort Worth was full of venom and fire. He used gimmicks and showmanship tricks to draw people to worship and he is a prequel to the mega church world that has really grown in the late part of the 20th century and on to today.
This is a story so amazing you can’t make it up.
So if you want to read history, crime thriller, mystery, legal page turner, and religion this story has it all. It is well written and very well documented. Stokes spent time researching direct sources and traveling from his home in VA to TX and made sure he got this one right. He is fair, honest, and very entertaining.
I really believe this would make a great movie. After all Norris was the model for Elmer Gantry!!! That movie was good but the book was far better (though fictional) and is one of my favorite books. So buy it and read it this Christmas too! “Elmer Gantry” is an older book that you can get pretty cheap used but speaks so well today.
As I think about the impact of guys like Norris I still see them around. In religion and politics. Norris’ ego was bigger than his congregation and he was into building his own kingdom. This is a book that should give us pause and make us reflect upon our motives, methods, and ministries. I doubt many preachers will shoot our opponents dead in our studies but we do need to pay head to the bombastic and negative style of ministry that the Norris’ of the world portray. And we need to think about which kingdom we are building. God’s or our own?