On November 2, 1965, Norman Morrison, 31-year-old devout Quaker, husband, and father of three, stood outside the Pentagon, poured kerosene over his boOn November 2, 1965, Norman Morrison, 31-year-old devout Quaker, husband, and father of three, stood outside the Pentagon, poured kerosene over his body, and struck a match. He immolated himself to express his deep concern over the escalating war in Vietnam. Before taking his life in a spectacular way, he mailed his wife a farewell letter of explanation, which included a newspaper clipping about an eyewitness account of the bombing of a Vietnamese village by U.S. warplanes and the resulting deaths of innocent civilians. Norman Morrison’s story is told by his widow Anne Morrison Welsh in her 2008 memoir Held in the Light: Norman Morrison's Sacrifice for Peace and His Family's Journey of Healing. Like the act that inspired it, this book is both awful and awesome, haunting and inspiring.
What kind of a death was Morrison’s? Was it a senseless act of a deranged man? A beautiful and noble expression of sacrificial love? There’s a fine line between heroism and suicide. If a man jumps into a raging river to save a child and drowns, he is a hero. But what if he jumps in a river to save a dog? Or a rat? What if he jumps in the river to protest water pollution? Is he still a hero?
Self immolation is incomprehensible to us Westerners, but not to Easterners. The book quotes a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. written by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn and published a few months before Morrison’s death: “The self-burning of Vietnamese Buddhist Monks in 1963 is somehow difficult for the Western Christian conscience to understand. The press often spoke of suicide, but in essence, it is not. What the monks said in the letters they left before burning themselves aimed only at alarming, at moving the heart of the oppressors, and at calling the attention of the world to the suffering endured then by the Vietnamese. To burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance” (58). In another passage the book explains, “For the Vietnamese people, Norman had metaphorically put on the saffron robe of the Buddhist monk and spoken their language. They saw his sacrifice for peace as a great act of love for them. He became a folk hero of sorts, his name rendered in Vietnamese as Mo Ri Xon” (108). A North Vietnamese postage stamp bears his image, and a Hanoi street is named after him.
Years after Morrison’s death, many Vietnamese still recall where they were when the heard the news of Morrison’s death. One man had been a buffalo boy in a small, rural village where no one had access to a newspaper and only the headmaster of the school had a radio. The man recounted how “one day, the headmaster called us all together and told us about Morrison. Tears were streaming down his face. Of course, we all cried. I could not believe someone in another country would die for us” (131). It amazes me that an American so well known and beloved in another land can be so little known in his own.
I cannot condone what Morrison did, but neither can I condemn him. And I do not pretend to understand. I stand in awe and horror of a man who, as poet David Ferguson said, “spoke in a tongue of flame” (85). ...more
Who invented retail franchising? Ray Kroc? (No, he wasn’t even the founder of McDonald’s.) Henry Ford? (No, he didn’t even invent the automobile.) The answer will likely surprise you. Her name was Martha Matilda Harper, a Canadian-American woman who founded a chain of hair and beauty salons in 1891 and manufactured her own line of hair care and beauty products. At least that’s what author Jane R. Plitt claims in a mediocre biography about this amazing woman and business pioneer. Even after reading this book, it’s still not clear to me where Harper got the idea of franchising her hair salon or whether she was really the first to invent the franchise. Singer sewing machines had a franchising system forty years earlier, but it seems that the qualifier “retail” or “business model format” makes Plitt’s claim valid. In any case, it’s a shame that Martha Matilda Harper has been largely forgotten, considering her rags-to-riches story and important business achievements....more
Swedish diplomat and disarmament expert Hans Blix makes a rational, easy-to-understand argument for nuclear disarmament in this essay (not really longSwedish diplomat and disarmament expert Hans Blix makes a rational, easy-to-understand argument for nuclear disarmament in this essay (not really long enough to be called a book). His distain for the second Bush administration's approach to the problem of nuclear and WMD proliferation is as clear as his concrete recommendations for non-violent approaches to worldwide nuclear disarmament. ...more
If you’re my age or a little older and grew up in an evangelical home, chances are you had the bejeezus scared out of you by end times films like A ThIf you’re my age or a little older and grew up in an evangelical home, chances are you had the bejeezus scared out of you by end times films like A Thief in the Night and Hal Lindsay’s book The Late Great Planet Earth. The younger generation has the Left Behind series to give them nightmarish visions of the future. Yet when the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus’ coming and our being caught up to meet him, he says, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18). Where’s the disconnect?
Barbara Rossing’s book The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation (Westview Press, 2004) shows the many errors and contradictions in dispensationalist teaching which lie behind popular end times books and movies. She accuses dispensationalists of selective literalism, poor exegesis, and down right fabrication. Instead of predicting the future, she sees the Book of Revelation, which never mentions the rapture, as a source of hope.
Here’s a small sample of Rossing’s book: “Like the visionary journeys in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Revelation’s vision of seals, trumpets, bowls, and other manifestations are meant to be a wake-up call. . . . The journeys are not intended as literal predictions of events that must happen; they are nightmarish warnings of what may happen—if we do not follow God’s nonviolent Lamb” (91).
Although an engaging and thought-provoking book, The Rapture Exposed goes so far to avoid the mistakes of dispensational literalism that it may to take too much of Revelation symbolically. I was left wondering whether the author even believes in Jesus’ Second Coming in any real sense. Read it with caution, but read it....more