Why Ed Litton’s Plagiarism is a Big Deal

If you’re a Southern Baptist, you’ve probably heard about the plagiarism controversy surrounding SBC President Ed Litton. He has been shown to be guilty of stealing multiple sermons from former SBC President J.D. Greear. In fact, he has lifted entire sermons almost word for word, not just an outline or a passage. If you have heard his sad excuse of an explanation, then you’ve probably lost any sense of trust in the man. If he were truly sorry, he would immediately resign.

I’ve been shocked at how other SBC leaders have defended Litton and made excuses for him. The fact that they have not pressured Litton to step down shows us that corruption runs deep in the SBC. So, since the SBC elites can’t recognize the obvious problems with Litton’s dishonesty, I’ve outlined below three reasons why this plagiarism scandal is such a big deal.

First, it shows us that Litton is not spending time in prayer and study of the Word to prepare for his sermons. If a pastor diligently studies and prays about the message he brings, there is no need to plagiarize. He will have plenty of material for the sermon. A pastor’s main job is to preach the Word of God to the people of God. If he fails in this, he has failed in his main responsibility. How can he tell the congregation what God has laid on his heart, if he has spent no time in prayer or the Word? The answer, of course, is that he can’t. So he must deceive and become a phony, a fraud–which leads us to our next point.

The second reason why this is such a big deal is because Litton’s dishonesty destroys the trust of his listeners. By presenting entire sermons as his own without attribution, he is engaging in falsehoods. He is leading the congregation to assume that he prepared this sermon. He turns preaching into a performance and makes a mockery of it. How can anyone look to this man for guidance or counsel after such hypocrisy?

The third reason why Litton’s plagiarism is a big deal is that it shows Litton to be incapable of doing his job. If he has to steal others’ sermons, one must wonder if he even knows how to rightly divide the Word. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 3:2, and again in 2 Timothy 2:24, that an overseer, the servant of the Lord, must be “able to teach.” At the very least, Litton’s plagiarism brings into question his ability to carry out this duty.

To make all this even worse, Litton didn’t even steal a good sermon. He lifted a heretical sermon from the woke J.D. Greear on Romans 1. I’ve listened to the original from Greear, and it is clearly unbiblical. You would think that if Litton was trying to portray himself in a good light, he would at least find a sound, biblical message to use. But maybe this further brings into question Litton’s discernment and character.

The fact that the SBC is being led by someone who we can’t trust, and that other SBC leaders seem to be fine with his deception, shows us that this problem is much bigger than Ed Litton. It is a black eye on the entire denomination. And it is evidence that the SBC’s problems are much deeper than one man’s duplicity.

Twelve Things to Do to Help You Keep Your Humanity and Sanity

In our technology-obsessed, groupthink-culture, it is easy to lose one’s sense of humanity. We live in a world where iphones and online interactions have replaced personal, face-to-face conversations. We also live in a callous, fast-paced society that can easily leave many people behind.

If we’re not careful, we can lose a sense of who we are and what really matters. We have to be intentional about maintaining our humanity and sanity in a world which seems to be intent on taking those things from us. Listed below are 12 things to help you do this:

1. Take a walk outside and enjoy nature.

2. Take a break from your phone, social media, and all electronic devices.

3. Spend time with your family.

4. Spend time worshipping God by praying, reading the Bible, or attending a church service.

5. Listen to or play music.

6. Think original thoughts.

7. Let go of bitterness and forgive those who have wronged you.

8. Take a hot bath and read a book.

9. Drink a cup of hot cocoa or have some milk and cookies.

10. Schedule some downtime where you simply relax and do nothing.

11. Enjoy a good laugh with friends.

12. Write a poem.

Remembering 9-11 — Twenty Years Later

As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon America on September 11, 2001, we need to help those of the next generation, who were not even born yet when the attacks occurred, understand what happened on that tragic day.

I’ve been watching the remembrances of that day on various news programs and documentaries the last several days. My kids even watched one of the programs with me, and they asked me why those planes flew into the buildings. I tried to explain it to them in a way that they could understand. My youngest one now sees all planes as a threat and calls them “mean planes.” I wonder if maybe he was too young to watch the footage. It seems to have frightened him a bit. Yet I feel like it’s important that we teach the next generation about what happened, just as earlier generations taught us about Pearl Harbor.

So I’ve come up with seven lessons that I think we need to teach to the younger generations about 9-11. Actually, these seven items are good reminders for us all, no matter our age, to keep in mind as we remember that day:

1) Honoring the Victims and Their Families

First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families of the victims and those who were directly affected by the events of that day. We remember them in our thoughts and prayers, and we listen to their stories to help us understand what they’ve been through.

2) Honoring the Sacrifice of the Heroes

From the first responders who rushed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon to the people on United Flight 93, whose brave actions prevented further devastation, there were many heroes that day who sacrificed their lives to save others. We should be thankful for these wonderful people and remember what they did. They are examples of bravery, selflessness, and love to us all.

3) Each day is a gift.

If there’s one obvious lesson from that day, it’s that it started out as a normal day and what happened was completely unexpected. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We should see each day as a gift from God. And we have to be ready to meet Him at all times because none of us know when our last day will be. Listening to the phone calls of people on board Flight 93 to their family members is heartbreaking and sobering. We are reminded to hug our families a little tighter and tell them that we love them.

4) The Horror of that Day

After 20 years, it is natural for the intensity and horror of that day to subside somewhat. Whenever I watch a documentary about 9-11, the news footage of the attacks brings back the feelings of shock and dread. FDR called Pearl Harbor a day that “will live in infamy.” Similarly, I think 9-11 is such a day, probably even more so.

5) Our Society Changed Forever that Day

Things were never the same for our country after 9-11. It was like much of our innocence was lost. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to increased surveillance and security to new feelings of vulnerability, 9-11 was a watershed moment, a dividing line in our history. Sadly, the unity of 9-12 quickly evaporated, and we are now a bitterly divided nation.

6) Who Committed the Attacks

Sometimes I’ll watch a news story on the attacks and there is no mention of Al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorists. I think this is a mistake. After all, whenever we talk about Pearl Harbor, Japan is usually mentioned. If we don’t remember who it was that attacked us, how will we prevent it from happening again? This issue is especially relevant in light of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power in that country.

7) Freedom is Fragile

Finally, we need to remember and teach others that freedom is not guaranteed. It is fragile and must be preserved and maintained. Ronald Reagan reminded us that freedom is “never more than one generation away from extinction.” He went on to say that freedom “must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.” We would do well to remember that we have enemies who want to destroy our country and the freedom that we enjoy.

“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” –John Philpot Curran

On this 20th anniversary of 9-11, spend some time reflecting upon the events of that day. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray also for healing for our nation and wisdom for our leaders. May such reflections cause us to appreciate our families more and not take them for granted. And may it make us more grateful for the blessings and mercies that we enjoy from the hand of God.

The Horrors of Communism as Revealed in The Killing Fields

I recently watched the 1984 film, The Killing Fields, for the first time. It is a deeply profound movie which changes you and stays with you long after you see it.

It is the story of a friendship between two journalists, an American (Sydney Schanberg) and a Cambodian (Dith Pran), set against the backdrop of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge’s tortuous and oppressive reign in Cambodia. The cast includes Sam Waterston as Schanberg, Haing S. Ngor (a Cambodian gynecologist who endured living under the Khmer Rouge and won an Oscar for his role as Dith Pran in the film), John Malkovich, Julian Sands, and Craig T. Nelson. It was directed by Roland Joffé. The name of the movie comes from Pran’s term for the site of the mass killings in the Cambodian genocide. The movie is rated R. It contains a lot of violence and some foul language so it’s not appropriate for children. The lessons of the film, however, still need to be passed down to the next generation.

There may not be another film that so clearly captures the horrors of communism as well as The Killing Fields. For those unfamiliar with the history of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge was the name given to the communist regime which ruled Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) between 1975 to 1979. It was a time of great suffering for the Cambodian people. Nearly 2 million people are estimated to have died under the murderous policies of Pol Pot, the prime minister.

“We must be like the ox, and have no thought, except for the Party. And have no love, but for the Angka. People starve, but we must not grow food. We must honor the comrade children, whose minds are not corrupted by the past.” Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields

Hundreds of thousands of people also died from starvation and disease. Cambodians were taken out of the cities and forced to work on collective farms. They were indoctrinated in Communist reeducation camps. Private property, religious freedom, and individual liberty were all eliminated. Family ties were severed, and snitching on others became commonplace. A “Year Zero” policy was instituted in which old customs were forbidden. Intellectuals like doctors and other professionals were killed. The only thing that was allowed was loyalty to the party. It was truly a nightmare, and the movie does a superb job of portraying the hopelessness of the people under this harsh regime.

“The wind whispers of fear and hate. The war has killed love. And those that confess to the Angka are punished, and no one dare ask where they go. Here, only the silent survive.” Hang S. Ngor, The Killing Fields

I won’t give away any spoilers, but the bulk of the movie deals with Dith Pran trying to survive the extreme hardships of forced labor, starvation, and torture at the hands of the communist leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pran’s friendship with Schanberg adds warmth and humanity to a film whose brutal realities might otherwise overwhelm the viewer.

After I watched the movie, I reflected upon what I had just seen. I worried about a similar tragedy happening here in America. At one time that seemed far-fetched, but sadly that is not the case anymore. One thing that I kept thinking about was how many young people seem to be unaware of communism’s murderous past. Socialism and communism seem to be in vogue these days, and I think that is largely due to both ignorance and indoctrination. Many of our youth are not only failing to learn the history of communism, but they are also being taught to hate America, capitalism, and Western Civilization.

It should probably be noted that the film doesn’t present the United States in the best of light, either. It offers harsh criticism of Nixon’s bombing campaign in Cambodia and even suggests that he was partly responsible for what happened there. But that is a minor aspect of the film. The vast majority of the movie deals with the terrible conditions under the Khmer Rouge.

If we take a look back, communism has resulted in horrendous suffering, mass murder and violence, starvation, and the loss of personal liberty nearly everywhere it has been tried. Just look at the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, Cuba under Castro, and China under Mao, who interestingly supported the Khmer Rouge (Mao even met with Pol Pot in Beijing). This evil ideology has been a complete disaster.

Communism has killed at least 100 million people (The Black Book of Communism) since the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917, with 45 million of those dying under Mao in his Great Leap Forward (The Washington Post, “Remembering the Biggest Mass Murder in the History of the World”).

Communist China looms large in geopolitics these days as power seems to be shifting from the West to the East. China poses a real and serious threat to the United States of America. Its communist leaders have no interest in personal or religious freedom. They have one concern–loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We are not waging war against individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class….Do not look for evidence that the accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first question should be to what class does he belong….It is this that should determine his fate.” –Martyn Latsis, an official of the Cheka, Lenin’s secret police, in a 1918 instruction to interrogators

Most alarming of all is what is currently taking place within the United States. American films are regularly censored by the studios to placate Chinese officials, cancel culture seeks to punish people for “unorthodox” non-woke views, freedom of speech is no longer valued, people are encouraged to snitch on each other for not wearing masks, and vaccine mandates are promoted. In some places, those who don’t comply are expelled from college, prevented from entering restaurants, and generally shamed. In addition, Marxist philosophies such as Critical Race Theory (CRT) are being taught in schools and also in books like Ibram X. Kendi’s, How to Be an Antiracist.

Private property has even been attacked by the Biden administration when the CDC attempted to halt evictions during the pandemic. Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled against the CDC’s power grab, saying it needed Congressional approval.

Woke General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, in the context of the January 6 Capitol Riot, that he wants to understand “white rage.” He went on to say that he has read Mao, Stalin, and Lenin, but he made it clear that that didn’t make him a Communist. He seems more concerned about diversity than getting all the Americans out of Afghanistan.

Social media companies routinely ban conservatives for their political views as well as anyone who posts information about COVID that doesn’t line up with what Anthony Fauci has said. President Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook while he was still President.

And wokeness isn’t limited to secular institutions. It has entered the evangelical world. Woke leaders abound, and running down America or hating on Trump now seem commonplace among preachers. Left-wing ideologies and agendas which were once reserved for the world have now, sadly, entered the church house.

One could not be blamed for thinking that we are in the middle of a Marxist revolution. Many don’t see it because the changes to our society are often subtle. The revolution sometimes takes the form of Cultural Marxism, which originated in the Frankfurt School in the Weimar Republic in Germany. Since Marxism seems to have failed in the economic sphere, its proponents now seek to first transform the culture. The proverbial frog in the slowly boiled water comes to mind as we observe the incremental changes in our society which seem to align with Marxist ideologies at the expense of traditional American values.

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” –Mao Zedong

Sadly, many Americans have given into fear and seem to value safety and Big Brother’s handouts more than they value freedom or liberty. Businesses and churches alike were forced to shutter their doors for months last year during the pandemic but were promised aid by the Federal government. Many went along with it in the name of loving your neighbor or public safety. Those who didn’t comply were sometimes harassed and even arrested by authorities drunk on power.

What everyone needs to realize is that communism and freedom cannot coexist in the same place. They are antithetical to each other. Communism has no place for freedom because it interferes with obedience to the state. Communism has no place for religion because it is a competitor to people’s loyalty to the party. And communism has no place for freedom of thought or speech because the party must suppress the truth in order to stay in power. Communism’s shortcomings and failures are evident to all. That is why it is always enforced with violence. It never wins in a battle of ideas.

We must do a better job of teaching the next generation about the horrors and history of communism. We must remember the sufferings and miseries it inflicted upon others so that we do not have to learn the dangers of such ideologies the hard way like millions before us. We must speak out against the encroachments upon freedom that we see taking place in the West while we still can. And we must prefer liberty over safety, for as Benjamin Franklin said:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Let Us Remember these Heroes

Last Thursday on August 26, thirteen U.S. servicemen were killed, along with many Afghan civilians, in a suicide bombing near the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. These brave servicemen and women were part of the heroic effort to evacuate as many Americans and Afghan allies as possible before the withdrawal of U.S. troops on August 31. Below are the names, ages, and hometowns of these heroes:

 Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

 Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

 Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah.

 Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California, a rifleman.

 Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska, a rifleman.

 Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana, a rifleman.

 Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas, a rifleman.

 Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri, a rifleman.

 Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming, a rifleman.

 Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, a rifleman. 

 Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California.

 Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California.

 Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Let us not forget the sacrifice of these American heroes. We should also keep their families in our prayers, as well as the Americans who are stranded in Afghanistan and yet to come home.

Source: MilitaryTimes.com

PAW Patrol: The Movie Review

PAW Patrol: The Movie is a great film for the family to see together. Young kids will love it. The animation is beautiful, the plot is satisfying, and the soundtrack is upbeat. The movie keeps the essence of the television show while updating it in a way that keeps the show fresh and exciting.

The plot of the movie centers on the Paw Patrol’s move to Adventure City to counter Mayor Humdinger’s antics, with a subplot about Chase overcoming his fears of the big city. There is also a backstory about Chase and Ryder introduced at the beginning of the film which comes into play in a key scene later in the movie.

One of the things I like about Paw Patrol is that it is clean and appropriate for kids. And unlike other kids’ shows these days, it doesn’t really have an agenda other than to entertain and uphold positive values. There are some environmental themes, but they are done in a balanced manner and not at all preachy or in your face.

It was refreshing to get out and go to the movie. I think the last time we saw a movie in the theater was pre-COVID. It made for a nice family outing.

So if you have young kids, I encourage you to take them to this movie. They will be entertained; and unless it’s in the previews before the movie, you won’t have to worry about inappropriate content, which is sadly becoming commonplace these days.

Pulpits and Pews

The fashionable thing to do in churches now is to remove the old wooden pulpits and pews and replace them with modern looking podiums and chairs. But should the church be concerned with what is fashionable or with proclaiming the truth? I have to wonder if we are losing more than pulpits and pews. Are we also forsaking the doctrines and traditions that for so long have been associated with them? Are we forgetting our godly heritage?

I can hear some say, “You’re being legalistic. After all, there are no commands in the Bible to use pulpits and pews.” That’s true, but it might be helpful to look back a few hundred years to when pews became commonplace in churches.

Pews are very much associated with the Protestant Reformation. Protestants emphasized the sermon in worship instead of the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Thus, there’s a symbolic link between the pulpit and pews and the authority of the Word. In fact in some churches, an absence of pews was seen as loyalty to Rome. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that so many Protestant churches currently seem to returning to the great harlot. However, it must be said that the use of pews in Catholic churches is now commonplace.

As churches abandon pews and pulpits, they often embrace worldly music and put less emphasis on the Word. The sanctuary’s main lights are dimmed, and stage lights and colored backdrops illuminate the stage. It becomes much more about performance and entertainment than worship and the Word. And churches that follow the world’s styles may soon follow the world’s doctrines.

In my experience, these modern changes to worship style and furnishings are often forced upon congregations for the sake of being hip and cool in order to appeal to the world. Bible believing Christians in these churches are not listened to by the leadership. They are often made to feel like they are in the wrong and that they are being selfish for desiring to keep their traditions.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Cor. 14:40

These church leaders often frame worship style as a matter of taste when it should be framed as a matter of biblical fidelity. Hebrews 12:28 speaks about serving God “acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Instead, modern day church leaders often use marketing schemes and worldly business models to push these bad ideas about worship upon those who want to rightly keep their godly traditions.

Is it a coincidence that pulpits in America lack boldness in their preaching? It seems that preachers have surrendered their God-given authority to proclaim the Word and have allowed godless ideologies and diversions to take over the worship services. I was recently in a service where a guest preacher quoted Paul’s admonition in Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands. When the preacher quoted the passage, he used the word support instead of submit. Now, we can discuss what it means for the wife to submit to her husband and how the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, but clearly the preacher should be using the Biblical word submit and not watering it down to be less offensive. In another example, an interim preacher whom I knew preached a sermon on homosexuality. He preached it from a Biblical perspective, but he didn’t want to put it on the church’s website because he knew it would be unpopular. We need bold pastors who are unafraid to preach the Word and won’t apologize for it.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Obviously, I’m not saying that pulpits and pews somehow automatically give authority to a preacher or guarantee a church’s orthodoxy. I’m simply commenting on the symbolic nature of the situation–that at the same time churches are watering their services down so as not to offend anyone, they are also adopting more worldly styles, music, and furnishings. The jettison of pews and pulpits is not the cause of the decline in gravitas of the services; it is the result of it.

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I know a lot of Christians who feel alienated at church. In the past several years, there has been a disconnect in denominations between the people in the pew and the leaders at the national level, no pun intended. But now this is becoming more widespread and localized. Many leaders seem to be out of touch with their flocks. Some of them seem to be more concerned with what unbelievers want than what their own church members believe is scriptural. Congregants are sometimes made to feel like something is wrong with them for simply wanting to be faithful. It might be wise for pastors to recognize that during this time of great moral and societal upheaval, the members in their flocks earnestly long for churches to be the one place where reassuring traditions will remain in place.

Afghanistan Debacle is a Shameful Day for America

“The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable. … The Taliban is not … the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.” –President Biden to reporters on July 8, 2021

I was sad for America and for the Afghan people as I heard reports of diplomats scrambling to leave the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and as I watched the chaotic scene unfold at the airport in Kabul on Sunday. It’s hard to forget the images of Afghans running alongside and clinging to the outside of a C-17 cargo transport plane as it took off. They were desperately hoping to escape the brutal rule of the Taliban. The reason for the sudden panic, of course, was the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to the Taliban on August 15, which was preceded by the complete collapse of the Afghan army, the flight of Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of the rest of the country.

A little background on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan might be helpful at this point. President George W. Bush had originally sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after the terrorist attacks of 9-11 to prevent the Taliban from providing safe haven to terrorists, namely Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But Bush’s focus on Afghanistan was soon eclipsed by the war in Iraq. When President Obama took office, his administration ramped up operations in Afghanistan, until Osama bin Laden was killed, at which time it gradually drew down the number of troops.

President Trump, eager to end America’s longest war, made a deal with the Taliban for the U.S. to leave the country by May 1, 2021. There were conditions to the agreement such as:

The Taliban was not to “allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

When President Biden took office, he pushed back the withdrawal date to September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of 9-11, and then moved it up to August 31. The Taliban considered this to be a violation of the agreement.

We can debate whether it is wise policy for America to leave Afghanistan now after 20 years and whether nation-building is a futile endeavor, but there is no doubt that the manner in which we are leaving shows the utter incompetence and callousness of the Biden administration. To neglect the safety of our own citizens in the withdrawal process is shameful. After seeing the disaster that took place in Kabul over the weekend, one could be excused for thinking that this administration cares little about its own citizens and even less about its Afghan partners. This debacle is evidence of the failure of the Biden administration to fulfill its most basic duty–protecting American lives.

CBS News reported that Americans in Afghanistan received a message over the weekend from the State Department instructing them to make their way to the airport in Kabul but that the U.S. could not guarantee safe travel to the airport.

It seems that our government has also neglected the Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. military for the past 20 years. Since they currently do not have visas to leave the country, they are stranded at the airport in Kabul. Obviously, they feel betrayed by an American government which they spent two decades helping.

“We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying … If there is a significant deterioration in security … I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.” —Secretary of State Blinken on July 7

What do these failures indicate to our allies around the world? They show our friends that they can’t trust the United States government to keep its word. This loss of confidence in America’s ability to defend her allies won’t be easily repaired.

“I may be wrong, who knows, you can’t predict the future, but I don’t see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan. The Taliban just aren’t the North Vietnamese Army. It’s not that kind of situation.”  –Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley

We need new leadership in the United States. We need a President who will protect our troops, diplomats, and citizens. We need a leader who will show concern for our allies and keep his word. We need a Commander-in-Chief who will uphold America’s role as leader of the free world.

We also need to make national security a priority again. Allowing the Taliban to take over Afghanistan in a week’s time after twenty years of American investment in lives and treasure is virtually inviting terrorists to attack us.

In the past, America has been a beacon of liberty, a city on a hill, and a land of hope. She has stood up against the enemies of freedom and helped out those who couldn’t help themselves. But sadly, this botched withdrawal from Afghanistan shows the world that America does not currently have the right leadership to fulfill these roles. And that realization is emboldening the enemies of freedom around the world–from the Taliban to Russia to China.

So say a prayer tonight for the Americans and Afghans who are stranded in a country which is now ruled by terrorists. And say a prayer for America–that she would once again be a country which fights for freedom and defends her allies.

Vicksburg, Destin, and Battleship Memorial Park: Road Trip Summer 2021

My family and I recently took a road trip to Destin, Florida. On the way down there, we stopped at the Civil War battlefield of Vicksburg.

The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863), in which Major General Ulysses S. Grant forced Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton to surrender, was a turning point for the Union in the Civil War. Notice the Fourth of July date as the end of the siege. The town did not celebrate Independence Day for many years after the battle as a result. The siege also ended just a day after the failed Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

This was only my second visit to a Civil War battlefield and my first trip to the site of a major battle. The nice thing about visiting Vicksburg is that you can see quite a bit in a short period of time. We only had about an hour to spend there, but I feel like we saw most of the park. There is a drive-through tour, and you can go at your own pace. It didn’t cost us any admission fees to get in.

We saw several cannon and memorial markers. We also went inside the Illinois State Memorial, which was modeled after the Roman Pantheon. The stairs and base are made of granite, while the columns and dome are made of marble.

The highlight of the visit was getting to see the ironclad ship, the USS Cairo. We got to go onto the boat and get up-close views. That alone was worth the trip. I took pictures of the ship, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

After Vicksburg, we got back on the road and headed toward Destin. We stayed in a condo within walking distance to the beach. The beach that we went to had a more family-friendly atmosphere than say Miami Beach, but not entirely so. The sand was very white, and the water was a greenish blue, thus the name, Emerald Coast. My favorite part of the ocean is just sitting in the sand and listening to the waves roll in. Few things are more relaxing than that sound.

U.S. Route 98 is the main thoroughfare for the beaches in and around Destin. Traffic is very congested, especially in the evenings. There is plenty to do along that strip including: other beaches, adventure parks, water parks, restaurants, and shopping centers. There are also pirate and dolphin cruises, as well as parasailing and other activities. The Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is terrific if you have kids. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The Baytowne Wharf area is also worth checking out.

It’s a good idea to bring your own chairs and umbrella for the beach or you will have to rent them. I’d also recommend taking an inter-tube, body board, and snorkeling mask if you plan to spend a lot of time in the ocean.

There are multiple stores along U.S. 98 where you can buy beach supplies. If you have kids with you, it’s a good idea to take shovels, pails, and other beach toys so they can play in the sand. We also took snacks and drinks as well. I saw some people with pop-up tents and canopies even though there was a sign which said that they weren’t allowed. Obviously, you’ll need plenty of sunscreen. And don’t forget life jackets if you have young kids.

At night, we went crab hunting on the beach. There were several other people that did the same. Be sure to take flashlights and a bucket. We also had headlamps for the kids. This is a unique experience.

On our way back, we stopped at Mobile, Alabama, to go to Battleship Memorial Park, where we toured a WWII battleship, the USS Alabama, and a WWII submarine, the USS Drum. In addition, the park had planes and helicopters on display, including an SR-71 Blackbird. Pictured below is an F-4 above the sign at the entrance of the park.

This stop was another highlight of the trip. If you enjoy history or military things, I’d highly recommend it. There are admission fees unless you are active duty military or 5 years old or under.

We spent about two hours here. We toured both the battleship and the submarine. Re-enactors in uniform answered questions that we had. We went below deck and saw the galley, the sleeping quarters, the ship store, as well as many other things.

If you get hungry or feel the need to buy a souvenir, the park also has a snack bar and a gift shop.

This was a fun vacation, and I think I enjoyed the unexpected stops along the way as much as I did the beach. That’s the great thing about road trips. You can stop and see whatever interests you along the way.

My Top 10 John Wayne Movies

Below are my ten favorite John Wayne movies. These are not necessarily John Wayne’s ten best critically acclaimed movies; they are simply my personal favorites. There are other John Wayne movies that I enjoy, but I tried to narrow it down as much as I could. You’ll notice that I didn’t include the only film for which Wayne won an Oscar–True Grit. I enjoy the movie, but it’s just not one of my favorites. Many feel that Wayne should also have been nominated for an Oscar for The Searchers, which did make my list.

According to Wikipedia, John Wayne starred in 169 feature length films. The best I can tell I’ve seen about 52 of these movies.

John Wayne is one of the most beloved and well-known movie stars in history. You’ve likely seen many of his movies as well, but if you haven’t I encourage you to start with these below:

10. Donovan’s Reef

This 1963 John Ford directed comedy is set in French Polynesia and stars Lee Marvin alongside the Duke. I like it for two reasons. One, I have a very distinct memory of when I watched it the first time. I was housesitting for someone, and I watched a mini-marathon of John Wayne movies and saw this one along with In Harm’s Way at the same time. Two, the tropical setting combined with a memorable Christmas scene make it somewhat unique within the John Wayne filmography. The movie is light-hearted and provides a nearly two hour escape with the chance to see John Wayne in a non-Western role.

9. McQ

Set in Seattle, McQ is one of Wayne’s two police thrillers (the other one being the London based Brannigan). Both movies provide an opportunity to see Wayne in a different kind of role and setting. If you’re a Trekkie or a Magnum fan, you might enjoy seeing Diana Muldaur and Roger E. Mosley in this film. There is a famous car chase scene on the beach at the end of the movie. The appeal of McQ for me is the Emerald City setting as well as seeing Wayne play a police officer in a modern day urban environment. If I remember correctly, I first saw this movie, as well as Brannigan, on Turner Classic Movies.

8. McLintock!

This is a classic John Wayne comedy with the usual group fight scenes, this time in the mud. Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s son, Patrick, and Stefanie Powers co-star. The film is based on The Taming of the Shrew. The chemistry between O’Hara and Wayne help make the movie a hit. The first time I saw this movie I didn’t really like it, but the more I saw it the more it grew on me. I remember seeing the VHS tape of McLintock! at my Grandparents’ house growing up, and that piqued my interest in the movie.

7. Hatari!

This 1962 Howard Hawks adventure/romantic comedy is a charming and delightful movie. Set in Africa, it follows a group of big game hunters as they chase rhinos and other animals. Hilarious antics are interspersed throughout the film as well. Again, the setting adds a lot to this film. It’s a little odd to see John Wayne in this role, but somehow it works. I was talking with a friend about my fondness for John Wayne movies, and she asked me if I had seen Hatari! I hadn’t, so I checked it out; I wasn’t disappointed. This film is a fun ride.

6. Sons of Katie Elder

Dean Martin, George Kennedy, and a young Dennis Hopper star alongside Wayne in this western about four brothers who reunite after their saintly mother’s funeral. The brothers soon realize something is amiss when a gunsmith claims ownership of their family’s ranch. Look for a shootout between the Elders and the bad guys under a bridge. This is your typical John Wayne western. If you haven’t seen many John Wayne movies, this one might be a good place to start.

5. The Comancheros

Wayne plays a Texas Ranger in this film in which he has to transport and extradite a gambler (Stuart Whitman) who killed someone in a duel. But he soon finds himself joining forces with him to face a common enemy–the Comancheros, a criminal gang that is supplying the Comanches with guns. Directed by Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, this film is an enjoyable adventure. Look for a memorable appearance by Lee Marvin as well as a quote from Whitman at a poker table about enjoying the game for its own rewards.

4. The Undefeated

This movie was on television the other night, and I was reminded of what a delightful movie it is. In our day of division, this film is a heartwarming story of how two Union and Confederate officers learn to overcome their differences to fight common enemies in Mexico after the United States Civil War. Rock Hudson co-stars as the Confederate colonel. If you like horses, there are also plenty of equine scenes to enjoy. The Mexican setting adds to the allure and beauty of the film. The revolutionary politics of the era also add an interesting backstory to the film. I still remember the Sunday afternoon that I made spaghetti and watched this film for the first time.

3. North to Alaska

This film is a pleasant departure from Wayne’s typical western roles. Stewart Granger co-stars along with Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, and the attractive French actress Capucine. The film takes place during the Nome Gold Rush. Some of the movie is also set in Seattle. This movie has romance, comedy, and adventure. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when John Wayne speed climbs a tree during a lumberjack competition at a picnic. One of the great things about John Wayne movies is that there are usually random scenes that you don’t expect which make the movies memorable. You truly feel like you’re on a ride, and you don’t know where it’s taking you.

2. The Searchers

This is one of my favorites, and I’m not alone in that assessment. This is considered a classic and one of Wayne’s best films. As mentioned above, he should have won an Oscar for it. This John Ford directed film was named the greatest American Western by the American Film Institute. It was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation for the National Film Registry.

Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran who fought on the side of the Confederacy. The story begins in Texas as Ethan arrives at his brother’s house. Comanches attack the homestead while Ethan is away, and his brother and family are killed with the exception of his niece Debbie. Ethan and his adopted nephew set out on a long search for Debbie, hence the name of the film.

The cast includes Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Natalie Wood. The cinematography is stunning. Look for the beautifully framed bookend shots at the beginning and end of the movie as well as a hilarious wedding fight scene. This is a movie that gets even better on successive viewings.

1. El Dorado

John Wayne afficionados are familiar with the fact that El Dorado is basically a remake of Rio Bravo with the same plot but with different actors around Wayne. You can also include Rio Lobo in this Howard Hawks trilogy, but the last installment was an inferior film to the other two.

El Dorado is my favorite of the three because it’s the most fun, but Rio Bravo is the one loved by the critics. Basically, El Dorado has everything you would want from a John Wayne movie–the Western setting, adventure, comedy, romance, zany antics, lots of gunfights, crazy characters, and memorable lines. Look for the scene where the Duke and Mississippi, played by a young James Caan, mix up a concoction to sober up the sheriff, played by a pitch-perfect Robert Mitchum. The cast also includes the sultry Charlene Holt as Wayne’s love interest, a young Ed Asner as the villain Bart Jason, Paul Fix as Dr. Miller, a hilarious Arthur Hunnicutt as Bull with a bugle, a spry Michele Carey, and Christopher George as the professional gunfighter, Nelse McLeod.

All three movies revolve around a sheriff and his deputies defending a town against outlaws. The good guys are holed up in the jail as they hold one of the bad guys as a prisoner. You know where the plot is headed, but it sure is entertaining getting there. I’ve watched this movie countless times, and I still enjoy it almost as much as the first time I saw it. I saw it in my last year of college during a difficult semester. It was a refreshing escape.

There are a lot of great lines in the film like when Wayne’s character, Cole Thornton, finds the sheriff, J.P. Harrah, drunk in bed. J.P. asks Thornton what he’s doing there, and Wayne delivers a line as only he can, “I’m looking at a tin star with a….drunk pinned on it.” In my opinion, this movie is John Wayne at his best.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this top ten list. If you haven’t seen these movies, you should check them out. Or maybe you disagree with my picks and have a different list that you’d like to share in the comments. Regardless, watching John Wayne movies can turn into a hobby in and of itself. After all, I’ve been watching them for 20 years, and I still haven’t seen 70% of them. I better get some popcorn and start tackling those other 117 films. Because….

“Sorry don’t get it done, Dude.” –Rio Bravo

Sources: IMDB and Wikipedia