Shining Brightly with Howard Brown: A scientist and a cancer survivor reflect on a 34-year friendship and fighting cancer

Enjoy the new short film about this inspiring friendship

Dr. Eric H. Rubin, now a senior vice president of Merck Research Laboratories, and his friend Howard Brown, author, speaker and two-time cancer survivor and advocate, first met in 1989. Brown, just a 23-year-old recent college graduate, had gone to the hospital to get a purple mark on his cheek evaluated. Dr. Rubin was a first-year fellow on the medical team who had to deliver the devastating news that Brown had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would need to begin treatment immediately.

The newly released short film, below, tells what happened as the two young men discovered the remarkable potential of treatment and personal resilience in the face of a life-threatening diagnosis.

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Care to learn more?

This is a perfect moment to become one of Howard’s growing global community of friends by ordering your copy of his book.

Here are other articles we have published, exploring the launch of this book:

Take a look at the book’s Foreword: ‘Shining Brightly’ Foreword by Dr. Robert J. Wicks: ‘Learn anew about the American Dream’

And especially read this story: Two-time cancer survivor Howard Brown writes ‘Shining Brightly’ to encourage others to stay healthy

Free Resource Guides

Download (and free-to-share) resource guides for discussing Shining Brightly:

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On his 214th birthday, Abraham Lincoln still calls us toward unity

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read the Spirit magazine

CLICK THE COVER TO VISIT THE BOOK’S AMAZON PAGE.

As he began his turbulent presidency, Abraham Lincoln confidently stood at Old Independence Hall in Philadelphia and asked for “the generous cooperation of the people of this nation.”

Less than two months later, the tragedy of the Civil War began began and would continue until it claimed 620,000 American lives—more than were lost in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, World War I, World War II and the Korean War, combined.

Throughout the four years of that cataclysmic conflict, Lincoln’s vision remained laser focused on reuniting the nation and, eventually, on completing the unfinished work of our Declaration of Independence by ending the enslavement of millions of Black Americans.

Lincoln described that vision himself on that morning in Philadelphia. He said, “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” That vision later echoed in his Gettysburg Address.

The founding principles of our publishing house parallel Lincoln’s vision in many ways, which is why one of our most important books, since our founding in 2007, is Duncan Newcomer’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln: Quiet Fire.

To Celebrate Lincoln’s 214th Birthday, Let’s Remember His Wisdom

For many years, we have been publishing columns by Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer, recalling Lincoln’s prophetic wisdom for our nation. Here are just a few of those memorable columns to spark your reflections this week. Please, if you find this helpful, share this column with friends via social media and email.

Marking the anniversary of those 272 words at Gettysburg

In this 2020 column, Duncan wrote about the fullness of Lincoln’s hopes as expressed in the Gettysburg Address.

Let’s remember how he reached across the aisle to discover new friends 

In a move that seems unthinkable today, the nation’s most famous Republican sometimes reached across the political aisle to work with members of other parties.

What shaped Lincoln’s soul?

In this thoughtful column, Duncan reminds us that “Lincoln did not try to divide people with anger, he tried to unite people with kindness, compassion really.” This leads to the deeper question: What shaped such a soul?

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And, again, we suggest: Please, if you find this column helpful, share it with friends via social media and email.

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E. Stanley Jones asks: What kind of India? What kind of world?

By JOHN HARNISH
Author of30 Days with E. Stanley Jones

When American missionary E. Stanley Jones went to India in the early 1900’s, he found himself in a pressure cooker of competing religions and visions for the future of the nation.  First, India had been under British rule for almost 100 years with many voices beginning to call for independence. Coupled with that was the British commitment to establish the Christian religion in India. It was a classic example of Christian Nationalism, wrapping the cross in the Union Jack and sending the message that to be Christian was to be British.

Second,  since the majority of the population was Hindu the drive for Indian independence often envisioned a Hindu nation oppressing the Muslim minority.  The hostility between the Hindus and Muslims was long-standing and often violent.

Third, Jones found himself among the deeply dedicated band of American missionaries who were focused on their evangelistic message but were often linked with the British and therefore suspect by many Indians.

In this religious, cultural and political powder keg, Jones’ first goal was to free Jesus from identification with the Empire so the Gospel could be “naturalized” (his word) into the Indian context.  That work, however, was often complicated by the hot issue of the day—the desire for independence.

‘Which side would Jones and the Christ he was preaching take?’

Dr. Naveen Rao, Principal of Leonard Theological College, says, “On the one side was the Christian British Empire ruling India, and on the other side, non-Christian India striving to be free from the British Empire.  Which side would Jones and the Christ he was preaching take?”

Observing the often ruthless and violent riots between Muslims and Hindus, Jones came to believe that “his missionary task demanded that as a statesman he bring the two warring sides together in a common struggle against a common power to achieve a common goal of a new, independent India.”  (Naveen Rao, Christian History Magazine, issue 136, page 25)

To that end, Jones initiated conversations between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League and worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi. He created the “Round Table Conferences,” where Hindus, Muslims, and Christians came together for conversation.  Jones hoped India would emerge as one, undivided nation, but the struggle for India’s future ended in a bloodbath of hostility and a divided nation.

‘Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend’

Behind that struggle, Jones’ friendship with Gandhi serves as a model for us today. Jones details the relationship in his powerful little book, Gandhi: Portrait of a Friend which has remained in publication ever since it appeared in 1948. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. credited this book as one of his inspirations for non-violent resistance in the Civil Rights movement.

In our day, Jones still has something to teach us about intense political divisions, heated social media debate and often hostile acts directed at ethnic minorities or persons we deem as “the other.”

Jones’ Prophetic Lessons for Today

Freeing Christianity from nationalistic identification.

In the caldron of India’s political upheaval, Jones sought to free Christian faith from its bondage to one particular national identity. In contrast to Christian Nationalism, he offered Jesus as the universal Christ whose message could speak to every culture and every nation. It’s a message we need to hear in the USA today.

Understanding the context

Jones committed himself to studying Hindu and Muslim traditions in order to find his way into the fabric of the society. He spent time at Gandhi’s ashram and their correspondence offers insight into their relationship developing over time. Sometimes our desire for quick solutions blinds us to the painstaking task of truly learning from others to understand the context and the culture.

Bringing people together

It’s really tough!  It was challenging for Jones, and it is hard for us today.

In fact, many of us have given up on trying to have civil conversation with persons with whom we disagree. But if we are to find our way to a more civil and just society, Jones’ model of the “Roundtable” offers us an example. It won’t always work. Jones’ efforts to encourage a united India did not succeed, and back in the USA his attempts at shuttle diplomacy to avoid war with Japan didn’t either. In his autobiography he titles the chapter about that effort “An Adventure in Failure.” His conclusion is “I wrote this off as an adventure in failure. It is not ours to succeed or fail—it is ours to do the highest we know and leave the results to God.” (Son of Ascents, page 202)

What kind of world?

Jones’ work toward a united India—his efforts at reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims, his relationship with Mahatma Gandhi—and his efforts to avoid war with Japan were built upon his vision of the Kingdom of God. That vision—like the vision that later empowered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—kept calling Jones back to the task of building bridges despite his failures.

That vision still calls us to strive for a world where, as the Old Testament prophet says, “swords will be turned into plowshare and spears into pruning hooks”—a world King called “The Beloved Community.”

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Care to learn more?

VISIT JOHN HARNISH’S WEBSITE to learn about his upcoming public appearances in Michigan, Ohio and New York.

Want to contact him to plan a future event? Here’s his online contact page.

For even more “Resources,” check out this page of links that offer lots of supplemental information about Jones—and Harnish’s other ongoing work, including his Monday Memo columns.

Want to hear from him more regularly? On his website, there are several ways to sign up for that free Monday Memo series.

In a world of conflict, Dr. Gustavo Parajón shows us a better way to live

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read the Spirit magazine

In an era when a Russian dictator can declare a war that kills thousands—and when angry political factions around the world routinely touch off deadly violence—millions of us are wondering:

Is there a better way to live?

Indeed, there is: We can look to the life of Gustavo Parajón (1935-2011), a Nicaraguan doctor and pastor who became so well known around the world for his peacemaking efforts that U2’s Bono once disguised himself so that he could quietly slip into a gathering of people listening to one of Parajón’s talks in the UK.

The distinctive nature of Parajón’s message transcended any particular political issue or public health challenge he was facing, say the co-authors of a new biography Healing the World—Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking PioneerWhat drew other global peacemakers to Parajón’s circle—from Bono to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter—was the deep well of faith-based compassion they found in Parajón. As he worked on public health and peacemaking projects, Parajón unfailingly found hope in each person he met—even when those people were men pointing guns at him.

“Dr. Parajón always saw the possibilities in each person he met,” said Damaris Albuquerque, co-author of the new biographyShe spoke with us for this article by Zoom from Nicaragua, where she carries on Dr. Parajón’s nonprofit work. “It was when he looked into the lives of the people he met that he started to find the ways that each person could join with him in service.

“When he met a person, he always began with questions about them, their families and the work that they did. He had a phenomenal memory for people and he cared about them so deeply that, when he met them again, he could immediately begin asking about their families and their work. As he talked with people about their lives, he would make connections—connections with other people and connections with the stories he loved from the Bible. As he talked with people, he knew the Bible so well that he could draw on the wisdom from so many different stories! Soon, the people he was talking with found themselves agreeing to do things in service to the community that they never expected they could do.

“When others saw this happening, they were inspired, too. Even people who at first seemed to be enemies—they saw he was showing them a different way to work with others, a different way of living. His calm voice and the way he cared for each person—even his enemies—won them over.”

Daniel Buttry, who served for many years as the international peace trainer for American Baptist Churches, said that he partnered with Damaris on researching and writing this book because Parajón was one of his most influential mentors.

“I did not know him as well as Damaris, because she worked with him on a daily basis for years, but the moment I did encounter him, he became my mentor, too. There was so much he taught me from the way he lived his life, the way he talked about his faith and the way he worked with others. When I took on this new global role for American Baptist Churches in 2003, I came to this new challenge after years of working in more traditional approaches to peacemaking: from writing letters, organizing petitions and lobbying Congress to protesting in the streets.

“Gustavo showed me possibilities that we were not really seeing in the world, where civilian initiatives like the ones Gustavo undertook had not been viewed as an effective way of pursuing change,” Dan said. “When I took on this new work for American Baptist Churches, Gustavo was a mentor to me in the possibilities of nongovernmental players opening avenues for peace talks that had not existed before.”

Leadership Lessons from the life of Dr. Gustavo Parajón

One of he major take-aways in the new biography is this leadership model that Dan and Damaris describe of an ordinary person—who is not an official governmental leader—stepping up as a community leader or even, in Parajón’s case, as a national catalyst for change.  Throughout his life, Parajón worked as a local pastor and a physician on a mission to pioneer public health outreach to the neediest corners of his country—doing all of that despite warring factions that more than once endangered his life.

To illustrate some of the leadership lessons readers will find as they explore Parajón’s life in Healing the World, Damaris summarizes just a few of them this way:

  • Treating each new challenge as one might examine a medical case: first describing the situation and the desired outcome, then the action plan and carefully observing what happens as this plan unfolds.
  • Never giving people advice without, first, helping the person to look for the solution.
  • Starting meetings by asking the participants to help describe the situation and the desired outcome.
  • Paying attention to personal details, including knowing each person’s name and something about their family or personal situation.
  • Remembering people, their names and their relationships.
  • Reminding people of our shared sources of wisdom, as he did when talking about stories from the Bible that illustrated a key message.

And those are just a few of the dozens of take-aways in this inspiring story of Parajón’s life.

“The best words I can think of to describe him are: pioneer and visionary,” said Damaris. “He saw potential in people who he knew could carry on this mission he had started. He was a connector and an enabler, but he also had this way of seeing what was possible in the world—even in the worst of times.”

That’s why all of us can benefit from reading about Parajón’s life, Dan said. One of the greatest lessons from his remarkable life is that “he was not full of himself—he was full of what God was doing in the world and he always was trying to share the possibilities that he could see so clearly. And, right now, that certainly is something we all could use in our world.”

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Care to Learn More?

GET THE BOOK—Visit Amazon and buy your own copy of Healing the World—Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking PioneerThe book also is available from Barnes & Noble, from Bookshop.org and from many other online retailers.

ENJOY THESE VIDEOS (and share them with friends)—To spark interest among your friends, congregation, nonprofit or small group, consider sharing the link to this story, as well as some of the following short videos:

READ A REVIEW BY BILL TAMMEUSVeteran journalist Bill Tammeus published an early review of Healing the World and said, in part:

Gustavo Parajón’s life can serve as a reminder to many of us citizens of the U.S. that there’s a bigger world beyond our borders and that throughout that world we can find amazing people doing amazing things. … And his story can encourage others to devote their lives to being a healing presence in the world, whether or not they are physicians. … This is a story that needed to be told, and one that can help shape young lives today.

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In an era when hateful lies parade as truths, we need to read Lewis Baldwin’s ‘The Arc of Truth—The Thinking of Martin Luther King Jr.’

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking against the Vietnam War, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota. Photo is used courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society and Wikimedia Commons.

Marking the Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of Read the Spirit magazine

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

In a world where flat-out lies are celebrated as “alternative truths” and a rising tide of racist and antisemitic myths are paraded as “a matter of opinion” by certain celebrities—we all should read and share with friends: The Arc of Truth—The Thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Lewis V. Baldwin.

In an interview about this new book with Dr. Baldwin—Vanderbilt University professor emeritus of religious studies—he said, “Most of us know that Dr. King is a towering figure, a complex figure, who expressed ideas and translated them into a movement to empower and liberate humanity. For 40-some years, I have been researching, teaching and writing on Dr. King’s roots, his message, his work and his legacy. Through those years, I have become ever more convinced of the need for all rational and moral humans to be involved in this human struggle to empower people that he worked so hard to develop. Even now, so long after his passing, he can serve as a resource for all of us who are trying to reclaim a truth-telling culture.”

In the powerfully prophetic concluding section of his new book, Dr. Baldwin zeroes in on the urgency he feels in sharing King’s message as an antidote to social and political conservatives “with a callous disregard to truth and and humanity itself.”

Here’s just one passage from his book’s final chapter, describing Donald Trump’s four years as president:

Trump’s America encouraged an absence of concern for the weak, the destitute, and the vulnerable that we we have not seen since the King years—a spirit of sheer heartlessness and lack of empathy that is seemingly limitless, inexcusable in modern times, and really unfathomable. This became painfully real in policies aimed at immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and especially the children among them.

What outrages Dr. Baldwin even more than these attitudes and policies themselves is the effort by Trump himself and many other conservative political activists to claim King’s legacy as their own.

In our interview, I asked him about the pointed attack he wages in that section of his book. Dr. Baldwin said, “You are reading me correctly about that. The main thing I’m concerned about is how Dr. King’s legacy is being hijacked by forces on the Right in the service of a conservative social agenda that the Right wants to impose on America. For example, voices on the Right have been claiming for years that Dr. King would be opposed to Affirmative Action.

“Some voices on the Right are even claiming that, if Dr. King were alive today, he would be a Republican. And that’s problematic. This distorts Dr. King’s legacy and what he means for America today. This falls into the pattern of lies that are toxic as we seek to operate in a functioning democracy. It’s part of an anti-truth-telling culture that is dangerous because, as Dr. King tells us: Truth is foundational to the workings of democracy.”

‘Speaking Truth To Us In the Here and Now’

That final prophetic section of Dr. Baldwin’s book builds on the first five chapters that examine King’s life-long passion to see, understand and speak the truth about injustice in America—and eventually about injustice in communities around the world. In those five chapters, Dr. Baldwin’s scholarly case about Dr. King’s passion for Truth—with a capital T—is what adds such urgency to his application of King’s principles in today’s world. It’s that deeply researched effort “to speak truth to power” in this new book that has drawn so many powerful endorsements.

One of them comes from Susannah Heschel, the award-winning scholar and author who is the daughter of Dr. King’s ally Abraham Joshua Heschel. About Dr. Baldwin’s new book, she writes:

Dr. King was a prophet who came to save our country, and Baldwin captures his spirit and his voice, ringing loud and clear, to arouse, inspire, and unite us. He brings Dr. King to our present era, speaking truth to us in the here and now, as we face rising white nationalism and cope with ongoing systemic racism and government mendacity. This book is extraordinary!

Racism as a Worldwide Phenomenon

Dr. Baldwin’s message in this new book is as broad as Dr. King’s vision became over the four decades he had before he was cut down at age 39 in 1968.

In a final passage in his book, Dr. Baldwin writes in a cadence that recalls the crescendos of some of Dr. King’s own sermons:

Truth marches on because nothing can stop or defeat it. It marches on because it is imbued with the power and spirit of no surrender. It marches on because it has a date with destiny. It marches on in this post-truth era with the people of all races who raise the banner of Black Lives Matter, with women who comprise the Me Too crusade, with youngsters involved in the March for Our Lives against gun violence, with those who struggle against voter suppression and intimidation, and with those who refuse to bow to Trumpism, post-truthism, or any other form of spiritual and moral perversion and anti-democracy. It marches on with those who honor and celebrate King’s legacy not simply with words but also with deeds that change lives, structures, and institutions for the better. Truth marches on because only truth can have the last word in history.

As our interview drew to a close, I asked Dr. Baldwin how he hopes his new book will affect the lives of readers.

“First, I hope they would come away from this book with a better understanding of Dr. King because, right now, so much is being said about him that is untrue,” he said. “I am very concerned about this effort to hijack his memory by people on the Right trying to promote a conservative social agenda.

“Second, I hope that readers agree that Dr. King is meaningful for our time. There is a timelessness to the messages he brought us about truth telling. As we recognize him as a celebrated national hero, we need to listen to his message. We all need to join in an effort to reclaim a culture of truth if we hope to preserve our best moral and spiritual foundations.”

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Care to read more about Dr. King from Dr. Baldwin?

After our main interview, Dr. Baldwin agreed to talk about the central themes in some of his other books about Dr. King.

There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King Jr.

To Make the Wounded Whole: The Cultural Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

“These two books together are foundational in the trajectory of my scholarship on Dr. King,” Dr. Baldwin said. “I began in The Roots to establish that he was first and foremost a man of the Black South and was shaped by the religion and other aspects of culture in the South. Then, To Make the Wounded Whole is a companion to that first book—looking at how his cultural legacy has been passed down to subsequent generations of activists in the Black community.”

The Voice of Conscience: The Church in the Mind of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“Then, if you want to fully understand Dr. King, you have to understand his churchmanship,” Dr. Baldwin said. “He was first and foremost a clergyman with deep roots in the church. He talked more about the church in the 1950s and 1960s than any other subject. Throughout that period of his life, the church was the primary topic of his essays, his books and his talks. He had a vision that the church should lead in bringing about the fulness of the beloved community that he talked so much about.”

Dr. Baldwin also helped to produce two volumes in the Beacon Press 11-volume King Legacy series:

“Thou, Dear God”—Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits

“In a Single Garment of Destiny”—A Global Vision of Justice  

Thou Dear God is a collection of 68 prayers by Dr. King falling into different categories,” Dr. Baldwin said. “Overall, that book falls into the spirituality genre in King studies. It’s an important book because we need to be clear that he was first a spiritual leader. I tried to convey that through my commentaries on these prayers.

“Then A Single Garment falls into the globalization genre in King studies. This book makes it clear that Dr. King was a global figure as well. He called himself a citizen of the world. He spoke as a citizen of the world who felt he had to talk about Vietnam and South Africa and antisemitism. If you don’t understand how he understood himself as a global figure, then you don’t understand Dr. King.”

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Bill Tammeus reviews Gustavo Parajón biography: ‘A story that can help shape young lives today’

Thanks to veteran journalist Bill Tammeus for his pre-publication review of Healing the World: Gustavo Parajón, Public Health and Peacemaking Pioneer, which will be released worldwide on January 24, 2023.

His review appears in “The Book Corner” in Bill’s January 4 column. When you visit that web page, you’ll first find Bill’s timely call for all of us to support Holocaust education—considering the alarming rise in antisemitic incidents around the world. Then, as you scroll down, you’ll find The Book Corner review of Healing the World. Bill writes, in part:

Gustavo Parajón’s life can serve as a reminder to many of us citizens of the U.S. that there’s a bigger world beyond our borders and that throughout that world we can find amazing people doing amazing things. … And his story can encourage others to devote their lives to being a healing presence in the world, whether or not they are physicians. … This is a story that needed to be told, and one that can help shape young lives today.

Care to read more?

Inspired by Bill’s call for activism against bigotry? For more on combatting the rising tide of hate crimes—order a copy of Bill’s Love, Loss and Endurance: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety, which includes practical advice about unplugging extremism.

AND—please order your copy of Healing the World now and Amazon will ship it to you on the launch date. Click on the book cover below:

Dr. David Gushee: Ranked among the world’s most-read Christian writers by BGN wire service

As Dr. David Gushee’s publishing house for his two landmark books—Changing Our Mind and Introducing Christian Ethics—we were not surprised to learn that Baptist Global News (BGN) found that he ranks among the world’s most-read Christian writers via their wire service.

BGN reported on its ranking of readership for its most-popular columns throughout the calendar year 2022:

Baptist News Global’s 2022 Top 15 list of opinion pieces represents the range of weighty and controversial issues that faced the church and nation in 2022, with columns on race, gender and sexual identity running neck and neck with those about biblical and theological interpretation, Russia’s detention and release of Brittney Griner and Samford University’s treatment of LGBTQ students and alumni.

High on that list of most-read columns was Dr. Gushee’s July 2022 column, headlined:
When Christianity becomes toxic ‘Christianism’ That column begins:

Many people appear baffled about the hard-right turn in U.S. conservative religion. It’s not just a turn to politics, or to hard-right politics, that is problematic. It is the apparent amorality, the cruelty, bigotry and snarling spirit that is so impossible to reconcile with the Spirit of Christ.

Care to read more?

Thousands of individuals and families have been helped by Dr. Gushee’s books:

Changing Our Mind

And Introducing Christian Ethics