HomeOpinionOPINION: Lessons I learned from my dad’s 3 ‘Rs’

OPINION: Lessons I learned from my dad’s 3 ‘Rs’

By Sky McCracken

First Methodist Church

My father, who was a high school and later college educator, heard me say one day, “You gotta study the Three R’s: Reading, Ritin’ and Rithmatic.”

He gave me a short lesson on the work of Louis P. Bénézet, a Wisconsin high school football coach who later became a principal, school superintendent, and then pioneer of modern education.

He suggested a new “Three R’s” to education: Reading, Reasoning, and Reciting. His desire was that students not just memorize information, but be able to use and apply it for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, we are woefully lacking in all three of these in today’s society.

Reading: we read less and less. We’d rather watch the movie than read the book, read the Cliff’s Notes, have someone tell us the bottom line.

Even with the Bible, we’d rather read commentaries or someone’s opinion about a piece of scripture instead of reading it ourselves – in context and within the whole biblical narrative, rather than selected parts of it.

I had an Old Testament seminary professor say, “All you need is a Bible – preferably in the original language – and a concordance. Leave the commentaries alone.

For all you know the guy who wrote that commentary was an idiot.” I resented some of the things I had to read and study at various times of my education.

I most resented having to read Mein Kampf for a history class I took; I mean, what was the point, other than the sadistic wishes of some twisted professor?

In retrospect, I now know exactly why I had professors who “made” us read and study what we did: they wanted us to LEARN from history rather than repeat it.

As I watch the present antics of our politicians and pundits, we are dangerously close to watching things not just rhyme with history, but actually repeat it.

As was said by Irish wit and lawyer John Philpot Curran (who said it long before Thomas Jefferson): “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

Reasoning: Reason is taking a worse beating than reading is. In today’s climate, reason has been replaced by fear.

The Bible is full of wisdom and mandate regarding fear; God seems to be quite clear about His feelings regarding fear: “Fear no evil,” (Psalm 23); “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear…” (Psalm 46); “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. (Isaiah 41); “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6); “The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8). “In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4).

You get the idea. Yet, even though we claim to be a Christian society, we certainly adopt a heathen mode of living: fear, hate, us vs. they… despite our Lord’s wishes and admonitions. If we truly fear/revere/honor the Lord, shouldn’t we, like, honor Him?

Reciting. We are a society too quick to agree with the latest sound bite, Twitter or social media post, or quote from our preferred politician or pundit – and then pass it on to others by word, text message, or media post.

We can even do such under the guise of being “Godly” or “right.” We would do well to remember the words from Proverbs: “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit has understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” -Proverbs 17:27-28

We have created such an adversarial atmosphere of fear, distrust, and untruth that our society has become a toxic environment, through our own ignorance and arrogance.

We can only change that by cleaning it up. In a Christian context, that means being a means of peace and an example of grace and love.

As Jesus reminds us: “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

What we say, what we do, matters. God is watching, and listening.

Sky McCracken is the senior pastor at First Methodist Church in Downtown Jackson.

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