Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



And here are bits of wisdom I picked up along the way at Harvard Law:

In Property Law, my first year, I sat next to Charles Nesson.  Charlie was an able student—so much so that he graduated Summa Cum Laude, tops in our class, and later became a member of the faculty.  Two-thirds of the way through the year, Professor Barton Leach asked a question with an easy, obvious answer.  Most of us didn't raise our hands because we thought it was a trick question, but Charlie raised his hand and said, "Adverse possession."  And Professor Leach beamed as if Charlie had solved a quadratic equation in his head.  Later, my friend Bill Barrett observed, "In America, one of the marks of success is a lack of a sense of shame."

In Constitutional Law, the giant in the field was Professor Paul Freund.  And my roommate, Jeremy T. Harrison, a devout Irish Catholic, took Freund's Constitutional Law course.  Jeremy was already an attorney.  He had been educated by the Jesuits from the ninth grade through the University of San Francisco Law School, so he was at HLS for a year to get a masters degree -- a rare activity for an American lawyer.  The degree is largely for foreigners.

To appreciate this story, you need to know that Professor Freund was Jewish.  For years he was on the presidential shortlist for appointment to the Supreme Court.  Jeremy was taking Constitutional Law for the second time so he could experience Paul Freund.

Infant Baptism?

Their classic exchange happened when the class was studying the constitutional civil rights cases. Professor Freund explained the special procedures for challenging the constitutionality of a state law. It can be done by impaneling a three-judge Federal district court, with appeal from that court directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jeremy raised his hand and said, "Sir, you can't do that."

And Freund asked in return, "Do you believe in infant baptism?" Jeremy gaped. He did, of course, believe in infant baptism, but had no idea what the professor was asking. So Freund answered both questions with one line:  "Hell yes.  I've seen it done."

I took Constitutional Law from Arthur Sutherland, a contrast to Paul Freund.  If you called Central Casting for a Supreme Court justice, they'd have sent you Freund, who was imposing—tall, stalwart, with a decisive deep voice.  And Artie Sutherland?  He was a banty rooster -- short, skinny, high-pitched. 

Many of my classmates -- analytic geniuses, but inexperienced in the world's ways—dismissed Sutherland as a lightweight because he sounded funny.  But he was a major figure in the development of U.S. law. To pick one example, he chaired the committee which drafted Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code on Negotiable Instruments. That's the law that governs every check you write.

Sutherland's Nuggets

I carefully copied Sutherland's one-liners because they were nuggets of wisdom:

"As Justice Holmes said, 'Most of the business of judging comes down to this:  There's a great deal of difference between a little bit and a lot.'"

"Perhaps the best thing you ladies and gentlemen can learn here at law school is the fact that when a person disagrees with you, that doesn't mean he's your enemy."

For a month we studied the interplay of State and Federal legislation relating to interstate commerce.  Artie summed up the whole field in one sentence:  "I suppose it comes to this:  A State can place a burden on interstate commerce, as long as it's not too much."

Sutherland was tutor for my third year paper.  After reading my first draft, he asked a question which shattered the assumption on which my paper was based.  He could see that I was shattered as well, so he asked, "D'ya box?"  "No sir."  "Great teacher, boxing.  And the first thing ya gotta learn is that when you get hit in the nose, you're not gonna die."

In my third year, I also worked for Professor Sutherland, compiling the index for Articles I and II of the Uniform Commercial Code.  I bogged down in details, so Professor Sutherland counseled me, "Ya know, Towe, the best is often the enemy of the good."

Authority and Commedian

By second year, I assumed I had law school figured out.  When I received Detlev Vagts as my professor in Corporate Law, I decided to attend class with Louis Loss.  Professor Loss was a nationally recognized authority in the subject, and in addition, he could have made a good living as a stand-up comic.  His classes were among the most entertaining at the school.

In contrast, third-year students told me that Professor Vagts was dull.  So I went to Professor Loss' class with Bill Barrett.

In November I passed Professor Vagts on the sidewalk and without stopping he commented, "If you expect a grade in Corporations, Mr. Towe, you'd better start coming to class."  So, I did.

The third year students were right – Vagts was dull – but he was also methodical and brilliant.

Louis Loss might deal with a single case for an entire hour and tell us fascinating details of the case's background:  Who sued who and why, the oral arguments before the court, and the politics among the justices in reaching the decision.

Covering All Twenty

Detlev Vagts approached the law from a different perspective.  For example, we might be dealing with rights of minority stockholders.  And there were three leading cases on the subject.  Vagts would figure out that there were really 20 significant issues here, and the three cases had decided issues 3, 11, and 16.  So, in class, he would question us on the subject, changing one factual detail at a time.

Loss gave us details about one to three cases that had already been decided.

Vagts showed us the three decided cases, along with exposing us to 17 we could meet during our careers. He was an amazing teacher, in many ways, the most skillful I had in law school. And the best lesson I learned from this experience?  Always doubt conventional wisdom and check for yourself.

Missing the Phantasmagoria

Unfortunately, I skipped a Vagts class late in the year that was the best in law school.  Unknown to me, Vagts was a hilarious raconteur, and he had a great story to tell.  He was the Trustee in Bankruptcy for Hadacol. To you young'uns, "Hadacol" means nothing.  But to us who lived through the six years after World War II, Hadacol was a big item – even if we never used it.  We saw it advertised on our black and white TV's, with the challenging slogan, "Do You Have Tired Blood?"  Well, if you did, Hadacol would take care of your problem.

Here are the first two paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry:  "Hadacol was a patent medicine marketed as a vitamin supplement.  Its principal attraction, however, was that it contianed 12 percent alcohol (listed on the tonic bottle's label as a "preservative"), which made it quite popular in the dry counties of the southern United States.

"It was the product of four-term Louisiana State Senator Dudley J. LeBlanc, a Democrat from Abbeville in Vermilion Parish in southwestern Louisiana.  He was not a medical doctor, nor a registered pharmacist, but had a strong talent for self-promotion.  Time magazine once described him as 'a stem-winding salesman who knows every razzle-dazzle switch in the pitchman's trade'."

LeBlanc ran the last big-time patent medicine show, The Hadacol Caravan, which featured top Hollywood stars and had to be held at ballparks and racetracks because local auditoriums couldn't hold the crowds. Among the twenty stars who appeared at various times onstage with LeBlanc were Judy Garland, Bob Hope and Chico Marx.  Admission was two Hadacol boxtops for adults; one for children.  (In todays prices, $22.50 and $11.25.)

Pushing Bilge Water

Time Magazine described Hadacol as "a murky brown liquid that tastes something like bilge water, and smells worse."  Bear in mind that this was decades before the Food and Drug Administration required accurate content lists on manufactured food products. 

Senator LeBlanc sold the LeBlanc Corporation in March, 1951, for $8.2 million. However, he had misrepresented income, debts, and taxes due. His advertising budget exceeded the corporation's gross receipts. The firm collapsed under its own weight in six months, and both LeBlanc and Hadacol were ruined.

This was the phantasmagoria that Professor Vagts narrated to the class, with dozens of juicy background stories about con-artist Dudley LeBlanc and the millions of people he conned – many of whom became alcoholics.  At least a dozen classmates ridiculed me that day for cutting law school's most hilarious class.

In my third year, I took advantage of crossregistration in sister schools.  For example, I could have taken a graduate economics course from Paul Samuelson at MIT.  I chose two other courses:  First semester, Financial Management at Harvard Business School and second semester, John Calvin's Social Ethics at Harvard Divinity School.

Managing Financial Management

Financial Management was a second-year MBA course, and I had not had the prerequisite first year course in Business Finance.  Result:  I had to study longer and harder for this course than any other during my three years in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I remember little from the course in 1962, however, except two items.  I learned about the time-value of money, and the counsel of the professor that the best small-business return on investment was a bowling alley or a store-front church.

The grading was A / Pass / Fail.  The prof was kindly.  He gave me a pass so I was able to graduate from law school.  I had done miserably on the final exam – not because I was unprepared, but because I was in pain.  The previous evening, I had done jack-knife sit-ups on my bed.  When I finished -- rather than lying down and relaxing my body – I rolled out of bed from the tensed position and stood up.  I pulled a back muscle.  It's tough to play a game in the big leagues when you have a strained muscle in your back.  I made lots of errors.

Ironies of Harvard Divinity

I was awed, of course, to be hanging out at both the Business School and the Divinity School.  The Financial Management class was huge; the class on Calvin was a seminar.  Of the dozen men in the room with me at Divinity School, all were Th.D. candidates – including the instructor.  It took me about a month to realize that I was the only one in the room who had read the whole Bible.

The instructor kept referring to the Idennic Community.  I took good notes, so I faithfully wrote "Idennic Community."  After I got to know a fellow-student well, I asked, "What's this Idennic Community?"  "Oh, you know," he said, "Eden.  The Edenic Community.  It's the Harvard code word for heaven."

Our text was John Calvin's two-volume Institutes of the Christian Religion, written from 1536 to 1564. I enjoyed the reading.  As a writer, Calvin reminded me of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. As they wrote, both men successfully kept in tension both reason and emotion. Luther sometimes indulged in emotion, as do many Supreme Court justices.

I developed an on-going squabble with my classmates.  In keeping with lofty scholarship, they kept deducing the economic nature of Calvinism from the Institutes -- for example, the equivocations that permitted Protestants to charge interest on loans (in violation of Scripture) – and the attitude that the wealthy have been blessed by God.

Running a Revolution

I contended that the subtleties of the Institutes were not the source of applied Calvinism as much as his Catechism and the Regulations for the Country Churches – which stated matters in a rawer form and which were actually known by the Calvinist merchant class.  While sense was on my side, my views were unrespectable at Harvard Divinity.

My paper for the course was titled "John Calvin's Views on How to Run a Revolution."   As part of my paper, I wrote a dramatic dialogue in which Calvin examined and rebuked a Boston patriot in 1777.  It's good writing. If I were doing it today, I'd probably have Calvin measure both George Washington and Oliver Cromwell. I suspect that Calvin would have much to criticize in the American Revolution and much to commend in the Roundheads' conduct of the English Civil War.

While the instructor gave me a passing grade, my paper was unrespectable.  He labeled it "pedestrian." It seems I had committed the sin of being a historical instrumentalist.  That is, I looked at history – in this case, John Calvin – to see what we could learn that would be useful today.  Thus, I was un-PC before PC was invented.

The contrast between Divinity School education and Law-Business education was alarming.  Both in the Law and Business Schools, professionals trained people to be professionals.  While I'm sure some of that also goes on in seminaries, it seemed to me that the real function of graduate religious education was to keep students snuggly wrapped in the comfort of the liberal arts.  Thus, students were separated from the practical realities they would meet when they pastored a congregation.

In the fifty years since, I have met only a few clergy people whose conduct has caused me to question my view of seminaries.  And I suspect that their excellence as pastors – as real shepherds to their congregations – was due more to their abilities than to their M.Div's.


In closing, I'll teach you a trick.  Do you want to say "Harvard" like an eighth-generation Back Bay Bostonian? Just say "Ovid" and flatten the "O".


Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Jack Towe


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