Your Mother Was Wrong

Author’s Note: This column was reposted by reader request. It was originally posted on www.TownHall.com in April of 2006.

Good morning students! It’s good to see you this morning – although you are probably perplexed that I’ve called together only a dozen of you for this special study session. Please be patient, I only have a few things to say before I give you a special assignment that should make your semester much easier.

As most of you can tell, I love teaching. About 85% of my students are wonderful. They keep me energized and eager to teach even the classes I have taught dozens of times. But then there are the 15% of students that make my job unnecessarily difficult. Unfortunately, these students are a real pain in the backside. But, fortunately, I have gathered all of them together today. Look around the room. You are all part of that 15% of annoying students.

First of all, sir, – yes, you in the green shirt with the marijuana leaf – I would like to tell you how you made it into this elite congregation. Earlier in the semester, I asked you to stop bringing an MP3 player into my class during test periods. But, last week during another exam you did it again. And I’ve finally figured out why.

It seems that when you were a little boy your mother told you that you were special. Although you believed her, your mother was wrong. You’re not special. You’re just the same as everyone else. That’s why you have to play by the same rules as everyone else. And that’s why you’re here today.

Don’t laugh, ma’am. I want to tell you why you’re here this morning. I asked you previously this semester to refrain from interrupting our review sessions by badgering me with questions about what will or will not be on the test. I can’t tell you what’s going to be on the test any more than I can issue you a copy of the exam beforehand. I’ve finally figured out why you are wholly unconcerned with my assertion that you are wasting valuable class time with your inane remarks.

It appears that when you were a little girl your mother told you that you were special. Although you believed her, your mother was wrong. You’re not special. In fact, you’re just the same as everyone else. That’s why you have to play by the rules I establish. And that’s why you’re here today.

And you, sir, have been instructed previously to bring something to write with (pencil or pen) to the examinations. But the fact that you came to the realization that your pencil has never been sharpened several minutes into the test period poses problems. Whether you actually get up to sharpen the pencil during the exam or shout “hey, dude, do you have a pencil?” you are bound to annoy the crap out of others. But your recidivism indicates that you inadequately assess the degree to which you annoy others, including me. And I think I know why you do that.

Like so many others, it appears that when you were a little boy your mother told you that you were special. Like these other people you believed what mommy said, although she was wrong. You’re not special, either. In fact, you’re just the same as everyone else. That’s why you have to play by the rules of what we call “civilization.” And that’s why you’re here today.

Rather than belabor the obvious point that all of you must surely be grasping by now, I would like to propose this solution: I want you to stop acting like you’re special. I want you to start acting more like me. Specifically, I want you to take up my new hobby of letting others know that they are not special. And I want you to start doing it immediately for extra credit in this class.

It may seem like a daunting task but once you get started you’ll probably change your mind. In fact, unless you’ve given it some thought, you probably don’t realize how many opportunities you’ll have in a single day to let someone know how truly un-special they really are. Just yesterday, on my way back from Birmingham, I had numerous opportunities in only a few short hours. For example:

*A man sitting next to me on the plane to Charlotte refused to turn off his cell phone after the airline attendant told him to do so. Sure, it was annoying. But it gave me an excellent opportunity to remind him that he wasn’t special.

*A kid sitting next to me in the café in Charlotte beat his plate with a fork and yelled at the top of his lungs for about half an hour. It sure was annoying until I realized it was a good chance to remind him that he wasn’t as special as his mother had told him. Sure, his mother was sitting right next to him. But she was too drunk to raise an objection. And who could blame her for drinking after giving birth to a monster like that?

*A guy nearly knocked me down in a mad rush to get his bag off the conveyer belt. I told him to be careful because he might knock the safety off of my concealed 45 Auto. He didn’t get the joke, largely because he didn’t speak English. That gave me an excellent opportunity to remind him that he wasn’t mucho especial.

I hope that you will all trust that this assignment is for your own good. For starters, you will earn back a point on your average for every time you disabuse a person of the notion that they are special. Furthermore, by changing your behavior (of tolerance) towards others who think they are special, I think we can also help you develop a healthier attitude (of intolerance) towards those who are a drain upon the society.

If there is any aspect of this assignment that you find objectionable or that makes you feel uncomfortable, please feel free to let me know. In fact, just have your mother give me a call. I’d like to have a talk with her soon.

Get Out Of My Class & Leave America


Author’s Note: The following column is comprised of excerpts taken from my first lectures on the first day of classes fall semester 2015 at UNC-Wilmington. It was originally posted in August of 2015 on www.TownHall.com.

Welcome back to class, students! I am Mike Adams your criminology professor here at UNC-Wilmington. Before we get started with the course I need to address an issue that is causing problems here at UNCW and in higher education all across the country. I am talking about the growing minority of students who believe they have a right to be free from being offended. If we don’t reverse this dangerous trend in our society there will soon be a majority of young people who will need to walk around in plastic bubble suits to protect them in the event that they come into contact with a dissenting viewpoint. That mentality is unworthy of an American. It’s hardly worthy of a Frenchman.

Let’s get something straight right now. You have no right to be unoffended. You have a right to be offended with regularity. It is the price you pay for living in a free society. If you don’t understand that you are confused and dangerously so. In part, I blame your high school teachers for failing to teach you basic civics before you got your diploma. Most of you went to the public high schools, which are a disaster. Don’t tell me that offended you. I went to a public high school.

Of course, your high school might not be the problem. It is entirely possible that the main reason why so many of you are confused about free speech is that piece of paper hanging on the wall right over there. Please turn your attention to that ridiculous document that is framed and hanging by the door. In fact, take a few minutes to read it before you leave class today. It is our campus speech code. It specifically says that there is a requirement that everyone must only engage in discourse that is “respectful.” That assertion is as ludicrous as it is illegal. I plan to have that thing ripped down from every classroom on campus before I retire.

One of my grandfathers served in World War I. My step-grandfather served in World War II. My sixth great grandfather enlisted in the American Revolution when he was only thirteen. These great men did not fight so we could simply relinquish our rights to the enemy within our borders. That enemy is the Marxists who run our public universities. If you are a Marxist and I just offended you, well, that’s tough. I guess they don’t make communists like they used to.

Of course, this ban on “disrespectful” speech is really only illusory. The university that created these speech restrictions then turns around and sponsors plays like The Vagina Monologues, which is loaded with profanity including the c-word – the most offensive and disrespectful word a person could ever possibly apply to a woman. It is pure, unadulterated hypocrisy.

So, the university position can be roughly summarized as follows: Public university administrators have a First Amendment right to use disrespectful profanity but public university students do not. This turns the First Amendment on its head. The university has its free speech analysis completely backwards. And that’s why they need to be sued.

Before we go, let us take a few minutes to look at the last page of your syllabus where I explain the importance of coming to class on time, turning off your cell phone, and refraining from talking during lectures. In that section, I explain that each of you has God-given talents and that your Creator endowed you with a purpose in life that is thwarted when you develop these bad habits.

Unbelievably, a student once complained to the Department chairwoman that my mention of God and a Creator was a violation of Separation of Church and State. Let me be as clear as I possibly can: If any of you actually think that my decision to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence in the course syllabus is unconstitutional then you suffer from severe intellectual hernia.

Indeed, it takes hard work to become stupid enough to think the Declaration of Independence is unconstitutional. If you agree with the student who made that complaint then you are probably just an anti-religious zealot. Therefore, I am going to ask you to do exactly three things and do them in the exact order that I specify.

First, get out of my class. You can fill out the drop slip over at James Hall. Just tell them you don’t believe in true diversity and you want to be surrounded by people who agree with your twisted interpretation of the constitution simply because they are the kind of people who will protect you from having your beliefs challenged or your feelings hurt.

Second, withdraw from the university. If you find that you are actually relieved because you will no longer be in a class where your beliefs might be challenged then you aren’t ready for college. Go get a job building houses so you can work with some illegal aliens who will help you gain a better appreciation of what this country has to offer.

Finally, if this doesn’t work then I would simply ask you to get the hell out of the country. The ever-growing thinned-skinned minority you have joined is simply ruining life in this once-great nation. Please move to some place like Cuba where you can enjoy the company of communists and get excellent health care. Just hop on a leaky boat and start paddling your way towards utopia. You will not be missed.

Thank you for your time. I’ll see most of you when classes resume on Monday.

The Last Sunday Morning

Author’s Note: This is a continuation of my last column “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Given his decades-long identification as an atheist, the fact that my father’s final words on earth were those of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was truly remarkable. It seems that he was telling us in his own way that he had heard the Gospel’s message, believed it to be true, and was sure of where he was going after he died. But my mother provided some additional context when we sat down to talk the next day, which was the Friday leading into dad’s final weekend here on earth.

I did not know it at the time but my father had gotten irritated with me in 2013 when I published my last book. In that book, I mentioned that an atheist father and a fundamentalist mother had raised me. Apparently, Dad objected to the reference strongly enough to approach my mother and say, “Mike called me an atheist. I’m not an atheist. I’m an agnostic!” In retrospect, it appears that a crack had emerged in the armor of the man who in 1975 refused my mother’s request to attend my baptism with the emphatic declaration, “There is no God!”

Apparently, the crack in the armor had also grown with time. In fact, just days before I arrived in Houston to have my last conversation with dad, mom had seen evidence of his change of heart. It was revealed in what would be her last conversation with him. In that conversation, she was telling my dad that she wanted the poem, “When I Must Leave You,” to be read at her funeral. Then she read the poem to him, which ends with this line:

And never, never be afraid to die.

For I am waiting for you in the sky.

Upon hearing it, my father turned to my mother and said, “I know that I’m dying, Marilyn.” He paused and then he added, “I’ll wait for you.” Those were the last words he ever spoke to his wife of 62 years.

By Saturday, my father was blind, mute, and barely clinging to life. I knew it was time to make the call to turn off his pacemaker so it would not shock his heart back to life after his brain had shut down entirely. I always thought that such a call would be difficult. But it was not difficult. It was time for him to leave us.

Dad managed to hang on for the rest of the day and night allowing me to get a good night’s rest. When I woke up on Sunday morning, my determination not to go back in dad’s room was altered by a phone call I received at eight o’clock. The call was from Lisa Chambers, who is the dearest friend our family has ever known. Weeks before dad got sick she woke up in the middle of the night with a vision that my father was running out of time and needed to give his life to the Lord. In July, Lisa knew dad was dying even before his symptoms set in and long before his doctors gave the formal diagnosis.

The call to me on Sunday morning in November was similar. The Holy Spirit had awakened Lisa five times over the course of the night. Each time she woke up, she had a specific verse on her mind and heart. She was calling to urge me to go back into my father’s room to share the verses with him. She knew my dad could no longer see or speak. But she insisted that my dad could still hear and that I needed to make sure he understood that salvation was his to receive. She urged me to go back in and share the verses with my father. I agreed to do so.

After Lisa emailed me the text of the verses, I went back into my father’s room. He was barely breathing when I walked in and said, “Good morning, Dad. It’s your son. I’ve come to see you one last time and to share some things with you.” Suddenly, my father’s breathing became strong and regular as I read these verses stopping between each to comment on their meaning and significance for him personally:

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in ME, says Jesus Christ. I go to prepare a place for you and will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I AM, there you may be also.

The Word is near you, even in your mouth: If you confess with your mouth Jesus Christ, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED.

Jesus says to you: I AM The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Come to Me, All you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest and you will find rest for your soul. Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord SHALL be saved.

Now may the God of Peace Himself cleanse you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be presented blameless to the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

It seemed fitting to conclude by telling dad that he would soon see a Light, which was more than just some higher power. I told him that the light was the Good Shepherd who is good because he comes looking for lost sheep even when they are not seeking him. When I was finished, I just stood up, kissed my father on the forehead, and headed out of the door to catch my flight back home.

My father died at 4 o’clock the next morning. Shortly thereafter, his body was taken away and burned. But his soul survived the flames.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

Author’s Note: This is the second column in a series. The first part, “A Good Father,” is posted below on this site. Part three will be posted in a few days. Thanks for reading.

Around noon on November 17th, 2016, I got off a plane at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. As soon as the wheels of my rental car hit I-45 North, I called my mother and told her I would be there just as soon as I grabbed some lunch and checked into the hotel. She told me I needed to hurry because my father might not last long. I decided to skip lunch and headed straight for The Woodlands bypassing the hotel check-in completely.

It was exactly two months to the day since I had gotten a call from my brother telling me our dad had a brain tumor. I got that call as I was sitting in a greenroom with J. Warner Wallace in Sacramento, California. It was just minutes before we had to join Frank Turek on stage at one of our Fearless Faith seminars. After I told J. Warner about dad’s tumor, he paused, expressed his sympathies, and then assured me that a great opportunity had just opened up for me. I knew he was right but I was terrified at the prospect of having to talk about eternity with a dying atheist father.

Despite years of telling others how to defend the Christian worldview, I had no idea what I was going to say when I walked into my father’s room and saw him there on his deathbed. He was emaciated and bald from the radiation treatment. His breathing was strained and irregular. I knew he didn’t have much time left so I asked my mother and the nurse to leave the room and shut the door.

After sitting down on the bed next to dad I announced my presence. When he turned toward me and began reaching in the air with his right hand I thought he was just stretching. Before long, I realized he was reaching out for my face but could not find it. Because of the massive swelling tumor in his brain, my father was completely blind.

When he finally opened his mouth to speak he started repeating, “I’m your d…” As hard as he tried, he just could not complete the sentence. So I completed it for him saying, “Yes, I know you’re my dad. And I know that you are dying.” After I spoke those ominous words, he lowered his right hand to wipe away a tear but he was so badly dehydrated that no tears were flowing.

I hadn’t known what I would say when I walked into the room. But I knew he had just given me an opening into the conversation I knew would have to happen. So after I acknowledged that I knew he was my dad I just kept talking. I repeatedly told him that he had been a good father. While I was reassuring him, his right hand found my face. With his left hand he grabbed my shirt. Using both of his hands and all of his energy, he pulled my face down next to his. The old Army officer then summoned the strength to issue his final command to his youngest son, “Tell your dad that you love him.” And I did.

Telling my dad that he was a good father provided a very easy transition into telling him that he had a good father, too. I assured him that his good father was coming to carry him home. I kept using the metaphor of the father carrying his children home as I spoke to him of what was about to transpire and of what he needed to do. I also clearly explained what did not have to be done. In other words, I assured him that public baptism was not a requirement for salvation.

When he turned to his side, I could see that he was starting to experience a surge of physical pain. His last words to me were, “Are you going to be there?” He was not asking about eternity. He was asking about his funeral. In his last weeks, it had become evident that he wanted a nice service. It was also important to him that his closest friends and his family would all be there together.

As dad’s pain began to intensify, I knew that it was time to call in the nurse. I walked out thinking I would never see him alive again. I checked into the hotel and then grabbed something to eat. About an hour and fifteen minutes later I walked back into his apartment. The nurse met me at the door and asked me an unusual question, “Does your father like to sing?”

I paused without answering her. Then she told me that my dad was singing after I left the room. When I asked her what song he was singing, she told me it was the old spiritual hymn, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” In case you are not familiar with the words, it goes something like this:

I looked over Jordan, what did I see,

Coming for to carry me home.

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I did not know it then but those would be the final words my father would speak on this earth. After the wonderful revelation of what he had been singing, I felt no desire to go back into my father’s room. But the Holy Spirit would have the final say about that.

To be continued …

A Good Father

Occasionally, people ask me how a guy could go from having a 1.8 GPA in high school (and graduating 734th out of 740) to becoming a college professor in just ten years time. I’m always glad to answer the question because it has implications for the way we raise our children and for how we view eternity.

My failure as a high school student was almost exclusively due to my arrogant belief that I was such a good soccer player that I could simply skip college and go straight to the pros. That arrogance was fueled by a couple of coaches who tickled my ears with exaggerating assessments of my ability. But I should have known better. In retrospect, my goals (no pun intended) were way out of proportion with my ability.

At the start of my senior year, I suffered a serious injury to my Achilles tendon. I tried to play through it but was simply unable to make the team. I had to undergo surgery in October to repair a partial tear of the tendon and to have a bone spur sawed off of my heel. It took years to recover. My athletic career was finished.

I somehow managed to stumble through my senior year and graduate. When I finally did, my father gave me a gift I did not deserve. It was an expensive 12-string guitar. I was such a bad student that I didn’t even deserve a gift certificate to K-Mart. The guitar was undeserved and I accepted it with deep gratitude.

My dad also gave me another gift for graduation. It was the gift of a second chance in school. Given my grades, there was not a university in America that would accept me. But Texas had a law that said junior colleges had to accept high school graduates, regardless of their grades. So my dad graciously allowed me to live at home and attend the local junior college (San Jacinto). But there were two conditions: I could only take ten hours and I could not hold a full time job. Dad wanted me to take it slow and get back on my feet again, academically speaking.

Dad’s “take it slow” approach worked. At the end of the first semester, I had completed ten hours with a 2.7 GPA. It wasn’t great but it was an improvement. So Dad complimented me on the improvement and urged me to increase my load to 12 hours during the spring semester.

At the end of my second semester, I had lifted my GPA to 2.9 with twelve more completed hours. Dad again complimented me on my improvement and urged me to increase my load to 15 hours when I returned for my second year.

At the end of that crucial third semester, which was my first with a full five-course load, I had lifted my GPA to 3.0 with fifteen more completed hours. Dad again complimented me on my improvement and urged me to increase my load to 18 hours.

At the end of my fourth semester, there was more success and steady improvement. I had lifted my GPA to 3.1 with eighteen completed hours. Dad again complimented me on my improvement. He also reminded me I was only seven hours away from an Associate’s degree. He then did some homework and found that if I transferred to his alma mater, Mississippi State University, I could transfer hours back to San Jacinto to finish the two-year degree. Furthermore, as the son of an alumnus, I could get an out-of-state tuition waiver, which would save us enough money to allow me to join a fraternity. There was no way I was turning down that deal.

After I went off to Mississippi State, went through rush, pledged Sigma Chi, and moved into the fraternity house, something strange happened. My GPA shot all the way up to 3.4. In fact, I was probably the first man in the history of America higher education to raise his GPA while living in a fraternity house. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration. But my grades were high enough to enter graduate school.

When I approached my dad about going to grad school he was enthusiastic. In fact, he told me that since I had lived at home for two years and saved him so much money, he would be glad to help me out financially. I took him up on the offer and finished the program with a 3.9 GPA. By that point, I had decided to pursue a PhD and become a college professor. That meant at least three more years of school.

When I told my dad I wanted to get my doctorate, his response was memorable: “Good luck with that, son. Your mom and I are broke. You’re on your own!” But actually I wasn’t on my own. I had been practicing on that guitar dad gave me for high school graduation. In fact, after six long years of practice I was good enough to earn a living playing music. So I called my friend Shannon Ruscoe with a business idea. He was a very talented singer who was also struggling to make a living in grad school at Mississippi State. Together, we formed a musical duo, which helped me pay for my PhD while Shannon studied engineering.

Eventually, Shannon decided to drop engineering and move to Nashville to tour as a back-up singer for some well-known acts. I stay in school and eventually graduated in 1993 without a penny of debt. The undeserved gift my father had given me had been worth the expense. It generated enough money to take me all the way home on my very long academic journey.

Whenever I tell people the story of how I went from the bottom of my class to being a college professor in ten years, they immediately recognize the hero of the story. It isn’t me. It’s my father. In fact, the story calls upon us to consider the essential characteristics of a good father. I think there are three:

1. A good father has perspective. Whereas the child sees only the things that are in front of him, the good father has a long-term plan.
2. A good father is also personally involved in our lives. He wants to communicate with us, to have fellowship with us, and to be a part of our everyday journey.
3. A good father is a provider. He not only wants to know our goals but he wants to help open doors for us to get us across the finish line and take us all the way home. He’s like a good clean up hitter emptying all the bases with a well-placed hit.

People often comment that I was lucky to have a good father when I was growing up. Sometimes they add that they were not so fortunate. Some even tell me stories of a torn relationship with their earthly father. Those stories are always tough to hear. But I always listen. And then I remind them of something I know to be true: Everyone on earth has a good father.

The statement I just made is very bold. That is why it is in bold letters. But it is also a true statement if the Christian worldview is true. There are many different views of the world but only one offers a view of our role in the world as children who are guided by a good father.

It is certainly pleasant to think that we all have a good father with perspective on our lives, who is personally interested in our destiny, and who will provide for our needs. But we should not believe in things simply because they are pleasant. We should believe in things only if the evidence supports them.

Last summer, while living and teaching on the campus of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colorado, I gave a lecture I had never given before. It was about finding your calling in life. I gave the lecture to six groups of students over the course of twelve weeks before leaving at the end of the summer. In the lecture, I touch on the themes I have addressed in the present column.

The night before I left Colorado, I picked up the phone and called my father. While I was on that call, I noticed that dad’s speech was impaired and he was having trouble organizing his thoughts. There was clearly something wrong with his health. The matter concerned me greatly. Dad was 81 years old and a lifelong atheist. I knew he had never considered the evidence for Christianity. For the first time in my life, I realized that his time to consider the evidence might be running out. I wondered whether I would have a chance to discuss the evidence with him.

My father’s condition deteriorated fairly rapidly. Fortunately, I was blessed with the opportunity to see and speak with him before he passed.

… To be continued.