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Charles Dickens’ 1841 wisdom regarding the 2016 Presidential Election

charles-dickensFamilies and even countries have systemic and generational patterns that need to be understood, in order to become more healthy and even transformative.  Charles Dickens was deeply loved by the American people, then deeply resented when he told them in his 1841 book American Tales what he saw, and finally loved again after the Civil War, when they bought over a million of his book Christmas Carol, saving him from bankruptcy.

After the often agonizing and endless American election, Dickens’ wise words are well worth pondering, regardless of one’s political preferences.

American Tales, Chapter XVIII, Concluding Remarks

“(Americans) are by nature, frank, brave, cordial, hospitable, and affectionate. Cultivation and refinement seem but to enhance their warmth of heart and ardent enthusiasm; and it is the possession of these later qualities in a most remarkable degree, which renders an educated American one of the most endearing and most generous of friends.  I never was so won upon, as by this class; never yielded up my full confidence and esteem so readily and pleasurably, as to them; never can make again, in half a year, so many friends for whom I seem to entertain the regard of half a life.

These qualities are natural, I implicitly believe, to the whole people. That they are, however, sadly sapped and blighted in their growth among the mass; and that there are influences at work which endanger them still more, and give but little present promise of their healthy restoration, is a truth that ought to be told.

It is an essential part of every national character to pique (i.e. pride) itself mightily upon its faults, and to deduce tokens of its virtue or its wisdom from their very exaggeration.  One great blemish in the popular mind of America, and the prolific parent of an innumerable brood of evils, is Universal Distrust.  Yet the American citizen plumes (i.e. prides) himself upon this spirit, even when he is sufficiently dispassionate to perceive the ruin it works; and will often adduce it, in spite of his own reason, as an instance of the great sagacity and acuteness of the people, and their superior shrewdness and independence.

dickens-at-desk‘You carry,’ says the stranger, ‘this jealousy and distrust into every transaction of public life.  By repelling worthy men from your legislative assemblies, it has bred up a class of candidates for the suffrage, who, in their very act, disgrace your Institutions and your people’s choice.  It has rendered you so fickle, and so given to change, that your inconstancy has passed into a proverb; for you no sooner set up an idol firmly, than you are sure to pull it down and dash it into fragments: and this, because directly you reward a benefactor, or a public servant, you distrust him, merely because he is rewarded; and immediately apply yourselves to find out, either that you have been too bountiful in your acknowledgments, or be remiss in his deserts.  Any man who attains a high place among you, from the President downwards, may date his downfall from that moment; for any printed lie that any notorious villain pens, although it militates directly against the character and conduct of a life, appeals at once to your distrust, and is believed.  You will strain at a gnat in the way of trustfulness and confidence, however fairly won and well deserved; but you will swallow a whole caravan of camels, if they be laden with unworthy doubts and mean suspicions.  Is this well, think you, or likely to elevate the character of the governors or the governed, among you?’

The answer is invariably the same: ‘There’s freedom of opinion here, you know.  Every man thinks for himself, and we are not to be easily overreached. That’s how our people come to be suspicious.’

Another prominent feature is the love of ‘smart’ dealing: which gilds over many a swindle and gross breach of trust; many a defalcation (i.e. misappropriation), public and private; and enables many a knave to hold his head up with the best, who well deserves a halter (i.e. noose); though it has not been without its retributive operation, for this smartness had done more in a few years to impair the public credit, and to cripple the public resources, than dull honesty, however rash, could have effected in a century.  The merits of a broken speculation, or a bankruptcy, or of a successful scoundrel, are not gauged by its or his observance of the golden rule ‘Do unto others as you would be done by,’ but are considered with reference to their smartness.  I recollect, on both occasions of our passing that ill-fated Cairo on the Mississippi, remarking on the bad effects such gross deceits must have been when they exploded, in generating a want of confidence abroad, and discouraging foreign investment: but I was given to understand that this was a very smart scheme by which a deal of money was made: and that its smartest feature was that they forgot these things abroad in a very short time, and speculated again as freely as ever.  The following dialogue I have held a hundred times: ‘Is it not a very disgraceful circumstance that such a man as So-and-so should be acquiring a large property by the most infamous and odious means, and not withstanding all the crimes of which he has been guilty, should be tolerated and abetted by your Citizens? He is a public nuisance, is he not?’  ‘Yes, Sir.’  ‘A convicted liar?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’ ‘He has been kicked and cuffed and caned?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’  ‘And he is utterly dishonorable, debased, and profligate?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’  ‘IN the name of wonder, then, what is his merit?’  ‘Well, Sir, he is a smart man.’

charles-dickens-1-728In like manner, all kinds of deficient and impolitic usages are referred to the national love of trade; though oddly enough it would be a weighty charge against a foreigner that he regarded the Americans as a trading people.  The love of trade is assigned as a reason for that comfortless custom, so very prevalent in country towns, of married people living in hotels, having no fireside of their own, and seldom meeting from early morning until late at night, but at the hasty public meals.  The love of trade is a reason why the literature of America is to remain for ever unprotected: ‘For we are a trading people, and don’t care for poetry:’ though we do, by the way, profess to be very proud of our poets: while healthy amusements, cheerful means of recreation, and wholesome fancies, must fade before the stern utilitarian joys of trade.

These three characteristics are strongly represented at every turn, full in the stranger’s view. But the foul growth of America has a more tangled root than this; and it strikes its fibres, deep into its licentious Press.

Schools may be erected, East, West, North and South; pupils may be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores of thousands; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed, temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all other forms walk through the land with giant strides: but while the newspaper press of America is in, or near, its present abject state, high moral improvement in that country is hopeless.  Year by year, it must and will go back; year by year, the tone of public feeling must sink lower down; year by year, the Congress and the Senate must become of less account before all decent men; and year by year, the memory of the Great Fathers of the Revolution must be outraged more and more, in the bad life of their degenerate child.

Among the herd of journals that are published in the States, there are some, the reader scarcely needs be told, of character and credit.  From personal intercourse with accomplished gentlemen connected with publications of this class, I have derived both pleasure and profit.  But the name of these is Few, and of the others Legion; and the influence of the good, is powerless to counteract the moral poison of the bad.

Among the gentry of America; among the well-informed and moderate: in the learned professions; at the bar and on the bench: there is, as there can be, but one opinion, in reference to the vicious character of these infamous journals.  It is sometimes contended — I will not say strangely, for it is natural to seek excuses for such a disgrace — that their influence is not so great as a visitor would suppose.  I must be pardoned for saying there is no warrant for this plea, and that every fact and circumstance tends directly to the opposite conclusion.

When any man, of any grade of desert in intellect or character, can climb to any public distinction, no matter what, in America, without first groveling down upon the earth, and bending the knee before this monster of depravity; when any private excellence is safe from its attacks; when any social confidence is left unbroken by it, or any tie of social decency and confidence is held in the least regard; when any man in that free country has freedom of opinion, and presumes fmimg8302753006214740978to think for himself, and speak for himself, without humble reference to a censorship which, for its rampant ignorance and base dishonesty, he utterly loathes and despises in his heart; when those who most acutely feel its infamy and the reproach it casts upon the nation, and who most denounce it to each other, dare to set their heels upon, and  crush it openly, in the sight of all men:  then, I will believe that its influence is lessening, and men  are returning to their manly senses. But while that Press has its evil eye in every house, and its black hand in every appointment in the state, from a president to a postman; while, with ribald slander for its only stock in trade, it is the standard literature of an enormous class, who must find their reading in a newspaper, or they will not read at all; so long must its odium be upon the country’s head, and so long must the evil it works, be plainly visible in the Republic.”

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you. 

 


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John Adams: Peace-Maker

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

John Adams (1)

Everyone wants  ‘Peace on Earth’. Is it really possible? President John Adams was a genuine peace-maker, even to his own detriment.

One of my most popular Deep Cove Crier articles, with almost 17,000 online readers, has been my article on John Adams’ good friend Benjamin Franklin. Both were founding fathers of our neighbour to the south.  My American relatives have told me that Adams is the greater man.

Adams’ greatest strength and weakness was that he was a passionate peace-maker, even at the cost of sabotaging his own re-election as the second American President.  Napoleon in 1797 captured 300 American ships, six percent of the American fleet. (1)  The ‘hawks’ in Adams’ own Federalist party desperately wanted to go to war with France, but Adams negotiated a peace treaty that allowed him to disband Alexander Hamilton’s unnecessary and costly army.  Hamilton, the commander of this army, took this as a personal insult, and dedicated himself to splitting Adams’ own Federalist Party.  John Adams wrote his wife Abigail saying that he knew “Hamilton to be a proud-spirited, conceited, aspiring mortal, always pretending to morality…as great a hypocrite as any in the US…” (2)

thomasjeffersonWith two Federalist presidential candidates, the Republican presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson, won the election on the 36th ballot after a deadlocked Congressional tie vote. (3) Jefferson, who had foolishly endorsed the blood-thirsty French Revolution, was wisely mentored by Adams.  At his final State of Union address, President Adams stated: “Here and throughout our country, may simple measures, pure morals, and true religion, flourish forever!” (4)  His final prayer as he left the House was: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.” (5) Despite strong political differences, Adams and Jefferson ended as good pen pal friends, both dying in 1826 on the significant American July 4th holiday. (6)   Jefferson acknowledged Adams as ‘the colossus of independence.’ (7)

John Adams was both passionate about liberty and yet cautious about our human tendency to selfishness.  James Grant commended Adams for “his unqualified love of liberty, and his unsentimental perception of the human condition.” (8)  As such, Adams produced constitutional boundaries that guarded people’s essential freedoms of life and liberty of speech, assembly, and religion.  The US Congress praised Adams for his “patriotism, perseverance, integrity and diligence.” (9)   Adams insightfully commented: “our Constitution was made only for a moral & religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (10) The root of equality, said Adams, was the Golden Rule – Love your neighbour as yourself.  (11)

John Adams 2Adams has been described as one of North America’s greatest bibliophiles.  He loved to learn, reading voraciously in wide-ranging areas of interest, including the Bible.  Equality for Adams was grounded in equal access to education for all: “knowledge monopolized, or in the Possession of a few, is a Curse to Mankind. We should dispense it among all Ranks.  We should educate our children.  Equality should be preserved in knowledge.” (12)  His prayer for his children was: ““Let them revere nothing but religion, morality, and liberty.”  (13)

One of Adams’ strengths was that he was deeply honest, even to his own political detriment. Unlike the worldly-wise Benjamin Franklin, he would say exactly what was on his mind. Adams urged Franklin to get more exercise, saying that “the sixth Commandment forbids a man to kill himself as it does to kill his neighbour. A sedentary life is tantamount to suicide.” (14)  James Grant commented that “like the mythical George Washington, he seemed incapable of telling a lie; he was naturally and organically honest.” (15)  Adams once commented: “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.”(16)  Adams was indeed an unusual politician. He found the endless political bickering to be painful and pointless, commenting that “a resolution that two plus two makes five would require fully two days of debate.” (17)  Adams was known as a foul-weather politician, only drawn to serve his country because of the intense crisis.  He would have much rather been anywhere else: “The longer I live and the more I see of public men, the more I wish to be a private one.” (18)  Adams was a latecomer to American Independence, preferring to work for reconciliation with the British.  While Benjamin Franklin had favour and therefore initial funding from France , John Adams eventually obtained key loans to the United States from the cautious Dutch.  Because of his endless negotiations in France, Holland and England, Adams only saw his dear wife Abigail for a grand total of three months over six years. (19)   He wrote to Josiah Quincy: “Happy is the man who has nothing to do with politics and strife.” (20)

 king-george-iiiOne of Adams’ first assignments in Congress was to draft a resolution  appointing a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer throughout the thirteen colonies: “that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins, and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise Omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbling beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third.” (21)   Sadly King George dismissed Adams and his colleagues as ‘wicked and desperate persons.’ (22)

King George’s thirty-three thousand British troops resulted in thirty-five thousand American deaths by sword, sickness, or captivity. (23) Adams knew that without heart-forgiveness, American independence would quickly become as barbaric as the French Revolution:  “In a time of war, one may see the necessity and utility of the divine prohibitions of revenge and the Injunctions of forgiveness of Injuries and love of Enemies, which we find in Christian Religion. Unrestrained, in some degree by these benevolent Laws, Men would be Devils, at such a Time as such.”  (24)

John Adams3In 1815 he wrote his own gravestone epitaph: “Here lies John Adams, who took upon himself the responsibility of the peace with France in the year 1800.” (25)  My prayer is that we too may be passionate peace-makers like President John Adams.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

 -an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

Footnotes

(1) James Grant, John Adams: Party of One , (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY, 2005), p. 392.

(2) Gore Vidal, Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2003), p. 133.

(3)  David McCullough, John Adams , (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 2001), p. 572.

(4)  John Adams, State Of The Union Address 11/11/1800,

  http://readbookonline.net/readOnLine/50063/

(5) McCullough, John Adams, p. 560, picture 57.

(6) McCullough, p. 646.

(7) http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Colossus+of+Independence.-a079789133

(8) Grant, p. 61.

(9)  Grant, p. 336.

(10) http://www.john-adams-heritage.com/quotes/

(11) McCullough, p. 543.

(12) Fragmentary Notes for ‘A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law’,  http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-01-02-0052-0002

(13) Grant, p. 165.

(14) Grant, p. 287.

(15) Grant, p. 100.

(16) Grant, p. 442.

(17) Grant, p. 142.

(18) Grant, p. 146; McCullough, p. 207.

(19) McCullough, p. 271 “At last, on June 11th 1782, Adams negotiated with a syndicate of three Amsterdam banking houses — Willink, Van Staphorst, and De la Lande & Fynje — a loan of five million guilders, or two million dollars at five percent interest.  It was not the ten million dollars Congress had expected…”;  Grant, p. 196.

(20) Grant, p. 157.

(21) Grant, p. 153.

(22) Grant, p. 152.

(23) Grant, p. 256.

(24) Grant, p. 184.

(25) Grant, p. 383.


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Chief Joseph Brant: Canadian Hero

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My wife and I had the privilege of attending the First Peoples Forgiven Summit in Ottawa.  During that time we were able to meet a number of Mohawk believers, including Jonathan Maracle of Broken Walls who led us in remarkable worship music.  Canada’s most famous Mohawk was Chief Joseph Brant.  Recently the Canadian Royal Mint produced a Canadian Loonie with the imprint of Chief Joseph Brant  (1742-1807).  More Canadians need to hear this story of this Canadian hero.  He was described by Mark Jodoin as having the mind of a statesman, the heart of a leader, and the soul of a warrior. Without the military and spiritual support of Chief Brant, Canada would have likely never survived.

Chief Joseph Brant’s Mohawk name was Thayendanegea which means “two sticks bound together for strength”.  Isabel Thompson Kelsay notes that “the most famous (aboriginal) who ever lived, has been for two centuries a virtual unknown.”   I suspect that he is unknown to most North Americans because he chose the side of Canada in the American revolutionary war.  As Canada’s premier First Nations leader, Brant had the privilege of meeting both Georges in person: King George III and President George Washington.

Brant learned to speak, read and write English at a New Hampshire school led by Rev Wheelock. Wheelock described Brant as being “of a sprightly genius, a manly and gentle deportment, and of a modest, courteous and benevolent temper.”  In 1772, Brant was then mentored by Rev John Stuart, being trained in the art of Bible and Prayer Book translation.  During that time, Brant developed a deep prayer life, becoming a committed Anglican Christian.

During the American Revolutionary war, Brant was falsely accused of committing atrocities in locations which he was not present, including the tragic Wyoming and Cherry Valley Massacres.  Those who knew Brant well testified that he often prevented atrocities through the use of his persuasive leadership. As a devout Anglican Christian, he exhibited compassion and humanity, especially towards women, children, and non-combatants. American Colonel Ichabod Alden commented that he “should much rather fall into the hands of Brant than either of them [Loyalists and Tories].”  It was frequently said of Joseph Brant that during the American revolution, he fought with a tomahawk in one hand, a copy of the New Testament in the other.

Joseph Brant’s father was one of the sachem/chiefs, known as the Four Indian Kings, who visited Queen Anne in 1710.  These chiefs asked ‘for missionaries to be sent to the People of the Longhouse to teach them more about Christianity.”  Queen Anne sent this request to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, promising to build them a chapel. In 1711, Queen Anne’s Royal Chapel was built in the Mohawk Valley in New York State.  When the Mohawks relocated to Southern Ontario, the Mohawk Royal Chapel was rebuilt there in 1785.  Joseph Brant’s grave is located right next to the historic Mohawk Chapel, the oldest protestant church in Ontario. Just this past July, Queen Elizabeth, while visiting Ontario, presented the Mohawk Chapel with a set of eight silver hand bells engraved ‘The Silver Chain of Friendship 1710-2010’.

On each side of the Mohawk Chapel pulpit are two tablets in the Mohawk language of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.  Joseph Brant was a brilliant linguist translating the Bible and Anglican Prayer Book into Mohawk (of which there are microfiche copies at Simon Fraser University).  He also wrote a concise history of the Bible and a Mohawk language catechism. Brant spoke at least three and possibly all of the Six Nations’ languages.  When the Chapel was dedicated in 1788, each person was given a Mohawk book containing the Gospel of Mark and the Anglican Prayer Book.  At that celebration, sixty five Mohawks were baptized and three couples were married.

When Joseph Brant first visited England in 1775, he was described by a British commander as ‘His Majesty’s greatest North American subject.’, and painted in full aboriginal regalia by George Romney.  Receiving a captain’s commission, Brant met with the King on two occasions, with a dinner being held in his honour. Brant was honoured by the English leaders in the arts, letters and government, including James Boswell, the famed biographer of Samuel Johnson.

In 1779 Brant was commissioned by the King as ‘captain of the Northern Confederate Indians’ in recognition of his “astonishing activity and success’. Brant was described as “the perfect soldier, possessed of remarkable stamina, courage under fire, and dedicated to the cause, an able and inspiring leader and a complete gentleman.”

Joseph Brant’s Six Nations were tragically driven out of their homeland in Central New York.  Brant was hurt that in granting their Mohawk homeland in Central New York State to the Americans, England had ‘sold the Indians to the US Congress’.  Writing to King George III, he reminded the British that “we, the Mohawks, were the first Indian Nation that took you by hand and invited you to live among us, treating you with kindness…”  The Six Nations were eventually resettled by Governor Frederick Haldimand in the Grand River area around modern-day Brantford.  The British realized that locating the Six Nations in the Grand River area would be a natural protection against any future American invasion.  Initially the Mississauga First Nation resisted the concept of having their former foes on their land.  One Mississauga Chief Pokquan however persuaded his other chiefs by arguing that other aboriginals would be better neighbours than European settlers, and that Brant’s knowledge of the British could prove useful.

The term Brantford comes from Brant’s Ford, the shallow part of the Grand River that could be forded.  The first years at Brantford were difficult as there was a drought with game being hard to find.  Throughout all the challenges, Chief Brant’s deep faith sustained him.  Chief Brant’s sacrificial love for God and nation should inspire all of us.  He memorably said: “No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worthwhile action but the consciousness of having served one’s nation.”

May all of us be willing to learn from the bravery and loyalty of Chief Joseph Brant.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5.

For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Dr. James Naismith: Father of Basketball

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Almost every North American has played basketball, even if only shooting a few baskets at the local park.  At my high school ‘Winston Churchill’, we had a passion for basketball. In Grade Eight, my dream was to become a basketball star.  My only limitations were getting the ball in the hoop and the fact that I was only five foot two.  Back then, I had no idea that basketball was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian on loan to the United States.  I was also unaware that basketball had deeply spiritual roots.

Dr. Naismith had a rough life growing up. When he was only eight, his parents died from typhoid fever.  Earlier the family sawmill in Almonte, Ontario, had burned down. Having visited the Naismith museum in Almonte, it gave me a deeper appreciation of the many challenges that James had to overcome.  After leaving school at age fifteen, James worked for five years as a lumberjack.  During his lumberjack phase, he had a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ which led him to attend McGill University in order to become an ordained minister.   Naismith commented: “Finally I decided that the only real satisfaction that I would ever derive from life was to help my fellow beings….”

Naismith studied so hard at McGill that he neglected regular physical exercise. His friends convinced him that involvement in sports would make him a better student.  He grew to love football, rugby, baseball, field hockey, and lacrosse.  Naismith discovered that his passion for sports helped him connect with young people when he shared the gospel with them.  His sister however was deeply disappointed that James chose sports ministry instead of looking after a local congregation. Sadly she never attended any of his later basketball games.

To pursue his sports ministry, James Naismith moved to the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The YMCA was a pioneer in the ‘muscular Christianity’ movement, being among the first to integrate prayer and bible study with athletics.  By 1905, almost 50,000 men took part in YMCA college Bible studies, including 1,000 at Yale University.  Naismith greatly admired Coach Stagg who made a point in the dressing room of saying “Let’s ask God’s blessing on our game.”  Naismith noted that Coach Stagg “did not pray for victory but he prayed that each man should do his best and show the true Christian spirit.”

James was asked by another coach Dr Guilick to create an indoor winter game for bored students. Calesthenics, involving sit-ups and marching, was not exciting enough for them.  Alluding to Ecclesiastes, Dr. Guilick had made the statement: “There is nothing new under the sun. All so-called new things are simply recombinations of the factors of things that are now in existence.”  James responded by saying: “All that we have to do is to take the factors of our known games and then recombine them, and we will have the new game we are looking for.” Two weeks later on December 21st 1891, basketball was invented.  The thirteen rules of basketball which James drew up have remained as the foundation of the game.  Drawing on another game called ‘duck on the rock’, Naismith had the students throw soccer balls into baskets.  Initially they used real peach baskets and there were no backboards to bounce off.  James intentionally invented a game that would encourage less violence and more sportsmanship.  By placing the goal way up in a basket, the participants were less likely to harm each other near the goal as in hockey. By not allowing players to run with the ball, he also eliminated the violent tackling found in rugby and football.  Even today basketball has far less group violence than other active sports.

William Baker said that basketball was first spread around the world by believers using the YMCA gospel of godliness and good games.  Canada was the first country outside of the United States to start playing basketball. Ironically because British women were the first to start playing basketball, British men saw it as a women’s game and initially refused to play it.  Basketball did not enjoy instant success at first. But now over 300 million play basketball around the world.

Both Canada and the United States claim James Naismith, with both nations dedicating special postage stamps to his memory. Though Naismith is honoured in eight Canadian and American Halls of Fame, he never profited from his invention of basketball, even losing two houses to foreclosure. Unlike basketball players today, Naismith did not endorse sports equipment, or sell products in ads. In contrast to the twenty-three million dollar top-NBA salaries today, Naismith saw basketball as being for fun, not for profit. James’ stated vision was “to win men for the Master through the gym.”

Naismith was not just the inventor of basketball.  After his brother Robbie died unexpectedly from infection, James decided to also become a medical doctor. As a minister, coach and medical doctor, he was able to minister to the body, mind and spirit.  The Journal of Health and Physical Education eulogized Naismith as “a physician who encouraged healthful living through participation through vigorous activities” and a builder of “character in the hearts of young men.” As one of his students mentioned, “With him, questions of physical development inevitably led to questions of moral development, and vice versa.” Naismith challenged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to “use every means to put basketball (as) a factor in the moulding of character…”

 With good coaching, said Naismith, basketball could produce the following results: “initiative, agility, accuracy, alertness, co-operation, skill, reflex judgement, speed, self-confidence, self-sacrifice, self-control, and sportsmanship.”  James saw self-sacrifice as “a willingness to place the good of the team above one’s personal ambitions”, saying ‘There is no place in basketball for the egotist.’  Sportmanship was described by Naismith as ‘playing the game vigorously, observing the rules definitely, accepting defeat gracefully, and winning courteously.’  In short, James wanted athletes to play by the Golden Rule and to love their neighbour.  May Naismith’s vision continue to inspire our young athletes to greatness and godliness.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

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-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca