Edwin Shuman was beaten and tortured because he was determined to hold Church at Hanoi Hilton… He Won.

By , Published: December 24, 2013,  New York Times

Edwin A. Shuman III, Former Prisoner of War Who Defied Hanoi Hilton Guards, Dies at 82

As Christmas 1970 approached, 43 American prisoners of war in a large holding cell at the North Vietnamese camp known as the Hanoi Hilton sought to hold a brief church service. Their guards stopped them, and so the seeds of rebellion were planted.

The Hoa Lo prison, a 19th-century structure built by the French in central Hanoi, was christened the Hanoi Hilton by American prisoners during the Vietnam War.

A few days later, Lt. Cmdr. Edwin A. Shuman III, a downed Navy pilot, orchestrated the resistance, knowing he would be the first to face the consequences: a beating in a torture cell.

“Ned stepped forward and said, ‘Are we really committed to having church Sunday? I want to know person by person,’ ” a fellow prisoner, Leo K. Thorsness, recounted in a memoir. “He went around the cell pointing to each of us individually,” Mr. Thorsness continued. “When the 42nd man said yes, it was unanimous. At that instant, Ned knew he would end up in the torture cells.”

The following Sunday, Commander Shuman, who died on Dec. 3 at 82, stepped forward to lead a prayer session and was quickly hustled away by guards. The next four ranking officers did the same, and they, too, were taken away to be beaten. Meanwhile, as Mr. Thorsness told it, “the guards were now hitting P.O.W.’s with gun butts and the cell was in chaos.”

And then, he remembered, the sixth-ranking senior officer began, “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.”

“And this time,” he added, “we finished it.”

The guards had yielded.

Everett Alvarez Jr., who was the first American pilot captured in the Vietnam War when his Navy plane was shot down in 1964, said in an interview that the defiance Commander Shuman engineered was emulated by senior officers in other large holding cells.

“It was contagious,” said Mr. Alvarez, who was in another cell during the first prayer service. “By the time it got to the fourth or fifth cell,” he said, the guards “gave up.” He said the prisoners were also singing patriotic songs.

Commander Shuman remained incarcerated at the Hanoi Hilton for more than two more years. But by then the prisoners’ right to collective prayer had been established.

“From that Sunday on until we came home, we held a church service,” Mr. Thorsness, an Air Force pilot and recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroics on a mission in 1967, wrote in his memoir, “Surviving Hell: A POW’s Journey” (2008). “We won. They lost. Forty-two men in prison pajamas followed Ned’s lead. I know I will never see a better example of pure raw leadership or ever pray with a better sense of the meaning of the words.”

Edwin Arthur Shuman III was born in Boston on Oct. 7, 1931, the son of a marine architect and Navy officer. Growing up in Marblehead, Mass., he began to sail at age 5. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1954 and arrived in Vietnam in September 1967.

On his 18th mission, his A-6 Intruder fighter was shot down just north of Hanoi, the capital, in the early hours of March 17, 1968, during a low-level attack on a railroad yard. He bailed out, together with his bombardier-navigator, and both men were captured.

He spent 17 months in solitary confinement. On one occasion, when he violated regulations, he was beaten for hours with a whip.

After United States special forces raided a small prison camp at Son Tay on Nov. 20, 1970, only to find no captives there — they had been transferred out months earlier — the North Vietnamese consolidated their prisoners, who had been held at several camps. They were taken to the large Hoa Lo prison, a 19th-century structure that was built by the French in central Hanoi and christened the Hanoi Hilton by American prisoners during the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese felt the prisoners could be more securely guarded there and grouped them in large cells, which, as it turned out, made mass prayer sessions possible.

Commander Shuman was freed in March 1973 as part of a mass release of remaining P.O.W.’s. He retired from the Navy as a captain 11 years later. His commendations included the Silver Star for his resistance to brutal treatment.

He returned to North Vietnam in 1991 as part of a three-week humanitarian medical mission, mainly out of curiosity about what had become of it.

“I didn’t view this as a healing process,” he told The Baltimore Sun on returning. “I never had a nightmare.”

He said that he liked the Vietnamese people, whom he found to be hardworking.

Most of the prison was demolished in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Shuman died in a hospital in Annapolis, Md., where he lived. His wife, Donna, said the cause was complications of surgery on a leg he broke on Nov. 22 when he fell in his small boat while preparing to hunt geese.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Edwin IV and J. Brant, and a daughter, Mary Dana Giardina, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; a stepson, Robert Borte III; nine grandchildren; a great-grandson; three sisters, Mary Russell, Sally Smyth and Ann Mills; and two half brothers, William and John Boeckeler.

After returning from Vietnam, Mr. Shuman was in charge of the Naval Academy’s sailing program. In August 1979, he commanded the Alliance, the program’s aluminum sloop, in the Fastnet race off England and brought his crew back safely amid a storm in the Irish Sea that left 15 other sailors dead.

“I have often compared ocean racing in bad weather with being a prisoner of war, an environment with which, unfortunately, I have some experience,” he wrote in the U.S. Naval Institute magazine Proceedings, in 1999. “Harsh conditions, cramped quarters, bad food and diverse personalities. Instead of the guards beating on you, mother nature takes over.”

“You can’t get out so you make the best of it,” he continued. “It’s a character-builder.”

Horst Faas/Associated Press

A Christmas Poem

by Laura Kneiss

You can’t take Christ out of Christmas 
It’s the day Jesus was born. 
God sent Him to Earth for a purpose 
By Him the curtain of the temple was torn

We can now enter the Most Holy Place 
Because we are saved by His grace. 
He is our Redeemer to save us from our sin 
There is no other perfect Lamb but Him!

Don’t be fooled by what the world portrays 
Replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays.” 
There is a way that may seem right to man 
But God had a better plan!

There is so much more to Christmas 
But the world does not see 
That the baby boy born on that day 
Was born for you and me!

Read the Word of God this Christmas 
It our spiritual sword 
Proclaiming to all 
That is Jesus is Lord!

Look to Jesus on Christmas 
He is the reason we sing 
Worship and adore Christ 
Because He is King!

Let’s celebrate the birth of Jesus 
And thank Him for all He has done 
Because it is through Him 
Our victory is won!

Praise God for His precious gift to us 
On this Christmas Day 
The little baby born for us 
Is the Life, the Truth, and the Way!

‘What then is this killing of sin?

PilgrimsProgress_407x226‘What then is this killing of sin? It is the constant battle against sin which we fight daily – the refusal to allow the eye to wander, the mind to contemplate, the affections to run after anything which will draw us from Christ.’

– Sinclair B. Ferguson, ‘The Christian Life’

Is the Darkness Over You a Cloud, Or is it Night?

by William Bridge (c. 1600 – 1670)

moltengold2‘If the darkness which a man be under be such, that there are some openings of light withal, then it is the darkness of a cloud, and not of the night….Now thus it is always with the people of God. They are never in any affliction, temptation, or desertion, but before their great deliverance comes, they have some special providence, some reviving in the midst of their trouble, some interim of light, some openings of the cloud; and therefore, in the midst of all, they may say, Surely this my darkness is not the darkness of the night, but of a cloud. I say, there is no discouragement befalls the saints, but the matter thereof is a cloud, and they may say, it is but a cloud, it will pass over.’

Meet the auther and part of your Christian heritage: William Bridge (c. 1600 – 1670) was a leading English Independent minister, preacher, and religious and political writer. A native of Cambridgeshire, the Rev. William Bridge was probably born in or around the year 1600. He studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, receiving an M.A. in 1626.

For a short time in 1631, he was a lecturer (preacher) at Colchester, put in place by Harbottle Grimstone and Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick; this was very much against the wishes of William Laud, then Bishop of London, who complained of the influence then held by Richard Sibbes and William Gouge, clerical leaders of the Feoffees for Impropriations. From 1637, he lived in Norwich as Rector of St. Peter Hungate and St. George Tombland. He came into conflict with Matthew Wren, bishop of Norwich, for Nonconformity. He went into exile in Rotterdam, taking the position left vacant by Hugh Peters. Charles I of England upon hearing from Archbishop Laud that Rev. Bridge had “gone to Holland”, “…rather than [that] he will conform” replied, “Let him go: we are well rid of him.”

He returned to Great Yarmouth and became a member of the Westminster Assembly. There he was one of the Five Dissenting Brethren, the small group of leading churchmen who emerged at the head of the Independent faction, opposing the Presbyterian majority.

In 1643, he preached in front of Charles I of England, making a direct attack on the Queen.  He was Minister at the Old Meeting House Norwich for several years right up until his death.

When you have given God your all… And Now All Hope is Gone… Where is God?

In 1921, a couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son David, from Sweden to the heart of Africa—to what was then called the Belgian Congo.

Explorations of Beauty and DecayThey met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.

This was a huge step of faith. At the remote village of N’dolera they were rebuffed by the chief, who would not let them enter his village for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. Their only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood — a tiny woman missionary only four feet, eight inches tall, decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, after many weeks of loving and witnessing to him, he trusted Christ as his Savior.

But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.

Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth (1923), the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina (A-ee-nah).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. After seventeen desperate days of prayer and struggle, she died.

Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. His heart full of bitterness, he dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife and took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he said, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With two year old David, he headed for the coast, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.

Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious illness (some believe they were poisoned by a local chief who hated the missionaries) and died within days of each other. The nine month old baby Aina was given to an American missionary couple named Berg, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three.

The Bergs loved little Aggie but were afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them since they had at that time, been unable to legally adopt her. So they decided to stay in the United States and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible college in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young preacher named Dewey Hurst.

Years passed. The Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.

One day around 1963, a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting in the heart of Africa was a grave with a white cross and on the cross was her mother’s name, SVEA FLOOD.

Aggie jumped in her car and drove straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she asked.

The instructor translated the story: It tells about missionaries who went to N’dolera in the heart of the Belgian Congo in 1921… the birth of a white baby girl… the death of the young missionary mother… the one little African boy who had been led to Christ… and how, after the all whites had left, the little African boy grew up and persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village.

The article told how that gradually the now grown up boy won all his students to Christ… the children led their parents to Christ… even the chief had become a Christian. Today (1963) there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village.

Because of the willingness of David and Svea Flood to answer God’s call to Africa, because they endured so much but were still faithful to witness and lead one little boy to trust Jesus, God had saved six hundred people. And the little boy, as a grown man, became head of the Pentacostal Church and leader of 110,000 Christians in Zaire (formerly the Belgian Congo).

At the time Svea Flood died, it appeared, to human reason, that God had led the young couple to Africa, only to desert them in their time of deepest need. It would be forty years before God’s amazing grace and His real plan for the village of N’dolera would be known.

For Rev. Dewey and Aggie Hurst’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie met her biological father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God because God took everything from me.”

After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”

Aggie could not be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.

“Papa?” she said tentatively.

He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”

“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”

The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped.

“God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall.

Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted.

“Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one.

You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain.

The little boy you both won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today (about 1964) there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you and Momma were faithful to the call of God on your life.”

“Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”

The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades.

Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together. Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America—and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.

A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going up afterward to ask him if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood. “I am their daughter.”

The man began to weep. “Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English.

“It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.”

He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”

In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who so many years before, when she was less than a month old, had been hired by her father to carry her down the mountain in a soft bark hammock.

The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s grave, marked with a white cross, for herself. She knelt in the soil of Africa, the place of her birth, to pray and give thanks. Later that day, in the church service, the pastor read from John 12:24:

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

He then followed with Psalm 126:5: “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”

(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].)

Part 1. The Modern Attacks against Biblical Christian Orthodoxy, Are Not Really so Modern.

Written by Michael W. Pursley

The other day someone linked an article I was publishing into a blog promoting the views of what is commonly called Emergent Theology, or the Emergent Church.  I was shocked. 

Wolf in sheeps clothing6Why would a liberal, anything goes, marginally Christian movement have any interest in the views of the Puritans?  And what doctrine would Emergent Theology have in common with the twin Puritan views of Grace and the Christian life in particular?  Needless to say, as one who holds to the London Baptist Confession of 1689, complete with its “federalist perspective”, it made me scratch my head and blink twice.

Having loosely followed some of the earlier groups which have led to and fostered the thinking of the Emergent Church, it has always seemed extraordinary that this particular movement should attract so much discussion and have so much credibility, inasmuch their debates and platforms were always so existential in nature, with very few “hard” specifics in the details.  The spectrum of discussions and articles streaming from this group, were to me, always nebulous in nature and extremely amorphous in language. However, I have found that if there was a gathering place where the discussions from this movement could achieve any degree of specificity, it was in their united perspective against the mainline churches.  This discontent, I found, they communicated in a vociferous and strident fashion… while maintaining a posture of a positive, sympathetic affirmation for the poor, beleaguered, spiritually wandering and church benighted soul.  And this is a perception that seems to be acknowledged across the board by most observers.

 If I may use an easy point of reference, Wikipedia points out that the Emergent Church, crosses a number of theological boundaries:

“participants can be described as Protestant, post-Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, conservative, post-conservative, Anabaptist, Adventist, Reformed, charismatic, neo-charismatic, and post-charismatic.”

Obviously, this is a politically correct way of saying by the writer, that members can and do believe in whatever they wish. 

However, look a little deeper at the movement’s objectives set out in this description from Wikipedia: 

Proponents believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” …to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “postmodern” society. What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community”.

You may make a note, that the transcendence spoken of here is not a return an adherence of original, Biblical Christianity. Instead, it is an attempt to “live their faith in what they believe to be a “postmodern” society”:  Thus, the basis of their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church, and thus also, their need to deconstruct the institutions and pillars of both the church and the morals of the Christian community.

In one of the philosophy forums I infrequently occasion, the question came up about what is a “postmodern” society”?  Listen to this professor’s response (Note: I have shortened his response and removed a little of the technical jargon):

“Post-modernism is basically the idea that reality is not reflected in our understanding of it, but is constructed by our own understanding of our own personal reality.”

 “…it’s almost an existential view that the individual and the experiences of the individual are relative and that scientific thinking and moral thinking do not suffice to understand human existence.”

“Society today is shaped by personal experience, self-seeking, and mass media, rather than the religious and moral institutions which shaped society for so long.”

“There is no absolute truth anymore. In our post-modern society truth is relative. The vast majority of the population leads a eudemonistic lifestyle, which claims “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.”   (Sounds like “Fifty Shades of Gray”!)

“Society has strove great lengths for equality in race, sex, and religion. As we reach nearer these goals, we have melded into a more unified society with few clear boundaries in the areas of our lives. There is no longer such a distinct boundary of black and white and other races as interracial relationships have become acceptable. Homosexuality is no longer shunned as it once was. Music and entertainment are next to impossible to classify as culture, ethics, and religion combine. In the same [manner], what’s right for me may be wrong for you, but that’s okay. With our loosening of moral and religious standards, there is no wrong and there is no right. Truth is subjective.”

Within this subjective set of perspectives, you can see why Emergent Church adherents have their “disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and have placed their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship”; For it is by making their belief system “above” Christian norms, however one defines them, they have created a place where “there is no wrong and there is no right. Truth is subjective.”

However, Historical Christianity takes a much different tack, Historical Christianity holds that the truths or doctrines found in scriptures are in fact “objective truths”, or what we call doctrines, not “subjective truths” or mans opinions.  Historical Christianity further holds that these objective truths “cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17 (See, 2 Tim. 3:15-17).  In short, objective truths come from an objective God.  Historical Christianity also maintains that the subjective aspects in our “truths” are in fact, due to man and his sinful condition.  

Listen how A. W. Pink clarifies this:

It is by doctrine (through the power of the Spirit) that believers are nourished and edified, and where doctrine is neglected, growth in grace and effective witnessing for Christ necessarily cease. How sad then that doctrine is now decried as “unpractical” when, in fact, doctrine is the very base of the practical life. There is an inseparable connection between belief and practice—”As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Pro. 23:7). The relation between Divine truth and Christian character is that of cause to effect—”And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32)

 In short, ardent Emergent Church proponents somehow feel that there is no real right and wrong, because truth itself is subjective. And, since there is this high degree of subjectivism, there is almost no basis for any true self-accountability.

You can see their dilemma. Upon what standard would you base your accountability?  Since, in their thinking, accountability is created and is determined by a subjective standard, and this standard is in turn, created and arbitrated by a subjective and existential God. 

The implications of this platform is staggering for orthodox Christianity. If accountability to Almighty God is subjective, then you can you see how much less accountability they believe should be given to an existing church body.  The thought of being called into question, and held to the standards of a local Christian body must seem especially abhorrent to Emergent Church proponents; not because of any great fear of their “sins being found out”, their subjectivism has already excused them on this basis: but on the basis of, “Who are you to judge me?

Obviously, the thoughts and thinking behind the Emergent Church and its theology are not really new thoughts, and their thinking is not necessarily new thinking.  But it has, you might say, been at least, somewhat loosely systematized and in a style typical to its amorphous nature. 

Problematically the Emergent Church has had in the past and even now trumpets, a number of leading theologians behind it; and by that I mean, professors who hail from some of the major, “heavy weight” seminaries and who “feel constrained” to champion their cause.  For many of us, the question is, why? Why would significant number of some of the most acclaimed, and “brilliant” theological thinkers of the 20th and now the 21st century promote anything less than a complete, historical and Biblical Christianity?  What is in it for them?  What is their motivation? 

Clearly the reasons and motives are many, and there is no time or space here to expand on the group dynamics that led to the Emergent Movement, but once again, let me apply the words of A. W. Pink:

“It is because so many untaught men, unregenerate men, now occupy the pulpits that “another gospel” (Gal. 1:6) is being so widely and generally disseminated. Multitudes who have neither “tasted that the Lord is gracious” nor have “the fear of the Lord” in them, have from various motives and considerations invaded the sacred calling of the ministry and out of the abundance of their corrupt hearts they speak. Being blind themselves, they lead the blind into the ditch.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you probably know that, all throughout the history of the Christian church, Biblical Christianity, or what theologians call Biblical orthodoxy has been under attack.  But yet, historically, these detailed fundamental Christian truths have always found away to stand up, even under the worst of attacks, that is, until now. 

Next time we will look at Part 2. Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy: What is the Symbiotic relationship between Faith and Practice; How does this Interrelationship Affect the Christian life, Understanding and Theology.