Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist, Part 6

Eastern Baptist College, Part 4

As is the case with most institutions, the faculty is the heart and core of the student experience.


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Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist, Part 5

Eastern Baptist College, Part 3

Either despite or because of the tenor of the times, the spiritual dimension of life at Eastern was never lost.



And the theological discourse was rarely tame.



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Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist, Part 4

Eastern Baptist College, Part 2



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Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist, Part 3

Eastern Baptist College

July 23, 2018 – I spent barely six months at McConnell AFB, Kansas, from February to August 1968. It was the briefest and, in some ways, the most educational period of my Air Force experience.

As a sergeant in the base chapel, one of my responsibilities was to greet airmen who had been newly assigned to the base and to make sure they were aware of all the base chapel had to offer them. The majority of the new assignees were returning from their year in Vietnam.

I had signed an agreement to enlist in the Air Force in July 1964, more than a month before the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that granted Lyndon Johnson authority to dramatically increase the number of troops in Vietnam. We didn’t know then that the resolution was based on a lie but one of its side-effects was that many people with my date of enlistment were sent to Europe and North Africa, and thousands who enlisted a month later were sent to Southeast Asia.

By 1968, many of the returning Air Force veterans had concluded that the Vietnam War was a hideous mistake and morally bankrupt as U.S. policy. The troops who came through McConnell AFB chapel, reeking of sweat and marijuana, couldn’t stop talking about it. It was largely because of their testimony that I became an anti-war veteran and when I was separated from the Air Force in August 1968 I knew I would seek ways in college to express my views.

After a year to get adjusted to the academic routine, I joined with other anti-war vets in my class and began submitting articles and cartoons to The Spotlight, the college newspaper.


Actually, my first cartoons for the student newspaper were anything but hostile.


And there was certainly enough on a Christian college campus to distract and amuse. Certainly a sense of humor was useful in dealing with the restrictions of a conservative, moralistic culture, including twice-weekly mandatory chapel.


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Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist, Part 2.

McConnell AFB, Kansas

July 23, 2018 – Looking through my attic this weekend for a folder of letters I had written home from my Air Force assignment in England from 1965-1968, I discovered instead a box of fifty-year-old publications.

I had carelessly preserved the publications because many of them included cartoons I had created as a young adult and I thought they might be interesting to have someday.

The papers in the attic were in an advanced state of deterioration so I brought them down stairs to scan them digitally before they were dust. They brought back memories of my developing adolescent sense of humor, and of the officers who encouraged me to keep it active.



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Odyssey of a Would-Be Cartoonist. Part 1.


July 23, 2018 – I ascended into our sweltering attic this weekend to look for a folder of carbon copies of letters I wrote in the 1960s.

The folder – if it still exists – holds copies of my missives home from RAF Stations Bentwaters/Woodbridge, England, where I was stationed from January 1965 to January 1968. I was a clerk typist for the chaplain’s office so it was easy enough to squeeze a carbon set behind the bond paper on which I typed my letters.

The letters were addressed to my parents, siblings, buddies, and girlfriends, and when I was 18 I thought they would provide a useful diary of my time in England. As it turned out, the letters also included adolescent drivel that varied in proportion to the person I was addressing. I left out a lot of my experiences when I wrote to my mother, lied to my buddies about sexual conquests that never happened, and exaggerated my attentions to girls I found attractive but would not see again for three years.

Years ago I decided it might be wiser to keep the letters hidden and I tossed them carelessly into some pile in the attic. But recently I started writing a memoir of my Air Force experience and I decided the letters – even if not entirely truthful – would be helpful reminders of times and dates of key events. When, for example, did I visit Framlingham Castle? Or the Taboo Club in Soho? Or what month did I share a room on the ferry from Hoek Von Holland to Harrich, England with beautiful Solfrid Kvarme but lay hopelessly sea sick on my bed as she glared at me with disappointed disgust?

I’m still looking for the folder of letters. But as I probed through the detritus of the attic I did find other discarded artifacts of the era. In one box, which disassembled itself because of the heat of many summers and dissolutely surrendered the papers it once protected, was a pile of yellowing papers I had collected over many years. The deteriorating bounty included brochures and clippings that held drawings and cartoons I had contributed over many years. The collapsing box was stuffed with brochures I had designed and illustrations I had drawn for publications I had known in my youth, including bulletins and pamphlets from my days at RAF Stations Bentwaters/Woodbridge, McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, and Eastern Baptist College in St. Davids, Pa.

Many of the papers looked like they would crumble into dust if they weren’t rescued soon. I scooped them carefully into my arms and brought them downstairs to my office where a scanner sits on my desk.

And I started scanning while the artistic records of my youth yet survived. They are posted herein in chronological order.



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The Lutheran Peacemaker


July 4, 2018 – Independence Day need not be devoted entirely to martial marches and soldierly invocations. Even our founding parents envisioned it as a day that should be celebrated in peace.

In 1971, as an ex-GI engaged in the anti-Vietnam War movement, I was invited to address a 4th of July picnic gathering of Mennonites. “We celebrate peaceful resistance to war,” explained my friend John L. Ruth, a Mennonite historian and professor of English literature at Eastern Baptist College. As I recall, I addressed the large crowd hoarsely without a microphone and told of many returning veterans who opposed the War in Vietnam as a moral travesty and were raising their voices in the cause of peace.

I was a Baptist back then and I remember lamenting the fact that the number of Baptist pacifists could be counted on the fingers of one hand, including Walter Rauschenbusch, Edwin Dahlberg, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It appeared to me that peacemakers in other mainline denominations were virtually absent.

But I was wrong. One peace activist who rose above us all was Otto Frederick Nolde, a Lutheran academician, whose influence on international diplomacy was incalculable in the post-World War II world.

Otto Frederick Nolde died June 17, 1972, just as my career in ecumenism was beginning at the American Baptist offices in Valley Forge, Pa. I realized quickly that he was a towering figure not only in Philadelphia church circles but across the globe.

A Philadelphia Lutheran, Fred Nolde was a leader in the vanguard of human rights activists who sought to build pillars of justice amid the ashes of World War II. Nolde and other activists, including future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, a Presbyterian lay leader, helped form “The Six Pillars of Peace” to prevent future wars. Among their proposals – incredibly – was a universal monetary system and currency for all nations, open borders through which all persons could freely pass, and automatic citizenship for immigrants and refugees wherever they decided to settle.

Needless to say, these idealistic and thoroughly Christian proposals were never accepted. But Dulles – who is remembered for his “brinksmanship diplomacy” that seemed to bring the U.S. close to war with the Soviet Union – spoke highly of Nolde’s contributions. According to The New York Times, Dulles wrote that Nolde was “outstanding” among the consultants, his suggestions “always sound” and many of them “bore important practical results.”

Nolde’s influence on the post-World War II world was significant. He was the author of the religious freedom section of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights and contributed to the human rights language in the United Nations charter.

KN-C20169Nolde was the World Council of Churches’ first director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), where he became known as an “ecumenical diplomat.” He knew and influenced post-war secretaries of state, not only his friend John Foster Dulles but his successors. There is a picture of World Council of Churches leaders from the U.S. meeting with President John F. Kennedy in the White House in 1962. Nolde, typically, is shown turning away from the President to engage in an apparently intense conversation with Secretary of State Dean Rusk.

The Times also reported that Nolde urged President Lyndon B. Johnson to bring the Vietnam War to a swift conclusion in 1966, recommending that the United States be prepared to leave South Vietnam if asked to do so by a government “as freely elected as conditions in South Vietnam permit.”

Otto Frederick Nolde was professor of Christian Education and Dean of the Graduate School at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

He was a major leader in urging nations to seek peace and justice. I was privileged to know his widow, Nancy, an ecumenical journalist, when I was a communicator for American Baptists, and I sensed the deep respect of colleagues for her advocacy of Fred’s legacy of peace.

I wish I had known Fred Nolde. He lived his life as a powerful witness for peace and I wish his name was better known within the current generation of persons of faith.

But his message still resonates mightily for all who listen. And if Lutherans were wont to honor their saints with icons and feast days, I would nominate Otto Frederick Nolde for recognition of the sainthood he has clearly attained.

sanbenignoA note about the Saint Fredrerick icon. Lutherans do not honor their leaders as saints with icons and feast days, but of course many Christian (and non-christian) activists are unmistakably saintly. Brother Robert Lentz has created icons of hundreds of notable leaders including Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez, and Harvey Milk. Although I am not an artist as skilled as Brother Robert, I was inspired by his reminder that saints walk among us every day. I started drawing some saints particularly close to me – including my sainted father-in-law, San Benigno – as a project in a Lutheran Diakonia class. Once the class was over, I realized there are many more among us who deserve a loving recognition from all of us, and I’ve kept drawing.

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