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Langston Hughes and Religion

Langston Hughes and Religion

If the churches Hughes attended were less focused on numbers of “converts” and numbers of dollars, perhaps they would have seen a searching soul.

Amanda Harman is a student at Calvary and is from Colorado Springs, CO. She loves to play her violin and entertain friends with her dry sense of humor. 

by Amanda Harman

 

February was Black History Month, and one can scarcely glance at black history without seeing the fingerprints of Langston Hughes. He is best remembered as a poet, but he also wrote novels, plays, essays, memoirs, children’s stories, not to mention influencing the movement that cemented black influence in modern culture. He was at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance—a resurgence and celebration of black culture through music, writing, and art centered in the New York City neighborhood that inspired its name (“Langston Hughes”). It is tragic that such a great man with such a heavy influence on society was not a believer, so it is imperative that the modern church learns from the mistakes that drove him away.

Hughes spent part of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas. There, his foster aunt took him to a Black Church for a revival when he was about twelve. Several children sat on a bench close together, and as the service went on, the others stood up one by one and approached the pulpit, declaring Jesus as their savior, until only Hughes was left (Oates). The congregation begged and prayed for him. He did finally give into the pressure and get up, but he felt like he had “failed to see Jesus” and, therefore, believed he had a forsaken salvation (Oates).

This early experience led to a general distrust of religion and its pressure to keep up appearances. As a man, Hughes was able to travel the world to places like Mexico, Cuba, and the Soviet Union (Oates). His travels opened his eyes to the major problems with American Christianity (Oates). In one of his most controversial poems called “Goodbye Christ” Hughes wrote:

“The popes and the preachers’ve

Made too much money from it.

They’ve sold you to too many

Kings, generals, robbers, and killers.”

 

The poem criticizes the commercial nature of Christianity in America, which made religion an impediment to society rather than a vehicle for God’s grace—an exploitation rather than a salvation (Piper).

The American church’s capitalistic focus on empty professions of faith for profit rather than sincere repentance from love impacted his view on Christianity for the rest of his life (Oates), and it is heartbreaking that Hughes is likely not in heaven. But his insight in this area can still be used to further God’s work here on earth (Piper). If the churches Hughes attended were less focused on numbers of “converts” and numbers of dollars, perhaps they would have seen a searching soul, one wanting the truth and finding only empty religion. Maybe they would have reached out to Hughes in love, answered his questions, and led him to a true saving knowledge of Christ. After all, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 [NLT]).

This is the lesson modern churches and believers must take from the life and work of Langston Hughes. Our conduct should invite others in with love, not repel them with disgust.

_________________

Works Cited:
“Langston Hughes.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 29 Jan. 2021, www.biography.com/writer/langston-hughes. Accessed 22 Feb. 2021.
Oates, N’Kosi. “Religion in the Work of Langston Hughes.” Black Perspectives, AAIHS, 12 June 2018, www.aaihs.org/religion-in-the-work-of-langston-hughes/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2021.
Piper, John. “The Tragedy of Langston Hughes and a Warning I Will Heed.” Desiring God, 2 Feb. 2008, www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-tragedy-of-langston-hughes-and-a-warning-i-will-heed. Accessed 22 Feb. 2021.

 

Calvary student wins U.S. Naval Institute writing contest

Calvary student wins U.S. Naval Institute writing contest

Student Mike Burke, author of “Crowdfunded”, pictured rehearsing the role of El Gallo for Calvary’s upcoming production of The Fantasticks.

Burke inspired by Calvary’s English and Theatre Departments

by Amanda Harman

The year is 2038. An intense battle is raging between the technologically advanced Marines and the genetically-enhanced enemy. The tide of the battle turns against the Marines, and with no sign of help, they desperately use a less conventional source for rescue.

Calvary University English Literature and Creative Writing Major Mike Burke’s contest-winning short story “Crowdfunded” follows this platoon of Marines as they navigate through an abandoned city, avoiding ambushes, using every trick up their sleeves to hold off the enemy, and generally just trying to stay alive. Burke, a retired Marine himself, cowrote the story with his friend Nicholas Nethery, who is still on active duty in Europe with the Army. Their piece “Crowdfunded” won first prize in the U.S. Naval Institute-CIMSEC Fiction Essay Contest.

“There are so many talented people out there with great stories to tell; it never occurred to me we would do so well,” Burke says. “The notion that we wrote the kind of story they want to read feels great.” The coauthors are already talking about their next story on explosives disposal techs and smart munitions.

On the inspiration behind the winning entry, Burke says, “Our story addresses a number of issues the future military might face, including moral and ethical issues.” He adds, “All the tech in the story actually exists or is in development.” Another source of inspiration was English classes at Calvary, where Burke learned how to outline a plot in Creative Writing and how to write purposeful dialogue in Playwriting.

Besides writing, Burke enjoys being part of the Theatre Department at Calvary, and he will be starring in the upcoming production of The Fantasticks. Burke says that English and Theatre have so much overlap that “When I write I feel like a gunfighter with a pistol in each hand.”

Burke’s advice to fellow writers comes from experience: “Good writing has been drafted and rewritten a bunch of times so it’s okay if yours is too. It’s also fine to write a draft of something and set it aside for six months and look at it with fresh eyes. Just don’t do that with your homework.”

You may read “Crowdfunded” by following this link to the U.S. Naval Institute website.

 

Calvary Student Awarded in Short Story Contest

Calvary Student Awarded in Short Story Contest

Amanda Harman

Harman’s short story, “Three Walls,” was named Most Creative.

Calvary Junior Amanda Harman recently won “Most Creative” in a short story contest by online literary magazine Bottom Shelf Whiskey. Harman studies in Calvary’s English & Communications department, and originally drafted the piece for a creative writing course. Her piece, “Three Walls,” follows the experiences of a character who realizes she is just that—a pawn in her author’s story. Harman said, “I got the idea for ‘Three Walls’ from my love of humor that breaks the fourth wall, like in The Emperor’s New Groove. That self-awareness is really funny to me, so I figured I could try it myself and see what happened.”

Harman saw an ad for the contest online and said, “I decided to submit ‘Three Walls’ to the contest because it was my favorite story that I wrote, and when I saw the contest, I figured it was worth a shot.” While “Three Walls” didn’t win the contest, Bottom Shelf Whiskey awarded her story as “Most Creative.” Harman said, “It’s kind of hard to explain the feeling of being published. I am very proud and still kind of surprised that someone decided that my story was worth sharing.”

Beyond creative writing, she also writes articles for GotQuestions.org, a database created by a Calvary alum with answers to theological questions. Harman will be entering her junior year this fall, studying English Literature. She said she chose the English program because “I love reading. Books are such an escape; I can go anywhere in the world with the right book. I also love seeing the connections between books. The more you read, the more you understand.”

Calvary’s Tim Hange Joins English and Communications Faculty

Calvary’s Tim Hange Joins English and Communications Faculty

Calvary TESOL professor Tim Hange takes new role in English and Communications Department.

Tim Hange joined Calvary’s faculty in 2017 as International Student Services Director and TESOL Coordinator. In the Fall 2020 semester, Hange will be joining the English and Communications department faculty while continuing to teach some TESOL courses. Hange said, “I’m very excited to bring what I’ve learned into the department and help students delve more deeply into the tradition.”

Hange is currently finishing a doctoral program in English pedagogue with a focus on teaching the English language. He said, “My primary entry into English teaching was TESOL,” though his current studies at the doctoral level have been focused on British Literature, which he will be putting to work teaching British Literature I in Cycle 2.

The theories of written and spoken communication hold a special fascination for Hange. “To some degree, all communication comes to us through words… the written word is capable of permanently capturing an amazing range of things from the human experience, stories that deserve to be told over and over.” He commented that the mental acuity required for literature studies helps us become better thinkers overall. “As we explore the amazing configuration of those words in literature, I think we are shaped more into the image of God… and the depth of thinking that is required, being people who possess His image.”

Hange is eager to bring his knowledge and experience in the field of literature studies to students at Calvary. “To teach somebody to communicate or to become a better communicator is a very enriching and beautiful thing. And for me, I just find it very inspiring to be part of that process.”

Hange with graduates Xiaofei He, Yang Zhang, and Qing-long Liang at 2019 Commencement.

 

A group of students play a board game with Hange at the SLC.

Professional Directed Studies provides opportunities for student growth

Professional Directed Studies provides opportunities for student growth

Student uses collaborative degree program to grow academically and spiritually.

Rebekah Crawford is a senior at Calvary pursuing a double major through Professional Directed Studies (PDS). She said she chose an English degree, “because I had enjoyed both reading and writing my entire life and thought it would be fun to get a degree that would allow me to do what I loved.” She transferred credits from high school towards her second major in Graphic Design. “It was also a plus that I enjoy creating things both hands-on and digitally.”

Through PDS, Crawford fulfils the requirements for her Graphic Design major at the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and takes courses for her interdisciplinary degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Calvary. “Calvary has an articulation agreement with UCM and Calvary puts together a planner that fits the core needs for the degree, so a lot of the planner is based off of what UCM requires for that specific degree, but it isn’t an exact replica. My planner still reflects the general education and Biblical studies requirements that every student at Calvary has.”

Calvary holds articulation agreements with over twenty institutions worldwide, including four of the top colleges in the Kansas City area: Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College, Metropolitan Community College, and University of Central Missouri. Crawford spent her first semesters commuting for courses at UCM, but this semester, she is living close to UCM’s campus and becoming more involved in the school’s community. She commented on the way Calvary’s community prepared her for this new environment. “At Calvary, there was a curfew, room checks weekly along with devotions, and ample opportunities to be around believers that loved Christ just as much as I do. All of these things I feel have given me a sense of responsibility toward myself and others.”

Crawford spoke highly of PDS. “I think it’s a great way for Calvary to have more majors to choose from while also giving students the opportunity to use the biblical training they’ve been taught and put it to the test at a secular university in the sense of staying strong in their faith and not being afraid to share it with others.”