Historic Sites of Champaign County (Revisited) Part Two


Picking up the story of last summer’s history adventures, following the 1976 “Historic Sites of Champaign Couinty” guidebook.  See my last post for an overview of the project and for “highlights” of sites #1-17 (beginning north of Urbana and going on to Rantoul, Mahomet, and Bondville areas). 

#18 St. Boniface Catholic Church (SW ¼ Sect. 2, Colfax TWP; 1 mile west of CR 500 on n/s CR 1100E). Heading south from Bondville on CR 500 (the original narrow concrete roadway can still be seen here), five miles brings you to the sign for St. Boniface Church. The current building, constructed in 1912, was designed by noted church architect George P. Stauduhar of Rock Island, replacing an 1880 frame structure. Stauduh#18ar received his architecture degree from the University of Illinois in 1888, and his papers and drawings are housed in the University Archives. He also designed St. Patrick’s Church and rectory in Urbana, St. Mary’s rectory in Champaign, and Catholic churches in Penfield, Rantoul, Ivesdale, and Philo. Learn more about Stauduhar’s life and work at http://www.rigov.org/1076/Stauduhar-House-George-P-Anna-Stauduhar.

St. Boniface Catholic Church

#19 Sadorus Pioneer Marker (w/s CR 600E/Co. Hwy. 19, just north of railroad tracks at the Sadorus Community Park entrance). Henry Sadorus settled on the west bank of the Kaskaskia River in 1824 in what is now Sect. 1 of Sadorus Twp., southwest of the present village that bears his name. At his death in 1878 at age 95, he was “the oldest inhabitant and the oldest person in the county.” This 15-ton boulder, first situated near the original homestead, was first moved in 1909 to the family farm about 1 mile south of Sadorus, where pioneer reunions were held. In 1932 a bronze tablet was placed on the boulder “In memory of Henry Sadorus, first white settler in Champaign County, march 7, 1824.” In 2002 the boulder was moved once again to its present location on the north side of town at the community park. Henry’s grandson Frank Sadorus is known for his striking photographs of family and farm life at the turn of the 20th century. Learn more about Frank Sadorus and view a gallery of his photos at http://www.museum.state.il.us/ismdepts/art/sadorus/index.html.

#20  Lincoln Farewell Message Marker (e/s U. S. 45, just north of the RR overpass). The “Looking for Lincoln” marker https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=23816 at the site states, “Even though Lincoln traveled through Tolono several times, February 11, 1861 was significant, for on that day he gave his last formal address in the State of Illinois while on his trip to Washington D. C., saying, I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended as you are aware, with considerable difficulties. Let us believe, as some poet has expressed it, ‘Behind the cloud the sun is still shining.’ I bid you an affectionate farewell. It was a dreary, dank, drizzly day. The station was crowded with people from all over the area who had assembled at the depot platform to bid Lincoln goodbye.” The bronze tablet, set in stone, was originally dedicated July 11, 1932 at the railway station (the “Looking for Lincoln” marker shows a drawing of the old Marion House Hotel and Depot, an impressive multi-story building, which was located at the southeast corner of the junction where the Illinois Central and Wabash lines crossed). It was moved from the old railway station to the present location in 1993. The News-Gazette did a nice article on the site in 2009, which can be found at http://www.news-gazette.com/arts-entertainment/local/2009-01-05/stopping-tolono-marks-lincolns-last-stop-illinois.html.

Lincoln Speech marker, Tolono

#21-24 Four Historic Homes in Tolono.  Richards/Franks House (left photo below, 317 N. Bourne) originated as a three room built on this site in 1865.  It was later extensively expanded and remodeled by local businessman Patrick Richards. Richards had come to Tolono in the 1860s, establishing a drugs and sundries business in the town. In 1882 he held an open house to showcase his newly renovated home, in which he intended to retire. Instead, he later moved to Urbana and became President of First National Bank (Cunningham’s History). The Frank family resided in the house when the 1976 historic site designation was established. It is now divided into three apartments.


L.C. Burr/Nicholas House (right photo above, 319 N. Vorcey). This modest home was built in “about 1872” with locally-sourced bricks. L. C. Burr owned a furniture store, was an undertaker, and served as Tolono’s mayor for several years. During his time in office the city water works were established. Nicholas was the name of the family in residence in 1976. Current owner Amber Stewart was surprised to learn the home, which they purchased one year ago, was so historically significant.

Salisbury/Gardner House (left photo below, 112 E. Walnut). This classic Queen Anne home was built in 1894 by Thomas M. Salisbury, the first Cashier of the Bank of Tolono. Striking features include birdseye maple interior woodwork and fine leaded-glass windows. The design of the house is said to have been influenced by a similar home located in Washington Courthouse, Ohio (Salisbury’s birthplace). The home was restored to its original glory when the Garner family purchased the home in 1949 (they were still in residence in 1976). The house was purchased by current residents Scott and Barbara Godlew in 2007, who had the site’s deteriorated original marker sign replicated.


Wm. Meharry/Dowell House (right photo above, 305 N. Second). William Meharry, along with his younger brother Jesse, were prominent land owners and livestock farmers in Philo and Tolono townships. The brothers arrived in the area around 1865, each eventually purchasing homes in Tolono “finished and furnished in modern style, and everything about the premises indicates cultivated tastes and ample means” (see link below). William’s grand Second-Empire residence was built “sometime between 1870 and 1872” with locally sourced bricks. The extensive grounds, surrounded by “an antique iron fence, still retains much of the character of the period in which it was built.” No one was home at the time of my visit; I’m still tracking down the name of the current owners. The original historic marker sign at the front gate has been altered, now showing the name “Gere Thompson” (current owner?). Read William Meharry’s bio at http://illinoisancestors.org/champaign/bios/pbaccil/meharrywilliam.html

#27 Kelley’s Tavern Site (n/s CH 14/“Old State Road,” just east of the Salt Fork River bridge; E ½ Sect. 22 St. Joseph Twp.). Here we find our fourth “Looking for Lincoln” marker designating the spot where one Cyrus Strong originally built a four room tavern “about 1840” (the marker on site says “1830s”). Joseph Kelley, son-in-law of John Vance (the local representative in the General Assembly proposes legislation establishing Champaign County), purchased the rough log cabin from Strong in 1849. He expanded it, added clapboard siding and a long front porch, and established a ford across the nearby Salt Fork River that carried his name. Other businesses soon followed, and the post office located at Kelley’s Tavern was given the name St. Joseph’s (later dropping the possessive “s”). When the railroad came through a mile to the north in 1869, the town relocated there. The building that housed the tavern, frequented by the circuit riding lawyer Abraham Lincoln, stood until it was torn down in 1914. Learn more and see pictures of Kelley’s Tavern at the “Looking for Lincoln” page, https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=23803

Kelly’s Tavern “Looking for Lincoln” marker just east of the Salt Fork bridge

#29 Eighth Judicial Circuit Boundary Marker (N/S CH 14/”Old State Road,” at the Vermillion Co. Line in Sect. 28 where Ogden & South Homer Twps. meet). This marker is the 9th of 18 identical markers erected in 1922 by the D. A. R and the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association to show the boundaries of the circuit travelled by Abraham Lincoln, 1847-59. Each marker is located at the place where Lincoln’s route passed from one county to the next (the 8th marker is on the west side of Champaign Co. in Sect. 7 of Scott Twp. Where CR 1675N crosses into Piatt Co. ½ mile north of I-72). Learn more about the boundary marker history and project, and find a map, at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0025.106/–real-lincoln-highway-the-forgotten-lincoln-circuit-markers?trgt=fg_1;view=fulltext

Eighth Circuit Marker on the Champaign-Vermillion County line

#29 Old Homer Park (w/s of Ill. Route 49 at the Salt Fork River bridge, where Sect. 32 and 33 of South Homer Twp. meet). Moses Thomas established a mill on the south bank of the river, east of the present bridge, around 1829. He became “one of the proprietors of Old Homer,” which was platted in 1837 by M. D. Coffeen & Co. south of the river “at the intersection of Sections 4 and 5, Town 18, and Sections 32 and 33, Town 19 . . . .” (Stewart’s History). Similarly to Old St. Joseph, Old Homer’s fate was sealed when the Great Western Railroad came through the area one mile south of the river in 1854. In this case, most of the existing buildings were actually moved to the railroad, hauled on sledge rails by oxen during the winter.

“Old Homer” gained a second life in the early 20th century when W. B. McKinley of the Illinois Traction System bought the ground in 1904. C. B. Burkhardt leased the land the following year, and in 1907 he opened “Riverside Pleasure Park.” The ITS interurban line ran a spur to the park to encourage the use of the rail system. In its glory days, visitors could enjoy an outdoor theater, water slide, dance pavilion, roller-skating rink, ball fields . . . even a small zoo! Burkhardt managed the park until 1930, and by then it was in decline. The park closed in 1939, and the land is now owned by the Champaign Co. Forest Preserve. They’ve installed a nice interpretive marker just west of the highway on the north side of the river. Here’s a couple of sites to find some great pictures of the park in its heyday. http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/amusement_parks/Riverside%20Park,%20Homer,%20Illinois%201905-1928/album/#slides/Riverside_Park_Homer_IL_13.jpg


#30 Burkhardt/Taylor House (205 E. Coffeen, Homer). Described in the 1976 guide as “a fine gothic house” looking much as it did in “a postcard view dated 1857,” the house is now unfortunately in a state of decline. It was built in 1855 by a local attorney and sold to C. B. Burkhardt (later famous for managing the Old Homer Park). “Known locally as the house of seven gables . . . , the house has a spiral staircase of walnut [and] 12 rooms, each of which originally had a fireplace. Once the grounds covered half a block, and a large barn with a cupola stood behind the house. It was torn down along with a wing containing the servants’ quarters, on the rear of the house.” The Burkhardt family remained in the home until the 1940s; presumably Taylor refers to the residents at the time of the guide’s publication. The old home’s decorative gable lace and other exterior woodwork is now deteriorating, and it is surrounded by encroaching brush and overgrown trees.

Burkhardt-Taylor House, Homer

#32 & 33 are two sites of special significance in Champaign County Agricultural History.  Sadly, both are gone.  Sullivant Headquarters represents the amazing career of Michael Sullivant from Columbus, Ohio.  He began purchasing land in Champaign Co. beginning in 1852, accumulating some 27,000 acres. He arrived in here in 1854 and built (acccording to Stewart’s History) “a boarding house, with numerous barns and outbuildings, [along with a fine nearby residence] which he called ‘Headquarters.’”  It was located just north Broadlands on the east side of present County Hwy 13  (NW ¼ Sect. 19, Ayers Twp.). “In a day when fenced fields were uncommon, he had all of his estate fenced into single farms no smaller than 640 acres. Almost 2000 acres were in corn, 300 in winter wheat, 40 in oats. He pastured 5000 cattle and 4000 rundown government horses” (Guide). Sullivant sold his Broadlands Estate to J. T. Alexander, another “cattle king” from western Illinois, in 1866. The entirety of Sullivant/Alexander lands in the area were liquidated in 1885, leading to the creation Ayers Twp. Named for the agent in charge of the proceedings, Ayers became the last of the county’s rural townships to be established (McCollum’s History).  A local farmer told me the building was probably torn down sometime in the 1920s. This was quite the place in the 19th Century and is definitely worthy of a State Historic Site designation.

George W. Smith was one of the first African-Americans to settle in Champaign Co. Born a slave in Tennessee in 1835, Smith served the Union Army as a guide in the Civil War and came to Springfield with Gen. John A. McClernand in 1863. There he married, and in the spring of 1876 the couple moved to the Broadlands area to farm. That fall he purchased his first 80 acres in Raymond Twp. northwest of Immanuel Lutheran Church. Farming with his son, John, he eventually came to own the entire quarter section, building a fine home in 1905 on the property (SE ¼ Sect. 12, Raymond Twp.; nw of Immanuel Lutheran Church at CR 400N & CR 2400E). An interesting note from the 1976 Guide: “John Smith’s interest in horses and his frequent competition in English pleasure classes at shows in Illinois and Indiana is commemorated annually by a horse show in his honor.” The SE ¼ of Sect. 12 is all farmland now, with no remaining buildings, but my 2007 plat book still shows the land in the name of John M. Smith. Learn more about the extraordinary life of George W. Smith at . . . http://www.illinoisancestors.org/champaign/bios/pbaccil/smithgeorgew.html and https://localwiki.org/cu/George_W._Smith

#34 Raymond House (SW ¼ Sect. 4, Raymond Twp.; east of CR 2000E about ¾ mile south of Block). Nathaniel Raymond came from Raymond, Ohio, in 1864 and settled on this property. “He sited his house on top of a hill, and created a tree-lined lane to connect the house with the section road to the north. Raymond brought with him seeds and seedlings from Ohio and New Hampshire, and gathered walnuts in Lost Grove [4 miles to the east] to create this lane” (Guidebook). The original lane to the north is gone, but many of the grand walnut trees remain, giving the home its name” “Walnut Hills” (presently a long lane extends west to the county road). When Raymond Twp. was separated from Sidney Twp. in 1869, Nathaniel became its first commissioner. In 1884 his son Issac assumed possession of the homestead and began construction on a two-story addition, a “larger, bracketed structure . . . featuring carved woodwork with incised designs of Gothic motif.” This addition was completed in 1891.

The Raymond House, aka “Walnut Hills”

When current owners Sue (a direct descendent of Nathaniel Raymond) and Martin Cutter obtained the property in 1997, it was vacant and had been abandoned for many years. The oldest section of the home was too far gone to salvage, but it has been replicated as true to the original as possible. The 1891 addition was restored, taken down to the studs and renovated with period-style windows and beautiful woodwork reproductions. From its hilltop setting, Walnut Hills holds a commanding view of the surrounding farmland to the north and west. Finding this home intact and visiting with the Cutters has been the most delightful stop in my summer adventure so far! Here’s a bit on the life of Nathaniel’s son Isaac, described as “among the first to enter . . . the [new] State University at Urbana.” http://www.illinoisancestors.org/champaign/bios/pbaccil/raymondisaacs.html

Watch for posts on my Facebook Page (Rick D. Williams) as I visit sites #35-78 in Urbana & Champaign this summer!

Posted in History | Leave a comment

Historic Sites in Champaign Co. (revisited)


To commemorate America’s Bicentennial in 1976, the Champaign Co. Bicentennial Committee published a 50-page pamphlet titled “Historic Sites in Champaign County.” The book is a guide to 78 specific locations throughout the county, with a picture and brief description for each place designated as an official “Historic Site.” Two centerfold maps, one for the rural parts of the county and one for Champaign-Urbana, provide locations for the sites.

Originally, each site was designated by a number that corresponded to a sign posted at the location. My destinations sometimes involved a bit of detective work (for places long gone), often was disappointing (finding cases of neglect or very recent demolition), but always intriguing and rewarding.

Last summer I set out to visit each of the sites to determine what is still around, what is not, and what condition existing sites were in. My adventure took me throughout the county, using current plat maps to find location of places more generally designated by the basic maps in the guidebook. I met a number of interesting people along the way, enjoyed some fascinating conversations, and made some unexpected connections between places that shaped our county’s history and the people associated with them. My summer adventure ended with all rural sites visited (the first 34 of the 78 total in the book).

I just began my second summer of the project, visiting the remaining 44 Champaign-Urbana sites.  It seemed like a good time to look back over the highlights of last summer.

“Sites” where original structures no longer exist (15):

  • Fielder Cabin, Blackberry School, Van Buren PO (#1,2,3 in Urbana, Somer Twps..)
  • Thomasboro Grain Elevator (#5, Rantoul Twp.)
  • Mennonite Church/Dixon Schoolhouse (#9 in East Bend Twp.)
  • Lindsey House, Rea Tavern, Nine Gal Tavern (#10, 13, 14 in Mahomet Twp.)
  • Rapp Farmhouse (#16, Hensley Twp.), Brennan School (#25, Tolono Twp.)
  • Kelly Tavern (#27, St. Joseph), Old Homer Park (#29, South Homer Twp.)
  • Broadlands Boardinghouse (#31), Sullivant HQ (#32, Ayers Twp.)
  • George W. Smith Farm (#33, Raymond Twp.)

Intact structures (4 churches, 7 homes, 2 others):

  • Immanuel Lutheran (#4, Flatville), First Baptist (#11, Mahomet), Mt. Vernon UMC (#25, Hensley Twp.), St. Boniface RC (#18, Colfax Twp.)
  • Scott/Dollahon House (#12, Mahomet), Richards/Franks, Burr/Nicholas, Salisbury/Gardner, Meharry/Dowell Houses (#21-24, all in Tolono); Burkhardt/Taylor House (#30, Homer), Raymond House (#34, Raymond Twp.)
  • Chanute AFB (#6, Rantoul), Interurban station (#17, Bondville)

“Sites” with no structures:

  • Rantoul Prairie & Mink Grove (#7, 8 in Rantoul Twp.); also Savoy Prairie (#26)
  • Sadorus Pioneer Marker (#19); Lincoln Farewell Marker (#20, Tolono); Eighth Judicial Circuit Boundary Markers (#28, at Cha./Piatt & Cha./Vermilion Co. Lines)

#1, 2, 3 (sites only, no buildings) Fielder Cabin Site (NE ¼ Sect. 11 Urbana Twp) w/s of CR 1700E (N. Cottonwood Rd), 1 mi. north of U. S. 150 (said to have been “a few rods [rod = 16.5’] south of Blackberry School.” Fielder “squatted” on the site, located between the old Ft. Clark Rd. (E. Anthony Dr. today) to the south and the “West Branch” (Saline drainage ditch today) in 1822, made improvements, and entered 80 acres into public record in 1828. He built a mill on the West Branch, but moved to Tazwell County by 1830. http://www.illinoisancestors.org/champaign/bios/earlyhis/roejames.html

Blackberry School Site (SW ¼ Sect. 2 Urbana Twp) w/s of CR 1700E (N. Cottonwood Rd), 1 mi. north of U. S. 150 (located “opposite Trelease Woods”). One room school built c. 1869 on the west edge of Big Grove, originally located on the east side of the road. It was moved to the west side after a new school was built c. 1894 and used for years as a storage building.      https://champaign.illinoisgenweb.org/schools/blackberry.html

Van Buren Post Office Site (W ½ SW ¼ Sect. 26 Somer Twp) e/s of CR 1600E (N. High Cross Rd.) just north of CR 1900 (Olympian Rd). The post office was located in the home of Matthias Rinehart near the old northern route of the Ft. Clark Rd, about a mile and ½ north of the West Branch (Saline).  When this area failed to be selected as the county seat in 1833, population shifted to Urbana, and this early post office closed in 1845.

#4 Immanuel Lutheran Church of Flatville (NW ¼ Sect. 34 Compromise TWP) SE corner jct. Co. Hwy 12 & 11 in Flatville. In the 1870s immigrants from East Friesa established the community of in this area that came to be known as the “Dutch Flats.” The current Neo-Gothic structure is the third building of this congregation (and the first of the historic sites in the pamphlet still standing!). Here’s an article commemorating the congregation’s 100th Anniversary http://www.rantoulpress.com/news/living/2015-01-13/immanuel-church-congregation-mark-100th-anniversary-building.html

Immanuel Lutheran Flatville

#6 Chanute Air Force Base (south side of Rantoul). Originally Chanute Field, built in 1917 as one of the earliest U. S. military flight training schools. The 10th Aero Squadron based at Chanute received the first planes in July 1917. Curtiss “Jennies” (JN4H’s) were delivered in crates to Chicago, assembled, and flown to the field. In March 1941 the first all-black fighter squadron (later to become the famed “Tuskeegee Airmen”) was activated at Chanute. The airfield and training grounds became Chanute A.F.B. when the Air Force became a separate military branch after WWII. The base was the headquarters of the Air Force Technical Training Command (my father trained there in Avionics and for the Atlas Missile Program in the late 50s, early 60s), later known as the Air Force School of Applied Aerospace Sciences. Chanute A.F.B. sadly closed in 1993. A hauntingly beautiful photo treatment of the vacated base can be found at Walter Arnold’s wonderful site, “The Art of Abandonment” https://artofabandonment.com/2014/05/chanute/.

#9 East Bend Mennonite Church Site/Dixon Schoolhouse (NW ¼ Sect. 8, East Bend Twp; E/S of CR 700E, just north of CR 3450N, approx. 2 mi. north of present church site). Mennonites began to settle in this area in the early 1880s, and the East Bend Mennonite Church was organized in 1889. The congregation originally in the small frame Dixon Schoolhouse at this location until 1892 before moving to the first of several building erected at their current location at the northeast corner of CR 700E and CR 3300N. In the late 19th C. the original Dixon schoolhouse burned, and a second school was built one mile to the south (still standing, incorporated into a dwelling). The original Dixon School location is marked by an old, small white sign along the road. A brief history of the church is at http://www.eastbendmc.com/about/history/.

#11 First Baptist Church of Mahomet (402 S. Elm St., 1 block north of U. S. 150). Originally organized in 1939 as Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, the congregation settled on Middletown as a central location for worship. Town founder Daniel Porter hosted meetings in his home until a small meeting house was constructed in 1840. The first church building proper was a simple frame structure located at the southwest corner of Main and Lombard Streets. The current brick building was constructed in 1867, originally facing east and topped with a wooden steeple. In 1901 the building was remodeled with the entrance now facing northwest beneath a new brick steeply and belfry (Greg Pasley’s “Diggin’ up Bones” column in the Mahomet Citizen). A brief history of the church is at http://www.fbcmahomet.org/history.shtml.

First Baptist Church, Mahomet

#12 Scott/Dollahon House (401 E. Oak St./U. S. 150). Built in 1872, this was home for many years to Thomas Scott, whose father Fielding is credited with plowing the furrow from the Bryant Ford to Urbana to mark the location of what became the Bloomington Road. Scott, a distinguished Civil War veteran, died in 1902; his family occupied the home until the 1920s. Orville Rudolph

Scott-Dollahon House

then purchased house, and the Dollahon family remained in possession until the 1990s. Lifetime Mahomet residents Fred and Emily (Moon) Kroner bought the property in 2004 and have given new life to both the house and surrounding grounds.

#14 Nine Gal Tavern Site (wooded area at the southeast corner of U. S. 150 and Sunny Acres Rd., Mahomet). This storied location is among the best known historic sites in the rural parts of the county. John Bryant and Malinda Busey (daughter of Isaac Busey) were the first couple to receive a marriage license in Champaign Co. (July 25, 1833). In May 1834 Bryant entered land at the W ½ of the SE ¼ of Sect. 14 along the Ft. Clark Road in then-Middletown (now Mahomet) township, just over ½ mile east of what came to be called the Bryant Ford on the Sangamon River. By 1836 the road to Urbana was known as the Bloomington Road, and the location of the Bryant home (and their prosperity) made it a natural gathering/resting place (though it is not documented as a tavern or inn). In 1848 Bryant purchased 40 acres to the south in Sect. 23, and the family was established there by 1850. In 1853 the original Bryant home was leased to Thomas Davidson, newly arrived from Ohio, and the documented history of the “tavern” begins. Davidson and his family operated the “Ohio Tavern” until 1856, complete with stories of “frequent” Lincoln stays. The property passed to B.F. Harris in 1863 after John Bryant’s death. Stories of the “Nine Gal Tavern,” whose proprietor is said to have had nine red-headed daughters, are the stuff of local legend and oft-repeated folk history, but no primary sources document its operations. For many years in the 1980s-90s, the Mahomet United Methodist Church put on a popular drama/dinner theater titled “Nine Gal Tavern” imagining characters from the era. The original Bryant building was razed in 1891 and replaced by the “Timber Edge Farm” residence (located slightly to the south). That structure, often cited as “the location of the Nine Gal Tavern,” was still standing in the 1990s. Lenville J. Stelle’s 1990 archeological study of the site provides much interesting detail (it also references the Rea Tavern and other documented tavern sites in the area between Urbana and Mahomet). http://virtual.parkland.edu/lstelle1/len/center_for_social_research/ninegal/sha9gal3.htm

#15  Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church (SW ¼ Sect. 9, Hensley Twp; northwest corner CR2200N & CR900E). Mt. Vernon Methodist Church was dedicated Aug. 14, 1874 and has been in continuous service ever since. The original structure, a simple meeting-house style building, had separate entrances for men (south) and women (north). Subsequent renovations and editions give the church a more New England chapel look.

The Original Mt. Vernon Church building

#17 Interurban Station, Bondville (northwest corner Market and Ash Streets). The “interurban” rail line from Champaign-Urbana to Danville, officially known as the Illinois Traction System, evolved from the C-U electric street railway developed by utilities magnate (later U. S. Congressman and Senator) William B. McKinley. The line formally opened October 3, 1903, and the line west to Bondville (and on to Monticello and Decatur) was completed in 1907. Passengers travelled the line until the 1950s, after which the Bondville station came to house the Fire Department. The building is currently owned by Premier Cooperative and used for storage. Learn more about the interurban system in Champaign Co. at http://explorecu.org/items/show/203

Bondville Interurban station

In Part Two, we will continue our tour across the southern half of Champaign Co.

Posted in History | Leave a comment

“What’s on Your Mind?” – understanding the world through reason, logic & intellect

This is the fourth part of a six-week program, “Worldview as the L.E.N.S. of Life,” given at Life Community Church in Mahomet, Illinois

Classical philosophers in the Greco-Roman world, Asia, and Medieval Europe would all agree that the ability to think and reason is one of the defining characteristics of our humanity. Where they would disagree is this: what exactly is the source and purpose of that unique ability?

Let’s start with the “Big 3 of Classical Greece” . . .

  • Socrates (c. 470-399 bc) thought true knowledge comes from being open-minded. He believed that Truth emerges through the process of rational discourse (and motivate us toward the Good)
  • Plato (c. 428-348 bc) thought true knowledge came from understanding the eternal forms or ideas behind everything in the material, experiential world. Truth precedes (and transcends) experience.
  • Aristotle (384-322 bc) thought true knowledge came from experience in the natural world. We use reason and logic to categorize what we learn. Truth is found in the order and “natural laws” we observe.

The Chinese sage Confucius (551-479 bc) believed there was a proper order in all things (“natural laws”) to which all are called to obedience. Knowledge comes from study (of self, society, and nature) and cultivates the virtue. A virtuous person seeks proper balance and harmony in all of life. Thus:  Good in me = good in my community = good in the world.

Classical learning in the West flowed through Greco-Roman culture into Medieval Christian culture, providing two pillars for Western thought.

  • Early Church theology (most notably expressed by Augustine, 354-430 ad) drew from Plato’s philosophy, locating his “eternal forms” in the Trinity. God is the source; Spirit “illuminates” reason; Christ “redeems” creation (the Creed!)
  • Medieval Catholic theology (most notably expressed by Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274) drew from Aristotle: God’s natural law imbedded in creation; the Creator is evident in its order/design; the Church is the Body of Christ on Earth

Our rational capacity is an important part of the Human Identity in both Classical and Christian WVs, providing the basis for both philosophy and theology. In Matt. 22 Jesus calls us to “love the Lord your God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.” But Paul cautions us in Col. 2 to not be taken captive by “philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.” God gave us our rational capacity, our intellect, and he placed us in an orderly creation that invites logical understanding.

What we must keep in mind is orientation. Do we use reason and intellect to seek God’s wisdom—or to elevate ourselves as “thinking man”? Three contrasting views expressed by contemporaries of Socrates and (known as “Sophists”) paved the way for “modern” worldviews . . .

  • Protagoras (c. 490-420 bc) famously decreed that “man is the measure of all things.” From this perspective, “truth” is subject to human interpretation & definition (the basis of modern scepticism)
  • Thrasymachus (c. 459-400 bc) observed that “might makes right.” In other words, “truth” is a matter of perspective, and the perspective of those with cultural power prevails (the basis fo modern relativism).
  • Gorgias (c. 485-380 bc) was resigned to the idea that “no absolute truth that can be known” since all things are subject to disagreement & difference of opinion (the basis of modern nihilism)

The “rebirth” of classical humanism in the Renaissance represents a more dramatic shift toward “thinking man” as the ultimate source of all knowledge. So-called “Christian Humanists” like Desiderius Erasmus in the Netherlands and Thomas More in England attempted to keep intellectual and artistic efforts focused on the glorification of God, but the tide was turning.

A bigger change came in the ideas of 17th C. French thinker Rene Descartes, considered the “Father of Modern Philosophy. His famous statement, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am,” is celebrated in academia and pop culture as the ultimate expression of “thinking man” as the “measure of all things.”

What does he mean by this? More importantly, how did this statement transform culture?

Pope John Paul II reflected on how Descartes “radically changed” how we think in a 2005 interview published as Memory & Identity. His expression of this transformation went something like this . . .

 Before Descartes: “Self-Sufficient God” exists always (I AM) and gives “Thinking Man” existence; “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Paul in Act 17)

Descartes’ formula makes the cogito (“I think”) the source of the sum (“I am); In Modern thought, “Thinking Man” takes priority; God becomes an aspect of human consciousness.

Hence: “Man decides what is good or evil, [as if] there were no God.” also good/bad; true/false etc.)

(notice how JPII uses logic to reason his way to this conclusion!). What this means is we are the ones in charge, we are the ones who decide, we are the ones in control of our identity, condition, destiny!

The ultimate triumph of “Thinking Man” came in the 18th Century Enlightenment, where Reason joined hands with Science to become the new twin pillars of Western thought.

Historian Ronald Wells (History Through the Eyes of Faith) describes this empirical rationalism as “the modern worldview” and gives us fellow historian Crane Brinton’s (Ideas and Men) description of it as

a cluster of ideas that add up to the belief that the universe works the way a man’s mind works when he thinks logically and objectively, . . . therefore man can ultimately understand everything in his experience as he understands . . . a simple arithmetical or mechanical problem.

This is the mindset of the world we live in. With this in mind, “How then should we live?”

First, we must remember the “real story” and the proper order of things (going back to John 1, we must keep logos before cogito!) . . .

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him,  and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.

Second, we must embrace the challenge Jesus gives us us to “love the Lord our God . . . with all of our mind.” The key word here is love. Christian philosopher Cornelius Plantinga unpacks this beautifully in a 1998 Christianity Today article, “I Pray the Lord My Mind to Keep” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1998/august10/8t9050.html): “To love God intellectually,” Plantinga writes, “is to become a student of God—a student who really takes an interest in God.”  This means . . .

  • Becoming “somewhat preoccupied with God” (making Him the center of your attention)
  • Giving God “the benefit of the doubt” (trusting Him when things don’t make rational sense)
  • Allowing “God to be God” (exercising “intellectual humility” in our desire to understand His ways)
  • Respecting “the works of God” (cultivating sensitivity to His presence in creation; be “mindful”!)

In conclusion, Plantiga issues a challenge I begin every year’s Worldview class with:

Becoming a real student of God and of the works of God—becoming alert, respectful, and honest in your studies—is an act of flagrant intellectual obedience because it is an act of flagrant intellectual love.

This, to me, beautifully sums up what we are called to do as “thinking people” created in the image and likeness of our loving God. How do we understand the world through our reason and intellect? We begin by understanding that reason and intellect are a gift from our loving Creator, given to us so that we might see Him in our ordered understanding of the world he created. But we also must acknowledge that this gift alone does not provide all the answers to the “Big Questions” of life.

Posted in Worldviews | Leave a comment

The Invaders Legacy

This post is part of an on-going series, The Odyssey of Captain America, which follows Steve Rogers’ life and times as the Living Legend.  This segment continues to look at modern-era, retro-continuity stories that relate Cap’s earliest WW II experiences.

Roy Thomas’s Golden Age “Dream Team” remained a tempting topic to revisit over the years, particularly since, in one form or another, all of the team members continue to figure largely in the MU mythos up to the present. The Invaders are in Germany, Feb 1942, on the trail of the Red Skull, Baron Strucker, and a mysterious occult group called “The Thule Society,” who have been sacrificing Atlanteans in a ritualistic quest for a powerful cosmic weapon. The heroes arrive too late to stop the atrocities, but they follow the trail to Antarctica where a mystical hammer has fallen to Earth. Warned of the Invaders’ arrival, the Red Skull abandons his quest. The mysterious hammer and its Thule protectors are cloaked by ancient spells. Unaware of its presence, the Invaders depart. “At least we stopped his master plan,” Cap offers. Namor is not satisfied to have things end with so many unanswered questions.[1]

Sometime in early 1942 the Invaders stop a Nazi/U-Man/Atlantean invasion on the U. S. Atlantic coast. Three weeks later, now “somewhere in Poland,” the Invaders (less Bucky) have been captured by Arnim Zola, who is trying to transfer their combined powers to an enhanced “Ubermensch.” As he contemplates a rescue effort, Bucky recalls how inadequate he felt among his super-powered teammates during that state-side mission; his youthful bravado had allowed U-Man to get away. This time, he proves his worth, earning a hard-won but back-handed compliment from Namor after helping his teammates escape from captivity.[2]


cover art by Jay Anacieto (left); Ed McGuiness and Chris Sotomayor (right)

The Invaders title itself was also revived several times. Giant-Size Invaders #2 (2006) gave us “A Drive in the Country,” when Cap, Torch, Sub, and Miss America protect FDR & Churchill (yet again!) at FDR’s Hyde Park Estate in New York on June 19, 1942. Just a few days later, a second Invaders series (4 issues, 1993) opens with a June 22, 1942 radio broadcast. This team brings the Golden Age Blazing Skull, Silver Scorpion, and Vision to the “modern” MU (and the team); it features Liberty Legion members as well. Their foe is a team of powered Americans (“Battle-Axis”) who are Nazi sympathizers.[3]


Cover art by Dave Hoover (left); Ron Garvey (right)

While most Invaders stories (including the two previously mentioned) are set in 1942, others show the team in action together until the end of the war. Early nemesis Baron Blood reappears in Constanta, Romania. Cap is bitten and briefly becomes a vampire but reverses the curse when he drinks Bloods’ own blood during a fight bite (CA #616 70th Anniversary Special, 2011). In CASL #2-4 (1998), Nazis have infiltrated Atlantis. This tale focuses on Namor’s complicated family relations, the Human Torch’s existential dilemma, and Cap’s steadfast resolve under pressure (which finally saves the day).

On Oct. 5, 1943, the Invaders come across time-displaced members of the Thunderbolts in Austria (Thunderbolts #164, 2011). The twelve-issue Avengers/Invaders series (2008-09) opens December 1943 with the Invaders in Italy, storming Monte Cassino in the so-called Ordnung Zeitgeist (Time Ghost) mission, which brings them to present to meet their future selves.


Cover art by Alex Ross (left); Mukeesh Singh (right)

The Invaders fight the Red Skull and German soldiers at the Battle of Anzio in Italy on January 22, 1944. (New Avengers #29, 2012, fb). June 1944 the Invaders are on the coast of Crete facing off against Master Man, Warrior Woman, U-Man, Lady Lotus, Agent Axis, Scarlet Scarab, Teutonic Knight; Namor arrives with “behemoths from the deep,” creating a massive wave that crushes the enemies (flashback in All-New Invaders #4, June 2014). Sometime in June/July 1944, the Invaders fought with the “Red Tails” Fighter Group of Tuskegee Airman pilots, most like during the advance through Italy (Namor recalls this in Adam, Legend of the Blue Marvel 4, 2009).

Ret-conned Invaders stories also give us an early look at some of the villains that re-emerge in Cap’s “modern” career. In January 1945 the team is in the Netherlands, facing the Uberkommando (Master Man, U-Man, Warrior Woman, Baron Blood, Iron Cross). The Nazi ensemble turn out to be protecting Arnim Zola (in his original human form), who has been experimenting on the local villagers with an infectious “doomsday weapon” that turns them into monsters.[4] After defeating the Uberkommando, the Invaders find the only way to stop the spread of the infection is to destroy the village, with all its inhabitants. Bucky somberly says, “Steve, you can’t be part of this.” Cap replies, “Of course I will, Buck.” Bucky reminds him, “You’re Captain America . . . you stand for something better.” Classic Cap response:

I stand for the same thing you do. The Dream behind the colors we wear. Defending that dream against the monsters who did this. That doesn’t mean turning away when something hard has to be done. It means shouldering my share of the burden. It means witnessing . . . never forgetting . . . and spending the rest of our lives fighting to make sure it never happens again.”[5]


Cover art by Carlos Pacheco & Cam Smith (l); Alex Ross, Mike Grell, Morry Hollowell (r)

An intriguing Invaders story set “late in the War” features Nazi Baron Strucker in the formative years of Hydra.[6] Using funds from Red Skull (who makes brief appearance), he plans to lead this splinter group after the war. The “Dragon Ship” in this story originally appeared in Captain America Comics #5 (1941), where it was described as “the greatest weapon of the Imperial Japanese Army.” It is now in the hands of Hydra and Strucker, who has traveled to the future using Dr. Doom’s Time Machine and learned of the impending fall of the Third Reich. While the Invaders thwart Strucker’s immediate plans, Hydra, of course, endures long into the future.[7]

[1] Rightly so, as it turns out. Namor would later learn that the skin off the backs of his tortured subjects would embellish the cover of “The Book of the Skull,” which would lead the Red Skull’s daughter back to this place more than 70 years later (Fear Itself Prologue: The Book of the Skull, May 2011).

[2] CA & Bucky #622 (Nov. 2011).

[3] A note on the “Battle-Axis” page of the Marvel Database reads, “All of the Battle-Axis characters had originally appeared as heroes in the Golden Age comics of the ’40s. Roy [Thomas] gathered together some of the most forgotten heroes and turned them into Nazis, making for a great story.” http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Battle-Axis_(Earth-616). In addition to these revivals, there would be New Invaders (9 issues, 2004-5), Avengers/Invaders (12 issues, 2008-9), Invaders Now! (5 issues, 2010-11) and All-New Invaders (15 issues, 2014-15).

[4] Zola’s first published appearance (in his familiar robotic form) was in CA #208 (1977). This Invaders Now! story is his first chronological appearance. In issue #2 he transfers his consciousness into a robotic body to avoid exposure to the deadly infection.

[5] Invaders Now! (5 issues, 2010-11), Christos Gage and Alex Ross. After this establishing flashback, the storyline picks up with a modern-day re-appearance of the deadly infection. Arkus, the Golden Age Vision, must rally the existing Invaders to counter the threat. Another nice tidbit in issue #2 comes in a remark by modern-day Union Jack, inferring that the Invaders’ war exploits were featured in MU’s version of Ken Burns’ WWII documentary.

[6] Wolfgang von Strucker first appeared in publication history as a Nazi officer in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #5 (Jan. 1964, two month’s before Cap’s Silver Age reintroduction). He reappeared as the leader of Hydra in Fury’s SHIELD stories, beginning in Strange Tales #155 (May 1967).

[7] Marvel Universe #1-3 (June-Aug 1978). The series includes brief summaries of Cap, Torch, Submariner origins (via reflections by Betty Dean, Phineas Horton, Gen. Phillips). Doom appears as the bandaged man, normal in “present.” The “bandaged” Doom seems to be a cross-over with an Invaders storyline from issues #32-33 (1978).

Up Next:  More modern stories that “look back” at Cap in WWII!

Posted in Comics | Leave a comment

“Making Sense of Things” – understanding the world through senses and experience

This is the third part of a six-week program, “Worldview as the L.E.N.S. of Life,” given at Life Community Church in Mahomet, Illinois

A major shift in worldview during the Classical Age in the West can be traced to a single sentence, purportedly uttered by Greek philosopher Xenophanes (d. 475 bc): “Men have created the gods in their own image.”

The rejection of “the gods” as mythical realities was certainly not as abrupt as this. Ancient cultures long continued to revere mythic deities, but more as a matter of civil pride than of actual worship. If we no longer look to the heavens and our “gods” for our story, what’s next? Simply look around you and shape your “Story” around the things you can actually experience (touch, taste, smell, hear, see). This is the beginning of what we now call “science-based” worldviews: materialism & naturalism

“Science” comes from Latin skiente “to learn.” There’s no doubt God created us with intellectual curiousity and the ability to learn from our environment. The Big Question is: can we learn all there is to know about the human identity, condition, destiny only through experience and our senses?

“Natural philosophy” in many civilizations challenged imaginative stories and supernatural explanations as the valid ways of understanding the “real” world. Two big questions to begin with were:

  • Is there a basic substance everything is made of? If so, what is it? (the beginning of materialism)
  • Is there a constant order to everything? Or is there constant change? (the beginning of naturalism)

At first, though, the new “natural” and “material” stories were just as imaginative as the old ones. Basic elements (earth, wind, water, fire) or essences (phelm, blood, bile). By the 5th C. bc, Greek thinkers were getting little more sophisticated in their considerations:

  • Parmenides (c. 515-450) viewed matter as an essential, unchanging substance. Our perception of change in the natural world reflected changing conditions, not changes in substances themselves.
  • His contemporary Heraclitus (c. 535-475) viewed change itself as the constant. We draw conclusions from experience, then look for the universal order (logos!) that transcends the change.
  • Democritus (c. 460-370) with his “atom theory” reduced all reality to matter alone. All things can be divided until reaching an indivisible “building block.” These atoms were the essences of reality.
  • Aristotle (384-322) centered his metaphysics what he called the four causes of being (“causal explanations” of being). The material cause of a thing is its physical properties. The formal cause is the structure or design. The efficient cause is the catalyst or acting element. The final cause is the ultimate purpose for which a thing exists.

If the material/natural world is all there is, that reality determines how should we live. Three famous Hellenistic “schools” of philosophy (c. 300 bc to 300 ad) offered these possibilities:

  • Epicureans—life is to be enjoyed; the greatest good is pleasure (a hedonistic extreme)
  • Stoics—life is to be endured; the greatest good is perseverance (a fatalistic extreme)
  • Cynics—life is as it is; there is not greatest good; it’s all up to me! (an existential extreme)

The triumph of Catholic Christianity in the West restored the importance of spiritual realities, but in the context of Medieval dualism (suffering on earth, reward in heaven). The subsequent cultural and religious challenges of the Renaissance and Reformation, in different ways, shifted focus to man himself and the desire to bring “heaven” down to earth through humanism, the arts, individual faith, and personal piety.

In the 17th-18th centuries, pendulum shifted back toward materialism and naturalism with the “Scientific Revolution.” Three important figures give us a framework for what becomes a “scientistic” worldview:

  • Bacon’s scientific method—science will help us explain all things (modern empiricism)
  • Descartes’ universal method—reason will help us understand all things (modern rationalism)
  • Newton’s universal laws—mathematical precision will help us control all things (modern physics)

Darwin’s theory of evolution (19th C.) was the turning point toward a fully materialist, naturalistic, “scientistic” worldview. Naturalism focuses on what can be gleaned only by experience using the senses, leading ultimately to science as a primary foundation for explaining the world and the materialist presumption that only physical substances and forces constitute “reality”.

Is this all there is? Let’s think Biblically about what the material, natural world is created for and what role experience is supposed to play in our “understanding”!

We know from Genesis that God created the “heavens and the earth”—creation consists of both a natural/material reality and a super-natural/immaterial reality (and that is was created “good”). He created humanity “from the dust of the ground” but also “in His image & likeness” (and he breathed life into us—Spirit is immaterial!)

So our IDENTITY and the CONDITION of life consists of both a natural/material reality and a super-natural/immaterial reality. How does God use our embodiment in the natural/material world for our good

  1. To make Himself known to us (Romans 1: 18-20)

“God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”

  1. To provide sustenance and vocation (Genesis 1-2)

God placed the first humans in a garden “and caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God gave them charge to work it and watch over it and to be fruitful: “multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”

  1. To allow us to learn! Proverbs 15 tells us “The discerning heart seek knowledge,” but it also extends a number of cautions into that process lest we be consumed by hubris and think ourselves equal to God. We don’t want to be like the people described by Paul to Timothy as “always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

4. To give us a reason to look to Him in the struggles of life (Genesis 2, Job, Ecclesiates)

  • The natural/material world is cursed because of the fall (consequences of disobedience)
  • Our faith will always be tested (can we say with Job, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him”)
  • All of our “worldly” experiences and achievements, while often beneficial, are ultimately insufficient in providing fullness of meaning and purpose
  • But there is hope! In John 16 Jesus promises, “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

The World in its present form has always been “passing away.” It is not where we are called to look for eternal truths or for answers to questions about meaning, purpose, destiny. Remember the admonition in Col. 3: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Posted in Worldviews | Leave a comment

Three More Questions

This post originated as the Commencement Speech I delivered May 19 to the Graduating Class of 2018 at Judah Christian High School, where I teach.  These graduating Seniors were in my Worldviews class.

I am honored to have one last opportunity to share some thoughts with you on this momentous occasion.  We’ve spent a lot of time in class this year wrestling with “the Big Questions of Life”:

  • Who Am I? Why am I here?
  • What gives meaning to life?
  • Is there a way we “ought” to live?
  • And most importantly . . . do grades really matter?

I hope you’ve come away from the year with confidence that there are, indeed, real and true answers to these questions:

  • You are a unique human being created in God’s image and likeness, placed purposefully in this particular place and time to reflect and proclaim His glory.
  • Life is a gift from God, and you will find fullness of purpose in loving Him—and everyone you encounter–with all of your mind, heart, soul, and strength.
  • A life well-lived is sown in faith, rooted in truth, cultivated in virtue, and evidenced in fruit. What does God require of you? To act justly, love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with Him.

As for grades . . . well, we all know the answer to that one J.   The good news is that you are all here today, prepared and equipped for the journey ahead. Now I’d like to set before you three more “Big Questions” that will shape the rest of your life. They are questions Jesus asked his own disciples. Each was asked in a particular context, for a specific purpose, and with an important lesson in mind. I think they each also have a fitting application for you –- and for all of us—here and now.

By the time of what we call Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’s disciples had been following his public ministry for more than a year. They had witnessed him performing miracles. Listened to his teaching. Learned how to fast and how to pray. Yet at the end of this amazing discourse on how to live out the Gospel, Jesus says to everyone gathered there, including his disciples, in Luke 6 . . .

“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?

 He follows this question with a familiar illustration of two men. The one who “Hears My words, and acts on them builds his house on a firm foundation. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.”

“But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great!”

Of course, Jesus isn’t just offering advice on good construction techniques. He want his followers to know that a profession of faith in Him brings you life, but obedient faithfulness to Him builds your life upon the firm foundation of His truth. You will need that foundation to weather the storms of life and stand firm against the lies that try to shake your faith.

Jesus’s next “Big Question” comes in Matthew 16 after an encounter with the Pharisees & Saducees, who come to him asking for a sign. Jesus knows what they are really testing Him, looking for proof that he is who he claims to be.

Later, when he’s alone with his disciples Jesus warns, “Watch out and beware of the yeast (or the leaven) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” This confuses them. Why is he talking about bread? I can see them bickering about who forgot to bring the bread this time!

I imagine Jesus shaking his head and reminding them what happened last time there was no bread. And besides, he must have explained, that’s not what I was talking about anyway! Jesus wasn’t telling them to beware of the yeast in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Then Jesus suddenly seems to change the subject entirely, asking, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples offer various responses, but then he drives the question home:

“But you,” who do you say that I am?”

 Peter responds, with his famous confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” Jesus commends his faith and pledges to build His Church upon the Rock of Truth expressed in Peter’s words. More than that—He promises that the very Gates of Hades will not overpower that Truth.

Now, by implication, we come back to the Pharisees & Sadducees. This phrase “Gates of Hades” is a metaphor for the powerful strongholds of this world that stand against the Truth of the Gospel. We’ve learned a lot this year about some of these strongholds. One of them is the need to have proof before we believe Jesus is who He says he is. Another is the idea that following the rules or doing good things without a repentant heart is “good enough.”

You will encounter strongholds such as these all of your life—we all do. As part of His Church, God is calling you to speak truth into these lies. Your ability to do so with confidence and power rests squarely on how you answer this question.

Who do you say Jesus is?

A good example? Yes, but not enough. A help in time of need? Of course, but still not enough. He is the Christ, the anointed one, God’s only Son, sent to save the world and restore God’s Kingdom. He calls each of you to this great work.

Which brings me to the third “Big Question” for today. After his Resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples on several occasions. In John 21, he finds a few of them returning from an unsuccessful fishing trip.   Watching from the shore, Jesus calls out, “Try again.” This seems familiar, they fishermen must have thought. They are not quite sure who the stranger on the shore was, but that nagging familiarity prompts them to listen and act. The net fills with fish, and they immediately realize who’s talking to them—it’s Jesus!

As you leave this place and the daily presence of “Jesus stuff,” you may at times feel yourself distanced from God. That’s a good time to listen and act when familiar old things remind you of His Presence. Respond to that urge to pray at the start of the day (for good measure, throw in a Pledge and Psalm 67!). Stay in fellowship with other believers, even though you no longer have to go to chapel. When you encounter some profound “Big Question” in life, write a thought paper!

Back to our story. Jesus prepares breakfast for the disciples, then asks Peter three times:

“Do you love Me?”

Peter responds each time, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.”  Jesus says back to him each time: “Feed My sheep.”

Now first, remember that Peter had previously denied Jesus how many times? Three. And Jesus asks the question how many times? Three. This is a reminder to us that God’s Grace is limitless, and his love for us is great. Even when we fail Him, He is always prepared to restore us. But there is another important point to the question.

God has given each of you unique gifts and abilities to use in service to His Kingdom. You may be a gifted leader, as Peter was. For you, “Feed my sheep” means “Lead my people.” Some of you are creative, some are compassionate, some are wise, some are encouragers. God is asking you: “Do you love Him? Truly? Unconditionally? Faithfully? Then, empowered by that love, use your gifts, talents, and skills to be a blessing to others. Feed His sheep.

We here at school, along with your parents, family, and other significant people in your life, have all done our best to establish a firm foundation to build upon. Now it is your turn to build. Do so in faithful obedience, loving service, and confidence that “He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Be blessed, be a blessing, and – as our friend Rich Mullins always said – “Be God’s”

Posted in Worldviews | Leave a comment

“Once Upon a Time”: understanding the world through the imagination

This is the second part of a six-week program, “Worldview as the L.E.N.S. of Life,” given at Life Community Church in Mahomet, Illinois

Before we had science, philosophy, theology, or Oprah to help us understand ourselves and the world around us, what did we use? We used our imaginations. We told stories. We created myths.

All human civilizations begin with a “myths,” stories used to explain who we are, why we are here (and how we got here), and why the world is the way it is. We imagine immortal beings that are the source of all things (and are in control of all things). We use their interactions with one another, with the world (and us) as a way to explain everything. Ultimately, we develop religious practices (rites) and beliefs (doctrines) around these stories.

So the wisdom of the modern world tells us. And of course, modern science and philosophy tell us such stories are untrue. But what if it really is the other way around? What if there is really One True Story given to us by the One True God so we could “see” and know Him (and all of reality) “through the eyes of our hearts”? What if the Gospel is the One True Myth?

In the video below, from EWTN’s “Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings:’ A Catholic Worldview,” J.R.R. Tolkien discusses the “true myth” of the Gospel with his friend Jack (C.S.) Lewis.  Based on an actual interchange between the two prior to (and instrumental in) Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.

Ancient Myths are rooted in culture and language and both reflect and project characteristics of those cultures. For example, mythical stories of agricultural societies would center on fertility, seasonal cycles, harvest offerings. Woodland societies would develop myths that are more natural and elemental, featuring animal spirits. Myths of seafaring societies focus on wind and water and longing for far-off lands.

Myths incorporate narrative archetypes (symbolic representations that provide motivation and meaning)

Myth and religion in early human history are intricately connected; both use stories to provide imaginative explanations for human origins and reveal deep truths about the human experience. What we want to consider is what they tell us about the Three Big Worldview Questions: Human Identity, Human Condition, Human Destiny (see the last post for a reminder if needed).

Most ancient myths begin with conflict (often murder) among deities prior to creation. Humanity is created as “puppets to serve the gods and tend to their needs. It is their task to tend to needs of material world and build temples to honor and appease the gods in their spiritual realm.” (see “A Tale of Two Worldviews,” Hearts and Minds podcast, Fr. John Oliver http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hearts_and_minds/a_tale_of_two_worldviews)

  • Man is created as an afterthought; the universe was not created for man, but for self-serving deities.
  • This served the interests of the powerful and elite in ancient societies. They come to see themselves as occupying the same position in the material world as the gods occupied in the spiritual world.
  • Society is divided between the powerful and the powerless. Only the former deserved any sort of life after death, and even for them eternity was reserved for royalty or the most noble/heroic.

The impact of this view of the human condition is all-too apparent in history: justification of power and privilege in a variety of forms. Royal families claim to rule by “divine right.” Industrial and commercial capitalists oppress and exploit workers. Darwin’s theory of natural selection becomes the basis for a “survival of the fittest” mentality in society.

By contrast, the Biblical story of creation depicts Father, Word, and Spirit working in unity to craft a cohesive reality—both material and spiritual–and declaring it “good.” This “Great Story” of human identity, condition, and destiny begins both in Old (Genesis 1) and New (John 1) Testaments.

“In the beginning God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” And, “In the beginning was the Word, [Logos, the pre-incarnate Christ] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.

In Genesis, God [the Father] proclaims, “Let there be light.” In John, we are told of Christ, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.”  God [the Father] continues, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . . So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God . . . male and female.”

This story gives us a quite different view of humanity and our place in the created order than that of other ancient “myths” (again, from Fr. John Oliver):

  • Man is created in the image and likeness of God as the “crown of creation; the apex, not the afterthought.”
  • Man is a distinctive part of creation, endowed with a glory found only in him.
  • All people matter, particularly the powerless. In fact, the worth of the least is emphasized.

The story goes on from here into a classical catastrophe as humanity falls from grace through disobedience to our gracious God. Disobedience brings sin into the world, banishment from God’s presence, and, ultimately, death. Yet even when we reject God’s good plan, he does not abandon us.

To borrow a word from J.R.R. Tolkien, God comes to us by putting a beautiful eucatastrophe into motion. He makes a covenant first with one man, then with one people, extending it through them to all of humanity. The Logos becomes incarnate among us, showing us the Father and paying the price for our disobedience. In His death and resurrection comes the promise of restoration and redemption—not only for humanity, but for the human condition as well. He indeed “brings life.”

Romans 8 fills out the picture of the human identity by assuring us we “are not [merely] in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you . . . . And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through[d] His Spirit who lives in you.”

This truth of “the reality of all things” was, Colossians 1 says, a “mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

As beings created in “the image and likeness” of God, we can experience true knowledge of Him, not just information about Him, and enjoy full relationship with Him. We find our identity in Him and find meaning and purpose in life in light of His nature. Ultimately, we find eternal salvation by His grace and have the promise of complete restoration of all! This is the Story God gives us, and it is this Story we are called to take to a world that so desperately needs to be reminded who they really are.

Posted in Worldviews | 1 Comment

What’s Your Story? Worldview as the L.E.N.S. of Life

“Whether we realize it or not, all of us possess a worldview. We make one of two basic assumptions. We view the universe as an accident or we assume an intelligence beyond the universe who gives the universe order, and for some of us, meaning to life. ”                — Dr. Armand Nicoli, The Question of God

This post comes from the first in a series of talks I’ve recently given on the topic of worldview at my local church.  This series has grown out of 20 years of experience teaching a class for high school Seniors.  It has been a challenge to boil an entire school year’s worth of material into a six week series of 30-40 minute talks.  It is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, though–and it has been a great blessing!

Let’s begin with the word itself. 

Dallas Seminary professor David Naugle, author of Worldview:  History of a Concept (2002), locates the origins of the term “worldview” in German philosophy’s Weltanshauung (Kant, Fichte, Shelling, Hegel, et. Al.), a word used to describe “a set of beliefs that underlie and shape all human thought and action.”  Christian applications of the concept first appear in the writings of Scottish Presbyterian theologian James Orr (1844-1913) in The Christian View of God and the World (1893).

Dutch Reformed statesman, theologian, and educator Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), addressed the topic systematically in his 1907 Stone Lectures at Princeton (revisited in the 1998 book, Creating a Christian Worldview).  Finally, the concept gained a wider popular audience through the late-2oth century ministry of American Presbyterian theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer (1912-84) and his classic work, How Should We Then Live?

A good working definition of “worldview” might be:  a defining and interpretive narrative used to explain/understand the world and your place in it.  It “reflects, interprets, and assigns value to reality, providing a model of the world that guides in the world” (Fr. John Oliver, “Hearts & Minds” podcast). Your worldview does not just inform, it motivates and directs your beliefs and actions. “How we see determines who we are” (Fr. John again).  Prov. 23:7 (NASB): “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

Listen to Fr. John Oliver’s podcast episodes on Worldview at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hearts_and_minds/the_christian_worldview

and http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hearts_and_minds/a_tale_of_two_worldviews

Here’s my personal definition:  your worldview is the “story” you believe about who you are, why things are the way things are, and what really matters in life. All worldviews address three “Big Questions” about the human experience, either explicitly or through passive implication:

  • The Question of Human Identity (Who are we? What makes us human? Where do we come from?)
  • The Question of Human Condition (Why are we here? How should we live? Who decides things?)
  • The Question of Human Destiny (What gives us meaning, purpose, direction? Where are we going?)

The Worldview “L.E.N.S.

Keeping in mind the fact that worldview not only informs but also motivates human behavior, worldview education becomes a tool for “navigating the complexities of modern life” (the tagline for one of my favorite online journals, http://mercatornet.com). I see this task as a four-step process.

LEARN the human story in order to understand the human condition (cultural literacy), so we can . . .

ENGAGE the world from an informed perspective (call to action), helping us understand . . .

NEEDS that exist in your sphere of influence (call to compassion), so we can propose and pursue . . .

SOLUTIONS that truly understand the problem and offer genuine hope to people (call to recovery), allowing us to be “salt and light” in the world!

Too many times Christians tend to start at the end of this process, pointing the finger at what’s wrong with the world before taking the time (and doing the hard work of study) to learn why things are the way they are.  True and lasting solutions to cultural and social problems must come from understanding how things got to be the way they are first.

Consider the example of Paul in Athens in Acts chapter 17.  Before telling the gathered philosophers on Mars Hill where they were wrong and how things “really were,” he first took the time to observe and understand their culture and history.  He begins by recognizing their piety, then uses that as a starting point for telling them the true story behind their “unknown god.”

The call to be “salt and light” to the world begins with being informed and engaged agents of cultural influence and change.  We need to keep in mind the story we know about why things are the way they are so we can help our culture recover its true story.  J.R.R. Tolkien, in his essay “On Fairy Stories,” speaks to this need:  “We need recovery—a regaining of a clear view. I do not say ‘seeing things as they are’ and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say ‘seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them’—as things set apart from ourselves.”

We also must be steadfastly committed to the Biblical account of the human story as the truth about the reality of all things. It is not merely one religious interpretation of reality among many others. We do not get to decide the nature of reality ourselves; we find the reality of God in His Creation and in His Word, and we align ourselves with it.

The Biblical account of the human story communicates God’s true intentions for humanity from Genesis through the Gospel and the Great Commission. Human disobedience allowed sin to set humanity on a path of progressive (and often destructive) self-determination. God’s grace provides the only means of personal redemption, cultural recovery, and the recognition of His Sovereignty over all things.

Finally, the Biblical account of God’s revelation of Himself and His Truth through the Jewish Witness and the Christian Gospel is faithfully depicted and foundationally essential. Institutional Judaism and Christianity, as “world religions,” express and extend God’s revelation into culture. But we must also humbly recognize that, because of the fallen nature of the world and their human leaders, religious institutions (and individual believers) have often failed to represent God’s Truth faithfully. Such failures do not, however, negate the Truth of the biblical account of God’s revelation.

We cannot allow fears that our culture is beyond redemption to cloud our vision for the people all around who have lost their story.  The challenge of Romans 1:16 must always be before us:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” 

Because God created us in his image and likeness, we are blessed to share in the multi-faceted gifts we’ve been given by Him so we may fully know and engage our world.  Each week in this series we will look at various ways knowing and embracing the Truth of God’s Story about the human identity, condition, and destiny.  Coming up . . .

  1. Once Upon a Time” – understanding the world through the imagination
  2. Making Sense of Things” – understanding the world through senses and experience
  3. What’s on Your Mind?” – understanding the world through reason, logic & intellect
  4. How Do You Feel About That?” – understanding the world through feelings and emotions
  5. Truth Be Told” – understanding how the Gospel resonates with and redeems all the above and how we, as the Church, all called to be “salt and light,” bearing and embodying God’s Truth in our fallen world.
Posted in Worldviews | 1 Comment

War Stories (Part 2): Enter the Invaders!

This post is part of an on-going series, The Odyssey of Captain America, which follows Steve Rogers’ life and times as the Living Legend.  This segment continues to look at modern-era, retro-continuity stories that relate Cap’s earliest WW II experiences.

A new window into Cap’s WWII action opens with Roy Thomas’ ambitious efforts to more clearly connect and integrate Cap’s “Golden Age” and “Marvel Age” storylines. “I’ve been waiting 30 years to do this one,” Thomas wrote in a commentary piece. “After all, hadn’t Captain America been created solely to protect our shores from the Nazis and the Japanese—to serve as a living symbol of the Land of the Free?”[1] Except for the first few issues, the action during the entire run of Invaders comics takes place during 1942. We’ll highlight all of their adventures together at once, then turn to other Invaders stories that take place later in the war.

Giant-Size Invaders #1 opens “December 22, 1941” with Cap and Bucky fighting saboteurs on the docks near Washington, D.C. FBI agents inform Cap that “Dr. Anderson” (from the ToS #63 origin story) is dying and needs his help. Following this is a flashback of Cap’s origin story (drawn largely from ToS #63).[2] Cap and Bucky meet Anderson at Walter Reed hospital, where he relates the story of his discovery of a Nazi “super-soldier” program, which has produced a new threat: “Master Man.” Cap and Bucky are joined by the Human Torch, Toro, and Submariner to fight the menace; they save Winston Churchill, who dubs the team the “Invaders.”

    G-S Invaders #1 (Frank Robbins,  John Romita, G. Saladino;  Invaders #1 (Romita & Saladino)

These proto-Avengers reassemble in late Dec. 1941 in response to seeming Teutonic versions of the Nordic Gods, who turn out to be aliens (#1-2)! In the early weeks of 1942 (#3-4) they save Churchill again, this time from a rogue Atlantean super-soldier dubbed U-Man. Churchill addressed a joint session of Congress Dec. 26, 1941 and traveled through the U. S. and Canada for four weeks; so this must be sometime before he returned to England. We also get a glimpse of Namor’s volatility here when he roughs up a U-boat captain to get information. As Cap stops him, Namor protests, “But – he’s a lousy Nazi!” The response is classic Cap:

And we’re no better if we start using their methods—beating up defenseless prisoners. We’re in the was, Namor, and we’re going to win it—but lets make sure we’re still the ‘good guys’ when we do! Or else—we don’t deserve to win.

Enraged, Namor goes after the renegade Atlantean himself, with a reluctant Bucky in tow.[3]

The Red Skull returns in issue #5. FDR remarks at a briefing, “he was presumed dead,” which connects nicely with the Skull’s last Golden Age appearance in CAC #7 (Oct. 1941). The Skull captures Cap, Torch, Toro, and Namor, leaving Bucky behind as “of little use.” In a story that weaves through Marvel Premier #29-30 and Invaders #6, Thomas reintegrates several Golden Age heroes into the “modern” Marvel Universe as members of the home-front “Liberty Legion.”[4] MP #30 introduces NY Yankees batboy Fred Davis, who plays “Bucky” in a ruse to lure the Red Skull to his defeat (and will later figure prominently in Thomas’s reworking of Cap & Bucky’s end-of-the-war “demise”).[5]

     Invaders #6 (Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, Saladino); Marvel Premier #30 (Kirby, Frank Giacoia)

In Fantastic Four Annual #11 (1976), the FF travel back in time to “Early 1942,” arriving in the middle of a meeting in London in which the Invaders are being briefed about the “Nazis planning something big” in occupied France. A container of Vibranium, sent to the past by Doom’s time machine, has given Germany a technology advantage which they will use to win the war (alternate future/time paradox and all that!). The Invaders team up with the FF, traveling to France and encountering Baron Zemo. This story depicts Cap’s first battle with Baron Zemo, resulting in the “Adhesive X” incident that permanently fixed Zemo’s hood to his face. The FF return to the present having retrieved only half of the missing Vibranium. It’s up to Ben Grimm, the Ever-Lovin’ Thing, to return to 1942 himself to finish the job (Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 and MTIO #20 (both 1976). This time Grimm teams up with the Liberty Legion to battle Master Man, Warrior Woman, U-Man, and SkyShark, stopping the Nazis from developing a prototype “Flying Swastika” sky fortress.

The Invaders saga moves to England in mid 1942 (#7-11), introducing the original Union Jack (Lord Montomery Falsworth, a member of a WWI team called “Freedom’s Five) and his daughter Jacqueline. Falsworth’s brother Jonathan turns out to be the Nazi super-vampire Baron Blood. When Jacqueline is bitten by the vampire, a blood transfusion from the Human Torch interacts with the vampire venom in her bloodstream, giving her super-speed. She takes the costumed identity “Spitfire” and eventually joins the Invaders. Baron Blood is impaled, but Lord Falsworth’s legs are crushed, ending his brief career as the first Union Jack in the Invaders.[6]

       Fantastic Four Annual #11 (Kirby, Sinnott); Invaders Annual #1 (Alex Shomburg)

After travelling to the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland to rescue a Jewish boy who has the ability to turn into the super-human Golem of Hebrew myth (#12-13), the team returns to London and encounter a group of British superheroes called the Crusaders. The team includes one Yank–The Spirit of ’76–and the diminutive Dyno-mite, later revealed to be Roger Aubrey, a close friend of the missing Falsworth heir, Brian (#14-15).[7] The team’s next adventure (#16-21) takes them to Germany, where they face Master Man, his new “mate,” Warrior Woman, and Hitler himself! This storyline is precipitated when Nazis kidnap G.I. Biljo White, who turns out to be the creator of a popular Cap knock-off comic, Major Victory. Since that hero’s origin story was a thinly-veiled imitation of Cap’s own, seems “the Nazis may suspect that a comic book artist . . . knows something about the carefully-guarded Super-Soldier Formula!”[8]

Thomas took advantage of a summer Annual to return to events first depicted in a “pre-Invaders” time travel story he’d written in Avengers #71 (Dec. 1969). both stories repr. in GS Avengers/Invaders #1, 2008). In the original Avengers story, Cap, Black Panther, and Yellow Jacket travel back in time to Paris in the summer of 1942 (“1941” in the Avengers story), where they battle Namor, the Human Torch, and—Captain America! This time the story is told from the Invaders’ point of view, reconciling, as much as possible, every little detail which had not been considered in 1969 (including the mistaken dating)![9]

The subject of Japanese-American internment during the war is tackled when the team travels to California to seek medical treatment for the wounded Toro (#25-26). When they find most qualified surgeon for the task (a Japanese-American) and his family have been sent to the camps, Cap rips into the openly racist camp C.O.: “These people–herded here like so many animals! While we’ve been off fighting the Fascists, has our own country taken a page from our enemies?” With Bucky and Toro remaining state-side, Cap, Torch, and Namor return to Europe, reconnecting with Spitfire and Union Jack to confront a new menace: Komtur, the Teutonic Knight. Meanwhile, Bucky and Toro form a new team of youngsters called “Kid Commandos” and Hitler finds a way to summon Thor (yes, the actual MU God of Thunder) to aid the Nazi cause! (#28-34).[10]

The Liberty Legion returns for a run (#35-37) in which Golden Age heroes the Whizzer and Miss America replace Union Jack and Spitfire on the team. A new Nazi menace, the Iron Cross, also makes his first appearance. The first Invaders series winds up (#38-41) in something of a mega “All Star” bout featuring the now “All-Winners Squad”-styled team of Americans against Baron Blood, Master Man, Warrior Woman, Merrano, and a new Asian villainess called Lady Lotus. Nothing like going out swinging!

       Invaders #15 (Kirby, Sinnott)                                Alter Ego #20 (Al Milgrom)

“For yours truly,” Thomas later reflected, “The Invaders was always, despite its World War II setting, a giant stage on which almost any drama could be played—or any type of homage be paid to heroes and/or villains of yesteryear . . . .”[11] For Captain America, it foreshadowed his later role as “The First Avenger,” placing him in a team context for the first time (chronologically, at least).

[1] Giant-Size Invaders #1 (June 1975). The Invaders series was more than just an imaginative presentation of war-time action. Thomas determined to bring together the “old-style long-on-action-short-on-sense” style of stories of the Golden Age with the “sensational super-villains which are such an integral part of today’s comics scene.” Yet he was also very specific about maintaining flexibility in the connections between past and present. Events in Golden Age stories may have “actually happened, more or less, [but] we’re ordinarily not going to consider ourselves bound by anything which occurred in the old Timely mags unless we also verify it in the ‘Invaders’ tales themselves” (he even specifically mentions a story in CAC #9 (Dec. 1941; though he writes #7) to head off objections to his dating the first Invaders story on December 22, 1941). Still, few people (except, perhaps, Ed Brubaker) have done more give Golden Age characters contemporary relevance. Early issues of Invaders are peppered with Thomas’s wonderful “Nostalgic Notes on the Golden Age of Comics.”

[2] Thomas also “reconciled the ‘Dr. Reinstein’ of CAC #1 and the ‘Dr. Erskine’ . . . of ToS #63” in this Invaders story (“World War II Forever (But Only In Comic Books!), Alter Ego #20 (Jan. 2003), p. 6. In this article, Thomas provides many insights into the creative process behind the Invaders, his various reinterpretations of Golden Age heroes, as well as a general synopsis of each story in the title’s 41-issue run.

[3]Invaders #3 (Jan. 1976), Thomas. The opening scene of issue #4, with Cap, Torch and Toro in “hot” pursuit across a D.C. Army Air Corps base, is later recalled by journalist Ben Urich in Conspiracy #1 (Feb. 1998).

[4] The Liberty Legion was formed in June 1942, according to CA:Patriot #1 (2010). When Cap makes specific reference to the Patriot in Invaders #5, Bucky protests: “Aw, get serious, Cap! He may wear your colors, but he’s not in your league!” Cap chastises him: “They’re not ‘my colors’, lad. They belong to 134,000,000 Americans.” This issue also shows Bucky and Toro reading early issues of Captain America Comics and Marvel Mystery Comics. Bucky points to two defects in the stories: “they’ve got a lot of details all wrong” and “they have us fighting most of our battles here in the states.”

[5] After Cap and Bucky’s “death’” near the war’s end, Davis will ultimately become the new Bucky for real along side William Naslund and Jeff Mace in the late 1940s (see “Post-War Caps” below). Davis also will later join the V-Batallion and become a member of the revived Penance Council in 1951. For more on the reintegration of Golden Age Heroes in the “modern” MU, see Appendix 1.

[6] In the midst of this arc (issue #10), Thomas makes a direct connection between Cap’s Invaders activity and an actual Golden Age story. Reflecting on Lord Falsworth’s recent brush with death, Cap recalls “The Reaper . . . the Nazi foe [Bucky] and I fought months ago back in the states.” Noting that while the “hard facts” of the encounter remained classified, “A basically accurate account of it is going to be published state-side, any day now. The comic book version’ll be called – “Captain America Battles the Reaper!” The remainder of the story reprints the original tale from CAC #22 (Jan. 1943). Thomas will also use the Invaders platform to reinterpret Toro’s origin (#22) and reprint (in #24) an early team-up between Torch and Namor from MMC #17 (March 1941).

[7] In his previously mentioned Alter Ego article, Thomas the Crusaders were designed with specific “Golden Age lineages” in mind. The Spirit of ’76, “clearly based on Nedor’s Fighting Yank,” will be used again by Thomas just a few months later in his classic What If? #4 reinterpretation of Cap’s 1945 “demise” (Aug. 1977; see more in “Post War Caps” below). Brian Falsworth is revealed to be Golden Age hero the Destroyer in Invaders #18 (he then becomes second Union Jack in #21, and Aubrey takes up the role of the Destroyer). See more details on Thomas’s reinterpretation of these characters in Appendix 1.

[8] Biljo White, an actual artist and friend of Thomas’s, was not only featured in the story as a fictional version of himself, he even drew the artwork of Major Victory’s origin story in a full-age “comic within a comic” (#16). Major Victory was an actual Golden Age hero who appeared in 1941-42 issues of Chesler’s Dynamic Comics and Yankee Comics (as related in Thomas’s Alter Ego article).

[9] Invaders Annual #1 (1977). This tale fits between events in Invaders #15 & #16 and includes a nice editorial from Thomas carefully explaining the connections with the original Avengers story.

[10] Issue #29 includes a flashback to Cap & Bucky’s first encounter with Komtur in late 1941, “some weeks before there was a team called the Invaders.” The Kid Commandos include a Japanese-American girl (“Golden Girl”) and an African-American boy (“Human Top”). The Thor encounter ends with the Thunder God coming to his senses, but wiping the memory of his appearance from everyone (albeit with a nod to Avengers future): “’Twas not meant that Thor should walk amongst mortals at this time. Mayhap one day, ere long, as ‘twas prophesied . . . .” The story also features a cryptic appearance by time travelling Victor von Doom, his face wrapped in bandages.

[11] “World War II Forever . . .” Alter Ego (Jan. 2003).

Posted in Comics | Leave a comment

War Stories (Part 1): Cap Meets Logan, Fury, & the Howlers

This post is part of an on-going series, The Odyssey of Captain America, which follows Steve Rogers’ life and times as the Living Legend.  This segment continues to look at modern-era, retro-continuity stories that relate Cap’s earliest WW II experiences.

James “Logan” Howlett is certainly one of the most enigmatic figures of the MU. His pre-Wolverine past, shrouded in mystery, includes late 1941 encounters with Cap that were first revealed in X-Men #268 (1990) and then in a story arc in the Wolverine: Origins series in 2007. The two first meet sometime before November in the southeast Asian city of Madripoor, where Logan was living at the time. In this story, they wind up working together to rescue Natasha Romanov, a child at the time, who’d been kidnapped by Nazis (led by Baron Strucker) working with the Hand.[1]

Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_268   Wolverine_Origins_Vol_1_16Uncanny X-Men #268, Jim Lee Cover              Wolverine:  Origins #16, Marko Djurdjevic cover

After recalling the story of Natasha Romanov’s rescue, Logan turns to a second meeting between the two, which took place in November 1941. “Operation Blueboy” was a secret mission in North Africa that is presented as Cap’s first experience leading soldiers in the war (which the U.S. has not yet even joined!). There’s still more of Steve Rogers than Captain America in this Cap, whose recently-adopted symbolic image and costume are initially off-putting to the “real” soldiers he’s meant to lead. Logan observes that this costumed character still needs to “earn the men’s faith as a leader.” When Bucky erupts in violence and profanity at one point, Steve chastens him: “James, let’s watch the temper, okay, pal? And the language.” (“Yeah, he really said that!” Logan adds in an ironic aside).

Wolverine: Origins #17-18, Marko Djurdjevic covers

This story is significant on a number of levels beyond depicting the first Cap-Logan meeting. The fates of these two old soldiers are poignantly contrasted, and Logan is shown simultaneously ridiculing Steve’s image and inexperience while marveling at his noble character, physical prowess, and growing command of respect. Sgt. Nick Fury is introduced in what appears to be another “first meeting” (until this, their first meeting has always been presented as taking place in 1942 in Europe).[2]

Bucky’s “darker side” as a high-trained commando is established, and he’s shown pursuing solo aspects of the mission under separate orders he tells Steve, “you just can’t be privy to,” meaning the symbolic CA image must be kept above reproach. (In another aside, Logan reflects, “Bucky . . . had what it took to get the job done. Any job. He was like me.”). Finally, Steve and Bucky meet Baron Zemo (already wearing his signature hood) for the first time—the Nazi scientist who will orchestrate their demise at the war’s end.[3]

Cap and Bucky are also shown to be in North Africa with Nick Fury and his Howling Commandosjust before Christmas, 1941” (they also meet up with the Howlers after the mission (as Steve & Bucky) in a hotel in Casablanca). They are assigned to a new mission with the Howlers, but en route over the Atlantic their transport plane is shot down. Bucky saves cap from drowning, but has to cut his shield away in the process and it sinks to the bottom. The group manages to make it to shore, where Namor appears from the sea and flings Cap’s shield with a thunderous “Imperious Rex!” “One of our allies,” Cap remarks to an incredulous Fury. “Uh-huh,” the Sarge replies. “What’s next? That Human Torch fella gonna roast s’mores with Dum Dum?”

The only way out from the beach is up a sheer cliff, and after an arduous climb the run smack into Nazis. Captured. Wherever they are it’s cold. There’s snow. They bide their time, then turn the tables on their captors, don their uniforms, and continue on to wherever they were being taken. They run into a beautiful women, “The Gypsy,” Fury informs everyone, “our contact in France. She’s accompanied by an odd ensemble of seeming circus performers. The make their way into Paris to discover the target of their mission: the Red Skull. Bucky, already seen as a “sidekick mascot” by the Howlers, begins to feel pushed aside by Cap’s increasing involvement with the resistance group (particularly Marilyne, “The Gypsy”). He goes off on his own to get the Skull, only to be captured and find him selves wired to explosives on the Eiffel Tower. Cap comes to the rescue, and on New Year’s Eve the duo receive new orders. Cap gets a good-bye kiss—his first ever! He and Bucky roar off together on a motorcycle. “So . . . didja kiss her?” “Yes.” “And . . . ?” “And a gentlemen doesn’t talk about these things.”[4]

[1] Uncanny X-Men #268 (Sept. 1990, Chris Claremont) and Wolverine: Origins #16 (Oct. 2007, Daniel Way). The latter is the first issue of a story arc, “Our War,” that extends through issue #20, depicting the two meeting again shortly after this in North Africa.

[2] The classic version of Cap’s “first” meeting with Fury and the Howlers was told in SFHC #13 (1964).

[3] Newsreel footage in CA #281 (May 1983, J.M. DeMatteis) depicts Cap and Bucky battling “militarists who call themselves the Defenders” on November 22, 1941, foiling their plot to murder President Roosevelt and take control of the United States.

Mike Zeck cover

[4] CA: White (5 issues, 2015), Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The entire CA: White series is somewhat of a requiem for Bucky, narrated by Steve in the “present.” Shortly after this, according to Cap’s old war journal, on December 27, 1941, false memories about his past were implanted in his subconscious “to confuse the enemy” should he be captured (CA #247, 1980).

Posted in Comics | Leave a comment