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'How Do These Candidates Compare to My Father'?

Other Voices


October 1, 2020


Recently a local newspaper (the Altoona Mirror) featured a full-page advertisement, which insisted that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Christianity and a vote for Joe Biden is a vote for the forces of evil. Tactfully put, I think that is a most interesting opinion. My father was a pastor in the Church of the Brethren for 71 years, and what I find myself asking is, “How do these candidates compare to my father?”

One of my earliest memories is when Dad sat me on his knee and said, “What do you know about Santa Claus?” I was very young, so I answered, “Nothing,” even as I wondered, what is a Santa Claus? He asked me a few more questions, about Christmas presents and climbing down chimneys, and I didn’t know anything about any of it. Then my father said, “Well, I want you to know, there isn’t any Santa Claus. Does that make you feel bad?” Well, no, not really, seeing as how I hadn’t ever heard of Santa Claus before. Then Dad got teary-eyed, and with his voice breaking said, “I never want to lie to my kids!” I was two years old.

Dad graduated from Replogle High School in New Enterprise in 1941, and that summer he and Obie Snider were spreading manure one day, when the metal pin in the tongue of the manure spreader broke while they were going downhill. Dad heard the snap when the pin broke, and turned to look: Just then the tongue of the manure spreader rode up the back of the tractor, and embedded itself in the tractor’s steering wheel. If Dad hadn’t turned to look, he would have been impaled. That’s when my grandmother told him about how he was born: Her doctor had told her that if she didn’t have an abortion, this pregnancy would kill her. She refused, and took to her bed for the rest of her pregnancy. Surely God must have some purpose for her son’s life. After hearing that story, Dad decided to become a minister. He was the fifth of nine children.

Dad and Mother were married on Christmas Day, 1944, in the Clover Creek Church of the Brethren. The marriage was performed by her father, who was the pastor of the church. Her brother, also a minister, stood by in case my grandfather broke down, which he almost did: The youngest of his seven daughters stood before him, wearing the very same wedding dress that her mother, his wife, had worn at his own wedding. Mother died in 2009, exactly two weeks before their 65th wedding anniversary.

All through the years, in sermons and in counseling couples requesting marriage, Dad would say, “Marry someone you would rather be poor with, than be rich without.” That’s something Dad knew all about, after living on a pastor’s meager salary. He told us, “If you go to college and end up digging ditch, then college will have made you a better ditch digger.” Driving down the road, when he saw a car towing a large boat, he would often say, “There goes someone who doesn’t give enough money to church!” Sometimes household things would get broken, and couldn’t be replaced. Dad would always tell us, “People are more important than things.” Dad taught us that this is what it means, to be a Christian: People are more important than things.

So how do this year’s Presidential candidates compare to my Dad, who was a pastor for 71 years? Dad believed in telling the truth – on most occasions gently, kindly, and with as much tact as possible – even when it was uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so. He believed that his life had a purpose much greater than whatever benefitted himself. He spent all of his adult years married to the love of his life. He believed that there was much, much more to life than making money. And, most importantly, he believed that people are more important than things. I leave it to the reader to decide how the Presidential candidates compare to him.

Editor’s Note: J. William Bowser resides in Martinsburg.

The Rev. D. Luke Bowser Jr., was licensed to the ministry in the Salemville Church of the Brethren. The Rev. I. B. Kensinger taught in the Fredericksburg grade school, and was pastor at Clover Creek and Fairview congregations. Wilmer Kensinger, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, was pastor at the Tyrone Church of the Brethren.


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