Acton Institute Powerblog

Religion & Liberty: An Interview with Dolphus Weary

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Dolphus Weary has a remarkable story to tell and certainly very few can add as much insight on the issue of poverty as he does. When you read the interview, now available online in the Fall 2011 R&L, or especially his book I Ain’t Comin’ Back, you realize leaving Mississippi was his one ambition, but God called him back in order to give his life and training for the “least of these.” One of the things Weary likes to ask is “Are you going into a mission field or are you running away from a mission field?” It’s a great question we should all ask ourselves.

Historian Mark Summers returns to offer another piece commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Last issue, Summers penned “The Great Harvest: Revival in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.” In this this issue he has written an article focusing on Northern Catholics and the Catholic Church during the conflict.

David Deavel has offered a very timely review of Mitch Pearlstein’s, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation. Pearlstein focuses on the 33 percent rather than the one percent. Deavel observes:

This is the percent of children living with one parent rather than two. These children, victims of what many call ‘family fragmentation,’ start out with tremendous social and educational deficits that are hard to narrow, nevermind close. These are most often the children for whom upward mobility has stalled. Their economic well-being has led to decline in American competitiveness and also the deeper cleavages of inequality that have been so widely noted.

I reviewed the new biography of William F. Buckley, Jr. by Carl T. Bogus. This book, written by a self-described liberal, is critical of Buckley but works at achieving fairness. If you want to read a comparison of two very different biographies of Buckley, I also reviewed Lee Edwards sympathetic biography of Buckley in the Spring 2010 issue of Religion & Liberty.

The Russian philosopher and writer Vladimir Solovyov is the “In The Liberal Tradition” figure this issue. Dylan Pahman has already profiled this piece on the PowerBlog so check out his comments here.

There is more content in the issue and the next interview in R&L will be with Reformation scholar and Refo500 director Herman Selderhuis.

Finally, I just want to say learning from Dolphus Weary’s story was a spiritually enlightening experience. I read his book in one night in preparation for the interview and he is truly humble. While Weary offers a lot of insight, I believe his greatest strength is teaching and leading through example. It’s no wonder many ministries have tried to replicate what he has done and now does in Mississippi. There is something to be said for somebody who remains tied to their roots and is proud of where they come from, especially if where they come from may look hopeless by the world’s standards.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • Linda Fuller (Degelmann)

    With all due respect to Rev. Leary, I would like to correct some of his misconceptions pertaining to the housing ministry at Koinonia Christian Community which began in late 60s and continued on a worldwide scale as Habitat for Humanity.  Leary noted that houses built for poor families were given away and the program had no spiritual component causing moral decay and a ghetto in short order. There was a no interest mortgage and no profit added. This was possible due to donations for purchasing building materials and volunteers working along side the recipients. As monthly payments came in, that money was used to purchase more building materials. The idea was much more than simply build houses for the poor. It was a means by which God’s love was put in action and to build a community of faith and caring for one another. One can go back to Koinonia now 40 years later and clearly see that neither Koinonia Village or Forest Park are “ghettos.” As in neighborhoods and communities everywhere, rich or poor or in between, there are some moral issues. However, you would see most of the houses and yards are nicely kept. Considering that almost all of the families were sharecroppers and had come from miserable living conditions (no running water, holes in floor and roof, broken windows, heated with fireplace or pot belly stove, poor lighting, no closets, no insulation) to becoming homeowners joyfully leaving behind shacks that were hardly suitable for dogs much less human beings. Most of the families were already active in churches which, obviously, played a huge part in their physical as well as their physical survival. Many were an inspiration and spiritual mentors to many of the volunteers who helped build the houses including my husband Millard and myself.
    Linda Fuller (Degelmann)
    Co-Founder, Habitat for Humanity International