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Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and can...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Maybe God Didn't Notice What Twin Peaks Charter Academy Just Did To Its Valedictorian!

Yahoo posted an article today entitled "The Controversial Reason a High School Canceled Its Valedictorian's Speech" by Samantha Cowen (http://news.yahoo.com/controversial-reason-high-school-cancelled-valedictorian-speech-164016528.html). According to Ms. Cowen, "Colorado senior Evan Young was a model student. He finished his high school career with an impressive 4.5 GPA and a scholarship to Rutgers University, and he was named Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School’s valedictorian." Unfortunately (in the opinion of the school board and principal), the draft of Evan's speech made clear that he was about to reveal to the world that he had achieved all of that as a homosexual.

Apparently, this was just too much information for the school board. After an unsuccessful attempt to censor that portion of the speech (Evan refused to omit it), they decided to cancel the speech altogether at the last minute. According to the article, they issued a statement explaining that their decision was designed, "to protect the solemnity of the evening and to preserve and protect the mission of the school." Adding insult to injury, the principal contacted the young man's parents and revealed their son's sexual orientation before he had had a chance to tell them himself.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not the Almighty took notice of what happened to Evan (and whether or not "He" approved of the school's behavior), I was struck by the number and tenor of the comments this article generated on Yahoo. Many of the 3,471 comments (when I went to press), were of this nature: "Why do gay people feel the need to announce to the world their sexual preferences?" "A graduation ceremony was a very bad place to make such a confession/outing. The ceremony was about GRADUATION, NOT about being gay." "I have no problem with him being gay. But, this day wasn't about his "coming out", it wasn't JUST about him. I'm not sure the administration viewed it that way, but he should find a different venue for his announcement."

I was under the impression that most heterosexuals feel no need to "announce" their sexual orientation because most of them consider that to be the "normal" orientation - no big deal. Most homosexuals have not had this experience. I was not "out" in high school, but I was still subjected to name calling, hurtful remarks and crude jokes. Hence, the need to "proclaim" one's orientation does not arise from some innate tendency towards exhibitionism; but from the stigma that our society has attached to this orientation in particular and things sexual in a more general sense. In short, those loathsome individuals (homosexuals) are expected to keep their heads down, their mouths shut and to know their place! As a consequence, most homosexuals find it liberating to stand up and say that they are not ashamed of who they are, and that they are tired of being dishonest about who they are so that other folks don't have to be annoyed by knowing!

Is it possible that Evan's speech might have inspired or helped other homosexuals in his class or other classes across these United States? Is it possible that Evan's speech might have inspired or helped other heterosexuals in his senior class? "Wow, look at what this guy has accomplished in the face of societal pressure to conform." OR "I've always liked and admired this guy - I never knew he was gay - Maybe all homosexuals aren't nasty little abominations?"

As for what is appropriate for a Valedictorian's speech, I was under the impression that our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Are these folks saying that school boards should be in the business of censoring speech? Are they suggesting that educators should be the arbiters of what is appropriate/acceptable for public discourse? Should schools be limiting what their students are exposed to in the realm of ideas/opinions? If the answer is yes to these questions, where do we draw the line? How does one grow in grace and knowledge without being exposed to differing views/opinions?

According to Wiki's "How to Write a Valedictorian Speech" (http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Valedictorian-Speech), the student should: "Avoid trying to write something that doesn't reflect your true self. You have plenty of time ahead to keep shaping yourself the way you wish to be seen by the world. But your classmates know you for who you are now and all that you have striven for throughout high school is the sum of you, so don't set aside your true self in favor of trying to sound all grown up or pseudo intellectual all of a sudden." Sounds like good, sound advice to me!

As for God, I think that those who believe themselves to be on "His" side in this matter would do well to ask themselves a few questions: Is sex or sexual orientation a dirty or shameful thing? Did God design sex and sexual attraction or not? Is anything that God has designed or had a hand in an inappropriate topic for public discussion? Does God value sincerity and truthfulness? Is it ever appropriate to lie or deceive others? Does God expect us to inspire and help each other along life's path? Is it ever appropriate to miss an opportunity to help others? If God intended for some things to remain private, why did "He" choose to reveal so many intimate and embarrassing details about the lives of his saints and prophets in Scripture for everyone to read about? Were those things recorded so that others might benefit from their experiences and examples (good and bad)? Is anything in this world capable of contaminating or defeating God's people other than our own stupidity? (I'm thinking here of some things that Paul wrote on the subject)

But don't worry Twin Peaks, maybe God wasn't paying any attention to what you did for graduation this year!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Does Motivation Make A Difference?

I recently wrote a couple of posts for Gary Leonard's Banned by HWA Blog taking the Church of God International (and one of its leading ministers) to task in part for its stance on the subject of homosexuality. Many of the people who commented on my posts took me to task for daring to associate the church's position with hatred, prejudice and intolerance. Hence, it seemed to me that many of these folks were suggesting that the motivations for their beliefs should not be questioned.

I, of course, cannot know what is in anyone's heart - what makes them tick - what motivates them. I believe that is one of the primary reasons why Christ instructed his followers not to judge each other. Nevertheless, I believe that each and every one of us can and should evaluate our own motivations for saying, writing and doing the things that we do.

In one of my responses to my critics, I said that I hoped that the folks in the church who rail against homosexuality are motivated by religious conviction. Merriam-Webster's defines a conviction as "a strong belief or opinion." Hence, a conviction that is religious in nature could be said in this instance to refer to one that is motivated by the Bible's statements that homosexual behavior is wrong, and their desire to see God's will done in all things - at all times. However, while I hope we can all agree that a religious conviction is superior to some other motivation, it does not fundamentally change the palatability or nobility of the teaching itself.

Moreover, when I consider these things, I find myself returning to the subject of our obligation to ourselves and God to be honest about our motivations. In other words, are all of these folks truly motivated by religious conviction? OR Is it possible that some of them could be motivated by other things?

As noted earlier, I can't answer these questions for anyone but myself. However, I can offer these points for your consideration in evaluating your own motivations regarding your position on homosexuality:

1. Do I fear being associated with a view/opinion/position that is considered to be unacceptable by the group to which I belong?
2. Do I fear being associated with a group of people who are considered to be abnormal or abhorrent by the majority?
3. Am I trying to demonstrate to others that I am a heterosexual, and that I belong in the ranks of the normal?
4. Am I trying to demonstrate to others that I believe the right thing - that I'm on the side of truth?
5. Am I attempting to show that I am morally superior to homosexuals?
6. Am I attempting to demonstrate that my sexual sins aren't as bad as those of gay people (adultery, fornication and divorce aren't as bad as sleeping with someone of the same gender)?
7. I simply don't understand the behavior, and it is personally repugnant to me.

What motivates your position on this issue?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More evidence that the U.S. is going down the drain?

The Pew Research Center has published the results of its survey of American religious views. The title and subtitle of the piece says it all: America's Changing Religious Landscape - Christian's Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow. You can see the full report here: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/ The results of the survey show that the number of folks who identify themselves as Christians has declined by 7.8% during the period between 2007 and 2014. During the same period, the numbers of those who identify themselves as belonging to Non-Christian faiths have grown by a modest 1.2%. Most striking, however, is the whopping increase in the numbers (6.7%) of those who identify themselves as Unaffiliated.

Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee my readers that a majority of the leadership of the Christian community will point to this study as proof that Satan is hard at work - as evidence that the United States is going down the drain. It will never occur to most of them that these results might reflect on what they are teaching and doing as Christians. Most of them will never think to take a good hard look at themselves or their beliefs. I can hear them now: "We're on God's side. The problem couldn't possibly be related to anything we're doing or saying! Satan is attacking the Christian Church." Sad - so sad. I think there are too many Christians who are doing Satan's work for him.

More and more people are tired of arguments and ideas that don't make any sense. More and more folks are tired of prejudice, hatred and intolerance. They see these traits as being especially hypocritical among those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. They are tired of the blatant ignorance and disregard of history and science displayed by many Christians. And, most interesting of all, it appears that young people have the least tolerance for what they consider to be very unattractive relics of a less enlightened past. Too bad there aren't more Christians who are listening to these voices.