August 31, 2012

School Days, Opportunity, or Ordeal

by Donald G. Mashburn

Except for some anti-religion types who are bothered by any mention of God in school, or fear that some students, somewhere, might occasionally sneak in a prayer to Him, nearly everyone involved in school looks forward to a new year.

Kids get to meet old friends, make some new ones, and maybe learn something. But the new year can be an opportunity or an ordeal, for students, teachers, and parents.

For students, a lot depends on the “luck of the draw,” in teachers and parents. Kids can often overcome one “bad draw,” but drawing both poor parents and poor teachers complicates matters. Each young student is a marvelous God-created chunk, waiting to be shaped into something worthwhile. They need good shapers.

Parents are important, for the “family” is important to a child’s development, but we can’t assign make-or-break weight to them. For the fact is, many people have excelled in spite of lousy, or missing, parents.

Parents can fail in many ways. Some parents don’t provide even the basics of family support. (Just how did we get to serving breakfast at school, anyway?)

Many can’t be bothered by that school stuff. I recall reports that stated that a school with 4,000 students scheduled a night to educate parents about the school’s programs and policies. Only 25 parents showed up!

Such parents, by their choices, are saying they’re unwilling to give even small pieces of themselves and their time, to give their kids a decent shot at life.

Teachers are a different deal, for they can inspire students, or turn them against learning by being disappointing examples of what learning produces.

Because of low test scores, teachers have come under fire in some quarters. But so have others: Christians, parents, God — just about anybody who stands for the traditional values that have been the warp and weft of the fabric of American life.

But teachers sometimes draw fire to themselves, by condoning, or embracing, behavior and ideas far outside societal norms. Kids and parents can be excused if they are disturbed when worldviews expressed at school clash with the value system taught in homes and churches.

Once upon a time, no one had these concerns. Back before some teachers and administrators went into the anti-religion camp, and equated a third grader’s mention of “Jesus” with an “establishment” of religion — I’m not making this up.

Once teachers, students and parents were mostly on the same page, and “us” versus “them” referred to some other school. They could inspire and feed off each other. And bond, and learn, and grow without sweating the rants of those who oppose anything wholesome.

Schools had teachers like Nellie Scheffsky, the best fourth and fifth grade teacher your humble servant ever met. She required her students to read a lot, and to write. More important, she knew how to challenge young minds that didn’t know much about anything.

She prepared me for a later encounter with Clarence Clay Jelks, perhaps the most gifted and natural teacher I ever had. Pappy never bought into the blather that environment and economic deprivation excuse bad behavior or ignorance. He taught that good behavior complemented learning, and that learning could be fun, whether it was book knowledge, principles of being a decent human being, or “Life According to Pappy.”

There are still teachers like Nellie Scheffsky and Pappy Jelks — there must be. But not enough of them, based on the scores of students in some schools, in subjects like reading, writing, history.

And there are still students with sparks of curiosity that need only a teacher to notice, and take the time to blow away the ashes of ignorance. Good teachers will notice those sparks.

As for students — bless’em — they often are just there, except when they aren’t. Every pile will have some solid timber, and a certain amount of deadwood. And pound for pound, they possess more ignorance than any other group. That’s why they’re students. That’s what makes them such a challenge!

Teachers, with the help of family and church — not a village — can often fan a spark in a student into a flame that burns so brightly that it lights the way for others, and ignites some of the deadwood around it.

School days are mostly opportunity. An ordeal wouldn’t be nearly so much fun.

Message to Average, Ordinary 'Gay' People

By Matt Barber

I write this not to professional homosexuals. That is to say, not to members of the well-funded, politically powerful homosexual activist lobby. They will mock and reject my words outright. They will twist and misrepresent what I say to further their own socio-political agenda.

Instead, I write this to my fellow travelers in life – average, ordinary people, male and female, young and old – who happen to call themselves “gay.” I write this out of obedience to God.

It is my hope and prayer that you will consider what I have to say and take it at face value. My intentions are pure and my motives upright. If I can plant the seed of truth in just one person, and that seed begins to sprout, then I consider this letter a success.

I pray that you are that person.

What I write may offend you. It may even infuriate you. But I hope it makes you think. Know this: Your friends have lied to you. Christians do not hate you. We love you intensely. We love you because of who you are, not because of what you do or because of who you think you are.

Still, to love someone and to lie to them is to hate them – especially when that lie inevitably leads to a tragic and hopeless end.

If you have a loved one, blindfolded and running full speed toward cliff’s edge, you would yell, “Stop!” wouldn’t you? Would you not run after them, even tackling them if need be to prevent them from plummeting to certain death? What would we think of the person who said: “Keep running; all is well?”

All is not well, and you know it. On this path, “it” decidedly does not “get better.” It only gets worse. You will fall and you will die – perhaps not physical death, straight away – but certainly, an emotional and spiritual death. Homosexual activists, “progressives,” Hollywood, the media, academia, and popular culture are telling you to keep running.

I’m yelling, stop!

Your lifestyle – homosexuality – is always and forever, objectively and demonstrably wrong. It is never good, natural, right, or praiseworthy. If you have “gay pride,” you have “sin pride.” Although homosexuality is not the only sexual sin, it is, indeed, sin. Scripture is unequivocal on this fact throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

But this reality is manifest beyond the pages of Scripture. Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences. So-called “homophobia” is not responsible for the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-in-five “gay” men and adolescents in major cities across America have been infected – through bad behavior – with HIV/AIDS.

Sin is responsible.

In almost every category – disease, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide – those who call themselves “gay” live and die with consequences that have nothing gay, in the true sense of the word, about them.

Is this you? Be honest. At least be honest with yourself.

Scripture admonishes: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This does not simply mean physical death, but something far worse: spiritual death.

Yes, hell.

I know from which I speak. I am no better than you. I, too, once lived a lifestyle of sexual sin. Not homosexual sin, but sexual sin nonetheless. As a young man I did not treat God’s daughters as He intended and, instead, engaged in a lifestyle of selfish womanizing and fornication.

The wages of sin in my life was death – spiritual and emotional death. I was on your same path.

But by His grace, I was offered and accepted “the free gift of God.” I, instead, was saved and given “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do I still struggle with sin? Of course. Every day. We all do. We are fallen. We are sinners.

Still, Christ’s gift to me was forgiveness, redemption and life everlasting. My friend, that gift is available to you as well.

Snatch it up. Please.

During the Awakening 2011 – a national conference held, that year, at Liberty University – I was visiting with a young woman from the hard-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). I liked her. I loved her, in fact, in the way her heavenly Father, Christ Jesus, loves her and has enabled me to love her. I think of her and pray for her often.

In recent years, the SPLC has taken to smearing Christian organizations that defend the biblical sexual ethic as “hate groups.” After visiting for a while, I asked this young woman if she really believed that we Christians hate homosexuals. To my surprise she admitted that we do not. 𠇋ut the things you say are sometimes hateful,” she added.

Indeed, truth is hate to those who hate truth.

The truth is that you have immeasurable value. You are a beautiful, unique, priceless human being. The very Creator of the universe, in the person of Jesus Christ, took such an interest in you that He meticulously wove you together in your mother’s womb. He loves you with a love that no human can fully grasp. Still, this is true not because of your so-called “sexual orientation,” but, rather, in spite of it.

You are valuable and worthy of love because God created you in His image. If you define your identity based upon sexual temptations and behaviors your Creator has called sin – an “abomination” – then you are not fulfilling the purpose for which He created you. In so doing, you have become the sum total of your sins. You are in rebellion against God and you know it.

He made you to know it.

Yes, the activists tell you to take “pride” in your “sexual orientation,” but you don’t feel pride. You feel ashamed, and so you try, in vain, to numb the shame with more of the very behavior that causes it. You will never fill the void you feel with drugs, alcohol or more sexual acting-out. These things only expand your emptiness.

Christ alone can fill the void.

And He will.

Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He also serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action.

[Editor’s Note: The opinions and views expressed by guest contributors in articles submitted for publication in the Sage Commentary or Sage Views sections are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions and views of Sage Commentary]