Less than a month ago, Americans United for Separation of Church and State called for an end to all prayers at official events held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The group, which maintains public prayers violate the U.S. Constitution, expect a reply to their request by next week. The group alleged some cadets complained about the inclusion of prayers at several events, including Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Barry Lynn, the group’s executive director, stated, “West Point cadets should be able to train for service in our nation’s military without having religion forced upon them.” He added, “Academy officials must respect the religious liberty rights of all cadets who should be free to make their own decisions about prayer without government coercion.” An Academy spokesman noted all prayers at West Point are voluntary.
Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (U.S. Army, retired) argued against the Americans United assertion, declaring, “Barry Lynn’s objective is to destroy Christianity in America – it has nothing to do with wanting to support the First Amendment under his understanding of it.” The retired general also remarked, “Prayer at West Point is a tradition. Because it is a tradition that derives from Christianity, Barry and others want to destroy that tradition because they are anti-Christian and want to erase any remnant of the influence of Christianity on our society.” Ron Crews of Chaplain Alliance noted his dismay over the letter, “Any form of religion is under attack in the military – from Nativity scenes on military chapels to prayers at events. We need to respect our plurality instead of trying to quash those who do have faith.” Crews further stated, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with official prayers at official events.”
Americans United and Barry Lynn are mistaken. Religion is not being forced upon cadets at West Point. Rather, invocations are offered as a matter of free exercise. Cadets may decline to participate without any repercussion whatsoever. The freedom of not only cadets of faith, but also service members of faith, is at great risk in this matter. If Americans United succeeds in having invocations removed from official events at West Point, then it will also triumph in removing public invocations from all U.S. Army posts. This would have ramifications for all service branches, affecting not only the religious liberties of military members of faith, but also the responsibilities of military chaplains. Removing invocations from public events would strip chaplains of the major portion of their ceremonial duties, thereby negating their participation. If this happens, then people of faith who serve our nation will be silenced. Their faith, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution, will be forced to become a strictly “private” issue with absolutely no public expression. The very thing which Americans United and Lynn say they are arguing for is, in fact, what they are acting against.
It is a tradition for many to sing “Auld Lang Syne”, a Scottish poem written in 1788 by Robert Burns, with the ringing in of the New Year. The title may be translated literally as “old long since,” or more idiomatically as “long, long ago,” “days gone by,” or “old time’s sake.” Here are the lyrics from the original Scottish version:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes, and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot, sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn, frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne.
Here is a contemporary translation:
Should old acquaintances be forgotten and never be remembered?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten and days long ago.
For days long ago, my dear, for days long ago
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for days long ago!
And surely you’ll have your pint tankard and surely I’ll have mine.
And we’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for days long ago.
We two have run about the hills and pulled the daisies fine
But we’ve wandered many a weary mile since the days long ago.
We two have paddled in the stream from morning sun till dinner-time
But the broad seas have roared between us since the days long ago.
And here’s my hand, my trusty friend, and give me your hand too,
And we will take an excellent good-will drink for the days of long ago.
Here’s a contemporary bagpipe version, courtesy of the Red Hot Chili Pipers:
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Atheists continue to attack the religious rights of U.S. military members, namely those wanting to freely exercise their observance of Christmas. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain has held an annual Christmas Tree lighting for years. This event has included the singing of carols, the presence of St. Nicholas, and the consumption of cookies and cocoa. It has also featured a live nativity, composed of base children and local animals. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers views “a Christmas tree, presents, some songs, and even Santa Claus as trappings of secular Christmas.” However, “Angels, nativity scenes, crosses, prayers, and carols focused explicitly on Christianity (e.g., Silent Night) cross the line into a religious devotion rather than a neutral, secular celebration.” The MAAF objected to the nativity program and filed an IG complaint. The complaint stated:
This [nativity] violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none. The event is billed as a ‘holiday’ event but it is nothing but a Christian activity…it is…clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity. Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local population will see the US military as a Christian force…This event threatens US security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.
The Command Religious Program (CRP) – the Navy Chaplains – removed the living nativity program from the holiday festivities. Whether this was done under advisement from base leadership or if the Chaplains did so of their own volition is unclear. It does not appear an official order was given to remove the program.
If the U.S. Government – including a branch of the U.S. Military – took action against a group or event because of religious content, it would be a violation of policies guarding against discrimination based upon religion. The U.S. Constitution declares clearly, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” When Americans of faith are intimidated by atheists threatening lawsuits, they need to remember the rights they have as citizens and stand for the freedoms they are granted in this nation. If they don’t, then brave troops who are right now in harm’s way for those very freedoms will have their own liberties taken away. The aggressive political maneuvering by groups like the MAAF has a direct, measurable and negative impact on troops.
Blake Page claims religion is the reason he resigned this past week from being a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy. Five months prior to graduation, Page asserted he felt discriminated against for being “non-religious.” The president of the West Point Secular Student Alliance (an affiliate of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) and the Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation Affairs at West Point declared in a vitriolic blog post:
While there are certainly numerous problems with the developmental program at West Point and all service academies, the tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution. These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation. These transgressions are nearly always committed in the name of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
Page asserts the U.S. Military Academy makes prayers mandatory, that cadets participating in religious activities receive preferential treatment and that officers in general display open disrespect for non-religious cadets. He wrote in his resignation letter, “I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same.” School officials confirmed Page’s resignation was accepted and that he is being discharged honorably. Spokesman Francis DeMaro, Jr., however, stated the former cadet’s claim that prayer is mandatory is untrue. He said, “The Academy holds both official and public ceremonies where an invocation and benediction may be conducted, but prayer is voluntary. As officers, cadets will be responsible for soldiers who represent America’s great diversity in faith and ethnic background. The Academy provides cadets the opportunity to foster an understanding regarding the fundamental dignity and worth of all.”
The founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein, called Page’s resignation an act of great courage. He claimed, “We have the Christian Taliban running amok unchecked in the technologically most lethal organization ever recorded in human kind. There’s no problem except that we have a small document called the Constitution that separates state and religion.” Weinstein, however, commended West Point for providing Page with an honorable discharge and not punishing him for his actions. Not everyone views Page’s resignation as an act of courage. Charles Clymer, a former 2013 classmate who was forced to separate from the Academy due to medical reasons, wrote an open letter on the Secular Student Alliance’s Facebook page. Describing himself both as a Christian and an “aggressive, outspoken liberal,” Clymer noted his outspokenness regarding the “injustice of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the limited career options of women who serve our country in uniform, and…a very broken system of addressing sexual assault at the Academy and in the Armed Forces in general (among other things).” In his address to Page, he relayed:
I’m angry and disappointed with you over this article, and I say that as someone who very much supports the separation of Church and State. I believe religion belongs in one’s private life, and apart from certain, limited allowances for those who have a faith they practice, government employees should never be given preferential treatment and upon such instances, leaders who allow that to happen should be counseled and/or punished. . . . I never, not even once, witnessed, heard about, or even thought it implied that non-religious cadets face discrimination of any kind at the Academy. I saw widespread homophobia and sexism but never any negative sentiment towards those cadets who identified as Atheist or Agnostic. In fact, the closest thing I ever observed that looked like a pro-Christian bias were the few cadets who believed Islam is evil, and that was a very small fraction of our class. The vast majority of Christian cadets treated non-Christian cadets with respect insofar as their beliefs are concerned. And I should again point out that I spent the better part of two years calling out homophobia and sexism when I saw it, and it wasn’t as though I was “known” for being a Christian in our class. I didn’t exactly spend my free time in Christian-based organizations or attend church services, regularly. I did sing in Gospel Choir for a few semesters but never heard any sort of anti-Atheist remarks during my participation with them. They treated everyone with respect, regardless of faith, gender, or sexuality. My point is that, try as I might, with all my stereotypical, sensitive liberal feelers in tune, I can’t remember ever seeing or hearing about negative experiences of Atheists, Agnostics, or other Non-Christians at the Academy. . . . As a person who prides myself on maintaining honesty in regards to how minorities (of any kind, including spiritual) are treated, I can say with confidence that are you are either blatantly lying or, at the very least, being incredibly misleading with how you represent the Academy’s religious environment.
Clymer noted Page’s poor performance as a cadet, having failed in multiple leadership positions. Page was facing separation from the Academy for medical reasons related to mental health, which likely contributed to his poor performance. He struggled at West Point following his father’s suicide. Diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, he was disqualified from being commissioned as an officer. He asked to resign rather than face separation, a proposition accepted by Academy officials. According to Clymer, Page “went behind their backs and claimed the resignation was done to protest Christian Fundamentalists at the Academy, which is a whole lot of bull$h!#.” Page responded by saying he was unconcerned about the perception of others. “That’s really fine. I am not trying to talk about myself. I am trying to talk about church and state.”
It appears, nonetheless, that Page’s actions are actually more about himself than about the separation of church and state. Press reports regarding his resignation have generally failed to note he was facing separation from West Point due to mental health related issues. Weinstein and others will cite this as one of the “countless” instances of “discrimination” against non-theists. The truth of the matter is that this vocal and aggressive minority seeks to overthrow the rights of theists by removing the free exercise of religion in public. They believe essentially that any public demonstration of faith should be deemed illegal – viewing people of faith (particularly evangelical Christians) as “criminals” and extremists (i.e., “Christian Taliban running amok unchecked”). It is time for theists to actively and prolifically defend their rights, rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
* * * * *
Blake Page, “Why I Don’t Want to be a West Point Graduate”
Charles Clymer, “The Truth about Cadet Blake Page and Why West Point is Not Anti-Atheist”
Michael Hill, The Huffington Post, “Blake Page, West Point Cadet, Quits Military Academy Over Religion”
Billy Hallowell, The Blaze, “Atheist West Point Cadet Quits the Academy, Citing ‘Christian Proselytizing’ & ‘Criminal’ Constitutional Violations”
Moni Basu, CNN, “West Point Cadet Quits Over Religion”
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
Source: The Massachusetts Centinel, October 14, 1789
If you are interested in the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (ARBCA) and their work, please take a look at the Fall 2012 Update. It includes a brief summary of the recent work in which I’ve been engaged. It has been a delight to receive the support of Reformed Baptist congregations this past year. I appreciate all of their prayers, letters, cards and e-mails. I am especially grateful for our home church, Miller Valley Baptist Church, in Prescott, Arizona. The elders and members of Miller Valley are a wonderful church family, and their support and encouragement is tremendous!
Tabletalk magazine, the monthly devotional produced by R. C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries, interviewed my friend Conrad Mbewe recently. Rev. Mbewe is the pastor of the Kabwata Reformed Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia (Africa). He also serves as the Principal of the Reformed Baptist Preachers College (Zambia), edits Reformation Zambia magazine, writes three columns in two weekly national newspapers, and blogs regularly at A Letter from Kabwata. He is the author of Foundations for the Flock: Truths about the Church for All the Saints.
Tabletalk: How did you come to faith in Christ, and when were you called to pastoral ministry?
Conrad Mbewe: I was brought up in a church-going family. Upon finishing high school at the end of 1978 (I was in boarding school), I found my elder sister converted to Christ. Watching her life convinced me that there was something she had that I did not have. A friend of mine, who had also recently been converted, sent me a letter in which he shared the gospel with me. For the first time, I realized that I needed to repent toward God and trust in Christ alone for salvation. I finally yielded my life to Christ on March 30, 1979. I was baptized exactly one year later, and soon after that I began to sense that God wanted me to serve Him in the pastoral ministry. I was already studying for a mining engineering degree, so I waited a good seven years before Kabwata Baptist Church called me to be their pastor.
TT: Tell us a little about Kabwata Baptist Church.
CM: Kabwata Baptist Church is a Reformed Baptist church based on the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. It began as a church-planting effort of the Lusaka Baptist Church in 1981 and was finally constituted in January 1986. The church presently has more than four hundred members, with seven elders and six deacons. We emphasize membership involvement in various outreach ministries in the church and also church planting across Zambia and in neighboring countries. Hence, the church presently has about fourteen outreach ministries and more than twenty active church plants.
TT: How would you describe the overall state of the church in Zambia, Africa? Has the influx of aberrant forms of Pentecostalism impacted the health of the African church?
CM: The church in Zambia in particular, and Africa in general, has a great inheritance. The evangelical pioneer missionaries did what they could to give us New Testament Christianity. By now, most Africans south of the Sahara would consider themselves to be Christians, though most of them would be nominal Christians. Granted, low levels of education at that time led these missionaries to give us only the basics of the Christian faith—but the faith they preached was largely true to the Bible. Sadly, it left us vulnerable to Christian aberrations, which have come in like a flood. The health-and-wealth form of Pentecostalism has now taken center stage as the most widely known form of “evangelical” Christianity. The result of this has been a loss of the true gospel and the loss of servant leadership in the church. African traditional religions have come into the church through the back door in the name of “deliverance.”
TT: Why did you write the book Foundations for the Flock, and what is its main thesis?
CM: The book Foundations for the Flock is actually a compilation of photocopied booklets that I have been writing over a period of about twenty years. As a pastor of a church, I have been addressing various pertinent issues that I think are vital for the health of God’s people under my care and keeping them in printed form. Well, an American brother who visited Zambia came across these booklets (about forty of them) and offered to find a publisher to put them in a more permanent form. Foundations for the Flock is the fruit of that offer. The publisher took about ten of the booklets, which dealt with the subject of the church, and compiled them into one book. I must admit I am still amazed that the few loaves of bread that I offered to my own congregation can now be multiplied into food that is available across the globe.
TT: What are the goals and purposes of Reformation Zambia magazine?
CM: The Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia had grown from about six churches in 1990 to about thirty-five by the year 2000. At that time, the only national rallying point for these young churches was a conference that takes place every year in August. I was particularly burdened that we needed to expand this rallying point. I was convinced that our pastors had much to offer and, given a platform like a magazine, their ministry to the churches could continue throughout the year. So, we began Reformation Zambia magazine in 2004 to provide such a platform.
TT: What are three unique challenges facing men who want to enter pastoral ministry in Zambia? How are you working to meet these challenges?
CM: The first challenge is a lack of training facilities. We have a few good Bible colleges, but these are still in the Western mold, which demand a person to live there and to learn in lecture format. Very few can undertake such an expensive venture. The second challenge is a lack of good books. The price of good books here puts them far out of the reach of most of our pastors and Bible college students. The third challenge is a lack of good role models. The general attitude toward pastoral ministry here is that it is the first rung of the ladder and, as soon as you possibly can, you must move on to something else. Hence, most of our good men are not pastoring churches. They are denominational heads or leading religious non-governmental organizations. That is very sad. In a small way, we are encouraging churches to run part-time Bible colleges. We are also running a bookstore. A number of our churches with seasoned pastors are also running internship programs. However, all these are a drop in the ocean compared to the level of need in Zambia.
TT: What are two of the biggest misconceptions that Western Christians have about the church in Africa?
CM: Most Western Christians learn about Africa through the news items splashed on their television screens. The staple diet there comprises civil wars, poverty, corruption, AIDS, and so on. The second source is often those who come to Africa on mission trips. This also leads to lopsided news that tries to show how needy Africa is and, therefore, how the ministry of those missionaries is so vital. This news is not false, but because it emphasizes one side of the African story, it causes a lot of misconceptions on the part of those who are back home and have never come here. This has resulted in Western Christians viewing the church in Africa as being both ignorant and poor across the board. Therefore, the general thinking is that the African church is still in the phase where paternalism is justifiable rather than true partnership. While it is true that there is more poverty here than, say, in the USA, there are some churches that have running water and electricity, and whose pastors drive good cars. We also have church leaders who are knowledgeable and very godly, whose labors are impacting not only the church but also their society.
TT: What are two important lessons that Western Christians can learn from the African church?
CM: Western civilization has lost a lot of its interpersonal virtues. It has become overly individualized—if you see what I mean. Issues like hospitality, respect for authority and the elderly, being more people-conscious than time-conscious, and so on are largely lost. This has affected not only the society generally but Christians as well. Western Christians have filled their lives with too many things (toys?) that have robbed them of eternal perspectives. Electronic gadgets, holidays, sports, recreation, and so on have almost become idols. Even church must be about having fun. The church has little time in the lives of its members to prepare them for eternity. There is a greater consciousness of eternity here in Africa. Perhaps it is because we have fewer toys to dull our spiritual senses and death is all around us. A greater exposure of Western Christians to their African counterparts may help them regain some of these lost virtues, strengths, and perspectives.
TT: What are the best ways that the Western church can serve the church in Africa?
CM: I know that what I am about to say will sound like a broken record because you have probably heard this said over and over again. I think that the best way for the Western church to serve their brothers in Africa is by allowing true partnership to take the place of patronizing paternalism. That is a loaded statement. We are all sinners saved by grace and need to give God all that we have so that together we can fulfill God’s evangelistic and cultural mandate. I really think that it must begin with the Western church learning to listen humbly to their African counterparts, who are also filled with the Spirit. Up to now, the listening has been largely one way. Thankfully, there are blessed exceptions to this rule.
Toll free: 1-800-435-4343
Last weekend I had the privileged opportunity to join Dr. John Pretlove for the 2nd Annual Reformation Conference held at First Baptist Church of the Lakes in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference centered on the theme of “Sanctification,” and response from the attendees was very positive. My thanks to Dr. Pretlove and Rolo Bernales, the Associate Pastor, for trusting me with the pulpit for three sessions. I would also like to thank Corey Williams and Anthony McDevitt for handling the audio and video (which I hope is available soon for posting).
From the movie, Luther, here is the Reformer’s speech at the Diet of Worms:
HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
It has been nearly two years since Farshid Fathi was arrested (December 26, 2010). He was one of at least twenty-two Christians arrested in Tehran, Iran, the day after Christmas in 2010. Ten of the individuals were released after questioning and signing an agreement to refrain from Christian activities, and eleven others were released after being held for several months. One, however, remains in custody — Farshid Fathi. This despite the fact that his family paid an enormous bail on his behalf.
Farshid converted to Christianity from Islam and charged with “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country.” He was sentenced to a six-year term on March 5, 2012, and his appeal was rejected in June. The remainder of his sentence is to be fulfilled in Evin Prison. Please pray not only for Farshid, but also his wife, Leila, and their two children, Rosana and Bardia.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
(Philippians 1:12-20 ESV)
A grenade exploded outside the St. Polycarp Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 30th (2012). John Ian Maina, a nine-year-old child who was waiting with other children for Sunday School to begin, was killed. Several other children were injured and rushed to area hospitals. A warning was issued the previous day by police in regard to al-Shabaab. The group threatened retaliation throughout Kenya following the capture of Kismayo Port by the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) in southern Somalia. It is suspected that the Islamists have targeted several congregations in various areas of Kenya since the KDF entered Somalia.
After not posting any new articles for over a year, I’ve been surprised that 2 Worlds Collide has continued to receive about 1,500 hits per month and even received new “followers.” My sabbatical from blogging has been a definite time of rest away from many of the things I noted “Walking Away (for now)“. I’ve decided to begin blogging again, although it will likely be at a much lighter pace than I engaged in previously. Posts will continue to be largely theological and pastoral, particularly in areas related to interest for Reformed Baptists (i.e., ARBCA). It is my hope that 2 Worlds Collide will continue to be a source of viable information and encouragement for its readers.
This upcoming October 31st, Reformation Day, will mark the 495th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the cathedral door in Wittenberg. 2 Worlds Collide celebrates, in part, by observing the Reformation Polka.
If you can’t polka, The Old Lutheran suggests these ideas:
- Make a “Diet of Worms Cake” and bring it to your office or school
- Have a “Baptismal Apple Dunk”
- Run a “Law and Gospel Shuffle Relay”
- Create a “Fishers of Men” Fishing Pond
- Do a “Defeat the Devil Ball Toss”
- Play “Pin the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door”
- Run a “Throw Indulgences in the Trash” relay
- Find a storyteller to tell of the events of Luther’s life
- Have a costume party and have everyone dress up as their favorite Reformation personality
- Have a special showing of the movie “Luther” at church or in your home
As for me and my house, we’ll likely be watching Luther.
Christian students from Louisiana State University, who are ardent football fans, paint their upper bodies during games. Known as “The Painted Posse,” the group was formed in 2003 and has become a fixture at LSU home games, appearing on national television broadcasts, ESPN and in Sports Illustrated. Members of The Posse had their picture taken at the LSU – South Carolina game. Officials sent out the photo of the students in a Geaux-Mail newsletter to the student body, but removed the crosses painted on The Posse’s bodies with digital technology. The students were dismayed when they viewed the photo, which appeared to be otherwise unedited. Cameron Cooke, one of the students, told CampusReform.org, “I was a bit surprised, because our pictures get used so frequently, and the cross had never been edited before. The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower.” Herb Vincent, an LSU spokesman noted that the school altered the image to prevent other students from being offended. “We don’t want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out, Only one of the students, who didn’t appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we’ll just choose a different photo.” LSU plans to steer clear of any photos with religious overtones when it sends out athletic promotional materials.
In a land where freedom of religious expression and freedom of speech are touted as rights, political correctness has found a way around the Constitution. Whenever people of faith express their views, they are simply ignored by those who “wish to remain neutral.” Such neutrality negates expression, implicitly conveying the idea that there is absolutely no room to discuss “private matters” (e.g., religion, politics, ethics) in a “public forum.” The more society at large embraces such an outlook, the greater individual liberties erode. It is important for people to politely, intelligently and firmly exercise their freedoms, or else those liberties will soon be gone.
The Second Annual Reformation Conference will be held this upcoming weekend (October 26-28) at the First Baptist Church of the Lakes in Las Vegas. This year’s theme is “Sanctification.” It is often argued that if God is sovereign or if justification is through faith alone then there is no point in being concerned with holiness in everyday living. The sessions in this conference will contend for just the opposite — that holiness is both evident and required in the life of the Christian. The conference will seek to glorify God by:
- Word-centered proclamation which magnifies God’s grace through Christ Jesus
- Encouraging congregational renewal
- Strengthening the ministries of the local church and its pastors
- Exalting God’s name through Christ-centered music
Conference speakers include Dr. John Pretlove and Dr. James Galyon. If you live in the Las Vegas area or near the West Coast (Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona), I hope you will consider attending this conference. Please contact the First Baptist Church of the Lakes at (702) 254-3234 for more information.
It has been hard not to notice that barely any posts have been published at 2 Worlds Collide for the past couple of months. There are several reasons for this, the chief being that work demands have been extremely taxing. There is only so much time per day to accomplish everything which needs to be done, and blogging is not a priority. The other major reason is that blogging has simply drained me emotionally. Having already slowed in the numbers of posts being produced, I edited the six-part series on “Calvinism & Civility” (published here several years ago), and chiseled it down to a manageable three-parts (1, 2, 3) for the Conservative Reformed Mafia. Detailing the theological/political struggle within Southern Baptist life over “Calvinism,” that series displays the heartache I have experienced personally through this conflict, and states my intention to choose an outside path of peace. Even in trying away to walk away irenically from the situation, I found that some are eager to spew invective towards those with whom they disagree. Nonetheless, I’m confident that the path I’ve chosen is the best decision for the sake of the Kingdom, my family, and myself. I’ve also decided to walk away from blogging for a season. Work is still demanding, and I’ve taken on other outside responsibilities with a military society which will demand a great deal of my time. 2WC will remain up and running in order that people may access previous posts, and I’m sure I’ll drop something here and there on the site. One of these days posts may very well be churned out on a regular basis, but for now, the sabbatical is official.
The 2011 Grace Conference of Las Vegas will be held in October. This year’s theme, inspired by Dr. Richard Mouw’s provocative Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, seeks to both “give an answer” to those who have questions about the practicality of the doctrines of grace, and to do so with all gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Questions the conference will seek to answer in general include the following:
- How can we best be Christians in the twenty-first century?
- How do we as Christians speak gently and respectfully to non-Christians about our beliefs?
- How do we articulate our Calvinistic convictions gently and respectfully to fellow Christians who view some matters quite differently than we do?
- How do we impact the culture positively with a God-centered, Gospel-saturated worldview?
- How do we do these things without compromising Christian orthodoxy, particularly the Gospel?
The conference seeks to glorify God by:
- Word-centered proclamation which magnifies God’s grace through Christ Jesus
- Encouraging congregational renewal
- Strengthening the ministries of the local church and its pastors
- Exalting God’s name through Christ-centered music
Particular topics will include:
- True Comfort in Life & Death
- Suffering & the Sovereignty of God
- Amazing Grace vs. Cheap Grace
- Loving Fellow Christians
- Calvinism & Evangelism
Conference speakers include Dr. John Pretlove, Rev. Jim McAlees, and Dr. James Galyon. If you live in the Las Vegas area or near the West Coast (Nevada, California, Utah, Arizona), I hope you will consider attending this conference on October 28-29 (Fri-Sat). The conference website will be up later this spring. Please contact the First Baptist Church of the Lakes at (702) 254-3234 for more information.
The Lower Chamber of Tajikistan’s Parliament approved a controversial new bill, as well as amendments to the Criminal Code, on June 15. The Parental Responsibility Law stipulates that the only religious activities in which children under 18 may participate, apart from funerals, are those at state-approved religious education institutions. The amendments specifically extend penalties on unapproved religious meetings and impose harsh prison terms for advocating “religious extremist” teachings. The amendments fail to define “religious extremist,” and could easily extend to any religious teaching without state approval. To become law, the bill must also be approved by the Upper Chamber and signed by President Emomali Rahmon. The Parental Responsibility Law is the initiative of President Rahmon. Many expect the Upper Chamber to approve the legislation next month. The proposed legal changes arrive as police continue their suppression of non-sanctioned religious teaching. Local religious communities, independent legal experts, and human rights defenders have all condemned the law.
ALGERIA – Last month the governor of Bejaia Province sent a written notice to seven Christian congregations informing them they would be closed for operating “illegally.” The congregations are considered illegal because they have not registered with the government, required under Ordinance 06-03 of the nation’s legal code. The measure was introduced in 2006 to regulate non-Islamic religious practices. Christians report, however, that the government refuses to either respond or grant applications for registration. Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant Church of Algeria, stated, “The churches of Bejaia have submitted the documentation the law requires and the government’s unwillingness to give official permission for the churches to operate is a matter for officials, not churches, to resolve.” He added that believers in Algeria have mobilized for prayer, asking for God’s intervention in the matter. Please join our brothers and sisters in prayer.
COLUMBIA – Members of Columbia’s Marxist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), have killed individuals and burned buses throughout the nation for the last several months. Last month they were responsible for the detonation of a bomb in Puetro Lleras which killed several police officers and injured bystanders. Guerillas affiliated with FARC have also killed many of their own members who had been deemed as traitors. It is believed these “traitors” were Christian converts. Christians in the nation fear being the targets of violent attacks.
UZBEKISTAN – Recent reports from Uzbekistan indicate that Christians are facing increased persecution. Police assaulted a Christian woman in her home while her parents were away, being interrogated at the local police station in regard to religious activity. The woman was kicked and hit on the head, resulting in a severe concussion. Police officers in Tashkent threatened to kill a Christian if he persisted in challenging a fine levied upon him for religious activity. A police investigator, also in Tashkent, threatened to “beat” the son of a Baptist church member and “put him in prison for three months” if the member did not sign statements accusing the congregation’s pastor and bookkeeper of illegal activity. Please pray for followers of Christ Jesus in Uzbekistan to remain steadfast in the faith, and for persecutors to experience the life-changing grace of God.
I’ve been asked to join the mob, that is, I’ve been asked to be a contributor to the Conservative Reformed Mafia. It seems rather fitting since my military call sign is “Godfather,” don’t you think? The blog, which burst onto the blogging scene in 2007, was out of business for some time but has now returned to the blogosphere. I’m looking forward to working with Eric “Gunny” Hartman and the guys. Hope to “see” you over at CRM.