The Tragedy in Bell

It is not unusual for our attention to be riveted by some psychopath that shoots and kills several others and then turns the weapon on himself. Such events typically earn the spotlight in national news. The incidence of such evil is becoming all too frequent, but it is usually reported from some place that is remote to us in both time and distance. For those of us who live in north Florida it happened last week, virtually in our own backyard.

Bell is a small hamlet in the northern part of Gilchrist County. With an approximate population of 350 it is more like a large extended family than a town. The community is still reeling from the tragedy last week of seven murders and a suicide. Those who died were not strangers.

On September 18, 2014, Don Spirit decided to kill his six grandchildren and his daughter Sarah who were living with him. Don is a convicted felon and Sarah had been on probation. The children’s welfare had been investigated on several occasions because of reports of drug use and neglect in the home. Florida’s Department of Children and Family services had conducted an investigation as recently as September 1, 2014, and the family had its share of visits from law enforcement. In short, it was a dysfunctional family.

Predictably, the blame game has already begun. Law enforcement and DCF are taking the brunt of the accusations. In the midst of emotion we fail to consider this family is but one of many at risk. State and county employees must make daily judgment calls in numerous situations as to how to use limited resources to serve these families. There is no way they can always be right.

The sad truth is all the resources in the state of Florida combined cannot predict the actions of a madman. Florida does not have its own private psychic hotline. Clearly there was trouble in the home, but there was now way to predict Don Spirit’s frustrations would boil over that Thursday.

When Cain contemplated killing his brother Abel, God told him “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it,” Genesis 4:7. Don Spirit is the one responsible for this tragedy. He is the one who failed to maintain his self-control, no one else.

We also wonder why? We wonder where is the sense in all of this? Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Evil like this is profoundly so because it makes no sense, it defies explanation and understanding.

But explanations would be sorry comfort in the face of such loss. I am praying for those in Bell, and take comfort from the words of the apostle Paul that we do not “grieve as do the rest who have no hope,” First Thessalonians 4:13.

Non-Discriminatory Discrimination

Recently California State University schools “derecognized” the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Student organizations must be registered with the university system to receive nominal benefits that include free use of facilities to meet (when classes are not in session), to be officially represented at student activities, and to have standing to engage administrators, faculty, and other students. There are twenty-three schools in the system.

The CSU system has a policy that mandates recognized student organizations must have open membership rules and allow election of officers that complies with CSU non-discriminatory requirements. IVCF requires its elected officers to adhere to Christian beliefs and practices. An LGBT student would not be electable to leadership in the IVCF and that is a violation of the CSU system’s non-discriminatory policy.

This does not prevent IVCF from pursuing any evangelistic activities, but National Field Director & Campus Access Coordinator Greg Jao said, “loss of recognition is a significant impediment.” This is not the first instance of discrimination of Christian student organizations on university campuses in the name of non-discrimination. The Christian Legal Society faced a similar situation a few years ago at the University of California’s Hastings School of Law.

If CSU schools were privately funded with donations and student tuition it would be a no brainer. A private school should not be forced to recognize student organizations the school opposes. It is a different matter when we are considering a university system that uses tax dollars to make student tuition more affordable.

Assuming CSU schools are supported by tax dollars allowing Christian organizations the same nominal benefits as other student organizations is no different than public high schools that are required to allow Christian clubs the same access as any other student club such as a chess club, or LGBT club. Recognition of the IVCF’s autonomy in conducting its affairs would not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Speaking from strictly a legal standpoint the question is, can a public school supported by tax dollars adopt unconstitutional policies to prevent the “free exercise of religion?” Can a university system enforce unconstitutional, discriminatory practices? Since the CSU system’s policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, must the Muslim Student Association permit a non-Muslim to run for its leadership?

Obviously, such policies could have sweeping influence beyond the CSU system. Every student organization or association, on every university campus in our nation, exists to promote its stated interests. Should schools be trying to determine what policies are or are not adopted autonomously by various student organizations and associations if those policies are lawful?

Proverbs 18:17 tells us, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” I think we need to examine what is going on in California’s state university system.

So Must We

Back in June Kirsten Powers wrote an article suggesting “most American Christians” may eventually “support same-sex relationships.” She claimed, “It will be due to the emergence of conservative Christians who say orthodox believers can support life-long, monogamous gay relationships without undermining their commitment to biblical authority.” Powers was incredibly naïve.

The history of the Church reflects mistakes in belief and practice. Most were made because of misunderstanding biblical truth, not a lack of commitment to biblical authority. In fact, the historical record reflects in each instance that the Church corrected its course; it was due to its commitment to biblical authority. Probably the greatest corrective was the Reformation spearheaded by Martin Luther who declared, “I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

The Church has not been without error, but the Scriptures have. Christians believe that the Bible was inspired and preserved by God; when the Scriptures speak, God speaks.

There may be those who claim to be orthodox Christians who agree with supposedly conservative theologians who twist the truth of God’s Word to suit popular opinion, but they come across like a defense attorney pleading for a guilty client. There have always been traitors of the faith, and those who claim to be Christians but are not. Those passages of the Old and New Testaments that address the immorality of homosexuality are crystal clear on the issue and not subject to the sort of eisegesis we have witnessed.

In an article entitled “Why so many Christians won’t back down on gay marriage” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry makes several compelling points. Christianity began during the rule of the Roman Empire, which cruelly persecuted the fledgling faith because its adherents refused to recognize the emperor as god. Christians also held to a “strange sexual ethic” that “refused polygamy…sexual exploitation of slaves…prostitution, premarital sex, divorce, abortion, the exposure of infants, contraception, and homosexual acts.” He continues, “Because of the fact of pregnancy…most pre-modern cultures enforced sexual restraint on women” but Christianity was considered bizarre because “it insisted on the same restraint on…men.”

Gobry further comments “the unique sexual complementarity between men and women…in a marriage reflects the complementarity of the Persons of the Trinity” and “isn’t some encrusted holdover from a socially conditioned patriarchal era on its way out, but is instead deeply connected to [Christianity’s] understanding of who God is and what human beings exist for.”

Powers may be a pundit, but she is no prophet. If being crucified and thrown to the lions did not cause Christians to cave to popular opinion then, why should we now because we are called names and hauled into court?

When accused of preaching the Gospel and ordered to stop, Peter and John replied, “We must obey God rather than men,” Acts 5:29. So must we.