February 2013

Limping between two opinions: the moral evacuation of the B.S.A

February 4 2013 by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Baptist Press

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go on limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The announcement this week that the Boy Scouts of America (B.S.A.) may soon rescind its national policy prohibiting the participation of openly homosexual members and leaders fell like a thunderclap. The B.S.A. national board is expected to approve the change early next week, just six months after that same board had announced that no change would be made, citing the unanimous recommendation of a special study committee. Back then, the B.S.A. CEO said that the “vast majority” of Boy Scout parents supported the policy.

That was then, but this is now. Just six months later, the B.S.A. board is prepared to capitulate to massive pressure from gay rights activists and their allies, some inside the board itself. The proposed policy amounts to a local option, with each Boy Scout unit deciding its own policy. As for the Boy Scouts of America – the national group says it will “under no circumstances” dictate a national policy on the question of homosexuality.

This capitulation and the abandonment of the B.S.A.’s longstanding policy will, in the end, please no one. The new policy is a half-measure that amounts to cowardly moral evasion. No group can remain divided on a question of such moral importance and urgency. Homosexual conduct and relationships will be condemned or celebrated. There is no middle ground. Back in 2004, the B.S.A. maintained that homosexual conduct is “inconsistent” with the “morally straight” requirement of the Scout Oath. Now, the B.S.A. will claim to have no position whatsoever on the issue. This fails the test of seriousness. Those who believe that homosexual conduct is sin cannot endorse the new local option policy, and Scouting units that hold to this position will inevitably be marginalized. Those who celebrate and demand the normalization of homosexuality, on the other hand, cannot and will not be satisfied with a half-measure like a local option.

The predicted response now comes in the form of an editorial in the Jan. 30 edition of The New York Times. After pointing to the B.S.A. policy proposal as an indication of the nation’s moral shift on homosexuality, the paper then complains that the policy “falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of anti-gay bigotry that is called for.” That will be the emphatic judgment of the cultural left and of gay rights activists. It is also inevitable, given the nature of this controversy.

The new policy, says the Times, is “an unprincipled position” and a “partial move” that “should hardly satisfy” those demanding the full inclusion of homosexuals at every level and in every Boy Scout unit. At this point, the editors go for a killer strike on the B.S.A.’s “unprincipled position.” In their words: “The new policy would, however, undermine the rationale the Supreme Court voiced in 2000 when it affirmed the right of the Scouts to discriminate against gay people. The 5-to-4 ruling turned on the court’s acceptance of the Scouts’ claim that being anti-gay was a ‘core’ part of its mission and that its freedom of association right trumped any state nondiscrimination rules.”

This is a key insight, and an indication of just how unworkable and unprincipled the new policy proposal really is. As the Times editors continued: “Now that the group is on the verge of making discrimination optional, it can no longer claim that discrimination is a “core” purpose – and therefore state nondiscrimination rules should apply to the Scouts. The halfway policy change would inevitably invite litigation.”

That is an understatement. The “halfway policy” will also invite the obvious realization that the Boy Scouts of America is now abandoning what the group claimed was a “core” belief and conviction just 13 years ago. The new policy reveals what will stand at the core of the Boy Scouts of America’s national policy – a vacuum of moral conviction.

This will not only fail the test of litigation, it will fail the test of moral sense. On this much, both sides in the controversy over homosexuality are agreed. The Boy Scouts of America will destroy themselves by this policy change. If they will not believe that argument when it comes from the “vast majority” of parents, or from the churches and faith-based groups that sponsor the greatest number of Boy Scout units, perhaps they will hear the argument now coming from the editors of The New York Times.

Then again, maybe not.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, AlbertMohler.com.)
2/4/2013 1:30:10 PM by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Super Bowl & beyond: Human trafficking lurks

February 2 2013 by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Every year in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, a perfunctory story or two appears in the press predicting an increase in sex trafficking in the city where the game is to be played.

This year is no different and even though statistics on the prevalence of trafficking in New Orleans and other Super Bowl host cities are difficult to come by, the reality is that illegal trade of human beings for commercial sex exploitation and forced labor is a real and present issue every day in most cities and towns across the country.

Contrary to what most Americans may think, it is not isolated to lesser-developed nations. Even if people are not being trafficked in your hometown, there is a fair chance the shirt you are wearing at this very moment may have been made in a factory where people were enslaved.

An estimated 27 million men, women and children are enslaved around the world. The U.S Department of State says between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Many of these individuals are brought from Thailand, Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Around 20 percent of all trafficked individuals are children.

In many cases, victims are lured to another nation or area with promises of a good job or opportunities to support their family. These promises are merely ploys to get them to a place where they can be held against their will and exploited. In other cases, children are in effect sold to traffickers by families living in dire poverty in order to secure a source of income.

In a briefing on the State Department’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons report in June, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained, “Traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of those seeking a better life.”

According to the United Nations, human trafficking is recognized as the third most “profitable” international crime endeavor, topped only by illegal drugs and arms trafficking.

But what about the connection between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking?

It’s obvious that where people are gathering in large numbers, the demand for such illicit trade increases as does other criminal behavior. It is a sad but real-life illustration of the economic model of supply and demand.

And the New Orleans area, as a port city and popular tourist destination sitting astride major interstate highways, already is a haven for sex trafficking.

The continuing tragedy is that once the NFL championship is decided and fans have returned to their homes, those trapped in slavery will remain behind.

Yet anyone in the U.S. can join in the battle against this modern-day human tragedy.

For instance:
  • Be vigilant by being aware of people working in certain industries, including factories, restaurants, hotels, construction and agriculture.
  • Take note of those who appear to have no contact with their family, no access to identification documents, whose movement is tightly controlled by others, who move frequently, who work excessive hours and have unusual work restrictions.
  • Trafficked individuals may have injuries or signs of physical abuse, be malnourished, have few personal possessions and avoid eye contact and be hesitant to speak to strangers.
  • Don’t assume that just because you don’t live in a major metropolitan area people are not being trafficked in your community. Commercial sex exploitation and forced labor is an issue where state lines and national borders have no meaning.
For any reasonable suspicion that someone is being trafficked, promptly call (888) 373-7888, a national hotline operated by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s Polaris Project.

For Christ-followers, the obligation is even greater to be attuned to this issue – to go above and beyond in caring for our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40); to stand in the gap for the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9); and to see every person as being of inestimable value and worthy of redemption (Genesis 1:26).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dwayne Hastings is a vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information on the human trafficking issue, visit these websites: polarisproject.org, notforsalecampaign.org, love146.org and enditmovement.com.)

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2/2/2013 4:41:26 PM by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

A lawsuit on homosexuality to monitor

February 1 2013 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

ALEXANDRIA, La. – A Ugandan homosexual rights organization has filed a federal lawsuit against an American pastor claiming his biblical views on homosexuality have influenced many citizens in their country and resulted in crimes against humanity.

Massachusetts pastor Scott Lively has been accused by the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) of inciting the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda.

During a hearing, which took place in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Jan. 7, Lively was accused of “violating the law of nations” and “crimes against humanity” as well as conspiracy and various “civil rights” crimes. In the filing, SMUG listed a number of violent acts committed against homosexuals in Uganda that they claim Lively’s speeches against homosexuality have incited.

The suit seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, exemplary damages, attorneys’ fees, and a “declaratory judgment that the Defendant’s conduct is in violation of the law of nations” as well as “all such other and further relief that the court may deem just and proper.”

SMUG is being represented in the United States by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). According to its website, CCR “is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.”

According to a CCR press release, the lawsuit alleges that “Lively’s actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI people in Uganda of their fundamental human rights based solely on identity. This is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity.”

SMUG brought its lawsuit in U.S. Court under the Alien Tort Statute, a provision that allows U.S. federal courts to hear lawsuits filed by non-U.S. citizens for torts (cause of harm) committed in violation of international law.

“We want him held accountable for the escalating homophobia and persecution in Uganda,” SMUG representative Pepe Julian Onziema said, according to a CCR press release.

It is important to note that Uganda adopted its present constitution in 1995. Like the U.S. Constitution, the Ugandan governing document articulates the freedom of speech, expression, thought, conscience and belief.

In spite of the articulated freedoms that Lively operated under when preaching in Uganda, SMUG and its allies did not – and do not – like his message.

What was initiated by a Ugandan homosexual activist group and is being played out in a U.S. federal court has been predicted by some conservative observers – including yours truly – for quite some time. It seems evident that one of the goals of some homosexual activists is to silence any and all who would dare criticize or denounce their lifestyle.

Freedom is sometimes a very messy reality, especially when it comes to balancing of what seem to be competing rights. Though Uganda and the United States both have constitutions that clearly articulate that citizens have freedom of speech, even in America freedom of expression is not sacrosanct.

The Supreme Court of the United States has found there are some limitations on an individual’s right to speak freely. The burden of proving that a person’s speech falls into one of the limited categories is a very high legal standard, and it should be. Of the restrictions placed on the freedom of speech in the United States by the Supreme Court, it would seem SMUG is hoping the judge would find Lively’s expressions fall into the category of inciting illegal activity.

In commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision to restrict speech as it relates to illegal activity, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

It will not be easy for SMUG to prove that Lively’s words were the motive for actions against those who practice homosexuality in Uganda. In American jurisprudence, the restriction of speech for reasons of causing unlawful activity is extremely rare.

The clash of rights that many have long predicted is now taking place in a U.S. federal court. An American judge is being asked to rule concerning Ugandan free speech rights as they apply to a United States citizen’s expression of his beliefs about the nature of homosexuality. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Forget all the legal verbiage contained in the SMUG lawsuit against Lively. The real issue at hand is this: In Uganda – or in the United States – does the freedom to express one’s beliefs, no matter how repugnant those beliefs might be considered, trump a person’s right to not be offended?

If the judge does decide to hear the case and if he was to rule against Lively, homosexual activists would have a victory they have long sought. While it would not have immediate application in the U.S., you can assume activists would look for reasons to file similar suits in America.

If we are going to live in a pluralistic society that affords the right of free speech to every citizen, there is another freedom that must be diligently exercised – the freedom to ignore what offends you.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
2/1/2013 1:49:09 PM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Are you having a spiritual temper tantrum?

February 1 2013 by Amanda Walker, Baptist Press

RUSTON, La. – Temper tantrums. If you are a mother of small children or had dealings with small children, then you know this scene well. Everything is going smoothly, and your child is happy until you tell your precious child, “No!” All of a sudden the child melts down into a fit, kicking, screaming and demanding that you allow her to do whatever it is she wants to do. As a mother of an almost 2-year-old, temper tantrums are a daily occurrence in our house. Our sweet little girl all of a sudden turns into someone you do not know, and you wonder what happened to your well-mannered child. Most of the time there is no reasoning with the child, and you have to take some sort of disciplinary action.

A few weeks ago I was dealing with one of Makaylan’s tantrums when God spoke very candidly to my spirit. As adults, we like to think of ourselves as greater than a 2-year-old, but many times we act just like them. We might not physically act out with kicking and screaming, but spiritually we close our hearts and resist God. We ask for something, and He says, “No” or, “Wait.” And the temper tantrum begins. The Bible calls this a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Romans 8:5-8 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

So how can we, as children of God, begin to put our spiritual temper tantrums under His control?
  • We must set our minds on the things of God.
We live in a world that is constantly battling for our attention. The world tells us that we can do whatever we want because we are the ones in control of our lives. As a teenager, I remember my mother telling me to choose my friends wisely. Why should we do that? Because we end up acting like and becoming like the company we keep. In this passage, Paul is reminding us that our lives will be controlled by either the flesh or the Spirit. It is our choice to make. If we want to be men and women who are controlled by God’s Spirit, then we must set our minds on the things of God. This is not just thinking about God or godly things (though that helps), but it means having a mindset that is in harmony with God. In order to know what God says and how He acts, we must be in His Word and meditate on His Word. For example, if you struggle with gossip (or any other sin regarding your mouth), then mediate on what God has to say about how He can control your tongue (James 3:1-12). If you struggle with anxiety, meditate on how God takes care of birds and flowers (seemingly insignificant things), so He will certainly take care of you (Matthew 6:25-34). To know God’s mind, we must be in His Word.
  • We must submit to God’s law.
I used to hate the word “submission.” I am fiercely independent, and I did not like the thought of someone controlling me. The word “submission” has a very negative connotation in our culture. As stated earlier, we live in a culture that teaches us that we are in complete control of our life and should submit to no one. My view of submission changed when I began to have a biblical understanding of submission. In scripture, the word used for “submit” is usually a word that means a willful submitting of oneself to another. God has all authority to force our obedience, yet He desires for us to willfully submit to His commands out of love for Him. God knows that the world will bring nothing but death, and He wants to save us from experiencing the heartbreak that comes from living a life that is controlled by the flesh.

This Christmas we bought our daughter a Disney Princess 4-wheeler that goes an exciting 2 mph. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so we often let her ride it in the circle. A few days ago a car was coming, so we removed her from the toy. Immediately, she began to resist, but I held her tight. After the car passed, I “explained” to her that she could have been hurt, and I needed her to obey mommy when cars were around. I did not take her off her toy because I was trying to be mean or show some sort of tyrannical control over her, but I did it because I love her and did not want her to get hurt. God knows that if we set our minds on the things of the flesh, then we will be destroyed. Jesus reminds us, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (you) may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Submitting to God’s law is only accomplished as we set our minds on the things of God, trusting that He knows what is best for us.
  • We must seek to please God.
If you are allowing your mind and actions to be controlled by the Spirit, then you will want to please God, and God will find much pleasure in you. Romans 8:8 says very bluntly that if we are living in the flesh, then we do not please God. If you read a little further in the passage, you will see that if you are a child of God, then you do not have to live according to the flesh (vs. 12-13). So many times I hear myself saying, “I couldn’t help it. I had to give in to this particular sin.” No, I do not! Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a criminal’s cross, and then rose again in order for me and you to have a choice. We do not have to be controlled by our emotions. We do not have to give in to the temptation to sin. We do not have to give in to the emotions of a spiritual temper tantrum. We can live a life that seeks to please God. And that is exactly what God is calling us, as children of God, to do.

So, I ask you: Are you prone to spiritual temper tantrums? Do you find yourself quarrelling with God over a particular command? Are you pushing against Him because of the particular life season He has for you? If so, I want to encourage you to immerse yourself in God’s Word, and you will discover that He has nothing but life and peace to offer you. My prayer is that we would be children of God who have hearts that are submitted to Christ and His Lordship. May we grow into mature men and women who have our minds set on the things of God.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary. Amanda Walker is in the Doctorate of Educational Ministries program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her greatest joy is serving alongside her husband who is the University Minister at Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, La., and being the mother of two daughters.)
2/1/2013 1:46:29 PM by Amanda Walker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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