To help Christians and churches better understand what the Bible says on both alcohol and illegal drug use, the Christian Life Commission has compiled a new resource. It is a six-page document titled "On Alcohol & Drug Use: A Biblical Perspective." (It does not deal with prescription drug abuse; we hope to do something soon on that subject.)
In American culture alcohol use is common. Advertising associates drinking with good times, parties, and beautiful people. It may not, however, be as widely consumed as sometimes perceived. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health said 70.1 percent of people reported they drank alcoholic beverages in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month. That's most Americans, but almost half of Americans steered clear of alcohol over the previous month.
Still, the negative consequences of alcohol abuse are staggering. According the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, here are some of the stats:
We protect children and teenagers because they are a gift from God and a blessing to the world. As they grow, however, they are vulnerable because of their size and stages of development. Children and teens need adults to care for and protect them as they grow.
Not all societies have placed a high value on young life and the importance of protecting them. Even in the United States, child labor laws had to be enacted to protect children and young teens from being exploited. We also make sure children and teens get a basic education, that young ones are safely secured in vehicles, that children are treated properly by parents, and that no adult is allowed to be involved sexually with someone under age 17.
While not all cultures protect children and teens in the way the current American society does, Scripture sets forth the high value God places on young people. (The Bible was written in a time and place when children were seen as "coming of age" at 13; in our society, with its growing complexity, that age is more generally seen as about 17 or 18, and various laws reflect that increase.)
By Girien Salazar
One of the top bipartisan legislative priorities, this session, has been improving the Texas public school system by increasing funding. As we approach the end of the session, Texas public schools are on track to receive a major financial investment. While both parties agree on the need to increase school funding, there are still many differences to work out between what the House and Senate want to see in the school finance bill.
Currently, HB 3 is in conference committee where select members will work together to hash out the differences between the House and Senate version of the bill. Texas voters still have the opportunity to encourage their elected officials to support an equitable school finance system.
More than 90 percent of Texas school children will attend Texas public schools. Increasing quality and funding for public schools is critical to having a highly skilled workforce and building a healthy Texas economy.
HB 3 would increase the basic per-pupil allotment for all school districts (from $5,140 to $5,880), which will inject $9 billion dollars into the school finance system. Texas needs a school finance system that propels students out of poverty and helps all students reach their full potential.
The end of the legislative session is in sight and while there is still time, the days are getting longer and the chances of getting bills out of committee are getting smaller. This is an update on some of the CLC priority bills, where they are in the process and how you can help get them over the finish line.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE ...
PRO-LIFE LEGISLATION ...
PAYDAY LENDING ...
You can help.
Above all else, please pray for the CLC and our lobby team that we would be wise, gentle, reasonable, and unwavering in our work to pursue the common good while representing a biblical worldview in accordance to James 3:16-17.
By Abby Hopkins
In Slovakia, the Roma are a minority known for living in poverty. Education barriers create challenges for individuals to finish school and break the cycles of poverty.
Roma Health & Hunger, a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering partner, is meeting this need by providing resources within the education system. From mothers to their children, the work of this ministry is helping Roma families succeed and thrive.
Hunger Offering funds are specifically used for higher education scholarship funds as well as for lunches and snacks for a preschool program. This ministry unites the body of Christ to meet the needs of Roma people and display the glory of God.
It’s with excitement and sadness that I inform you of some news. After four years of having the true privilege of serving as the hunger and care ministries specialist at the CLC, I will be transitioning to a new position as a crisis counselor in Marble Falls.
Words do not feel adequate for how grateful I am for every person whom I’ve had the honor to know and work alongside in this ministry. Thank you doesn’t seem to suffice.
I will serve as an adult outreach counselor at Highland Lakes Family Crisis Center, close in proximity to our church, First Baptist Church of Marble Falls. I will be working with individuals dealing with trauma while pursuing my credentials as a licensed clinical social worker. I hope to gain a better understanding of trauma-informed care and learn to walk with people on their healing journeys. I covet your prayers in this new chapter of my life.
The change is very bittersweet. These past four years have changed my life. I love and believe in the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering, the CLC, and the Texas Baptist family. I hold dear so many beautiful memories across Texas and around the world. I have learned a great deal from numerous churches and ministries impacting their communities with beauty, justice, and restoration.
I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to the church of Philippi: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5, CSB).
Thank you, Dr. Reyes, Dr. Foster, and Dr. Hardage for giving this Tennessean a chance. Shout out to Marilyn, Kathryn, Rebecca, and everyone else who are more than coworkers, they are family.
Thank you, colleagues and friends, for your encouragement to me personally, and more importantly, your desire to pursue the call to justice, mercy, and equality.
Donna Burney is not your typical advocate, after serving as an English professor and then with Woman's Missionary Union, she retired. But, a few years ago, Donna became aware of the uncertainty facing women just released from prison.
The Lord gave Donna a heart for these women and a few years ago, she began “Light in the Gap” ministry. Volunteers literally meet women in the gap of time between their old lives as prisoners and their new lives in their communities.
Since its founding only a few years ago, Light in the Gap volunteers have met some 4,000 recently release women at the bus stops in their towns. They bring cookies and bags filled with toiletries and a devotional. During the winter they bring coats. But mostly, they bring Christ’s love and hope to women who feel forgotten and a deep sense of shame about their pasts.
Donna saw through her ministry an injustice, one that the hugs and prayers, while powerful, could not correct.
She reached out to the Christian Life Commission and asked for our help. The women Donna was ministering to needed an advocate to stand in the gap for them. The women needed their elected officials to step in and get the government agency responsible to change its policy. Donna met me in Austin, and we went to meet the men and women with the power to change the policy.
Before our first meeting, we prayed for God, our advocate, to stand in the gap for us, to give our words power and to give us favor with those we were to meet. And He did!
Two thousand years ago Jesus put his heal on the notion of revenge. “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39, CSB).
This sounds wonderful until you are the one slapped; then it gets personal. I was taught by a Christ-following dad that if someone hit me, I was to hit him back. It was a reflection of the practical rural wisdom he grew up with, not with what Jesus taught.
Revenge gets embedded in us early. And here’s the interesting thing, revenge is related to justice. That’s the point of the eye-for-an-eye instruction in the Old Testament. It actually limited punishment to an equal response for an offense. In other words, if someone steals my cow, I’m not supposed to go and kill his son. I’m supposed to seek a just recompense -- one of his cows, or maybe more than one cow as a punishment.
Even though eye-for-an-eye justice is limiting, you can see how it metastasizes, especially when individuals or groups seek to exert what they think is a fair punishment, not what some external authority thinks is just.
This happens over and over on the global stage. An interesting article in The Washington Posttalks about how white supremacists and Muslim fundamentalists are feeding off of one another.
Abuse is evil. The Houston Chronicle’s recent series of articles about sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention sheds some light on this pervasive problem in churches.
This is a watershed moment, and it is also an opportunity for Southern Baptists to step up and walk the narrow path of repentance and change.
I am inspired by survivors like Debbie Vasquez and David Pittman, their stories were featured in the article, who courageously share with the world about their traumatic experiences. They speak truth to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
Their stories are heart-wrenching and infuriating, and unfortunately, they are nothing new to the church. I know multiple women and men who were sexually assaulted by church leaders as children. While healing is possible, the trauma of abuse ravages people physically, mentally, and emotionally for years and decades.
This is our opportunity to listen to survivors and mourn together.
Stories like Heather Schneider’s are haunting. Churches have the opportunity to listen to her mom, Gwen Casados, about her abuse and suicide and hear from survivors in our communities. Survivors are everywhere, including our churches. In the broader U.S. culture, one in three women and one in six menhave experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime.
We can step up, listen, and learn from survivors; their voices and stories matter the most.
Sometimes it is hard to acknowledge what we know to be real. Such is the case with sexual abuse that happens in churches or by a church leader or volunteer.
It is real. It is tragic. It is devastating to lives. It is damaging to the cause of Christ.
The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News have partnered in producing a three-part series on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. This is not the kind of news any Southern Baptist wants to read, but it is exactly the kind that we must read.
Reporting possible crimes
Any charge of sexual misconduct should be taken seriously. If it involves possible criminal activity, law enforcement should be immediately contacted. Keeping it quiet within the church is not a option.
If we think a store has been broken into, we call the police. If we think money has been embezzled, we contact authorities. If there is any indication a sexual assault has been committed, a church needs to report it.
The wise approach to any instance of alleged sexual abuse or assault is to call the police, says Kathryn Freeman, the Christian Life Commission’s director of public policy. Reporting such crimes is also the law in Texas.