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.
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. declared:
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.
Merriam Webster’s Thesaurus lists shameless boldness as the best synonym for the word audacity.
Dr. King embodied righteous audacity as he proclaimed that every person regardless of race, country, or creed has the right to a full and healthy life despite the realities of oppression in the world.
Is this not the very essence of faith in Christ? Despite darkness, light wins. Despite oppression, freedom prevails. Despite hunger, people eat in abundance. The first shall be last. This audacious faith seems fitting for people who believe the God of the Universe became human in order to save the entire world from sin and evil.
In Texas, one in four children struggle with hunger. Our state ranks last -- 51st (50 states plus the District of Columbia) -- in terms of health care coverage. Thirty-one percent of Texans under 65 do not have health insurance and have barriers to adequate healthcare.
By Chris McLain
I can’t speak for those living in urban contexts, but in Crowell it matters whether you’re native-born or a transplant from elsewhere.
Let me explain. It’s not that new people who move into our community are any less welcome or loved than the locals, but their experience of small-town life is certainly different.
Many of the folks who grew up here have large, extended families of several generations nearby. That makes for a broad support system and relational community year-round (and the convenience of avoiding holiday traffic is no small benefit either).
The “new Crowell” folks are much more likely to feel isolated in our close-knit community. It can be difficult to make new friends because “old Crowell” folks already have established networks of family and friends.
That means it’s especially important for folks in Crowell to be neighborly. And, as a pastor, I’m partial to the notion that Christians are specially called and gifted to meet that need.
Scripture really goes further; it’s a command. Remember Jesus’ two-sided “great commandment” to love God and to love neighbor. Jesus was picking up on two Old Testament passages, so this goes back early in God’s dealing with mankind.
I hold to a pretty radical belief. I believe relationships can change the world and selfless, meaningful, healthy conversations can change relationships. And I believe the opposite to be true, as well. Relationships can destroy the world and selfish, empty, unhealthy conversations can damage relationships.
We live in a time when relationships are often built upon transactional, self-serving motives. And when so many conversations take place online or via electronic devices -- giving a false impression of community and relational fortitude -- our commitment to being thoughtful about such things should be flourishing and not dwindling.
Our cultural vehicles of conversation are computers and phones powered by data plans and wifi. Using these, it is easy for conversations to be merely talking void of listening. We have the power to share our opinions without recognition of the impact (negative or positive) we have made on the person staring back at their own screen. This reality is creating a generation of advocates who care deeply about causes, yet who are not necessarily being taught to listen deeply to the hearts of others. I say this as one overcoming that generational hurdle myself.
Navigating an increasingly polarized society in our country has proven messy for the church. Overly politicized and commercialized issues are the drivers for our forums, even for Christians, heightening the danger of neglected relationships. And, therefore, perpetuating intrinsic systemic issues in our culture.
But what if our power structures and communities were renewed by the example of the Trinity, where mutuality and communion bind individuals together? What would change about our neighborhoods, boardrooms, city halls, and churches? What would change about our social, economic, political, and family systems?
(Note from Ferrell: Ethics, which is about how we ought to live, is only Christian when it is rooted in the worship of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Amy Ford Brumfield gave me permission to share the following article. Amy shows us what it's like to be truly alive and grateful in God's world and how that can lead us to worship our creator and redeemer. That worship then leads us to want to honor God with our lives.)
By Amy Ford Brumfield
A friend challenged me recently to reflect on what I am grateful for about my body. I am almost certain the following meditation is far removed from what she had in mind. She had flesh, bone, and sinew in mind, but I am always led to the abstract when I write.
I am grateful for:
Eyes that see the beauty of the created in the way the light plays on trees. I am grateful to have eyes that see not just shades of green, but the colors of the rainbow hidden within each leaf. The ability to commit it to canvas.
Ears that hear the miracle of a cellist playing “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Ears that can block out every sound but the water cascading over the fountain in my yard as it plays its own music. The way either can fill my eyes at the first note. When the two play in unison it borders on the divine.
The first hint of perfume from the privet hedge that blooms each spring. It’s not there one day, and then the next it overwhelms me with a fragrance I want to drink in and remember.
The first sip of morning coffee that provides pleasure and comfort when it touches my tongue and clears the cobwebs.
The ability to appreciate and sometimes untangle the prose of Wendell Berry as he challenges my world view and exposes my own propensity to prejudice or complacency.
Siempre he querido ser una persona que tenga un impacto en el mundo. Aun hoy tengo esto en la cabeza constantemente, pues el lema de mi universidad es: “Lo que empieza aquí, cambia al mundo”.
By Abby Hopkins
I have always wanted to be a world changer. Even now I am constantly reminded of this goal at my university, where our motto is, “What starts here changes the world.”
I believe God has given me this desire for change and justice in the world for a reason, and I am so thankful for the passions He has placed in my heart. Lately, God has caused me to desire a platform of change that centers on Him, rather than on myself.
Over Spring Break, I traveled to New York City with other college students from my church. It was a large group, but we were split into breakout teams with specific focuses for the week. My group’s focus was anti-human trafficking, so we met with three different non-profit organizations that work to end trafficking.
One of the primary lessons God taught me throughout the trip was the need for Christians to love people in a way that prevents them from being exploited. Traffickers target the vulnerable. People who are often overlooked, unloved, and underserved are often the most vulnerable. So, one of the best things we can do for people is love and serve them.
Jesus spoke to this point in Mark 9:35 when He said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the sixth article.
By Kathryn Freeman
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Dr. King had come to Memphis to join the city’s black sanitation workers in their fight for better working conditions and better pay after two of their co-workers were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck.
Sanitation workers were working full-time and still forced to rely on government programs to feed their families. Dr. King joined these workers in their fight for economic justice and dignity, because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. King gave his life to the fight against inequality out a deep reverence for the command found in Micah 6:8, “to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” He was a drum major for justice, galvanizing people of all ages and races to walk with him toward fulfilling the American promise of freedom and justice for all.
Dr. King’s dream was born out of his study of Scripture and his work as a pastor at Dexter Avenue and Ebenezer Baptist churches. He frequently echoed the call of Amos to “let justice roll down like a river;” the words of Jesus, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. . . who have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness;” and of the Apostle Paul’s “Macedonian call.” Dr. King’s notion of justice and equality and the Christian response to it is profoundly biblical.
April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the fifth article.
By John D. Ogletree, Jr.
One of the greatest demonstrations of love in American history came through the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. The irony of this statement is that during the Civil Rights Movement he was no doubt the most hated man in America. Love, however, was his antidote for hate.
Dr. King was a fighter for equality yet a proponent of nonviolence. In 1960, in a speech to college students, he gave five tenets on the philosophy of nonviolence. The second one speaks on the ethic of love. It states:
“A second basic fact in this philosophy is the consistent refusal to inflict injury upon another. The highest expression of non-injury is love. This love means that you center your attention on the evil system and not the evil doer.”
Twentieth century philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation, of which King was a member. Royce coined the term, “The Beloved Community.” King popularized the term and gave it deeper meaning that was embraced by a broad group of people in the Civil Rights Movement. To King, the goal of the Beloved Community was to have a critical mass of people who would be committed to and trained in the philosophy of nonviolence.
The core value of the Beloved Community to Dr. King was agape love.
Today, April 4, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The CLC has asked several Texas Baptists to write on aspects of Dr. King’s ministry and influence. This is the fourth article.
By Kyle Childress
“I am a man,” said the signs carried by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, 50 years ago. Sanitation workers were on strike from the Memphis’ public works department demanding that the city treat them like human beings. All of them were black and most of them made 65 cents a day loading and driving the garbage trucks for the people of Memphis.
A couple of months before, during a major downpour, two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, took shelter in the back of a sanitation truck to eat their lunch. An electrical malfunction caused the compactor to operate, compacting the men along with all of the garbage and killing them.
The injustice of such a system further underscored the grief and tragedy when the city refused to compensate their families. Eleven days later 1,300 black sanitation workers walked off the job. At the heart of the protest was the simple assertion that the workers were human beings and should be treated with the dignity of being human. They were not garbage. Hence, the signs, “I am a man.” . . .
That last night in Memphis, King preached, “And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” King continued, “That’s the question before you tonight… Not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That’s the question.”
That’s still the question.