Sunday, May 05, 2013

The 3 - May 5, 2013

This edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", includes the response to an NBA player admitting his homosexuality and how people of faith have united behind an ESPN commentator that doesn't exactly think this revelation should be celebrated.   Also, the subject of religious liberty in the armed forces reached a whole new level this week as scrutiny was given to the military's policy on sharing your faith and who might be shaping that policy.  The top story:  the observance of the National Day of Prayer at thousands of locales across America, reminding us of the power and significance of united prayer.

3 - NBA player "comes out", ESPN commentator shares Biblical perspective, gains support from Christian leaders

The news travelled swiftly - the first professional player in a men's major sport to admit that he was gay, according to a piece in Sports Illustrated.   And, while there are those that lauded Jason Collins for his admission, calling him courageous and assorted other positive accolades, there were also those that were either indifferent to the admission (you could make the case that a player's sexuality shouldn't be a matter of discussion), or expressed concern that Collins should not have received the attention or the affirmation.

One of those that was none too happy about Collins' revelation was an ESPN commentator named Chris Broussard.  In a discussion aired on the "worldwide leader", he said:
Personally, I don't believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you're openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that's a sin. If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ..."
And, he made a very strong statement about the fruit of someone claiming to be a believer in Christ:
"I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian."
Well, Broussard definitely drew his share of opposition, he was called homophobic and there were calls for his ouster.  ESPN did apologize for Chris' comments, but did not require Broussard to issue an apology.   CitizenLink and the Manhattan Declaration stood with him, encouraging people to send comments of support to ESPN.

Broussard did make a non-apologetic follow-up statement, though.   He said,
...I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.
PGA golfer Bubba Watson had tweeted out support for the commentator, who had claimed that there are those in the NBA who share his views, but who do not express that perspective because they do not want to be labeled. 

The Christian Post reported that in a teleconference on Thursday sponsored by the K.I.N.G. men's organization, of which Brossard is president, he said, "Even though I'm getting a lot of hate God is being glorified."  He stated, "I'm getting such an outpouring of support from Christians throughout the country and even throughout the world. I've had several big name pastors call me or tweet in support of me. I've had NBA players and coaches and management call me in support."
John Piper is one of those pastors.  In a tweet directing his fans to the link on Broussard's commentary, Piper, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota, wrote: "Chris Broussard. This is solid steel in a world of cattails."

Yes, this is yet another example of someone who has dared to express a contrary, and Biblical, opinion toward accepting homosexual practice in our society.   And, it shows the intolerance by those promoting the gay agenda for opposing viewpoints that we see all too often on these matters.   It is clear that there are many who are not pushing for equality or a level playing field, but forced subservience to their view concerning the normalization and legitimization of homosexual behavior.  This viewpoint should not prevent Christians from speaking firmly, yet gracefully about God's view of sexuality.

2 - Role of religion in military becomes prevalent topic after news emerges about possible new guidelines

Over the course of the past week, concern has escalated regarding religious freedom in the military.  Recent reports of an Army training presentation citing evangelicals and Catholics as extremists and an e-mail from an Army officer decrying certain Christian organizations for their extremism pale by comparison to a scathing editorial that was published in the Huffington Post on April 16 by a certain Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.   A quote from the piece led a recent column by Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council on
“Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.” 
Klukowski goes on to write about a Washington Post piece by Sally Quinn that references an April 23 meeting that included Weinstein, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, some military officials, and oh, yes, a military chaplain, that presumably dealt with the implementation of new policy in the military concerning religious expression.

The column also, according to Klukowski, approvingly quotes MRFF Advisory Board member Larry Wilkerson as saying, “Sexual assault and proselytizing, according to Wilkerson, ‘are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.’”  Ken goes on to say:
Did you get that? They say having someone share the Christian gospel with you is akin to being raped. Weinstein makes sure there are no doubts, being quoted by the Post as adding, “This is a national security threat. What is happening [aside from sexual assault] is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs is to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.”
Another MRFF Advisory Board member, Ambassador Joe Wilson (the far-left husband of CIA employee Valerie Plame from the Iraq War’s yellow-cake uranium scandal a decade ago), said a military chaplain “is to minister to spiritual needs. You don’t proselytize. It’s a workplace violation.” 
In other words, it should be the official policy of the United States to decree what a human being’s spiritual needs are, and punish for violations a military officer who is an ordained clergyman who attempts to share his own personal faith with another service member when discussing religious matters
Some very troubling material, indeed.   The Family Research Council got out front of the story, put a petition to the Secretary of Defense online, and very quickly gathered thousands of signatures.  The Alliance Defending Freedom launched another offensive by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for e-mails relative to MRFF involvement in shaping and enforcing this policy.

By Friday, the same military spokesman who had previously said, "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense..." and, "Court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis...”, was saying this concerning religious freedom in the military: “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization).”

According to a CitizenLink report, the ADF is not particularly convinced by the new comments.   ADF Legal Counsel Joseph La Rue said, “We appreciate the Pentagon’s clarification, but little or no evidence exists of coercive proselytization in the military, so we are troubled over what motivated the original comments."

The Defense Department has attempted to clarify, and according to The Tennessean, the same military spokesman said, "... all service members are free to exercise their constitutional right to practice their religion in a manner that is respectful of other individuals’ rights to follow their own belief systems; and in ways that are conducive to good order and discipline; and that do not detract from accomplishing the military mission."

This seems reassuring, but some lingering questions for people of faith need to be answered:

- what is the difference between evangelizing and proselytization?   Apparently, coercion and lack of consent would come into play, but what constitutes coercion?   Could someone merely sharing about the hope within them to someone who is less than willing to hear be interpreted as coercion, even though that was not the intent?

- is there some sort of new policy on religious expression that is being considered for the military?

- why did military leadership include Weinstein in its meetings on implementing policy on religious expression, especially since his definitions of the words stated above would probably be glaringly different than the views of a plurality religious people within the military, including chaplains?

While I and most mainstream Christians would not endorse coercion within the ranks of the armed forces, it is important for our military members to know exactly what the lines are and to be assured that their constitutional rights of freedom of religion are being upheld.

1 - National Day of Prayer unites believers to call on God for our nation

At city halls and county courthouses, in churches and civic centers across America, people joined together on Thursday to offer prayers to God, calling out to Him with one voice.  According to the NDP Task Force, 50 Governors and the President of the United States proclaimed the 62nd annual National Day of Prayer as millions of Americans gathered from coast to coast in solemn assembly.  The Task Force says it was the single, largest mobilized effort to prayer in the history of our nation with more than 42,000 events held nationally.

The Cannon House Office Building was the setting for the National Observance on Thursday morning, which featured keynote speaker, Honorary Chairman, Greg Laurie, who said, according to the NDP Task Force website, “With God nothing is impossible and God can turn America around.” After his powerful words of affirmation, hope and inspiration, he closed with the reading of the national prayer.

Finally, according to the site, it was Rear Admiral William D. Lee who ended the 3-hour event with five, yes 5, standing ovations. He gave a desperate appeal for prayer asking all to lift up the armed forces at such a critical time in our nation’s history. “Pray that we will be able to weather the storm that I am almost certain will come – that we will not be required to put aside our Constitutional rights,” he said.   The message was spoken from the heart, no doubt in response to the concerns emerging during the previous week about religious freedom in the military.

Shirley Dobson, Task Force Chairperson, her husband, Dr. James Dobson, Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt and Congressional colleague Frank Wolf, Pat Boone, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, and Vonette Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ co-founder were also included in the national celebration.

And, that night, the OneCry Prayer Summit was broadcast to some 500 radio stations across the nation, including a variety of speakers and musical artists.  An initiative of Life Action Ministries, the OneCry is a movement of believers who are urgently crying out to God to revive the church and transform the culture. 

The National Day of Prayer is an important day, but it should transcend mere symbolism to motivate God's people to significant prayer and action.   In desperate times, we must bow our hearts before God and demonstrate a passionate dependence on Him, believing that He will make Himself known as we honor Him and humble ourselves before the hand of Almighty God.

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