Sunday, September 14, 2014

The 3 - September 14, 2014

In this edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I take a look at faith on campus, as one university's football team was told that it was unconstitutional to place crosses on their helmets to honor people associated with the program who had died.   Also, one of America's leading Christian businessmen passed away this past week.  And, Christians gathered to respond in prayer on the anniversary of 9/11.

3 - University removes cross from football team helmets

Faith on campus is a topic area that emerges from time-to-time, and this week, college football players at Arkansas State University had decided to honor the memory to two individuals who passed away during the past year by placing cross decals on their helmets. According to Todd Starnes of Fox News, the cross decals were meant to memorialize former player Markel Owens and former equipment manager Barry Weyer, said athletic director Terry Mohajir.  Weyer was killed in a June car crash. Owens was gunned down in Tennessee in January.

Starnes wrote:
These young men were simply trying to do a good deed. They were standing up for their fallen teammates. It’s really too bad the university could not stand up for the team.
Barry Weyer, Sr., told him that the players and coaches voluntarily decided to memorialize his son and Owens.  He is quoted as saying, "The players knew they were both Christians so they decided to use the cross along with their initials...They wanted to carry the spirits of Markel and Barry Don onto the field for one more season.”

It was a decision that had the full support of Mohajir, who said, "I support our students’ expression of their faith...I am 100 percent behind our students and coaches.”

After the recent televised game between Arkansas State and Tennessee, university counsel Lucinda McDaniel  received a letter from a local attorney complaining about the decal.  McDaniel wrote to Mohajir: “While we could argue that the cross with the initials of the fallen student and trainer merely memorialize their passing, the symbol we have authorized to convey that message is a Christian cross.”

She stated that, “If the bottom of the cross can be cut off so that the symbol is a plus sign (+) there should be no problem...It is the Christian symbol which has caused the legal objection.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation then fired off a letter congratulating the university on cleansing the helmets of the Christian symbol.  According to Starnes, FFRF co-presidents Annie Lauire Gaylor and Dan Barker went so far as to suggest alternative ways for the football players to mourn.

Mohajir is quoted as saying, “I don’t even kinda-sorta care about any organization that tells our students how to grieve...Everybody grieves differently. I don’t think anybody has the right to tell our students how to memorialize their colleagues, their classmates or any loved ones they have.”

Meanwhile, at Penn State University, officials had removed Gideon Bibles from guest rooms because of an FFRF challenge.   According to its media website, Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Thursday to Penn State encouraging it to reverse its decision. ADF recently sent a similar letter to the U.S. Navy, which later reversed its decision to remove Bibles from guest rooms after it also received a complaint from FFRF.

ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Travis Barham is quoted as saying, "Public universities should understand that the First Amendment does not require them to purge a book from their guest rooms just because it happens to be religious. Rather, the Constitution requires them to accommodate religion...The Bibles can legitimately stay in the guest rooms because they simply represent a discrete way to accommodate the needs of traveling guests, not some sort of government effort to promote religion.”

2 - Chick-Fil-A founder passes away at 93

The founder of Chick-Fil-A, Truett Cathy, died early in the morning on Monday, September 8th at the age of 93.

In an article on the Baptist Press website, Cathy was quoted as having said, "I was not so committed to financial success that I was willing to abandon my principles and priorities...Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business."

Mel Blackaby, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, the site of Cathy's funeral service on Wednesday, described Cathy as "perhaps the most gracious Christian man I have ever known, and it was a privilege to be his pastor."

In a statement to The Christian Index of the Georgia Baptist Convention, he said, "Having taught eighth-grade boys Sunday School class for 52 years, he chose to invest his life in the next generation of leaders...Everywhere I go, I meet leaders with a smile on their face who say, 'I am one of Truett's boys!'

The article points out that more than 1,800 Chick-fil-A restaurants operate in 40 states and Washington, D.C., recording $5 billion in annual sales in 2013 and 47 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Chick-fil-A was listed among the "Top 20 Brands with the Most Loyal Fans on Facebook" in a report by market research firm LoudDoor released in August.

Baptist Press reported that Cathy was a native of Eatonton, GA, who moved to Atlanta with his family at age 4. His key Bible verse was Proverbs 22:1: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold."

Cathy and his brother Ben opened their first restaurant in 1946, a venue so small they named it The Dwarf Grill (later, The Dwarf House). A second suburban Atlanta location opened in 1951 but burned down in 1960. In 1967 Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A in a mall, followed in 1986 by the first free-standing Chick-fil-A.

Another quote: "We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed...I have always encouraged my restaurant operators and team members to give back to the local community. We should be about more than just selling chicken; we should be a part of our customers' lives and the communities in which we serve."

1 - Prayer gatherings take place across America on 9/11 anniversary in light of terrorist fears, Middle East persecution

Christians marked the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy by gathering in prayer.  One example took place in New York City, according to a piece on the WORLD Magazine website.  Churches there gathered at the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association on the Upper West Side planned to pray not for the safety of Manhattan but for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.   You can hear my recent interview with the writer of the article, Emily Belz, here.

The report states that Diana Mao organized the gathering.  She works for an anti-trafficking organization in the city and attends Times Square Church.  She has a friend working for the UN in Iraq who sends her updates from the ground there. Johanna Cappon, who attends and helps lead worship at Every Nation Church, also helped organize. Both Mao and Cappon have traveled in the Middle East.

Mao said, “When Iraq unfolded I was talking to friends and we were thinking about what we could do...It was hard to hear about all the atrocities that were happening. We want to take action and don’t know where to start. Prayer is a good place to start.”

The women reached out to networks of other big and small evangelical churches in the city: Trinity Grace Church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Baptist churches, and charismatic churches. Mao described the gathering as "...the the body coming together."

Last month, members at churches in the city set up a prayer chain for Iraq. One member from Apostles Church, an evangelical church with multiple parishes in the city, set up a Google spreadsheet of prayer needs and emailed it to his church, and those members forwarded it on to other church email lists throughout the city. People from various evangelical churches—Apostles, Redeemer, Trinity Grace, and others—signed up for 15-minute slots to pray over the course of five days.

Also, the Awakening America Alliance was involved again this year in sponsoring and encouraging Cry Out America gatherings across the nation.   Kay Horner, the Executive Director of the Alliance, wrote this:
Today, as hundreds of thousands are crying out in extraordinary, united prayer for a Christ-awakening in America, we would do well to ask ourselves: “We’ve prayed… now what? What follows the plethora of 9/11 prayers, resonating across our nation?”
She went on to say:
What do you see? What do you dream for America’s awakened church? If today’s dreams awaken tomorrow’s destiny, how will we go forward from our 9/11 prayer gatherings to impact a culture in desperate need for transformation?
We must be consistent and intentional to pursue what God envisions within us. We must do so with holiness, for the One who has called us is holy. We must pursue His harvest with true, not feigned, humility because as we awake, arise, and shine, our shining will be with His reflected glory and not our own. We will be awakened to an unsatiated hunger for more.
It is a reasonable and effective response, as we reflect on the tragedy of 9/11, to call upon the Lord to strengthen our hearts and to ask Him to move in a powerful way upon our nation.

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