James Tate and his prom

There is a story out of Ohio this week. It is about a boy, a girl, the prom…and rules.

It seems that James Tate, a student at Shelton High, asked his friend Sonali to the prom. He did it in an unusual way, by taping huge letters high on the wall of the exterior of the school.

But school officials say Tate, along with two friends who assisted him, trespassed on private property after hours. Tate also was told by school officials that his actions posed a safety risk.

His penalty for this hijinks was a suspension. The consequence of a suspension after April 1st is that the student is denied a prom entry. This rule is not a surprise. The “regulation is reinforced over the course of the spring by daily PA system reminders, posted signage in common areas of the building and classrooms, as well as informational letters and automated phone messages to parents.”

Yet despite the fact that there are rules, that they are posted prominently, and that the consequences are clear, there was an outcry when the consequences were applied and James Tate was denied going to the prom.

It actually got frenzied this week. Tate was on Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel, there was an instant hashtag created for #TeamTate, a facebook page was created set up, a website was set up, and the school received thousands of emails and calls from around the world, as far away as from Japan, no less.

Some of the comments about the situation were:
“But it also affects a larger scale,” he added. “We want to get the message out, beyond Shelton, that acts of love and kindness don’t deserve punishment. This kid was acting on emotions, and those first feelings of love are so powerful.”

One of them, Colby Nolan, 17, a junior, said he thought it was “ridiculous” that Tate “actually got his prom taken away.”

Some headlines are immediately shown to be biased toward the student and away from the rules. The AP wrote “Romantic gesture gets teen booted from prom”. NY Times wrote “Did the school overreact?” HotAir wrote “America’s newest grassroots movement: “Let James Tate go to the prom”. Do any of the headlines say “Teen breaks rules, officials levy forewarned consequences” ? No.

The Christian Science Monitor’s interview included a quote from the local state representative, who proposed legislation to allow Tate to go to the prom. “Representative Perillo says he heard from so many constituents that he felt impelled to act. What strikes him as unfair about the Shelton policy, he says, is the date cut-off. “A boy who (hypothetically) punches his girlfriend on March 31 can go to prom, but this kid who put letters up can’t go. That’s not equitable,” he says. “I wanted a solution that wouldn’t tie the school’s hands, but would provide flexibility.””

There has to be a cutoff sometime, somewhere. Jesus said that if you are alive you can repent. After you draw your last breath, the offer of repentance is closed. So one second a person could choose to be saved and the next, is forever damned. A deadline is a deadline, in the bible, anyway. In the fallen world, a deadline is “unfair.” People always try to skirt rules, make excuses, believe the rules don’t apply to them, or that consequences will follow. They are in for a shock when the Fair and Equitable King of Kings applies them uniformly, universally, and perfectly.

I mention this silly prom issue as a metaphor for the prevailing cultural attitude toward God, judgment, punishment, and hell. We are sinners. We break the law, God’s law. He told us why and what the punishment would be in His ministry on earth, in the Apostles’ ministry on earth, in today’s missionaries in earth, in Christians proclaiming the message, and in His bible. Despite that, people still say that “acts of love and kindness don’t deserve punishment.” They scream in outrage not when the rules are broken, but when biblical punishment is actually mentioned. The statement that “his prom was taken away” denies the truth of the situation. Tate gave away his own prom when he broke the rules.

Even Tate said of the repercussions, “I thought they would appreciate my sincerity and creativity,” Tate said on TODAY.” He said that he thought he would have to go on a clean-up detail or something. So he KNEW the rules but hoped that his personal charm would relieve him of the stated consequences.

It is the same today with the unsaved. They believe that their willful breaking of the rules will earn them heaven because they are really not so bad of a person. They were operating on emotions, and emotions trump all. Deep down they still hope that persuasion after-the-fact will rule the day. But there will be no persuasion. Jesus said that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'” and Jesus will reply: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:22-23)

Shelton High officials stood firm on the consequences. They issued a release today. “Shelton High School is a learning community, where students are expected to meet high academic and behavioral expectations. There has been a practice at Shelton High School for many years, that any student receiving an in-school or out-of-school suspension after April 1 for any reason would not be allowed to attend the prom. This regulation is reinforced over the course of the spring by daily PA system reminders, posted signage in common areas of the building and classrooms, as well as informational letters and automated phone messages to parents. These communications are intended to remind our students and parents of the high school’s expectations and consequences. This unfortunate situation is a result of one of those consequences.”

I mention this prom thing because it is an apt metaphor for the prevailing attitude toward rules and especially toward God’s rules. We all know the drill. Heaven is through Jesus only. The broad way is the road to destruction. Yet somehow, people fail to believe the rules will actually be applied. But I am here to tell you, friend, they will. Oh, they will.