I had planned to write today about the wonder of butterflies. The local news has prompted me to pray, research, and write in another direction.
You undoubtedly have heard of the various anti-religion groups who make charges of infringement whenever a Christian scripture verse or Christian icon appears on or near a public building. At graduations, we read about ceremonies that are challenged when the valedictorian or adult official led a prayer or used scripture in their speech. Prayer before, during, or after high school football games, as well as banners with scripture emblazoned on them, have been subject to challenges that make the news. Scriptures on government buildings such as courthouses are not immune from challenge either. At Christmas time we usually read in the news about Nativity scenes displayed on public property being challenged by such groups. We read about Christmas songs on the school musical program being quashed. And so on.
|Local Nativity Scene. EPrata photo
There are several groups at the forefront of these kinds of confrontations. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association are two. The American Civil Liberties Union is also behind many of the challenges of public display of religion. It is usually just the Christian religion that seems to raise their ire, it should be noted.
We in Georgia are considered the Bible Belt, but the world hates the bible because it is the Word of God. The world hates Jesus, who IS the Word. So the challenges have increased here in our state lately. We’re not immune.
A Georgia high school football program may have God on its side, but not the Constitution, according to critics who say prayer and proselytization have no place in the playbook. Football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville are accused of quoting scripture on team documents and pre-game banners and regularly leading the War Eagles in prayer in a religious blitz the American Humanist Association (AHA) declares unconstitutional. “There’s really no defense for doing this,” AHA attorney Monica Miller told FoxNews.com. “It’s not even solely student prayer — it’s teachers and coaches praying with students. And we have reason to believe it’s not an isolated event.”
Well, the football team is an extra-curricular activity occurring after school hours and participated in by club volunteers who choose to be there. But I digress.
In a release by the American Humanist Association, we read,
“When a teacher or coach leads or participates in prayer with students, the prayers become sponsored by the school,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in a news release. “The cases make clear that public schools must not even give the appearance of taking a position on religious belief, yet in this program we see ongoing biblical verses and references to religion. This evidences a complete disregard for the First Amendment rights of all students.”
That Monica Miller sure is busy. Well, our little county, a sweet place nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, has had a challenge exactly like the one in Chestatee High School in Gainesville, an hour away. It is from the same people, the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and the leader of the challenge is the same woman as mentioned in many of these challenges the AHA have lodged across the country, Monica Miller. Here is the short article from our local newspaper.
Groups aim to have Red Raider monument removed over Christian references
Two groups are seeking to have a Red Raider football monument with Christian references removed from the Madison County High School campus.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Humanist Association have written the Madison County School District protesting the approximate two-ton monument that was placed on the MCHS campus between the new field house and the football field in August. The monument quotes Romans 8:31: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” The base of the structure is also inscribed with Philippians 4:13. Madison County football players have started a new tradition this year of touching the privately donated monument as they take the field on Friday nights.
In a Sept. 25 letter to the school district, the American Humanist Association states that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause “commands a separation of church and state” and the group writes that the government cannot “advance, promote, affiliate with, or favor any particular religion,” or “favor religious belief over disbelief.” “This letter serves as an official notice of the unconstitutional activity and demands that the school district remove the monument immediately or at a minimum, remove the religious references from the monument,” wrote Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association. “In the meantime, we ask that you cover up the monument until such removal takes place. We kindly ask that you notify us in writing within two weeks of receipt of this letter setting forth the steps you will take to rectify this constitutional infringement. Thank you for turning your attention to this important matter.”
Madison County School Superintendent Allen McCannon said officials are speaking with their attorneys on the matter. “We have discussed the situation with our attorneys and are in the process of responding to the entities and forming a plan to deal with the situation,” said McCannon Thursday.
Monica Miller again. I have to give her credit for pursuing what she believes is the right approach to good living. According to their website, the organization exists to “strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life. She certainly is vigorous in that regard.
I wish a lot of Christians were as single-minded and as diligent pursuing good as Ms Miller is in her pursuit of evil.
Because, rebellion against God is always evil. It is sin. This isn’t said to be mean or hateful, it is a simple fact that God is God- He deserves glory and worship because He is holy.
As for the AHA and their pursuit of ‘good without ‘a god’,” Christians know there is no good without God. Isaiah 64:6a says,
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)
The people behind the FFRA and the AHA will find ultimately that their lives had been pointless and their pursuit will be fruitless. It will never go anywhere except toward sadness, grief, and then hell. For any monument taken down, any prayer silenced, any Christian activity quelled, the pagans may celebrate victory but it is a temporary victory, very temporary. Jesus has already won, and He will call those who reject Him to account. We can and should have a great deal of compassion for these people, and show them love in the face of their hate of Jesus.
For local people who are up in arms about this issue I have a few thoughts to share. Some of these thoughts will not be popular.
The monument has a sword embedded in the top. This is a reference to (unwitting or not) to the pagan myth of the King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, the sword being Excalibur. Wikipedia says,
In Arthurian romance, … Arthur obtained the throne by pulling a sword from a stone. In this account, the act could not be performed except by “the true king,” meaning the divinely appointed king or true heir of Uther Pendragon.
Christian scripture and pagan myths do not mix.
Second, the scriptures chosen for display on the monument are a tragedy in themselves. There are two,
–Romans 8:31,“If God be with us, who can be against us?”
–Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” which had been shortened on the monument to read “I can do all things”, and, “strengthen me”
I am not impugning the motivations of the anonymous person who created this fine gift to our county. I like that he or she thought of gifting us with a strong monument with the holy scriptures on it. Any time the bible verses get into the public sphere it is usually a good thing. However, the choice of scriptures, in the context of placement on the field, seems to indicate that God is with us … in the football game. But the verse is actually talking about His sovereign election and predestination of His elect! A weighty matter that should not be trivialized in the context of a game field and leisure-sports entertainment.
The doing all things through Him who strengthens us verse is about the fact that because believers are in Christ He infuses them with His strength to sustain them until they receive some provision. In the context, Paul is talking about having nothing to eat or plenty to eat and knowing how to be content in all situations in which he finds himself. However, these verses are used frequently in stadiums and on sports monuments. Ben Irwin wrote earlier this year about the Philippians verse in the context of football. In his essay, Five Bible Verses you need to Stop Misusing, he said
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New Revised Standard Version) What happens when we treat the Bible as a random collection of freestanding verses? Well, for one thing, as Tyndale House Publishers editor Keith Williams told Christianity Today, “Philippians 4:13 is going to refer to an athletic performance rather than perseverance through need.” For some, “I can do all things” means scoring touchdowns and clearing the bases. But that’s not exactly what Paul had in mind. Paul was sharing that he’d learned to be content no matter what his circumstances – rich or poor, hungry or well fed, in prison or out. What Paul was saying is not so much “I can achieve anything,” but “I can endure anything” – which, in his case, included prison.
And again, because it bears repeating,
As Dr. Eric Bargerhuff writes in The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, “[Philippians 4:13 is] not really about who has the strength to play to the best of their abilities in a sporting contest…. This verse is about having strength to be content when we are facing those moments in life when physical resources are minimal.” – Source
Worse, when the football players rush out of the field house before a game, they touch the monument for good luck. This behavior is idolatrous. In Georgia, football is already an idol, and to include a scripture-laden monument on the field used as a near-altar of stone hewn by human hands where people touch it ‘for luck’ is idolatry. Pure and simple.
Compelling Truth explains idolatry,
What the Bible categorically condemns is the use of superstition to gain the favor of God or any deity to bring fortunate results. Religious rites to draw luck from a pagan god are useless, as pagan gods don’t exist and, therefore, can’t act on behalf of anyone. And God so hates being manipulated by worship practices that He’d rather we abandon those traditions He put into place and worship Him from the heart than obey Him for the sole purpose of gaining favor (Amos 5:21-24).
Compelling Truth again, explaining superstition
A superstition is a belief that an action, object, or circumstance can affect a situation even if they are in no way related. The cause and effect have no natural link, but are believed to be connected through magic or chance.
The power is not in the hewn stone, but in the word of God carried by the Spirit! Remember the story of Dagon, god of the Philistines. When the Philistines had captured the ark of the covenant, they put it in their temple next to the fish-god Dagon. Overnight, God tipped Dagon over so that when the Philistine priests arrived the next morning they saw Dagon face down before the Ark of God.
They righted the Dagon statue and went on with their day. Overnight again, the LORD tipped Dagon over, this time severing his hands and head. Only the body remained. God is serious about idols!
“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.” (1 Peter 2:8)
We know God is using this for the good of those who love Him. I don’t know of course, but maybe God is removing an idol, for our benefit and to His glory. Something to think about.
Next, this is a ‘soft’ persecution. We should not be surprised. The Bible Belt is not immune to any challenge or marginalization of our religion. In these late days of human history, it is to be expected.
Christians are persecuted every day by being killed, tortured, maimed, or jailed. That is hard persecution. In America we have – so far – escaped hard persecution for our religious beliefs. But soft persecution exists here. People have to close their business or be forced to do something that violates their Christian belief. They go bankrupt in legal defenses of their religion. They can’t get a job or are fired from their job for their Christian beliefs. They are socially marginalized or ostracized. Children are bullied. Christian Clubs or churches are booted from their rental properties.
“These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
John MacArthur preached a great pair of sermons about the persecution in Acts, and how God used it for His glory. Especially when Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin men asked Peter questions, Peter gave them the Gospel! The men of the Sanhedrin never would have heard such an exposition of the scriptures otherwise, and God used Peter’s arrest for His glory! So all things work to the good and God is using this right now for His glory.
Well, as one of my pastors said today, perhaps this religious confrontation is to awake us, and energize us to speak His name in the public sphere. Or perhaps it is to apprise us that we in Georgia are not immune from challenge by the atheists who hate God.
Today in our county Jesus is all the talk. The local newspaper, which normally gets 3-10 comments on any given article, maybe 30 on a hot topic, so far has 140 comments on this article, and the number is climbing.
Whether it is removal of an idol, sparking us out of a sleepy Christianity, energizing us to prayer, or to cause a discussion, there are a myriad of ways God can and will use this for the good. We can’t even possibly think of them all!
In any case, the words on the monument are written on my heart. WE ARE THE MONUMENT! We, His children, are His witnesses and His ambassadors. They can take away that monument and it would not make a bit of difference in my Christian walk. I was a strong Christian before the monument went up and I am a strong Christian now and I will be a strong Christian if it is ever covered up or taken down. My faith does not rest in stone. I know His word and I know Jesus. I am supposed to be the living monument testifying of His grace and mercy because He is the Living God!
Our reaction to this issue is very important. We must submit to our leaders. We are blessed with godly leaders, and conscientious lawyers who are looking out for the greatest good and adherence to the law. Our Superintendent is a most Godly and kind, humble, professional and intelligent man. He is good. We have good people here. They will do the right thing. In addition we need to be gracious to each other in our discussions, be kind to those who persecute us (give them the other cheek!) and pray for our leaders, for the enemies of God, and for each other.
Finally, please think about this. Monica Miller is leading the charge with her association, the American Humanists. She is very young. She is in a great deal of spiritual pain, look what her bio says in part-
Monica is also an attorney for the Nonhuman Rights Project, working to obtain common law personhood rights for nonhuman animals.
Her mind is not right, OK? Isaiah 44:18 says this
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
Romans 1:28-31 says it too
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
Ms Miller is dedicating her life to rebellion against Jesus, and is in league with satan as his agent. The bible declares her foolish, ignorant, deluded, evil, a hater of God and is destined for eternal punishment.
Her world is very dark, very. Let’s be compassionate! She deserves it more than just about anyone I know! She is not the enemy. The Freedom From Religion Group is not the enemy. Satan is.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The senior pastor of my church wrote,
Don’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus has already won. Pray about how we, as His followers, respond to those who oppose Him. It is God they are hostile toward and He forewarned us that this would happen. Matthew 5:16,44. What a great opportunity to show the world what Christianity is truly about! The love and grace of God.
John MacArthur preached about persecution, hard and soft recently. He said,
If you live a godly life in the world, you will be confronted, and you will likely be persecuted. Submit to that with a gracious attitude. Don’t retaliate.
Know our leaders will handle this rightly, submit to the government and courts, have love and compassion for those who are challenging us, and trust the LORD to make it all work our for His glory and our good. Is your faith in a stone monument? Or is your faith in the Living God who sees all on the earth?
Large Crowd Attends Ceremony for Remade High School
From “The Friendly Atheist” At Patheos:
How Did This Christian Monument in Front of a Georgia High School Get There in the First Place?
Red Raider Monument Facebook page
When Jesus joins the huddle: Groups challenge mix of football and religion at Georgia high school