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Kumbayah Post

In 2010, a story in The New York Times noted that the song, “Kumbaya,” had lately been “transformed into snarky shorthand for ridiculing a certain kind of idealism, a quest for common ground.” Full Story »

Tim Muehlhoff

Christian author Tim Muehlhoff says believers need to “yield to God’s power from outside” themselves in order to communicate in a civil, Christlike manner.

Christianity Today has published a Q&A with Muehlhoff regarding his book, I Beg to Differ: Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love (InterVarsity Press, 2014).

Muehlhoff says that “in the heat of the moment” of a conversation a Christian should remember the advice of A.W. Tozer. ”You shall receive power, a potent force from another world invading your life by your consent, getting to the roots of your life and transforming you into someone like Christ.” Muehlhoff says the discipline to yield to God’s power from outside “needs to be in place before the conflict actually happens,” and that comes through practice.

In addition to seeking God’s help, Muehlhoff offered some pointers. For a conversation to “make progress, you need to acknowledge the other person’s emotions. It doesn’t mean you agree with what they’re saying, but you need to acknowledge that he or she is upset or passionate. If you don’t, there will be a roadblock in the conversation.”

Also, a good strategy is to ”emphasize points of agreement” or state a “willingness to consider a different point of view.” The result will be that the other person will “begin to mirror that attitude back.”

Human trafficking web page

The Dallas Morning News carried an excellent opinion piece in its Feb. 23 edition about children and prostitution. The article, by Malika Saada Saar, expresses a broad national perspective. In Texas, we are actually doing better than reflected in Saar’s article, but we still have lots of work to do.

Saar points out that about 293,000 U.S. children are “at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex, according to a 2011 FBI report on trafficking. Most are girls ages 12 to 14. They often are abducted or lured by pimps and traffickers, beaten into submission and sometimes even branded with the pimp’s name.” She tells of one 15-year-old girl being abducted on her way home from school.

The trafficking of children is a deep tragedy in and of itself, but a secondary tragedy occurs when the justice system treats them like criminals (prostitutes) instead of victims. This secondary problem can be attributed to inadequate laws, uninformed officers, and the lack of places for trafficking victims to be sent for protection.

In Texas, we have made some genuine, bi-partisan progress in changing laws regarding child prostitution, and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has been a critical advocate in making these changes. In the 2013 session, the legislature made the following changes:

HB 2268 (John Frullo) and SB 1052 ( John Carona) streamlined the investigations of Texas law enforcement officers into aspects of human trafficking taking place on the Internet.

SB 92 (Leticia Van de Putte) created a diversion court program for victims of human trafficking. In particular, the bill helps recognize victims of human trafficking as victims, not criminals, particularly in situations involving allegations of prostitution (many victims are minors and cannot legally consent to sex—this bill treats them accordingly). This addressed a key aspect of Saar’s article.

HB 2725 ( Senfronia Thompson) created parameters to help ensure the confidentiality of human trafficking shelters and their occupants.

Two years earlier, in 2011, the following bills also helped shore up the Texas fight against human trafficking:

HB 2015 (Thompson and Van de Putte) added minor prostitution to the list offenses eligible for “child in need of supervision.” This addressed one of the legal shortcomings cited in Saar’s article.

SB 24 (Van de Putte and Thompson) mandated urgent recommendations from the Attorney General’s 2011 report that added human trafficking to lists of crimes in the penal code, government code, and family code, code of criminal procedure, and civil practice and remedies code. The bill also addresses important victim protections.

HB 289 (Jim Jackson and Jane Nelson)  added human trafficking to the list of activities that cause a common nuisance in a community, allowing another avenue for law enforcement crack down on human trafficking operations in Texas.

HB 1994 (Randy Weber of Pearland and Van de Putte) made it permissible for local communities to hold a mandatory, day-long session for first-time “johns” (offenders who seek a prostitute), otherwise known as a “John School.” These sessions educate johns on the risks of having sex with a prostitute, including the reality of human trafficking, health risks, and other harms that come to their personal life and the community.

Saar’s article helps us all to understand the problem, and two Texas Baptist CLC web sites (general and policy) have more information.

We can all add a big “thank you” to the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry for helping us make progress against these terrible crimes.

Connecting religious liberty and evangelism

Evangelism and missions can be conducted openly and forthrightly only in an environment that fosters and protects religious liberty. The United States, with its constitutional protections, is a shining example of this reality, while nations with limits on religious expression are examples of the opposite. Full Story »

Somalia drought and famine

Bread for the World has announced its 2014 Offering of Letters to United States senators and representatives. Bread does not send these letters; Bread encourages and empowers individual Christians to conduct this annual letter-writing campaign, and this often occurs through churches. Full Story »

War and Faith

War powerfully shapes a person’s understanding of the world, including one’s faith. World War II created in many people a veneration of the United States that caused love of country to sometimes override love of God or to conflate the two into one love. The Vietnam War then brought about a mindset of distrust, and since love of God and country had often been melded the two could be dismissed together by some.

It is not surprising that war shapes understandings of faith, but it is surprising that faith does not more often shape understandings of war.

The other day I ran across an article written by Charles Colson in July 2001 shortly after the release of the movie, “Pearl Harbor.” Colson told a story of a young man who wanted vengeance on the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor and how we was able to exact that revenge as a bombardier in Doolittle’s famous raid.

But that was only the beginning of the story. That young man, Jacob DeShazer, became a POW in Japan and asked for a Bible. Ten days into his study, DeShazer asked Christ to forgive his sins. He remembered, “suddenly … when I looked at the enemy officers and guards …, I realized that … if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel. … My bitter hatred … changed to loving pity.” Remembering Christ’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” DeShazer asked God to forgive his torturers, too.

That is an example of faith shaping one’s conception of war, and it was expressed by someone deeply impacted by and involved in war. The story continues and illustrates the power of the gospel to change lives. It can be read at colsoncenter.org.

It is interesting that just two months after Colson’s column, the United States was attacked again. Like World War II, it brought a revival of national and religious spirit—and the two together. I do not recall many Christian voices calling for love of our enemies, but some did.

Of course, individuals and nations are different. The United States needed to take action to break up the terrorist camps in Afghanistan, but there was a great temptation for individual Christians to beat the drums of war as if our national enemies were some alien race and not fellow children of God.

Terrorism and war should produce more sadness than anger among Christians for those tragedies are a reminder of how much the people of this world need Christ.

Colson said that when World War II ended, Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, returned to his family farm near Osaka. Later, stepping off a train in Tokyo, he was given a copy of DeShazer’s pamphlet about his experience. Fuchida started reading the Bible. And despite his Shinto heritage, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

Two opposing warriors: Both loved by God. Both forgiven. Both united in Christ.

A prayer: Dear God, help us to see our world through your eyes and not our own. Help us to love all people, not just the people who are like us or who fly the same flag. Help us to be more like Jesus and love those whom others see as enemies.

– Ferrell

Capital

The Christian Life Commission has received a couple of questions about why it honored Texas Sen. Wendy Davis with its Horizon Award in 2012. As virtually everyone knows, Davis was thrust into the national political spotlight in June with her filibuster in opposition to a bill supported by many Texas Baptists, including me.

The CLC honored Sen. Davis last year for her support of various issues that are important to Texas Baptists, including opposition to predatory lending practices. The senator from Fort Worth has been vital to the legislative effort to limit immoral payday and auto title lending practices, which are devastating thousands of lives in our state.

The reality of working on public policy issues in Austin is that specific senators and representatives side with us on some issues and disagree with us on others. In our dealings with all elected officials we seek to be clear, truthful, and respectful whether or not an official agrees with us. This is one of the reasons the CLC has a great deal of influence in Austin; legislators trust us and respect us, though they do not always agree with us.

It would not be wise for Texas Baptists to make one issue the most important issue and sacrifice all of our other legislative concerns. Since life is sacred, we work hard to bring that understanding of life to bear on a wide range of issues. In other words, just as we value the life of a child in a mother’s womb, we also value that child after it is born and in need of nutrition, education, and security. And this sanctity of life does not end with childhood; we continue to value people throughout the life process, including their final years.

This approach to life is informed by Jesus’ injunction to care for “the least of these,” the most vulnerable among us. This is part of why the protection of unborn life is so very important; these children represent the most vulnerable among us. It would not be consistent with the teachings of Christ and of Scripture if the CLC set concern for pre-born life above concern for all human life; Jesus’ concern for the vulnerable covers all.

Abortion is indeed a critical issue and one which tugs at the heart of so many of us. We simply cringe with pain at some of what happens in our culture today. During the first special session, the CLC staff hand-delivered a letter from BGCT Executive Director David Hardage to each legislator’s office in the Capitol. These legislators, including Sen. Davis, know where we stand on these proposals.

Texas Baptists care deeply about the abortion issue because of the sacredness of life and the importance of caring for the most vulnerable among us. It would not, however, be wise for us to convey a message that this is the only issue that is important to the followers of Christ.

We care because we love, as God first loved us. That love seeks to protect the weak from the powerful, the hurting from those who seek to harm, and the least of these in a world that often honors the opposite. In Christ, God has brought salvation to the world. The sad reality of abortion reminds us that while we glimpse heaven through our walk with Christ, we  still have work to do–God’s work.