Santa Fe, the Human Heart, and the Need for God
It was one of the last pictures ever taken of Christian Garcia. With the sun on his face, the Santa Fe teenager leaned his head on the wooden slats that would one day be his bedroom. On the framing of the house he’ll never live in, Christian had taken a sharpie and written Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.”
Today, those words echo across a Texas town in desperate need of the reminder that God is still there. For the 10 families who never dreamed they were saying their last goodbyes Friday morning, the pain of another school shooting is a raw and profound reminder of how desperately our world needs the Savior. Wrapped in a grief familiar to too many communities, a heartbroken Santa Fe turned, as it always has, to faith. Moments after the first shots rang out, phones started buzzing. “Please pray,” came one text after another. Cars started to pour into church parking lots; prayer chains sprang into action. In a city that just survived the worst of Hurricane Harvey, everyone knew what direction to look in tragedy — up.
Now, as the first bodies of those eight students and two teachers are laid to rest, America returns to the question burned on everyone’s mind: why? Angry outsiders demand gun control. Others lay the blame at the feet of the NRA. And while the rest of the country debates what our country could have done differently, Texas’s top officials try to return the conversation back to the heart of the problem — the heart. “We have devalued life in this country,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said plainly. “We threw God out of school… We have families that are broken apart, no fathers at home. We have incredible heinous violence as a [video] game, two hours a day in front of their eyes. And we stand here and we wonder why this happens to certain students.”
In Sunday services across Texas, teary parents seemed to have the same response. At Arcadia First Baptist Church, one grandmother’s eyes welled up just thinking about her grandson, who was supposed to be in the art room where the shooting started. “We need God back in our schools,” she said. For Santa Fe, where students still pray before football games and some teachers still hold lunchtime Bible studies, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t throwaway words when heartbreak strikes. They’re a way of life. “This is not,” Patrick insisted, “about guns. This is about us, as a culture and a nation. Who are we?”
Who we are is a broken country in dire need of the God we keep pushing away. “The world has never been a nice place,” Matt Walsh pointed out The Daily Wire, “but it got quite a bit meaner when we abandoned religion. That is no coincidence.” It’s human nature to want to blame something, but the problem has never been guns. Are there policies we could strengthen? Absolutely. But mankind has had instruments of destruction dating back to Cain and Abel. The real crisis is the moral vacuum left behind when society kicked religion — and with it, morality — out of the public space. Violence, relativism, promiscuity, and suicide didn’t get their start when God was expelled from school. But they’ve certainly been given a culture in which to thrive now that we’ve removed the Judeo-Christian foundation that anchored the country. Walsh warned:
“The nightmare we have lived since the turn of the previous century has been the direct result of the world’s rejection of God. We fled from His embrace and what we found out here in the wilderness, in our ‘freedom,’ is evil and despair on an unimaginable scale. We have become an empty country, an empty generation, an empty world. ‘They withdrew from me, went after emptiness, and became empty themselves,’ God says through the Prophet Jeremiah. He speaks as much to us as He spoke to the people of Jeremiah’s time.”
Of course, some liberals don’t want to have a discussion about the underlying problem, because it would mean acknowledging the fallen nature of man. That, not stricter gun laws, is what’s keeping us from finding real solutions as a nation. We can talk about limiting access to guns, but if we’re truly concerned about violence, let’s also talk about expanding access to God. Until we’re willing to address both — the instrument and the motivation — nothing will change. A spiritually sick society that embraces violence instead of values needs God.
Maybe a community as deeply sincere about its faith as Santa Fe can help the nation understand that. Looking across the rows of empty school chairs, it knows better than anyone — guns don’t steer men wrong; hearts do.
Originally published here.
At Graduation, No Tassel Without Tussle Over Faith
There’s power in the name of Jesus — and the administrators of West Prairie High School must know it. Hours before Valedictorian Sam Blackledge was scheduled to give his graduation speech, he was called into the principal’s office. And it wasn’t to congratulate him on the personal testimony he’d included.
“They said they didn’t want to make it a religious ceremony,” Sam told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. “They told me that if I took out Christ I could say everything else.” There’s just one problem, he pointed out. Without Christ, not much about the speech mattered. Sam fought to keep the text, explaining that his relationship with Jesus is what impacted his life. The principal didn’t budge, insisting that it wasn’t “appropriate for the setting.” Sam offered to start his speech with a disclaimer, and the answer was the same: no.
“I never felt like that feeling before,” he said. “It was terrible.” After the ceremony, Sam went to work making sure that what happened to him wouldn’t happen to another student. He contacted First Liberty Institute and asked the group to help him change the policy. “School officials should remember that students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from the schoolhouse gates all the way through the graduation ceremony,” First Liberty’s Jeremy Dys argued.
Unlike a lot of the graduation dust-ups, West Prairie took direct aim at the name of Jesus. To the school, that’s what’s offensive — not religion, not God. It’s a dilemma as old as the New Testament. Peter and John faced this same intolerance when they were told not to preach in Jesus’s name. Hauled before the Sanhedrin, the apostles were asked to explain why they were declaring the resurrection of Christ. Peter pointed to the lame man who’d been healed. “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this… It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
“Salvation,” Peter said simply, “is found in no one else.” That’s why, to this day, people like these administrators don’t want the name of Jesus mentioned. Militant secularists want Him locked up in our hearts and homes, where the world can’t see His transformative light. Unfortunately, too many people give in, shrinking back in fear of controversy or offense. This is exactly why we have to fight for religious freedom, so that the power of revival is still possible — not just in West Prairie, but everywhere!
Originally published here.
A Pop of Colyer Protects Adoption in Kans.
Kansas’s governor may have changed, but the commitment to religious liberty hasn’t! Sam Brownback’s successor is just as concerned about his state’s First Freedom as anyone — and last Friday, he proved it.
A few days after his neighbors in Oklahoma signed a similar bill into law, Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) doubled the celebration, inking his name to the Adoption Protection Act. For Christians in the child welfare industry, it was a relief. For the last several years, the wave of anti-faith attacks on wedding vendors and pro-life employers started spilling over into the adoption and foster care industries. Increasingly, some liberals started demanding that organizations swallow their moral convictions and start placing children in homes that violated their faith. Seven states fought back with laws that give these social service groups the freedom to operate according to their beliefs. Now, thanks to Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) and Colyer, two more have stepped in to protect organizations like Catholic Charities.
“What I want Kansans to know is this is about fairness and that we are protecting everyone,” Gov. Colyer told reporters. “It’s not about discrimination, it’s about fairness. We’re looking after those kids that need a forever home.” His secretary of state, Kris Kobach, agreed. “Faith-based adoption agencies can continue the great work they do knowing they will always be able to operate in accordance with their faith in Kansas.”
As we’ve seen in the wedding vendor debate, there are plenty of adoption agencies in Kansas that are willing to serve same-sex, unmarried, or single parents. There’s absolutely no reason — except spite and intolerance — to force everyone else to chuck their beliefs as a condition of serving in the industry. For years, faith-based adoption and foster care ministries have helped take the burden off of the government’s overextended, financially strapped social service agencies. They recruit parents, provide ongoing support for families, and even focus on at-risk and special needs kids.
This law guarantees that there’s an option for every parent. No one — not a ministry, employer, businessman, or nonprofit — should be punished for exercising the faith our Constitution protects!
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.