For years I just took for granted that South Carolina was the cornerstone of Southern, be it the SOUTHERN Baptist Convention, or our Southern/Confederate heritage. Even when the voters in the State would elect Scallywags like Mick Mulveney, Lindsey Graham, Glenn McConnell, or Trey Goudy I still believed that the integrity and the character of the people who elected them would prevail. That the faith and culture of our ancestors was established, that the anchor would always hold. When Nikki Haley was elected governor of the State my faith was a little rattled but still not shaken. Even when liberals would arise to prominent positions in South Carolina's churches I had a false assurance that South Carolina was immune. But in 2015 the First "Baptist" Church of Greenville, South Carolina (The same church that supplied the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention) ordained openly practicing homosexuals. And also in 2015 Governor Haley ordered the Confederate Flag removed from the Capital of the first State to have seceded. The Psalmist asked the question in Scripture, "if the foundations be removed what shall the righteous do?" If South Carolina is no longer the foundation of Southern and Baptist culture then what now?
Much of the conversation this week has been how our churches, schools, counties, States, and country simply do not look anything like they did 20 years ago, 50 years ago, etc.
Of course, those of you who read me who listen to my preaching know that I have been saying if for awhile now, we're losing our culture, yea, we've already lost it.
While we were busy doing yard work and placing little flags at the cemetery that NOBODY visits anymore (and by the way I am not saying that we shouldn't have done so, we should have) the Nikki Haley's and Trey Goudy's were busy at work (also out of plain sight) taking down the BIG flag that we all just took for granted would have flown over that Capital building until Jesus' second coming and then for another 1,000 years after that during his millennial reign.
As I'm typing these things, it is Thursday night and I am listening to the GOP debate that is streaming on my laptop. I'm reminded that the GOP is still very much the Party of Lincoln. Yes, my friends, all we remaining tried and true Southerners, we remaining bastions of the culture and ideals of our ancestors, defenders of their faith, etc. are supporting the Party of Lincoln. Probably out of fear of Hillary. Hillary, a woman, who like Jezebel of old, could strike fear into the mightiest of God's men. But at least we all know who and what Hillary Clinton is. Too many of us didn't figure out who and what Nikki Haley was until it was too late.
Did any of you watch the State of the Union address? Or worse, the "Republican Response" to it? That was Nikki's reward for desecrating the flag of our ancestors. And rather than actually replying to the unAmerican blabbering of the Usurper squatting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue whose very presence in the chamber was a defilement of our nation's most established institutions, she foamed at the mouth about how her parents were not from this country and used that as pretext for a bunch of not so veiled jabs at Donald Trump.
So what is my point? The "South" may no longer be Southern. But I still am! And some Southern Baptists may be struggling with their identity but I am not. Still saved by the same blood, preaching the same gospel, and preaching it from the same Bible. And by the way, I have been fellowshipping with a lot of men this week, who, like myself, are secure in their identity as Southern Baptists and their response to all of it is to just keep on.
The South may no longer be "Southern." The "South" may be changing. But we do not have to change with it! In 2016, and by the way, 2017, 2018, 2019, etc. We should proudly be who and what we are, Southern! and if the rest of the South doesn't like it, well, we were here first and its still ours until someone takes it away from us! Lets make it a little harder for them to do so!
And just so you'll know, being Southern is a whole lot more than going to church on Sunday and drinking sweet tea with your lunch - though thats not a bad place to start. My grandmother was a Southern lady. And she managed to pass it down to me despite having lived in Chicago for the last 50 years of her life. It was her grandfather who was a Color Sargent in the 19th Texas Infantry, Confederate States Army. My grandmother was born in Alabama and raised there. She moved to Chicago in 1957. And she was living proof that being Southern does not have near as much to do with geography as too many would think.
We need not be in the South, and we need not be in a Southern environment - being Southern should just be who and what we are. It should be as natural to us as breathing. And we do not change the way we breath every time the wind starts blowing in a different direction.
The articles below will remind us that the winds in our beloved Southland are starting to blow in new directions. My prayer is that they will make you just mad enough to get stubborn.
by Joe Westbury
A new school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in grades K-12 is being established in Atlanta as a safe zone for such students being bullied in traditional schools. But a Georgia Baptist leader is asking if a 5-year-old kindergarten student can identify as being LGBT - or even a first or second grader, for that matter.
The school, being called the first of its kind in Georgia, will also employ LGBT teachers at what will be known as Pride School Atlanta. It will serve as an alternative for LGBT students, though the school "is open to any student who believes they're not getting the support they need for 'being different,'" the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) quoted founder Christian Zsilavetz. The paper reported the venture on Jan. 4.
Bob Bagley, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's Public Affairs Committee, seemed confused by the concept behind the new school, which could appear to be a potential step backward for those who support the LGBT lifestyle.
"It seems to me that after many years of seeking to be accepted by the public, that this is a change of direction in the LGBT community's effort to be part of mainstream America," said Bagley, the committee spokesman who also serves as director of missions for Murray County/North Georgia Association in Dalton.
"To remove children from the normal educational environment, for any reason, would isolate them," he said. "This would also exclude them from any possible exposure to the biblical view of their lifestyle, and place them in the hands of adults who have chosen to live an alternative life.
"What will be the developmental outcome for a child after years of being in this environment?" he asked.
Gender dysphoria not fully understood
Jan. 5's Wall Street Journal seemed to agree with some of Bagley's observations. In an op-ed column titled "The Transgender Battle Line: Childhood," Debra W. Soh detailed how younger age sexual development is not fully understood.
"Psychologists have learned how to treat adults with gender dysphoria, but how about 5-year-old kids," Soh noted.
The guest columnist is provost dissertation scholar and doctrinal candidate in psychology, specializing in sexual neuroscience at York University in Toronto. She identifies herself as "a gender-dysphoric child who preferred trucks and Meccano sets to Easy-Bake ovens."
In the article she relates how her parents allowed her to wear boy's clothing and behave as a boy until she "outgrew my dysphoria by my late teens. Looking back, I am grateful for my parents' support, which helped me work things out."
While segregating LGBT children from the rest of the public education is one concern, Bagley's underlying questions center more on how a child as young as a kindergartener or early elementary school is aware enough of sexual orientation to begin dealing with those concepts.
Education or indoctrination?
"My deeper concern (other than segregation) is raising a child in that environment for as long as 12 years, beginning in kindergarten," Bagley noted. "Can a child at 5 years of age really exhibit characteristics toward a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered lifestyle? How about at six or seven years of age as they enter the elementary school that is being proposed?
"If those tendencies are not yet evident, will their education serve as indoctrination into a lifestyle that they may not otherwise embrace?" he asked.
School to be based out of Unitarian Universalist church
Initially, Pride School will be based out of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta church after it opens by September. Tuition will be set at $13,000, the AJC reported. Zsilavetz said financial assistance will be available for students who need it.
"I think right now what a lot of (LGBT) students face is separate but equal education in the public schools," Zsilavetz said. "Because if you can't go to the bathroom all day and you can't use the locker room and you're bullied in the classroom and the teachers aren't standing up for you, you don't have a full seat at the table."
The school would be modeled after the Harvey Milk school in New York City and other education centers across the country designed for, but not limited to, LGBT youth. Pride School would be a so-called Free Model school with a setup more unstructured than traditional schools, where students' interests are supposed to drive what they learn.
Small but growing movement among LGBT community
The spokesman said the school is part of a small but growing group of like-minded schools appearing on the national scene. They are designed to educate LGBT youth who feel disenfranchised from public education. The Atlanta school will be the first in the Southeast and, according to gay rights advocates, a significant development for the movement, the AJC reported.
Forty-five-year-old Zsilavetz has taught math and other subjects since 1992. He says he never felt "truly open or supported by administrators while teaching in public schools and wanted that to change. He wanted LGBT students and teachers to be able to openly discuss who they are in a school setting without fear, he said in an interview with AJC.
"When (LGBT) kids can see you, when they know that they can come to you, they're less likely to die (or be suicidal), for one," Zsilavetz said. "They're less likely to get pregnant, when they don't really want to get pregnant. They're less likely to get into drugs and alcohol and into depression."
Nearly 9 in 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment within the last school year, and three in 10 report missing a class because they felt unsafe, according to gay rights group Georgia Equality. The newspaper reported that fewer than 30 percent of Georgia school districts were complying with new state legislation - signed into law in 2010 - that required district policies to prevent LGBT bullying.
The number of pro-LGBT organizations, known as Gay-Straight Alliances, at public high schools has also grown statewide to 43.
Last year the state's first transgender student was named to a high school homecoming court, a Walton High School student in Cobb County, who was recognized during the homecoming game.
(EDITOR'S NOTE - Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, news service of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
OK, I used that headline for shock effect.
Mike Herring, 3rd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division wants everyone to know if they drive by the flagpole on I-75 and do not see the flag that everything is OK. The flag has been temporarily removed due to the prediction of bad weather this weekend and it will be returned to its place of prominence as soon as the weather threat is clear.
FROM WEDNESDAY'S BALTIMORE SUN:
Baltimore City commission recommends removal of two Confederate monuments
Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee (right) and Stonewall Jackson are depicted on horseback in a monument near the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Two monuments that celebrate Confederate-era leaders should be removed from Baltimore's public parks, a mayoral task force recommended Thursday.
The seven-member commission, appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to consider what to do with Baltimore's four Confederate-era monuments, voted narrowly to remove two of them. The mayor must now make a final decision.
University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson, a commission member, proposed the plan to remove the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell.
Gibson said Taney's statute should be dismantled because his authorship of the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision was "pure racism." The decision held that African-Americans could not be American citizens.
"In my view, he deserves a place in infamy," Gibson said of the fifth chief justice of the United States.
Gibson also argued that Baltimore has a disproportionate number of monuments to the Confederacy on its public property. He said that more than twice as many Marylanders fought for the Union as the Confederacy during the Civil War, but the city has only one public monument to the Union.
Baltimore City has 163 exterior landmark designations. "Three monuments to the Confederacy is out of proportion," Gibson said. "Probably a majority of Baltimoreans think there should be none to the Confederacy."
The commissioners recommended that the statute of Lee and Jackson be offered to the U.S. Park Service to place in Chancellorsville, Va. The two Confederate generals last met in person shortly before the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.
The commission voted to keep the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue and the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway, but to add context. Members said they needed to meet again to decide exactly what context they wanted to add.
Commission member Elford Jackson, a civil engineer and member of Baltimore City Public Arts Commission, argued that he wanted to see more art in Baltimore, not less.
"They are pieces of art," he said of the statutes. "Do they have a negative connotation? They sure do."
The task force voted 4-3 to remove the two monuments and 6-1 to keep the other two.
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