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No Grace, No ‘Amen’ at Christian School in Sweden

Preschoolers in a Christian school in Sweden run by the Salvation Army are not allowed to say grace at mealtimes, talk about the Bible, or say “Amen” because supervisors of the Umeå municipality believe these practices violate Sweden’s Education Act. The law prohibits schools from having confessional elements during school time and says children should be able to opt-out of religious practices. While both sides agree that the law is not clear as it relates to preschools, the school has unfortunately chosen not to fight the ruling.

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Canadian School Told Don’t Teach Offensive Parts of Bible

Cornerstone Christian Academy in Alberta, Canada, a K-12 school, is being forced by the Battle River School Division chair to stop reading or studying “any Scripture that could be considered offensive to particular individuals” and that includes “any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone’s sexual orientation.”

The school, which receives funding from the Canadian government, has sought legal counsel from Canada’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom (JCCF). The president of JCCF, John Carpay, wrote a letter to the school board trustees outlining problems with its decision. The board, however, has not backed down. “Trustees enjoy the legal right to send their own kids to various schools that align with the parents’ beliefs and convictions,” says Carpay, “but these trustees have no right to impose their own ideology on schools they disagree with.”

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Southern Baptist Convention’s Gender-Inclusive Bible Translation

You might have missed the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention’s latest Bible release, last fall’s Christian Standard Bible, uses more gender-inclusive terms.

Though the newest Bible is not as gender-neutral as other translations, some see it as a progressive move for a denomination that has been considered staunchly conservative. The Atlantic writers Jonathan Merritt, a senior columnist for Religion News Service, and Garet Robinson, a Houston pastor, believe the denomination is on a slippery slope. “The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination and one of its most conservative. If its leaders and members are tolerating a softer, more inclusive approach to gender, it might be a bellwether of things to come in the culture war over gender,” they write.

However, Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher for Holman Bibles, defended the translation by saying, “It uses male pronouns for God, for pastors, and in places where it’s obviously male—and it uses male and female, where that’s what the author intended.”

This week in Phoenix, Ariz., the Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual gathering.

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N.J. Teacher Who Gave Bible to Student Gets Job Back

Awhile back we reported that New Jersey substitute teacher Walt Tutka was dismissed from his job for giving a Bible to a student who had asked him for one. Thankfully, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that Tutka’s action was consistent with school policies and federal law pertaining to religious freedom and the school district agreed to reinstate him.

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Getting to the Bottom of Hate: Charleston As Case in Point

A lot of people have said that we saw hate in what Dylann Roof did in Charleston, S.C., last week. I agree. But I also think that we throw around the word “hate” these days without giving much thought to what makes hate, hate.

I approach the subject of “hate” with great trepidation, as there are those who would like nothing more than to put words in my mouth. However, it seems to me that today we sometimes throw around the word hate much like we throw around the words hero, superstar, and discriminate. Not everyone who is called a hero or superstar really is one, and we all discriminate all the time. All choices we make—whether to spend time reading this or moving on to something else—entail a form of “discrimination.”

So what is hate? It’s a word the Southern Poverty Law Center likes to use a lot, putting different people and organizations on its “hate list.” But it’s also a word that is used a lot in the Bible, and in some interesting ways.

Jesus, who many cynics of Christianity say they admire, even used the word in reference to Himself. In fact, He said that being hated might not be as bad as everybody might tend to think. Specifically, He said the world hated Him, and He told His disciples they would be hated, too (John 15:18). Jesus even had the audacity to say that they were blessed in God’s sight if they were hated for His sake.

Then there is this interesting verse: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). A command to hate in the Bible? That just doesn’t compute to the modern mind (which I discussed last week). But this verse contains a clue to the meaning of hate that perhaps we’ve overlooked. It is the matter of evil.

Jesus said that the world hated Him because He “testified” of it, “that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7). The world, which includes me, doesn’t tend to like the thought that there is an objective, absolute standard by which what we do and think are to be judged. And the world, which includes me, doesn’t particularly like those who point out that standard to us. In fact, today we call them “hateful” and “haters.”

But it is the existence of that standard that helps us understand what really is hateful and make sense of just how amazing the response of the victims’ families was.

How do we decide what is hateful if there is no real, objective standard by which to judge the attitude or action of another? (Please don’t flippantly say something about not judging other people, because in doing so, you are making a judgmental statement and violating your own standard.) By analogy, those who deny that there are any standards by which to judge a work of art say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Likewise, absent any real, objective ethical standard for behavior, could not Dylann Roof say to his accusers, “Hate is in the eye of the beholder?”

Such a statement, of course, is not true, but it’s not true because there is that which is objectively good and evil. And what Mr. Roof did was evil (and hateful) because he violated the clear command of God, “Do not murder.”

It’s only when we acknowledge that there is a real, objective standard for right and wrong and that someone has violated it in relationship to us that we can see what real love can do—forgive—and its power. Its power turned away the kind of rioting and violence that seems to follow in the wake of those who go around calling people hateful.

When we cheapen the word hate by calling everybody who simply disagrees with us hateful, then we also cheapen the word love and that manifestation of it we call forgiveness.

In Charleston, we got a glimpse of something beautiful—real love and its power—because we got a glimpse of something God says is really evil.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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