I Will Not Be Silent

Alliance Defending Freedom provide slides from the Power Point presentation used by the U.S. Army Reserve in training soldiers on religious extremism.

I’ve been silent lately, not one of my usual characteristics, but much has been in the news which has troubled me. I’ve been thinking and not talking; researching and soul searching, not writing my blog. Today I decided my silence must end. I don’t like feeling my point of view is old-fashioned or outdated, like it hasn’t “evolved” with the times or with public opinion, that grand arbiter of what is right and wrong these days. Despite public opinion, I believe in absolutes, in right and wrong, in morals based on biblical principles versus moral relativism. In that vein, I would like to get a few things off my chest. Please bear with me. I’m not trying to offend; I’m trying to bear witness to truths I live by that still have relevance in our society but which are under attack every day.


My unease and feelings of defensiveness have grown recently with the Supreme Court cases concerning “gay marriage” and DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, not because they were taken up by the courts but because there was so much vitriol covered in the media against the idea of traditional marriage being between a man and a woman. My uneasiness grew after the Newtown tragedy and the push for gun control. I am puzzled by the push for more restrictive gun laws when we already have effective gun laws in place if they were enforced. We mustn’t forget that an unarmed citizenry is vulnerable; our founders knew this and ensured we would be able to protect ourselves. Hitler disarmed the people of his regime under the guise of public safety. We mustn’t allow our lawmakers to infringe on our Second Amendment rights under the same argument.


These two issues have caused me to think a lot about our rights, but today I read something that made my blood boil and caused me to wonder what kind of country the United States is becoming and what is happening at the government level. It frightens me. Here is an excerpt from what I read: “A U.S. Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief describes “Evangelical Christianity” and “Catholicism” as examples of “religious extremism,” according to the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, who shared a copy of the documents with The Christian Post.”
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/evangelical-christianity-catholicism-labeled-extremist-in-army-presentation-93353/#QFzCbzK8YQlrwc2A.99 .


I realize we live in an age where political correctness rules the day, but in the last several years, I have felt increasing pressure regarding my religion and what it represents. You see, I am an evangelical Christian and am completely unashamed of the label. In fact, I wear it proudly. I believe in the Ten Commandments. I believe in the Golden Rule and the Great Commission. I believe in the promise of Easter, eternal life because Jesus died for the sins of humanity. As Jesus said in the book of John, chapter 14 verse 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now, I suppose, my beliefs and those of my fellow Evangelicals and the Catholic Church are considered extreme by the federal government, a troubling development.


I suppose we’re in good company. After all, since its beginnings Christianity has been controversial. Beginning with the death of Christ himself, people were ridiculed, maligned, and sometimes put to death for their beliefs in one god, not the many gods the Romans believed in or the lack of belief in God so apparent in our society today. Christians believe no matter if they are persecuted and maligned, however, because we have faith which comes from God. In the early days of Christianity, Christians met in secret to worship and commune with one another. They were treated as criminals in the second and third centuries by the Romans. Why would that be? Why did the Romans believe Christians posed a threat? Perhaps it is because we believe we were created in God’s image and won’t settle for only what a government is willing give us and to limit us to. We are meant for great things because we know God and believe in Him. And here’s the kicker: we want to share that wonderful truth with EVERYONE.


I thought today we had moved beyond labeling groups who do much more good than harm as extremists, but I realize in our media culture we are exposed to alternate viewpoints, barraged by them, in fact, on a daily basis. But I believe society is hungry for what Christianity offers. We wonder why children are angry and kill each other with guns when the institutions of marriage and the family, the bedrock of their young lives, is daily under assault. Children are told in school that their family, their way of life, their values are just some of the many values which are valid ways of thinking and believing in today’s world. Christians and people who believe in traditional family values are belittled and attacked and accused of being bigoted. What those who attack fail to understand is that Christians can’t and don’t change their beliefs because public opinion changes. We base our beliefs on The Bible and the words we find within it because we believe those words to be divinely inspired. Those don’t change as society does. The Bible doesn’t “evolve” because a poll indicates that what is within it is no longer “popular.”


Society must be careful about demonizing Christians or any other group of people. The lessons of the Holocaust are not terribly far in our past. Some people who survived that horror are still alive today, and they remember how it began. Hitler didn’t round up the Jews right away. He classified them, marginalized them and demonized them. He courted public opinion, blamed them for the ills of society, took away their rights slowly but surely. Genocides begin with classification. That is what this presentation by the Army did to evangelical Christians and Catholics. It classified us as extremists and listed us just above the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Quaeda in the presentation.


Around the world Christians are persecuted every day. Check out this watch list, “an annual survey of religious liberty conditions of Christians around the world. http://www.opendoorsuk.org/news/documents/WWL_2013.pdf  It measures the degree of freedom of a Christians to live out their faith in five spheres of life – private, family, community, congregation and national life – plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence.” It is published by Open Doors, an international charity serving persecuted Christians in over 50 countries around the world.


The fact is Christians are persecuted everywhere, and the verbal attacks against Christians and some attacks against churches here in the United States and the western world have increased. Of course, you must look to find these stories in the news. They aren’t widely reported. We Christians in America should be wary of how we are represented by others and vigilant about our freedom. What we believe may once again be counter-culture, as it was in biblical times, but our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and founded in part for people to be able to worship as they see fit. Our laws are based upon the Ten Commandments. Our freedom is dependent upon a populace who value the ideals and tenets of that freedom and understand that we are responsible for our liberty.

Our founders understood this. Daniel Webster who was a senator and also Secretary of State said, “[T]he Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society. Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good citizens.” Benjamin Franklin said, “As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and His religion as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see. And finally, Thomas Jefferson said, “The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.”

I don’t intend to be silent about what I believe, and I will not allow others to silence me. I won’t sit idly by while Christianity and the traditional morals and values which have been the foundation of a successful society in the United States are maligned by those who don’t subscribe to them or wish to marginalize them because they believe them not to be inclusive or worse, bigoted. I know I am right about Christianity. It is not an extremist religion despite what the Army has written in its presentation. It is a religion which welcomes all who want peace and salvation. Remember what Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I am doing something about this. I won’t allow my values and beliefs to be marginalized. I hope others will join me in protecting our religion and our values and beliefs which have stood the test of centuries as good and inclusive despite what is said today.



Happy Birthday, UGA!

About twenty seven years ago I walked beneath the black iron arch marking the north entrance to campus at the University of Georgia, my Alma mater, for the first time. Legend has it no student should walk beneath it until they have graduated. That was a significant day for me because walking under that arch marked the end of my career as a student at UGA and the beginning of my life with a college education. As the years have passed, I have become even more proud of my degree and my school. I am proud to be a Bulldog, proud to have attended and received my degree from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and proud to have been a student when Herschel Walker played football and took us to two Sugar Bowls. Most of all, however, I am proud to have been a part of the historic tradition of excellence at the University of Georgia.

The University of Georgia is the first ever Land Grant College founded in the United States. Founded by the state of Georgia in 1785, it was located in 1801 on a tract of 633 acres on the Oconee River in Athens, one of the greatest towns on the planet. Like all land grant institutions, it was established using the funding from the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 to teach agriculture, science, engineering and military science, a reflection of the concern people had at the time to respond to the industrial revolution, but still retain a classical education. Since its inception, the university has grown to include seventeen colleges, the first of which was the Franklin College named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, which carry on the work of teaching, research, and service for which the university has become known.

My paternal grandmother, who became a teacher as I have, attended the State Normal School located in Athens in the area known as Normaltown, made famous by the B52’s in their song “The Deadbeat Club”, and the Normaltown Flyers. The Normal School’s function of training teachers was later incorporated into the university. After that the university’s Department of Education began training teachers, so the State Normal School became Coordinate College and later was used to house freshmen and sophomore women. During the 1950’s the Normaltown campus was taken over by the Navy for their Supply Corps School, a development which would later directly affect my life. During my last quarter of school at UGA, I went out with my friend Laura Wyatt to O’Malley’s Bar on the Oconee River and met my husband who was in Athens for a three week class at the Navy’s Supply Corps School. There is an odd sort of symmetry about those connections that I find immensely appealing, like our finding each other was somehow preordained.

Since I graduated in the 1980’s the university has continued to grow. I’m sure north  campus remains very much the way it looked when I was there—at least Park Hall hasn’t changed—but the last time I went to Athens a new bypass(which is old by now) greeted me as I entered town from Highway 15. I couldn’t find the little gas station where I used to buy boiled peanuts on the way into town on football weekends. The road bypassed where I used to turn to take a shortcut to South Milledge Avenue via Five Points to get to the Tri Delta house where I lived, and new buildings and the bypass completely disoriented me. Growth and change is good, however. It could be a metaphor for life, growth and change being a disorienting experience, but I miss the Athens of my memories.

Although I was a reluctant Bulldog fan at first having been raised a Georgia Tech fan, I soon was cheering on my Georgia Bulldogs and Herschel Walker in Sanford Stadium, and walking the streets of Athens feeling like a native. I enjoyed a cheeseburger at the original location of The Grill, a place I still miss, viewed second run movies and ate pizza and drank beer at the Carafe and Draft House, now known as the Georgia Theater, a fabulous live music venue. I even bought some of my trousseau at Heery’s Clothes Closet in downtown Athens. My time in Athens feels like a dream, one I could never repeat, but one which forged my musical preferences and political opinions and taught me to appreciate life. I have come a long way from the country girl I was who used to walk through downtown Athens and pass beside the arch on her way to Park Hall. I owe much of my success, such as it is, to UGA and the men and women who taught me to think and question and enjoy what life has to offer.

My school, the University of Georgia turned 228 years old on January 27, 2013. Knowing how long it has been an institution of higher learning makes me feel proud and fortunate to have been a part of such a grand tradition. One day I hope to return to Athens to stroll through campus, take in another football game, walk up the steps of Park Hall in the depressions worn by thousands of feet, and stand on the bridge to look into Sanford stadium. One day I also hope to be classified as a scholar so I can enter the rare books room at the library, a place I longed to explore as an undergraduate.  I have always wondered what treasures are hidden within its walls.

My four years at the University of Georgia seems at once like the shortest and the longest time in my life. I lived a lot in those four years, making friends and memories in the dorms and at the Tri Delta house, learning about people, life, and what I was capable of in my classes. I learned the intricacies of the English language in Park Hall from distinguished professors like Dr. James Kilgo who has since been inducted in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. When I was taking his class, The American Short Story, he challenged me and the rest of my class to write a story ourselves so we would know how hard it was to do well. I struggled to produce something which wouldn’t embarrass me, but was unsuccessful. I would give anything to be able to tell him that I have now completed my first novel, all because of his challenge which sparked an interest in writing that has since become a flame. His passion for the written word became mine as well.

I couldn’t be prouder of my education and the traditions and connections I have to Athens. That town molded my mind and gave me a wonderful education, role models to pattern my professional life after, friends who have lasted a lifetime, and my wonderful husband. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Bulldog and to claim Georgia as my alma mater.  Happy birthday, UGA!