Gifts and sacrifices

Dear Rep. Foster,

You don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, however, this is America, so I am privileged to share my opinion with you and countless other millions who don’t give a crap what I think. Lucky you.

I am writing, of course, about the recent kerfuffle you started when you denied Larrison Campbell, and by extension, Mississippi Today, access to your campaign unless she brought along a male colleague. While I respect your commitment to live a life above reproach, I think you have misunderstood its implications and responsibilities. At least, I am giving you the doubt that your motivation is indeed a principle, however misunderstood, and not a political calculation. But that is another subject.

Believers make adjustments in their lives to accommodate an imperfect world. Our willingness to adjust is a sign of our faith. It is possible that the world might take notice, but essentially, those adjustments are for an audience of one: God. In short, they are a gift to Him.

Fasting is perhaps the best example. Wildly paraphrased, Scripture says believers are to be bright eyed and bushy tailed when fasting so those around them will not notice. Why? Because the fast is a gift for an audience of one. Others might notice and even remark on someone skipping lunch or foregoing dessert during Lent, but the act, the sacrifice, is not for them.

Your insistence that Campbell bring a chaperone to her own interview is placing the burden of your sacrifice onto someone else. Hint: that means it’s no longer your sacrifice; it’s hers.

You invoke the late Rev. Billy Graham as the standard bearer for your decision even while admitting publicly that your motivation is to deprive your opponents political ammunition against you. I have a feeling that Graham let go of what the world thought of him way back when he was still putting up his own crusade tents.

I know it is trendy to lob disdain on the media. As a former reporter, I do a fair share of screaming at screens and the radio these days. However, the principle behind the outrage generated by your actions is sound. Cherry picking which media gets access to you might get some supporters on your side, however, to become governor, you need to convert a lot of undecided voters. This move just makes you look uncooperative, and quite frankly, a little whiney.

Just sayin’.

Stand your high ground, by all means, but take the responsibility upon yourself, where it belongs. Hire your own chaperone. After all, it’s not much of a gift if there’s no sacrifice behind it.

Great Chicago Fire & altar calls


Wall Street Journal reporter Grant Wacker talks “Unbroken” film, Lou Zamperini’s turning point, Billy Graham and altar calls in this piece: http://preview.tinyurl.com/qazs44c

The act of walking the aisle of a church to convey publicly a spiritual decision is rooted in mid-19th century America, and, many say, by way of the Gospel of Matthew.

Biblical scholars point to several Scriptures they say support the “outward expression of an inward decision,” but Matthew 10:32-33 is perhaps the most often referenced: “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven.”

Kentucky church growth experts Dan Garland and Thom Rainer agree that in Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches, baptism is considered by many as the ultimate act of public confession. Nevertheless, aisle-walking remains a “first step” of faith for many new believers.

If anyone could be dubbed the “father” of the altar call, it probably would be Charles Finney. The University of Virginia American Studies program provides one of many summaries of Finney’s background and ministry.

A Connecticut native and one-time lawyer, Finney was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1824. By 1830, he was one of the major figures of the Second Great Awakening—a period of Christian revival with Kentucky as one of its epicenters.

Encouraging listeners to repent and accept Christ as Savior, Finney would invite them to the “anxious seat,” also known as the “mourner’s bench,” at the front of a church or whatever gathering area was being used.

At the anxious seat, men, women and children would receive prayer and counsel from a pastor or other church leaders.

From the anxious seat came the “inquiry room,” a method brought into prominence by evangelist D.L. Moody, according to Daniel Whitesell’s book, “Great Personal Workers.”

When a message came to a time of decision, people who felt under conviction were led to a room away from the larger crowd where they could be counseled personally.

Some biographers tell the story of a Sunday night service in Chicago in 1871 that led Moody to emphasize immediate public decisions.

Reportedly, he asked the crowd gathered that night to ponder their spiritual condition and return the next week to further explore any decision they needed to make. But the infamous great Chicago fire broke out during the service, scattering the congregation and burning the church. There was no opportunity to regroup the following week.

Evangelist Billy Graham’s stadium-sized altar calls testify to the acceptance and effectiveness of the method, but pastors and biblical scholars are quick to point out that the act of walking an aisle or repeating a collection of phrases cannot be equated with a heart-felt acceptance of God’s grace through Christ.

“People can respond to Christ anywhere,” said Dan Garland, head of evangelism for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I think the best venue of response is in the home—parents leading children to Christ, or children leading parents to Christ. Then, they come to church to have that decision affirmed.”

March 3, 2005 by Dannah Prather, partnership editions editorWestern Recorder

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