Paradise Lost?

  Black residents of Southwest DeKalb County, Georgia, thought they had found paradise. Expensive suburban homes and topnotch schools lulled them into believing that they had left the problems of inner-city Atlanta far behind. But then a high-school student was brutally stabbed to death by a fellow student. What happened next is a reminder that the one sure way to restore the culture is through the church. The fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Ronald Gaines shocked DeKalb County's African-American community. After all, most of the kids come from affluent, two-parent homes. The nearly all-black high school where the stabbing took place was filled with high achievers. The parents concluded that the kids needed spiritual guidance. The principal of Southwest DeKalb High School, Stanley Henson, invited the black pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Bishop Eddie Long, to address a student motivational assembly. Bishop Long arrived at the school accompanied by the church choir and several hundred members. The school marching band struck up "If You Confess the Lord, Call Him Up," which, believe it or not, is the school's victory song. Bishop Long invited the students to accept Jesus into their lives as their Savior, and many of them did. Well, as you can imagine, when secular elites got wind of the event, they went thermonuclear. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State took turns beating up on the principal. As Charles C. Haynes of the Freedom Forum told the New Republic, "Outsiders do not have a right to promote religion to a captive audience… there’s no ambiguity." But the New Republic points out that there was one group that conspicuously declined to join the protests: DeKalb's African-American community. Many of the DeKalb students, parents, and faculty are members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. There, Bishop Long teaches that when it comes to solving today's social problems, the answer is to restore the Christian culture—a culture that, because it cares about justice and human rights, is the best culture to protect the black family. And as the New Republic points out, religiously motivated defiance of the law was at the heart of both the abolitionist and civil-rights movements. In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bishop Long reminded non-Christians that America was founded by Christians and that non-Christians are merely respected guests. For many of our secularized elites, the only people fighting the secular regime are white evangelicals, most of whom they have long dismissed as "poor, uneducated and easy to command." The events of DeKalb County shatter that myth. They remind us that all Americans—black and white, poor and affluent—have a stake in opposing the secularist Hoover that has vacuumed the public square clean of religious influence. DeKalb's black leaders draw an analogy to the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. They remind us that oppression is oppression, whether it’s segregationist Bull Connor with fire hoses or an ACLU lawyer with a briefcase. White Christians, many of whom were on the wrong side of the civil-rights movement, should rush to join black pastors who are saying, "Enough is enough!" So I say three cheers for Bishop Long, Principal Henson, and the good folks in DeKalb County. They remind us that, without God, any paradise can be lost.  


Chuck Colson



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