Month: October 2018

Kids, convention and fun await in Houston

Take the children, or stay home and keep the children on their schedule? This is the question parents face each year at convention time. I would you encourage you to prayerfully consider taking your children with you to the convention. Some of you have infants and preschoolers and you worry about packing all their paraphernalia and staying in a hotel room. Others of you have school-age children you can’t imagine keeping still during meetings. Some of us have older children and we fret over rearranging their extracurricular activities and keeping them on track with schoolwork.

We all have different obstacles to overcome in bringing our children to the convention, but we also have some family opportunities available to us. For those of you with infants to third-graders, childcare is available. Sign up and take advantage of a space designed for your children, along with caregivers who will nurture them. Plan some extra time around the convention to visit local landmarks. For example, Home for the Holidays at Old Town Spring opens on Sat., Nov. 10. They have carolers, train rides, Santa’s workshop, wagon rides, petting zoo and shopping. Purchase a Houston City Pass and visit Space Center Houston, the Houston Zoo, the Children’s Museum; or visit Battleship Texas and the San Jacinto Monument. Take a trip to Galveston and explore the Aquarium Pyramid, the Discovery Museum, the IMAX, Kemah Boardwalk, ride the ferry or dip your toes in the Gulf.

If you need something closer to Kingwood, try the indoor playground at First Baptist, Jumpalooza, Old MacDonald’s Farm, Humble Skate Center, Humble Bowling Lanes, Lindsey Lyons Park or the Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center. Whatever choices you make for your family, enjoy the time with your kids as you travel. Pack plenty of snacks for your finicky eaters, introduce your kids to your friends in the exhibit hall, and save extra space for all the goodies they will acquire along the way.

Weekend Activities

Old Town Spring (15 miles)

Home for the Holidays, Nov. 10-11

Carolers, train, Santa’s Workshop, shopping, wagon rides, petting zoo

oldtownspring.com/interactive_map/

 

Kingwood Area

First Baptist Church Kingwood Indoor Playground (6 miles)

kingwoodfirst.org/connect/grades-1st-5th

Jumpalooza Indoor Playground/Bounce Houses, Humble (7 miles)

jumpalooza.com/

Old MacDonald’s Farm: petting zoo, train ride, pony rides, playgrounds, Humble (6 miles)

oldmacdonaldshumble.com/index.html

Humble Family Skate Center (4 miles)

humbleskate.com/

Humble Lanes Bowling (4 miles)

amf.com/location/amf-humble-lanes

Lindsey Lyons Park: playgrounds, walking path, picnic areas, Humble (10 miles)

hcp4.net/Community/Parks/LindsayLyons

Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center, Humble (6 miles)

hcp4.net/Community/Parks/Jones/About/WhatWeOffer

 

Houston (45 minutes)

City Pass: $59 adults, $49 children 3-11

visithoustontexas.com/listings/houston-citypass/19873/

Space Center Houston, Downtown Aquarium, Houston Zoo, Children’s Museum

San Jacinto Monument/Battleship Texas

sanjacinto-museum.org/

tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/battleship-texas

 

Galveston (90 minutes)

Moody Gardens: Aquarium Pyramid, Discovery Museum, IMAX, Paddlewheel Boat

moodygardens.com/

Galveston Ferry

galveston.com/galvestonferry/

Kemah Boardwalk

kemahboardwalk.com/

REVIEW: “Goosebumps 2” is kid-friendly horror. But is that OK?

Sonny and Sam are two hard-working tween-age boys who are trying to make a few bucks in between finishing their homework and avoiding the school bullies.

They call their new business “Junk Brothers,” and for the right price they’ll peddle to your house and haul away your garbage – using their pull-behind bicycle trailer, of course.

Their first customer, though, is far from ideal. In fact, when they show up at her house – an eerie-looking old mansion with cobwebs and creaks around every corner – she’s not there. That’s OK. She had said they could go inside and get to work without her. She even said they could take anything from the house for free!

But unless you want a stuffed cat or a huge pile of dusty old wood, this house doesn’t have much to offer.

That’s when things get interesting. Sonny and Sam discover a hidden passage. Then they find a treasure chest. And then they stumble upon an old black book with a loose business card. The front says, “My name is Slappy, what’s yours?” The back lists a magic spell, which Sonny proceeds to read. Within seconds, a ventriloquist dummy appears in the room. Sonny is startled, not knowing where it came from, but he’s also happy to find something valuable. So he takes the dummy home.

Once in Sonny’s bedroom, the dummy – named Slappy, of course – starts talking.

“I can make all your problems go away” Slappy says.

He magically folds clothes. He magically does Sonny’s homework. He even magically can beat up the school bullies.

Slappy seems like the perfect companion on the eve of Halloween … right? Well, maybe not.

The movie Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (PG) is entering its second weekend in theaters, telling the story of a ventriloquist dummy who comes to life when a book by American author R. L. Stine is opened. The movie and its predecessor are based on a series of children’s horror/supernatural thriller novels that are published by Scholastic. It stars Jeremy Ray Taylor (It) as Sonny, Caleel Harris (Castle Rock) as Sam, Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Sonny’s sister, Sarah, and Jack Black (Nacho Libre) as Stine.

Sonny and Sarah welcome Slappy into their family until he causes havoc at school by injuring Sarah’s ex-boyfriend and nearly blowing up Sonny’s classroom. Sonny and Sarah then dump him in a lake.

He doesn’t die, though, and he subsequently pledges to find another family. He does this by magically bringing every Halloween costume and decoration at the local Fred’s store to life – witches, mummies, werewolves, zombies and a few rats, too. Soon, he does the same to all the town’s decorations, meaning that even the jack-o-lanterns and the decorative gnomes are roaming the neighborhoods.

Goosebumps 2 is part of the comedy horror genre aimed at children, tweens and teens who are too young to watch so-called adult horror but who still want to experience the thrill of a scary film. To his credit, director Ari Sandel keeps the movie in PG territory and ensures that even the few semi-scary parts are surrounded by humor. It’s tame compared to September’s other comedy horror film aimed at children, The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

This doesn’t mean there are no worldview concerns, though. (More on that below.)

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. The scary creatures in Goosebumps 2 mostly look like people in impressive costumes. That lessens the frightening element. The monsters are played for laughs, but there still are a few scary moments, led by Slappy. It’s a little creepy watching an inanimate object start talking, even if he is initially on the good side of things. When he turns bad, he turns real bad. Toward the end of the film he kidnaps a member of Sonny’s family, ties her up, and turns her into a ventriloquist. Nearly every scary moment in the move takes place at night. Small children and sensitive children likely will have nightmares.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None/minimal. We see two teenagers kiss in public at a party. Sarah and her boyfriend nearly share a kiss but are stopped by her mom.

Coarse Language

Minimal. Misuse of “God” (5), OMG (4), h–l (2), d–n (1). We also hear a “jerk” and an “idiot.”

Other Positive Elements

Sarah displays a lack of care for her brother at the beginning of the film, but repents toward the end. Additionally, Sarah and Sonny fight to save their mom. The movie has a positive message about the family.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Sonny and Sam are bullied.

Life Lessons

The film provides lessons about bullying, the consequences of disobeying a parent (Sarah), acknowledging fault when you’re wrong (Sarah and Sonny), overcoming fear (several characters), and learning to support and love your family despite your differences (Sarah and Sonny).  

Worldview

The world of Goosebumps 2 is one where magic spells rule and monsters occasionally run wild. And it’s marketed to children. What are we to make of that?

On the one hand, it’s quite entertaining and not that scary. More significantly, though, any movie that involves a fake supernatural world can become a tool to discuss the Bible’s very real supernatural world – that is, a world that involves demons and angels and an omniscient God who rules over everything. Think about it: Your neighbor likely watches scary movies that feature a fake supernatural world, but you worship a God who reigns over a real one that’s more amazing than anything out of Hollywood. There is a spiritual battle ongoing all around us, but we have no reason to fear bumps in the night (1 John 4:4). That’s a discussion we can have with our neighbors and our children about many films.

On the other hand, we should be skeptical about any movie that glorifies evil. Does Goosebumps 2 do that? Maybe, maybe not – it is a good-vs.-evil battle — but the film might be guilty of trivializing evil. It definitely glorifies Halloween, a modern-day holiday that often celebrates the dark world. In the film, neighbors decorate their yards with scary-looking creatures. Sonny’s school gets decorated. And Sonny and his family put up a few spooky decorations, too.

Christians remain divided over the tamer aspects of Halloween – corn candy and cowboy costumes — but we always should shun its darker elements. And, while we’re at it, we might want to consider handing tracts or sparking a discussion with families who come to our door. Halloween is definitely pagan, but it provides a few unique opportunities not found in other holidays.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you believe Christians should celebrate Halloween? If so, how?
  2. Who was responsible for Slappy causing havoc: Sonny or Sarah? Or both?
  3. Why did Sonny and Sam want to be friends with Slappy? Was their motivation pure?
  4. Why are horror and scary movies so popular? Should Christians watch them?  

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Goosebumps 2 is rated PG for scary creature action and images, some thematic elements, rude humor and language.

SWBTS Board of Visitors hears progress report from interim president

Editor’s note: This report is posted while the board continues to meet. We will post more complete coverage as we have it

FORT WORTH, Texas—Last May, most students, faculty, staff and donors could not imagine Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) without Paige Patterson as president. By June 13, only the most optimistic of his supporters still thought he had a chance at regaining the emeritus status they felt he deserved.

July came and went with no word of a separation agreement to spell out the benefits afforded to the 15-year SWBTS leader who spent most of the month hospitalized, battling a rare kidney problem. Prominent donors, led by Houstonian Gary Loveless, demanded answers from the trustee board as to why Patterson had been forced into retirement in the wee hours of May 23, only to be dismissed by the executive committee a week later and told of that decision while traveling in Germany.

By August, four trustees each independently confirmed to the TEXAN that Patterson was still receiving all of his salary and benefits in spite of a stalemate over how he and SWBTS would separate. By September, classes had resumed, anxieties were said to have calmed, and a fresh face opened chapel each Tuesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, the executive committee continued meeting regularly with interim president Jeffrey Bingham to guide the transition to new leadership. Board of Trustees chairman Kevin Ueckert named a search committee to be approved at the full board meeting held on campus, Oct. 16-17. That group began holding prayer meetings and townhall sessions with faculty, staff and students in the weeks prior to the gathering of the full board.

On Sunday, Oct. 14—just days before trustees returned and nearly five months after Patterson had agreed under pressure to retire and finish out his service as president emeritus while living on campus in the Baptist Heritage Center—donors and other seminary supporters gathered for their semi-annual Board of Visitors (BOV) meeting in the student center. A few dozen administrators and staff members worshipped alongside about 40 BOV participants, all who had braved an unseasonably stormy night. Most of the BOV members who spoke with the TEXAN said they expected to hear answers that would satisfy their lingering questions about Patterson’s fate, who turns 76 this week. Bingham gave a message from Mark, describing the “pain-crushing” worry and concern early believers had about the future. He likened it to similar concerns surrounding the school’s future and offered a picture of how Southwestern Seminary was moving forward, noting the 650 new students on campus from 25 different countries, speaking 13 different languages.

Bingham praised God that “in a year of bumps and bruises” the seminary experienced a higher fall enrollment this year than 2017. Students have told him they sense a new spirit on campus, he said, noting this sentiment was echoed by chapel speakers. Aware that many of the night’s visitors were hoping to find a reason to continue supporting the school, Bingham paid tribute to the faculty, staff and students who had proven themselves to be the “well-oiled institution” that was moving forward.

By Monday morning, additional BOV members arrived for a five-hour, whirlwind meeting. BOV chairman Jimmy Draper joined Bingham and interim academic dean George Klein in panel discussions with SWBTS deans and faculty. Updates were offered on projects like the Global Theological Initiatives and deans pitched ideas for funding special events or programs that could not continue at previous levels without additional financial giving. Some longtime contributors left the meeting early, telling the TEXAN they weren’t sure whether they would come back next spring to the next BOV meeting, while others found silver linings in the higher enrollment and promises of continued conversation about the past, present and future of Southwestern Seminary in a post-Patterson era.

Additional reporting found at swbts.edu

Moving forward: Sexual assault and the church

Almost 20 years ago, a husband and wife missionary team serving in Mexico made the rounds of their sponsor churches in Texas. They reported on their work. They took up an offering. And, before leaving one church, the husband took a child’s innocence.

Alyssa Morgan was about 10 years old then. She didn’t tell a soul.

Christians intuitively understand churches should be safe places, particularly for children and women, who seem most susceptible to sexual predation in a fallen world. But, paradoxically, because Christians believe that should be the reality, they act as if it is and then fail to act on behalf of the vulnerable or advocate for the wounded. That was the contention of experts and lay leaders during an Oct. 12 Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission panel discussion on sexual assault and the church.

In the wake of very public, high-profile accusations of sexual assault, sexual harassment or rape, Christian women with similar stories have found their voice, told their stories and hold onto hope that the church will redeem the situation.

“There are more women who have experienced this—and men, and children—then you would even imagine. So we need to take away the shock, remember we live in a terribly broken world and be prepared to hear these hard stories,” said Trillia Newbell, ERLC director of community outreach, during the panel discussion on sexual abuse and assault at the ERLC national conference Oct. 11-13 in Grapevine.

While the event’s theme, “The Cross-Shaped Family,” dominated discussions, the topic of sexual violence and how it impacts the family and church flowed naturally from those conversations. Newbell’s fellow panelists included author Jen Wilkin and the co-founders of Ministry Safe, Kimberlee Norris and her husband George Love. The company equips churches with safeguards for preventing child sexual abuse.

Citing a Lifeway study, Baptist Press reported Sept. 18, “One in eight Protestant senior pastors say a church staff member has sexually harassed a member of the congregation at some point in the church’s history. One in six pastors say a staff member has been harassed in a church setting. Two-thirds of pastors say domestic or sexual violence occurs in the lives of people in their congregation.”

If only two-thirds of senior pastors believe child sexual abuse is an issue in their congregations, “they are seriously misled,” Norris said. She believes child sexual abuse has left no church unscathed.

Stories like Morgan’s are ubiquitous.

Three years after the assault, Morgan confided in a friend. That friend’s mom discovered the secret and told Morgan’s parents, who reported it to their church. Support for the missionaries ended as rumors of another assault surfaced, Morgan told the TEXAN.

The adults never contacted the authorities but the perpetrator’s wife pressured him to call Morgan and apologize—a moment then-15-year-old Morgan found “really hard.”

Sexual assault, harassment and rape are not only sins, they are crimes. Reporting laws vary by state but Texas requires every adult to report suspected child abuse. Yet too many churches try to handle abuse and harassment in-house, believing “a Bible and the Holy Spirit is what they need” to rectify the situation, Wilkins said.

“I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the Bible and the Holy Spirit,” she said. “But just by virtue of being ordained in ministry doesn’t mean that you know how to handle every situation.”

Pastors should be prepared to direct people to professionals who can help. Often those resources are sitting in the pews.

Morgan and her co-workers Kimberly Fisk and Jessica Russo at Embrace Grace often hear stories of abuse from the women with unplanned pregnancies they are helping. The international ministry connects women to churches trained to give the emotional, physical and spiritual support the women need.

Redeeming the #MeToo moment must come from the church, Julie and James Turner told the TEXAN. The Grapevine residents are members at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving.

Julie Turner empathizes with the cultural anger of the moment. Sexual harassment forced her to leave a previous job she had enjoyed. But repercussions from unresolved cultural anger concerns her and her husband, James, as they raise their 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter.

How do they raise godly children in such an environment? Could their son lose a job at the mere accusation of sexual impropriety? Will society tell their daughter that all men are sexual predators and she is a victim?

Resolving conflicting narratives is essential to redeeming the process, the Turners said. Some Christians too easily dismiss the #MeToo movement as a “feminist” crusade capitalizing on “unbiblical” attitudes toward men.

“It’s [become] man versus woman and that can’t be,” she said.

Christian men shocked by the extent of the problem have had enough time to process it and must partner with women in finding solutions, James said. Having women in visible, respected leadership roles within the church, with the exception of pastor, is paramount, according to conference participants who spoke with the TEXAN and the panelists.

Morgan’s story exemplifies how victims of sexual assault say they want to be treated, especially in the church. Morgan’s parents wept with her after discovering the secret their teenage daughter had buried for years. Wanting to respect her privacy, the family told only a select few of the small church’s leadership.

In a perfect scenario the assault would have been reported to the police. But Morgan’s knowing that her parents believed her and hurt for her mattered.

“It definitely makes me feel ‘backed.’ Like there are people on my team,” she said. “I think even when it was revealed, when I was 15 or 16 years old, that I had peace in my heart that the Lord had my back. I did not have to worry about justice; I could trust Him with that.”

Editors note: Bonnie Pritchett randomly selected five people to discuss how the church must address sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Of those five, one had been molested as a child at church, one had been sexually harassed at work, two others knew women who had been abused.

Florence and Michael giving made easier

GRAPEVINE  Giving to help victims of Hurricanes Michael and Florence just got easier. Anyone wishing to contribute to disaster relief efforts in those areas can do so through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention website by clicking on the icon labeled “Donate to Hurricane Relief.”

Donors giving to hurricane relief may be assured that 100 percent of their designated gifts will go directly to support the out-of-state disaster response to Florence and Michael.

In fact, for a time, all DR gifts will be used for these storms, Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer, told the TEXAN.

To donate, visit https://www.shelbygiving.com/f/f2?formid=6951047b-7f69-4e1f-a5a8-2d7648096f32.

“We are so glad to be able to help the affected states that were hit by Michael and Florence. These same states—North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama—sent us offerings during Harvey.  We want to be a blessing to them in their time of need as we now send funds. The website button should facilitate that,” Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, said, adding that the giving options were streamlined at the request of Jim Richards, SBTC executive director.

SBTC DR teams are serving or have recently served in the North Carolina communities of Wilmington, Wallace and Morehead City and the South Carolina towns of Dillon and Conway.

As of Oct. 13, SBTC DR was asked to deploy incident management, recovery, chaplaincy and feeding volunteers to Florence-affected Longs, So. Car., to relieve a DR team from Georgia that, along with teams from Florida and Alabama, had to disengage to minister in their home states.

As for Hurricane Michael, Florida, Alabama and Georgia Baptist DR teams have mobilized, and volunteers from Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky are expected soon as recovery operations commence, Stice said in a call-out requesting SBTC DR teams to deploy to either Longs or to continuing efforts in the Tarrant County communities of Forest Hill and Everman, flooded by late September storms.

“First Man” is gripping and inspiring (but not controversial)

Neil Armstrong is mere hours from going on a mission to the moon, but he has some unfinished business to do. He has to have an honest conversation with his two young sons. His wife, Janet, demanded it.

The boys know about his destination. They don’t, though, know how long he will be gone – or that he might die in the process.

“So you won’t be here for my swim meet?” his youngest son asks.

The oldest one – a little wiser – addresses the elephant in the room.

“Do you think you’re coming back?”   

Armstrong expresses confidence, but the older boy isn’t buying it. He knows this might be the last he ever sees his dad.

First Man (PG-13) opens this weekend, giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the quiet and private man who in 1969 became the first person to step foot on the moon. It stars Ryan Gosling (La La Land) as Armstrong, Claire Foy (The Crown) as Janet, and Jason Clarke (Chappaquiddick) as Armstrong’s friend, astronaut Ed White.

The film is largely a biopic about Armstrong, who is one of the most famous people in history but who shunned the spotlight even as his rocket mate Buzz Aldrin – the second person on the moon – flourished in it.

The movie opens in 1961 with Armstrong working as a test pilot and flying an X-15 to the edge of outer space. The story then switches to Armstrong’s home life and his battle to find medical help for his ailing daughter Karen, who has a brain tumor. She dies, forever changing his outlook on life. The already-quiet Armstrong grows even more reserved, refusing to discuss Karen’s death with anyone – even with his wife.

He then applies and gets accepted to the Gemini program in a move that provides him and Janet a fresh start on life. Of course, he eventually is chosen to be commander of Apollo 11.

The movie sparked controversy when it was learned that the planting of the American flag was not part of the film, with the director, Damien Chazelle, saying it would have interrupted the movie’s flow. After watching it, I can see his perspective. The moon scene takes less than 10 minutes in a two-plus hour movie. Armstrong is thinking about his daughter on the moon, having flashbacks of her life. He even leaves a personal memento related to her on the surface. We do see three images of an American flag during the scene, and seconds later – back on Earth – a joyful French woman says: “I always trusted America and I knew they wouldn’t fail.” The controversy was overblown.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal/moderate. We see three astronauts, in a capsule for testing, seconds before they die in a fire. (We see fire rush through the capsule and hear their cries for help, but we don’t see their bodies.) Several scenes involving space flight are intense. Armstrong nearly blacks out when his Gemini capsule spins out of control. He nearly crashes in a test lunar lander, too. The film’s opening scene shows him in a plane on the edge of space, not sure if he will survive. 

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None. Armstrong and his wife dance and share a brief kiss.

Coarse Language

Minimal/moderate. About 15 coarse words: H-ll (4), d—n (4), s—t (2), misuse of JC (2), misuse of “Jesus” (2), f-word (1).

Other Positive Elements

Armstrong is a loving father who enjoys playing with his children, even though he has trouble expressing it. (Not an uncommon trait among men at the time.)

In a scene at a funeral, he defends the deceased pilot when a superior suggests the pilot was to blame for the crash.

Armstrong is a humble man who spreads credit.  

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

Characters, including Armstrong, drink beer. Several people, including Janet, smoke.

Life Lessons

Not surprisingly, First Man provides us lessons on courage and heroics in the face of possible death. There’s also a subtle lesson on teamwork: How did NASA accomplish everything they did with technology that’s far less advanced than my smartphone? But the biggest lesson in First Man involves the subject of tragedy and the healthiest ways to cope with it. The death of Armstrong’s daughter troubled him greatly, but he never talked about it. He held it inside the rest of his life. I kept wondering: Wouldn’t he have been better off talking to a counselor? A pastor? Even a friend? But he didn’t. Instead, we sneaks off to a room so he can cry, alone. He hid his emotions and his pain. It’s heartbreaking to watch.         

Worldview

Why should we explore space? Armstrong is asked this very question early in the movie, and he does a decent job answering it. Exploring space, he says, “changes your perspective.” Further, he says, “it allows us to see things that maybe should have seen a long time ago” but could not. He never mentions God, but the implication is that we are small compared to the rest of the universe. Space points to a grand plan and an intelligent creator, right?

Space exploration has scientific benefits. It has medical benefits, too. During the Cold War, it had political and even military benefits. But I would argue that one of the reasons we should explore space is theological: to discover and better appreciate God’s handiwork. Psalm 8 begins, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” Space declares God’s glory, and it does so in ways that God’s creation on Earth does not. That’s because space – that is, the universe – is bigger than anything on Earth. God created a big universe in part to give us a hint of his glory. It’s as if He is saying: See that big universe? I’m even bigger than that!  

What Works

I always have enjoyed space, and, not surprisingly, I enjoyed First Man. The recreated Gemini and Apollo launches are enjoyable. I felt like I was there. The moon scene is a strength, too. Also, First Man does a nice job explaining the Apollo mission to the non-space geek by using an old animated clip from the 1960s.  

What Doesn’t

The ending is a little odd. Also, First Man could have been rated PG by taking out a few words. Sadly, though, Hollywood believes moviegoers won’t support PG films.   

Discussion Questions

1. What is wrong with holding in emotions? Have you ever known anyone like Neil Armstrong?

2. Do you think the money spent on the space program should have spent elsewhere?

3. What did you think about the American flag controversy?

4. Why was Neil Armstrong willing to put his life on the line?

4. Name five risky professions in today’s world.

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language.

REVIEW: “Gosnell” shines light on the abortion industry, without the gore

James Wood is a hard-nosed Philadelphia detective who only wants the truth, even if that makes everyone around him uncomfortable.

That dogged determination comes in handy when he learns of an abortion clinic whose doctor is selling prescription drugs illegally and whose medical negligence allegedly led to the death of a 41-year-old woman.

Wood wants to raid the clinic, but others aren’t so sure.

“I thought you were pro-choice,” a co-worker tells him and another woman.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Wood retorts.

Wood finally gets a search warrant, and what he uncovers is shocking. The clinic’s floors are covered in cat feces. The smell of urine fills the air. Medical waste is everywhere. And jars with baby’s feet line the shelves.

Then Wood discovers something even more horrific: The abortion doctor has been delivering babies and cutting their spinal columns, all under the guise of it being an abortion. Many of them, delivered after 24 weeks, would have survived at a hospital.

The doctor’s name is Kermit Gosnell, an otherwise well-respected man who has so many friends in the medical industry that many people believe he will win. But Wood and the assistant district attorney won’t give up.

The movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of the arrest, trial and conviction of a man who prided himself on performing illegal late-term abortions for poor women. It stars Earl Billings (Antwone Fisher) as Gosnell, Dean Cain (Lois & Clark) as Wood, and Sarah Jane Morris (The Night Shift) as assistant district attorney Alexis “Lexy” McGuire.

The movie follows a group of heroic, pro-choice prosecutors who went after an abortion doctor in a city where abortion rights are sacrosanct. 

“You are prosecuting an abortion doctor for murder,” the district attorney tells Wood and McGuire. “You know how it will play in the media.”

Despite what you might think, Gosnell isn’t a gory film. It opens with the investigation and then quickly transitions to his arrest and trial. We never witness an abortion.

Earl Billings is chillingly impressive as Gosnell. Additionally, the storyline is entertaining and eye-opening, as it shines the light on an industry that has enjoyed secrecy for decades. We learn about Gosnell’s practices and those within legal abortion clinics. Legally, there is a difference between the two. Morally, there is none. (More on that below.)

It is a film worth supporting, but you better do so this weekend. In Hollywood, opening weekend determines a film’s long-term success. If you don’t watch it this weekend, then it may not be in your theater next weekend.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. We see a clothed woman on an operating table, but we don’t see the abortion. We see small feet in jars, and later, the tops of fetus heads. We hear late-term abortion procedures described in detail. We learn that some of the babies were squirming before Gosnell killed them.   

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None.

Coarse Language

Minimal. About nine coarse words: S—t (5), d—n (1), h—l (1), b—-rd (1), a—(1)

Life Lessons

We live in a divided culture where seemingly everything is viewed through a political prism. But in Gosnell, we watch as pro-choice prosecutors bring a case simply because it’s the right thing to do. They chase the facts. Toward the end of the movie, a blogger summed up her view of the case by saying, “If the truth doesn’t match what I believe, it’s still the truth.” If only everyone today believed that.      

Worldview

“This is not a case about abortion,” the district attorney tells his assistant and the detective. His demand: If you want to bring the case, then make it about infanticide and murder – not abortion.

In one sense, he’s right. Kermit Gosnell’s “abortions” were not abortions in the legal sense. Abortion, after all, takes place inside the womb.

But, morally, there is no difference between what Gosnell did and what doctors who perform late-term abortion do every week in America. They don’t snip necks. Instead, they use dilation and evacuation (D&E), in which the doctor stops the baby’s heart by injecting potassium chloride. The doctor then begins ripping the baby apart inside the womb, limb by limb – an arm, a leg, the torso, and so forth. Additionally, the doctor often suctions out the brain before pulling out the head. We hear this procedure described by a female doctor on the witness stand.

Kermit Gosnell’s practice was illegal. D&E, though, remains legal in America. It’s a distinction with a difference of about six inches. Morally, there is no difference.

Discussion Questions

1. What did you learn about abortion? Did it change your perspective?

2. Do you see a moral difference between the procedure that Gosnell practiced and the procedure the female doctor on the witness stand described?

3. How did Gosnell escape government scrutiny for so long?

4. Why do you think Gosnell’s assistants never reported him?  

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content including disturbing images and descriptions.

Oklahoma senator asks Criswell crowd to practice neighborly kindness

DALLAS—The Criswell Coffee Shop, located at the center of Criswell College in Dallas, is where students go to enjoy a cup of coffee and share in great conversations that often lead to new friendships, theological discussions and new ministry ideas and opportunities. But, on Friday, Sept. 21, the by-invitation-only group of students, faculty, staff and friends of the college were invited to hear Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma speak on significant matters he faces in office.

A professing Christian, the Republican senator devoted much of his hour to answering questions and sharing his thoughts about policies and platforms he values in both his personal life as well as his political life. 

Lankford reminded the group that “Washington [D.C.] doesn’t change the country; the country changes Washington.”

He offered, “It just takes longer. It seems simpler just to go elect the right people instead of making the changes that need to happen for us as a culture to send people that represent our set of values. Culture changes through the action of families in the church.”

Lankford appealed to the group with a call-to-action. “If you don’t like what Washington does and says, we should engage as a country to reach out to people with a different option for how to treat their neighbor or their own personal self-worth or what it means to serve people around you; what it means to speak to somebody who’s different than you. And, there’s no better positioned group than the church to do that.”

Sen. Lankford directed his focus to Facebook and Twitter and the “incredibly toxic” platform of bitterness that prevails in social media today. He inspired his listeners to be people that drive out hate with love. “The turnaround for driving out hate with love is the gospel where people learn to love through hate and to be able to engage them. So, take on the responsibility. There’s a lot to be able to do in our culture and our community based around that. That’s not politics, but that is our calling.”

Criswell College President Barry Creamer closed the session by calling the group to surround Sen. Lankford in prayer.

For more information on Criswell College go to criswell.edu.

DR responds to Hurricane Florence, Tarrant Co. floods

DILLON, S.C. and FORT WORTH  Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief volunteers deployed to the Carolinas Sept. 24 in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which devastated the region with its storm surge reaching 13 feet and rainfall of 20 to 30 inches. Torrential rains also sent SBTC DR crews to two communities in Tarrant County where dozens of homes were flooded in late September.

Clean-up and recovery teams and feeding volunteers began serving in the South Carolina communities of Dillon and Conway, while other volunteers brought shower and laundry units to the North Carolina communities of Wallace and Wilmington. A chainsaw unit also deployed to Morehead City, N.C., Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, said.

Crews committed to 12-day deployments, with SBTC teams rotating in and out, working alongside DR volunteers from the Carolinas and other states.

Monte Furrh of Bonham led the initial SBTC DR team to Dillon for mud-out operations in what became a boggy, bug-infested task.

“The mosquitos looked like buzzards with hypodermic needles,” Furrh told the TEXAN. “We doused ourselves with repellant every day.”

One homeowner, an octogenarian helped by Furrh’s team, sank to the ground in relief as the DR volunteers approached. The man exclaimed, “I don’t know where to start.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll take it,” Furrh replied as the team filled three dumpsters with ruined furniture and debris.

A second homeowner assisted by Furrh’s crew was a retired judge and former sheriff whose home sat some 15 feet from the Little Pee Dee River just east of Dillon.

The judge’s house, although built four feet above the ground, had taken on six feet of water during the storm.

Referring to Hurricane Matthew, which had swamped his home with 32 inches of water two years before, the judge told volunteers, “Nobody helped me then. I am glad to see you.” They prayed with him and presented a new Bible to replace the one lost in the flood.

The judge was a Christian, but his friend helping that day wasn’t receptive to the gospel.

“I’ve been bucking the Lord for 70 years,” the man told Furrh, who promised to pray for him.

“You planted a seed,” the judge told Furrh.

Furrh complimented the men and women on his team. Barbara Dunn and Ok Kyu Evan fogged crawlspaces under the homes with anti-mold mist while men pulled sheetrock and removed heavy debris.

Dunn helped to fog the property of Mickey Fore, a member of First Baptist Dillon whose family had recently finished repairs from Matthew, only to see their home submerged by rains from Florence.

“They had suffered one thing after another. This was the second time they lost all their earthly possessions in just two years,” Dunn said, praising the family’s faith.

Salvations occurred. South Carolina Baptist DR officials reported at Dillon that by Oct. 5, 80 people had trusted Christ across the state through the witness of DR teams, David Dean, DR unit director from Pflugerville, told the TEXAN.

Chaplain Thomas Hurlock of Groesbeck, on his first SBTC DR deployment, led one man to salvation in Christ and others to make spiritual recommitments in Dillon.

Most asked why the disaster had happened to them.

 “I am having a hard time with all this,” said a homeowner, admitting he had been curious about Christ for some time.

“You are not alone. God has led us here to help you out and show God’s mercy,” Hurlock replied. The man prayed to receive Christ as savior.

Dean recalled helping another overwhelmed homeowner who had recently lost his wife to a heart attack. The homeowner was amazed that the group had come all the way from Texas to help.

Another family planned to bulldoze their house, until they saw what the SBTC DR mud-out teams could do and asked for assistance.

“This is a spiritual ministry. It’s not just ripping out wet drywall,” Dean said.

Tarrant Co. DR revs up new volunteers

Early October also saw dozens of SBTC DR volunteers working in mud-out, feeding, chaplaincy, recovery and assessments, shower and laundry operations in Tarrant County. Volunteers either commuted to the area from their DFW homes or were hosted by Fort Worth’s Sagamore Baptist Church. Efforts focused on the Everman and Forest Hill communities.

Stice noted that the Tarrant County deployment included many new DR volunteers who had received online or classroom training last year during the response to Harvey.

“Their involvement has let us keep the teams we had designated for North and South Carolina on task there. We’ve been able to maintain both an in-state response and also help people in the Carolinas,” Stice said.

For more information or to donate, visit sbtexas.com/evangelism/disaster-relief.

Are things turning around?

Depends on what things you’re talking about. I’ve read articles suggesting that our culture is headed in a more sexually restrained phase, against the “sexual revolution” in some ways. I’ve also seen some remarkably naggy articles against binge drinking, though to be candid, I think this one article was mostly against privileged New Englanders named “Kavanaugh” drinking to excess. No mention of Spring Break along the “Redneck Riviera.” Awash by the surging #metoo movement, I’ve had the thought that the sexual revolution is bearing bitter fruit for our nation as we come up against the consequences of hedonism, though some credit the revolution with new-found courage to challenge abusers.

Social movements mutate more often than they change though. We’ve always tended to be selective about the things we would ban from the public square. We formerly ran cigarette ads on TV; now movies get PG ratings if someone on the screen smokes. But since TV ads for cigarettes were banned in 1970 we’ve been doing just about everything else in crazy excess. Single parenthood, crudity in entertainment and other negative trends have flourished. Alongside these crazy makers our attitudes toward marriage and the nature of mankind (gender identity) flipped against the testimony of nearly all recorded human history. It’s likely we can corporately disapprove of sexual abuse without making a connection to our tolerance of bad behavior in general. The sexual revolution and the rise of moral chaos face no significant challenges from #metoo.

The unpredictable swerves of cultural mores should offer a caution to those of us who think the revolution has not been truly “progressive.” We too casually associate one cultural artifact with another to make a prophetic point. Here’s what I mean: In 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court banned state-sponsored prayer in public schools. We have associated all manner of terrible consequences with that decision. What if one of these consequences, maybe teen pregnancy, becomes less common while state-sponsored prayer remains banned? This is just an example. We’ve seen similar discussions in the fight against elective abortion or sexual orientation. If we make an uninformed case against negative social trends we risk our case (and credibility) being overtaken by events. We lament the outcomes of rising single parenthood (poverty, higher rates of boys going to prison) but those are not our main argument for the integrity of marriage and families. Don’t let our real point get lost. We know what God says about these things; we are preachers who should say what God says and let the Spirit apply it individually and timelessly.  

If our nation has another in a series of swerves into selective moral reform—say curtailing pornography or alcohol abuse—how might that undermine things we’ve said in our preaching? My point is that things like that happen, have happened, without any significant spiritual awakening taking place. Our temptation is to mistake two things that happen in sequence as being in a causal relationship when it fits our narrative. God’s Word makes quite a few correlations between sin and suffering that we can safely use without dabbling in amateur sociology. A preacher will never run out of biblical reasons for encouraging sexual purity, the integrity of marriage, self-control and a thoroughgoing love of our neighbors. Nothing will happen that undermines that message. And we frequently see the biblical message affirmed by the events, good and evil, that play out in the lives of those around us.

Like those who predict the dates of the Lord’s return, we can lose our ethos, our credibility, when grabbing too frantically at the headlines. The Bible is still true though our opinions about it blow in the wind. Knowing that we have sometimes got it wrong should inform our biblical application.  

A return to Victorian morality and modesty would have some positive results but it will not make men and women better in an ultimate sense. The #metoo movement in our general culture is not interested in sexual purity or marital integrity. Its point is to ensure the emotional and physical safety of women, while they go about the lives they choose to live. The movement and the moment are pretty narrow. Look at this article, also from The Atlantic, “7 Parenting Tips to Protect Your Kid’s Supreme Court Nomination.” These snarky “parenting tips” are in no way aimed at curbing underage drinking (just be safe) or any virtue, except don’t commit sexual assault. The writer believes, and our society believes, that we can do what we like and entertain ourselves in nearly any way imaginable but ban selected consequences associated with those actions.

Our message is more timeless than this ebb and flow of public morality. We are sinners and will not love goodness until their lives are transformed by the good Lord. Movements come and go—some are more positive than others—but our preaching should stand the test of time.