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FIRST-PERSON: ‘Red Rover, Red Rover, send 4 more on over!’

ST. LOUIS (BP)–And so the game went, kicking off the annual face-off of protesters and Baptists, reporters with microphones and police officers in riot gear, the lines resembling a mixed up version of foosball.

I’ve only been in a protest once in my life — sixth grade as I recall, when students at the magnet middle school I attended were told they would only be allowed to go to their lockers twice a day, once between third and fourth period and again after sixth period.

Who were these teachers and principals to tell us what to do? Walkouts were discussed, angry threats were voiced and a strategic plan was devised by the eighth-graders. On Monday morning, students would refuse to go to class until the administration agreed to listen.

The expectations were high and the air tense with excitement (probably of trying to get away with something), as the school buses dropped off students carrying signs of “Free our Lockers!” and “Down with Locker Hours!” Gathering in the gym, students stood in groups, talking, plotting, all the while mentally rehearsing the crucial moment when the bell would sound. Would we pull it off? Could we force change to happen? Would we force the administration’s hand?

The moment of decision came when bell signaled the beginning of the day’s first class. Students stood still, looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes and trying to ignore the nearby teachers who were warning of suspension and worse for students who were not in their classes by the time the second bell rang.

Slowly, in groups of two and three, students began drifting toward the doors leading to the hallway with mutters of “My mom would kill me if I got suspended” and “What’s for lunch today?” And when the second bell rang, all of the students were in their classes, and our little attempt to usurp authority had passed.

SoulForce, the gay and lesbian organization which routinely alleges “spiritual violence” from Southern Baptist teachings that are “killing God’s gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender children,” was out in full force for the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 11. I think they too, like our little group of middle-schoolers, were trying to usurp authority — ultimately trying to vanquish God’s authority and add to the blurring of the line between right and wrong, and man’s will versus his Creator’s.

I was amazed to see a news report recently of colleges which are now specifically recruiting gay and lesbian high school students, actually holding college fairs to cater, saying they want their students to experience diversity. I have no problem with diversity. I do have a problem with preying on high school students by offering scholarships if they come out and say they’re gay — all for the sake of having diversity. Where does this leave other students who leave their sexual preference out of their college applications — those who actually assume the old school of thought that GPAs and school activities count for something?

Back to the protest in St. Louis. I watched, along with many others, as group by group, men and women of varying ages and sizes approached the doors of the convention center, arms raised, heads high, a row of 10-15 policemen blocking their way. I listened as a pastor standing near me talked in soothing tones to his 4-year-old, explaining why the people outside were holding signs and yelling, and why God had told us we needed to love them even if they didn’t love us.

I thought as I watched a young woman in one foursome, someone who looked close to my age, calmly being led away in plastic handcuffs, how determined she looked. I wondered what her background was, what her upbringing had been, what kind of contact she had had with Southern Baptists and other Christians.

And I wondered who would tell her about God’s love, and how that love could be demonstrated. Certainly not by someone like myself, standing behind the glass doors, watching as a spectator.

“The highest power for the greatest task” was the theme of this year’s SBC annual meeting. We must not just tell them about God’s love, but we must show them as well. That is our task — that is our mission.
Horn is director of news and media relations at Union University, Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Sara Horn