NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Reports from the White House suggest President Clinton may admit Monday, Aug. 17, before the grand jury he had sexual encounters with a former White House intern brought renewed calls for the president to simply “tell the truth.”
Seen as a trial balloon released in a move by White House lawyers to measure public sentiment to the plea, the plan would have the president admit to having intimate sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky while insisting he told the truth when he testified in January under deposition in the Paula Jones case that he never had “sexual relations” with Lewinsky.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land urged Clinton, a fellow Southern Baptist and member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., “to tell the truth to himself, tell the truth to God, tell the truth to his wife and family, tell the truth to the American people if the allegations of an inappropriate sexual relationship between the President and Lewinsky are true.”
“Any attempt to slip through a verbal loophole and argue that oral sex is not a sexual relationship based upon the restrictive court-accepted definition of sexual relations in the Paul Jones deposition is chauvinistic, sexist and demeaning,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, accusing the president and his advisors of engaging in “verbal and ethical hair-splitting.”
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, but everybody senses the direction,” an unnamed presidential White House advisor told The Washington Post, in an Aug. 14 report. “He’s going to push it beyond the deposition, but not by much. He’s going to say enough to protect himself in case the dress (of Lewinsky’s which has been tested for the president’s DNA) turns out bad. And then he’s not going to go any further.”
The day after the president’s scheduled grand jury appearance, Aug. 17, Land will participate in the National Clergy Council’s panel discussion on “Pastoral Guidance for Resolving the Moral Crisis Surrounding Allegations Against President Clinton.”
The National Clergy Council represents leaders from Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant church traditions and seeks to bring biblical and historical Christian moral instruction to the national debate surrounding public policy and the duties of public officials.
The topic of Clinton’s moral dilemmas was discussed during the week of Aug. 5 on Land’s weekday radio program, “For Faith & Family,” a call-in program aired on nearly 200 stations nationwide.
Land, in an Aug. 14 interview, appealed to Clinton as a “as a Christian, as a pastor, as an ethicist, as an American, as a husband, and as a father” to recall a central truth of the Christian faith that “there is always a new beginning in Christ Jesus.”
“President Clinton, as one who identifies himself as a born-again believer and a Southern Baptist, knows and has experienced the power of confession and redemption. Undoubtedly he is aware of Christianity’s promise to believers in 1 John 1:9 that, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.'”
Christ’s teaching on adultery is very clear, Land said, citing Matthew 5:28 wherein Jesus says lusting after a woman in your heart is the moral equivalent of an adulterous sexual relationship.
“The difference between lusting in your heart and actually acting on that lust is only a matter of degree,” he added.
Regardless of opinion poll results and “tortured explanations” from the White House, Land said only by telling the truth will the president enable a national “healing process to begin.”
Legal secretary’s steps toward faith
began as juror at Wiley Drake trial
By Luana Ehrlich
BUENA PARK, Calif. (BP)–Becky Ostrander is amazed at the people and circumstances God brought together — starting with jury duty for the trial of an outspoken pastor — to give her an opportunity to come to know him personally.
Since she didn’t grow up in a Christian home, she doesn’t remember hearing anything about the Lord as a child. However, she says, “I think I always believed there was a God, even though I had no real knowledge of him as I was growing up.”
The events that finally led Ostrander, 48, a legal secretary living in Buena Park, Calif., to faith in Christ began in June 1997 following a legal summons for jury duty. When she reported to the Orange County Courthouse, she felt certain she wouldn’t be one of the jurors chosen because of her legal background and because her job required her to work with a criminal defense attorney.
“Everything pointed against my being chosen,” Ostrander recounts, “yet out of 200 potential jurors called, I was one of the 12 they chose, and I was the last one they picked!” To her further amazement, she was elected as the jury’s foreperson.
At the time, Ostrander felt being on the jury would prove to be just a nuisance. Now, more than a year later, she is certain her selection as a juror was the best thing that could have ever happened to her and was simply God’s hand gently guiding her to him.
The case she was chosen to hear involved 10 counts of misdemeanor criminal charges against Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, for housing homeless people in violation of city codes. Much to her surprise, the trial lasted three weeks. As she and her fellow jurors heard how Drake had allowed the city’s homeless people to find shelter in the church’s enclosed patio and parking lot for seven years, she experienced some very mixed emotions.
“I thought the charges were ludicrous,” Ostrander says. “I saw Pastor Drake as a man doing such a wonderful work.” However, she also recognized he and the church had indeed been in violation of the city’s housing code. “As a legal secretary,” she explains, “I knew what I had to do.”
After the jury had deliberated almost three days, Ostrander delivered the verdict in the courtroom. Drake was found guilty on eight of the 10 counts brought against him and the church. As the verdicts were being read, she remembers, “Several members of our jury were crying. We recognized he (Drake) was a truly dedicated man, but that he had violated the law.” Drake was sentenced to, then credited for, 1,500 hours of community service.
Following the dismissal of the jury, Ostrander sought out Drake in the courthouse lobby. Since the case had drawn national media attention, he was surrounded by the press, but she had made up her mind during jury deliberations that even though she had to vote to convict, she also had to try and find some way of showing him she supported what he was trying to do for the homeless. When Ostrander located Drake in the lobby, she gave him a big hug. “There was nothing I could do to vote any other way,” she told him, “but there is something I can do to show you I support what you’re doing, so I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”
Her objective in making the promise, she reflects, had nothing to do with any spiritual need she might have had; it was all about demonstrating her support for Drake’s ministry. Three other jurors also attended the church’s services the Sunday after the verdict.
Ostrander followed through with her show of support for the pastor’s ministry by attending Drake’s church every Sunday morning and doing volunteer work with the church’s clothing and food bank during the week. She continued her involvement for almost six months, and while she heard the pastor’s gospel messages every Sunday, she says she remained “ignorant of what he was talking about. I just knew I believed in a higher power, and that’s all.”
Then, during a Sunday service last January, Ostrander became burdened by her sin and overcome with emotion. She started crying, unable to stop. As Drake ended his sermon, he issued an invitation for those who wanted to accept Christ to pray a prayer. She followed his instructions, praying and confessing her sins and asking Jesus to be her Savior.
“It was as if Atlas took back his world,” she says, describing her salvation experience. “The whole world just stopped. I had lived in a world of turmoil for several years, and suddenly I felt at peace.”
In order to witness to her family and friends about her new faith in Christ and to introduce them to the homeless ministry of the church, Ostrander invited everyone she knew to her baptism. “I had them all bring a salad,” she says, “and come see me baptized.”
More than 60 guests came to her “baptismal party” where the homeless from the shelter and Ostrander’s friends celebrated her new life in Christ by eating salad and pizza together. During the gathering, her daughter presented her with her very first Bible.
“Now I’m so hungry for God’s Word,” Ostrander relates, describing her growth as a Christian. “The more I learn, the more I want to learn because there’s so much I don’t understand.” Besides attending worship and Bible study on Sundays, she is also involved with a Bible study class during the week and the homeless shelter on Wednesday mornings. “My whole life just centers around the church now.”
Reflecting over the events of the past year, Ostrander says she sees how the Lord used her jury duty for Drake’s trial and even Drake’s own Christian conduct during the trial as a steppingstone to lead her to him.
“My life is so different. I was full of pain a year ago,” she says, reiterating, “Now I have peace.”
Adversity builds character,
campus minister tells students
By Chip Alford
GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Tim LaFleur knows firsthand about dealing with adversity.
Eight years ago, the campus minister at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., lost the vision in his left eye. Five years later, the vision in his right eye was damaged, leaving him with only peripheral sight. Two weeks after that, the same genetic condition that damaged his eyes resulted in serious heart problems which required open heart surgery.
“Before all of this, I had never been sick a day in my life, to speak of,” LaFleur told a group of college students attending his Aug. 12 seminar, “What to Do When the Bottom Drops Out: Dealing with Adversity in the Real World.” The session was part of Student Week ’98 at Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center.
While his heart surgery was a success, LaFleur, now legally blind, said he was “very emotional, very depressed” when he returned home to recover.
“I found myself in a tough situation. I felt like my whole world was going down the tubes. I wondered how I was going to be able to take care of my family and if they would still love and respect me. I wondered if my students would still respond to me, and if I’d still be able to preach.”
In the middle of a sleepless, struggle-filled night, LaFleur said he felt God’s presence and heard a distinct, comforting message. “He told me, ‘If you’ll remain faithful, my grace is going to be sufficient to meet every need in your life,'” LaFleur remembered. “It was as if God had invaded my room and told me he would make a way where there seemed to be no way. My attitude took a 180-degree turn.”
While his journey back to health hasn’t been without obstacles, LaFleur said God has kept his promise. The day after his word from God, he received an invitation to preach from a friend who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. A few weeks later, he was back on campus for a welcome party for his Baptist Student Union group.
“My relationship with my wife, Chris, is better than it’s ever been; we’re a real team,” LaFleur said, adding she has worked at his side as administrative assistant for his BSU the last two years. “My relationship with my children is stronger than ever, too, and our student group has experienced real growth over the last few years. God has really blessed me.”
God has brought several tools into his life to aid his handicaps, LaFleur said, including a closed-circuit television for people with low-vision and a pair of special binoculars. He’s also found he’s been able to memorize large portions of Scripture, which has been helpful for preaching and leading Bible studies.
“A lot of people see other people who are having victory over difficult circumstances and they think, ‘I could never do that.’ And they’re right. Only God can do it if you learn to depend on him.”
Whether it’s health problems, financial difficulties or relationship struggles, adversity is a very real part of life, LaFleur told the students.
“Trials are always present in life. They are varied and they are never easy, but you need to remember that they are controlled by God and he uses them to build character in our lives.
“There’s a brand of Christianity that says if you believe in Jesus you’ll never have problems — a health, wealth and prosperity gospel. Well, I have a little Greek word for that, ‘bologna!’ It’s a bunch of hogwash; it’s not scriptural. It’s my belief that there are some things you can learn only by going through the fire.”
In order for faith to mature through trials and tribulations, LaFleur told students they must learn to see them from God’s viewpoint.
“Why is it that some people go through the fire and get ‘bitter’ instead of ‘better'”? he asked. “Because they aren’t turning it over to God. If you want to be an overcomer when your world comes crashing down, you’d better seek God, you’d better pray, you’d better get into his Word. When you do that, you’ll begin to see that God will ultimately use trials for your good and his glory.”
How can you help someone going through trials? LaFleur and students in the seminar listed several ways, including praying for and with them, “just being there and listening,” encouraging them and spending time with them.
“It’s not always going to be smooth sailing,” LaFleur said, “but if we can help each other learn to trust and depend on him, his grace will be more than sufficient.”
Student Week ’98 was sponsored by National Student Ministry, part of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
A year after fatal auto wreck,
church’s youth return to camp
By Lucas Peters
EL RENO, Okla. (BP)–Memories of a tragic trip to Oklahoma’s Falls Creek Baptist Assembly last year made it difficult for youth minister Harold Petree to prepare for this summer’s return to camp.
For Petree, of First Baptist Church, El Reno, Okla., and many of his students, returning to Falls Creek would be a key step in the healing process after an accident took the lives of fellow campers Emily Wilds and Marie Comer on last year’s trip.
Petree remembers the July 7 day clearly.
“When we left the church, we had the church bus, then the church van, then one of our sponsors driving a car, then a sponsor driving a van, the fourth one in line.”
The caravan was southbound on Interstate 35 when a driver, making an improper lane change, struck the rear of the tail van.
“When he hit the van, it swerved, got sideways and turned over, rolling several times, ending up on its wheels in the middle of the northbound side,” Petree said. Six of the seven passengers were thrown out of the rear of the van and into the path of northbound traffic.
The sponsor driving the car in front of the van witnessed the accident in her rear-view mirror and flagged down the church van in front of her, sending it back to the accident site. Then, she raced ahead to catch up to the bus carrying Petree.
“She caught up with us about 15 miles down the road. I got in her car and we went back.”
Petree arrived at the scene to find Wilds and Comer killed and the other six already transported to the hospital with injuries, many serious.
“I called the church to talk to Brother John (Chennault), the pastor,” Petree recounted. “I asked him what to do. He was quiet for a minute and then said, ‘I don’t know.’ We just did the best we could.”
Petree next called Falls Creek. His campers were told to call home to inform their parents they were safe. It was from a parent who had been watching the news that the campers first learned about the deaths.
“They knew somebody had died,” Petree said, “but not who. When I got to Falls Creek, I had to set them down and tell them what happened. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did.
“My daughter was sitting on the steps. It hurt. Because I knew that two families had just lost a daughter. I still had mine.”
When the news spread across Falls Creek, campers from El Reno found themselves surrounded by support.
“We were swarmed with love, concern and care,” Petree said. “Campers came by to pray with us. The wall by the kitchen was covered with homemade cards and papers people wrote. We looked up and there were groups in the street standing there praying.”
Because of this, Petree and Chennault decided it would be best for the campers to stay for the remainder of the week.
“We felt it would be the best thing because of the support we had here. Plus, the kids were here together as a family. If they went home, they were going to be by themselves. We did the best we could to make it a Falls Creek,” Petree said.
Petree said it was hard to sort out his emotions about returning to Falls Creek this year.
“I wish I knew how to describe it,” he said. “I’ve thought a lot about it. I don’t know what word fits, apprehension, nervousness, fear or anxiety. I was excited to come, but once something happens you always wonder if it’s going to happen again.
“I’m like the youth,” he continued. “Young people today think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me.’ I never thought it would happen to me or to anyone associated with me.”
El Reno’s junior high week saw the return of Jackie Reeves, the driver of the van, and one of the students who had been in the accident. For high school week, Reeves was back again, along with three more students from the accident.
Petree said the students had to learn to trust in God to get them through last year’s tragedy, and that they had to apply that lesson, this year, upon their return.
“The main thing we learned is there are times you have to depend on God a lot more than others,” he said. “Through this, we had to lean a little harder. We just wanted to climb into Jesus’ lap and sit there for a while, like we did with our daddies when we were little kids.
“But God’s faithful,” he added. “He was there the whole time with us. He’s the reason we made it this far. If I had tried to make it on my own, I wouldn’t have made it. I had to rely on him. It hasn’t been easy. There have been days when it’s been very difficult. But it’s because of his goodness, grace and love that I was able to return to Falls Creek. The same can be said for a lot of the students as well as the sponsors.”
El Reno’s return to camp was encouraging from another standpoint, with 24 decisions out of the 39 students during junior high week and five decisions among the 45 campers during high school week.
Roy Rogers, Robert Young characters
could be redemptive in ’98 versions
By Bill Webb
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–When actors Roy Rogers and Robert Young died in July, it seemed like the world actually lost three men: a “straight-shooting” cowboy, a father who almost always knew what was best for himself and his family, and a doctor who cared as much about his patients’ personal problems as their health.
Roy and Bob died at 86 and 91, respectively. Neither their names nor their movie and television exploits will be very recognizable to those who are under 40 years old. But for most of the rest of us, these deaths remind us how the entertainment industry has changed.
Rogers was the “king of the cowboys” both in the movies and on television. The term “straight-shooter” applied foremost to his character’s personal integrity, secondarily to his prowess with a six-gun. Roy tried to solve his problems with others peacefully. A sidearm was a defensive weapon for him. He never killed a bad guy, but often shot the gun out of the hands of scoundrels, hardly wounding them in the process. Roy was faithful to his wife and co-star, Dale Evans, and kind to his golden palomino, Trigger, and his dog, Bullet. And no one could sing a western ballad like Roy Rogers. He was wholesomeness personified.
Robert Young is best known for a pair of TV series. In the first, “Father Knows Best,” he played a suburban father, Jim Anderson. Jim never seemed to bring his work home with him. After work, he shed his suit coat, slipped into a sweater and spent the rest of each episode being the perfect husband and father of three. As his children faced the problems all children face, Jim helped them work through every one. Sometimes charmingly naive, he really was a wise father.
Later, Young brought a very similar character to TV audiences in a show named after his character, a physician named Marcus Welby. Dr. Welby was an older and perhaps even wiser version of Jim Anderson, outstanding as a medical diagnostician and almost a mind reader when it came to figuring out what was really bothering his patients. Above all, he was a doctor who sincerely cared for those entrusted to his care. Unlike Jim Anderson, Marcus Welby stayed late at the hospital helping his beloved patients. He was something of a benevolent workaholic.
No doubt, these actors had their foibles. Both played near-perfect characters, at least in their TV series. We don’t know all the details of their personal lives. Rogers often gave his Christian testimony, sometimes at Billy Graham crusades. The man who played Jim Anderson and Marcus Welby suffered from depression and alcoholism, and he attempted suicide. TV isn’t real life, after all.
Admittedly, the first priority of producers of these shows was to succeed in entertaining. That’s the same goal for producers and actors today. But the differences are severe.
Shock factor wasn’t a readily used technique in television’s developing years. Profanity and sexual innuendo certainly existed in society. Indeed, they were more pervasive than some would like to admit. People abused alcohol and even did drugs. But for the most part, television was an escape from some of those vices we witnessed in real life. TV bent over backward not to be suggestive, even to the point of skewing reality. For instance, my memory is that Jim and Margaret Anderson, like most happily married sitcom parents of the day, slept in separate beds.
TV programming has gone a different direction these days. Most of us would strain to identify with contemporary sitcoms. Language, activities and story lines tend to be lurid. These days, TV and film still provide an escape, but too often it is an escape to the darker side of modern-day society — excessive profanity, excessive violence, excessive sexual activity, excessive everything. What might have been shocking at one time has become rather predictable.
Is there still a market in television and film for fare that resembles real-life scenarios, with characters that face challenges that most of us face periodically in our lives? Will contemporary consumers invest time in productions in which the characters grapple with issues of the day and lend some insight for those of us who face those issues? The success of issues-oriented news programs suggests such sitcoms and dramatic productions might well attract healthy audiences.
Perhaps westerns have gone the way of the dinosaur. But one might wonder how updated versions of “Father Knows Best” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” might fare today. To be realistic, “Father” might not always know how to handle every situation in the 1998 version, but he could always do his best. And, in a contemporary rendition, patients might chew out Dr. Welby once in a while for meddling in their personal lives. But at least audiences would be reminded that it is all right to move beyond surface acquaintances and try to develop meaningful, caring relationships.
The deaths of Roy Rogers and Robert Young should be timely reminders. The entertainment empire that seems to influence our society and our families so profoundly might do well to realize its finest years have come and gone. Time is ripe for a healthy change. That won’t happen, of course, unless consumers who care are willing to send a message.
Single-day tickets available
for CrossSeekers celebration
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Single-day tickets for the Sept. 4-5 CrossSeekers celebration at the New Orleans Convention Center are now available for purchase from LifeWay Christian Resources.
Several widely-known Christian artists and speakers, such as Steven Curtis Chapman, Jars of Clay and Anne Graham Lotz, will be featured at the event, which is sponsored by LifeWay’s National Student Ministry (NSM) and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
CrossSeekers is a nationwide discipleship initiative launched by NSM last summer. The New Orleans event is designed to celebrate response to the CrossSeekers Covenant which, to date, has been signed by approximately 6,000 students across the country. The covenant calls students to live a lifestyle characterized by integrity, spiritual growth, an authentic and consistent witness, service, purity and Christlike relationships.
While registration for the New Orleans event has been open for several months, a two-day ticket for $79 was the only purchase option until now.
“We have heard from numerous student leaders who, because of other commitments, couldn’t come for the whole celebration, but who wanted to be part of the event,” NSM director Bill Henry said. “We hope selling single-day tickets will allow more CrossSeekers to come and celebrate with us what God is doing through this movement.”
Christian artists slated to perform during the Friday, Sept. 4, celebration, which begins at 7:30 p.m., include Steven Curtis Chapman, Anointed and MercyMe. The speaker is Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries in Raleigh, N.C. The cost for this single-day ticket is $35 and also includes access to the “Covenant Mall,” a 100,000-square foot exhibit area highlighting missions and ministry opportunities and Christian resources for college students.
The line-up of Christian artists for Saturday, Sept. 5, which includes two general sessions and several conferences, includes Jars of Clay, Third Day, MercyMe, Jennifer Knapp and Rick Muchow. Speakers include Carey Casey, senior vice president and executive director of FCA’s “One Way 2 Play–Drug Free” program, and Dave Edwards, a popular Christian author and speaker from Oklahoma City. Tickets for this day’s event are $50 each and also include access to the exhibit area.
The CrossSeekers celebration is open to college students, high school juniors and seniors and their leaders.
To register, call toll-free, 1-888-CROSS98. For more information about the event and the CrossSeekers movement, visit the initiative’s Internet site at www.crossseekers.org.