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Land sees crisis of integrity tearing at nation’s moral fiber

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–What do some high school students in Piper, Kansas, have in common with the International Bible Society? Plenty, according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land. Both groups reflect what Land calls a “national crisis of integrity.”

The International Bible Society and Zondervan announced Jan. 28 they were publishing a revision of the New International Version translation of the Bible. The remake of the classic translation, being called “Today’s New International Version,” is a “more gender-accurate rendition of Scripture,” according to its publishers (www.tniv.com).

Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, disagreed, saying the new TNIV translation is “little more than a paraphrase of some passages.” Work has been completed on the New Testament; the Old Testament is expected in 2005.

Land said Feb. 9 that the new translation poses a serious question of integrity in its attempt to be “gender-neutral” because it puts a “subjective edge on the Bible.”

“A translation is supposed to be as accurate and as literal a rendering from one language to another as possible,” he said. “When you start changing words to fit the culture, you are bowing down in an idolatrous way to the gods of gender neutrality that seem to reign in the secular culture and have invaded some church pews and pulpits.

“I am afraid that the International Bible Society has made a terrible, tragic mistake,” Land continued, noting that in publishing the TNIV, the IBS and Zondervan broke a commitment they made in 1997 to abide by gender-related Bible translation guidelines (an issue cited at www.cbmw.org).

“They are taking Greek words and Hebrew words that they know mean something different than what they translate them to be because they want to be ‘gender-accurate,'” Land said, adding, “If God had wanted to be gender-neutral in these instances, he could have done so. He is God. He had men write what he intended for them to write.”

And what about the high school students in Piper, Kansas?

Land said 28 students found guilty of plagiarism by their teacher, Christine Pelton, were given reduced academic penalties when the town’s school board overruled Pelton in addition to the school’s principal and the county’s superintendent of schools. In accordance with the school’s stated policy, the students originally received no credit on their Internet-purloined biology projects; the school board decided the students should receive partial credit.

“This is a very dramatic symbol straight from the heartland of our country that reflects the massive problem we have with integrity,” Land said, noting the school board made its decision behind closed doors after the students’ parents complained of the stiff penalties meted out to their children.

“The teacher did her job; the principal backed her up and did his job; the superintendent of schools did his job. The parents didn’t do their job,” Land said, asking, “What kind of lesson did these parents teach their children? They taught them it is okay to cheat. They taught them it is all right to bend the rules. If they get caught, they’ll get off because everyone is doing it.”

Land said the incident stems from a nationwide problem that can only be remedied by parents reinforcing bedrock values that underscore the fact that when you do an honest day’s work you receive an honest day’s wage.

“Using someone else’s work is thievery. Misleading someone is the same thing as lying,” he said, pointing to the behavior of corporate leaders of failed energy conglomerate Enron and resume-troubled college football coach George O’Leary as symptomatic of this larger crisis of integrity.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Pelton discovered her students had cheated on a biology project after noting some students’ papers contained identical wording. She used tools on the website, www.turnitin.com, to confirm her suspicions.

A 1998 poll by Who’s Who Among American High School Students revealed that 80 percent of the students featured in that publication admitted to cheating in school. The organization, which recognizes high-achieving high school students, said the percentage was the highest in the organization’s 29 years of polling (www.eci-whoswho.com/highschool/annualsurveys/29.shtml).

A majority of the students (53 percent) said cheating was “no big deal.” Interestingly, 46 percent of these students also said “declining social and moral values” were the biggest problems facing their generation.

“In all likelihood, when these kids look at the examples now being set by traditional role models — the president, business leaders, Hollywood stars, even the clergy — they have an easier time excusing their own behavior,” said Joe Krouse, associate publisher of Who’s Who Among American High School Students, on the group’s website.

“If we can’t trust each other’s word, where do we go from here?” Land asked. “When the International Bible Society clearly violates the intent, if not the actual letter, of the pledge they made with evangelical scholars regarding a gender-neutral Bible translation, it has subtle overtones of a former president’s quibbling over what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

“They are taking the words of Jesus and changing them to do obedience to the gods of political and gender correctness,” Land continued. “And in similar fashion, the decision by the Piper, Kansas, school board on Dec. 12 mirrors a massive nationwide problem many Americans have with simply following the rules, telling the truth, standing by your word and not seeking to gain unfair advantage.

“We have become a nation of cheats and liars,” Land concluded. “We cannot ignore this weakening of our moral fiber. The recovery of our integrity must start within American families and with parents leading the way.”

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings