A ZEALOUS AGENDA
by David Sisler
"Editor, The Chronicle:
"David Sisler's March 10 column is an affront to all those Christians who would truly imitate Christ. It's also a resounding slap in the faces of those who are not Christians.
"In his piece Mr. Sisler equates school shootings with the fact that our public school system cannot allow the promulgation of any religion (not just Christianity) as a part of its function. He is callously using the tragedies of these victims of violence to advance his own brand of zealotry.
"Notice there's no mention of the shooting of a schoolgirl in a Roman Catholic School in Pennsylvania where there certainly exists an active program of Christian teaching. Neither does Mr. Sisler acknowledge that school incidences of violence are actually in the third straight year of decrease.
"That fact doesn't fit into his agenda which is to force Christian beliefs on pluralistic student bodies with a total lack of respect for members of other great religions such as: Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and, yes, even those who embrace agnosticism or atheism.
"Any student who is imbued with the teachings of Christ will have no trouble carrying him in their hearts throughout the school day. The truly Christian student need not hear the message of Christianity from his principal or science teacher; that is the role of his parents and the Christian clergy.
"Gene L. Rickaby, Martinez"
In eleven years of producing a weekly column, I have never written a piece answering my critics. Until now.
Gene L. Rickaby charged me with committing effrontery to "all Christians who would imitate Christ," with "callousness" when people died, with being a zealot, and with having a personal agenda.
On the first two counts, I plead not guilty.
Mr. Rickaby is the only person from whom I have had communication who was affronted. It is impossible for a father of four, and the husband of a school teacher, to be callous about school shootings. Incidents of actual shootings may be down. Incidents of violence are definitely not decreasing – ask the faculty and students of Hephzibah High School who stood outside in the rain Tuesday because of a bomb threat (and not the first one this school year).
Everyone who is familiar with the newspaper industry understands deadlines. Saturday's editorial and op-ed pages begin their preparations for the printing press on Wednesday. The piece which Mr. Rickaby criticized was on the editor's desk before the shooting occurred at the Roman Catholic school in Pennsylvania.
As to the first two counts of the indictment, the defense rests.
On the last two counts, being zealous, and having a personal agenda, I plead guilty as charged.
There is a great difference in freedom of religion and freedom from religion. When the issue of Church and State separation is raised, it is almost universally Christianity which is separated from the State. When a faith is excluded, it is almost always the faith of the believers in Jesus Christ.
I have great respect for other world religions – Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism. These faiths have produced great leaders, great thinkers, great warriors, great peacemakers, great souls. Their contributions, their lives, have enriched our society.
But, Mr. Rickaby, I do have an agenda. It begins where the above-mentioned religions stop. It goes where agnosticism or atheism will never go. My agenda comes from Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom the Lord God Almighty praised as "my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
Jesus said, "I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through me!"
Jesus was inclusive about many things. He was totally exclusive about this. He said, "He who comes to me in faith, I will never cast out." The implication is clear, "He who does not come to me in faith, I will never admit in."
Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, I have an agenda. It is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Crucified. Risen. Returning. I plead guilty to zealotry – eagerness and ardent interest – in Jesus' name.
David Sisler, Augusta
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