Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Houston, we have a problem
Oct23

Houston, we have a problem

Houston. That humid, traffic-ridden landmass that swallows up a great portion of Southeast Texas. The country’s fourth largest city is home to more than two million people and a controversy called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, also known as HERO.   A nickname is the “Bathroom Bill.” It reinforces the idea that no one should be discriminated against on basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. Pretty routine, right? Until the reader learns that the city’s bathrooms are now non-discriminatory.   Over the summer, a group of pastors who take objection to their lesbian mayor’s bold move passed around a petition, which gained more than the minimum number of signatures to have the ordinance reviewed.   The city found that a large number of the signatures were “ineligible” and refuses to discuss how it came to that conclusion. Those pastors are now in a legal battle with the city, which took an unexpected turn when the city called for their sermons to be brought before the court.   “Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department’s subpoenas for pastor’s sermons….,” Chief Policy Officer Janice Evans told The Bells. “Neither the mayor nor city attorney … were aware the subpoenas had been issued…. Both agree the original documents were overly broad.”   After that, news reports surfaced about a tweet from Parker’s Twitter account that contradicted this statement saying, “If the five pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”   So, which is it? Does Parker “agree with those who are concerned” about a breach of First Amendment rights, or does she in fact see the subpoena of sermons as an aid in her legal case?   When Evans was confronted with the contradiction, she responded saying, “We believe the petition process used by the HERO opponents, including the pastors, did not meet the requirements…. That information would be very helpful in proving our case.”   After a similar sentiment was expressed in a news conference, the city did some major backtracking in response to national news coverage and condemnation from politicians.   “The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Christiana Holcomb, the attorney representing the ministers, said.       “Political and social commentary is not a crime; it is protected by the First Amendment.”   In keeping with her theme of non-discrimination, Parker should subpoena an Imam’s sermon. Quranic passages say homosexuals should be killed. Why pick on...

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#UMHBRO14
Oct16

#UMHBRO14

A frigid wind dragged along the steps of Luther Memorial Saturday morning, October 4th, yet still, more than 300 students showed up to serve at Reaching Out 2014.   Lord knows it was a miracle I was one of em’. Saturday mornings, I’m usually in a state of comatose only the rapture can lift me out of. But my girlfriend, junior education major Savannah Davis wasn’t having any of that. My phone bu-zzzzzzzzzz-ed. It was time to go [insert sound of whip cracking here].   7:30 a.m. We just had to get a T-shirt. Savvy and I stood at the back while dedicated students materialized in front of Luther.   My roommate, senior physcology major Alex Aleman, stepped up to the microphone to lead us in prayer.   “We wanted students to have a direct impact on the community this year in a way they could see it,” he said. “It’s great that we got to work in Belton because this is our town.”   Aleman is the Director of Spiritual Life for Student Government Association, and “me and the chaplains are in charge of preparing the sites, finding a speaker and finding people to lead worship,” he said.   Senior Biblical Studies major Matt Boden, and fellow teammate of the acclaimed co-rec intramural football team known as “Jesus Jukes,” joined junior exercise science major Alexa Billington in leading worship.   Boden said leading worship at Reaching Out is unique.   “First,” he said, “It is so dang early. But the people who show up usually want to be there. That’s a breath of fresh air for someone in ministry to see.”   Students all around joined in a chorus of praise.   “Singing is just a very powerful form of worship,” Billington said, “and I know, for me, it’s what makes me feel like I’m connecting with God the most.”   “It’s just a beautiful thing to be able to sing to The Lord before the sun even comes out …” Boden added.   The only thing missing from Reaching Out’s pregame experience was Shawn Shannon’s “Big Watermelon!” warm-up. She was sick and dearly missed. But either way, it was time to serve. Savvy and I headed out to help clean up Nolan Creek.   We were joined on the trail by senior education major Kristen Cain, who also served at the Harris Community Center.   “We picked up large sticks and branches that were along the trail to clean up from the big storm Thursday night,” she said.   Our work replenished the creek’s appearance.   “God has shown me easy ways to serve in my community...

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Letter to the Editor

It’s a sad day in a nation when people lower themselves by comparing one movement with the suffering of another, but it is even more devastating to devalue another movement as being less or more insignificant. To believe that the homosexual community has not had hardships is like saying toast does not go through the toaster. Gay is not the new black, but the LGBT community is a group that receives a large amount of persecution that should never be undermined, regardless of one’s opinion on the issues of marriage, sin or political views. People who say, “They don’t have it bad. They just complain too much. They need to just be normal like everybody else,” might want to re-evaluate what persecution is. For example, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center has indicated that 30-40 percent of the LGBT population has attempted suicide. The Report of the Secretary’s Task Force has shown that LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than other people within the same age demographic. Even more astonishing is, in terms of the higher education population from professors to students, up to 25 percent of these people have been ridiculed for their sexual orientation according to a study done in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Lastly, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, up to 40 percent of homeless youth that are served in shelters claim to be LGBT. These youth have found themselves on the street because of things like school harassment, family rejection of sexual orientation and being forced to leave home by their own parents when “coming out.” Studies show with a resounding “yes” that the LGBT community is persecuted. If Americans expect liberty in their religion, culture, race, or way of life, they must stand against persecution of all groups, no matter how big or small.   Jasper Gates,...

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Peace or persecution?
Oct13

Peace or persecution?

During wartime periods in U.S. history, it is tempting for Americans —Christian and non-Christian alike — to tire of conflict. The unfortunate reality is we must continue to wage war against those lifestyles violently opposed to ours so we don’t have to sustain the same bloodshed here in our homeland.   Christians are called by Christ to be peacemakers, not pacifists as some suggest. Sometimes, the way to make peace is to first make war.   What confuses well-meaning practitioners of the faith is the misinterpretation of scripture. Historically, those who advocate against war cite Exodus 20:13, the sixth commandment which reads in most translations, “Thou shalt not kill.”   The original word in the ancient Hebrew for “kill” was “trə•ṣāḥ,” which means “murder.” There is a fundamental difference between killing in defense of self or others versus murdering someone in cold blood.   Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson received criticism from some Christians after expressing support for war against radical Islamists.   He said, “Convert them or kill them…. It’s not like a country with a standing army, and we line up and do battle … we’re going to have to deal with this group way more harshly than we have….”   Proponents of radical Islam are on an admitted mission either to convert or kill infidels (unbelievers) while pointing to passages in the Quran.   Quran 8:12 says, “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”   Some argue Robertson made his comments in direct response to the very real jihadist threat, which is even harsher. If jihadists come here or to any other country with the intent to convert or kill, why would Christians not have the right and responsibility to protect themselves and others?   Also intriguing is the idea that this Quranic verse might be the motivation for the recent beheadings of the American journalists and European government workers by ISIL. How about the ISIL sympathizer who hacked off an unsuspecting woman’s head in her Moore, Okla., office?   Should we lie down and say we’re against war because God is love while innocent people are dying at the hands of Islamic extremists? The motivation for war is not the pleasure of killing, but bringing an end to the murder of innocent people.   Justice in this situation is not the absence of death but the prevention of needless death. The irony is not that Christians would want to kill, but that some would sit by while the precious lives of fellow Christ followers and those of moderate Muslims...

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One nation, under Jihad: The Bells on the Islamic State
Oct13

One nation, under Jihad: The Bells on the Islamic State

America under fire   AK-47 bullets ricochet off the metal framework of a once-bright, red merry-go-around. A five-year-old boy scrambles from its bars, trapped by the dissonance of war. His memory flashes to the joys of recess and freedom, before breathing his last breath.   Sound like far-fetched fear-mongering? Ask Israel. Radical Islam never rests.   Old enemy, new face   Talks of ISIS, ISIL and the quest for an Islamic State are on the minds of most Americans. And if you think the West is safe from their reach, you’re wrong.   ISIL (the Islamic State in the Levant), as we’ll refer to them from here on out, is no new enemy, and they’ve hurt us before.   In 2010, “Caliph Ibrahim,” under the nom de guerre of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, asserted himself as leader of ISIL.   ISIL found fertile soil for harvesting a new caliphate when America withdrew.   The group’s origins flashback to the Second Gulf War in 2003. With Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in disarray and al-Qaida on the run, the United States conceded a major victory against her terrorist foes.   But radical Islam is a bacteria, and when the U.S. pulled out in 2011, it was like failing to finish a medication — the enemy came back harder and more determined than ever.   ISIL spun off of al-Qaida, but its atrocities proved so horrendous, even ravenous members of al-Qaida reprimanded its actions.   A coming caliphate?   ISIL has called for radical Muslims worldwide to join them in their quest to create a caliphate, or Islamic State.   They adhere to a convert or die world view. Enemies like ISIL, Hamas and Boko Haram, a group declaring its own caliphate over Nigeria, push for a world governed by Sharia law.   Even at home, our own countrymen fight for jihad. Some estimates suppose as many as 300 Americans now wave the black flag of ISIL.   In his new book, Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, Jay Sekulow wrote, “America must commit to destroying ISIS, not just ‘managing’ it or limiting its influence.”   He suggests we work together with our “true allies” to defeat ISIL.   All opposed to this jihad, whether Shiite Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Yazidi or Sephardic Jew, must intercept this threat. The United States and other Western nations should provide arms to forces like the Pershmerga, Kurdish fighters opposing ISIL in northern Iraq.   A coalition drives us all together to win this war.   United, we [all]...

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U.S. Responds
Oct13

U.S. Responds

President Obama may have brought home all the ground troops from Iraq, but make no mistake, the war in the Middle East continues. Islamic extremists have reared their heads in the form of another terrorism group: ISIL.   How has the United States been combating this new threat? Since early August, the U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against the group in Iraq. In retaliation, ISIL began beheading people and videoing the acts.   In late September, the U.S. teamed up with a handful of ally nations and began airstrikes in Syria with the U.S. and Great Britain doing the brunt of the work … again. Obama made it clear that air attacks are the sole strategy we will employ for combatting ISIL. But the question lingers — is it enough?   According to the White House, no troops will return to Iraq, and the president said he will not allow us to be dragged into another Iraq-style war. While these words are reassuring to many citizens of a nation that has grown tired of the never-ending war against terrorism, which has claimed the lives of thousands of troops, others argue airstrikes alone will not be enough.   Initially, it makes sense to launch strategically–pointed attacks by air against ISIL because we obviously have a distinct military advantage in the sky. But this tactic will likely drive the militants into hiding, where they will stay and plot until we leave, at which point they will reemerge to continue acts of ruthless violence.   ISIL is radical. To defeat an opponent so brutally dedicated and loyal, one must resort to radical measures. I’m just not sure that airstrikes will be enough to finish the job.   A former senior British general said ISIL could not be defeated without sending ground soldiers to finish what the airstrikes have begun.   Obama doesn’t want another Iraq war. Well, ISIL is not like al-Qaida in the way they present themselves. They have tanks, artillery, wealth and troops who form up in rank.   They don’t operate out of caves. They are an army. And to defeat an army, we must make them face the greatest army in the...

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