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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

Evangelist Franklin Graham is showing support for a Virginia high school teacher who was fired for not using a transgender student’s preferred gender pronoun.

"Peter's lawyer is right to ask where are the teacher's First Amendment rights in all of this?" Graham said in a Facebook post. "Why is tolerance never a two-way street?

“These cases are cropping up more and more frequently, and just think of the ramifications,” he added. “Just ten years ago we wouldn't have thought this would even be possible. Where is this coming from? The school boards and teachers' unions are allowing this to happen. 

“This is why it is so important for Christians to run for school boards, be involved, and let your voice be heard. Transgender policies are causing chaos, confusion, stealing privacy, and compelling speech. Deception from the Evil One."

Last week, a school board in Virginia unanimously voted to fire Peter Vlaming, the French teacher at West Point High School. He had worked at the school for nearly seven years.

A 9thgrade transgender student had requested being called by male pronouns, but in October, while Vlaming was teaching a virtual reality exercises in class, the French teacher said, “Don’t let her walk into the wall” as the 9thgrader avoided hitting a wall.

Vlaming claims it was a mistake and while he is Christian, he says he agreed to call the student by his new name only.

"I'm totally happy to use the new name," Vlaming said in an interview with WWBT.  "I'm happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I'm not here to provoke...but I can't refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith."

Shawn Voyles, Vlaming’s attorney, says they are looking at appealing the school board’s decision.

"Tolerance is a two-way street," he said. "My client respects this student's rights; he is simply asking that his rights be respected as well.”

Photo courtesy: Creative Commons/Nancy Dowd

Grammy award-winning hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper has taken some time off from music to make studying and meditating on God’s Word his main focus. 

On Monday, the 25-year-old took to Instagram to give his 9.2 million followers a peek into his morning devotions. He posted a photo showing a page from Scottish theologian John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer.

CT Pastors regarded A Diary of Private Prayer among its top books on deep prayer in 1998. Publisher Simon and Schuster describe it as a selection of personal prayers “for people who are seeking a better understanding of God and themselves.”

The prayer in the picture is titled “Continued Dependence Upon You,” and it speaks of one rededicating their life to Christ 

A Diary of Private Prayer is a reflection of the personal religious practices that Baillie, a seasoned seminary professor and church leader in mid-20th century Edinburgh, established himself. Baillie and his brother, Donald, were widely recognized among the most celebrated meditating theologians of their time. 

Chance posted the picture to Instagram only a few days after informing fans that he had plans to leave the country on his “first sabbatical” and would be spending his time studying Scripture. 

“I’m going away to learn the Word of God which I am admittedly very unfamiliar with. I’ve been brought up by my family to know Christ but I haven’t taken it upon myself to really just take a couple days and read my Bible,” he said.

“We all quote scripture and tell each other what God likes and doesn’t like but how much time do we spend as followers of Jesus to really just read and KNOW his Word. I’m definitely guilty of not devoting time to it.”

Chance mentioned his goal to read five or more books of the Bible during the sabbatical, and his hope that he will finally quit smoking during this time. 

The announcement included a clip of the rapper and his nephew, who was somewhat of an inspiration for the time of study. “He’s the first boy of the next line and he needs his uncle to be educated,” Chance stated. He also posted a photo of his 3-year-old daughter Kensli strolling toward a church with a caption from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way she should go….”

Chance has proudly expressed his Christian faith in the past, with his 2016 album Coloring Book featuring gospel artists like Kirk Franklin and including lines from Chris Tomlin’s hit “How Great is Our God.”

Self-identifying as a Christian rapper earlier in the year, Chance went on to release the lyrics “Watch how I move, different chapters, decisions, missions, visit pastors … Everybody finally can say it out loud; your favorite rapper’s a Christian rapper, and I got faith and my faith in my soul.”

Many Christian fans have welcomed the rapper’s musical references to God—not to mention the millions donated to various schools and services in his hometown. Some listeners, on the other hand, have concerns about Chance’s Christian walk and wonder if the content of his music should shift as he grows in his faith. 

“For the last few years, we’ve covered Chance the Rapper with bated breath,” noted the Christian hip hop news site Rapzilla. “We’ve seen him toe the line between making impactful gospel-infused rap, and then follow up with sexual/drug laden raps. It’s frustrating to watch, but at the same time a bit endearing in the sense that Chance is ALWAYS proclaiming his love for Christ, but like many of us, falls short.”

After sharing news of Chance’s sabbatical, the site asks readers to “Pray that he comes back renewed and closer to God. Pray that he is operating correctly in his calling and that he continues to use his platform for good.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Joshua Lott/Stringer

After mentioning the possible embassy move earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is preparing to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday. 

According to the Times of Israel, the Australian government approved the move in a late-night national security meeting, Tuesday, but it will likely be delayed due to the exorbitant price tag of the relocation.

Reportedly, the decision was only passed by Morrison’s cabinet members after extensive conversation. Additionally, the parties involved agreed that the move would happen at a later date because it would cost an estimated $200 million.

The Times of Israel reports that a source confirmed to them that a temporary consular office will be established in Jerusalem until the country is ready to pay for the hefty fee for relocation. 

The decision is expected to be announced Wednesday during the Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Specific details on the move have not yet been divulged and it is not clear at this time if the government plans to recognize Jerusalem as a whole as Israel’s capital, or just West Jerusalem, which has been Israeli ground for the entirety of the country’s existence.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Tracey Nearmy/Stringer