News That Illustrates: September 10, 2012
The Harvard Cheating Scandal
At least 125 Harvard University students are suspected of collaborating in groups or on e-mail to come up with answers to exam questions, "violating a no-collaboration policy that was printed on the exam itself." But many of the students appear shocked that they've been implicated. Some are even threatening to sue the school. Apparently, many students seem thoroughly confused about what constitutes plagiarism. So next year Harvard may require courses for incoming students about what constitutes cheating and plagiarism. But an insightful New York Times blog asks, "Are we meant to assume that students who are smart enough to get into Harvard don't know that? Will the school later offer a course in why it is a bad idea to pour gasoline on a flaming toaster oven?" The blogger noted, "I taught university classes for many years, and in my experience students don't decide to cheat because they don't know better. They cheat … because they've imbibed the message—from parents, from peers, from schools—that looking successful is more important than being honest. They cheat because they have been taught, however unwittingly, that it is worth it."
PREACHING ANGLES: Honesty; Integrity; Morality; Success
One More Sign of Virtue Decline
The Atlantic reported on another sign of our moral decline. They point to a research study that used the power and scope of the 5.2-million-strong Google books archive to track the way we use language. In particular, they analyzed the frequency of words "related to moral excellence and virtue" from American books from 1901 to 2000. The article reported, "If the books are to be believed, we may be in a moral mess." Researchers found huge declines in the use of words like character, conscience, decency, dignity, righteousness, uprightness, and virtue. Even words like honesty, patience, humility, perseverance, bravery, faithfulness, and even love also declined. Words like compassion, tolerance, and fairness showed increased use. The authors of the study noted, "People simply do not think/talk/write about morality and virtue as much anymore. The vocabulary for talking about issues of good and bad, right and wrong thus seems to be shrinking."
PREACHING ANGLES: Character; Ethics; Holiness; Morality
The Protest That Never Happened
A gay organization tried to have an old-fashioned protest at FIRE Church in Concord, North Carolina, for the church's biblical stance on homosexuality. The leader of the protest posted a message on Facebook that read, "We will meet just before the service begins, and protest as they gather …. We are going to STAND TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY to show that our love is stronger than their hate." Pastor Scott Volk responded by inviting the protestors to come out in good numbers. "As always," Volk wrote, "You will only meet with love, kindness, and respect from the FIRE leadership and congregants …. Jesus died to save us from our sins, heterosexual and homosexual alike." And then he invited all of the protestors to join him for lunch. The day after the protest, the leader called into a local radio show and said, "Once we got there Sunday morning we were greeted with absolute perfect love. I mean, it was fantastic."
PREACHING ANGLES: Homosexuality; Tolerance
What You Need to Know About American Muslims
Pastor Bob Roberts wrote an excellent blog post titled "5 Things Evangelicals Need to Know About American Muslims." Here's Robert's list: (1) "You can't be a good Muslim without believing in Jesus …. The Muslims I know love to talk about Jesus if you open the conversation." (2) "Most Muslims in the U.S. are here because they want the freedoms we have. If they wanted Islamic law and culture, they would be in Islamic nations." (3) "Most Muslims are afraid of Islamic terrorists as much as [we] are—that's why some are here." (4) "Most Muslims want a relationship with Christians and others, but they are afraid to reach out …. It's up to [us] to reach out and build relationships." (5) "God has a special plan for Muslims. How can I say that? There are 1.3-1.5 billion of them in the world. He loves them. They matter to God."
PREACHING ANGLES: Islam; Religion, Islam
Woman Joins Search Party—for Herself
Here's an interesting way to set up a sermon about people who are spiritually lost, but may not even know it. Last week in Iceland, a woman tourist was reported missing after she supposedly failed to return to the tour bus. The driver waited for an hour and then notified the police. Search and rescue teams were sent to the area, but the rescue efforts were called off at 3 A.M. It turns out the missing woman had been on the bus the whole time. She even participated in the search for herself. Apparently, before reentering the bus she changed clothes and freshened up so the other passengers didn't recognize her. The local chief of police said that she didn't recognize the description of herself and she "had no idea that she was missing." (Thanks to Dave Slagle for this great news story.)
PREACHING ANGLES: Accepting Christ; Conversion; Lostness; Pursuing Sinners
Ninth-Grade Boy Stops a Renegade Bus
When ninth-grader Jeremy Rice boarded school bus No. 3 at 7 A.M., he didn't know that he'd be called to step up as a leader. But when the bus driver tumbled into the bus' stairwell as the bus was still moving somebody had to act. Jeremy said, "I stood up and looked around and nobody else would move. Then I saw a blue semi-truck coming right at us, and I ran …. I just acted." He grabbed the steering wheel and maneuvered the bus down the street until he could bring it to a stop, while the stuck bus driver talked Jeremy through the procedures. His father joked, "It's his fourth day of school, and already he's driving illegally." Jeremy said, "I was pretty scared. I don't think I want that to happen again." But his fellow-classmates have praised his initiative and leadership. "Dude you're so crazy," one of them said. "You have got the guts."
PREACHING ANGLES: Courage; Leadership
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