Category: STUDENTS

Thesis By Natalie Stitt Regent Preparatory – Student, Guest Author

Here is Part 2 of Natalie Stitt’s senior thesis. If you missed Part 1 of Natalie’s article, check out the first half online at
www.communityspiritmagazine.com.

Just as ancients did, many in the Church today assume that disabilities are due directly to sin, and therefore have the overarching, if not sole purpose to be healed (Cross 317). Although this concept is visible in the Old and New Testaments, it is fundamentally a pagan idea: the notion that at any turn, a slight mistake could offend the gods and leave the sinner suddenly struck by lightning or turned into a cow terrorized the ancient world, and as Christianity spread, this idea was mixed with Christian thought. This concept of divine punishment heavily influenced both the early and contemporary Church (Moss).

In Jesus’ teachings, his disciples once asked, “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:2-3). We tend to think that if something is bad, it is always divine punishment, but Jesus’ words in this passage should dispel any thoughts that disabilities are the results of God’s wrath (Yong 87). On the other hand, I do not mean to suggest that God is absent from the creation of those with disabilities; Scripture is very clear that there is purpose behind every individual, especially those with disabilities. When Moses confronted God about his speech impediment, asking Him to choose someone else, the Lord responded with, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11). His response shows how purposeful each individual with special needs is: they are fully created by God, disability and all.

While it is folly to attribute disabilities to be direct effect of God’s wrath, sin might have something to do with the existence of disabilities, and for this, we must turn to Thomas Aquinas. When discussing physical impairments, Aquinas contends that disability, along with several other experiences that he deems “features of the human condition,” is not on direct account of sin, that is, divine punishment, but yet another manifestation of original sin in this world (Cross 318). The human condition does not only include disability, but all the ways that sin manifests in humanity: being prone to lie, having an addiction to alcohol, being born without the use of the legs, and having Down syndrome are all aspects that fall under Aquinas’s categorization (328-329). Despite physical appearances or mental abilities, theologically, there is no distinction between someone with or without disabilities.

In a sense, all effects of original sin are hindering in some manner or another: we are all disabled to a certain degree. I’d like to turn to Bach, a scholar of disability in theology: Both [disabled and not] are respectively created by God; both live in the fallen creation; both (as damaged creation) are dependent on the salvific deed of Christ; both are reconciled to God through Christ; both are members of the Body of Christ, both deficient and dependent upon others; both gifted with divine gifts, both expectant of salvation (Bach, as cited in Kunz, as cited in White 20).

In this light, the state of original sin unifies humanity, especially within the Body of Christ. One cannot treat a fellow sinner with contempt or arrogance because “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When Christians have a misconception of sin as it relates to disability, they see an individual with special needs as a mistake, if not a punishment, that requires healing. Nancy Eiesland, herself living with a disability, comments on the issue from experience: “our bodies have too often been touched by hands that have forgotten our humanity and attend only to curing us . . . healing has been the churchly parallel to rehabilitative medicine, in which the goal was ‘normalization’ of the bodies of people with disabilities” (Eiesland 244). She claims that instead of being welcomed into a loving and accepting community, she was merely viewed as an imperfection that needed healing and normalization.

Theologically there is nothing wrong with intercession for healing, but as Eiesland emphasized, one’s humanity and one’s disability cannot be separated for the purpose of healing, and healing with normalization in mind, is not without danger. In the gospel, it is very clearly stated that there should be no partiality in the Church (James 2): nothing about an individual should cause the church body to treat her in a better or worse manner. We are all defective, we are all broken, and we are all sinful, and no one is more or less than another. We should always keep this is in the forefront of our minds when we interact with anyone, with and without disabilities. The Lord does not bestow weaknesses or disabilities upon humanity in order to discourage them, but rather, through the relationship established on the cross, to make them perfect in his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Any suffering that we experience on earth should be a reminder for what Christ accomplished on the cross: he trampled Satan, and in death, gave us life.

The first step towards inclusion must begin with how we view individuals with special needs. In the New Testament and especially in the examples set by Jesus, diversity was obvious: men and women of all different backgrounds were unified as they worked to further the kingdom of the Lord. Jesus’ image of the Church as a body emphasizes unity over difference. Jesus even commanded that his followers “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (Luke 14:21). He did not say “open your doors and let them come” but rather “go, and bring them in” (White 12). Later the Apostle Paul elaborates on Christ’s teaching concerning inclusion; in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 he says that: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Painting by Natalie Stitt

As Paul states, there is unity in diversity: “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The unity that Christ instituted in the body of the Church was not motivated by a mere embrace of diversity, but it came from seeing each and every individual as a bearer of the Imago Dei; their value was nothing that could be proven, displayed, or won, it was instilled through God’s breath of life.

In today’s culture, where we base a high priority on rationality and intelligence, a hierarchy of humanity and, consequently, of disability, has been constructed from the measure of one’s intelligence and has been deeply ingrained within our society. People, Christian or not, usually view a neurotypical individual as on a ‘higher level’ than an individual with Down syndrome, and likewise someone with Aspergers is ‘rated higher’ than one with a profound mental disability. Although life on earth functions on the basis of classifications such as these, there is no tier of humanity even hinted towards in the Bible. “The value of a person, in God’s sight, is not measured by his or her knowledge and accomplishments. The value of a person is ultimately in the realm of love” (Edwards 73). People have no justification in classifying their fellow humans on any basis other than the love that the Father has freely given. It is for that love that Jesus came to earth as a man and died on the cross: it wasn’t for the intellectually qualified alone, but also for those that the general population has consigned to a lower category, perhaps irredeemably so.

As stated above, there is no theological difference between a completely dependent individual and you or me. The Church may not openly classify people on the basis of intelligence, but they do make classifications as to how much charity an individual requires, which is based off an assumption of a caste society. Charity, when properly motivated, should only prove to be beneficial to society: believers, as commanded, should always reach out to those in need. An issue does arise however, when an individual is stripped of their personhood and viewed as an object of charity, which is almost always for the satisfaction of the giver. It typically happens in one of two manners: in some cases, an individual with special needs is given special treatment, condescended to as if they are a child, or ‘helped’ by a member of the congregation. Although these actions in themselves may not appear malicious, they can be degrading to that individual’s inherent value, and in some cases, that individual can detect the air of false charity. The so-called ‘giver’ in this situation feels like a saint, a perfect benefactor to a person, whom they deem to be less than themselves. On the other hand, the misuse of charity may take place between an entire congregation and those with disabilities, not just between one member and another with a disability.

In many cases such as this, the Church will ‘invite’ an individual with special needs into their congregation and present them as their ‘special’ member. It gives that specific church a more diverse appearance and also makes them feel as if they are helping those in need. Although this situation, like the last, appears to be an honest attempt at inclusion, the heart is nowhere near the right place. Both of these situations stem from a selfish desire to be seen as good, not to simply fulfill the commandments and do good. Christians, as fallen and selfish beings, must always be reminded that works, for the sake of the good and not for the sake of self-satisfaction, without recognition are the most fulfilling way to show love; in Matthew it is written, “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).

Charity, when properly motivated, should only prove to be beneficial to society: believers, as commanded, should always reach out to those in need. An issue does arise however, when an individual is stripped of their personhood and viewed as an object of charity, which is almost always for the satisfaction of the giver. 

The most vital aspect in the repositioning of the heart is love. Love, as has been perfectly demonstrated by the Father through Christ, is one of the hardest yet simplest things we need in order to include those with special needs into the Body of Christ. In I Peter 4:8, it does not say, “love those who are convenient to love,” but rather “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Loving is not something that is convenient or easy: Christ’s death on the cross was the opposite of those things. There is no better way to truly experience love, than when the object of your affection becomes unlovable (Lewis 118). That is not to say that individuals with special needs are unlovable; in most cases they are quite the opposite, but oftentimes they have no way to reciprocate the love given freely to them, just as we have no way to earn or repay the Father’s love.

There is no better model to admire here than Christ (Hoekema 22). Theologians have dissected the defining aspects of humanity over and over, but just as a scientist can break down an element only up to a certain point, there is a baseline which theologians cannot proceed past. Humans, as centuries worth of philosophy displays, are complex and unique creatures layered with desires and flaws, but each and every human being is made in the holy Image of God. Whether it is acknowledged or not, this intrinsic value is something that can never be added to or subtracted from; it places all humans, despite race, gender, socio-economic status, intelligence, and physical ability under one category: children of the living God.

For centuries, people with disabilities have faced discrimination and contempt, even in the Church. Their intrinsic worth has been overlooked, and consequently, they have been ignored, they have been refused access to the sacraments, and they have even been marginalized from God-ordained community that the Body of Christ is to provide. An individual’s value, whether they are at the cognitive level of a toddler or of a genius, is nothing that can be added to or subtracted from: it rests solely on the basis of God’s breath of life, his holy image (Lewis 116). It is something that spans across all of humanity; every individual must be treated with the utmost respect: if they are not, not only is their humanity marred, but the sacred image of the Lord is defiled. This factor should dispel every air of discomfort, indifference, and most certainly pride, and should establish and enforce full inclusion of those with special needs in the body of the Church. In all of your future interactions with those with and without disabilities, always remember Jesus’ words, “let all the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

Works Cited in Thesis 

Admin, Gardens. “Oklahoma Disability Statistics.” Oklahoma Department of  Rehabilitation Services, 13 Aug. 2018. 

Cross, Richard. “Aquinas on Physical Impairment: Human Nature and Original Sin.” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 110, no. 03, 2017, pp. 317–338. 

Edwards, June. “Children with Learning Difficulties and the Sacraments.” Children with Learning Difficulties, 1994, pp. 70-81. The Way, 17 Jan. 2019. 

Eiesland, Nancy L. “Sacramental Bodies.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, vol. 13, no. 3-4, 2009, pp. 236–246. 

“Five Statistics We Can’t Ignore: Disability and The Gospel.” The Banquet Network, 4” Sept. 2018. 

Greenberg, Ben. “Inclusion Is a Jewish Imperative.” My Jewish Learning, 8 Apr. 2015. 

Hoekema, Anthony A. Created In God’s Image. 1st ed., Eerdmans, 1994. Print. 

“Jewish Values and Disability Rights.” Religious Action Center, 3 Dec. 2015. 

Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. HarperOne, 2017. Print. 

Moss, Candida R. “Disability in the New Testament.” Bible Odyssey, 1 Oct. 2014, www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/d/disability-in-the-nt 

“Orthodox Theological Perspectives on Disability.” World Council of Churches, 21 Oct. 2015.

Reinders, Hans. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008. Print.

“Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public

Life Project, 11 May 2015. The Bible. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Bible Gateway.

White, George. People with Disabilities within Christian Community. 2014.

Yong, Amos. The Bible, Disability, and the Church: a New Vision of the People of God. Eerdmans, 2011. Print.

Our Governor’s daughter has a beautiful heart. However, if you just read the article and don’t take action, you just might break it. Natalie prayerfully prepared her thesis hoping God would use it to impact our community . . . to change us. We have an opportunity to become different, to do things differently—in our churches and our schools. Both entities of God’s Kingdom need to reconsider our positions to make sure we’re in alignment with the challenging words of this teenager. I challenge you to think about what your next steps could be to help make amazing life altering changes to our ministries.  Then #GoDoBe.

Written by Teresa Goodnight, Thesis By Natalie Stitt Regent Preparatory – Student, Guest Author

Help Connect the Dots:  

God likes to display His mastery of His plans sometimes.  Without me, He literally just aligns things for the magazine that leave my mouth hanging open in awe of His intricately laid plans.  When we first laid out the subjects for this issue last year, we planned on talking about Freedom in July.  I immediately thought of Eric Maddox’s Saddam story and the story in LaFortune Park.  I wanted him in this issue.  In retrospect, I had no idea why he would be such a perfect fit. I reached out to him quite a while ago and he agreed.  There was so much of his story I didn’t know, since we hadn’t talked since high school.  It blew my mind as he pieced it together for me (and certainly you should buy the book!  I did.).  Interestingly enough, a few days before I interviewed him, God intervened with this next story.

We had a reader bring it to my attention that our Christian schools do not accept children with Down’s Syndrome.  I’ll admit, I thought she was not possibly correct.  Sure enough.  One by one, as I found a free moment, I called through my list.  I promised her I would look into it.  Not one.  My heart was breaking, as I understood her plea.  If you are looking for a Christian education for your child, then something like Down’s just shouldn’t stand in the way.  The reader said, “When I call, they tell me it’s a funding issue.  Then, I see stadiums or buildings being built.”  She continued, “One school even had a really large multi-million dollar donation made that completely changed the entire campus.  Yet they didn’t add a plan for Down’s children either.  So, I just think that’s something they all might say.”  

I was so shocked.  In fact, I say it out loud to people just to see their reactions.  No one else knows either.  I thought it must just be here.  Surely.  So, I checked with my sweet friend in Texas.  Her son, Adley is maybe one of the funniest kids I’ve met.  There’s not enough room to go into the air guitar singing he does in the kitchen.  I mean wow.  It’s so flipping hysterical.  But alas, nope.  He’s in a Charter School.  I just couldn’t believe it.  

These kiddos are a great fit in a classroom for so many reasons.  For one, it helps them to be a part of the world and to understand the world better.  For another, it helps students in these classrooms learn from these amazing kiddos.  Not to mention, can you imagine siblings attending different schools for this reason?  Wouldn’t that just break a child’s heart?  The last thing that child would need is something else to challenge them emotionally in life. 

So, it kept haunting me.  Finally, I was on my last call to find a school with a program—Regent Preparatory School in Tulsa.  I just knew they would have an answer I needed to hear.  When the woman called me back from the school, I told her the reason for my call.  She said something to the effect that this had been on her heart lately.  There was a young lady who did her senior thesis on inclusion for those with disabilities in the Christian community.  She said it was so moving that it had the staff talking in the halls.  Regent didn’t offer school acceptance for these students either.  However, she offered to connect me to the student.  She thought we would want it.  I couldn’t wait to read it.  I was hoping she would agree to let us publish it in the magazine.  We talked and she agreed.

I wanted to edit her piece in order to fit it nicely in the pages we had reserved. However, I couldn’t.  It was so well written as it was.  It was a testament to her heart and certainly to the education she received at Regent.  More importantly, if her premise was right—just publishing it might open the eyes of our readers causing change. She and I decided to do a two-part series with her piece.  We want to stoke the fire.  Then, we’re hoping we can find churches and resources by our next deadline for September to help us fan the flames.  Maybe we might find schools, who might say yes to stepping up to the call to make a difference in the lives of these kiddos.  

Then, God threw in a fun twist. Something on the heart of this Rockstar Army Ranger, the interrogator?  He wants to play a part in helping children with Down’s Syndrome.  How does that fit?  I don’t know. I expected his very cool story would get the magazine passed around from person to person.  It will get us more clicks.  More people will read and become aware!

In addition, I was introduced to City Elders, the guards seeking to govern the gates of the city.  These guys are intense.  Plus, they are recruiting pastors and business leaders from all over the state and nation.  They had agreed to be a big story in this issue as well.  As they take the magazine from county to county—this message will be spreading through the state of Oklahoma to pastors and Christian leaders.

If that doesn’t strike you as a bit of divine planning, then you should have been there when I read the student’s name.  Natalie Stitt.  It didn’t strike me immediately.  Then, I realized her beautiful heart and powerful thoughts were fathered by our Governor, Kevin Stitt.  (and mothered of course, by his lovely wife, Sarah.)  Most will read her story because it’s amazing.  Others will read it simply because of her name.  All those reading WILL be stirred by God in some way.  You can’t help it when you read it.  

I couldn’t have recruited this group myself with such interesting connections.  What’s God going to do with it all?

I have no flipping idea.  

However, I CAN tell you I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting on what’s going to be in the September/October issue.  It’s too much fun to watch without letting everyone in on God’s work.  He’s working.  He’s waiting for us to be a part of what He’s already prepared in advance for us to do. It’s beautifully majestic.

And with that introduction, I give you Natalie Stitt’s senior thesis.


The Image of God: a concept that has been discussed in theological circles for centuries; it is a factor that is common to all of humanity, and, specifically in the biblical sense, gives each and every individual on this planet inherent value that can never be taken away, but sometimes our vision of the image of God in others is obscured. Even in the church, we sometimes fail to discern this basic human gift. Last summer, I spent three weeks at Camp Barnabas, a camp for individuals with special needs. During that time I was introduced to Emilia. When I first met her, we instantly started talking about our favorite animals, our favorite places to go, and our favorite activities. Like me, she loves the outdoors, music, and spending time with her friends and family. She is bright, kind, and an amazing listener, yet, despite our lively conversation and blooming friendship, she faces completely different problems than I do, because of her physical condition. 

Emilia was born with a spinal defect, and was paralyzed shortly after birth, leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. I could feel myself pitying her, and in my pity, I felt like I was doing good, but as our friendship grew stronger, I realized that there was no room for pity in our relationship. Pity is not wrong, but to truly be a friend to someone, there must be a basis of equality, a recognition of one’s intrinsic value, honoring the fact that they are made in God’s holy image. The ultimate end of a relationship with anyone, whether or not they have disabilities, must be established on this equality. Once I overcame my pity, I saw Emilia as she truly was, in her godlikeness. 

The Bible, although seemingly vague when it comes to individuals with disabilities, is the place where any theological inquiry must start, but first, terms must be defined. Expressions such as “disabled,” “handicapped,” or the recent “differently abled” are contemporary expressions used when addressing or describing an individual with disabilities. These terms, however common they are in the English language, do not appear in the Bible. Instead, the Scriptures use specific terms such as “crippled” or “diseased,” yet, however straightforward the texts are literally, the connotations are much harder to decipher. In order to have an adequate understanding of disability and its relationship with the Bible and the Church, we must examine both the Old and New Testaments, and the ways in which its adherence followed holy commandments. 

One helpful way to examine the Old Testament practices as they pertain to disability is through the lens of contemporary Judaism. Despite all of the curses that are often misinterpreted, Judaism is an extremely inclusive and welcoming community, and they take the rights of individuals with special needs very seriously (Jewish Values). Their mindset is not that of healing or charity, but rather an inclusive model that strives to follow the example of the Israelites in in the wilderness, a body of extremely diverse people serving under one God; in their eyes, Yahweh spoke at Mount Sinai because His people were gathered in unity. They believe that the “religious life of every Jew and the religious life of the entire community is deficient when not everyone is able to be present. That is why it is so fundamentally important that historically marginalized groups are treated with dignity, respect, and honor just like anyone else in the community” (Inclusion is a Jewish Imperative). 

The early Church adhered to Jesus’ commandment to “go out. . . and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” and blossomed as people of all forms grew in a community of love (Luke 14:21). As Jesus’ words echoed through their hearts, Jews and Gentiles, wealthy and poor, strong and weak, all partook in a community that strove to serve God and others. Having followed Jesus while he walked the earth, the disciples went out, sharing the gospel with all people, even those with disabilities, and they recalled Jesus’ teachings of providing for the widowed and orphaned, caring for the downtrodden, and bringing in those with disease and disability. Inevitably, as the Church grew, it became easier for it to be distracted from its original mission. 

Now, there is a disconnect. Within the Christian faith there are several different ways in which churches include those with special needs. To illustrate this fact, one must examine the sacramental life of several Christian denominations. Let us consider the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist churches’ positions on baptism and communion. Who do they say is allowed to partake in these sacraments? The Orthodox policies for inclusion of individuals with disabilities seems to be extremely similar to those of the Jewish tradition. They embrace the “uniqueness and dignity” of each human being, and recognize them as bearers of God’s holy image, therefore, fully including them into the body of the Church by encouraging full participation in their congregation’s sacramental life (Orthodox Theological Perspective). 

In the middle, Catholicism is very quick to include, but not on the basis of one’s individuality in disability, but rather on the basis of salvation. The Catholic faith views the sacraments as playing an extremely important role in one’s salvation, so they do not like to take any chances. People, no matter if they are cognitively aware or not, are allowed access to the sacraments in a Catholic church. 

Finally, on the other side, Protestant traditions such as Baptists, hence their name, elevate baptism as an extremely vital choice in the life of a Christian. Although this is not wrong, it lead to the exclusion of people who are incapable of making a cognitive choice, due to their profound intellectual disability. The topic of sacramental inclusion of those with disabilities is an extremely complex and multi-faceted theological dilemma; I am neither qualified nor able to provide a solution to this particular problem. I am simply pointing out the difference in practice within the Body of Christ for the purpose of examination, while asking the question, “Where do people with disabilities fit in a place of worship?” 

For centuries, the Church has struggled to accept those with disabilities. They have been seen as vessels of charity, as objects to be healed, and even as witnesses to the wrath of God towards sin. These misconstructions have clouded the Church’s eyes to one of the greatest commandments, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4). Now, the ‘policies’ for dealing with those with special needs vary from denomination to denomination, but assuming that every church follows Christ’s example and welcomes everyone, physical accessibility of a church is common in the United States. Following the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, the American Disabilities Act ensures anyone the right to enter any building. Although this may be a vital step to inclusion for one with physical hindrances, “rights cannot open up spaces of intimacy,” that is, the ability to enter a building does not ensure acceptance from the people inside the building (Reinders 43). In other words, true inclusion into a community of love cannot be accomplished by the mere ability to enter a building. 

Think of your church: how well is the special needs community represented in your congregation? 

One or two members, although much better than many congregations, does not constitute the diverse image of the Body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. In Oklahoma alone, about one in every six individuals has a disability of some form (Admin), meaning that statistically, churches with gatherings of six or more members, should have at least one person with special needs in their community (Religion in America). Yet, nationally, eighty to eighty-five percent of churches do not have any form of a special needs program (Five Statistics). This is because not enough people with special needs attend those churches to warrant such programs. 

Statistics such as these contradict Jesus’ teaching in the book of Luke, to “go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (14.21). Where are all of these people? Why do they not attend a church? In a 2014 study, George White asked these very questions in a survey of 166 people, from eighteen different denominations. The purpose of his survey was to get an internal view of the “current status of people with disabilities within the Christian community” (White 21). His questions ranged from general to specific experiences, all of them inquiring about inclusion and the barriers to inclusion in the Church. Many of the answers he received were both eye-opening and heartbreaking: of the 166 responses to the questions about the barriers to inclusion, 39.8% reported it to be on account of ignorance, lack of training, or faulty theology. Another 40.9% reported the attitude of the congregation as an inhibiting factor to proper inclusion into the church. 

Whether or not this general attitude is intentional, it has still proven to be a factor that inhibits inclusion. As his study continued, those surveyed also noted several actions that proved to enhance inclusion. In their experience, those had been with training, increased awareness, and welcoming attitudes, all of which begin in the heart’s ability to recognize intrinsic value above disability. When God breathed life into Adam and Eve, He instilled within them His own image, instantly bestowing upon them inherent value that is irrevocable; in some circles, people are referred to as “Icons of God” in order to preserve the scared nature of the term and the image they bear. Although this worth can never be changed, the original perfection that God created Adam and Eve with is marred by original sin: a consequence that reaches all of humanity (Hoekema 20). 

The term “Imago Dei” is something that is so often tossed about in theological discussion that it seems to have lost some of its potency, but it is not something to be taken lightly. When God created the world, he crowned mankind with His image, distinguishing them above all other creations, and instilling within them a value that would never be taken away. Christians understand that this term holds weight, and distinguishes humans above other creatures, yet, when topics pertaining to disability arise, the factor of the Imago Dei, and all that it pertains to, is sometimes forgotten. Humanity, in Christian theology, is predominately defined as an icon of God: it is the basis for the intrinsic value that all human beings possess despite status, intelligence, or physical ability. 

As humans, we innately desire community; the Church functioning as the Body of Christ should be the fulfillment of the communal need that God instilled within us, until we stand in His presence. If people with disabilities are made in the image of God, then they are fully human and share the need for community and relationship with the rest of the human race. Those with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual challenges, are individuals not only deserving of the love and support offered by a Christian community, but, because of their intrinsic value, they have every right to be a member of the Body of Christ. In order for these inclusive needs to be fulfilled, we must biblically redefine inclusion and reorient our hearts to view all individuals, with or without disabilities, as Jesus would.


THINGS TO PRAY ON:

• What is your atitude toward those with disabilities?

• Your church’s attitude?

• Your school’s attitude?


WHAT DOES INCLUSIVE LOVE LOOK LIKE?

If we aren’t expressing that love towards all, we might consider 1 Corinthians 13:1, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” Are there areas such as this, where you have slipped into becoming this loud, obnoxious instrument? Even the loud obnoxious cymbal can become an instrument of beautiful music.

Should you consider making a difference in your life/church/school to be more inclusive?

Stay tuned. In September, we will highlight some groups exemplifying the love of Christ who will give us some practical steps to becoming the full Body of Christ. As we know, God has gifted each of us and we each have a place in His body. 


Were you aware that all Christian schools we’ve checked from Oklahoma to Texas will not accept those with Down’s Syndrome?  I’m trying to imagine the face of the child not allowed to attend school with their brother(s) or sister(s). Is there a case for non-inclusion of these children? 

Should it continue?  Email 

downs@communityspiritmagazine.com and share your thoughts.


-Works Cited in Thesis 

Admin, Gardens. “Oklahoma Disability Statistics.” Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, 13 Aug. 2018. // Cross, Richard. “Aquinas on Physical Impairment: Human Nature and Original Sin.” Harvard Theological Review, vol. 110, no. 03, 2017, pp. 317–338. // Edwards, June. “Children with Learning Difficulties and the Sacraments.” Children with Learning Difficulties, 1994, pp. 70-81. The Way, 17 Jan. 2019. // Eiesland, Nancy L. “Sacramental Bodies.” Journal of Religion, Disability & Health, vol. 13, no. 3-4, 2009, pp. 236–246. // “Five Statistics We Can’t Ignore: Disability and The Gospel.” The Banquet Network, 4” Sept. 2018. // Greenberg, Ben. “Inclusion Is a Jewish Imperative.” My Jewish Learning, 8 Apr. 2015. // Hoekema, Anthony A. Created In God’s Image. 1st ed., Eerdmans, 1994. Print. // “Jewish Values and Disability Rights.” Religious Action Center, 3 Dec. 2015. // Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. HarperOne, 2017. Print. // Moss, Candida R. “Disability in the New Testament.” Bible Odyssey, 1 Oct. 2014, www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/d/disability-in-the-nt // “Orthodox Theological Perspectives on Disability.” World Council of Churches, 21 Oct. 2015. // Reinders, Hans. Receiving the Gift of Friendship: Profound Disability, Theological Anthropology, and Ethics. Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008. Print. // “Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public // Life Project, 11 May 2015. The Bible. New International Version. Biblica, 2011. Bible Gateway. // White, George. People with Disabilities within Christian Community. 2014. // Yong, Amos. The Bible, Disability, and the Church: a New Vision of the People of God. Eerdmans, 2011. Print


Written By Lizzy Place

Sophomore, Augustine Academy – Guest Author

I’m not sure what I expected. 

To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it.

I’d agreed to see the movie Unplanned under the expectation that I would later write a something-or-other about it, a sort of “movie review.” The day rather snuck up on me. It was on my calendar; a circle with the title “Unplanned movie, Community Spirit,” but I barely remembered. It was the third quarter of my sophomore year in high school, and I was swimming in homework, social drama, and the endless concerns of a sixteen-year-old. 

My dad had warned me a few days earlier to accept the request to write about Unplanned with solemnity and to be ready to watch that kind of movie. I wasn’t concerned. I’d written movie reviews before, anyway. Again, I’m not sure what I expected. A saccharine movie about babies, reeking of the Christian message, and full of cliché one-liners, maybe. I am, after all, an infant Christian, and shaking off the pride of my Atheist stubbornness is difficult. I knew about the heat surrounding abortion, and I’d felt it, even in a tiny, Christian high school, but there were more important things in my life. 

Of course, I’d thought about it, to some extent, and decided I was tentatively pro-life. I loved babies, and I hated the thought of killing one, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea if a fetus was a ‘baby’ in the first place, and besides, I had better things to think about. If I could do the last bit of my homework before class started, if that one friend had figured things out with her boyfriend, if “you-know-who” had noticed my waiting precariously long until the only chair in the lunchroom left was the one at his table, you name it. Besides, it wasn’t cool to be “pro-life.”

How wrong I was. To some extent, I was right about Unplanned. It did ‘reek’ of the Christian message, and the occasional scene would grow a bit painful with the awkwardness of the entire group of male actors, but despite the things my pride stubbornly clings to, nothing could hide that message. It left me with only one thought. 

“Why didn’t we know?” 

Before I started this, I thought for a long time about what exactly to say. This is not an easy subject, and I don’t pretend to have experience standing up for the right thing. I was encouraged to write what was on my heart. Throw the ‘movie review’ nonsense out the window. I’m not sure if I’m ready to do that. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be honest. I’m a high schooler, after all, and a member of the part of the population most devoted to petty pleasure. I was devoted to petty pleasure. I was devoted to doing what I wanted, to saying what I thought would get a laugh, and most of all, to being accepted. Maybe we don’t know we are sleeping until we wake up. 

The theatre emptied around me after the movie finished. Suddenly, everything I cared the most about seemed ridiculously small. And I sobbed, while people staunchly pretended they didn’t see me–for tact’s sake, I suppose. I’ve never cried like that. The things I could have done. The lives I could have tried to save. The people I could have talked to, and the things I could have stood up for. It all came crashing down around my ears, leaving my perfectly normal, planned high school life in shambles. And then, one person approached me. She asked what I was thinking, so I told her. I poured out the wrestling I’d been dealing with, and the way the movie had torn me apart. She prayed over me, tears streaming down both of our faces. In that moment, I have never been surer of the presence of God, settling with almost tangible physicality around us. I felt him change my mind. 

I have no doubt why I went to that theatre. After returning home, I realized the dozens of steps that had led to that point. All the people I had ‘accidentally’ bumped into, all of the thoughts that happened to pop into my head, and all the books and articles I’d picked up at random were leading to that night in the darkened theatre, to that stirring in my heart. I can’t get it out of my head.

Having just reached the four month anniversary of my salvation, I can’t pretend to know how God works. I don’t know how he moves, and how he chooses people. But if I could guess, I’d say that something happened that night that might have changed my life. 

I’ve tried to live my convictions. I’ve tried to remain true to what I’ve decided, to take it into my everyday life, to stand up for the thousands of children that I want to save. It’s been difficult. Already, I’m not “cool.”  I’ve been labeled and boxed away from the conversations I used to partake in. I’ve already been argued with and shouted at. Answering the hate and anger with love has been easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve never been surer that I’m right where God wants me. I think the worst thing we could do is let the world crowd out our convictions. 

I know my fire won’t last. I know things will begin to feel more important, and I’ll let my fervor fade away. But love is a commitment, not a feeling. I’ve made a decision to fight. While the issue is complicated, and there is definitely evil at work, maybe the biggest problem is our silence. For every abortion doctor, there are a thousand people who refuse to speak out, who ‘haven’t thought about it’ that are unwittingly cheering them on. Blatant evil is only half the problem. 

Maybe we need to wake up. We may not all be able to stand at the fence of a Planned Parenthood clinic or talk to someone considering abortion directly, but I think we all have a role in this battle. The stakes have never been higher. What if one prayer, one conversation, one smile, could save the life of one child? What if living a life of love and commitment could be all we need to turn the tide? What if the tugging on your heart could be God calling you to the battle for life? What if we lived like that?

It’s hard. It could cost you everything, like it did me. We have to trust. I had to decide what was important to me, and I had to submit to the voice in my heart. And now, I can boldly live, believing that as long as my God holds the world in His hands, there is no such thing as unplanned.

Twelve tons of food. Can you imagine?

Well, save your imagination, because you can see it right here! Mingo Valley Christian just wrapped up Spirit Week 2019, where they brought in 24,911 pounds of food. With 305 enrolled, that comes in at 82 pounds of food per student over the course of a week.

“For what?” you might be asking yourself. Sure, the winning secondary team received a gift card generously donated by Raising Canes, but you should prepare to be amazed. These kids, faculty and families brought in all of that food to feed the homeless at John 3:16 mission here in Tulsa.

I asked Senior Pastor, President & CEO Steve Whitaker of John 3:16 about the impact Mingo Valley Christian has had on their ministry. Steve said,

“John 3:16 Mission’s relationship with Mingo Valley Christian School has been singularly defining in my 30 years here at the Mission.

The first really big food donation we ever
received at John 3:16 came from Mingo Valley and they’ve come through year after year to help feed the hungry and homeless of our community. This year, they blessed us with 24,911 pounds – the biggest yet. It’s truly amazing.

Awesome job, Mingo Valley!”

The school divided into teams with Elementary Team 1 and Secondary 9th grade taking the prizes with their efforts. When you think about it–that means several more years with these overachievers, who worked so selflessly to help the homeless; MVC has been doing this event since 1990 and will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020! Shannon Lowe, Director of Communications and Development, said “We try to build a sense of service and leadership into every part of our school culture, and Spirit Week is a very tangible way our students can give to their community. We’re honored to have partnered with John 3:16 in this way for so long.”

Best. Summer. Ever. | Kanakuk Camps

Kanakuk Kamps began in 1926 with a group of boys from Texas trekking to the Ozarks for eight weeks of character and confidence building alongside great Christian role models. Today, Kanakuk is one of the nation’s largest Christian, athletic summer camps. Each year, Kanakuk serves more than 16,000 boys and girls, ages 6-18, with five overnight summer camps in Branson and Lampe, Missouri, plus a traveling day camp called KampOut! that brings summer fun to churches and schools across the nation. Each term is specifically designed to serve a particular age group, ranging from one-week opportunities to one-month stays. Kanakuk also serves entire families through its family Kamp, K-Kauai, located in Branson, Missouri, welcoming more than 2,500 Kampers each summer. Finally, unique to other summer camp destinations, Kanakuk offers two specialty Kamps: Scuba Kamp, and Worldview Kamp, a one-week addition to a traditional term for ages 16-18.

The mission of Kanakuk Ministries is to equip next generation leaders. We do this through life-changing experiences, Godly relationships and spiritual training. Kanakuk provides Kampers the opportunity to play, train, laugh and learn in a safe and spiritually encouraging environment. Kanakuk also allows Kampers the chance to explore more than 70 athletic endeavors and activities that are central to the Kamp experience. Water sports, canoeing, kayaking, tennis, soccer, archery, basketball, lacrosse, mountain biking – the possibilities truly are endless and help to

fill Kampers’ summer days with new skills, healthy mindsets and memories that far outlast their time at Kamp.

More information about Kanakuk can be found at www.kanakuksummer.com.

In addition to traditional summer camp terms, KampOut! brings the exciting experience of Kanakuk to communities around the nation. KampOut! offers five days of faith-based, non-stop excitement to children in kindergarten through 5th grade. Kampers will have a blast flying down our zipline, scaling the climbing wall, bouncing in the inflatables and laughing at staffers’ entertaining skits, while also seeing and hearing that God is a caring Father and wonderful Creator who loves them and desires for them to love others. KampOut! provides a perfect introduction to summer camp for younger children while also sharing the heartbeat and ministry behind Kanakuk. Throughout the week, attendees will grow in courage and confidence, while fostering relationships with others in their community.

This summer, KampOut! will make three Tulsa-area stops in partnership with local churches. These locations include Metro Christian Academy, Redeemer Church, and Harvard Avenue Christian Church.

For more information including pricing and arrival details, or to enroll for KampOut!, visit www.cometokamp.com

Written by Teresa Goodnight

70%–that’s 7 out of 10 college students walk away from Christ by their junior year,

according to Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU). That statistic alone should petrify parents. His haunting question: “Are you THAT sure your child won’t be one of the 7?”

CSM reported in February on Carson Lowe, a student at the University of Arkansas (formerly at Mingo Valley Christian), listening to the professor of 250 students in just one classroom proclaim there is no deity. Sadly, we see college professors gaming on our children. Meanwhile, we smile at our kids’ Instagram photos from sport rallies to fraternity parties, ignoring the statistics and warnings. Or, maybe, we’re just in the dark and need someone to open our eyes.

Dr. Piper started his interview with two simple questions for every parent:

“WHAT are they teaching your kids?”
“WHY in the world are you not concerned?”

Honestly my mind was shaken in minutes talking with Dr. Piper. I felt like the Supers (superheroes with powers) in Incredibles 2, when someone rips the hypnotic mask placed on their eyes. OUCH.

Dr. Piper had quickly volunteered to be interviewed. I sought some perspective from colleges and universities. I wanted to understand from their vantage point what exactly was going on out there. I knew how bad it was—or so I thought. Then, Dr. Piper started to speak. Our discussion made me uncomfortable—wishing it weren’t true. It was so powerful, I scrapped it for March. We changed the focus of the magazine for April to center around his warning. It was too critical to the future of Christianity to be a secondary story, too dangerous for our children graduating in just a few months to be pushed beyond a cover story. Dr. Piper needed the platform to rip off as many masks of deception possible from parents’ eyes.

Walking onto the campus of a university, students expect to receive an education to change the trajectory of their lives. According to Dr. Piper, that’s exactly what’s being offered—a purposeful, powerful effort to steer Christians students off course from their faith in Christ.
With Dr. Piper’s reference to the statistic, think quickly of how that might look:

21 of every 30 children in your youth groups—lost.
7 of every 10 children of parents in your Sunday School —derailed.

Play it out however makes the point in your heart–wide is the path that leads to destruction and narrow is the road towards a life with God. Dr. Piper said, “More professors than you can imagine (even at purportedly “Christian” colleges) find it sporting to destroy your child’s faith. They take pride in tearing down a biblical worldview and replacing it with ideas that are in direct opposition to orthodox Christianity. Everything you have taught your son and daughter will be challenged and maligned before they even get unpacked in their dorm room or attend their first class.” If that is going on, and so many stories like that of Carson Lowe reflect it is happening today—then why are we just sitting back and waving goodbye as they drive off merrily toward such statistically verifiable destruction?


They Don’t Learn Everything in Kindergarten–Indoctrination

I asked Dr. Piper, “What are your thoughts on a Christian education vs. a regular secular university?” He answered, “Every parent should be asking is this – Why spend 18 years training up your child in the way he should go, only to then to send him off to a university, where the goal is to tear his mind, heart, and soul out?” Dr. Piper continued, “Parents do it every day. Homeschool parents do it every day. Some seem to think ‘Oh. my son and my daughter will stand up to the religious persecution, the mockery, and the marginalization. My child will be fine.’ I see this misguided confidence all the time, only to have that parent approach me later and admit it was the worst decision they ever made, because they have lost their child.”

“When I went to college, I may have benefited from the cultural assumption that Christians, while perhaps a bit boring, were “good moral people.” We were thought of more positively. Most of our professors knew we wouldn’t lie and wouldn’t steal and wouldn’t try to hit on their wives or any of that type of thing so we were shown favor. These days are long gone. Christians are no longer treated that way.” he said. He went on, “We are now thought of as adversaries. They call us closed minded. They have decided we are judgmental. We have no right to live our lives by our religious code. We are truly the last minority group that is fair game for prejudice and persecution. So why in the world would any responsible parent want this for their 18-year old child? Since we know 70% of our kids will walk away from their faith before their junior year of college, why would you think your son or daughter is outside of that equation?”

I sat there listening with my mind becoming a bit overwhelmed. It’s not like I haven’t been watching the news. There is absolutely persecution to say, “I don’t have a right to decide what is right or wrong—God decided that for me and gave me a nice little book called the Bible as a reference.” I feel the change in the air about which Dr. Piper talked. Honestly, when you think about it, don’t you? Saying “I am a Christian” now assumes “I’m a judgmental person, blinded by religious bias.” It’s not my imagination. I’ve read it on social media. I’ve heard it first-hand.
Dr. Piper is right. He sees it even more clearly than we do. Students like Carson tell us stories about it. So why do we just go on about our gullibly, sending our children off to the slaughter without much more thought than cheering with scholarships or pledging and football bragging rights? Do we even want to wake up? It sure is fun to head to the Saturday game wearing the team colors after all. However, universities today are NOT the universities of old. And, maybe more importantly, according to Dr. Piper, the Christian universities are not all not necessarily a safer place to go either.

Dr. Piper warned, “Don’t be fooled. Christian colleges might not be better than any state university. You can’t just assume their marketing and nice four color brochures means they are actually faithful to the Christian beliefs and values upon which they were founded. Many Christian colleges are missing the mark. Some are, to state it bluntly, simply dishonest. Remember this simply axiom,

Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous. But, wolves in shepherd’s clothing are downright deadly.”

Dr. Piper emphasized, “Any school can put together a slick marketing campaign that claims they are Christian and Christ-centered but do they truly practice what they preach? Do they hold tenaciously to the inerrancy of the Word? Do they believe and teach objectively of truth? If you do not see clear evidence that all of their faculty, every single one of them, teach and live out a conservative and orthodox Biblical worldview, that’s a red flag. Many “Christian” colleges actually take more pride in challenging and deconstructing a biblical worldview rather than teaching their students why they should believe it and how to defend it. Parents have to do their homework.”

Dr. Piper advises,

“Never send your son or daughter to any college or university until you pull the President aside and ask him two basic questions: What’s your view of scripture? And, what’s your view on truth? If he or she doesn’t say scripture is the inerrant word of God—run. If he or she doesn’t answer clearly, concisely, and boldly that Truth is a revelation of God, run even faster.

If there is any hint that they have imbibed the Kool Aid that truth is not an objective reality but rather a mere product of cultural dialogue, this is a giant red flag. It’s just not a good place to go.”

One thing Dr. Piper tells parents and students is this, “When you go to college you don’t major in opinions. I don’t grant degrees in opinions. That would be absurd. That would be an insult to you. You go to college to learn something. The point is to graduate knowing at a least a little more about what is right and true than you did when you started. Opinions always lead to brokenness and slavery. Pol Pot, Mao, and Mussolini all had opinions and it didn’t end well. But Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Never send your son or daughter to a university that doesn’t understand this.” Dr. Piper continued, “There is freedom in truth but opinions always lead to bondage. Almost every college I know of celebrates feelings rather than facts and politically correct opinions rather than God’s clear and unalienable truths and the end result is ideological fascism rather than academic freedom.”

Dr. Piper has had many experiences with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). This Council includes about 120 national evangelical Christian schools. Dr. Piper stated “The council is a broad umbrella representing Baptists, Wesleyans, non-denominational schools and so forth. Within that multidenominational venue, we have discussions over differences like baptism, speaking in tongues and other such matters as you would expect.” Dr. Piper went on, “Back when same-sex marriage passed as a recognized legal status, two of our universities, Goshen and Eastern Mennonite, announced they would immediately begin to hire ‘married” homosexual staff. As the result, the President of CCCU sent out a note to all member presidents saying that we needed to come together for a time of dialogue to determine how the council would move forward on this new matter.” Dr. Piper said he was a bit frustrated at the mere thought of having such a discussion. He said to the CCCU president, “Where in the scriptures are we ever told to have a conversation about sin? The Bible tells us that we are supposed to confess it, not sit around and talk about it.” He went further to confront the leadership of the Council: “You seem to be intentionally conflating a disagreement over methods of baptism with a volitional act of sodomy. How can you even suggest that these two things are on the same moral plane?”

Dr. Piper said “Today’s universities, have embraced agendas that are explicitly condemned in Scripture and are clearly contrary to common sense, empirical science and natural law. Christian and secular schools alike support sexual fluidity, transgender accommodations, and all things LGBTQ. There are ‘Sex weeks’ on campuses from coast to coast. Schools invite in porn stars as guest speakers. Traditional morality is ridiculed as little more than the unfortunate product of bigoted white privilege.” He added, “You would also be hard pressed to find a university that doesn’t support socialism vs. capitalism.” Dr. Piper says, “We should be teaching the next generation the virtues of American Exceptionalism* rather than tearing it down. Our culture is something to be proud of rather than something to apologize for.”

*(Wikipedia defines American Exceptionalism as “an ideology holding the United States as unique among nations in positive or negative connotations, with respect to its ideas of democracy and personal freedom.”)

Dr. Piper referenced a quote from Gilbert Keith Chesterton, an English writer, poet, and philosopher to name a few of his known skills,

“When you break the big laws, you do not get liberty…you get the small laws.”
(July 29, 1905).

Dr. Piper shared, “We have come to the point where we refuse to teach the big laws of God; ten simple and clear laws (and frankly Jesus narrowed it down to two!). We disparage those laws. We mock those laws. We malign those laws and what do we get? Thousands upon thousands of little laws from D.C. and elsewhere rushing in to fill the vacuum. This is not intellectual liberty. It’s ideological fascism. Instead of liberty, you see more and more conformity and more and more control. If you refuse to parrot the party line and or to repeat what is popular and in vogue they will crush you.

Dr. Piper continued, “There’s a reason our culture is in a mess. Fifty percent of the country believes in socialism. We’ve lost the definition of marriage. We don’t understand the male and female physiology in our high schools and our universities. We are seeing the negative consequences bear themselves out in the nightly news. The sex-weeks on college campuses that I mention above have pornographers, adult film stars, sex therapists, booths with sex paraphernalia, lectures complete with X rated movies. This is not just in the Ivy league. It is right here in Oklahoma too.” He went on, “When you teach 18-year old men that this is the way they should think and these are the values they should embrace what do you expect? Why are we surprised to see the Matt Lauers and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world making headlines? You are going to get lechers when you teach lechery. We have taught them to behave this way. It’s really no surprise.”

Dr. Piper reaffirmed to me, there is a war for the hearts and minds of our young people. They are the future. Satan knows it. He’s armed and ready to annihilate them at every chance he gets. He’s beating down the doors to the schools. He’s running rampant on the campuses. We either have to put on the armor of God or admit surrender, as this fight cannot be won with passivity. A fight like Dr. Piper references needs sound instruction for our children in God’s word, God’s laws. It needs someone willing to stand up, who knows the reasons they must stand. It needs disciples of Christ, armed and trained in the inerrant word of God. Make no mistake. It’s a war. Don’t worry though. If you aren’t seeing it, you are exactly where the enemy wants you on his way to many victories at the expense of your children and your grandchildren. Just sit there. He will make you nice and comfortable, as he gently turns up the heat to boil you in the proverbial pot.


A LITTLE ON OKWU

Interestingly, as an example of a University clinging to the principles of the Bible, Oklahoma Wesleyan University is not afraid to boldly be pro-life. OKWU even has a mobile ultrasound clinic, which saved the lives of over 200 children. They are simply unapologetic over their pro-life stance. We have seen another Christian university in Oklahoma shy away from such a stance because of federal funds, which cause them to remain silent in fear. It was of no surprise to me when I read OKWU’s value statement: “Unapologetic in our commitment to the truth of Christ and the truth of Scripture, OKWU models a way of thought, a way of life,

and a way of faith. This is a place of serious study, honest questions, and critical engagement, all in the context of a liberal arts community that honors the Primacy of Jesus Christ, the Priority of Scripture, the Pursuit of Truth, and the Practice of Wisdom.”

THIS IS NOT AN AD for OKWU. If you were educated about what might set them apart for Christ, as I was in writing the article—well, good. I’d love to highlight all universities with this kind of commitment to the Bible and these sorts of values. They certainly aren’t as easy to find as my heart would like them to be.


Education. Does Where it Comes from Matter?

“’The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next’” Dr. Piper quoted from Abraham Lincoln. He expounded, “Where do our children spend most of their time? It’s in school. Think of the average hours in school vs. with mom and dad vs. church. There’s no question. School wins. So why would we think, when that’s where they’re getting most of their information, that these ideas aren’t going to sink in? How can we think they aren’t going to be influential in how they live their lives?” Dr. Piper is again spot on. We have to be equally engaged in the elementary and secondary school years about what’s going in, because it WILL come out. That’s how it works.
Dr. Piper also talked of Richard Weaver, author of “Ideas have Consequences.” He shared, “Why is publication date (1948) of Weaver’s book important? It is because it was just a handful of years after the Nazis holocaust. Weaver was writing to the German people, his own people. He was saying that ideas have consequences. His point was very simple: ‘The terrible things we taught in our schools bore themselves out in the terrible actions of our culture.’ We would be wise to learn this lesson.” says Dr. Piper.

Truth is, Dr. Piper isn’t saying anything our pastors haven’t warned us about before. It sinks in on some level. However, as Christian parents in our current culture, if we want our children following Christ, then we have got to take off the masks and see reality. We must arm them with Truth (the Bible) and an ability to study it, understand it and apply it with precision. We must TEACH THEM how to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We know we have always heard that. However, in the current climate we live in—Dr. Piper is saying we need to wake up and take heed. Don’t just read his words and this article and think, “Hmm…that’s scary,” and then wonder about what you should eat for dinner. That’s exactly the response the enemy in this war is expects to get. It’s at best lukewarm. Just put the magazine back for anyone else to take. With a broken heart, I sadly guarantee, if your child later becomes one of the 7/10, you’ll wish you could go back to this moment and choose better. #GoDoBe


Taking A Stand. #GoDoBe

Read about OKWU taking it to the mat by taking an important religious freedom case to court and fighting for rights being stripped away by new laws:

• “A federal district court issued an order Tuesday (5/16/18) that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Obamacare abortion-pill mandate against four Christian universities in Oklahoma represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Citation from https://www.okwu.edu/blog/2018/05/court-orders-end-abortion-pill-mandate/

• OKWU was the only university in the country to challenge the government’s imposition in the courts. “When Oklahoma Wesleyan sued the Department of Education in 2016, we alleged that the Obama DOE had unlawfully issued Title IX guidance in 2011 and had unilaterally imposed unfair and impermissible conditions on all colleges and universities,” said Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan. “The mandate violated the privacy rights of our female students, denied due process for all students, and undercut the role of local law enforcement to investigate and adjudicate sexual misconduct.” Their actions allowed the opportunity for all parties to comment on the proposed rules to result in a much fairer system for effectively addressing issues of campus sexual assault. https://www.okwu.edu/blog/2018/02/okwu-agrees-dismissal-federal-lawsuit-office-civil-rights/

Cover Model: Allie Beach

Our April cover girl model was right for the cover in more ways than one. Alexandria Beach (Allie) is a junior at Victory Christian School, who has been serving as a role model for as long as she can remember. Allie’s father is the minister of Wesley United Methodist Church in North Tulsa. She grew to love the church’s ministry and has been diving in since she was at least seven with ministries like the Tulsa Pizza Kitchen also in north Tulsa.

The thing is, when we raise our children with mission and purpose, they grow strong hearts of service and love. Allie’s family always trained her to go into the daily battles. Allie remembers in elementary her father driving her to a private Christian school. On the way, her dad walked her through putting on the full armor of God. Allie said, “We did it so that I would be ready for the day and anything I faced.” Allie continued, “Dad and I would start with the helmet of salvation and then the breastplate of righteousness and then the belt of truth and then the feet fit with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace and then the shield of faith and then the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. It was fun, but it also helped me grow up with a sense of protection and courage. I knew I wasn’t going to battle having fear, but God was with me.” Allie’s words were both beautiful to hear and further inspired me as a parent to pour, pour, POUR God’s truths into my daughter, training her for her protection against whatever she might face. Allie didn’t hesitate to walk through the full armor. She knew every single piece and its purpose.

After Allie’s school shut down, her parents moved to homeschooling from third through eighth grade. Then Allie started Victory Christian School her freshman year. Allie had enjoyed the time with her parents, but found time with students to be exciting as well. Allie said, “I just love the people here at Victory. When you are homeschooling it’s fun because of the freedom, but it’s also good to be around other peers.” At Victory, Allie pursues athletic training. She volunteers with the basketball teams. She hopes to attend college and study athletic training at the University of Oklahoma.

Allie is also a gymnast but had a back injury benching her from the sport. In line with her beautiful heart, she now teaches gymnastics for Aim Academy in Tulsa, who has programs in north and south Tulsa. It’s a faith-based, non-profit operation helping kids. They teach gymnastics, but they also pray with students and have the kids say ‘God made me special’ before they leave. They try to help students know their true worth to God and to the world.

Allie’s family also started a Tulsa Youth Ranch for their church out of their home. It allows kids to come take care of animals, to be accountable, but also a place for them to recharge mentally. Many of the kids don’t have a great home environment. For them, it’s a break to come to a place where it’s quiet and they can focus on caring for the animals while we care for them.

When I asked Allie if she was ready for the battles she might face in college, she said she felt about 50/50 excited and scared. Allie said, “It’s hard to think about going to college and being away from mom and dad for that long. Plus, having to do everything on my own is a bit scary, but I’m excited.” Allie has another year left to get prepped. When I asked Allie about facing temptations at college, she said “I know it will there will be lots of temptations. There’s a lot of temptations in high school today, even at Victory, but I know that my parents have set a really good spiritual ground for me. I know that even in the temptations, I’ll always know where to turn.” Allie added, “I’ll never be able to forget God, because He’s always been such a deep part of my life. So, I hope to be a light for others. It’s not just about trying to protect myself but also the people around me.” We discussed faith groups like Cru, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others who are on campus to keep you strong while in school. Allie has already been thinking about how to connect, but still needs to work on the plan for her spiritual side at school. Even the most amazing Christian students tend to focus on path of study and the location of the school before thinking about how to stay protected from outside forces on campus.

Allie hopes to be a light wherever she goes. Allie said, “My focus is trying to protect myself but also to be a light to the people around me. We discussed faith groups like Cru, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and others who are on campus to keep you strong while in school. Allie had already been thinking about how to connect, but still needs to work on the plan for her spiritual side at school. Even the most amazing Christian students tend to focus on path of study and the location of the school before thinking about how to stay protected from outside forces on campus.

Luckily, with the training from her parents, Allie looks better poised to beat the “7 in 10 statistic for walking away from God” at college than most. Allie’s beyond her years sage advice was “I would say the best plan for students heading to college is to always find a group of people or at least one other person who has strong faith that way you can always help you and be around and be an accountability partner while you’re in high school or college.” She went on, “It’s important to have a friend so that you can always turn to each other if you’re ever tempted or people are ever trying to push you off the path.” Funny enough, that’s not just true in college but in life. Like-minded friends can help keep us on the right path.

Thanks Allie for being the face of spiritual training for the magazine—and thank your parents for us. They are doing exactly what God has called us as parents to do,

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

*Allie’s cover look was created & styled with clothing from Jenny Faye at Hape Chic and makeup from Emily at Brushed By Emily. They were instrumental in creating this month’s cover.

Community Spirit is humbled to honor Miss Molly McKinney from Jenks High School as our Student IMPACT contest winner. Molly will use the $250 to further the development of her website, so that she can sell her products to fund missions project for little children in Guatemala. 

(Wouldn’t it be great if a web designer stepped in to help her?!? Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge.) 

Molly–We were so excited to meet you and learn about the mission God has you on. You are well on your way to creating a legacy of life lived for Christ. We can’t wait to run your first ad for free when the website is ready to go! Check out the “almost” finished project at www.123pearls.org

Molly’s submission: 

“The day I stepped onto the docks at Mission El Faro, my first thought was ‘I feel like I’m at home’. Every time I held a child, I was thinking ‘How are you so happy with so little?’ The answer I received was ‘The joy of the Lord is instilled in them.’

From that moment on, God was formulating a dream in me and opening doors for me to live it out. The joy these children have is the joy we all strive to have. 123 Pearls is investing in these children. Through your purchases, you will be blessing them and preserving a life of joy, love, grace and wisdom that only comes from God. 123 Pearls is giving back to honor God, Guatemala, and can help you fulfill your joyful journey for the Lord.

These kids and that place have been a constant love in my life. They showed me a new and truer meaning of God’s work in places outside of just my home. This is how this has impacted me and now I’m doing what I can so others are impacted through my new mission. 

Being able to do labor work in El Faro for only weeks at a time has made my hunger grow stronger to do more. Therefore, I have taken my resources to help provide life changing experiences for those who feel like are beyond an “everyday” reach.

I’m 17 years old now. My first year travelling to Guatemala, I went with Redeemer Youth at Redeemer Church. Last year, I went with Young Life. Paul Phipps has been my youth pastor for the past five years and now I am a young life leader for him!


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Biology, the study of the human body. Anthropology, the study of humankind. 

Carson Lowe started Biological Anthropology not thinking much more about what to expect than that he was taking a basic course in college. After all, in this age of where we are to accept anything and everything, you would expect a college course to be fair and balanced. Right?   

“The professor started the first week in a 250 person class in a big auditorium talking about deities, creationism, and about a creator blatantly saying ‘There is no creator.  There is no deity,’” said Carson.  Carson said the professor went on, “He explained there is really just no God that created us. My fraternity brother and I looked at each other like ‘Did he just say that? Did he call us out that way?’”  

“We had never been told that as a ‘fact’ by an authority figure we were supposed to trust. It just threw me,” said Carson. He followed, “They are so quick to say not to offend anyone with genders or whatever the social issue is—and I’m sitting there as a Christian wondering where the balance is. I wanted to stand up on my table and ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ but the professor was kind of a jerk. He was pretty cold. You could tell he wanted an argument. He would spout off information that was just not true and how there just couldn’t be a God as if he were an authority with facts to back up his beliefs.”  

Carson first found himself wondering if the guy had ever seen the Grand Canyon or the ocean. He said, “God is so evident in everything around if you look at the complexity of life, but it was a little rattling to experience that kind of forceful declaration from a professor. Then, he continues that tone for the whole semester.” Carson stayed in the class, but was constantly in awe of the hard-pressed nature of the anti-deity rhetoric he taught. Carson said, “I don’t know exactly how God created what He created, but I do know He did it. So it was something to hear this guy just speaking against it with some kind of authority like he could possibly know.”  

Carson’s foundation with his Christian education at Mingo Valley Christian laid the groundwork to keep him centered during a time of attack. Carson explained his Christian education was spread throughout his tenure, but it was really ramped up with Nate Madden, his Bible teacher. During the college class, Mr. Madden’s lessons came rushing back to him. Carson said, “Mr. Madden taught a theology/world views class his senior year. It was basically about understanding your faith, what it is you are saying, and what it is you believe in. We even had classes in years past with him about what other world religions believe.” Carson felt he had been prepared to face this kind of pressure although he didn’t really realize it at the time it was happening. He said, “Mr. Madden taught us exactly what we needed for moments like this. In the class, it was really getting a hold on what I believe and then understanding what others believe so that I can have that conversation with actual knowledge.” 

Carson believed those years and years of preparation with Mr. Madden made such a difference. Carson said, “Those classes really sparked questions I had thought about before that had gone unanswered until the class. The training inspired me to learn more and to pursue my faith as my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they enabled me to be able to stand on my own two feet when talking about my faith–and in a way that wouldn’t have happened in the church and certainly would not happen in a public school.”  

It was “years and years and years” of doing school with Mr. Madden and the other teachers at Mingo Valley Christian that Carson felt prepared him for what he was facing.  Carson said “Mingo Valley went into deep theology for high school. You wouldn’t believe it. I would come home and have these complex conversations with my parents.  Sometimes, I was even explaining some of it to them just because the theology was advanced stuff.” Carson explained they were really diving into Calvinism for one. Then, his teachers would dive into some of the harder questions about the Christian faith, things he felt they would never get into in church.

Carson continued, “I didn’t realize it while I was there. I really didn’t. I was a bit arrogant in high school and I’m probably still a little bit arrogant. I was just going through that information, but I was retaining it, holding onto it, and then in college I was really clinging to it.” 

So I just analyzed everything I was taking in. It was all just surprising to me. I remember getting out of that class and wanting to give Mr. Madden a call and tell him like “DUDE! You prepped me for today. I fought something off today and I’m happy about it.” 

Carson continued, “When you hear that from an authority figure, you want to just believe it. I’m a trusting person, some might tease I’m a bit gullible, but when someone tells me something I am not very skeptical. I tend to believe what people tell me for the most part.” Then Carson explained, “In my faith, when it comes to people discussing theology and people discussing God, I have learned to keep my guard up in ways I don’t do in other areas of my life. I got that from Mingo Valley Christian, which is a very hard thing to do. Even when I hear a pastor talk about the Gospel, even when I’m sitting in my church, I’m fact checking and making sure ‘Is this guy preaching truth?’ and taking it to the Bible. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but really it’s because it’s my duty to stay true to scripture above all else.”

It’s amazing to me how much my Christian education from Mingo Valley has played a part in me keeping true with the Gospel. It built the groundwork for me basically to be able to run.  

Carson spoke highly of friends in several private Christian schools around Tulsa, confirming how incredibly lucky we are in Tulsa to have so many options. Each one has a different appeal—a different way of being a fit for your child. Large, small, Montessori style or a specific denomination you prefer–we are truly blessed.

To wrap up, I asked Carson what he felt like was his main message to the Christian community. Carson immediately replied passionately.

“Honestly I can say this wholeheartedly, that Mingo Valley Christian, or really just Christian education, as a whole, may have been the single most beneficial thing for my faith that I have had in my life.

That’s a bold statement considering I go to a good church. I’m in a Christian fraternity. I’m doing all these communities that are about the gospel, but none of them prepared me for the Christian faith more than Mingo Valley, or just Christian education has done.

“And, truth be told, I don’t understand if you have the resources to do it—I do not know why you wouldn’t regardless of what school. I think as a Christian parent, if you can, it’s almost foolish not to do it. You should do it.”

We wanted to highlight just one way students make a difference. More than that, we wanted their story to IMPACT others!

Individuals or groups may submit their work here. We have a guaranteed minimum $250 prize for the winner’s cause. However, we will also be accepting donations here from readers for the fund-raising efforts/causes online to help further the impact. Donations will be tracked/accepted online. Deadline for submission is 2/15/19. Winner will be announced in the March issue of Community Spirit Magazine. 

The contest will look at 3 main areas:

1 – IMPACT to the recipient(s).
How will/did your efforts directly IMPACT the targeted recipients? What was the need? What did you (your group) plan/do to help? 

2 – IMPACT to the community. How will/did your efforts IMPACT the community? This can entail many sides.  Can/did your efforts touch a community?  Can/did they motivate your community to come alongside of you? Could others use your idea or be challenged by the idea to motivate more people to action?

3 – IMPACT to you. How will/did your effort IMPACT you? What will/did your involvement teach/instill/inspire in you?

This contest isn’t a numbers game, although we fully support mass efforts. Those coming together to help one family are every bit as worthy as those helping a city block. We all know Jesus taught us that the one matters. Jesus said, “…truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine…” (Matthew 18:14.) So, Go. Do. Be. Wherever God might lead you. And, tell us about it!  Students, we are in awe of your hearts, your ability to mobilize, and your desire to make an #IMPACT4Christ.

The winner will get $250 FOR YOUR CAUSE + A FREE OIL CHANGE from Christian Brothers Automotive!

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