What’s in a Name?
Addressing a group of students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, last fall, attorney Shelby Sharpe asserted that Christians in America are only decades away from experiencing criminal and civil prosecution for living out their faith.1
You may recall that in 1991, Sharpe successfully argued an historic class-action suit on behalf of homeschooling parents against the Texas Department of Education and all Texas school districts, thus establishing homeschooling freedom in Texas. In Gary W. Leeper et al. v. Arlington Independent School District et al., 843 S.W.2d 41 (Tex.App.-Fort Worth 1991), the Texas Supreme Court ruled that homeschoolers in the Lone Star State could legally operate under the private school exemption.
HOW DO PARENTS
IMPART A PASSION
FOR FREEDOM SO
THE NEXT GENERATION
WILL FIGHT FOR IT?
|J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association.
Today, Sharpe spends the majority of his time on cases involving critical religious freedom issues, protecting churches from legal action by private individuals and government officials. He is currently defending the Moody Church of Chicago against a million-dollar lawsuit for having revoked a man’s ordination.
Sharpe told the students at the seminary chapel meeting that “The courthouse is now wide open to come at Christians. The law is no longer measured by Christianity. Religious conduct and teaching are not protected.”
To support his position that persecution is coming for Christians, Sharpe cited three trends in law. First, using Scripture is being prosecuted as a hate crime; second, churches are being sued for revoking ministers’ ordinations; and third, the government is deciding the curriculum for theological schools.
What is the answer? Well, the answer has several parts.
First, as Home School Legal Defense Association has suggested before, Christians have a responsibility to preserve the precious religious freedom that God has given. Christians have an obligation to work to see that people who represent Christian values are elected to local, state, and federal positions. To assist in that regard, HSLDA started Generation Joshua, a program that educates young people about civics and gives them the opportunity to help elect government officials concerned about the national trend away from respect for God and His law.
It seems obvious that the next generation—the children living under our roof—will be on the front lines of this battle. The responsibility for preparing them to be capable of waging this battle is ours, as their parents. Our children need to know and understand the religious history behind our great nation, the importance of preserving religious freedom, and today’s threats against religious freedom.
2005 HULTON ARCHIVE / GETTY IMAGESWilliam Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) was executed for translating the Bible into English. His story is told in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, recently reprinted by Voice of the Marytrs.
Second, beyond providing education and information, how do parents impart a passion for freedom so that the next generation will actually fight for it? I want to suggest that we can set this kind of passion in motion at the very birth of our children. It starts with the names that we give them.
Names are important because there is a meaning behind every one—a meaning that can give each child a vision for his or her life. However, that vision will only come to fruition if we take the time to explain to the child what the name means and why we gave it to him or her.
For instance, if you want to instill in your son a vision for a large family, which we know goes against the culture today, you could name him Abraham. In Hebrew, this means “father of many.” You could explain that Abraham, by faith, became the spiritual father of all believers through Jesus Christ. Abraham had great faith to believe and obey God, leaving his homeland to go to a land that was promised to him, but of which he had no knowledge.
Or perhaps you would want to name your daughter Elizabeth (I’m especially fond of this one because it’s my wife’s name), which derived from the Hebrew means, “my God is abundant.” You could explain to your daughter that if she makes God her God, He will always supply her needs and more.
But we can instill an even deeper vision. I suggest that we strategically instill a vision for religious freedom by giving our children the names of men and women who have been martyred or stood in the face of religious persecution.
One such man was William Tyndale. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, we find that Tyndale translated the Bible into English so the common man could read God’s Word. This did not sit well with the established church, but Tyndale vowed that if he lived long enough, he would cause the common person to know more Scripture than the priest.
Born around 1494, Tyndale was ordained to the priesthood in 1521. As a result of persecution by the established church, he had to leave England and flee to Germany, where he completed his translation of the New Testament in 1525. In 1534, he produced a revised version and began to work on the Old Testament. Before he could complete the Old Testament, however, he was captured, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake. His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
Among more recent martyrs were John and Betty Stam, young missionaries to China. Captured by Communists one day in 1934, Betty had to courageously leave her 3-month-old daughter in an abandoned house, watch the Communists behead her beloved husband, and undergo the same fate herself.
Betty left behind this poem, written several years before she went on the mission field.
Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes
All my own desires and hopes
And accept Thy will for my life.
I give myself, my life, my all
Utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.
Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit.
Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt
And work out Thy whole will in my life
at any cost now and forever.2
Wouldn't it be great if we had a whole bunch of Abraham Tyndale Smiths and
Elizabeth Stam Joneses growing up in Christian homes? These young men and women would be taught about the lives of biblical heroes and the meanings behind their names, and would have the legacy of being named after a godly man or woman who was persecuted or martyred for the faith. This would give our children a vision for righteousness and a passion to fight for it. Inspiring stories of many more Christian martyrs can be found in sources such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and through the Voice of the Martyrs.
If the culture continues its current trend, I truly believe that we will need to train thousands of young people with the fervor of a William Tyndale or a Betty Stam to stand against the culture. If we are going to have any chance of turning our nation around, we need to start working now. One piece of the strategy is to give our young people names that inspire them to stand firm in a world becoming more hostile to Christianity.
1 Tammi Reed Ledbetter, “Chapel Speaker, Attorney Tells
Students Persecution Awaits in U.S. Legal Realm,” Southern
Baptist Texan, September 11, 2006, www.sbtexas.com/default