A bitter-sweet goodbye to the Liberty Champion

Photo by Leah Seavers
Photo by Leah Seavers

Original post available at the Liberty Champion website.

In just two years, I discovered my passion — writing. A passion I find somewhat ironic, since growing up I always hated reading, and writing always seemed to be a cumbersome speed bump between any completed class and me.

Now, sitting at my laptop, at the end of my time as opinion editor at the Liberty Champion, I can say God was onto something when he led me to drop political science and become a journalism major.

Journalism is an industry unlike any other field. In just one year at the Champion, I wrote editorials on issues ranging from politics and culture to faith and religion. Though I just scratched the surface of many of the issues I covered, I felt honored to be the conversation starter. Is that not who we are as editorialists?

“When everyone zigs, find a way to zag,” Jonathan Merritt, an editorialist and Liberty graduate, once told me.

Being a conversation starter, you often find yourself in the hot seat — but I have been OK with that. As a writer, my goal has never been to fully convert any reader to my way of thinking. I believe if I bring even one person to the table, willing to engage, maybe for the first time, then I have done my job.

Those moments of vulnerability sometimes gave way to moments of consideration and learning. After all, I am nothing more than a life-long learner. The only difference between journalists and the rest of the world is we bear out our learning — though sometimes cluttered and confused — for all to read.

In time, “Let’s talk,” became a phrase I was familiar with hearing or seeing. For a few of my more controversial articles, I found those two words scribbled across the top in Professor Huff’s purple ink.

Those “Let’s talk” conversations always yielded refined writing and more seasoned thinking. In time, I came to enjoy those moments. And today, I can tell you I will undoubtedly miss all of our talks and day-to-day conversations.

I have learned so much as a writer, and Professor Huff played no small part in preparing me for this field. It has been a privilege and honor to sit under her teaching, guidance and wisdom.

This year has been a season of firsts for me. I have had the fortune of having my work published in FoxNation, the Washington Post and the Religion News Service. And my writing has been cited on MSNBC and in the New York Times.

In addition to the many professors to whom I owe gratitude, there are a few people outside my Liberty family who have played a part in molding and shaping me as a journalist. I will probably thank those people on Twitter.

All in all, I look back at this past year feeling blessed and proud to have had the opportunity to serve those around me and to work with such an immensely talented team of writers, editors and designers.

My passion is most assuredly writing, and I look forward to continuing conversations and starting new discussions in the years to come. The beauty of this world is that not all issues come with black and white answers.

We live somewhere in the gray scale, blessed with the opportunity to navigate it together. And, as a writer, who happens to be Christian, I have the privilege of wading into those gray areas, equipped with my faith, ready and willing to start the discussion.


Editorial: Obama snubs Israeli leader

Untitled-61I guess I should laugh to keep from crying.

Yemen’s U.S.-backed government, touted by President Barack Obama as a model for dealing with al Qaeda and the Middle East, according the MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, crumbled overnight last week.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died Friday, Jan. 23, leaving the friendship between the Arab nation and the United States hanging in the balance.

To make matters worse, these two developments have eliminated major obstacles for Iran in its endeavor to rework the political makeup of the embattled region.

So what does Obama do? He says “no” to meeting with the West’s only constant and committed ally — Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.

Like I said, I guess I should laugh to keep from crying.

The two leaders have a history of not getting along. In fact, an unnamed White House official was quoted by the Atlantic calling Netanyahu a (vulgarity).
Classy, right?

This go-’round, another unnamed senior official has voiced disapproval of Netanyahu’s decision to address the joint session of Congress in March at House Speaker John Boehner’s request without White House approval.

“He spat in our face publicly, and that’s no way to behave,” the anonymous source said of the prime minister’s visit.

“Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency and that there will be a price.”

According to White House spokesperson Bernadette Meehan, the only reason Obama turned down a meeting with Netanyahu is because the U.S. has a “long-standing practice and principle” of not meeting with heads of state during their election seasons.

Really? That is the best they can come up with?

Of course, I suppose I cannot blame the president for avoiding Netanyahu after his promise in the State of the Union address to veto any increased sanctions on Iran’s likely pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. Even though many in the region have warned the White House of Iran’s intentions.

“Should a single American or Zionist missile land in our country, before the dust settles, Iranian missiles will blow up the heart of Israel,” Cleric Mojtaba Zolnour, the supreme leader in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, told the Islamic Republic News Agency in 2010.

The president should just own up to his disdain for the prime minister, and drop the shtick about “practice and principle.” Netanyahu and Obama have what Earnest calls a “fundamental disagreement” about Iran’s diplomatic standing.

According to Haaretz, an Israeli news source, Obama has directly warned Netanyahu to stop urging lawmakers to propose additional sanctions on Iran.

Disagreement or not, I think the possible threat of a nuclear Iran and an endangered Israel is reason enough for the president to break tradition and meet with the
prime minister.

Yet again, I have to laugh to keep from crying.

How can an American president — leading a country with great interest in the Middle East — dis such a strong ally when “Rome is burning?”

Of course, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is on cleanup duty now, distancing Obama’s administration from any negative comments toward Netanyahu.

“I guarantee that it’s not me, not the president and not what we believe,” McDonough said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” of the unnamed sources’ quotes.

Regardless of McDonough’s words, it is Obama who chose to be interviewed last week by GloZell, a YouTube celebrity who eats cereal out of a bathtub, but who will not make time for Israel’s leader.

I love GloZell’s videos just as much as the next bored college student, but really? I cannot imagine Obama’s public relations team did not see this media flub coming.
I think it is time for Obama to ditch the Froot Loops and take the opportunity to meet with Netanyahu, if for no other reason than to keep me from crying.

Read the original post at the Liberty Champion here.

Follow-up: Houston subpoenas dropped

Untitled-9Houston Mayor Annise Parker recently rose to national attention when she subpoenaed five Houston-area pastors for the content of their sermons, later changing the wording to refer to them as “speeches.”

After many letters, calls, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and editorials, Parker ordered her office to rescind the subpoenas Wednesday, Oct. 29. The decision came the day after the mayor met with the five pastors and other ministry leaders from across the country, according to Christianity Today.

As a member of the journalism industry, and someone who contributed to the editorials calling out Parker for her attack on religious liberty, I am thrilled with the reversal. Not only is this a victory for religious freedom, but also a victory for journalism, affirming our ability to affect change through engaging our culture.

“After much contemplation and discussion, I am directing the city legal department to withdraw the subpoenas issued to the five Houston pastors,” Parker stated at a press conference Oct. 29.

This entire debacle began with Parker’s Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). When the mayor presented HERO, these five pastors delivered petitions with 50,000 signatures calling for a citywide vote on the passage of the 31-page ordinance, according to Fox News.

One of the most controversial policies under HERO offers individuals — both male and female — the freedom to use any restroom they want without question, according to several reports on the legislation. Naturally, the pastors saw the ignorance of such a policy, as well as the dangers it could bring, and acted.

Parker did not approve. Thus, the subpoenas.

Out of the subpoenas was born a defense of religious liberty that sparked national attention and developed into a nationwide movement. If it had not been for dedicated journalists, standing by their convictions and using their platforms to rally calls for change, the subpoenas might still be alive and well.

But while the subpoenas may be dead, Parker is still kicking and screaming. Our job is not over.

“We are going to continue to vigorously defend our ordinance against repeal efforts,” Parker said.

Erik Stanley, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom and the pastors’ lawyer, told Fox News columnist Todd Starnes that the mayor really did not have a choice but to recall the subpoenas because she was criticized from every side — liberal and conservative — from all around the country.

With HERO still on the table, it is critical that we remain vigilant in defending the freedoms on which this nation was founded.

“This is what bullies do when people stand up to them,” Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, told Starnes. “They back down.”

We must continue to stand up. We must continue to defend freedom in whatever form it is attacked, working to ensure that the United States remains the bastion of liberty it was created to be.

In this case, the only way to ensure maximum freedom for the people of Houston is to take this ordinance directly to the city’s citizens, thereby allowing them to vote on the policy. However, even with overturned subpoenas, Parker has blocked the pastors’ petition, denying Houstonians the right to vote on HERO, according to the Religion News Service. But, with hard work and determination, that could change.

The fight is not over. It is time once again, journalists, to use the power of our pens to relay our insistence on the protection of the rights of all peoples.

As I wrote in my first editorial on the Houston subpoenas, the sacred has always ruffled the secular world’s feathers. The tension is not new, but, if our freedoms do not remain intact, it could bring about irreversible damages.

View the original post at the Liberty Champion.