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Tom Barton: Keeping the faith, and picking up car keys

Pastor Kenny Grant, far right on podium, addresses a packed room at a Band of Brothers breakfast meeting at First Baptist Church in Garden City on a recent Friday morning. Photo by Doug Weathers.

Students go off to college to get advanced degrees in the three Rs. In the process, many of them are tested in the fourth R — religion.

 

Some flunk, losing their faith in the process as they are exposed to a more secular world for the first time. Eighteen years of keeping the faith are down the drain in four years, creating heartburn for a lot of parents.

Rev. Kenny Grant, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Savannah and the charismatic spiritual leader of the Band of Brothers men’s Bible study group that attracts hundreds to its weekly 6:30 a.m breakfast meeting every Friday at First Baptist Church in Garden City, knows about this upsetting feeling first-hand.

After his daughter left home for college — Kennesaw State University in metro Atlanta — a professor in her social studies class announced during the first week of classes that “he was going to dispel the whole idea of God,” Grant said. “She was blindsided by what he said, and shocked and appalled. I was surprised that she was surprised. It made me realize that maybe I’m not doing a such a good job of equipping my daughter to expect this kind of attack on her faith and to stand up for herself and her beliefs. And if I’m doing a poor job — and I’m a pastor — than how many other parents are doing a poor job of equipping their children to expect this kind of onslaught on their faith?”

Grant, who served as a chief drill instructor in the U.S. Marine Corps was not the kind of pastor or parent to take this challenge lying down. To him, this one is personal. So he and other like-thinkers, including the Band of Brothers, organized a special event designed to help young people hold on to their faith and be able to stand up to the inevitable assaults on their religious beliefs.

That event — appropriately called STAND, or Students Taking A New Direction — will be held this Saturday, Sept. 23, from 2-5 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center.

 

Free cars to be given away

The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to pre-register online at www. STAND17.org. The target audience is young people between the ages of 16-24. As an added enticement attendees will be eligible to win one of an expected six used cars to be given away.

Even Jesus didn’t make that offer. While he may have fed the multitudes who followed him into the desert, he never offered them free modes of transportation to go with the loaves and fishes.

Being able to walk in to the Civic Center, and drive out a few hours will be something of a miracle for the lucky attendees. Organizers described the vehicles as “quality” used cars that have been donated by generous area dealers.

Featured at the event will be local Christian rap artists and rock groups. Scheduled as the featured speaker is Frank Turek of Charlotte, N.C., an author and the host of a call-in talk show called CrossExamined on American Family Radio and a television program on the National Religious Broadcasters Network.

 

Making the case for God

Turek is considered one of the nation’s leading Christian apologists and has gone toe-to-toe in debates over God and faith with famous atheists such as Christopher Hitchens. Turek’s books include Legislating Morality, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. He is a former Naval aviator and a business consultant. Several years ago while serving as a consultant with the tech giant Cisco Systems, a gay activist took issue with Turek’s stance on traditional marriage and had him banned from working there. The episode became a national news story.

Turek may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But he’s all but guaranteed to make people think about important subjects like life, morality, faith and belief in God. Here are a few of Turek’s more provocative quotes:

““God’s signature is not just in the cell, it’s in all of creation. God is as necessary to the universe as a band is to music. Once the band stops playing, the music is over.”

“To say that a scientist can disprove the existence of God is like saying a mechanic can disprove the existence of Henry Ford. It doesn’t follow.”

“Conservatives try to adjust their behavior to fit the facts of nature. Liberals try to adjust the facts of nature to fit their behavior.”

In the case of Pastor Grant’s daughter, she eventually raised her hand in class to question her secular-minded professor, Grant said. Her lone act prompted other like-minded students in the classroom to do likewise. “I was very proud of her,” he said.

Grant added that he agrees that colleges should be “places of discovery” for students and that it’s healthy for them to have their beliefs and values tested. As a graduate of Georgia’s flagship “discovery” institution in Athens, I agree 100 percent. It’s important that young people learn how to think for themselves in all situations, to make good choices and to stand on their own two feet, even if someone hands them the keys to a car.

I also can’t understand how anyone who has seen a sunset over the marsh, or heard a baby’s laugh or a Pavarotti solo, or has tasted sweet Vidalia onions can still claim that God doesn’t exist.

 

Tom Barton is the editorial page editor of the Savannah Morning News. tom.barton@savannahnow.com

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