Dave Kistler: Well, ladies and gentlemen, today’s program is going to deal with one of the most hotly-debated issues of modern times. It’s one that’s elicited differing court decisions, some of which have actually been rendered at the nation’s highest court. Though decisions have been rendered and opinions offered, the practice we’re going to discuss today is not completely resolved legally in the minds of some, while in the minds of others it is completely resolved. I’ll be honest with you, I’m among those who are unequivocally convinced that this issue is completely resolved. What is thoroughly resolved though is this, and that’s the historic and spiritual aspects of our topic today. Those are forever settled in heaven and here on earth.
With that, I want to welcome you to Stand in the Gap Today. I am Dave Kistler. I’m joined today by Gary Dull and one of our special returning guests, in fact one of my favorite guests, Pastor Bob Burgess of New Testament Baptist Church in Ravenna, Ohio, a man with over 37 years of law enforcement experience in addition to his ministry experience. Pastor Bob has been police chief. He’s been a SWAT commander. He’s worked on all sides of law enforcement including the legal side, so he is more than prepared and more than equipped to help us address this vitally important topic today.
Now, you may be wondering by now what it the topic. Well, it’s this: Room or no room, that is the question. What we’re going to be discussing is the placement, the use, some would say the performance, the mere presence of nativity scenes on public property. Again, here to assist us with this very pertinent discussion is Pastor Bob Burgess. Bob, you are our friend. You’ve been on the program many, many times before, but we thank you again for joining us today.
Bob Burgess: Thank you for having me, Brother Dave and also, Gary, good afternoon to you, sir.
Dave Kistler: Well, Bob, I want you to set the stage for us because of something that happened just in the last several weeks in your community, something that occurred this year that was actually allowed last year, but not this year. Kind of set up the scenario just generally and then we’ll chat a little bit more about it.
Bob Burgess: Yes, thank you. Setting the stage, I want to take you back to 2017 briefly when we had a wonderful Christian lady in the community, not a member of my church, approach me asking me about my thoughts on the legalities, the constitutional issues, and she also had a petition wondering if our church members would sign a petition for a nativity scene to be located at our county courthouse in Ravenna, Ohio. Our church members did just that. They signed the petition. I encouraged her at that time … And her name is Eve Francis. I don’t want to forget to give her some recognition there because she’s done a tremendous job for the Lord in this situation. Eve came to me and she asked me about this nativity scene, so therefore she took these petitions. She acquired approximately 593 signatures and I encouraged Eve at that time not to use those unless she absolutely had to.
Long story short, she approached the city of Ravenna, the mayor’s office, in an effort to put up a nativity scene on the county courthouse and the mayor’s office approved that last year, so last Christmas was a wonderful sight of that. Since that time, the mayor alleges that he has been contacted by Freedom From Religion Foundation and subsequently to that this year decided not to permit the nativity scene to go up.
Gary Dull: You know, that’s a sad situation, Bob, and we hear about that all of the time, the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It’s certainly un-American, but we won’t go down that road at this particular point and time. I know that when they get involved in an issue they usually bring certain threats towards those who want to express their religion in one way, shape, or form. What was the particular threat that they brought upon the mayor of Ravenna, Ohio that caused him to change his mind so that that nativity scene could not be put up this year?
Bob Burgess: Well, you know, it’s interesting, that very petitions that were signed, the mayor was one of them who signed that petition along with the law director and approximately 42 government employees from the city of Ravenna, if I understand correctly, signed that petition. It’s my understanding from the media and his response and answers within the newspaper is that originally it was because they contacted him and he felt that the city would not be able to financially be in a position to defend itself against a lawsuit. However, since that time, I think he has taken a different position by saying several residents called in opposition to it, so I’m not really sure which one of those answers the mayor hangs his hat on at this time.
Dave Kistler: You know, Bob, one of the things that is commonly used as an excuse or as the reason for not allowing nativity scenes on courthouse grounds or government property is the very thing that you stated, and that is “Well, we don’t foresee the people, the taxpayers of our city or of our county supporting using taxpayer dollars for us to defend ourselves in lawsuits that will come against us if we put up something as overtly religious as a nativity scene.” That frequently is used as the argument. I don’t think that is always a valid grounds at all upon which to reject allowing a nativity scene to be put up because I think personally from a legal standpoint, in my mind, this issue is resolved and has been resolved for some time.
Let me go here, Bob, before we have to round out this segment. Your city’s mayor this year, total reversal of what he did last year, chose not to allow the nativity scene to go up for one of the two reasons or both of the two reasons you just cited, but a nearby city, the City of Streetsboro, Ohio, that city’s mayor did the exact opposite. Bob, talk a little bit about what that courageous mayor did with respect to a nativity scene on government property in that city.
Bob Burgess: Yes. Mayor Glenn Broska, the mayor of Streetsboro, Ohio, was faced with the exact same thing approximately five years ago. He received notification from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and he did not act on that. If I understand correctly from the newspaper articles, he checked with his law director and as long as they were allowing other people to erect these displays they were well. They had other holiday displays just like Ravenna did, and he’s decided to stand on what he believes is the legal directive of the First Amendment and by allowing anyone to do that within their area he’s fine.
That’s the big point here. They’re supposed to be inclusive. They’re not supposed to subtract. I think the mayor of Ravenna, I don’t know whether it’s through ignorance or confusion, but he has done just the opposite. He has subtracted, so in sense I believe what he has done is actually suppressed the constitutional rights of the people rather than doing the right thing.
Dave Kistler: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking with Pastor Bob Burgess, New Testament Baptist Church, Ravenna, Ohio. He is a somewhat regular guest on this program. We’re talking about this theme today, room or no room, that’s the question, and we’re talking about what’s going on not just in Ravenna, Ohio with the denial of a nativity display there, but other places around the country typically this time of the year do the same thing. We do not believe at all they’re on sound legal footing for doing so.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, in case you didn’t know it, yesterday shepherds, wise men, angels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus visited the very city where so much of the controversy surrounding nativity displays has occurred. I’m talking about they made a visit to Washington, D.C. Yes, you’re hearing me correctly. A live nativity wove its way through the streets of Washington, D.C. stopping briefly in front of the very location where decisions have been rendered legally with respect to such displays, and I’m talking about the United States Supreme Court. Right there on the sidewalk in front of the high court the entire truth of Jesus birth was told because it was read directly from the pages of the Gospel of Luke right in front of the United States Supreme Court. If that shocks you, it shouldn’t because this is something that can be done not only in Washington, D.C., it can be done, and I believe should be done, all across the United States of America.
Well, our theme today, again, is this, room or no room, that is the question, and we’re discussing these displays of the truth of Jesus birth in the form of nativities whether they’re live or whether they’re stationary, but either way our guest today is Pastor Bob Burgess, New Testament Baptist Church, Ravenna, Ohio. He is a seasoned pastor but also a man with a unique background, 37 years-plus of law enforcement experience. Bob’s been on the street side of law enforcement. He’s been on the legal side of law enforcement. He’s been a SWAT team commander. He’s done it all in those 37 years of involvement in police work, so he is a man imminently qualified to talk about the legal side of this very topic today.
Well, Bob, something, again, happened for those that may be joining us now that we talked about in the first segment, something happened in your city of Ravenna, Ohio a year ago. A live, or a nativity, not necessarily a live one, but a nativity display was allowed on the courthouse grounds there in the city of Ravenna, but your mayor got a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation this year with some type of either veiled threat or some type of maybe more direct threat and because of that and maybe several other reasons he chose not to allow the nativity display to go up this year. But something else happened and, Bob, you were right in the center of all of that and that’s what excites me and that’s why I want to talk about it today. You were involved in something that ultimately brought Jesus and his birth to the city of Ravenna in a unique way, so what I’d love for you to do, Pastor, is talk a little bit if you would about what you and other pastors and church leaders did to bring the nativity actually to your city.
Bob Burgess: Thank you. Well, the young lady that I was telling you about, Eve Francis, she’s earned a nickname here in town amongst a couple of us as pastors. Pastor David Ballard of the Bethel Baptist Church, we’re kind of bookends on each end of the city, who has been a part of this with us as well, gave her a nickname of Christmas Eve, which I thought was very appropriate, so that’s what we now refer to her as fondly, Christmas Eve.
Eve was rather dismayed when she come to us that the mayor was not going to allow this nativity scene on the courthouse lawn, so a search began and by her hand she found a storefront that was vacant right on main street in town where that beautiful nativity now is displayed in the windows. It was kept under wraps behind a blind until the Friday after Thanksgiving when the city of Ravenna has a Christmas parade that evening. They bring Santa Claus in to the courthouse lawn, and also on that lawn that night due to much prayer and many, many helpful saints from a couple of churches we were able out of our church to loan them some costumes for nativity. Enough volunteers were found for a live nativity which we presented that evening before the Christmas parade and after the Christmas parade on the courthouse lawn depicting the nativity, which was a blessing. Another blessing was we actually had one of the former mayors of the city of Ravenna dressed as a shepherd in that live nativity on the courthouse lawn.
So, we were able to pray and sing Christmas carols, and I believe I had about 75 people represented from my church. I don’t know how many from some of the other churches. Brother David Ballard from Bethel Baptist Church and some of his folks were there as well. I was blessed to be able to lead the singing all evening for about two hours. We would move from station to station on main street in town with the live nativity and stop, at which time I would guesstimate approximately 200 to 250 people were following and joining in with us throughout that time.
Gary Dull: I tell you, Bob, you’re giving me some ideas.
Dave Kistler: I knew he was, Gary. I could hear your mind clicking.
Gary Dull: We have a rather large Christmas parade here in our city, Altoona, Pennsylvania, and our church is, well we have a parade ministry. There are three major parades per year in our city and our church always has a ministry. I’m just thinking, you know, what could we do next year and, boy, you’ve just brought something to my mind, so thank you very much. I might be in touch with you later on. But here’s my question to follow up a little bit. I mentioned in the first segment that this group, those united for the separation of church, how are they called? What are they called?
Dave Kistler: I think the one group is Citizens United for the Separation of Church and State. The other is Freedom From Religion, and I think in this case the letter actually came from Freedom From Religion.
Gary Dull: Freedom.
Dave Kistler: Yeah.
Gary Dull: Freedom From Religion.
Dave Kistler: Right.
Gary Dull: Yeah, Freedom From Religion. That’s the group. You know, they usually threaten the people with some sort of a lawsuit or whatever the case may be. My question to you, Bob, is how did the rest of the community respond to that? In other words, last year there was that nativity scene up there, and of course the Lord directed you to do something special this year as well, but throughout your city, throughout the community, how did the people respond to that threat from the people from the Freedom From Religion?
Bob Burgess: There’s been much dialogue in the local newspaper. We have a corner that’s called Sound Off that people write in or they go onto the websites. I think that the people for the most part, for the greater part was pleased and do not understand why we would stand down from such a threat and not stand up against that threat. You do get the few church and state, I think the people who don’t understand what that means as far as separation and church and state. But I think the support is overwhelming. The kudos is overwhelming. I think one of the samplings of that is when you look at social media and you see the kudos that mayor Broska of Streetsboro is receiving from his people. They love the stand that he’s taken.
I just want to say this. I believe Mayor Seman is a good man. I believe angels and shepherds and wise men that celebrated Jesus’ birth, a lot of those folks that were looking onto that weren’t celebrating the birth. Herod did everything in his power to destroy all the children under two. We have these anti-Christ organizations, such as Freedom From Religion Foundation, they’re modern day Herods as I see it. As Herod attacked these innocent children, so too do these organizations seek to attack our government leaders who dare to give place to Jesus’ birth or his name. I believe that’s what happens here in Ravenna. We’re to pray for our leaders. I’ve encouraged all of the churches in this area, when I had an opportunity to speak with them, to do such. I believe the first harmful event in this case was not the mayor but rather the attack on the mayor.
The mayor originally authorized the placing of that nativity, but subsequently through fear and maybe perhaps through ignorance of the law is given place to an unconstitutional attack, thereby giving them erroneous standing. I think the proper response would be for the mayor to stand and the faith-based community to stand with him even to the extent of reaching out to Christian law organizations to defend the city and our constitutional rights. I believe that the example that Mayor Broska has set is just the perfect example thereof. These people can’t afford to sue everybody. It costs money to file suits in court, and if you lose you end up paying the defendants legal fees. I say those are risks worth taking, especially when we’re on sound constitutional ground.
Dave Kistler: Bob, let me ask this question. That is an outstanding point you’re making and I’m sure our listeners are taking note of that. We have a lot of pastors like Dr. Gary who’ve heard what you did and heard your statement there, and it is a risk well worth taking when we stand on such solid constitutional ground and when it comes to our expression of our religious freedoms, especially in the form of a nativity at Christmastime. This is a battle well worth engaging in. Bob, let me ask this because some of the listeners may be wondering the same thing. I’m assuming that the mayor of the city of Ravenna said no to a stationary, permanent, throughout the entire Christmas season, nativity display, but you guys were actually able to do a live nativity that evidently moved around the courthouse. I’m assuming because it was not stationary that’s how you were able to get by with that. Is that correct?
Bob Burgess: We didn’t ask, Brother Dave. We did not ask. We just did it.
Dave Kistler: Well, so sometimes asking forgiveness is better than asking permission. The fact of the matter is this, as a citizen you do have the right to do what Pastor Bob and these other pastors and religious leaders and members of respective churches did by dressing up just like was done yesterday in Washington, D.C. Permits were procured for what happened in D.C. yesterday. It’s been going on for close to a decade or so. I want to give a shout out to dear friends at Faith and Liberty there in Washington, D.C. located right behind the United States Supreme Court. I want to give a shout out to Peggy and all the fine folks there for what they did yesterday.
Bob, you are on solid footing to do what you did and to meander through the streets of Ravenna, and I would encourage others to take up this type of an action when it is Christmastime because this is the essence of what Christmas is about. Brother Gary, you have in the city of Altoona done some unique things that at some point we will talk about. Maybe in the next segment we can get to a little bit of that.
Room or no room, that is the question. Ladies and gentlemen, that is our theme today on Stand in the Gap Today. I am Dave Kistler. Gary Dull, our regular co-host is aboard today, and our special guest is Pastor Bob Burgess, New Testament Baptist Church, Ravenna, Ohio. We’re talking about the display of nativity scenes, whether stationary or live, around the United States of America.
Again, friends, I want to remind you yesterday in our nation’s capital a live nativity made its way through the streets of our nation’s capital, and, yes, full period costumes, camels, donkeys, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, townspeople, shepherds, wise men, all of that made its way in beautiful procession through the streets of Washington, D.C. Again, that is an event that has been going on now for a number of years, and I do know for maybe for the entirety of the time that this live nativity has been going on in D.C. it has been front-page news in the Washington Times, I think I’m speaking correctly, the day following the display of that live nativity.
If it can be done in Washington, D.C., it can be done in your area, and we don’t need to be afraid of those either veiled or direct threats that come from organizations like Freedom From Religion Foundation, which in the situation we’re talking about today in Ravenna kept a city mayor and the city of Ravenna from doing a nativity display when the year prior they did it. But thank God for the mayor of Streetsboro, Ohio who said we’re not going to succumb to the pressure, we’re going to do the right thing and allow this and other religious displays to take place because this is part of the Christmas season.
Well, I want to give just a little bit of background as I lead into this segment. Several years ago, one of our local grocery stores, part of a regional chain of grocery stores, chose not to use the words Merry Christmas in their greetings of shoppers during the Christmas season, and of course many of you remember this was a hot topic probably eight, nine years ago. It’s not as big a deal now as it has been, but this was a big deal when this happened, the incident I’m describing. As a result of this local grocery store choosing not to say the words Merry Christmas and informing their employees don’t say Merry Christmas, choose the more innocuous Happy Holidays, as a result of that decision the local grocery story lost significant shoppers and by extension, of course, significant revenue.
Very quickly, when they realized people are not coming here to shop they reversed their decision and began having all their employees say Merry Christmas, but they went one additional step. They began inviting musicians into the store to actually perform live Christmas music. You say, Dave, how do you know that? Well, the reason I know is because our family was one of those that were invited in to do Christmas music in the store. They set us up right in the produce section, which is just to the right as you enter the store, and I’ve jokingly said they put us with all the other fruits and nuts there in the produce section. We actually set a keyboard up and we had our kids with their violins and they played Silent Night, Holy Night. Nathan sang Mary Did You Know. We had a gentleman come in from our church and played beautiful muted trumpet arrangements.
As the music wafted through the grocery store, I stood out front and just greeted people and it was astounding the number of people that came in and said not only is this awesome, I’m going to literally spread the word that my friends and my neighbors need to come here to this store and they need to shop because they’re willing to do such a courageous thing as actually have live Christmas music in the store and reverse a prior bad decision not even to use the term Merry Christmas.
Gentlemen, I want to talk about that just a little bit, and Gary I want to go to you first. We were talking the other day about this topic is there a war on Christmas or is this merely a figment of our conservative Christian imaginations, that we just think there’s a war on Christmas. In the program the other day, we came to the conclusion unequivocally we do believe there is such a thing as war on Christmas but more than that it’s really probably a war on God. Gary, let me ask you this. Based on what you are seeing this year, what you saw last year, is there more Christ-friendliness, Christmas-friendliness, God-friendliness right now in the community where you live as opposed to maybe four or five years ago or is it the same or has it become less God-friendly? I just want to get your take on it.
Gary Dull: Yes, I’ll answer that question, but before I do let me digress a little bit to what you just said a moment ago. Did you say that Peggy Nienaber down in Washington, D.C. brought wise men to Washington?
Dave Kistler: Well, I’ve gone up and been a wise man before in the live nativity, and jokingly what’s said is they have to import wise men from outside because they can’t find any in Washington, D.C.
Gary Dull: That was my point, you know. I’m glad to hear it. Praise the Lord for Peggy, huh?
Dave Kistler: Oh, she does an awesome job. By the way, friends, you can go online and just Google live nativity D.C. You can watch all that took place yesterday. It was tremendous.
Gary Dull: Yes, indeed. Anyhow, I believe that in my area here in the Altoona, Central Pennsylvania area, it seems to be more Christmas-friendly. I noticed that the other day when I was out at a store. It was a local convenient store. I bought my coffee there and I heard the lady behind a counter when she was checking out the folks in front of me every time the person left she would say Merry Christmas and they would respond that way, Merry Christmas. You know, I think that we are seeing that. Of course, I give some of that credit to our current president, Donald Trump, because remember when he was running for the presidency he said when I get elected you’ll be able to say Merry Christmas again. I think that we are seeing that happen and because of that, David, I think that this is a good time for churches and pastors, like Bob Burgess, to say well from now on we’re going to take advantage of that and do everything that we possibly can to bring Christ back into the presentation of Christmas in our communities.
Dave Kistler: Well, Gary, I’m in complete agreement, and if I could say this before I pose a question to Bob, freedoms are like muscles in the body. If freedoms are not exercised like muscles are not exercised, they atrophy, and what we don’t use we lose. What we don’t exercise we ultimately pay a price in having that freedom, that ability, that liberty taken from us, or actually we surrender it if we don’t use it. I am in complete agreement, Gary. Right now, it’s prime time I think for pastors around the country, Christians around the country to step up and do what Pastor Bob and those others in his community did with this live nativity moving through the streets of Ravenna.
Bob, let me as you a question. Some say, you know, the words Merry Christmas are just that, they’re words. You know, don’t worry about words, just live, worship, acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas yourself, keep it out of the public eye though, it’s just words, it’s no big deal if somebody says Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. I know you disagree with that, but I want you to share with our listeners why you deemed the omission of a nativity display in the city of Ravenna, why you considered that significant enough that it required some type of response not only from you but other religious leaders and certainly other Christians in the city of Ravenna ultimately motivating you guys to do what you did? Why is it that important to you?
Bob Burgess: Standing for Christ is first and foremost, and I believe I speak for myself and Pastor David Ballard of Bethel Baptist Church and Eve Francis and all of those that have turned out as saints of God in this issue here in Ravenna, Ohio.
The other big problem is our constitutional rights being suppressed. Even the unbeliever, whether they know it or not through ignorance, their right, constitutional right is also being suppressed in this issue. You know, schools and public areas that are eliminating religious and seasonal music and they’re no longer calling Christmas break Christmas break, now it’s the holiday break or the winter break, calendars referring to that within the school systems, many businesses and workplaces have banned, as you talked about, saying Merry Christmas out of a fear of offending only one in four, I’m sorry four in a hundred customers who might celebrate the holiday, none of these extreme measures are legally required by the Establishment Clause. That may get a little deep for this program, but despite what secular organizations hostile to public recognition of Christianity would have us believe it’s not the law.
The reality is that Christmas in America has been both a federal and a state recognized religious holiday for centuries with no conflict between it and the First Amendment clause. Many people are going to get the day off work because it’s Christmas. Many people are going to get holiday pay because it is Christmas. So, Christianity and also constitutional-wise people have more rights than what they think.
Gary Dull: This is a great discussion, but I want to dig a little bit deeper. We do believe that there is a war on Christmas. As Dave said, we talked about that the other day, Brother Bob. My question to you is what has brought us to this point in the United States of America where this war on Christmas has raged? You know, it might not be as strong today as what it was a couple of years ago, but what has happened to the point that that which is commonly recognized as a holiday by Christians and non-Christians alike, what has happened that brought us to this point where there is such a war on God and on Christmas today?
Bob Burgess: I can sum that up in word, Satan. I believe his strength, his power in these last days that the Bible tells us will see increasing is doing just that. We’re living it out before our very eyes. Unfortunately, our mayor in the city of Ravenna, and I do say unfortunately because one of his defenses to this is that he goes to church. That was printed in the article. We’re seeing a day of possessors and professors and there’s a big difference in God’s eyes between a professor and a possessor.
Dave Kistler: Well, ladies and gentlemen, you’re listening to Stand in the Gap Today; Dave Kistler, Gary Dull, and our special guest Bob Burgess. This is what we commonly call our solution segment, so we’re going to try to be very practical today as we talk about how do we keep Christ not only in Christmas but how do we reintroduce the Christ of the Bible into our communities. Ladies and gentlemen, it is not enough for us to run within the four walls of our church buildings, cloister and hide out within the safety and security of those safe places and as it were pull up our drawbridge, run to the top of the wall, condemn the darkness that the world on the outside is becoming. The scripture is very clear, we’re to be salt and we’re to be light in a corrupt world, which means this, we live in communities, we live in neighborhoods, we live in cities, we have an obligation as believers in Jesus Christ and certainly those of us that are ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have divine obligation, ye a divine commission to carry the truth of who Jesus is into the world, the community in which we live. What better time to do that than [inaudible 00:30:59]?
I’ve got two of my favorite people in all the world on the program with me today, Gary Dull and Bob Burgess, both of them pastors, very seasoned pastors, very wise pastors, very reasoned men, so I want to ask both of you guys this question. Gary, I know you’ve done this for years as has Bob, but what is the key to keeping not only Christ in the Christmas season from a community perspective but how do we consistently, faithfully in a reasoned and effective way introduce or perhaps in many cases reintroduce Christ into our communities? Give us some practical suggestions of how we can go about doing that.
Gary Dull: You know, it’s interesting, I remember years ago, Dave, hearing of what was referred to as the By All Means Evangelistic Association. His whole point was that when it comes to preaching the gospel and getting out the message of Christ you do everything that you possibly can to honor the Lord, you look for opportunities to bring Christ’s name into the picture. That’s one of the things that we attempt to do here at the Faith Baptist Church where I serve in Altoona, Pennsylvania. The question is what can we do to bring Christ before our community, and whether that involves doing something at a parade or getting involved in some type of a community activity or reaching out to the people by doing door-to-door work or whatever the case may be. When you ask that question what can we do to bring Christ into the community, the Lord gives direction and the Lord gives insight and the Lord gives the ideas and the plans to do it, and I’ve been able to see how that has worked down through the years.
You know something, David, it comes down to the concept of obedience. We’ve been given the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel and it starts right here at home, right where we are. I think of the apostles. When they were told not to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus, at one particular occasion their response was how can we help but talk about what Christ has done for us, and I think that that’s the message that we need to keep before us. Christ has done so much for us as Christians and how can we help but tell others about him. This season in which we live, the Christmas season, by the very virtue of the fact that we call this Christmas or Christ’s mass, it gives us an opportunity right here. It comes to us as an opportunity to share Jesus Christ with others.
I tell my congregation that as you go throughout this particular time of the year remind people that we are celebrating the incarnation of Jesus Christ. When you pay your Christmas bills or December bills, whatever the case, put a gospel track in that that talks about Jesus. There are many ways and many opportunities that we can get out the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and we should do it. We must do it in order to honor our Lord and Savior for what he’s done for us on the cross.
Dave Kistler: Bob, what Gary is saying is it starts with a commitment, an unequivocal commitment to obedience. We have been given a divine commission. In the Book of Acts chapter number one and verse number eight, we are to be witnesses in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and under the uttermost parts of the earth, and I would dare say part of our Jerusalem is the city in which we live.
Bob, I know you’ve been on both sides of this issue from, I’ll use the term, governmental perspective. You’ve been in the law enforcement community. You’ve been a servant to the community from a law enforcement perspective, so you’ve seen that side. Now, you’re a pastor of a church in the very community where you served for all those years as a member of the law enforcement community. We don’t have to do this do we, Bob. We don’t have to cultivate an adversarial attitude toward the community. Now, there’s going to be obviously things that happen in a community where we’re going to be in disagreement, where the community will violate maybe a biblical principle or leaders in the community will do something such as has happened in our community a number of years ago where they did something that was just defiant against the God of heaven and it required that something be said on my part and others to call out that defiance.
Other than those times, we don’t have to do just view the community as our adversary. The community is our mission field. We live in the community. Talk if you would, Bob, about how maybe even in this situation this year you guys reached out to impact your community with the gospel via this live nativity and it was overwhelmingly well received as I believe it usually will be. Talk about that if you would.
Bob Burgess: It was and I believe it’s going to increase and I believe it’s given great opportunity, which I think is one of our responsibilities to educate our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, which is one of the weaknesses to stop buying into these falsehoods of the separation of church and state with the wrong definitions. Religious Christmas carols can still be sung in public schools, government, private work places, and community celebrations without violating the Constitution. It’s not against the law. In fact, to completely obliterate religious content from a public program, that would violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
There’s the principle of neutrality between religion and non-religion. Holiday programs should contain additions, not subtractions. These are classic discrimination in holiday celebrations that we’re seeing that we have fallen victim to in our own area when a local community decides not to include the nativity. Christians should continue to remind the government officials that neutrality requires addition, not subtraction. There’s an accommodation of religion, not hostility towards it. We as Christians besides the Great Commission, in addition to that also we pastors need to encourage our churches and our members to understand this. We need to be able to vocally support the elected officials, folks like Mayor Broska, who are taking that stand on our constitutional rights to protect that. We need to commend the businesses and the stores and the schools that continue to display symbols of Christmas and greet customers with Merry Christmas. We need to encourage and edify the saints as well as spread the gospel.
Dave Kistler: You know, Gary, that’s a great point that Bob made. There are ways that we can show support for those entities, those agencies, those leaders politically, those businesses that are very faith-friendly and certainly Christmas-friendly, and we ought to point out where those businesses and those leaders are doing the right thing. Sometimes we catch them doing the wrong thing. We have to do that from time to time of course. But, boy, when they do the right thing we ought that out as well. What do you think?
Gary Dull: Well, I agree. Of course, it’s the idea of building relationship with those who are leaders in the community. We’ve tried to do that for years here at Altoona. We don’t have time to expand on that, but I tell you what it does work. It opens doors of opportunity.
Dave Kistler: It does indeed, and, Gary, it’s been my delight to be there when you’ve done some of that and I’ve seen it work phenomenally well.