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This is about the Briarwood Christian School drug bust, but this guy speaks a lot of truth about how Christians are held to a ridiculously high standard.


On the Briarwood drug issue, by a questioning Briarwood alum

John Archibald | jarchibald@al.com By John Archibald | jarchibald@al.com

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on April 20, 2015 at 9:05 AM, updated April 20, 2015 at 11:40 AM


I was going to write of followup to a column I wrote last week about a drug raid at Briarwood Christian School. The response to that was divided, incendiary, passionate.

I was going to write a followup, that is, until I read the response Briarwood alum Matt Hooper wrote on Facebook. It's not what I would have said, for I haven't the experience he has had. He knows the place better than I. He says it better.

Here is what he wrote:

By Matt Hooper:

As a Briarwood grad and a Christian, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts.

This is a long, critical, honest, long, potentially offensive, long post. My intention is not to be argumentative. There are pros and cons to a Briarwood education, and I still believe the balance favors the pros. I'm just pointing out some things that, as an alum, trouble me about this situation.

I'll begin by stating the obvious. Are you sitting down?

Well, sit down.

There are Briarwood students who abuse illegal drugs. This isn't new news. It was happening in 1999 when I started high school. It's also not the first time that authorities have swept the school for drugs. That happened in my time, too. Like this most recent raid, I am sure they had cause to do so back then, as well.


Matt Hooper

Yes, this is a Christian school with a Christian-focused mission statement and curriculum. It's full of Christians, from the top to the bottom. And, indeed, being a Christian means that "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph 2:8) And that's awesome, right? We've been saved! And we didn't do anything to earn it or deserve it...it's a gift from God. And it's offered to anyone and everyone who believes in Him.

This, unfortunately, does not mean that the Christian life is easy. Temptations continue tempting. Stupid, embarrassing, egregious, life-altering, hurtful mistakes continue to be made. And the guilt, Lord, have mercy...preach it, Paul: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing." (Romans 7:19)

All of this to say that Fort God is a normal high school. There's Christians in there, but there's also booze, drugs and sex. No one is immune to those temptations...not Christians, certainly not teenagers. Occasionally, teenagers...even Christian teenagers...do stupid things. They do stupid things in spite of older, wiser folks telling them not to do stupid things. And those older, wiser folks do stupid things, as well.

The existence of booze, drugs, sex and curiosity is not Briarwood's fault. Kids doing stupid things isn't Briarwood's fault. Rather, these are occupational hazards we accept as part of the human condition. No one can fault you for occasionally striking out looking at one of life's unhittable curveballs. It's when you turn around and scream at the umpire...that's when you start asking for fault.

The response we finally got from Robert Mosbacker - which was quoted in Archibald's column - is arguing balls and strikes with the umpire. It was an attempt to minimize fear ("BCS was not the epicenter of this situation"), shift blame ("the epicenter was elsewhere but sadly, some of our students were caught up in it") and quiet the chatter ("avoid gossip"). Conspicuously missing from it: Honesty, accountability and proactivity.

Ironically, by not being honest that Briarwood is vulnerable to the same issues as any other high school in the world, by not providing information to us in a transparent and timely fashion, and by not augmenting that information with a plan for addressing these issues...the response is not only conspicuously incomplete, it also fails to achieve Mosbacker's goals of minimizing fear, shifting blame and quieting chatter.

Simply put, if the superintendent of a high school can't admit that high school is a petri dish of temptation, hormones and poor decision-making...then, how firmly are his feet planted in reality?

I assume that the rationale for his incomplete response is similar to the rationale that is causing some serious stress for modern-day church folk. It's the same kind of rationale that is behind some pretty controversial legislation in Indiana, Arkansas and other places. Being a Christian, in the literal sense, means to be like Christ. But what does that look like in the 21st century? How close to perfection can we get, and how quickly can we get there? Can we suddenly do all the good we want to do? How much can we do of the evil we do not want to do? What exactly is evil and what is good?

For me, I'm a John Wesley man and a United Methodist. To pilfer from modern vernacular, we're all about that grace...all about that grace...about that grace. So much grace, it comes in threes. Prevenient grace, which God offers to all and which we are free to accept or deny. Justifying grace, bestowed when we accept that gift and commit our lives to serving the Lord; a moment of reconciliation and restoration. And, sanctifying grace...which carries you along the path that leads to Christ-like perfection. In Wesley's worldview, that path is winding. It has potholes, blind curves, steep grades and narrow shoulders. Perfection is a process.

I sure hope Wesley was right about this, because I am a Christian. I take great delight in my faith. I love my church and I spend a considerable amount of time serving it and my community in the name of Jesus. But I'm as screwed up as any of you...probably more so.

My rap sheet is long and embarrassing. In the past I've dealt with divorce, porn addiction, suicidal thoughts and depression. In the present, I deal with immobilizing insecurity, self-doubt, arrogance and hypocrisy. And this is the abridged list.

I do, however, maintain a wickedly charming Facebook and Instagram feed. I wear the "everything's fine" mask really well. In fact, my mask-wearing apprenticeship was second-to-none: 30 years as a preacher's kid, six years at Briarwood.

As a Christian I believe that, through the gift of grace, God offers forgiveness and mercy for my abridged and unabridged rap sheet. But, in spite of my admiration for God, Wesley and United Methodism, I have a really hard time accepting that gift. That's due, in part, to my formative Christian years - the Briarwood years - conditioning me to think Christianity *looked* a certain way. Outside, it wore collared shirts and khaki pants...or skirts that ended no more than an inch above the knee. It sang contemporary worship songs with palms raised upward. It lived in Shelby County. It forgave "debts," not "trespasses." And inside, it looked virtually the same. Instead of khakis and modest skirts, it was a clear conscience, clean browser history, self-confidence and no court filings.

Yes, I believe some Christians look like that, inside and out. But some Christians do not. Some Christians are sober, some are not. Some Christians are addicted, some are not. Some Christians are self-confident, some are quivering masses of insecurity. Some Christians are gay, some Christians are straight. Are we not all in this life together, trying to figure it all out? Most of us are struggling with some debilitating something or another. I figure that my responsibility as a Christian - part of the process of sanctification - is to help everyone around me get through this life the best way we can. Help is necessitated by problems, problems are revealed by admission, admission is facilitated by honesty, honesty is encouraged by accountability, accountability is established proactively.

If I was a Briarwood administrator and/or parent, I'd certainly want this experience to be the beginning of an honest dialogue. Administrators need to be honest with themselves and admit that kids - yes, even Briarwood kids - are susceptible to trying pot, heroin and other illegal substances. The school needs to be honest with parents, and parents need to be honest with kids. In the short term, those kids need help and guidance to steer them around the icebergs in their path. In the long term, young Christians will benefit from older, wiser Christians being upfront with them about just how long and hazardous the road to sanctification can be.

The school also needs to be honest with people outside of the Briarwood family. Because non-Christians have a right to know that Christianity isn't all (root) beer and Skittles; that church isn't all prosperity gospel, fog machines, and hypocrisy. They might benefit from knowing that our path isn't straight, smooth and short. Maybe if we're honest and open with ourselves and our non-Christian neighbors, we might pick up a few hitchhikers on the road to perfection.

What if Robert Mosbacker's response had been offensive, not defensive? What if it had served to introduce plans for a ministry focused on helping kids and parents who are struggling with addiction? What if it set the stage for a school-wide effort to address this issue proactively, with honesty, grace, love and forgiveness? That's a better option than simply addressing surface fears, passing the buck and shutting down the conversation. Right?

Anyway, that's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth...assuming it has worth. Know that I would not trade my Briarwood education for another experience. Know also that I didn't do drugs in high school...no one ever thought to offer them to me. I also didn't have sex in high school...because I was about as popular with the ladies back then as...John Tyler was with the Whigs after William Henry Harrison's death. (Which is to say, not very popular at all.)

Otherwise, it was an enjoyable experience. Lonely, perhaps...but enjoyable.

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