Fighting Fear with Faith
Humanity, Humor and Healing at Hamilton
When I did my telephone interview for the Trustee position at New College of Florida, I felt a confirmation in the Spirit as I described my thoughts about New College of Florida and the responsibilities of being a trustee. My experience and background, and understanding of the situation at New College faded into the background as I described the interview to my wife. I told her, “It was when I said, ‘courage’ and ‘blueprint’ that I felt a ‘yes’ in the spirit.” Once I “hear” God’s voice or sense His nudging, it is a good time to write it down. I’ve seen and acted in the error of presumption many times. Through my ongoing testimony of God, I have learned that when God says something through His Spirit, other people, or the Bible, the interpretation gets messed up, and conclusions are drawn that were never intended by God. But God is good, and if we stay humble and seek Him, He promises to lead us. Psalm 23 says, “His rod and His staff they comfort me.” This illustrates a combination of techniques of His leading: painful correction when we stray and the gentler guidance that He will provide. So through many years, I’ve learned not to be afraid but move forward and trust in Him. Through this process, my “knowing” has been refined.
As I venture deeper into the framework of Universities in America now and for the last 150 years, I am learning that epistemology is critical. I will make a quick observation and hope to return to this fascinating and critically important discussion in a future article. But for now, I’ll summarize what I’ve concluded thus far. In American Universities, the epistemological framework has narrowed to become a homogenous secularized worldview weaponized against any other worldview.
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Given the importance of distinguishing worldviews and schools of thought. I want to be clear on what I know and what I don’t know, or perhaps it would be better stated, “what I presume to know and what I don’t presume to know.” It is essential to describe the difference between the things I know and the things I don’t know. I hope it even explains my joy and excitement for the things I don’t know.
So, in the above scenario, what does “courage and blueprint” mean? There are more questions than answers. First, is this “courage and blueprint” something God is doing and specifically using Ron DeSantis for a change in our country? You can immediately see how important it is to distinguish what is known and what is interpretation/speculation. It may be obvious, but it is worth saying, “I don’t know.” I’d rather speculate on what it means for the things I can control, like my actions. My simple takeaways are that I should continue and further elevate the mindset of “do not be afraid, but trust in God.” And speak things out before you know how things will turn out. This makes controlling your own narrative unfeasible. It is unnatural and must be learned. It takes faith. Thankfully the Bible gives us examples to follow and learn from. The father of faith is Abraham. He left his home without knowing where he was going. Faith has an element of NOT knowing. Not knowing and yet knowing Him to be faithful to lead us. So when asked about where Abraham was going, he would’ve responded appropriately by saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t know, but I have assurance that it will work out in the end. Faith alone gives us that assurance in the face of uncertainty. By trusting in God, we are led to face difficult circumstances and live exciting and adventurous lives. It is a thick worldview full of mystery, meaning, adventure, drama, excitement, exploration, and passionate pursuit of the truth.
Early in building my testimony with Jesus, I learned that He wanted me to be courageous enough to share the trials and tribulations of life with others as they were happening. It is too easy to isolate yourself and wait until your trial is finished and Facebook-ready before sharing. This isn’t the biblical example of a community of faith. The fear inside me asks, “But what if it doesn’t work out as you intended?” I have to act in faith and say, “Good. God has a better plan.” Not only act in faith but also share with others in the community to join in the adventure of faith.
As a school, Inspiration Academy has embraced this radical realism and invited students into the adventure. It is in our salutation that we give every morning after devotions, “Go win and Godspeed.” God will always win in the end, and He invites us into His victory. Godspeed is a reminder to go at His pace, not presumptuously ahead or fearfully behind. , boldly and confidently walk in the good works that He prepared in advance for you to walk in.
This approach has enabled us to engage students in real-life issues and make the classroom come alive. There have been many examples. When government officials came and threatened to force us to mask everybody, we were able to explain a biblical and constitutional defense for our defiance. In 2019, I believe, the county shut down our baseball field for “legal liability reasons.” This felt like a death blow to our baseball program and a massive setback to the school. We prayed for and battled to bring awareness to government officials for months on end to save our program. We found an excellent opportunity to include our students in the trial. Our US Government class decided to attend and speak publicly at a County Commission meeting and speak first-hand about the devastating effects this was having on our school. Their voices were heard, the lawyers were embarrassed, and the commissioners finally acted swiftly and reversed the county’s decision. What a great lesson and adventure.
Middle School Chapel
We have three different chapels because of space constraints. This year, I have been assigned to Middle School. Last Friday, I led chapel and titled the message, “Reconsidering our Afflictions.” We talked about the death of one of our students and shared scriptures (Isaiah 57:1-2 NLT). I then read Acts 5:17-42 about the disciples and their tribulations and afflictions. I then described the latest in my adventures at New College. I told them I felt compelled to send a tweet describing trans as a mental disorder. A student asked what is “trans?” As I explained what it meant, another middle schooler blurted out, “what is wrong with them?” I said, “the same thing that is wrong with me and wrong with you. That thing is sin, and it seeks to capture and enslave all of us.” I then explained that God had asked me to go into the middle of campus and meet with students. Why? I don’t know. I can speculate, but at the end of the day, I DON’T KNOW.
Humanity, Humor, and Healing at Hamilton
Ok, healing might be a little premature at this stage, but that is the goal. Not just for New College of Florida but the nation as a whole. Of all the new and controversial appointees, I am the only one local to the area. He has trained me to be direct and approachable. He has called me to education and now to controversy. He has led me to be courageous and faithfully invite others into the adventure. He has shown me that nothing is impossible with God and that you can’t please God without faith. This is what I know, and here is how the meeting went on Thursday.
First, a student reached out to me on Wednesday night. His name is Jesse Hudson. He wanted to meet me. I asked if he was available that night. We met, and by providence, I believe I had found a man of peace (Luke 10:6). So we met again in front of the Hamilton Center for an early lunch and for Jesse to give me a little tour of the campus from his perspective.
As we sat down to eat, a boisterous trans student (Student #1, pending student approval to release names) saw me and said loudly, “Are you Trustee Speir?” I said, “Yes, I am.” “I’ve got some things to say to you.” Then I invited student #1 to join us for lunch. Student #1 said something like, “where do you get off saying things like X, Y, and Z?” Not remembering the exact conversation, I think I answered calmly. Then student #1 quickly de-escalated and said, “well, you are acting very reasonably, so I will too.” Student #1 even apologized for the tone that he used. I then shared with #1 that I thought political circumstances had pitted us against each other, which was unfortunate. Student #2, a Computer Science student with a light and breezy California surfer demeanor, overheard and asked to join us as well.
I shared with #1 that I believe that he and I are both made in God's image, which makes his value of infinite worth in my eyes. Although we disagree, I esteem #1 highly, and I owe it to him to look him in the eye and have a discussion with him. It’s a matter of human dignity to listen. I told students #1 and #2 that politics often dehumanize opponents. I have been on the other end of that dehumanizing rhetoric, and I don’t want to see them as anything less than the infinite value God has placed on them.
This doesn’t mean that we will agree on issues, and we didn’t. We talked about our backgrounds a little, the concept of predestination, and some difficult trans issues. Then more students gathered around, and a lesbian student, student #3, barked at me angrily with a litany of complaints. The complaints ranged from the poor mental health services to Ron DeSantis being a literal fascist, and the only reason he won was because of gerrymandering. I told her that she was coming at me with a lot and that I would follow up with her about the mental health services since I had just visited the Wellness Center the day before. I got her e-mail and told her that I’d follow up.
Then another student who was Jewish, student #4, came by and shared that he wasn’t woke at all but didn’t see the hostility towards conservative students to the extent being portrayed by others. Jesse disagreed. Student #4 acknowledged that the campus was left-leaning and suggested sports as a balancing ingredient to the campus culture.
Then student #5 came by and was introduced as the infamous Alex Jones, whom I had tweeted about before after a previous Trustee meeting, student #5 called in and delivered a hilarious satirical impression. Now I got to see it first hand. I asked if I could record it because they saw how much I appreciated the humor. Then I asked if I could share it. Student #5 was concerned that people would be mean in the comments; I said I would delete comments and encourage civility (although I have always left negative comments against me), and student #5 agreed. Here it is:
Then we wrapped up our discussion with pleasantries and appreciation for each other and planned for additional meetings. As I was leaving, I heard “F*** You.” From the table next to us. I kept walking and heard, “where are our chickens?” from the same table. At this, I turned around and came back happily and said, “is that for real? Somebody has been saying that on Twitter, and I couldn’t tell if it was real or not.” Then a student said, “yeah, it’s real. We need chickens.” So I said, tell me about it. A student said, “well, first, I hate you, and second, yes, we would like chickens but can’t seem to get any chickens because of money or policy or something.” I told them I’m just one of 13 trustees and can’t just DO anything, but e-mail me and tell me more so I could look into it.
I walked away again and heard another student say, “if he feels welcome here, then we are not doing our job.” Jesse and I kept walking and finished our walk around campus.
Middle School Chapel
As I finished reading Acts 5 and described how the apostles were whipped and beaten violently, the next verse reads, “The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41 NLT).
I then returned to the story of how it went at New College the day before. I shared that things went well, and it wasn’t as bad as I had speculated. Then, I asked them, “what would’ve been the worst thing that could’ve happened to me?” They answered and said they could’ve beat you up. I agreed and then asked again, “Is that bad? Would the apostles have thought getting beat up was bad? No. They would’ve recognized the honor of suffering for the name of Jesus.” The apostles have given us an example of how to reconsider our afflictions. “All things work out for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
We have nothing to fear. I have now met with multiple students mentioned above and look forward to getting to know them more. What will become of those meetings? I DON’T KNOW. It has already veered from what I speculated would happen, and I imagine more of the same for my scheduled future meetings. But I DO KNOW that each of them matters, and I am truly enjoying getting to know them personally.
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