LOVE OR AFFIRMATION?

by | May 28, 2024 | Government

Acadiana’s Pride tests the meaning of loving one’s neighbor

Kirk Alexander walked beneath the General Alfred Mouton statue every Saturday morning as a child.  The Confederate’s stoney gaze and folded arms loomed in front of old Lafayette City Hall where he helped his father clean.   During summer months, Alexander also passed by Mouton delivering The Daily Advertiser along Jefferson Street.

By junior high, Alexander knew enough about the Civil War and slavery to reject Lafayette’s use of public property to honor one who fought to keep his ancestors’ enslaved. He left Lafayette at eighteen to enlist in the Navy.  He served twenty-one years, got saved, retired, and became a pastor in Virginia for several years.   In 2015, after being away for thirty years, Alexander returned to Lafayette to serve as a pastor of Christ Church.  

Pastor Alexander’s childhood conclusions about Mouton’s statue stayed with him.  He still believed its prominent public location was divisive.  As a pastor, he drew upon scripture to inform his advocacy to move the statue.   He relied upon Ephesians 2:14-16’s teaching that Christ came to break down the “middle wall of separation” that divides ethnicities.  He asserted that Mouton’s location unbiblically pitted blacks and whites against one another. Fueling this divisiveness was Mouton’s reported history of vigilante actions against black freedmen in the 1850’s and the white supremacy ideology behind the statue’s erection. 

Alexander linked up with Move the Mindset’s efforts to move the Mouton statue in 2016.  While continuing to support its removal, he separated from the group due to ideological differences.  Nevertheless, through the efforts of a broad coalition of citizens and politicians, Mayor-President Josh Guillory and Lafayette’s City Council commissioned and removed Mouton’s statue in July of 2021.  A community healing, at least on this issue, followed its removal.

Pastor Kirk Alexander

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF

In June of 2021, mere weeks before the removal of the Mouton statue, for the first time in Lafayette’s history, its City Council signed a proclamation declaring June to be Pride month.  Council members Liz Hebert, Nanette Cook, Glenn Lazard and Pat Lewis signed the proclamation.  Councilman Andy Naquin was the lone holdout.   For years before 2021, Lafayette mayor-presidents and councils steadfastly stood against pressure to proclaim June to be Pride Month. The ironic timing of the Council’s divisive step so close to the removal of the divisive Mouton statue and its abdication of its biblical duty to be ministers of good (Romans 13:4) is not lost on Alexander. Hebert, Cook, Lazard and Lewis signed similar proclamations in 2022 and 2023. Naquin abstained.

Downtown Lafayette Unlimited and LUS email

Acadiana’s Pride Parade in Lafayette has grown rapidly since 2021in attendance, including children, along with its expanded use of public resources.  In 2023, Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (DLU) coordinated with the City and LUS crews the use of city light posts and crews to install Pride pennants.  A citizen’s public records request provided to Covenant Spotlight revealed that emails between Heidi Tweedel with Lafayette Utility Systems (LUS) and Anna-Laura Edmiston of Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (DLU) coordinated the placement of twenty Pride banners on city light posts along the 200 and 300 block of Jefferson Street by LUS crews. 

Upon inquiry, then Mayor-President Guillory’s administration distanced itself from direct responsibility for the use of taxpayer resources to support the Pride parade.  It asserted that DLU required the installation of the Pride banners under the terms of its contract with the City-Parish. 

Lafayette City Parish contract with DLU

This attempted shifting of responsibility was consistent with Guillory’s public refusal to sign the Pride month proclamation.  However, an examination of the City-Parish and DLU “Sponsorship Agreement Fall 2023” reveals no terms authorizing or requiring the use of LUS crews or city light posts.  To the contrary, City-Parish’s only obligation was to pay “$7,500.00 cash” to DLU in exchange for recognition at DLU events.

Turnover in Lafayette’s leadership has occurred since last year’s Pride parade.   Three new City Council members- Thomas Hooks, Elroy Broussard, and Kenneth Boudreaux, have joined Hebert and Naquin.   Mayor-President Monique Boulet replaced Guillory.

For his part, Naquin remains resolute about not signing any future Pride proclamation, “While it is not my place to condemn, I choose to support my choices as an example as a father, grandfather, brother, member of Christ’s communion and a child of God with the gifts of my soul over which He has given to me responsibility. I want to be able to give it back to Him in a condition He would accept and to avoid the millstone.”

Pride Banners on Jefferson Street in 2023

DIVISIVENESS OF SEXUALISM

Merriam-Webster.com defines sexualism and sexualist, respectively, as, “an emphasis upon sex or sexuality as a major concern” and “one who explains phenomena by sexuality”.   Alexander and orthodox Christians see sexualism as the ideology behind Pride and the lens through which sexualists view life.  Cultural conflicts stemming from this ideology include biological males competing in women’s sports, accessing women’s bathrooms and lockers, being incarcerated in women’s prisons, “drag queen story times” for children in public libraries, “transition” surgeries performed on children, and lawsuits against Christians refusing to affirm sexualism’s marriage ideology.

Lafayette and Louisiana have not been spared from this divisiveness.  However, official action has mooted some of its impact.  In 2019, Drag Queen Story Time events for children at the Lafayette Public Library triggered push back from many in the Christian community.   This spurred successful efforts to enact library reforms which included restrictions on minors’ access to explicit and pornographic content. 

At the state level, Louisiana passed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in June of 2022 over then- Governor John Bel Edwards’ opposition.  The law prevents biological males from participating in girls’ high school or college sports to protect girls against the biological advantages held by males and from injuries sustained by girls forced to compete against males in other states.   Recently HB 608 passed on May 17, 2024, entitled the “Women’s Safety and Protection Act”, which defines “,” “male,” and “female” in state law and mandates protections for women from biological males who choose to use female facilities, such as restrooms, prisons, and dormitories.

While the City Council’s recent Pride proclamations and use of public resources seem at odds with conservative trends at the state level, Alexander sees the City’s actions as both unloving and divisive.   He, as with the Mouton statue controversy, again relies upon scripture, “The bible teaches that what some members of past City Councils have affirmed, God judges absent repentance and trusting in Jesus.”  

Pastor Alexander by the flagpole at Old City Hall

Specifically, Alexander notes, “God clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.’

Alexander explains, “This passage’s past tense ‘such were some of you’ teaches the good news that Jesus can deliver people from these sins.  I have seen this in my own church and in notable persons such as Rosaria Butterfield. Therefore, why in the world would Lafayette’s elected officials want to affirm someone’s sin which the law of God is firmly against? How unloving would it be to spend tax dollars proclaiming adultery, fornication, or racism to be good?” Alexander continues, “I would not promote sexualism for the same reasons I would not promote racism. Both are ultimately an attack on the image bearers of God. To affirm the sin is to hate the sinner.”  

For Alexander, Jesus offers an alternative to unloving unconditional affirmation, “Christians don’t get to make up our own perspective. We do what Jesus commands. He commands that we act lovingly toward our neighbors.  As such, I cannot affirm my neighbor breaking the law of God.  Instead, we affirm the dignity of all people as God’s image bearers.  This alone gives dignity and worth. To reduce the image of God to mere sexuality is to undermine God’s call to repent and identify by faith in Jesus.”

Alexander suggests what Christians cannot and can do when engaging sexualists, “Some have been insensitive in the use of crude or mocking language.  Being hateful is never acceptable.  Instead, we affirm their status as God’s image bearers and give our friends, family and neighbors who embrace sexualism love, compassion and, of course, our prayers.”

While Alexander reminds Christians of obedience in this area, he sees the growing cost in doing so, “Because Christians hold to what is true, we’re now getting slammed because we simply disagree. Whereas Christians answer to a higher authority who commands us to love our neighbors and enemies, the sexualists only have oppressor/oppressed categories.  Their visceral reaction when Christians refuse to affirm sexualism is because their world view is reduced to a mere power struggle.  Where Christians are to love those with whom we disagree, they see disagreement in zero-sum terms. Those who disagree must be cancelled or marginalized. Unfortunately, official proclamations can contribute to marginalizing local Christians and orthodox beliefs that have been around for thousands of years.”

Alexander, though, remains hopeful, “We all come into this world with brokenness. Trusting in Jesus’s life, sacrifice and resurrection can transform our human brokenness, as He begins to put us back together and make us into what God intended us to be.”

 

US flag in front of Old Lafayette City Hall

An American flag now flies where General Mouton’s statue once stood.  Its flagpole under which Alexander stood seems disproportionately tall for its surrounding buildings including the old City Hall.  In times past, the American flag unified communities across the board.   Ideologies driving political division have all but killed any unity the flag once inspired.  Whether Lafayette’s elected officials continue down this path of division remains to be seen.  For now, the flag flies elusively out of reach.   

Get Article Updates in your Inbox

Stay notified with new content!

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!