Morality should shape cultural ethics, not the other way around

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TOM LAMPRECHT: New story, Harry, Fox News, the Florida House passed a school safety bill this past Wednesday that includes new restrictions on rifle sales and a program to arm some teachers, sending the measure to the governor for his signature. Governor Rick Scott, at the time this bill passed, declined to say whether he would sign the legislation.   

DR. REEDER: It’s interesting to watch us grapple with the reality of evil in this world and, yet, we have a secular life world and life view that is being adopted by our nation, in general — our culture, in particular. And in that secular world and life view, you leave no room for the role of the spiritual, for the role of the moral climate. You ultimately lose ethics except for what the culture approves.


When you have a God-centered world and life view, then you work off a proper understanding of God’s revelation as to what is right and what is wrong. In other words, the Creator has given us creation laws and revealed laws and those laws then become our ethical absolutes and the most obvious is the Ten Commandments: “You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not steal.” Those become ethical absolutes in which you attempt to moralize a culture — that is, the morality of the culture is the reflection of the ethical absolutes.

Let me again put it this way: ethics is the behavioral study of “ought-ness.” Morality is the behavioral study of “is-ness.” Morality is what is the culture believing and doing. How is it framing itself in terms of its values? Ethics is a statement of how the culture ought to frame itself and it doesn’t say to the culture, “What are you doing?” It says to the culture, “This is what you ought to be doing.”

You can’t have ethics without apodictic law — that is, transcendent law, revealed law — that speaks from the Creator to the creation, “This is what you ought to do. This is ought-ness.” What happens when you move from a culture that says, “We’re under God. God’s laws are to frame our morality and our virtues” — what happens when you move from that sacred view of culture informed by ethical absolutes to a secular view of culture which says, “There is no God to speak to us. Oh, you can privately believe in a God in your home or your house or in your heart, but it doesn’t speak to public policy”?


Well, what happens then is you look at the morality of a nation, you then make your ethical statements from morality. In other words, you look at what people are doing and then you start talking about what they ought to do in light of what they are doing. And so, you look from morality to develop ethics instead of ethics to develop morality.

Let me give you a prime example: the Word of God says you shall not commit adultery so, in all of the framing institutions of society we used to teach our children and our young people, we would teach them that you ought to save sex for marriage. That’s what you ought to do. And then we attempted to speak to the culture, knowing that not everyone would do that, but yet you try to develop the virtue of the culture from “Do not commit adultery.” Now, we move from sacred sex in the context of marriage as defined by God to the morality of “safe sex.”


Well, the same thing happens in terms of evil like this: evil breaks out and people murder and then, when that happens, we automatically ask, “Why did this happen?” and we then create a new morality which is, “Oh, the guy used a gun so we’ll outlaw guns and that will keep these things from happening.”

Let me be abundantly clear. Do I believe there needs to be regulations on instruments of death? Absolutely, and I think there ought to be age limits, I think there ought to be background checks. Will that solve this problem? Answer: no. If people want to bring catastrophes of violence and death, they can find instruments, whether it’s Timothy McVeigh using fertilizer or whether it’s somebody who uses an automobile or whether it’s someone who uses a gun.

Our culture needs to understand you need to go at the heart of the matter and the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. That’s where our issue is.

Why is our culture producing such, particularly, young men who are in such despair over their identity that they can take, perhaps, what they’ve done in the privacy of a game room with a video and bring it into reality, eradicating nameless people by violent acts on their computer now to eradicating nameless people in a school in order to express their angst and seek their identity in their moment of fame?

What is it in our culture that would draw out such acts that would have been unthinkable? What is it that is eradicating the restraints on evil in the culture?


TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, let me take you to the other side of that coin because, while you have the Nicholas Cruzes of the world that we look and say, “Where have our morals gone?” at the same time, you have a couple of individuals coming out of this horrific story that truly were heroes. Aaron Feis, the football coach who literally laid down his life to protect students. A young 15-year-old, Peter Wang, who lost his life; he was a member of the high school’s ROTC program. He was last seen wearing his gray uniform with black stripes as he helped open a door so other people could escape.

DR. REEDER: There were others, as well, and that is so inspiring and so encouraging to see such heroism that was displayed: selflessness, sacrificial acts of valor and courage on behalf of other people. Here’s someone who is taking people’s lives and here are people who laid down their life in order for others to live.


Of course, we’re immediately reminded of the virtue of the Word of God that is promoted, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And, in some of these cases, these people laid down their lives, perhaps, for people that weren’t necessarily their friends — they didn’t even know them, but they knew these people were made in the image of God and, therefore, their life was sacred and they were willing to will down their lives that others might live.

When we bring in the transcendent majesty of God into a culture, that then lifts people’s eyes up and even restrains those who would engage in such horrific acts. But, when you take a culture and you just teach people, “You are an accidental mutation of germs. There’s nothing meaningful about you. You have no divine purpose of existence that God made you in His image and for His glory,” then you find the despair that begins to work into a culture and the culture in a death spiral of a death culture.

Yet, at the same time, praise the Lord for such stories as the one that you gave. My goodness, that young man in his ROTC uniform, you can almost see him standing bravely at the door, holding it open with the gunfire coming so that others could escape and then his life is lost while others saved. And then this football coach who literally, we are told, flung his body in front of the bullets as kids were trying to escape and, thereby, saving their life.

Jesus, He laid down His life to save those who were at enmity against them. Just think: when I needed Him and did not want Him but was in rebellion against Him, this Jesus Who did not need me, wanted me and laid down His life for me so that I can be saved by the forgiveness of sins when He went to the cross. That coach gave a glorious of what Christ did on the cosmic scale of saving all of His people from all of their sins.

And, when you come to Him, now you’ve got a reason to live — not a reason to kill people, but a reason to live. Then life begins to pervade a culture instead of death.


TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, on tomorrow’s edition of Today in Perspective, I want to go to Nashville, Tennessee where Nashville mayor, Megan Barry, recently resigned. She admitted to having an affair sometime back with her head of security, but she didn’t resign until finances came into the picture.

DR. REEDER: In other words, “Follow the Money” became the reality of whether corruption was going to be addressed in the governing offices of the city of Nashville and what was the sin of corruption that could remove you and what wasn’t a sin of corruption that would not remove you? It’s interesting. Let’s take a look at that story tomorrow.

(Image: Pixabay)

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.


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11 hours ago

Longtime journalist, Tuscaloosa native and Pulitzer Prize winner Les Payne dies

Longtime New York journalist and Tuscaloosa native Les Payne has died at age 76.

Payne’s family confirmed his death to Newsday, where he worked for nearly four decades, rising through the ranks from reporter to associate managing editor. The newspaper reports Tuesday that Payne died unexpectedly Monday night at his home in Harlem.


Newsday Editor Deborah Henley says Payne established a standard of journalistic excellence that has been “a beacon for all who have come after him.”

Payne oversaw foreign and national coverage, was an editor of New York Newsday and wrote a column. He was part of a Newsday reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for a series titled “The Heroin Trail.”

He also was a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

(Image: Darlene Lewis/Vimeo)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

11 hours ago

Peggy Sutton is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

Peggy Sutton did not start out wanting to create a powerhouse food business. She just wanted to eat like her grandparents did.

Sutton, a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, planted grains at her home in Fitzpatrick about 15 years ago and waited for them to sprout. Before the Industrial Revolution, most people made flour from spouted grains, not from crops harvested with a combine.

Sutton soaked the grains in mason jars in 2005, dried them and then ground them into flour with a small mill in her home.

“I was blown away by the taste,” she told in 2015. “It was so good, and I was hooked. And to me, that’s actually the most important thing.”


The real benefit, the secret to Sutton’s commercial success, were the health features. She told that flour from sprouted grains preserves vitamins and minerals that are eliminated in modern farming. Those nutrients produce naturally fortified flour.

At first, Sutton tried to spread the gospel of sprouted grains, but friends and relatives asked Sutton if she could just make the grains for them. She did, and To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. was born, according to the company’s website. More than a decade later, Sutton’s idea has grown into a business that produces more than 3.6 million organic whole-grain sprouted flour a year and is the largest supplier of organic sprouted flours in the world.

The production moved from her home kitchen to a commercial kitchen inside a barn in 2006 and four years later moved up to a 7,200-square-foot facility. The company added a second facility in 2013 and expanded again in 2015. To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. employs more than 30 people and ships grains, flours, legumes, seeds, nuts and other snacks to 14 different countries.

Sutton touts the not-too-subtle differences between her flour and the products on sale at the local supermarket.

“It’s the difference between eating a tomato and a potato,” she told Alabama Power’s Alabama NewsCenter last year. “Sprouted flour tastes better, is easier to digest, has more enzymes and is just more nutritious than regular flour.”

Sutton did not just luck into the business. She had spent three decades working in marketing and management positions in Montgomery, Atlanta and Columbus, Georgia. She returned home to Fitzpatrick, a rural community south of Montgomery, to take a job as director of the Alabama Hospice Organization.

Then, the flour business started to take off. Orders grew so fast that she decided to stop making baked goods and concentrate full time on producing flours. It was a call from Whole Foods that kicked the business to a different level. The chain grocery store wanted 10,000 pounds.

“At that time, we were only making about 1,000 pounds a week, but I knew we could do it,” she told Alabama NewsCenter. “Unfortunately, we live at the end of a dirt road, and the trucks couldn’t get in to pick up all that flour. So we had to expand.”

Sutton’s business even has landed her picture on the back of Kashi cereal boxes. She told This is Alabama last year that Kellogg’s, which makes the organic cereal, contacted her in 2014 and decided to use her image after hearing her company’s homegrown story and coming away impressed with the quality of the grain.

“I told my husband, it’s not the front of the Wheaties box, but I’m not complaining!” Sutton told the website.

Sutton will be honored with Gov. Kay Ivey in an awards event March 29 in Birmingham. The Yellowhammer Women of Impact event will honor 20 women making an impact in Alabama and will benefit Big Oak Ranch. Details and registration may be found here.

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

BCA endorsement is a real head-scratcher

Campaign season is officially upon us.  Yard signs are popping up at every street corner and on trees along our roadways, the monthly FCPA reports showing candidate fundraising activity are on full display and endorsements are being rolled out by groups across the state.  While there has been an age old debate about the true value of endorsements, especially from elected officials, there is no question that an endorsement from the likes of ALFA, the Business Council of Alabama, the Realtors Association, just to name a few, can prove to be a major shot in the arm for a candidate seeking statewide office in Alabama.


Aside from the very large campaign checks they can dole out at a moment’s notice, these groups have a strong network of very politically active members across the state who ban together to turnout the vote for candidates who align with their interests.  The endorsements, on many levels, can provide a little-known candidate instant “street cred” and very quickly propel their candidacy to new heights.  So, it is no mystery as to why potential candidates can spend more than a year ahead of an election cycle traveling to local ALFA meetings and visiting with key business leaders to lay the groundwork for just the opportunity to win a coveted endorsement.  Quite simply, being shunned by one of these groups may not break one’s campaign but receiving their blessing can certainly make one’s campaign.

The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, or ACJRC to the Montgomery insiders, was established in the 1990s by a wide range of business associations banding together to recruit and finance conservative judicial candidates to put an end to the “tort hell” environment created over the years by the trial lawyers that had embedded itself inside of the Alabama Court System.  The effort, conducted by none other than famed political consultant Karl Rove, was wildly successful and, over time, turned the state’s court system from one of the least business-friendly in the country into one of the most.  This feat was not easy and the ACJRC continues to work to build a wall around the court system to protect it from anti-business forces.

So, when the Business Council of Alabama made the decision to endorse Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart in the race for Supreme Court, to say the other business associations in Montgomery were stunned would be an understatement.  It could be likened to Tua Tagovailoa shedding his Alabama jersey in the National Championship game, walking to the Georgia sideline and lining up at quarterback for them on the next series.  Those who had worked so hard to preserve the coalition were angered because they fully understand the aforementioned benefits that come with a major endorsement.

According to the ACJRC, one should look no further than a case involving South Alabama Brick to understand that Stewart’s judicial record is far from business-friendly.  Her ruling, eventually overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court, would have required business and property owners to warn independent contractors along with their employees of any potential hazards, no matter how large or small, they could encounter while on the job site even if the contractor had more expertise regarding the issue.  Furthermore, the burden of making sure the contractor’s employees were operating in a safe manner would have been unduly placed on the business owner regardless of whether or not the contractor had implemented his or her own operational safety standards.

However, the specifics of this particular endorsement aside, the more important issue may be the fracturing of the coalition on this race and the Business Council’s unwillingness to explain the endorsement to us and others. The civil justice arm of the business community is now pitted against what used to be its single strongest member. These groups have held the line and worked arm in arm for years. The fact that the Business Council would change jerseys on this one is truly a headscratcher.

The Yellowhammer Multimedia Executive Board is comprised of the owners of the company.

(Image — Yellowhammer News Graphic)

12 hours ago

Auburn takes part in urban tree canopy study

Auburn will take part in an urban tree canopy study.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports the city of Auburn and the Green Infrastructure Center entered an agreement to evaluate the canopy, which is layered with leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above. The study looks to improve the planning of any future reforestation efforts.


Recommendations for tree removal will focus on elimination of exotic invasive trees to reduce over-competition, increase diversity and increase forest health.

The Green Infrastructure Center is a non-profit organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia. The organization will use satellite imagery to map the land cover of Auburn.

“The study will also help create healthier communities by realizing the many benefits that trees provide other than just clean air and shade,” said Karen Firehock, executive director of Green Infrastructure Center.

Firehock said Auburn is one of 11 cities chosen for the study. Other cities include Charleston, South Carolina, Jacksonville, Florida, Norcross, Georgia, and Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Alabama Forestry Commission is administering a grant to fund the project.

“We’ve been trying to work with the Alabama Forestry Commission for the last couple of years on a variety of projects focusing on green infrastructure,” said Daniel Ballard, watershed division manager for the city of Auburn’s water resource management team. “Trees are the original green infrastructure. They have a few different programs that they manage and one of these being this federal grant that they administer that focuses on urban forests for the specific purpose of improving storm water management.”

Ballard said Auburn was a good fit, because of the city’s continuous growth. He said the city’s impaired watersheds, which are water quality areas of concern, will be part of the study and are always a priority for the city.

“There are areas within the Parkerson Mill Creek watershed, the Saugahatchee Creek watershed, or the Moores Mill Creek watershed that are all priorities for our department,” he said.

Ballard said Auburn was already pursuing a green infrastructure master plan, which will integrate parks and natural areas, greenways, bike paths, sidewalks and habitat corridors.

“This project filled in a gap in that master planning process,” Ballard said. “Although we’re not evaluating urban tree canopy in our green infrastructure master plan, we are in that process looking holistically at the way we manage storm water and not just trees.”

(Image: Auburn University)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

13 hours ago

Alabama Sheriff’s Association director: Jail food allowance reform ‘should have been done 50 years ago’

Reforming what county sheriffs do with unspent jail food allowances should have been accomplished a long time ago, Robert Timmons, Executive Director of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association, told Yellowhammer News on Tuesday.

“It should have been done 50 years ago,” Timmons said. “It’s an antiquated law.”


Timmons pointed to a 2009 article in the Montgomery Advertiser, which reported on some of the controversy around the jail food allowance issue. He went back even further to demonstrate how long this conversation has been going on, pointing to a special report published in 1919 about how the Jefferson County Sheriff was managing such allowances.

Several counties have taken the initiative, not waiting for the legislature to make broad and binding reforms.

Randolph County requires the sheriff to deposit unspent fund into a surplus account. In Russell County, the sheriff is still responsible for feeding prisoners but the county buys the groceries and any excess money goes into the general surplus fund.

Until change comes to all counties, though, Timmons defends the sheriff’s prerogative to keep unspent allowances because it is allowed by law.

“Everything that the Alabama sheriff does has to be administered by an act of legislature. He cannot receive money, he cannot spend money, he cannot create policies outside of his procedure manual.”

As for the quality of inmate food, Timmons challenged the charge that inmates aren’t well-fed.

“Everybody uses day old bread,” he said. “You probably have day old bread at your house right now. They’re eating better than they do on the outside. Most of the inmates will tell you that.”

(Image: National Sheriff’s Association/Facebook)