Current Page: Opinion | Thursday, January 15, 2015
Was Atlanta's Fire Chief Fired Over His Faith?

Was Atlanta's Fire Chief Fired Over His Faith?

Focus on the Family president Jim Daly recently spoke on same-sex marriage on NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday." | (Photo: Twitter/Jim Daly)

By now you've likely heard that Atlanta Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran, was recently fired from his position for publishing a book in which he affirmed a biblically orthodox understanding of human sexuality.

Who Told You That You Were Naked book coverThe 162-page book in question, "Who Told You That You Were Naked?" is a Bible study designed for Christian men.

According to press reports, Mr. Cochran gave a copy of the book to three individuals within his department, all of whom he knew to be Christian.

So, what's the problem?

The now former fire chief was initially suspended from his position late last year after a copy of the book was passed on to city officials. His critics were concerned with some of the language Mr. Cochran used to describe, among other sins, homosexuality.

What exactly did he write?

"Uncleanness — whatever is opposite of purity; including sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality, all other forms of sexual perversion."

"Naked men refuse to give in, so they pursue sexual fulfillment through multiple partners, with the opposite sex, the same sex and sex outside of marriage and many other vile, vulgar and inappropriate ways which defile their body-temple and dishonor God."

Mr. Cochran's definitions are, of course, mirroring the words of the Apostle Paul. Direct? Yes. Offensive? Well, Christianity, by its exclusiveness tenets, has always been offensive to many. Writing to the Church at Corinth (6:9-11), Paul wrote:

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, not thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God."

In firing the chief, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed insists the dismissal has nothing to do with Mr. Cochran's faith, but instead a lack of judgment and failing to obtain permission for publishing the book.

There is disagreement about whether he obtained permission to write the study, but many of Mr. Cochran's supporters are understandably dubious at the mayor's claim the firing had nothing to do with his Christian faith.

After all, what the Southern Baptist deacon wrote was all about his faith – and his freedom to express it.

Our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom have picked up his case and will be representing him as the litigation winds its ways through the courts in the coming weeks and months.

I don't believe any fair-minded Christian would disagree with the need to tactfully and diplomatically communicate God's truth with love and respect, especially when it comes to human sexuality.

But the facts in this case don't suggest a man at war with homosexuals.

Instead, I believe they reflect a passionate man of faith at war with sin.

In fact, only two sentences of this entire book deal with homosexuality. But for even addressing what our faith professes, Mr. Cochran has been criticized, vilified and fired.

Welcome to 2015.

We are, indeed, living in a new era, where the mores and cultural norms are quickly shifting beneath our feet. When a person is labeled "anti-gay" for simply believing what our faith teaches, we know we've entered new territory.

It would be easy to despair and lash out at those with whom we disagree.

Instead, we're called to pray, to engage and having done all that we can do, to stand firm (Eph. 6:13).

I hope you'll join me in praying for our brother-in-Christ, Kelvin Cochran, and for his family. You and I know the Lord will ultimately have His way, and that through this trial, Kelvin and his beliefs may be mocked, but God will be glorified.

Sometimes I think that's why He allows us to trudge through some deep waters. Whether it's witnessing to a neighbor or being labeled as "anti-gay" for believing that God's definition of marriage is between one man and one woman.

Please also join me in praying for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as he and the city continue to try and navigate the growing tension between protecting religious freedom and so-called sexual equality.

Ironically, when Chief Cochran was first suspended, the major said the following:

"I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the Administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all of her citizens – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race and religious beliefs."

Did you catch that? The mayor is calling for a city that respects a person's religious beliefs, unless it would seem those beliefs fail to comport to cultural norms.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its National Radio Hall of Fame-honored daily broadcast, heard by more than 2.9 million listeners a week on more than 1,000 radio stations across the U.S. Follow Jim Daly on Twitter @DalyfocusFollow Jim Daly on FacebookFollow Jim Daly's blog at DalyFocus