Thursday, March 29, 2007

god warriors: keepin' it sharp

bilerico's jen jorczak was reading yesterday's star story about tuesday's pro-SJR-7 rally when she noticed a familiar face. the scowling girl waving the flag in the star photo looked an awful lot like the scowling girl that nuvo photographed at a different rally back in 2004.

like jen, i suspected that this was no coincidence, and something more was going on here. i could be way off base, but i suspect that 17-year-old girls don't just spontaneously decide to become rabid religious protesters. they're groomed to be that way. so i set out to do some googling.

the star photo caption lists the girl as la'share sharp (now 20) of crawfordsville, so i plugged that into google and immediately found this courier-journal article, which features yet another photo of the girl... also from tuesday's rally. it's not surprising that multiple photographers would focus on this girl, as she clearly tries to draw attention to herself: as bil points out, in the nuvo photograph she's actually trying to block a pro-gay marriage protestor from view.

the courier-journal also includes a quote from a 17-year-old crawfordsville kid named "praise sharp", a student at "day star christian academy", who i suspected was snarling girl's sister. this gave me some more search terms to try out, and i discovered that praise, "la shar", and another sharp girl won 2nd prize for their "novelty group" at the 2005 youth talents contest at the state fair. more on that in a minute.

at that point i had to step away from the computer for awhile, but as i had not gotten to the bottom of the story, i eventually came back for more googling. like i said on bilerico, "i'm not really interested in La'Shar (i've come to the conclusion this is the proper spelling) or her sisters. they're just confused kids." it was apparent that someone had groomed la'shar to be a god warrior, and presumably went to all these protests with her, and i wanted to know who it was.

i found a 2002 journal-review article about the girl, but i wasn't about to pay $5 to access it. (later i realized i could read it here.) then i struck pay dirt: a profile on la'shar:

Sharp is the daughter of Larry and Sharon Sharp. She is a freshman at Indiana Bible College, studying theology and international studies. She plans on moving to a secular university eventually where she will major in politics and criminal justice. After obtaining a bachelor degree, Sharp plans on attending law school. She was valedictorian at Daystar Christian Academy in May of 2005.

now we're getting somewhere. first, the name: larry + sharon = la'shar. (which i suspect is pronounced "la cher", which would explain the spelling confusion).

second, who's larry sharp? he's the pastor of the "united pentecostals" in crawfordsville. and who's sharon sharp? she's "teacher at the church's private Christian school Day Star Academy". note that it says "teacher", not "a teacher", suggesting that sharon is the only teacher at the school. so perhaps it's not surprising that la'shar was valedictorian there. (a photo of larry & sharon is available by going here and either selecting "sharp" for pastor or "crawfordsville" for city.)

ironically, here is the lead sentence of the journal-review article where i learned all this:

Community members seeking an all-inclusive church should make their way to United Pentecostals at the corner of Walnut and Pike streets.

right... they're so "all-inclusive" that they regularly drive down to indy to vociferously protest against gay marriage.

so the church and school are part of the united pentecostal church international (as is indiana bible college). according to wikipedia, the UPCI believes that not only do people need to be "born again" to achieve salvation, they must speak in tongues as well. yes, speaking in tongues is not optional (sez wikipedia). they also have some strict rules regarding dress and behavior:

The UPCI holds that salvation is accomplished by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works (Titus 3:5). The UPCI teaches a code of conduct based upon what it believes to be scriptural teaching, although detractors allege that many of these beliefs are mandated by church officials. The UPCI professes holiness standards as a privilege and that obedience to those standards is for the benefit of the individual. This includes beliefs that women should not cut their hair and should wear dresses or skirts, not pants, according to a scriptural mandate to "Not wear that which pertaineth to a man" (Deuteronomy 22:5) and "adorn [yourself] in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety" (1 Timothy 2:8-10). Men and women alike are discouraged from wearing jewelry, scripturally "gold, or pearls, or costly array" (1 Timothy 2:8-10).

One contested holiness viewpoint in the UPCI involves ownership of a television set. Licensed UPCI ministers are not allowed to have televisions in their homes. This view has been passed down to the local congregations through the ministers, who frown on their membership possessing televisions. In the same vein, many ministers do not want their constituency attending movies or going to movie theaters. These teachings vary from church to church.

Here are some quotations taken from the UPCI minsters manual, 1995 revision:

"We wholeheartedly disapprove of our people indulging in any activities which are not conducive to good Christianity and Godly living, such as theaters, dances, mixed bathing, women cutting their hair, make-up, any apparel that immodestly exposes the body, all worldly sports and amusements, and unwholesome radio programs and music. Furthermore, because of the display of all these evils on television, we disapprove of any of our people having television sets in their homes. We admonish all of our people to refrain from any of these practices in the interest of spiritual progress and the soon coming of the Lord for His church."[3]

"We disapprove of school students attending shows, dances, dancing classes, theatres, engaging in school activities against their religious scruples, and wearing gymnasium clothes which immodestly expose the body. We disapprove of school students being forced to take coeducational classes which involve boys and girls being mixed together in swimming, calisthenics, baseball, and other mixed athletics while clothed in ungodly attire which immodestly exposes the body. We disapprove of school students being forced to take any classes in which, under the guise of health classes, sex education is taught coeducationally or films or lectures are given that promote amoral or unnatural behavior. We disapprove of school students being forced to be taught by or listen to those who promote or advocate sexual activity of any kind other than that within the bonds of the marriage relationship of husband and wife."[4]

so some ministers are more liberal than others regarding whether worshippers are allowed to own televisions, go to movies, and so forth. one suspects that rev. sharp might be liberal on this issue, considering that there's a tv in the school, and he allows his daughters to perform in a "novelty group", whatever the heck that is. but either way, he doesn't have a tv in his home. what kind of life do his children live, with their father as their pastor, their mother as their teacher, and little secular entertainment? these kids have never experienced the outside world. the UPCI is all they've ever known. no wonder they protest so ferociously: the outside world, with its secular mass media and pants-wearing lesbians, must be terrifying.

i can't find much else on larry or sharon (the journal review article is about the school and a food bank they also run). but you can bet your bottom dollar that one or both of them (probably both) have been driving the protest train, dragging their daughters with them to protests but staying in the background, while they groom kids like la'shar to take up the front line.

update: fixed the link to the photo of larry & sharon. you need to go to the indiana UPCI website and either select "sharp" for pastor or select "crawfordsville" for city.


Doug said...

That was a fine piece of investigating. Nicely done, sir.

Bil Browning said...

Jen's a darn good blogger for a new contributor, isn't she? And with your follow up, this is investigative journalism.

Elizabeth said...

umm hello! when those bible quotes they use were written there were no pants! everyone wore tunics and robes (and certainly no TV, movies etc).
And isn't there stuff about dancing in celebration (no I don't mean exodus and the golden pig or whatever it was).
just have to love the stupidity...makes me laugh

virago said...

i think the positive bible verse on dancing -- or the one i know about, anyway -- is in psalms (it's quoted in footloose).

a very interesting point was raised in my history of philanthropy class: that the strong injunction against homosexuality in the old testament was really a condemnation of pagan (i.e., non-jewish) religious practices. if the caananites and others in the area hadn't happened to have "sacred prostitutes" and that kind of thing, nothing might ever have been written about it in the torah... wouldn't that have been nice?

Marla R. Stevens said...

My nephews-in-law went to one of these Hoosier Pentacostal cubicles with self-taught lessons "schools". The eldest was dyslexic and illiterate but was not diagnosed and passed all his classes with good grades. The middle child, the brightest of the three, got all As but had socialization problems. The youngest was functionally illiterate but also passed all his subjects with good grades.

The eldest and youngest failed repeatedly when transferred to public school. Both had run-ins with the law. The eldest eventually graduated but only with repeated social promotions. He remains functionally illiterate. The youngest dropped out and has never gotten even a GED. The middle child did graduate on schedule but struggled for years before finding a niche. Like his younger brother, he has drug problems. The younger brother's alcoholism and drug use are severe.

La'Shar is now attending a non-accredited bible college which most reputable schools will not accept transfer credits from. I feel sorry for her. Her upbringing did not equip her with what it will take to live successfully in a modern world. Even healthy closed societies like the Amish have a period of time for their young to experience the secular world so that they may knowledgeably choose between worlds.

La'Shar has been denied the things that make for such free choice. It is tantamount to child abuse.

Anonymous said...

I love the Sharp Children! They are Smart and well educated 4.0 students!

Anonymous said...

umm thats not a tv..its only used with a vcr and I'm sorry you feel that way about the Sharp girls. They are wonderful talented girls who Love God and want to make a difference in their world

stAllio! said...

umm you can't use a vcr without a tv.

your friendly spiderman said...

I am not sure exactly what this piece is about...if its the following of the Sharp family (specifically the two girls) then I say 'creepy'. If its about parents indoctrinating children, then I say show me a parent that has not. Most kids will look up to parents at one point or another in their life, thus the parent influences or indoctrinates the child, no?

Anonymous said...

33Unfortunately it is people such as his family that claim to be christians and follow the bible word for word..but forget to follow JESUS! They truly give Christians a bad reputation.Jesus came to love and forgive and teach us how to live.The only times he was truly angry was when dealing with hypocrites!But even those He came to forgive,love,and gave his life for. now critizing,condemning,pushing,and shoving;a true example of a christian?I have known this family for a while,,I feel sorry for not only the girls.but the whole family!They put on a false front,watch TV on the computer(nothing wrong with it)and are definitely not in the business to glorify God..but continously brag to glorify themselves!!I used to attend their church..but quickly learned that their Hearts were not for Jesus..but for themselves. Yes they claim to be Pentecostal and obey all the rules in public..But God knows what they do behind close doors.This is a perfect example of not practicing what U preach. It's really sad how they teach their children to physically push people during these rallies..than brag on them for it.they are prejudice against anyone..I mean "ANYONE' WHO IS DIFFERENT from them..They do have talent..But need to use it for the right reasons!