Thursday, July 28, 2011
Honoring God in All Ways, Even Nationally
I was just reading about another UN initiative attempting to overturn traditional sexual values:
• Campaigners at the United Nations are seeking more permissive laws and policies towards homosexuality, drug use, explicit sexual education, contraception, and prostitution on all levels of world government, framed as advocacy for youth’s sexual and reproductive health and “rights”…the UN Population Fund, issued a statement expressing a vision of “a world where Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are fully realized and where youth can experience and celebrate their sexuality.”
• Another major “sexual rights” proponent is Planned Parenthood. The international abortion and contraceptive juggernaut published a “sexual rights” guide ahead of the conference that denounced “widespread denial of young people’s sexuality”…“It is important for all young people around the world to be able to explore, experience and express their sexualities in healthy, positive, pleasurable and safe ways,” it states, going on to list abortion-on-demand as essential to “youth-friendly” health services.
Again, I found myself struggling with the question, “As a Christian, what must I do?” Interestingly, Christians come up with very different answers. One noted Christian had written:
• [Political engagement] is culturally impotent in dealing with the depraved hearts, minds and souls of a pagan world. Satan is pleased when any discourse designed for Christ and His gospel is turned into a political rally to pacify unsaved people in their sin while at the same time creating a superficial morality that is not based upon the salvific work of Christ alone! The tragic result is unredeemed people are left to feel comfortable and safe in a ‘Christian morality’—yet they are still lost, still dead in their sins.
I don’t think that there is any solid Biblical basis to argue against the primacy of salvation. However, should our Biblical preoccupation with the promotion of the Gospel preclude all other responsibilities? It seems that the Gospel imposes upon us holistic responsibilities for the welfare of all people:
• Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts… (Amos 5:14-15)
However, Michael Spencer attempts to argue that these responsibilities will detract from our number one emphasis:
• Evangelicals have linked their beliefs with political conservatism and the culture war, which non-Christian leaders perceive as bad for society…We have done so at the detriment of our faith. Christians have been so wrapped up in the political process and especially over the last couple of years…that we have ignored our number one mission, which is to tell the world about a loving and merciful God.
Spencer’s argument is not only with our failure to give enough attention to “our number one mission,” it’s also with the conservative causes we’ve chosen to undertake. However, should we not speak out against the murder of the unborn or against the insipient promotion of destructive sexual permissiveness? Of course, there are many other social justice issues worth championing. There’s poverty. However, we’ve seen how governmental entitlement programs have exacerbated the problem, rather than solving it. Therefore, for the most part, the church has tried to address this problem on the local front with homeless shelters, soup kitchens and pantries. Taking this low-key approach has avoided the social conflict that has arisen over the national debate on abortion.
There’s also the challenge of our failing schools. Once again, the churches haven’t been impressed with the political solutions which generally involve more testing and more money. Christians tend to perceive that this is merely a matter of throwing good money on top of bad. There are deeply entrenched problems in the system – philosophical, disciplinary, and behavioral – that additional money might simply enable. Instead, the church has opted to provide supplemental literacy programs and after-school programs.
Although Christians have also provided abortion-alternative clinics, most Christians realize that this great evil must also be challenged on the national level. There is no doubt that our causes have made us very unpopular with vast segments of our educated elite – so unpopular that we are utterly amazed by the things they say about us. For instance, Robin Meyers, in Why the Religious Right is Wrong, writes,
• Religious fanatics who run the country…are close to realizing their vision of a heaven on earth: an American theocracy.
Mel White, in Religion Gone Bad, writes
• We must resist before fundamentalists do what they have promised and turn the world’s oldest democracy into a theocracy ruled entirely by “righteous men.”
Although we realize that these charges are totally unjustified, many Christians have been deeply troubled by them and the obvious contempt that they reflect, even to the point of abandoning the “culture wars.” Understandably, they feel that we are turning the world against us, even at the expense of the penetration of the Gospel. They argue that we have to retreat and strengthen the things that remain, the basics – personal piety, Bible teaching, and love within the body of Christ.
Although I’m in sympathy with this perspective, I think that we can’t ignore the more global out-workings and requirements of the Gospel. Here’s my reasoning:
THE BIBLICAL CASE:
1. GOD REQUIRES OBEDIENT TO HIM ABOVE ALL ELSE: But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19-20)
2. IT IS WRONG TO WITHHOLD DOING GOOD, PERHAPS EVEN ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL: Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
3. WE ARE REQUIRED TO SPEAK UP: Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephes. 5:11; Ezekiel 33:6)
4. THIS INCLUDES DOING JUSTICE: …Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)
5. WE SHOULD NOT BE DETERRED SIMPLY BECAUSE THE WORLD WILL HATE US. THE WORLD WILL HATE US ANYWAY: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)
EVEN THOUGH THE POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT CAN ONLY TAKE US SO FAR, LEGISLATION CAN STILL BE MEANINGFUL:
Martin Luther King had wisely observed,
• It may be true that a law can’t make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
This observation demonstrates that we can and do legislate morality. I think of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 abolishing much of the slavery within the USA. I think of the 30 year campaign waged by William Wilberforce and his Christian associates against slavery, which finally resulted in legislation to ban all slavery from the British Empire.
WHEN WE FAIL TO UNDERTAKE PRESSING MORAL ISSUES, WE BRING DISREPUTE UPON THE CHURCH:
One atheistic journal wrote,
• European Christianity failed to prevent the mass slaughter between the faithful in the Great War and actually contributed to World War II, insofar as conservative churches supported fascism. The failure of the churches to provide sound moral guidance may help to explain the [European] Continent’s postwar lack of enthusiasm of religion. (“The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved,” Free Inquiry, Jan. 2009, 29)
This is an extreme statement. Although many conservative churches lost their Biblical bearing and supported the status quo – the German State – some didn’t. However, this quotation illustrates an important point. Although the world may damn us for our political involvement, they will also damn us for our lack of political involvement, and sometimes for good reason. The southern church failed to challenge the status quo of segregation and often even upheld it. Understandably, this generation accuses them for this failure. But perhaps, the next generation will accuse us for our failure to address the social ills of this day more strenuously!
WE NO LONGER HAVE A CHOICE:
Western Civilization is becoming less tolerant of our freedoms of religion and of speech. They now perceive that our freedoms are interfering with their freedoms. Here are a few examples:
1. A Christian Pharmacist is required to sell the Day-After pill,
2. Pastors required to keep silent regarding homosexuality (Canada)
3. The New Hate Crimes bill also proscribes any speech that might possibly contribute to a hate crime.
4. Christians fired for speaking off the job about their faith.
5. Christians required to allow their facilities to be used for purposes they regard as unethical (Ocean Grove)
6. Discrimination against school pro-life groups and Christian groups (Hastings Law)
7. Suit against Bible publisher because of “homophobic” passages.
8. On-line dating service was required against their faith to also accommodate LGBTs match-ups (E Harmony)
There is now also talk against allowing churches to religiously discriminate in hiring. This also includes who we call as pastors and teachers! It seems that we will not be able to avoid legal conflict, not if we want to preserve our faith and that of our children. Instead, I think that we have to pay careful attention to the words of Jude:
• Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3-4)
This is no reason to restrict this counsel to the local level. Justin Martyr, regarded by some as the first Christian apologist, didn’t. He addressed his defense of Christianity to,
• To the Emperor Titus Ælius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar, and to his son Verissimus the Philosopher, and to Lucius the Philosopher, the natural son of Caesar, and the adopted son of Pius, a lover of learning, and to the sacred Senate, with the whole People of the Romans, I, Justin…present this address and petition in behalf of those of all nations who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself being one of them.
We too must “contend earnestly for the faith.” Those who despise us will not desist. They are even in our churches, bringing lawsuits against us, alleging discrimination. I ask myself if there is any way to avoid the conflict and remain faithful to God. I don’t see how.