Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Culture Wars: Is Silence an Option?

In light of the growing disdain for the evangelical, Bible-believing church, even among Evangelical youth, is it wise to continue the “culture wars” and to publicly proclaim our disdained opinions?  Many think not!

Blogger Timothy Dalrymple commented on a billboard sign purchased by the MissionGathering Christian Church in San Diego, a Bible-oriented “emerging church,” evidently wanting to distance itself from the evangelical church:

  • “MissionGathering Christian Church IS SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of THOSE WHO DENIED RIGHTS AND EQUALITY TO SO MANY IN THE NAME OF GOD.”  
Dalrymple astutely observed:

  • They’re perpetuating the worst images of conservative Christians who support traditional marriage.  (2) They’re holding themselves our as a better alternative.  They are the good Christians, the more Christ-like Christians, who are not judgmental — even as they’re judging sixty percent of North Carolinians, a majority of Californians, over half of Christians in the United States and the great majority of Christians around the world.  In other words, (3) they’re saying “our hearts are with you” in that “we feel the same anger and scorn in our hearts as you do.”
However, even if Dalrymple is right, the problem remains – the evangelical church is alienating much of society and in the process is loosing the vast majority of its youth, according to recent surveys. Should we therefore keep a low political profile in hope that the prevailing culture might warm up to us once again?

Blogger Rachel Held Evans is convinced that we should:

  • We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.
  • So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it? Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church? Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?...And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?
Held asks, “Is it worth it?” Instead, I think that we need to rephrase the question: “How do we honor God in our social engagement?” Certainly, we can’t support issues that He doesn’t support, but can we detach ourselves and remain respectfully silent? Can we fulfill our calling to be the “light of the world” with only our deeds? I don’t find any warrant for this in Scripture. Instead, we have been entrusted with the duty to also verbally defend the faith:

  • I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 3)
  • But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
Our faith is being vilified within almost every institution of the Western world. In a recent release, our President equated the attempts to resist gay marriage with “prejudice.” Prior to this, Hillary Clinton likened efforts to resist extending full “human rights” to LGBTs to religious discrimination.

Even those calling themselves “Christian” denigrate the Biblical faith, leaving the impression that Christians – and by association, their Bible – are “bigoted” and “homophobic.” It is understandable that, when bombarded with a steady stream of such messages, the youth want to abandon what seems to be a sinking ship.

Can we remain silent? Doesn’t silence signal agreement? If we do remain silent, aren’t we, in effect, telling our youth that we have no answer to the charge of “bigotry?”

Perhaps we have been loosing so many of our youth because we have failed to be proactive enough in our defense of the faith - its rationality, love and justice? Perhaps we have rushed headlong into legislation without first establishing an adequate rationale or justification for our position?
Just recently, New York City school officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a decision to ban “God Bless the USA” at a kindergarten graduation ceremony, because they deemed it “potentially offensive to other cultures.”

  • Principal Greta Hawkins of P.S. 90 in Brooklyn reportedly pulled Lee Greenwood’s patriotic ballad from the June 20 graduation program saying the song is not “age appropriate” and could end up “offending other cultures.”
  • The ban caught national attention after the New York Post reported that while the patriotic song was banned, the children would be hearing Justin Bieber’s teenage romance ballad “Baby.”
Shouldn’t Christians point out the hypocrisy of this decision? Isn’t “Justin Bieber’s teenage romance ballad ‘Baby’” even less “age appropriate?” Besides, isn’t the Bloomberg administration offending those who believe in “God?” Will not every law or edict offend someone? If we were to use “offending other cultures” as the ultimate test of a ruling, wouldn’t that mean that NYC wouldn’t be able to make a single ruling? Definitely!

Even worse, this ruling and many others like it send the message that the Christian faith is far more “offending” than others. How hypocritical of an administration that prides inside for being “inclusive!”

Here’s my point. Don’t Christians have a responsibility to speak up against the ubiquitous negative portrayals in the media and universities of Christians and the Christian faith? Should we remain silent as the media equates the Biblical faith with “hate speech?” Aren’t we required to make a defense for what we have committed our lives?

If the charge of “hate speech” goes uncontested, it becomes more than a charge but an indictment that will be used to silence the church, to fire Christians who speak of their faith, to shut down Christian businesses and even becomes an incitement to violence against those who spread the “hate speech.”

I don’t think that we have a choice. Silence isn’t an option when Christian are being expelled from universities because they have expressed disfavor regarding gay marriage and refuse to submit to the totalitarian process of re-education. Silence isn’t an option when Christians and Christian businesses are being targeted to perform acts that violate their faith, like being compelled to make tee-shirts for a Gay Pride event or to participate in an abortion. Silence isn’t an option when the State requires a Christian school or a home-schooling family to teach curricullum that violates their faith. Silence can not be an option when pastors can no longer teach the biblical faith because it can now be construed as a “hate crime.”

Held and others who preach against the “culture wars” – yes, they are engaged in their own “culture wars,” aren’t they – assume that if we adopt a live-and-let-live approach, our secular culture will adopt such an attitude towards us. However, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to suggest that this will happen. The church is vulnerable and the secularists smell blood.

Christian groups are fair-game. They are now required to provide insurance for procedures that violate the Christian conscience. College Christian groups are often either banned from campus or required to sign statements that they will alter their Christian charter.

This is serious. When we make small concessions and violate our faith, we then have to modify our theology to accommodate to and rationalize these compromises. However, we can’t modify the Bible without also disparaging it. The effect snowballs. One compromise will justify the next.

Nor will the secularist stop at the doors of the church. Many are now arguing that the church shouldn’t be privileged and remain exempt from federal employment guidelines. As corporations can’t discriminate according to faith or sexual orientation, the church also shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate in this manner. However, if the church can’t discriminate according to belief and life, then the church can no longer remain the church.

Ignoring the surrounding culture, as we hide beneath a blanket of silence, isn’t an option. We have to be the light, not only in defense of the faith but also in warning against sin.

Many of the “culture war” despisers argue that the church should be about its number one calling – the Gospel. Therefore, warning against sin and hypocrisy is an unhelpful distraction. However, calling the world to repentance is inseparable from the Gospel! God warned Ezekiel that silence wasn’t an option:

·        "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself…Say to them [Israel], 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'” (Ezekiel 33:7-11)

Life meant repenting from sin. Ezekiel did not have the option of silence. Silence meant death. Life required a man who had the conviction to speak the truth, even in the face of social condemnation.  

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