Saturday, February 2, 2013

Privatization: A "Gospel" of Accommodation

The Gospel comes with costs, and they are high. Jesus warned His disciples:
  •  “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)
However, we have conveniently found that we can reduce these costs if we adopt a private and low-key approach to the Gospel. A campus missionary confessed that his missions group must sign a statement saying that they will not evangelize in order to gain access to the university. Meanwhile, he assured me that they are still able to evangelize, but in a quiet and private manner.

We find this kind of accommodation over the broad spectrum of Christian activity. In a article – Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A - gay activist leader, Shane L. Windmeyer wrote:
  • Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A's president and CEO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it. I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain's giving practices. (Jan. 28, 2013)
Windmeyer and his organization, Campus Pride, have been campaigning against Chick-fil-A for years:
  • For nearly a decade now, my organization, Campus Pride, has been on the ground with student leaders protesting Chick-fil-A at campuses across the country. I had researched Chick-fil-A's nearly $5 million in funding, given since 2003, to anti-LGBT groups.
Recently however, Cathy initiated contact which resulted in friendship, conversation, and invitations into their most personal and private gatherings. When it comes to their private beliefs, they have agreed to disagree and to enjoy their friendship despite these differences. Consequently, Windmeyer has called off his bulldogs.

Some Christians have heralded Cathy’s initiative as a model of Christian love, and it is, in a sense.  Christ is our example, and so we are required to lead with His love. However, we have to inquire about the costs. Was it merely Christian love that made the difference, or did Cathy make some concessions along the way? At some point, as their friendship was forming and developing, Cathy revealed to Windmeyer his latest IRS form. Windmeyer writes:
  •  The funding reflects Chick-fil-A's promised commitment not to engage in "political or social debates," and the most divisive anti-LGBT groups are no longer listed. Even as Campus Pride and so many in the community protested Chick-fil-A and its funding of groups like Family Research Council, Eagle Forum and Exodus International, the funding of these groups had already stopped…This is why, after discussions with Dan and Chick-fil-A, Campus Pride suspended our campaign.
Understandably, Windmeyer and Campus Pride are happy with this turn of events. Cathy is now publicly silenced, and he will serve as a trophy and a warning to other evangelicals who want to follow their Master into the public arena. However, does this transaction represent real friendship and “mutual respect” or a peace predicated on capitulation?

I don’t want to judge Cathy or even minimize the pressure that he has had to endure, but I think we need to ask ourselves the question, “What honors our Lord?” Are the benefits of our interactions with the world worth the cost of failing our Savior?  Should Cathy’s initiative be a model for us?

Let’s take a closer look.

Exodus International, one of the groups which Cathy has now defunded, is a ministry that supports people of faith who want to exit the gay life. (In fact, this group has even caused some debate within the evangelical community by reaching out to gay “Christians” as “fellow brothers” in the Lord.) However, Exodus represents an offense to homosexuals. It suggests that there is an alternative to the homosexual life, and this is unacceptable to practicing gays. However, such groups provide a much-needed refuge and alternative for those who are broken because of this life-style.

What if the entire Christian community followed Cathy’s example and defunded such groups? And what if they defunded, for the sake of “peace” and “friendship,” all groups that spoke out against the dangers and costs of sinful sex? Would this honor God? Would it serve the ultimate interests of society?

Aren’t we required to be public about our faith, exposing sin and sheltering its victims?  Instead, we are accommodating ourselves to the culture, remaining mute in the face of so many of the hot-button issues of our day. 

For example, the Gospel cannot be carried openly into Muslim nations. Shariah Law criminalizes the evangelization of Muslims and sometimes even carries a death penalty.  Understandably, Christian broadcasting based within the borders of these nations cannot and does not criticize Islam. One such broadcaster admitted:
  • “To [expose the faults of Islam] through a broadcast can often lead to a negative reaction by viewers, and…local Christians and churches then pay the price.” (Christianity Today, Jan.-Feb. 2013, 15)
However, many Western Christian broadcasters, operating outside these countries, also follow this reasoning – this conspiracy of silence - claiming that it is the Gospel alone that saves and not any criticism of Islam.  But shouldn’t we expect to find a robust presentation of the Gospel along with an honest and thorough exposure of the true nature of Islam among those who can do so in safety?
It is worthy of note that this same kind of reasoning is used to silence the church regarding a whole variety of sins – homosexuality, abortion, pornography and materialism.  It is also used to silence any criticism of other religions and worldviews. However, we must remember that Jesus was not silent or even quiet in His denunciations of the Pharisaic religion. Before the “crowds” (Mat. 23:1), He exposed it for what it was. It was self-aggrandizing; it would make its adherents “twice as much a son of hell” (Mat. 23:15). It was deceptive and superficial – it merely “whitewashed [unclean] tombs” (Mat. 23:27) - and left the believer full of “self-indulgence” (Mat. 23:25). Finally, let us not forget the Apostle Paul’s criticism of the Judaizers.  

A Gospel that doesn’t address sin and self-righteous religion is a defective Gospel. It should not merely tell us what we have been saved for; it should also warn us about what we are being saved from!  

The bad news of our sinful state must precede the good news if the good news is to be esteemed. Good preaching must help us to see our sin and its consequences. It should show us our futile flight into man-made, self-centered, self-justifying and self-aggrandizing religion. We must be made to see that we have no hope apart from the Cross of Christ.  That is the full Gospel message.  No part of it can be omitted. 

Conversely, if we adopt the “Gospel of Accommodation,” then we avoid mentioning such uncomfortable truths as the routine murder of Christians – 170,000 yearly, as estimated by Christianity Today – most of which are occurring in Islamic lands. However, such silence cannot co-exist with faithfulness.

Where does the hiding and denial stop? Certainly not in the Western media and universities, where any criticism of homosexuality or Islam has been silenced! Must the church also follow suit? Must we privatize our faith?

When the Apostles were dragged before the Sanhedrin and warned to not preach Jesus, they could have agreed and signed their names. They could have told themselves that they could still preach Jesus on the QT, in private. However, they refused outright, citing the authority of God:
  •       Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).
Adolph Hitler offered the German church a similar “deal” – a privatization of faith. “Your faith is for the church; your body and mouth are for the greater good – the good of the Fatherland.”  Nevertheless, some pastors spoke out against the abominations of National Socialism and were taken away the next morning.

Following Christ may have its costs.  It might even appear indiscrete or imprudent, but it also might be the life to which we have been called.

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