Marginalizing Christian Faith

When I was in college I often attended meetings of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I found it to be an intelligent group of Christians who were devoted to understanding the faith and communicating on a level appropriate to the college population. Although most of my Christian activity was connected to my church, I always appreciated the influence of InterVarsity.

InterVarsity Logo

Now comes news that the California system of state colleges and universities has denied official student group status to InterVarsity throughout the state. The problem? InterVarsity won’t allow non-Christians to serve as leaders of the group. That stance is considered “discriminatory.” A Christian group wanting only Christians to lead it? How horrible!

Yes, we’re now in the twilight zone.

What does this mean, in practical terms, for InterVarsity? It means the organization, since it is no longer accepted as a legitimate student group, won’t have free access to campus facilities. It will have to pay for that access, which will cost thousands of dollars per year. It also will no longer have status to speak with professors and students like other campus organizations. In other words, it is considered outside the pale, not welcome on any of those campuses.

Religious liberty continues to be undermined in this country. The attacks are becoming more transparent. They will be couched in “nondiscriminatory” language, but they are attacks nonetheless. And behind it all is a strident, purposeful anti-Christian agenda.

If Christian colleges and universities think they are safe, they need to think again. I’ve noted this before, but it bears repeating. At any time, the federal government can say to Christian colleges, “Follow our rules or lose all student loan funding.” One of those rules will be to stop “discriminating” against homosexual “orientation.” If that happens, we’ll find out rather quickly which Christian colleges are truly Christian and which use Christian talk as window dressing.

Under the Obama administration, the pressure will continue, but in states like California, it won’t matter who is president; some states will take it upon themselves to marginalize Christian beliefs. I’m reminded of the exhortation of the apostle Paul to Timothy:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. . . .

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

That call to faithfulness reaches down to this present generation. Will we heed the call?

Margaret Thatcher: Unintended Consequences

I’m taking my time reading through Margaret Thatcher’s The Path to Power, going one section at a time, as I try to increase my knowledge of the history of the United Kingdom in the late twentieth century. As I’ve followed her life from her time with her family, to her university years at Oxford, to her early political career, I’ve been fascinated with her observations of the era.

I was struck particularly by a section of the book dealing with the cultural shift in Britain in the 1960s. Thatcher, from the perspective of hindsight, details the loss of the Christian foundations in her country:

Path to PowerBy now (1968) the left-of-centre consensus on economic policy was being challenged and would continue to be so. But the new liberal consensus on moral and social matters was not. That is to say that people in positions of influence in government, the media and universities managed to impose metropolitan liberal views on a society that was still largely conservative morally. The 1960s saw in Britain the beginning of what has become an almost complete separation between traditional Christian values and the authority of the state.

She freely acknowledges that she didn’t catch the drift at the time. In fact, she voted in favor of a couple of bills that haunted her later. One decriminalized homosexual conduct between consenting adults over the age of twenty-one. The other allowed abortion “if there was substantial risk that a child would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped, or ‘where the woman’s capacity as a mother would be severely overstrained.'”

She was influenced, she said, by her concern for other people’s suffering, but didn’t see at first the moral ramifications of what she helped start. Her analysis of those issues changed considerably later, as she explains:

As regards abortion, homosexuality, and divorce reform it is easy to see that matters did not turn out as was intended. . . . Instead, it could be argued that they have paved the way towards a more callous, selfish and irresponsible society. Reforming the law on abortion was primarily intended to stop young women being forced to have back-street abortions. It was not meant to make abortion simply another “choice.” Yet in spite of the universal availability of artificial contraception the figures for abortion have kept on rising.

Homosexual activists have moved from seeking a right of privacy to demanding social approval for the “gay” lifestyle, equal status with the heterosexual family and even the legal right to exploit the sexual uncertainty of adolescents.

Divorce law reform has contributed to—though it is by no means the only cause of—a very large increase in the incidence of marriage breakdown which has left so many children growing up without the continual care and guidance of two parents.

Margaret ThatcherThatcher concludes with these reflections:

Knowing how matters have turned out, would I have voted differently on any of these measures? I now see that we viewed them too narrowly. As a lawyer and indeed as a politician who believed so strongly in the rule of law, I felt that the prime considerations were that the law should be enforceable and its application fair to those who might run afoul of it.

But laws also have a symbolic significance: they are signposts to the way society is developing—and the way the legislators of society envisage that it should develop. Moreover, taking all of the “liberal” reforms of the 1960s together, they amount to more than their individual parts. They came to be seen as providing a radically new framework within which the younger generation would be expected to behave.

Margaret Thatcher was able to own up to her mistakes and learn from them.  In the same vein, when Ronald Reagan saw the consequences of a liberal abortion law he signed as governor of California, he delved into the subject and came away a staunch pro-lifer. He always regretted his earlier action. While I wish neither Reagan nor Thatcher had made those mistakes, I am heartened by the fact that those who have a Biblical foundation to their thinking can see their missteps and make amends for them later.

Whatever Happened to Sin, Guilt, & Shame?

I’m hardly the first or only person to comment on how we seem to have lost a sense of shame. There’s rarely, at least among the political leadership, the news media, and the entertainment segments of our society, any embarrassment over actions that used to bring public disgrace. The opposite now seems to be happening: outrageous, disgusting behavior is either ignored or rewarded.

Yet how can one feel shame if one has no sense of guilt over that behavior? Why has guilt gone the way of shame? Let’s trace it back to the loss of belief in sin and one’s accountability before God for one’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We used to be a society that had a set standard of right and wrong based on Biblical morality. While that’s not completely gone, we are now experimenting with what a society might be like if it jettisons Biblical morality entirely. We are seeing the wreckage all around.

One of the more obvious symptoms of a deceived heart is the outward acceptance of—no, make that the active push for—homosexuality. What was once considered deviant behavior is now encouraged. When anyone comes out of some kind of supposed closet, society applauds the “courage” it takes to make that public declaration of deviance. We are in the process of redefining right and wrong. Wrong is now intolerance of previously degenerate behavior. It’s the Christians who continue to hold to the former standard of morality who are now perceived as the real threat to societal harmony.

The most blatant example, of course, is same-sex marriage, an oxymoron of the highest caliber. The sad tale of Brendan Eich, who is now the former CEO of Mozilla simply because he made a contribution to the California effort back in 2008 to maintain the traditional concept of marriage as between one man and one woman, is the latest warning to those of us who are not going to bow before the new gods of immorality.

Mozilla

We used to be concerned about genuine threats to the safety of the nation, such as when underground communists were stealing nuclear secrets and placing their devotees in key positions within the government. That’s passé.

Traditional Marriage

Culture can change without the government’s aid. However, when the government is in on it as well, it provides a greater impetus for that change. The current administration has led the way. It began with the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and gradually morphed into outright promotion of same-sex marriage, linking it to the civil rights movement. We have an administration that picks and chooses which laws it will support. That puts us on the cusp of utter lawlessness:

The Law

Whether it’s the push for same-sex marriage, the attempt to force businesses to provide abortion services, or the desire to silence political opponents through the agency of the IRS, we are at a precarious place. The rule of law is on the verge of extinction because we have destroyed the Biblical concepts of sin, guilt, and shame. Only by restoring those will we restore what we have lost as a people.

Cultural Collapse & the Remnant

A friend shared an article with me that I read late last night. It can be found here: http://publicreligion.org/2014/03/leaving-religion-lgbt-issues/. It’s from an organization called the Public Religion Research Institute. The point of the article is that the millennial generation is rejecting the Christian faith at a record high rate, and that the main reason for it is what they perceive as “negative teachings about, or treatment of, gay and lesbian people.” The report, based on a survey, goes on to say,

Most Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. Nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent) Americans agree that religious groups are alienating young people, while roughly one-third (35 percent) disagree. Millennials remain most likely to believe that religious groups are alienating young people. Seven-in-ten (70 percent) Millennials believe that religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.

I felt a wave of sorrow and anguish wash over me as I was reading it. Here’s how I responded:

We’ve had nearly two generations now raised on the premises of non-judgmentalism. I think the source of most of that training has been Rogerian/Maslovian self-esteem teaching that has permeated our schools. The old cliché about getting hold of the minds of the children is coming to fruition in our day. We are seeing the results of this idea that has seeped into every part of our culture.

The medium through which this has occurred is government-controlled education. I think we will see very soon a more frontal attack on all Christian education, from homeschooling to evangelical colleges. We will be called—even more so than today—narrow-minded, bigoted, and out of the mainstream.

We will no longer be able to be comfortable with a large swath of our culture; in a sense, there will be a separation between the sheep and the goats. A divide will occur between those who hold firm to Biblical truth and those who are tossed by every trendy wind that comes along. The good news in all this is that the truth will stand out more clearly than ever before, and some will be drawn to the Lord through those who remain faithful to the message.

If this sounds too pessimistic, maybe I’m just revealing my affinity with Whittaker Chambers. Yet, as always, I believe the Lord can be seen in the dark times, and He can bring good out of evil if we stand with Him.

On the homosexual issue, I tend to agree with those who say the battle is already lost. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t continue to shine the light in this darkness. We just have to be prepared for the consequences.

I truly believe we are at a tipping point.

So was this response the result of staying up too late and being too tired? Am I too negative? Or have I caught the drift correctly? I do sense our culture is on the verge of collapse; I also sense that Christians need to wake up to this looming collapse and not pretend it’s all going to turn out alright. Can it be reversed? I don’t know, but my hope is that the Lord will once again use a remnant to make the difference, and what I do know is that I’m going to be part of that remnant. I hope you join us. Perhaps God will be able to show mercy to our society once more.

God’s Remnant in a Time of Spiritual Darkness

I’m in a more reflective mood today; perhaps pondering is the right word since it fits with my blog’s title. I’ve been thinking about how the society has changed in my 60+ years. Most of those changes, in the moral realm, have not been beneficial.

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana, probably not more than 3500-4000 people. I knew everyone in my high school graduating class, to one degree or another, because there were only 99 of us, the majority of whom were in the same school for all 12 or 13 years of their educational lives.

I’m trying to recall how many of them grew up in broken families. I can think of 2, at least, although there must have been a few more. That was the exception; we all pretty much expected a mom and dad were in the home in nearly every family. I’m not at all sure any of the girls in my class had to leave school due to pregnancy; I don’t remember anyone in that situation, although, again, there may have been one I have forgotten. Once more, that was the extreme exception. Marriage was to come first.

No one in the 1960s talked much about homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. Out of sight, out of mind. Not on our radar. We had our share of sullen bully-types and those who reeked of rebellion and cigarette smoke, but if anyone ever was high on drugs, it wasn’t evident. That was for classes that graduated after mine.

Abortion was a word with which I had no acquaintance at all. I never knew anyone who had an abortion. Of course, it was illegal then; the floodgates had not yet been opened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alien culture today, a sort of virtual world that is an anomaly—this is not the way things are supposed to be. Families are not supposed to be disintegrating at the alarming rate we now see; marriage is in the process of being destroyed completely by the radical homosexual agenda; the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade—a staggering 56 million—defies all rational expectations. It’s absolutely horrifying, yet we are practically numbed by the immensity of the figure. In many people’s minds, the aborted babies are more statistics than real persons who have had their lives snuffed out. They are the most innocent victims of all; they never did anything to deserve such treatment.

As I pointed out in a post two days ago, we’ve even come to the place where the governor of New York says pro-life people, those who believe in the self-defense of carrying arms, and those who refuse to accept the movement away from traditional marriage are to be considered extremists who have no place in his state. I can’t imagine, as a high school student back in the 1960s, even with all the drama of Vietnam and the beginnings of cultural shifts at the time, that any governor would ever feel comfortable making a statement like that.

Statue of Bigotry

It’s easy to sense a deepening spiritual darkness, yet we cannot allow that to lead us to despair. We are the rays of His light in this dark world. Although I am sometimes stunned when I consider the plunge our society has made into new avenues of depravity, I have hope when I view hundreds of thousands congregating on the Washington Mall to show support for the sanctity of human life. It tells me there are many others out there who share my worldview. All is not lost. If we can encourage each other enough and work toward unity of purpose, we will give God something to work with.

God has never required a majority on His side to move a mountain. He will always honor the dedicated remnant. We must determine to be that remnant.

Cuomo: No Welcome Mat for Conservatives

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Cuomo Gathers With Supporters On Election NightThe governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, made a rather startling statement in a radio interview recently. Speaking of the nature of the Republican party—of which he apparently claims to be an expert—he said a battle is raging within the party between moderates and extremists. He identified those “extremists” in the following words:

Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are, and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I guess I should be glad I don’t live in New York. Apparently, believing in the sanctity of human life from the womb to old age, wanting to be able to defend oneself against domestic violence, and holding to a Biblical morality regarding marriage that has been the bedrock of Western Civilization for centuries is now “extreme.”

The blowback against the governor’s comments led him to issue a clarification, as politicians are wont to do when they insert foot into mouth too blatantly. He says his words were “distorted.” He didn’t mean everyone in New York, just those who run for office.  Oh, that makes it better. Live quietly and don’t express your “extreme” views on these issues and we’ll allow you to stay and pay our exorbitant taxes to fund our progressive policies. But don’t ever attempt to run for political office with those views; that’s unacceptable. How tolerant of him.

Governor Cuomo, you seem not to realize it’s those very people you sneer at who are upholding the basic morality that permits civilization to continue. Someday, you may be grateful for those extremist right-to-life people when the state determines you are too expensive and unproductive to contribute to society.

You also never know who may come to your aid with a weapon to stave off an attacker; police and bodyguards aren’t always at your beck and call as they are now in your high position. By the way, do your bodyguards carry so-called “assault” weapons? Perhaps they should be unarmed. Wouldn’t that be more in line with your principles?

And, down the road, when you finally see the consequences of the destruction of real marriage, you might someday be tempted to rethink your promotion of immorality.

You, Governor Cuomo, claim to be a practicing Catholic. Your church promotes the pro-life cause and holds steadfastly to traditional marriage as established by God. The way I see it, you have a choice before you: either recommit yourself to what you claim to believe or stop saying you are a Catholic.

Please understand, Governor Cuomo, that those “extremists” you so roundly condemn are the only ones holding your state together. They are the salt and light in this world; if you exclude them, you plunge us deeper into spiritual darkness.

Duck Dynasty & the Homofascist Gaystapo

I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. Skinning an animal or cleaning fish are not on my bucket list. I don’t concoct ingenious, makeshift contraptions to make things work. I’d make a lousy redneck. Yet I absolutely love Duck Dynasty. I resisted it for over two years, but so many people were referencing it, and I heard that the Robertson family are Christians, so I finally succumbed to watching an episode. I was hooked from the start.

Duck Dynasty

The writing is clever, the humor sometimes subtle; in fact, I’m not sure how much of what the characters say is scripted, since much of it seems so freewheeling. At the center of the family is the patriarch, Phil Robertson. Although I like all the characters, his little quips are my favorites. His wry sarcasm is one of the highlights of the program. Yet he’s also approachable beneath his gruff exterior. At the end of most shows, he leads the family in prayer around the dinner table, and he often uses the name of Jesus specifically. Robertson’s life was a mess for a long time, and his marriage was endangered, until he repented of his sins and turned his life over to Christ. One of his goals with Duck Dynasty is to showcase genuine Christian faith in whatever ways he can. The A&E network has tried to put roadblocks in his way, but he doesn’t compromise on what he believes.

Why am I writing about this today? Robertson sat down with a writer from GQ magazine for an interview. Part of that interview dealt with his faith and how he views society through the lens of Christianity. He spoke about sin, and specifically mentioned homosexuality, along with other sexual actions outside of a man-woman marriage, as a sin. He went on to paraphrase pretty accurately a passage from I Corinthians, chapter 6. When asked what he considered sinful behavior, here’s what Robertson said specifically, according to the interviewer:

Phil RobertsonStart with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.

Nothing he said in that statement was outside orthodox Christian belief. Millions of us—and I do mean “us”—believe the same thing and are distressed that our society has degenerated to the point where we have legalized a sexual act that will ultimately destroy not only the person caught up in it, but the families that will be decimated, the children growing up without a stable home, and a moral civilization overall.

His remarks created a firestorm. All the homosexual groups were outraged and demanded that A&E cut ties with the Robertsons. They accused him of hate speech (I knew when we began to introduce that concept into American law that we had started down a slippery slope) and pretty much read him out of the human race. The network issued a statement of its own, which included a decision:

His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.

At least they are honest as to where they stand. They don’t simply allow pro-homosexual talk, but they champion that whole lifestyle. From my perspective then, they have declared themselves as active promoters of sinfulness. Phil Robertson has ostensibly been taken out of the program, although the next season’s episodes are already filmed.

I watched two news programs on Fox last night—Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity—to see how they would handle this situation. Both had panels to which they asked questions about Robertson’s right to say what he believed. Kelly’s panel included a rabid homosexual activist who practically foamed at the mouth, vitriolically accusing Robertson of spreading vitriol. The other two, and Kelly herself, gave only tepid endorsement of Robertson’s First Amendment protections. Normally, Kelly is the best of interviewers and doesn’t let guests get away with dominating a conversation and speaking over the top of others. Last night, she seemed to back off and let the activist say whatever he wanted, practically giving him the last word. Why the change? Is she afraid of the LGBT lobby, which has become poisonous to anyone who dares criticize the homosexual lifestyle?

Hannity loves Duck Dynasty and knows the Robertsons. One of his guests, rather inexplicably, said this was not a religious liberty issue. Nothing Robertson said, he opined, was religious in nature. Huh? The one constant on both panels is that even conservatives fear to tread into this issue. Too many conservatives may consider themselves Christian, but they are mostly cultural Christians, which is not the same thing as the real deal.

What is occurring in our society is an all-out attack on Biblical standards of morality. Those who say it’s a figment of evangelicals’ imagination are not paying attention. The goal will be to outlaw any public expression of Christian belief that directly contradicts newly accepted societal norms. I’ve heard words like “homofascist” and “Gaystapo” to describe the militant attitude of the homosexual activists. They seem apropos to me. Tolerance has taken a whole new twist, and it’s anything but tolerant:

 Value Judgments 1

Value Judgments 2

Value Judgments 3

Value Judgments 4

Value Judgments 5

Christians who believe that homosexuality is sinful also hold out the hope that all sin can be repented of and forgiven. There’s nothing hateful about the proper Christian approach here: identify the sin so that we can help people get free of it. That will never happen if we refuse to acknowledge the sin in the first place.

There will be persecution on this issue. Where will the church stand? Will we cower in fear and avoid talking about it? Worse, will we adopt the world’s views? A shaking is taking place. Only those who are grounded on Scripture will come through this with their faith intact.