Christians Are the New Social Problem

The cultural winds are changing…and with a good bit of irony. Though our country was founded in part by those seeking religious freedom, and though that same freedom is the very first that our Constitution specifically protects, it’s now becoming harder for faithful Christians to exercise—you guessed it—religious freedom.

That’s at least one of the takeaways from the University of California system’s decision to “derecognize” the evangelical campus ministry InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). What was the problem with IVCF’s presence on campus? Simply that they ask their student leaders to hold orthodox Christian beliefs.

Ed Stetzer elaborates:

The bigger, and ongoing, issue is the continual sanitization of unacceptable religious voices from universities. It’s ironic—those who champion nondiscrimination, in the name of nondiscrimination, are creating rules that push out those who “discriminate” based on biblical belief statements.

The University of California’s decision is similar to a recent policy shift at Vanderbilt, (which Dave talked about this past Sunday in his sermon). Tish Warren, a former campus minister there, describes what happened this way:

In effect, the new policy privileged certain belief groups and forbade all others. Religious organizations were welcome as long as they were malleable: as long as their leaders didn’t need to profess anything in particular; as long as they could be governed by sheer democracy and adjust to popular mores or trends; as long as they didn’t prioritize theological stability.

The two main issues according to Warren?

Creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

Increasingly, it seems that Christians, along with any other religious adherents who take their faith commitments seriously, are now being viewed as the new social problem.

How should we respond to all of this?

1. Let’s not oversell the situation. Don’t get me wrong, these recent developments are seriously concerning, not just in and of themselves, but also for what they might signal is to come if the trend continues. But as Stetzer points out, cries of “persecution” at this point probably are a disservice to what confessing Christians have endured recently in Iraq, for example.

2. Let’s remember who is ultimately in charge. The fundamental reason that concern shouldn’t lead to despair or panic is that God is the sovereign king over these circumstances, as well as all others (Psa. 47:8, Dan. 4). And he is the same God who provides comfort and security for his people (Psa. 46:1-3), and whose presence brings them peace (Phil. 4:4-7).

3. Let’s engage in cultural debate and decision-making. To understand that God is sovereignly in charge over human affairs does not, biblically speaking, mean we should disengage from our culture or do nothing in hopes of influencing its direction. No, we’re called to be salt and light, and so we need to do things like participate in the cultural debate within the situations we find ourselves. This might include many things, including understanding and articulating what D. A. Carson has called the intolerance of tolerance, as well as insisting that disagreeing without demonizing is essential for a successful society.

We also need to exercise influence wisely where we can. As both leaders and participants, this will mean having a voice in shaping policy and direction for organizations and institutions, including government. And yes, I think this includes carefully considering religious liberty issues when voting. No, we should not make the mistake of thinking that enough influence at the ballot box will allow us to usher in the kingdom of God. But neither should we abdicate opportunity and responsibility as it comes to us.

4. Let’s think long term. This means many things, but I want to highlight one specifically here. Whatever voice we may have in our culture will be greatly minimized if we aren’t consistently living out the truth of the gospel over time. This means, being quick to recognizing our own sin, acknowledging the worth of others, loving our enemies, and working to be a redemptive presence in communities, workplaces, families, etc.—none of which will be possible without seeking the grace of God. To be sure, this won’t make us immune from derision or even persecution. But it will testify to the credibility of our beliefs before a watching world.

One Comment

  1. I am concerned when “sexual expression” trumps freedom of religion. It is a troubling thought exercise, because the base aregument is “my desires” are more importiant than “your thoughts”. But only if you are in the right minority group.

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