In his Fox News article Todd Starnes asks whether Christians have lost the culture war. This writer has had dealings with many folks just like that evangelist from New York Families. New York Families Reasearch Foundation (NYFRf) is an organization which purports that it “seeks to display Christian charity towards our fellow New Yorkers and to build a more just and merciful culture”.
This writer is not sure what their real motives are given his recent interaction with the evangelist.
The question which concerned Christians ought to ask is not whether they’ve lost the culture war but whether those representing Christianity publicly have lost their minds, not to mention their hearts.
The evangelical and I spoke briefly about gay marriage. Given that we have a secular government by Constitutional design, this writer took the position that government has no place ingratiating itself into the issue of marriage.
Let’s be clear: at no point did this writer take a position on gay marriage per se. he merely stated that he is against any involvement by government. The evangelical was quick to end the conversation, but not before he made it clear where he himself stood. He said that he thought government should reward marriage between a man and a woman based on traditional religious values, that he ‘knew’ our nation was founded on biblical principles, etc. The evangelist was quick to usher this bewildered writer away from the table with a “you can come to the conference or not, whatever”.
A potential ally and a supporter of actual religious freedom ushered away unceremoniously. According to the gentleman from NYFRF, he seeks a better country.
The groups stated core mission?
New York Families Research Foundation: “supports individual New Yorkers’ rights to practice their faith, to speak about their faith, and to live out their faith without undue government intrusion”.
Oh really?What about the faith of others who do not see things quite as you do?
Most folks in the nation believe morality demands that one ought not be persecuted or discriminated against because of one’s beliefs – that love and mercy (not to mention the law) forbids such things. In This writer’s former home state of Arizona the legislature has passed a bill sponsored by the Christian Right which
‘would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers’.
Then there’s the bill in Kansas which explicitly extends such discrimination into the public, municipal sphere – such as in emergency medical services and police services. Sounding eerily like the old Jim Crow laws, these laws allow any person to refuse services simply based on their beliefs.
Sounds truly charitable and merciful.
Let’s be clear, This writer does not oppose the right of an individual to choose who to associate with. He does, however, oppose the government establishing into law such discrimination. That was precisely the problem with the old Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow enshrined discrimination by government into law. They created the infamous two tiered, separate but equal travesty which we now understand to be such a mistake. We understand how unmerciful, unjust, and unChristian those laws actually were. Does anyone need reminding that those who fought to get and to keep the Jim Crow laws often used the Bible and Christian values as justifications for the laws? Some are asking for the same mistake all over again. Sad.
Many Christians have argued Christianity and the First Amendment is ‘under attack’. They claim laws such as the ones in Arizona and Kansas are necessary to ‘protect them’. Let’s not forget that it was the Christian Right which signed those anti-gay marriage laws in the first place. Claiming that marriage was ‘under attack’ they preemptively sought to enshrine an assumed basic tenet of the faith into state and US law – namely that homosexual unions were sinful and thus not acceptable under US law. The Courts have, in recent decisions, unanimously disagreed with laws designed with those motives in mind.
Court after court have thrown these (mostly very recent) anti-gay marriage laws out as unconstitutional. Various State Attorney’s General have followed suit by refusing to defend their own State’s gay marriage bans.
These are not attacks on Christian belief. These decisions are an upholding of a strict Federalist reading of the Constitution. These decisions follow on the heels of the Supreme Court tossing out the most notorious of anti-gay marriage laws – The Defense of Marriage Act.
Isn’t strict Constitutional reading of laws something the Christian Right claims they support? Are are they Federalists only when the Federal decision goes their way and merely State’s Rights folks at other times? They wouldn’t be less than genuine on this, would they? The Christian Right have always supported the First Amendment, haven’t they?
Well, um,….except on things like pornography, gay marriage, foul language on television, what’s viewed or done on the internet, what’s read in the newspapers, etc., etc. ad nauseam.
Back to the Salon article and the main question, however. Have Christian leaders lost their minds and their hearts?
In the article one pastor says the ‘primary reason’ for the lost ground in the culture war is a failure to communicate. He claims ‘pastors are AWOL when it comes to informing and energizing their congregations’ . The pastor argues that ‘unless Christians stand up and engage the political process’ he ‘fears there may come a day when religious liberty is extremely curtailed’.
Forgotten by this pastor, apparently, is all the organizing and politicization done by the Right on behalf of the culture wars in the nineteen eighties. Another pastor, lamenting the lost ground in the culture war, states “Christians have slowly given away their impact on culture by becoming more and more worldly instead of confronting the culture to become more and more godly”. That’s what minimized their impact on the culture, not being ‘godly’ enough?
Is confronting ‘the culture’ something ‘Godly’ now? Your guess is as the next.
The question to ask is: confront the culture how, precisely? More laws like the one soon to possibly hit the books in Arizona and Kansas , perhaps?
You do not, cannot, and must not ‘confront’, ‘educate’, or in any way ‘persuade’ others through force. Certainly not if you are Christian. This is precisely the issue many on the Left (and a small, vocal minority who are not part of the Left) have with the Christian Right. It is sheer hypocrisy to use the force of law as a moral mallet to push one’s beliefs while simultaneously claiming to be promoting ‘a more just and merciful culture’ and the First Ammendment (or any other part of the Constitution).
Once more it seems the Christian right evades. They choose to point to clearly absurd reasons for their losses rather than seeking inward. They fail to do any real introspection. The Christian Right is not losing the culture war due to lack of organization, involvement, or clarity. Nor are they losing due to failure to engage. They’ve lost precisely because of how they’ve engaged and organized. They’ve lost because their message has been made crystal clear.
The message is being rejected.
Given the disengenuous nature of the messanger this writer is tempted to add: “and rightly so”.
When others say they have a problem with phony Christians – that they see hypocrisy in the Christian world and it turns them off – they mean it. When others say that when they look at the Christian Right they see hate and a lack of love and mercy – they mean it.
One is reminded of the words of Christ
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in
And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
Its time for Christian introspection.
No more should those who claim to believe in the Constitution use the law to force their privately held beliefs on others. Persuasion ends where a gun begins. This ought to hold true for the Left as well, by the way.
No more can those who claim to be about love evade that they’ve sought for three decades now to deny others love and the ability to love based solely on their particular reading of the Bible – Old and New Testament.
No one can claim to be about justice while denying justice to others, not while also claiming to believe in our Republic.
As a man who believes Christ died, that He rose, and that He came to redeem all men (and women), this writer is heartbroken for the Church. As Christians we are led to believe Christ on the Cross. He said “it is finished”. This writer believes He meant it.
This writer weeps when he thinks of Christians who forget what Christ told the adulterer. When there was no one to condemn the adulterer, Christ refused to. He told her to sin no more. He left her alone to choose.
Christians are to believe we will be judged not only for what we’ve done in our lives but what we’ve done to others.
This writer is heartbroken thinking of many well-meaning Christians. They’ve gotten themselves into an unusual predicament, including that dismissive but well meaning pastor promoting his ‘religious liberty’ conference.
While the nation falls into moral chaos the Christian Right is losing the culture. They lose converts to Christ due to their own evasions, distortions, and hypocrisies.
Rather than seek out the ‘sins’ of others and then enshrining various forms of (potentially deadly) discriminations into law in the name of fealty to the Constitution and the greater good, perhaps we should remember
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins