Should Christians Participate in Culture Wars?

On a previous post a wonderful discussion erupted- in part- over Christians in politics and what is the best way to share the Christian message in our culture of conflict.  

We all know about the culture wars- the debates from the right and the left- and the participation of conservative Christian groups in this battle.

Recently the battleground moved next door to me- in Pace, Florida.

As a result of a lawsuit brought upon the Santa Rosa county school system by the ACLU on behalf of two students who claimed the Christian religion  and prayer was being pushed upon them and therefore violating their first amendment rights, limitations were set on speech by Christian students and school officials in that school system. Also some students who were scheduled to participate in their graduation ceremonies were not allowed to do so.  (You can read more about the story here.)

In reaction,  area Christian leaders, students and some area school officials gathered to protest, pray and promote their Christian faith based agenda.

Now I have some questions to ask you based on this:

  • Do you have any problems with the ACLU doing this? If pushy political Christians using the system to further their agenda is unwise- is it also unwise for a pushy political secular group to do so? What is the difference?
  • Was the big rally a good or bad idea? Does this show Christian solidarity and passion for sharing Christ or was it just a big right-wing political show which once again reinforced the negative sterotype of Christians?
  • Since the limitations are now law in that school system- should the Christian students speak up anyway and break that law. Should the students not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony jump up and grab the mic and be heard anyway? Have their liberites really been taken away?
  • Does what the ACLU did alarm you or does what the Christians did in response alarm you? Does it even matter? Do you think God is at all interested in this?

Look forward to your input!

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38 Responses to Should Christians Participate in Culture Wars?

  1. alsturgeon says:

    1. I’ve got absolutely no problems w/the ACLU doing this sort of thing. Don’t know the facts, but if there were legitimate facts, I’d be disappointed in the ACLU if they didn’t bring suit. And pushy political Xns using the system to further their agenda isn’t unwise at all – that’s the way to get your agenda accomplished if you are pushy. And vice-versa. I don’t think “pushy” is a Jesus agenda, however.

    2. Big rally = bad idea. First of all, widens the chasm between the Xns and the world they supposedly want to reconcile to God. Second, helps the Xns dislike same world even more.

    3. No, no, and no. What good would breaking the law or grabbing the mic do? It wouldn’t make the speaker more Xn, nor would it build any bridges with those who aren’t. And the last question depends on how you define Christian liberties – I don’t have the Christian liberty to grab the mic at the Republican National Convention, but so what? I do have the Christian liberty to speak to my friends & acquaintances & anyone else who AGREES to listen to me about my belief in Jesus. So, to me, no Xn liberty is lost, but I guess it can be defined differently if you think every Xn has the right to force unwilling people to listen.

    4. The ACLU’s actions don’t bother me at all. The Xn response doesn’t alarm me either, although it does disappoint me in its predictability. I think both matter (and, of course, God is interested) – the ACLU is providing a valuable legal civics lesson worth taking the time to understand, and the Xn response is continuing to perpetuate a harmful picture of Jesus to its community.

  2. c3andp says:

    1. No, I do not have problems with the ACLU doing this. Reports I read included statements from the ACLU “praising” a baccularette service as long as it was parent/student organized, not organized and even financed by school officials.
    2. I like a good rally, but this one probably had more downside than upside.
    3. No, students should not grab the mic and speak. However, I do have a different “freedom of speach” take on this than what was applied. I think that when a valedictorian or salutatorian speaks, they should be able to say pretty much what they want to say. If it is a part of their story that they are Christian and that Jesus had a major role in shaping them and is a guide for their future then they should be able to say so if they want to. The other side of that is that if an atheist or Muslim or Jew or Scientologist earns the right to speak then they have the right to explain how that plays a role in who they are or want to be. And what if someone wants to use the occasion to make a political statement (imagine Sean Hannity or James Carville as validictorians), or what if someone includes a vulgarity in their speech? The best solution is for people to have a great deal of latitude in their speech, but be wise enough to understand that they are making a graduation speech, not a religious testimony or political statement or doing a shock jock bit. The school could have a speech prieview policy that gave some guidence to that. But all that relies on common sense, which, as we all know, does not translate well into codified law. Thus we end up with what we have: people at significant events cannot mention anything with a religious tint, even if religion was significant to occasion.
    4. Neither alarms me, but I am sad that our world is so polarized on every single thing. I would rather live and let live.
    C3

  3. Danny Holman says:

    I would like to know the details of exactly what happened. Have Christians used public schools as places to wield political power… certainly. Have officials used their “power” to promote their faith? Yes. [Jesus was tempted with this kind of power and said, “No.” Why does his church keep saying, “Yes?”]
    However,the ACLU has shown no reluctance in using the schools to promote their “religous” viewpoint. The fair balance is for everyone to be able to wear their religion openly. To remove God from public conversation promotes “secularism”… which is a religous viewpoint.
    I realize the offense an atheist might feel when a prayer is led. By the same right, can we make it illegal for administration to use God’s name in vain, or to disparage churches? What about actions that offend Christians… should they be illegal? It seems the ACLU, and others, pick and choose who can be offended.
    I appreciate that the ACLU seems concerned with minority groups having their rights respected, however, just because a group is “powerful” doesn’t mean it’s rights should be sacrificed. (Example: When a teacher took most of a class and explained how the Israelites didn’t really cross the Red Sea, the Christian parents had no legal recourse available.)
    My questions would be… How would the religous speech of an atheist be treated? If we can hang quotes by Thoreau, Lincoln, Shakespeare, etc… on the wall, why not Moses?
    I agree with C3 above about the speeches. Although I have trouble with the school, if I understood right, classifying “Class President” as a school official. Civil disobedience to the policy is a judgement call, however, it must involve accepting the appropriate penalties. “Grabbing the mic” would seem odd for followers of one who didn’t “cry out in the streets.”
    It doesn’t alarm me other than the increased government sponsorship of the state religion… secularism, and the growing effort to “scrub” society of religous ideals. Actually, we are not there yet, but I see that future being closer than we think. And when people no longer believe in anything… in short order they will unite radically behind something, someone, or some idea that restores their identity.

  4. Brad Adcock says:

    I agree with Al and C3 in that while some of these things that Christians as a whole do to voice their displeasure might be legally within our rights, perhaps they do more damage than good to our message.

    But on a larger scale, lately I’ve felt a tension between Paul’s actively using the benefits of citizenship to better his situation (i.e., availing himself of his right to an audience with Caesar, etc.) and Peter’s basically telling his readers to be happy they’re being or will be persecuted for Christ – a liberal paraphrase of 1 Peter 4:12ff, I know. (Wait, we can use that L-word for something other than political or moral leanings, can’t we? lol)

    At what point do we continue ‘turning the other cheek,’ and at what point do we use our rights as citizens to try and change some of the things we see going on around us that we perceive as slights to our Christianity? Can we do both? I’d like to think so.

    Sorry, Danny. I’ve got more questions than answers.

  5. dannydodd says:

    So far- so interesting.

    To add a little fuel…

    Every Memorial weekend on Pensacola Beach the gay community literally overtakes it. Gays and lesbians come from all over the world to spend this weekend here.

    They certianly rally and gather- to among other things- promote their lifestyle and agendas. Local media is rarely critical of them, but often Christian rallies and gatherings are covered in a negative light.

    Why?

  6. alsturgeon says:

    Partly because homosexuals aren’t on Pensacola Beach to convert heterosexuals.

  7. Donna says:

    Good point Al.

    Do we really get offended for Christ or for others criticizing us? If we gathered in love to show love it might have an effect…otherwise….

  8. dannydodd says:

    Ah, but they are here in part to change people’s opinion about their lifestyle and in that way- they are evangelistic.

    P’cola beach was even targeted by them (by their own admission) years ago to make a statement to Bible-belt conservatives.

    Again- why are they allowed to be radical in their expressions of support for their lifestyle and agendas and Christians are not?

    Not saying that it is wisest for Christians to gather in such a way- just asking why the apparent double standard?

    • Scottie says:

      hey bud,

      been an interesting discussion, but i wanted to clarify something…

      i guess i think of evangelism as trying to convert someone to my way of thinking or acting. i don’t think the gay and lesbian community by and large are try to convert straight people to their lifestyle…they are making a statement that under a secular government (which is what we live under) they have and deserve equal rights–which they do. if we looked at these “gay pride events” in the same way we looked at any other gathering of like minded people over a weekend, it would be a more rational view. I have yet to have a gay person show up at my house trying to “convert” me—i have, on the other hand, had many religous people try to do it.

      i am just a live and let live kind of person i guess…i don’t see the problem of letting them have the same protection under the law as long as they don’t infringe on the civil rights of others.

      hope you are well and thanks for the prayers this week..its been tougher for me than i thought it would be..

      scottie

  9. alsturgeon says:

    Well, let’s see:

    * One side: wants equal rights under the law & respect from the other side

    * The other side: actively fights to deny equal rights to the other, wants to change the other to be like them, believes the other will burn eternally in hell if they do not, and claims that all of these goals & beliefs are motivated by how much they love the other side

    Come to think of it, I’m not sure why the Xn rallies get the negative press. 🙂

  10. lesjr says:

    You know, I get equal rights for lots of things… and if we are going to give equal rights to homosexuals, why not child predators–after all, it’s only their nature, right?

    That’s ludicrous–and I knew it as i typed it.

    Why should a perversion of nature itself be given a protected status? And please don’t get me wrong, I think gay bashing is horrific and wrong–and needs to be fought in our culture as well.

    And Danny, it is a double standard because it is deemed a right or a slight depending on your perspective.

  11. Darin says:

    Good discussion.

  12. Yes it is a good discussion!

  13. dannydodd says:

    BTW, Brad makes an interesting point about Paul using the political/judicial system of his day to further his evangelistic goals.

    Any comment on that?

  14. J D says:

    It seems to me that the homosexual lifestyle must be evangelistic, or eventually die out. I’m also not sure how much is about equal status in the law, as much as it is preferential treatment by law.

    Donna’s suggestion to be more about love than about all this protest and other stuff is on the mark.

  15. alsturgeon says:

    Paul used his legal rights to keep his apostolic hind end from getting handed over to the Jews who were preparing an ambush. That’s my comment to that.

    And the homosexual lifestyle has miraculously survived for millenia w/o any Jule Miller filmstrips. Well, there probably have been some filmstrips. Never mind.

    But as to equal treatment vs. preferential treatment, I disagree. But even if it was a plea for preferential treatment, that would simply elevate their goals to that of their politically-Xn counterparts.

  16. dannydodd says:

    Are politically-active Christians the reason for this:

    http://www.10news.com/news/19562217/detail.html

    Does it represent equal treatment under the law?

  17. Dottie G. says:

    Okay. I am no Bible Scholar but I do have an opinion. The reason, I think, people bash Christian rallys is all about Satan. Our government is so minority minded that they want to do right by every group except the majority. We, as Christians, know that Jesus was gently and loving. That is the message we have all sent out to the others. When Christians stage a rally, it is a statement that we want to fight for our rights, like any other group. This goes against the teaching of Jesus, according to what we have put out there. We can look at the legals of being a Christian, or we can do as Jesus taught: Love. No matter what we believe is right, as far as retribution, we will always appear in a negative light. After all, isn’t that what Satan wants?

  18. alsturgeon says:

    Hey, that’s in San Diego. That’s where I’m going tomorrow!

    This will serve as a great example. We covered land-use regulations like this in Property class this year (w/my brilliant, conservative, aged professor who wrote the casebook on Property, literally).

    So I know how this will be spun – Obama is president, and here is an example of how the godless Democrats are trying to take away our right to practice our religion. There will be prayer meetings over this. We’ve been scaring you to death (um, I mean warning you) about how we might lose our freedom to worship in this country, and here it is – it’s happening in San Diego!!! Let us pray…

    Truth is that this is a normal traffic problem being (mis)handled by local yokels in San Diego.

    The law: you cannot do whatever you want with your property. The government has the right to regulate it (i.e. zoning). If you want to use your property for things it isn’t zoned for, you have to apply for a permit.

    Can you have people over to your house for Bible study and prayer? Of course. You can have people over to your house for practically anything you want to have them over for. Can you have people over to your house on a regular basis for activities that have externalities that adversely affect your neighbors (here, parking problems)? No.

    They can’t shut the pastor down for having a Bible study at his house. No court in the country would uphold that action if a local govt. was dumb enough to take it. They CAN shut him down for having a religious meeting in his home if it isn’t zoned for churches and his doing so creates a problem in the neighborhood.

    If you are still reading, this gets to what I think is really important. What were the pastor’s options here? (1) End up with his very own talk show on Fox; (2) Find out whose car was hit, call, sincerely apologize, and offer to pay for it. Which one might have a positive effect on the disgruntled person who obviously isn’t a fan of Bible studies? (The point Donna made much more succinctly above.)

  19. dannydodd says:

    Thanks for your input on the article Al.

    My sis, Dottie certainly makes an interesting point.

  20. alsturgeon says:

    I misspoke earlier: I shouldn’t have said that this was just a normal traffic problem. No, it is a land-use regulation issue in regard to the free exercise of religion. It was brought about by a normal traffic problem, however (not some diabolical attempt to remove one’s right to worship). And the land-use regulation issue is not new.

    And I should clarify one more thing: you can’t have “church” in areas not zoned for “church.” Defining what that means would be an interesting discussion. In America, I suspect it would entail being a legally-organized entity and/or advertising yourself to the public as a church.

    (Like all these clarifications? I just might make a laywer some day after all.) 🙂

  21. Brad Adcock says:

    Really enjoying the discussion. But I don’t understand your ‘Paul’ comment, Al. What bearing does the reason Paul uses his rights have? My point was that he used them to avoid something Peter told his readers to not avoid. Just want a little enlightening as to your meaning. 🙂

    And, just for the record, I’m not someone who thinks there’s a group of secret police ready to round us Christians up. My faith doesn’t rest on returning America to ‘Christian nation’ status. I don’t think it ever was, simply because God’s Kingdom isn’t tied to place. There it is again: a seeming paradox of citizenship. I (and hopefully the rest of Christianity) should strive to better myself and my fellow man (and woman) through living and sharing the gospel (that’s the GOOD news of Christ, not the BAD news that if you’re not just like me you’re need a smoking jacket), and my nation should better itself in the process. It’s a byproduct, not a goal.

  22. alsturgeon says:

    I’m with you, Brad. I don’t have anything worthwhile to say to your point – Paul’s actions & Peter’s instructions don’t mesh from where I sit.

    Danny’s reference to your comment referenced motives. I was simply pointing out that his motives appear to be less evangelistic (at least, directly) and more self-serving.

    So… to maybe pre-empt any follow-ups from Danny (smile), I’d say feel free to call a lawyer to defend your rights when you get locked up (if everyone else abandons you, the ACLU will still be there for you!). But saying Paul was manipulating the system simply for the cause of evangelism is an imaginative reading of Acts at best.

  23. D. Meadows says:

    Danny,

    What an interesting discussion! Since I am a teacher, this turn of events really interest me. In my district, the superintendent is a Christian as are many of the principals in the various schools. We still have prayer at graduation; our class speakers still can reference God. Will we go the way of Pace one day? Maybe. What I do know is that it will not change how I live my life if that happens. I will continue to speak about God in my everyday life as I always have. I am mindful of students whose beliefs are different, but any differences which have been raised by students have been kindly and lovingly dealt with. I’ve never had a student to think I was pushing my religion down their throats. That having been said, I’ll get to the comment I really want to make. I agree with all of the writers who say the rally was ill-conceived, yet I can’t help wondering how we should react. If we are to put on the whole armor of God, doesn’t that sound as if we are to do battle? I know that doesn’t necessarily mean we are to get out there and make a big stink, or does it? How are we to be effective if we don’t make some noise? I don’t have an answer, but I agree love is the answer. However, just what form we should follow is a dilemma for me. I don’t want to “shove” Christianity down someone’s throat, but I do want to “go into all the world…”

  24. dannydodd says:

    Good comment Donna- my sisters are in the house!

    So Al, you completely dismiss the possibility proposed by many Bible scholars that Paul (and to be sure he was saving his hide) knew exactly what he was doing in using the Roman judical system to reach Rome so he could preach the gospel in the heart of the empire as “imaginative”- interesting!

    I will give you this- you are the man with the answers- so if I ever need a lawyer to defend me for having a bible study in my house, I will call you up! 🙂

  25. alsturgeon says:

    I don’t completely dismiss the possibility. I just call it imaginative. Because you have to use your imagination to come up with that idea, since it doesn’t say it. 🙂

    Give me a call anytime. Two years from now. After the bar exam. If I pass it.

  26. lesjr says:

    I may be dense–no comments needed–but I see no tension here between Paul and Peter. One availed himself of us rights as a citizen, the other simply tells us where to find some joy when facing difficultuy. Those are not at odds and actually serve as an example: we can use our rights as citizens in an non-hostile way and where we have no under law, then we bear up under the grace of God!

  27. alsturgeon says:

    I think that’s a good take on it, Les.

    Jesus is the hard one to deal with in all this. He could have got out of the suffering headed his way, but didn’t. And if I recall correctly, that’s the sort of thing Peter was talking about. Getting the chance to be like Jesus is something to be happy about, not run away from. Paul seemed to act otherwise.

    I like Les’s way to combine the two, however. It isn’t as pure an approach as Peter seems to advocate, but practically, it makes the most sense to me.

  28. alsturgeon says:

    Correction: Paul seemed to act otherwise when he did things like use his citizenship rights to save himself. Don’t want to imply Paul was a scaredy-cat – he was “asking for it” with his entire life.

    But you know, if I used my imagination, I could create a way to have it all make sense! (LOL!!!)

  29. lesjr says:

    Yeah…remember when Paul desired to go and be with God but decided it was better to stay here and work? Maybe that was when he decided to use his citizenship–not to escape from but to go to?

    • Jim Sexton says:

      Interestingly enough Paul calls for us to remember a higher citizenship in that same letter to Philippi… “Our citizenship is in heaven… ”

      Jimbo

  30. lesjr says:

    One more thing…in one sense, comparing Peter & Paul is like mixing apples and oranges. Two different situations are in view. For Paul it was singular, him versus government–for Peter, it was a systamatic-across-the-board persecution of Christians. Two different situations…

  31. Brad Adcock says:

    I understand the apples and oranges aspect of it: Paul was a Roman citizen, Peter wasn’t that we know of, and Christ definitely wasn’t. But they are two biblical examples that we can choose to follow, aren’t they?

    Here is one apostle basically saying, as you said, Les, ‘Let’s look for the good in it’ – a statement that infers it’s going to happen one way or the other, so try to use it for your benefit. The other apostle doesn’t articulate, but definitely models, an approach of taking the bull by the horns and using the system to his benefit.

    I’m being my own devil’s advocate, but here is another apples and oranges moment – Paul chooses this for himself, while Peter is dealing with the possibility of a group of hurt brothers and sisters who haven’t directly chosen this for themselves (that’s what you were saying, right Les?)

    Perhaps we can look at this from the old ‘Lone Ranger-Tonto’ perspective. When it comes decision time in some situation that might arise, such as in Pace or in San Diego, maybe everybody else needs to say, ‘What you mean ‘we’, white man?” To stand up and fight should be an individual choice, not a collective one. Also, notice should be given to the fact that even though Paul chose to ‘fight,’ even then he was nothing but gracious with everyone involved. Maybe that’s what you guys already said, but I had to rearrange it for my pea-brain. Loving this discussion.

    P.S. – Al, I found myself choosing my words wisely yesterday to avoid making Paul sound like a scaredy-cat, too. Don’t think any of us doubt Paul’s chutzpah. 🙂

  32. lesjr says:

    Brad, that’s not quite what I had in mind. Paul was knee deep in the legal system–being charged with crimes–it makes perfect sense for him to avail himself of his rights as a citizen.

    Peter, however seems to be addressing a systematic persecution in which there is no legal recourse–and truthfully, there seems to be no way to fight back.

    Maybe I am confusing the issue for you–but i think the context is key and that when context is invoked, we have two very dissimilar situations which are not in anyway conflicted by the other.

    Anyway… thems my thoughts.

  33. Danny Holman says:

    Just to add a little “stir” to the mix. Consider the nature of the law to which Paul appealed. The legal system was built on inequality, there was one law for Romans and another for everyone else. The law Paul appealed to was based in inequality. Yet, for whatever the reason, since he had the legal right and could avail himself of it without violating moral right… he used that right.
    In reference to earlier discussion, I have been involved in discussions with some of the homosexual rights community (one church I worked with was neighbors to the leading local activists). They saw themselves as evangelistic. They wanted their viewpoint on the world accepted and used the courts to do so. The congregation had a very “lassez-faire” approach tothe activist, yet, we had lawsuits attempted on various occasions. We were slandered in college classrooms (which was then repeated in the local papers)- alleging we had tried to tear down their house to build a school, and had to ask PBS not to broadcast a documentary that painted us in a bad light (our grounds being no one had ever interviewed us about the situtation). And those were just the “major” items… it was an ongoing dilema for the congregation. Once when I told the gentlemen I would be glad to teach our youth to be respectful when they disagreed with their lifestyle, he was indignant. “No,” he said, “you teach them there is nothing wrong with what we do.” I told I couldn’t do that.
    If I understand it right, the government’s job is to protect security… both personally and communally. Therefore I do not have any problem with a Christian using the law in that fashion. The only problem I have is with the church using legal status to coerce faith.
    I do have one question. I assert that the church and the gay rights community are wrong to use the legal system to intimidate and coerce acceptance of their viewpoint. To what groups would that apply? For instance, I feel satisfied with the courts being used to oppose racism. How woudl we decide which idealogical groups are right to use the courts/laws to enforce compliance and which are not?

  34. xybatt says:

    Unfortunately, Danny’s BLOG is popular when politics and church debate are involved! Ok, guys, you are the salt of the earth. Do any of you know the individuals involved or the facts? I know the school superintendant (Tim Wyosdick) to be a humble and kind man of strong face. Citizen’s chose to peacefully offer an alternative service (baccalaurate) and the ACLU accepted to a point. Stop debating politics. Jesus didn’t! Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, the prisoners…….

  35. Terry says:

    As much as we would like to avoid “culture wars,” I don’t think we can. Today I read an article in a local weekly newspaper reporting that people will not be allowed to use the words “Jesus” or “God” when meeting as groups on the premises of public housing projects in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This may cause a problem since my wife and I lead a weekly Bible study in one of the projects. In addition, our congregation usually conducts “sidewalk vacation Bible school” for the children in various public housing projects throughout the city. We also conduct food and clothing giveaways and cookouts for the residents. We are not pushy, nor do we accept government funding. We simply help people and teach the Bible. Hopefully, the new regulations will be removed, but if not, we will continue to talk about Jesus and God while risking the consequences.

    I have a feeling that Christians will need to get accustomed to this kind of environment. As you pointed out before, some are pushing hate crimes legislation which could make it a crime to teach biblical ethical standards. In addition, the department of Health and Human Services is considering changing regulations that protect medical personel who do not want to participate in abortions because of their moral convictions; doctors and nurses may be forced to participate or stop practicing medicine.

    If these kinds of changes occur, Christians will need to determine whether they want to follow Christ and suffer some hardship or try to avoid hardship by fitting in with everyone else. I have a feeling we will need quite a bit of courage and faith as we face these obstacles and temptations.

  36. Jim Sexton says:

    Forgive me if this is a repeat, but halfway through this I had to stop reading and write something.

    I find it interesting that Christian readers/posters continue to call the homosexual abomination ‘a lifestyle’… are we buying into the false teaching and forgetting to see it for what it is?

    What’s next… the pedophile lifestyle? The sex for hire lifestyle? When we begin to sanitize the sins of the world we are in danger of accepting them.

    Love the sinner. Hate the sin. I love men and women that are caught up in the perversion of homosexuality. I hug them, laugh with them, do everything I can do to try to reach them in their sinful state, just as I would an alcoholic or drug abusing soul.

    I will not sanitize the sin by referring to it as ‘a lifestyle’… I know it isn’t the PC thing to do, but since when is seeing things as God does have to fit into what the world sees as politically correct?

    Jimbo

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