Tag Archives: Christianity

The New Face of Bigotry in America

Fifty years ago a grand march on Washington, D.C. marked one of the high points in the struggle to secure civil rights for racial minority groups in America.  In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a massive crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  In his inspiring remarks he envisioned a time when all people would be judged by their character instead of their color.

In celebrating the anniversary of that optimistic moment, advocates for gay marriage recently continued their efforts to identify their cause with the moral high ground of racial equality.  Gay sex, so they say, is the same as dark skin.  To be denied the same legal and social benefits that marriage gives to heterosexual couples is the same thing as being forced to sit in the back of the bus, so the reasoning goes.

Linking arms with a movement that has already enjoyed huge success is a shrewd political tactic.  But their comparison between race and sexuality is severely undermined if people can actually choose their sexual orientation.  Everyone knows that race is not a choice.  So the strength of the comparison between race and sexuality is based squarely on the argument that sexuality is not a choice either.  Any evidence that sexuality is a choice poses grave danger to the politics of gay activism.

Another assertion made by gay apologists is that the cultural majority forces some people into accepting gender roles that are a mismatch for their true sexual orientation.  In other words, the power group bullies everyone into conforming to the commonly held notion of acceptable behavior.  Only gays and other gender-related minority groups are ever subjected to this kind of coercion in matters of sex, so it seems.  Social pressure is aimed at them and so they are victims who live in constant fear of openly asserting their orientation.  But is that true?

First, people who publicly announce their gay or lesbian orientation are consistently affirmed and celebrated in the pop-culture of today.  The news media falls all over itself to provide a venue for those who are said to be courageous enough to take such a valiant step and “come out.”  Elected officials and judicial types rush to be first in line to challenge the heterosexual status quo, claiming the coveted status of champion or defender of civil rights.

On the other hand, those who share their faith in Christ often risk ridicule and rejection.  Christians are being told that public expressions of religious faith are unconstitutional.  Any faith that embraces Judeo-Christian sexual values is shouted down and accused of being hate-filled.  So it seems that the gay is urged to come out and the Christian is urged to go in.  Anyone seeking popularity and support in our society is apt to find it quicker by proclaiming dedication to what was recently defined as aberrant sexual behavior than to announce their devotion to God’s Savior Jesus Christ.

Second, the gay movement is quickly becoming a rigid and intolerant political juggernaut.  Gay and lesbian people started with seemingly reasonable appeals to fairness.  A large number of kind-hearted and somewhat morally ambiguous Americans have responded to these appeals by making ill-advised changes to the laws which provide structure and boundaries for human sexuality in our culture.  But as their influence has grown, gay groups have become more insistent that anyone who dares question their assertions be silenced, shamed, and punished.  So a new political power has emerged and is vigorously asserting itself.

Power often corrupts those who wield it, and the greater the power the more dangerous the corruption.  Groups with power over large segments of the population, the legal system, or of the economic system are capable of doing great harm to many people.  Groups with great power often become addicted to power and take harsh action against anyone who might threaten their power.  This sad but common characteristic of humanity is so prevalent that organizations of all shapes and sizes have learned through hard experience to craft leadership structures with carefully devised divisions of power and sufficiently durable avenues of accountability.  But some groups avoid accountability.

Gay activism is a recent player in the game of power politics, but already it shows signs of intolerance and small-mindedness.  Should students in graduate schools be banished from counseling programs simply because they question the new dogma about human sexuality?  Where will the forum for critical thinking be if not in academia?  Should Christian photographers be punished for declining to celebrate unions which go against their core convictions, even when other photographers are available?  Where will people of faith be free to exercise their religious beliefs if not in their daily lives?  Should organizations that believe in the Bible’s definition of marriage be labeled as hate groups for expressing their beliefs in non-violent ways?  Where will the forum for public debate be?

Recently a law was enacted in New Jersey that forbids counselors to help young people who are confused about their sexuality and seeking to avoid a gay or lesbian lifestyle.  If people are born gay or lesbian, then some must also be born “straight” as well.  And if people are sometimes forced by society to act straight when they are actually gay or lesbian, then society, or powerful political groups within society, can just as surely put pressure on people to act gay or lesbian when they are really straight.

The gay movement has been a player in power politics for a relatively short period of time.  Nevertheless, a new group is already emerging that presents a problem for them.  The new group is former gays.  This group is a potential embarrassment to the gay agenda for at least two reasons.  First, they are living proof that at least some people may be able to choose and/or change their sexual orientation and that some people who have experienced the gay and lesbian lifestyle have rejected it.  Second, ex-gays represent a new suppressed group that calls into question the original promise of the gay agenda that they were seeking fairness and equality for everyone.  Does fairness and equality stop with them?

Now that gay activism has started to gain power, we see signs that they are apparently willing to deny people freedom in order to protect their newfound influence.  Maybe we are seeing the new face of bigotry in America.  Is it time to speak truth to power, the power of a bullying gay agenda?  Will ex-gays enjoy the attention of all the civil rights activists?  Will there be marches and speeches and songs for them?  Will journalists give them voice and judges give them protection?  Will Hollywood write sitcoms that present them in a positive light?

None of this should surprise authentic followers of Jesus Christ, but it does.  Why?  Some in the North American Evangelical Church have mistakenly confused popularity with success.  As gays and lesbians gain in popularity and Bible-believing Christians experience ridicule, believers either blame the world or doubt the faith.  There is no reason to blame the world because the world is simply acting as the Bible predicts it always will.  Scripture tells us that the whole world is under the influence of evil (1 John 5:19).  And Jesus warned his followers that in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).

False teachers were a serious threat to the Early Church.  Much of the New Testament was written to combat error and to provide a clear and authoritative statement of faith for followers of Jesus so that they will not remain infants in the faith, “tossed about by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14).  False teachers are troublesome for the community of faith today, too.  Some preachers and teachers are selling the notion that we simply need a winsome approach and the world will love us.  If our smile is white enough and our politics are right enough and our buildings are bright enough then the world will beat a path to our door.  Is that true?

If we start to question God’s Word when the world makes things uncomfortable, then we are in danger of compromising the truth.  We may find ourselves wanting to promote “traditional” marriage instead of “godly” marriage in the hopes that our message will be more palatable to the modern culture.  We may wonder if building relationships with people is smarter than sharing the plan of salvation so that we can avoid conflict and rejection.  We may conclude that hell is an embarrassment and start to peddle a god of unqualified love and acceptance because he is more marketable to today’s progressive mindset.  In short, we are tempted to compromise the one thing that assures us power in this age: God’s unchanging truth.

Jesus boldly and consistently proclaimed God’s word, without compromise.  When he was popular and followed by thousands and when he was threatened by hostile leaders, he still spoke the truth in love.  He calls his followers to do the same.  Jesus compared the word of God to a seed that grows and bears a harvest of eternal life.  Like Jesus, his followers are sent into the world to spread the seed liberally, on good soil and bad.  He promises that we will reap a harvest.  The Bible urges us to share the faith, in season and out of season, that is, when it is convenient and easy, and when it is not.  The world will always resist the gospel and oppose those who proclaim it, but Jesus assures us that we can take heart, because he has overcome the world, no matter who happens to be popular or powerful in the world at any given moment.  How did Jesus overcome this dark, confused, and dangerous world?

Ironically Jesus was illegally arrested, falsely accused, and shamefully executed for being a threat to the established political powers of his day.  But he refused to be made king when the opportunity presented itself (John 6:15), he never engaged in violence against the establishment (Luke 22:52-53), and when falsely accused and arrested, he submitted to the authorities, even though it meant sacrificing himself (John 19:10-11).  Jesus warned his followers against the dangers of political power in this world, urging them to seek greatness in God’s eyes by choosing to serve instead of rule (Matthew 20:25-28).

By keeping himself from the corrupting influence of power in this world, Jesus was freeing himself and his followers to see the true value in every person, despite their status in this age.  Jesus did not see people as members of identity groups that either supported or opposed his political agenda.  He reached out to the marginalized and oppressed, but also to those who were comfortable and influential.  He did not judge people by their position in this world and he did not entice them with the promise of sharing in the fleeting power structures of this age.  Jesus was not looking for political supporters, but for spiritual followers.  Jesus challenges all of us to get our identity not from political or social movements in this world, but from citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus sacrificed himself so that people of all kinds can be citizens of God’s Kingdom, members of God’s family, and living stones in the Temple of God’s Spirit.

–Richard Foster, Grace Baptist, August 2013

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Bablylon

The world around us is changing before our very eyes. Atheists often bitterly oppose any public expression of faith in Jesus Christ. Gays vehemently attack any organization supporting God’s design for marriage and family. Political and legal pressures are exerted against Bibles in schools, prayers in public, the Ten Commandments in government buildings, historical reminders about the Judeo-Christian roots of our nation, and other practices that reflect Christian truth and values.

More and more it seems as if we are living in Babylon, a place of rebellion against God. Ancient Babylon made its debut early in the Bible as a city where people decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven itself. They wanted to make a great name for themselves, without any regard for God’s agenda. The builders of that tower were so far out of step with God that he disrupted their ability to understand one another, effectively putting a stop to their selfish project (Genesis 11:1-9).

Later in Scripture, Babylon emerged as a world power that attacked and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, the spiritual center for God’s people Israel. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies leveled the holy city and destroyed its great Temple, built by Solomon as the premier place of worship for Israel. Those who survived the brutal attack were carried off to Babylon. They found themselves living in a godless country that did not share their beliefs or values (2 Kings 25). Daniel was one of the young Israelites carried away, never to see his homeland again.

Daniel and his friends were hard-pressed to live according to God’s revealed truth in a land full of idols and idol-worshipers. Nevertheless, he and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, courageously refused to go along with the wicked flow of Babylonian society. Daniel’s friends found themselves facing death in a fiery furnace, but refused to disobey God no matter what the cost (Daniel 3). Daniel himself was thrown into a lion’s den because he insisted on praying to God even though the government had outlawed his prayer (Daniel 6).

Centuries later the Apostle Peter, the fisherman-turned-follower of Jesus, wrote to God’s people during the early days of Christianity. In his letter he referred to the Church as “she who is in Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). His reference was not to a geographic location on any map of the Middle East. Peter was referring symbolically to the godless Roman culture in which followers of Jesus found themselves. Like ancient Babylon, the first-century Roman Empire was out-of-step with the ways of the Lord and intolerant toward the people of God.

Peter opened his letter by referring to first-century followers of Jesus as strangers in the world, scattered, yet chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1-2). God-fearing disciples of Jesus Christ found it very difficult to live righteous lives in such an unrighteous environment. The prevailing cultural values made their lives difficult and it made them unpopular, at times the recipients of brutal and merciless persecution.

God’s people have often found themselves at odds with the societies and cultures of this unrighteous age. Social groups which are guided by and obedient to the values and truths revealed in the Bible have been few and far in between. Political groups that try to govern by the principles of Christianity eventually resort to compromising their core beliefs and values in order to protect their power and privilege in a world full of persistent sin and rebellion.

Babylon appears not only near the beginning of the Bible, but also toward the end. In the Book of Revelation we read that Babylon will be the dominant religious, political, and economic force in the last days. At the very end of this age Babylon, the ultimate representation of the spiritually corrupt power structures in this fallen world, will be persecuting God’s people and promoting godless practices. In other words, this deadly intense wrestling match between culture and the Church will persist until Jesus’ Second Coming.

What are God’s people to do? Perhaps we should take a cue from Daniel in Babylon. Daniel refused to embrace the sinful lifestyle of the society around him. God chose to give him great political influence for a time and gave Daniel great favor with the Babylonians. As a leader in godless culture, Daniel lived and governed according to his faith. He refused to compromise in order to stay in power. He even risked his life to remain faithful to the Lord. And when political fortunes changed, he accepted a role of diminished influence.

God has not called us to overthrow or redeem Babylon. He will deal with Babylon when the time comes (see Revelation 18). Meanwhile, whether we have political influence or suffer political defeat, our mission is to remain faithful to the Word of God by proclaiming the truth and to remain faithful the ways of God by living in obedience to his commands. A great cloud of witnesses has gone before us. Now is our time to serve; and our labor in the Lord will not be in vain.

May the Lord enable us to be faithful in all circumstances,

Brother Richard

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