Sunday, October 19, 2014

Freedom Riders for the End of Christendom

This week in Texas, I mean Texas of all places (for the love of the Bible and big hair); five pastors have been subpoenaed to turn over their sermons, I’m sorry, their “speeches” to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.  Why, you might ask?   Because their sermons (which is a speech, people) touched on specially-protected topics like homosexuality and gender.  In Georgia, a high school has to pay to remove a sculpture on the football field that contain words from the Bible that says, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”  An atheist group found out about the sculpture and lodged a lawsuit against the school.  In Oregon a woman is losing her bakery for refusing to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because of her religious conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Chick-fil-A has been boycotted and smeared all over the news because one of its owners gave a personal opinion to a Christian magazine, chaplains are asked to not mention the name of Jesus in their prayers because it might offend someone in the crowd, and my daughter is told in her third grade class that she cannot talk about God, not even on the playground. 

Christendom in America is dead.  Let that sink in.  Let that really, really sink in.  You see, the church is still operating like it is 1950 and Christendom is alive and booming, but it’s not.  We have a president who announced to the world that we, the United States of America, are not a Christian nation.  The time of Christendom is over, the sun has set on that age in our golden history and the post-modern world of relativism is upon us.  So the question is….What now?

I have been turning this around in my mind for the past two months.  What now?  How does the church live and thrive in what is now, a hostile environment?  A couple of years ago I was in St. Vitus Cathedral in one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Prague.  It was more than lovely, it was heavenly.  After I walked around and marveled at its beauty, I saw a small piece of paper pinned to an even smaller cork board at the back of the church.  It read, “Church Missional Statement, How do we, a generation born of a generation estranged from God, reach this generation?”  You see the citizens of Prague have been under rule since the Nazi’s rolled in during World War II.  After the war, the communist replaced the Nazi’s.  Both of these horrid governments had a very special rule.  No God.  Government was to replace God.  So the Christians of Prague are now faced with this dilemma.  How do they, a generation born of a generation estranged from God, reach the generations?  I stared at that little piece of paper for a long time.  Not because it was written so well, but because it held so much truth for my American generation as well.    We are a generation born of a generation estranged from God…and now the consequences are flowing. 

There is a war on our religious freedom, on our first amendment rights that began a few years ago and is now snowballing in this country.  The government is using intimidation, smear campaigns, and bullying tactics against Christianity in order to keep Christianity under its thumb. We are being pushed more and more into the corner, asked to use the right newspeak and doublethink.  If you do not believe me, try typing into your Facebook status an opinion that does not sit with the status pro quoi.  Or bring up an opposite point of view that is not held by the liberal left.  You will be attacked immediately as using, “hate-speech” and be called, “ignorant, unintelligent” for not seeing their ideas as the right ones, regardless of how eloquently, intelligently, or lovingly you present your argument.  Why?  Because anything against the accepted line of thought is no longer welcome in America.  Tow the politically correct line or shut-up. 

 This is not a new thing.  This goes all the way back to Jesus and before Jesus to Daniel and so on.  This is what the world wants.  This is what the culture around us will always do to true Christianity.  It will try to silence it when it can and snuff it out when it cannot.  ISIS,  anyone?

So, I am back to my original question.  If we are here, if  the age of Christendom is over in the United States, and we are now living in a Post-modern Relative America what can we, the church, do?  Here’s what we do. We must ride the bus.  The Freedom Riders of the 60’s were not only some of the bravest men and women to ever walk our streets; they were also brilliant minds who thought alike.  The Freedom Riders upheld the Judeo-Christian theology of suffering in order to build their framework for initiated change in America.  It was an inter-denominational, inter-racial, joint effort to ensure that the rights of all Americans were not only observed, but upheld through peaceful civil disobedience.   It was their right to ride on the public bus systems in America, regardless of what state that bus was traveling through.  So they did not fire guns in the streets, or try to start fights with their neighbors, they simply rode the bus.  They sacrificed themselves for the cause they believed in, for the rights they were given by God because they knew that all men where created equal by God regardless of color.  We, the American church, need to do our research.  We need to take up the banner of the Freedom Riders and learn from their movement.  We can through peaceful demonstration make a difference.  We do not have to be obnoxious, we don’t need to stand on the side of the road and scream through a bullhorn, or push our Bibles into our neighbor’s faces, but we need to take a stand for the rights we have been given by God in this country while we have them.  When they are gone, they are gone, and we will change tactics.  But for now, we have our rights and we need to embrace them. 

To start with, we the church, has to vote.  When good people choose to do nothing, choose to say nothing, choose for the sake of “peace-making” (not peace-keeping that is totally different), not to vote or speak-up then we are literally giving our rights away while we talk in angry voices at the dinner table about the condition of America and pray that Jesus will change it all.  He has given us hands and feet to be His hands and feet.  To build the Kingdom, and we need to start now. 

Most of our problem is that we act like our 90 year old great-uncle who can only yell about the state of things as they are, who constantly acts like it is still 1953, and who yearns for the good old days.  We cannot accept the change that is occurring around us so we are becoming obsolete as a church.  We have to embrace that America has changed, and we must rise to the occasion.  We must be as the Freedom Riders and make a difference through the love of Jesus Christ while we can.  We must be useful in this ungodly culture by being problem solvers, not just people who can talk about problems.  If we want abortion to end, we have to stop making little pictures to share on Facebook and start voting for change in our politicians.  We have to start caring enough to open our homes to the orphans and to the young mothers who need our help.  We have to stop depending on the government to give out aid and be the church in our communities that Jesus was talking about when he told us to care for the least of these. 

If we want to protect our freedom of speech, we need to stand behind these pastors, bakery owners, and high-schools by writing and calling our representatives, congressmen and any newspaper that will listen.  Write an opinion piece for your local paper.  But write it well.  Do not use hate, do not be angry, do not use scary statistics that cannot be verified or over-generalizations.  Do your homework, be informed, and be ready to answer the hard questions.  Do not be afraid of the word, “hate”, that our culture will inevitably throw at you.  It is a sledgehammer used to knock the wind out of truth.  It is used as an end all, be all to every opinion that does not line up with theirs.  It is belittling on purpose.  Don’t let it get to you.  Remember Jesus said they would hate us, because they hated him first. 

In this Post-modern culture we have to stop allowing the world to silence the gospel through fear and intimidation.  We are accountable to God, not to men.  This is happening church, and sticking our head in the sand and pretending that it is a nice sunny day in 1951 will not stop it.  We must embrace the time that God has granted us, exercise the rights God has given us and be the change we want to see in this world. 

-A Freedom Writer