The very real threat that secular thinking poses to Christians in the USA is an important topic for this blog. Secular thinking is slowly building a fence around the expression of faith. If not stopped, secular definitions will ultimately succeed in suppressing all public expression of any faith in any form. Secular thinking, however, is not the only threat Christians face in the USA. Islamic pressure to incorporate sharia law into the jurisprudence of the USA is also rising. Secularism and Islam stand at polar opposite positions on the spectrum of religious faith, but they apply cultural pressure which coincides at the point where their very different objectives conflict with Christian faith expression. For the moment, they are not in head-to-head conflict. The battlefield looks more like a garden under siege by two competing species of weed. Ultimately one weed will defeat the other, but wherever either species is found, it will be hard for vegetables desired for food to thrive.
In a recent article in an Egyptian magazine, Rose El Youssef, translated and published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism, it was alleged that six ardent Islamic activists have been appointed to powerful posts in the current administration. Al Gore sold his network, Current TV, to Al Jazeera, a news service devoted to the Islamic worldview. The director of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, advocated aggressive activism against any criticism of Islam or Mohammed, including the application of Sharia law. These reports do not constitute a threat in themselves, but they add weight to reports of such things as schools that construct footbaths for Muslims and a Muslim woman’s attempt to pose for her driver’s license photo wearing a burqah.
Americans have been accustomed over the more than two hundred years of the history of the USA to assume that Christian ideas and values were normal for everyone. Until recently, most people simply accepted the Christian idea that there was a heaven and a hell, and God made the decision about who went where at death. The culture showed respect for the Christian day of worship, Sunday, and even government showed respect for those who worshiped Christ by designating Sunday as a day for stores, schools, and government offices to be closed. These behaviors reflected the demographics that showed that somewhere around 80% of the citizens self-identified as Christians. In general, even people who self-identified with other religions or no religion mostly behaved and spoke as if Christianity shaped the culture.
The comfort level of the culture with the assumptions accompanying Christian faith has decreased dramatically over the past twenty years. Secular thinkers take offense at government recognition of any holy day. Islamic thinkers take offense that their holy days are not generally recognized. Christians feel blind-sided by the simultaneous pressures from two different directions to bend in two different ways. Their confusion is only heightened by the way governments at various levels respond to these pressures, but confusion becomes actual fear when those pressures erupt at the level of the Supreme Court and the White House.
American Christians need to be alert to the way subtle pressure becomes aggressive activism. The transition from efforts to reduce the social stigma of homosexuality to aggressive activism to declare that a homosexual union is a marriage proceeded at a breath-taking pace over the past few years. For that reason it makes sense to take seriously comments about incorporating sharia law into American legal processes and practices. It sounds like unreasoning paranoia to fear the imposition of sharia law in a nation with more than two hundred years of precedent in the line of English common law as shaped by our Constitution. However, when the pace of social and legal change over the past twenty years is laid beside the pace of comparable changes before 1990, the difference is startling. Viewed that way, the mere mention that some American believes sharia law should be applied in the US deserves attention.
People whose objectives are political and social in nature have methods and practices that constitute their “toolbox” for accomplishing the change they desire. In the political and social realm those tools work. Christians are just like any other citizens in their desire that law and culture reflect their values, but Christians have the additional call to a mission of spiritual transformation. Christians do not take on political and social projects for their own sake; the projects have no meaning or value to the Christian mission of global spiritual transformation if the political or social objectives are not responses to Christ’s call to discipleship. The implementation of the political and social objectives cannot be pursued single-mindedly, because a Christian is called to express discipleship to Christ in every word and deed. Hence, no matter how vile or vicious the opposition is, a Christian is not justified in vilifying or flaying the opposition. A Christian must trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit and obey Christ’s law of love no matter how ugly the fight becomes.
For secular thinkers, the battle will be won when all religious thought is finally bottled up out of sight. In fact for some, that battle won’t be won until the only mention of religion is found in books about ancient history. For Muslims, the battle will be won when everyone has either converted to Islam or died. It is quite true that many Muslims do not advocate suicide bombings as a tool in the battle, but all Muslims advocate a world in which Islam is the only religion left. Christians pray for a day when all people come to know Christ, but take wisdom from the book of Revelation that makes it clear that till the end of time, God himself will leave human beings free to choose him or reject him. Christians do not believe that the battle will end until Christ comes again to dwell with his people on earth. As we engage in the battle for the very survival of our faith, let us remember that great promise and hold fast to our testimony, shooting darts of love at all enemies as Christ taught us to do.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45
For this week’s news about the persecuted church and the culture wars in the USA, read Living on Tilt the newspaper.