Category Archives: Cultural Restriction

The Juggernaut Rolls Forward

A couple of years ago, the Cheektowaga Central School District of the state of New York reprimanded a teacher who displayed Bible verses and other material about her Christian faith, and all the material she had displayed was removed from her room. At the same time, a social worker at the high school was permitted to display materials supportive of LGBT political and social activism, such as bumper stickers, the Human Rights Campaign’s “Equal” sign, and other related materials.

The alleged reason for removing Christian materials from the teacher’s room was that they were “offensive” to a student. The teacher pointed out that materials supporting LGBT activism are also “offensive” to some students. The situation was instigated when the school administration received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation alleging that an anonymous student was offended by the Christian material in the teacher’s classroom. There is no evidence that the complaining student has ever been identified.

The teacher, Joelle Silver, filed a lawsuit claiming that removal of her Christian materials infringed her First Amendment rights to speak of her faith and that the continued display of LGBT materials inside and outside the social worker’s office infringed Ms. Silver’s equal right to display materials that promote her worldview.
Judge Leslie G. Foschio who heard the case ruled that the teacher’s First Amendment rights were not infringed, but that the lawsuit alleging selective enforcement could proceed. Ms. Silver is represented by the American Freedom Law Center, whose founder and senior counsel, Robert Muise, declared that he will definitely carry Ms. Silver’s case forward, rejecting any insinuation that the school was right to pretend that a display of Bible verses and a prayer box was a breach of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Christians who believe that the Constitution protects the free exercise of faith and who likewise believe that the LGBT agenda is a moral affront to society must make US culture a matter of sincere and fervent prayer. Not only is the school displaying real hostility to the Christian faith, but it is also displaying preference for a moral position that is hostile to the Christian faith. No Christian would advocate hostility toward individuals enslaved by the misconceptions that lead people to believe that they are homosexual, but no Christian would advocate that such individuals should be told that this attitude is normal.

Christians are not hostile to people who think they are homosexual and cannot change, because most people enslaved by sin believe that they cannot change. In fact, most slaves of sin believe that they do not want to change. They want to believe that their way of life is not only just fine, but also probably superior to the lifestyle of boring and ordinary people. Christians are hostile, however, to advocacy for attitudes and behaviors that degrade human beings. Homosexual behavior falls into that category. Murder, theft, and lies fall into that category. Christians reject the behaviors and they reject advocacy for such behavior, but they do not reject the people deluded by the advocacy. People who have bought into the lie that homosexuality is normal are to be pitied just as the person who believes the used car dealer who says, “Have I got a deal for you!” and then foists off a junker that will barely make it out of the dealer’s lot.

It is important for Christians in the USA to be assertive about our rights to speak and live our faith and to do such things in the sight and hearing of others. Christians who want to be able to speak and act must have the personal discipline to be gracious toward people who espouse views in opposition. Christians must never be the ones who attempt to keep other people from expressing their views. Rather, with love and commitment to Christ, Christians must simply ask for what the Constitution guarantees: the right to speak of faith and to live by the principles of faith.

The attitude expressed both by the actions of the school administration and the decision of the judge sound more in keeping with some central Asian “secular” government than with the US Constitution. In Tajikistan, for example, children under 18 may not even be taught about any religion. The government forbids it. Christian parents must be very wise in their choice of words around their own children, lest the children pick up and speak any words that the government forbids. If Christian parents in Tajikistan speak of Christian teachings to children, they can be arrested and jailed. Certainly, in Tajikistan, a teacher who spoke publicly of Christian faith in a classroom would be reprimanded, if not actually arrested. The USA is not Tajikistan, nor do Americans with any wisdom want to be like Tajikistan. Yet the behavior of the Cheektowaga Central School District of the state of New York sounds much more like Tajikistan than like the USA.

The United States has for 238 years been a unique nation. It does not have a state religion, and it prohibits the suppression of any religion. This is the power of the US Constitution. It is not convenient or delightful for Joelle Silver to go to court over her right to display post-it notes with Bible verses on them or to place a prayer box on her desk or her right to mention that she is a Christian with specific beliefs. Lawsuits are not fun. Yet, like the work of police and soldiers to defend what is good from aggression by the forces of evil, Joelle Silver’s lawsuit becomes part of the defense of all that is right and good. When evil attacks good, if nobody defends good, evil wins.

Pray that God will use Joelle Silver’s lawsuit in his work to protect the rights and responsibilities of Christians to be salt and light in a dark world.

Fewer People Claiming to be Christian Might be a Good Thing

Statististics show that it is not as popular to be a Christian in the US as it used to be

Numerous groups study US demographics. The studies do not probe the convictions of the people interviewed. Instead, they rely on the self-identification by individuals interviewed. The precise numbers reported vary slightly from study to study, but overall, it is clear that fewer people self-identify as Christian today than in 1990. The American Religious Identification Survey in 1990 reported that about 86% of American adults self-identified as Christian, but by 2008, that proportion had fallen to 76%. Other studies report that increasing numbers of American adults claim no religious connection at all.

Christians in general have deplored the drop in numbers of Christians in the population. They likewise complain of the erosion of Christian values in the culture or of real aggression against Christians. Courts are full of cases that involve various aspects of the cultural conflicts that demonstrate that US culture no longer considers Christian values and practices to be the norm for the country. In fact, despite ample evidence that the population of the original thirteen colonies was predominantly Christian, it is not uncommon for contemporary American citizens to say that this nation was never a Christian nation. The younger the demographic, the more likely it is that American adults will claim no connection with religion in any form.

Christians who hold a Christian worldview should rejoice that the word Christian is coming to mean a distinctive worldview

In a 2009 report, the Barna Group defined a Christian worldview:

For the purposes of the survey, a “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

The surveys of American Christians from which this report was drawn revealed that only 9% of Americans hold the worldview described above. This statistic correlates closely with statistics that show marked declines in the number of people who regard the Bible as sacred or as a source of useful guidance for daily life.

Nevertheless, if people used to say they were Christian out of habit or fear of the culture rather than out of faith, then maybe the declining numbers mean something good. Maybe the change in the statistics actually means that people do not want to self-identify as Christians if they really do not choose to live by Christian teaching.

In an article in Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer points to four positive trends for Christians that make the statistics sound a lot less bleak:

  1. The word “Christian” will become less used and more clear
  2. The Nominals will increasingly become Nones
  3. Christians will increasingly change cultural tactics
  4. More robust churches will result from nominalism

When these points are probed, Christians who live in relationship with Christ and accept Christ’s call to a life of discipleship should anticipate that it may not be more comfortable to share Christ in the future, but it will almost certainly be easier to communicate the truth than it is when people believe that being a church member is equivalent to being Christian.

When people confuse church membership with being a Christian, it is harder to share Christ

Many Christians have discerned that friends needed Christ only to hear, “I’m already a church member,” when they bring up the subject. As long as people believe that church membership is Christianity, it is very hard to talk with them about a relationship with Christ. They already believe that they have their world in order. Many people hold the view that God will reward them for being faithful in church attendance as long as they say they are sorry for telling lies and gossiping. They have so thoroughly trivialized the meaning of being a Christian that it is a daunting task to make the gospel even comprehensible. Many American Christians have no more idea what Christianity is than the Pharisees had, for the same reason: they think it is about keeping the rules and obeying the church hierarchy.

It will be easier to confront someone with the truth about Christ if that person happily identifies as not Christian

For most of the history of the USA, it has been comfortable and culturally desirable to be a Christian. People who say that their religion is Christianity, even though they do not know Christ at all, are comfortable just the way they are. They have no interest in being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. They do not want to be bothered by their religion. They claim to be Christian the same way they claim membership in a gym or a country club, a membership that can make no uncomfortable claims on them, even if they do suffer pangs now and then over missing church, failing to work out regularly or not doing their part for the country club’s annual charity drive.

Today, the culture is smirkingly scornful of Christians. Their faith is seen in some circles as childish behavior, equivalent to clinging to an old teddy bear. In other circles, Christianity is aggressively targeted for having “imposed” its “rules” on people who want nothing to do with it. More and more, it is unpopular to claim to be a Christian. The popular choices are either to have no religion, or to be spiritual but not religious. In this context, many people who used to claim to be Christian are now abandoning that claim. Some Christian leaders speak of the change as “falling away,” but the truth is that the people who now assert their disconnect with religion seldom had any faith to “fall away” from. They simply got tired of the pretense. The people who leave frequently open blogs where they regularly rip away at their own pasts, openly declaring that they never believed in any part of their past “Christian” lives.

Christians always should applaud the truth, even the ugly truths. It is better for everyone when people do not claim to be Christian when they do not know Christ.

It is not a benefit for a church to be filled with “members” who have no relationship with Christ

Church leaders and grassroots members alike feel sad when membership numbers decline, but they should actually rejoice when people who have no faith in Christ stop claiming to be Christians or to be church members. Church members, and especially church leaders, who have no faith in Christ can lead churches in very bad directions. For example, church leaders who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired revelation of God, given by him for guidance in faith in life, have promulgated numerous heretical changes in churches across the USA.

In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America declared, ““The scriptural witness does not address the context of sexual orientation and lifelong loving and committed relationships that we experience today.”In plain language, the ELCA stated that humans had outgrown the Bible. They had evolved to a place where they knew things God forgot to address in his revelation of himself. When any person who claims to be Christian feels that the Bible is an ancient, obsolete book about “the sacred” and not God’s guide for faith and life, then that person simply does not need to be a member of a Christian church. It is not a good thing for a church to have members that feel this way. The departure of “members” who feel no relationship with Christ and find no value in the Bible is no loss to the church.

It is good for the Kingdom of God when people who are outside that kingdom know and acknowledge that they are outside.

When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, he explained why he had come into the world. Jesus said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17 ESV) Jesus came to live in time and space because he loved people. After his death and resurrection, as he ascended to heaven, he said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) Jesus wanted everyone who followed him to do what he had done. Christians are not saved in order to increase the membership in churches. They are not saved in order to give bigger offerings. They are not even saved in order to send food to Haiti or drill wells in Rwanda.

Christians are saved in order to love people as much as Christ did. They are called to share Christ with everyone they meet. The ultimate shape of each person’s calling is unique, so some do feed the hungry and some do drill wells. Some teach Bible schools and some treat lepers. However, no matter what they do, they are not doing it in order to fulfill any social obligation or to enhance the image of any church. Christians do what they do for the love of Christ and for the love of the people Christ died to save. It is not good for people who do not know Christ to think that church membership is a substitute for knowing Christ. It is not good for people to believe that they can outgrow God and simultaneously be part of his kingdom. People who believe that they are already part of the kingdom do not respond eagerly when Christians proclaim as Christ did, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ESV)

If learning to be more Christ-like is important to you, visit the new blog “Love God and Others” launching today.

Assault on Speech and Religion

A current effort to stifle speech in favor of life rather than abortion threatens both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Christians must be aware.

 Abortion is by definition the termination of life

In any other context, when someone ends a human life it is called murder. People die in various ways, but when one person terminates the life of another, except in executions sanctioned by a court of law, it is called murder. Murder is a crime in every culture. The most primitive of people know two important truths: 1) the union of one man and one woman is marriage, the foundation of life, and 2) when one human takes away the life of another, it is murder. In every culture, marriage is esteemed, and murder is reviled.

In an abortion, one human being takes away the life of another. The person killed is not able to defend or even speak for himself. The person who is killed may not look a lot like an adult human, but he is, nevertheless, as human as anyone else. Every living human being was once a fertilized egg in the body of that person’s mother. Every living human being was once an embryo, once a fetus. Regardless of the labels applied to describe the state of the physical development of the human being, from fertilization to death, that person is a human being. That human being is a person. If someone steals life away from that person, it is murder.| Abortion is marketed as an aspect of reproductive rights, even though it is the opposite of reproduction. Reproduction is the creation and nurture of new beings. Human reproduction is the creation and nurture of human babies. To call the murder of unborn babies a reproductive right is a contradiction in terms. Somebody might want women to have the right to murder their own babies, unborn or born, but if such a right were granted, it would have nothing to do with reproduction. Reproduction is about life; abortion is about murder.

Center for Reproductive Rights claims that pro-life speech is torture

The Center for Reproductive Rights, an international advocacy organization, is currently petitioning the UN to sanction religious leaders and organizations that support the right to life. This organization is a prime mover in the effort to call abortion an element of reproductive health. CRR feels so strongly about this point that it is currently attempting to sell the world on the idea that speech in favor of the preservation of life is torture for women and girls. CRR publishes materials and has stated in documents submitted to the UN that it is torture for women even to hear speech that support restriction or prohibition of contraception and abortion, two practices that CRR treats as parallel items in the suite of health services that protect reproductive rights.

Because the UN Convention on Torture considers that religion may not trump the treaty requirements, CRR is specifically addressing the Vatican as an enemy of reproductive rights. The Vatican is the target of CRR’s current petition to the UN, but that action is a warning shot over the bow of religions worldwide. The fact that the Vatican is treated like a nation, in the same way that the US is treated like a nation at the UN means that its hierarchy is treated like a governmental administrative structure. If CRR were to achieve its goal with the UN Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT Committee), the UN could sanction the Vatican if any cleric in the hierarchy publicly advocated prohibitions on contraception and abortion. The UN could do to the Vatican whatever the UN does to any other nation who violates the Convention on Torture. While most religious groups do not have an administrative structure anything like that of the Vatican, success against the Vatican would rapidly translate into action against any other group that tried to speak or act in opposition to either contraception or abortion.

CRR declares that hearing speech that speaks against abortion and contraception is torture of women.

This statement is a complete fiction. The whole strength of freedom of speech lies in the recognition that speech, no matter how repugnant it feels to a given hearer, does no actual harm to anyone. People may choose to allow someone else’s speech to wound them emotionally, but that is the hearer’s choice. Some people may suggest that people with weaker psyches can actually be wounded by speech, but this is an abnormal condition that requires treatment for the condition, not the binding of public discourse. CRR’s first hurdle will be to convince the CAT committee that free speech can even be torture. Given the way much public discourse is conducted, it seems likely that if someone can imagine it, someone can go along with it, both for the purpose of advancing the underlying agenda, not because they actually believe that any spoken word can justifiably be called torture.

CRR declares that enforcing prohibition against abortion and contraception through the catholic hierarchy requires punitive action by the UN against the Vatican. If the case is made that speech in opposition to contraception and abortion is torture, then the CRR is asking for action to stifle the Vatican and the entire Catholic Church. Should the UN actually agree to take such action, it is likely that the Catholic Church would do what many nations do with regard to UN directives: ignore it. Nevertheless, the discussion is under way, and it remains to be seen how receptive the UN as a whole will be. Like the issues surrounding homosexuality, this discussion will not likely be gentle. Like any issue before the UN, nations with entirely unrelated agendas will scurry to find ways to attach their own goals to this process. The world must watch, because it is not a small matter for the UN even to entertain a conversation about constraining religious liberty.

Center for Reproductive already is actively seeking the same legal protection in the US

CRR already calls a ban on abortion an unconstitutional law in press releases. In a notice published on its website on May 13, 2014, CRR said, “Today Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is expected to try to force a vote on his unconstitutional, nationwide abortion ban and cynically pit this measure against the Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit politicians from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.” Notice that this statement calls Graham’s bill unconstitutional. His bill is contrasted with the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit even the consideration of Graham’s bill. Notice that the WHPA is not described as a bill to promote the murder of babies; it is called a bill to protect the “personal decision making” of women.

CRR consistently calls all efforts to promote abortion “women’s health issues.” The name of the Women’s Health Protection Act masks the fact that it is not about health; it is about murder and worse, it is about preventing any effort to save the lives of the people that will be murdered. CRR does not want anyone to talk about the murders or make laws to prevent the murders. CRR simply wants everybody to get out of the way so the murders can proceed as expeditiously as possible.

The language CRR uses is the same as the language of the Affordable Care regulations, which call provision of contraception and abortion services “preventive health measures.” Speeches made during the leadup to passage of ACA included startling diatribes against the horror of being pregnant. Pregnancy was treated like a disease that must be a threat equivalent to that of cancer. According the congressional leaders who supported the ACA and according to the CRR, pregnancy is such a dire disease and such a threat to women’s health worldwide that any and every means possible must be provided to prevent such an outrage. If prevention fails, termination is the only acceptable response. Nobody and nothing may be allowed to impede access to the means to murder an unwanted baby, and nobody may be allowed to talk trash about the people who murder babies either. The language of pro-life advocacy must be squelched in favor of language that lies about the nature of preventive health services.

Christians must be assertive and smart if religious liberty and free exercise of religion is to be preserved

Religious practice is increasing viewed in secular terms – as a collection of rules and rituals that simply define a community of sacred definitions. The momentum of the secular agenda fuels a growing perception that religion is not relevant to daily life. It has nothing to do with real life. It is ceremony. It is ancient ritual and special words and books with secret meanings. It is old, dusty, and interesting mostly for aesthetic and social reasons. A church or a synagogue is a gathering no different from the photography club or the birding walks in the park

People who live according to counter-cultural or counter-state religious teachings are viewed as having allegiance to the wrong authority. A culture that thinks of a church as a club will naturally not see any validity in accepting the authority of God, or a god, or a disembodied spirit, or a voice in your head. People who, like the apostles in Jerusalem, dare to act on counter-cultural teachings simply as an act of obedience to God will, at the very least, amuse their more sophisticated neighbors. Worst case, obedience to God will be seen as an affront to the authority of the state, just as it was in the Roman Empire, and believers will be treated accordingly. Legal action, such as the petition the CRR is submitting to the UN Committee Against Terror, will be directed with as much pressure and pain as necessary to keep believers from flouting cultural and state authority.

The world-wide secular juggernaut seeks to diminish and confine the expression of any religion, but that effort falls most heavily on Christians because of the demographic dominance of Christians coupled with the strong Christian teaching of making disciples. Christians generally take Christ’s command to make disciples quite seriously. This means that not only do Christians presume to reject state teaching that conflicts with obedience to Christ, but Christians also actively recruit other people to do the same thing.

It is not too late to change the momentum, but every moment that passes without action to turn things around is a moment lost.

In the US, Christians not only have the right to participate in the public forum and contribute their moral perspective in the discussion; they have the obligation as citizens to do so. The Founders wanted that input. The Framers wanted it so much that they wrote into the constitution protections for that speech and the religious principles it embodies. Still, the trend to suppress speech on the simple basis that it might possibly offend someone is a trend detrimental to the protection of free speech on any subject. The trend to push religious life out of the mainstream into a sideline of niche interests diminishes the force of protection for the free exercise of religion. Christians must act, and they must act with integrity and nobility. Maybe advocates for abortion can make fun of the “war on women” but advocates for life must choose their words not only to refute that argument but also to ennoble the message that life is so important we should protect it at all costs rather than measure it by an ROI that automatically devalues the unborn. Christians must take their case to the throne of Grace and petition the creator of all things, seen and unseen, to act in this conflict for the blessing of his creation. Christians do not have the luxury of standing aside, out of the muck of politics, if they want the US Constitution to mean anything for future generations. There is no time to lose. Speech that celebrate a life as God’s greatest gift is not torture; it is a blessing.

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

The Bible teaches that Jesus is the single way to God

There are numerous points of conflict between contemporary culture and the teachings of Christianity, but the arguments leveled against Christianity all contain a common thread. All the people who want to redefine religious liberty also want to defuse the Christian claim that Jesus is the only way to God. This claim underlies all the other attacks on Christianity. Christians are accused of asking for privilege rather than liberty, and the Christian teaching that Jesus is the only way is at the heart of cultural outrage at Christians.

Jesus said it

Christians believe that Jesus is the only way, because Jesus said so. The gospel of John records that on the night of the Last Supper, when Jesus was explaining his imminent death, he said, “You know the way to where I am going.” The apostles, despite Jesus’ many attempts to prepare them, were not ready to accept Christ’s coming death, and they were not ready to contemplate the way to where death would take Jesus. Thomas, the one who would make a name for himself as a doubter after the resurrection, said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Many people feel like Thomas, and those who reject anything outside the realm of time and space not only assert that they don’t know the way to heaven but also firmly assert that there can be no such thing as heaven.

Jesus responded to Thomas by saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Christians understand this statement to mean that Christ alone is the path to God. Buddhists and Muslims and animist worshipers may be looking for that path, but Christ alone is the path. Of course, people who teach that nothing exists if we can’t weigh and measure it are not looking for God, and they don’t think it much matters if Christ is or isn’t the only way.

Peter affirmed it

Christians have great confidence in the words of Peter, who was present throughout Jesus’ ministry. He was one of the first disciples chosen, and the gospels make it clear that he was present on almost every occasion. He saw the miracles. He heard the sermons. He heard the private explanations that Jesus saved for the disciples alone. Therefore, when Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12) Christians esteemed that statement as authoritative.

Personal experience affirms it

Many Christians have life experiences that confirm that, for them, no other god or godlike power works in their lives the way Jesus does. Christians who were not born to the faith meet Jesus in the Bible, in preaching, in dreams or visions, or as the One who meets them in an hour of need, and they testify that only he met their needs, fulfilled their lives, healed them, redeemed their times and transformed their lives. Muslim background believers find that a relationship with Jesus is worth all the anguish they endure from their families. Knowing Jesus makes it possible for them to endure torture, imprisonment and the community scorn. Their experience validates the claim that Jesus is the only way.

Many people in contemporary culture dispute that claim

The USA was founded by people who largely considered Christ to be the only way to God. The first colonists in each of the original thirteen colonies on the east coast of North America were British subjects. Christianity was and is the state religion of Great Britain, and all citizens were exposed to the teachings and practice of Christian faith. Their interpretation of its claims varied and their practice of the faith varied as well, but the population in general accepted the claim of Jesus to be the only way to God, even if their lives did not necessarily demonstrate a faithful response to that claim. From the beginning, starting with the Twelve Disciples, a major threat to the witness of Christians in the name of Christ is the human imperfection which necessitates Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus said that in order to follow him, it was necessary to deny self and put him first in everything. In other words, because he is the way to God, people cannot travel some other way and get there, even though they claim his name. This mix of those who follow and those who don’t, all claiming to be Christian, give comfort to those who reject Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God.

It is unpalatable because it limits their choices

In general, people reject that claim, because it is human nature to want choices. A restaurant offers variety in entrees, appetizers and desserts, because people like to choose. Even if a meal is a favorite, the diner wants to choose it because he wants it, not because there is no other choice. When Christians tell the world that there is no other choice but Jesus, the world finds that attitude unacceptable. The world likes the smorgasbord of religions. People admire those who know and understand many religions, and they particularly like to hear from people who choose what they regard as highlights from several religions. Amazingly, even though a dominant cultural theme today is disdain for individualism and high regard for communal connections, the culture also simultaneously shows high regard for people who create individual religions by cobbling together assorted aspects of various religions in a unique religious casserole. Creating one’s own religion is a delightful and desirable concept.

It is unpalatable because it seems insulting to other religions

Some people believe that respect for all religions requires that no religion claim exclusive rights to the truth. The founders of the USA were very respectful of religion in general, but most of them followed Christian teaching and claimed Christian faith. The fact that they had made a choice and committed to Christ did not make them believe that they should run roughshod over people who had made different choices. This thinking is involved in the rejection of a state religion during the writing of the Constitution. It is likewise behind the encouragement of the free exercise of religion by every citizen, regardless of his religion. The founders demonstrated that it was possible to accept the claim that Christ is the only way to God while respecting human beings and their God-given right to choose what to believe. Contemporary culture claims that when Christians say that Christ is the way, they are insulting other religions, and this attitude plays into the behavior of other religions which believe that their exclusive claim entitles them to harm those who disagree with them.

The founders demonstrated that it is not necessary to prevent people from living by their faith principles in order to have peace and prosperity in the nation. The First Amendment was written precisely because they believed that this way of living was not only possible but highly desirable. Most Christians agree. Contrary to what critics say, and by the way, contrary to what some misguided Christians say, there is nothing in Jesus’ teaching to justify abuse of people who do not believe that Jesus is the way. Holding that teaching as a faith principle has positive value, but it does not require destruction of those who disagree. It is meant to be a call to share the love of Christ with all people, not a call to shut down anyone who might dispute the claim.

The term Christian exclusivism expresses analytical rejection of Jesus as the way

In contemporary American culture, many labels are being projected by social and political activists, and “Christian exclusivism” is one. Activists like sound bites and pithy words and phrases that encapsulate their agenda. Words that end in “-ist” and “-ism” enable them to make signs and slogans that put their opponents on the defensive, compelling opponents to deal with those harsh words rather than with the issues at hand. They use the term “Christian exclusivism” to embody a claim that Christians want privilege rather than liberty when they claim a right to act on their faith teachings. The use of this word diverts the discussion from the particular issue – abortion, marriage, and others – to an argument over the right of Christians to say that Jesus is the only way to God. It takes patience and wisdom for Christians to keep the discussion on the subject, and Christians must actually remember that Jesus promised to help provide the words needed when they are called upon to defend themselves.

Many people reject all religions by choosing to be “spiritual but not religious”

Another response to the claim that Jesus is the only way is to choose to be “spiritual but not religious.”

They believe “spiritual” to be a superior state over being “religious”

It is hard not to notice a certain smugness in people who make the claim to be spiritual but not religious. The word religious is spoken with a measure of scorn that is palpable. To be religious is viewed as virtually equivalent to a belief that the earth is flat. To be spiritual implies deep insight and superior understanding of the universe. The spiritual ones consider religion to be about rules and oppression, even outright lies, while being spiritual allows one to be personally authoritative without any painful or oppressive accountability.

They actually prefer to be their own ultimate authority

If someone is spiritual but not religious, he is accountable to himself only. In a religion, one or many gods have the authority, but a person who has escaped the prison of religion is his own authority. A spiritual person can believe anything or nothing, and nobody has any right to correct him. A spiritual person is free. Nobody can make him worship on a particular day or dress in some outlandish manner or reject the power of the state to make him do what everybody ought to do. A person who is spiritual but not religious can claim all sorts of spiritual beliefs, but will self-righteously proclaim that he will not try to proselytize anyone.

Being spiritual feels good while being religious feels constrained

Secular teaching says that the way to know what is right is to observe what makes one happy. Those who choose to be spiritual but not religious speak of experiences that make them feel at peace or quietly joyful while not being required to believe or do anything in particular. By this standard, religion is quite limiting. Christians can dispute this choice by pointing out that while those who follow Christ constitute the church, its organization and hierarchy are not established by him. Any sense that some particular practice or cleric is un-Christ-like is not a criticism of Christ or his claim. It may be difficult to educate people whose minds are already made up, but this truth must be asserted: the religion of Christianity is not the essence of Christ’s claim to be the only way to God.

There are even Christians who reject Christ’s claim

For orthodox Christians there is no dispute. Christ reigns in heaven, and he is the only way to God. There is, however, a school of thought that says that there is nothing unique about Christianity or Christ. They teach that the Bible is an ancient record of the experience of ancient people. For them, the Bible is not a guide for faith and life but rather a repository of information that might help someone understand the sacred. For them, the church is an institution with lovely rituals and colorful vestments. Church buildings are monuments to particular interpretations of that ancient experience. Progressive Christians say that Christ’s claim to uniqueness is unpersuasive, and further, that all the other religions are responses to the experience of the sacred that are as legitimate and historical as that of Christianity. This interpretation sounds as heretical to orthodox Christians as the claim that Christ is only human and not God.

In Conclusion

There is a great deal of dispute about the road to heaven, and there is almost as much dispute about whether heaven even exists. Orthodox Christians dispute as deeply with progressive Christians as with non-Christians over the claim that Christ is the only way. For many, Christian or non-Christian, this whole dispute is quite troubling. They distance themselves from dispute without taking time to investigate the basis of the dispute. Christians who know from experience that Christ is the way, and also the truth and the life, can only participate in the conversation by living their relationship transparently and with integrity. The real answer to the dispute is Christ himself, and his chosen method to project himself into people’s lives is through the living testimony of those who serve him. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the way to God must do what he would do with or without this dispute: live faithful to Christ’s call in his life. The testimony is in the power of every Christian. Christians whose lives show Christ are the best explanation an inquiring mind will find if he is asking, is Christ the only way to God?

Beware! Having Faith May Disqualify You for Admission to College

When Bryan Jenkins applied to study radiation therapy at Baltimore Community College, he never thought it would matter to anyone what his religion was. He presented a 3.2 GPA, he passed the entrance exam, and then he was interviewed. During the admissions interview, the interviewer asked, “What is most important to you.” This is not a question about academics. This question asks for the source of a person’s values. Bryan Jenkins responded with an honest answer: “My God.”

Any Christian who believes that he is called to live according to his faith in every part of his life might well have answered the same way. To be sure, the questioner did not ask what Bryan’s religion was, and it is probably considered inappropriate to ask that precise question, given that the school would not want to be accused of religious discrimination. It is not possible to guess what the interviewer thought he (or she) would learn by asking this question, but Bryan’s answer makes complete sense to people who determine their values and their standards from within their relationship with God. If their values grow out of the teachings of their faith, then God is more important than anything else. Bryan answered in accord with his personal standards.

It is, therefore, quite shocking to hear that the school chose not to admit Bryan Jenkins to a radiation therapy program because, in their view, his chosen field of radiation therapy “is not the place for religion.” Students of secularism will recognize immediately that this statement expresses the familiar secular concept that religion belongs inside designated worship spaces and nowhere else.

The people who brought the USA to birth would be astonished to discover that there is some place in a human life where a person’s religion and the values it teaches should not be permitted to apply. Those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, fought a bloody war against oppressive government, and wrote the Constitution believed that the nation they created required people of character, and they believed that character was rooted in religious faith. The very idea that religion belongs in a box excluded from the public discourse and the decisions that shape medical treatment or any other human endeavor would be outrageous to them.

The American Center for Law and Justice has taken the case of Bryan Jenkins and has filed suit against the college. This lawsuit is a terrible intrusion into the life and future of Bryan Jenkins, who simply wants to help patients get better if they need radiation therapy. His faith in God is certainly no reason to refuse to admit him. Every person’s values come from somewhere. Bryan Jenkins says that his values grow out of his relationship with God. How does that relationship and that source of values disqualify him as a therapist for patients who need radiation? Most people would be happy to discover that their medical treatment team included someone with values based on something greater than themselves. But here is the real truth: it is rare for a patient ever to know the origin of the values of people who treat him (or her) medically. A patient with a major problem might encounter more than 200 people in the course of a hospital stay that included major surgery, and the likelihood that this person would have the slightest clue about the religion of even one of those individuals is very small.

It is not clear why the college asks the question, “What do you value most?” but if their intent is to discover and reject religious faith, they need to stop doing so. This college is funded by public tax money. The public at large thinks that it is a sign of character for someone to root his values in religious faith. If they discover that a therapist in a treatment team is a person who lives by the principles of his faith, they will mostly applaud that fact and be grateful to have such a person in their lives.

Yet it needs to be reiterated that the source of Bryan’s values is not a legitimate reason to disqualify Bryan from studying any subject at the college whatsoever. The source of Bryan’s values is not a legitimate reason to disqualify Bryan from working as a radiation therapist. Any employer who tried to filter out Christians or Muslims or Hindus or any other religion would be called to account for the bona fide occupational qualification that made it unacceptable for a Christian to work in this occupation. The college is pre-empting a decision that they have no right or justification for pre-empting.

Christians everywhere need to applaud Bryan Jenkins. He did what every Christian intends to do: he spoke honestly about his faith. Every Christian means to do that when asked about faith or values or moral foundations. Every American needs to deplore and reject the behavior at this college and any others where admissions staff attempt to filter out any religion of any sort. The truth is that qualification for admission to any public educational institution may not be based on any religious test, and the interpretation of the question asked of Bryan Jenkins makes it a religious test. The college did not say that values based on the Christian religion conflict in any way with competence as a radiation therapist. The college only suggested that patients might disagree with Bryan’s religion. They assumed things they cannot possibly know about attitudes that have no relevance to Bryan’s values.

Pray for Bryan Jenkins and for the American Center for Law and Justice. This is not the American way. In the USA, people are free to live according to the tenets of their faith, and they are free to live according to the values taught by their faith, and they are free to work in occupations for which they qualify regardless of their faith. This wrong must be righted.