Tag Archives: Sex education

Religion? Or not a religion? When doesn’t it matter?

In 1980, Phyllis Schlafly wrote, “Secular Humanism has become the established religion of the US public school system.”[1] Tom Flynn, author of “Secular Humanism Defined” uses this and other quotations to point out what he calls a misconception by Christians about secular humanism. This situation is an example of the sort of argument Christians often fall into as they attempt to talk with secular thinkers. Schlafly and Flynn do not really disagree on the principles which separate them. They only disagree about the meaning of the term religion.

Phyllis Schlafly, and many other Christian leaders, teachers and pastors, use the term religion for any way of thinking or worldview in which human beings value something more than they value God. Secular thinkers only use the term religion for a mindset that includes supernatural or transcendent beings. It is easy enough to end this argument if someone recognizes that the point of the conversation is not the label but rather the very real differences in worldviews that set Mrs. Schlafly and Mr. Flynn in opposite corners.

Christians who have listened closely to their pastors for years will remember the sermons in which they were admonished that whatever stands between them and God becomes a false god. Secular thinkers readily concede that they exclude from their worldview anything supernatural, and they will not dispute it if they are accused of not serving God. They limit their worldview to time and space. This outlook prevents them from even acknowledging the existence of God. In that stance, there is no possibility that they will worship him. Christian teaching asserts that the secular worldview, which prevents secular thinkers from serving God, is the god that secular thinkers worship.

Secular thinkers consider this attitude to be preposterous. They assert firmly that they do not worship anything. They do not engage in worship. They believe that by avoiding the nebulous supernatural notion of any god whatsoever they set people free to become all that they can be. They strenuously do not want to be connected with a religion, and they do not want anyone to confuse the secular worldview with a religion.

Given this state of affairs, to argue whether secular humanism is or is not a religion is pointless. Yet many Christians, engaged in conversations about political and social issues persist in arguing that humanists worship something other than God. This argument sounds so ridiculous to the secular thinker that anything else the Christian may say will be dismissed without consideration.

What if it doesn’t matter whether we call secularism a religion or not? What if that label is not the point of the conversation? For example, if the school curriculum is the real issue, why not stay focused on the curriculum issues that separate Christians and secular thinkers? Most people agree that the education of children is crucial to the health of any nation. If any group of adults is asked simply to answer yes or no to the question, “Is good education important to our country?” it would be shocking if anyone in any group answered, “No.” However, the content of that education is a truly divisive issue. Whether the subject is American History, physical science, biology, or even English grammar, there will be a vast universe of different viewpoints, and most of those viewpoints will originate in divergent worldviews. It might be very good for participants in the conversation to recognize that problem before they engage in fisticuffs over sex education or evolutionary theory. Christians who want to be good citizens will certainly participate in such conversations, but it won’t be helpful if the discussion devolves into a religious war.

Christians must be well prepared when they engage in civic disagreements. Inevitably, communities include people of various religious persuasions as well as people who fervently reject any religion at all. There is no value in pointless arguments over whose definition will triumph. In order to participate effectively in government and social issues, Christians must learn to focus on the real issues and avoid verbiage that will be perceived as name-calling.

When Christians are at prayer about community problems, they are at liberty to name the supernatural enemy they face when someone proposes to teach kindergartners how to experiment with same-gender sexuality. In prayer they can ask God for his power to protect them and the children from Satan’s assaults in the voices of people who would vehemently deny his very existence, but in the conversation with other citizens, they must recognize that the community is not served by religious strife.

The solution is to pray before such conversations. Christians always say that they believe in prayer, but very often they forget to pray about the toughest problems. A school board meeting is a really difficult challenge when people of faith and people who reject the whole idea of faith try to talk about the important question, “What do we teach the children?” When Christians pray about these problems, they need to remember that in James 1:5 is a wonderful promise every Christian can claim in time of need. “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” (James 1:5) Christians also recognize that the people who most fervently reject the idea of supernatural power are the ones least able to resist its working. Christians need to prepare for such conversations with the armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6:10-17. They must study and prepare their minds for the conversation, but they must not forget that they live at the intersection of time and eternity. Christian lives are points where God’s infinite power enters into the time/space continuum. This post provides some intellectual grist for the mental challenge of living in a world dominated by secular thinking, but no Christian should attempt that task without taking full advantage of the power promised to those who have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is a challenge to talk with secular thinkers, but it is a challenge God is ready for. In his power, Christians can be ready for it, too.

 


[1] Phyllis Schlafly, “What is Humanism?,” a 1980 syndicated newspaper column quoted by Tom Flynn in an article entitled, “Secular Humanism Defined at http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=main&page=sh_defined4

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Destiny — Christ’s Yes to Each Person

Once upon a time someone tried to tell children that they could resist the lure of illegal drugs by simply saying, “No.” Sex education programs that teach abstinence sometimes try the same tactic: Just say NO. It is extremely hard to say NO to something you really want, something you hunger for, and all those programs about saying NO have high failure rates. People cannot simply say no to deep hunger. Children try drugs because being one of the “in” crowd meets a need, and the drugs themselves temporarily fog their ability to recognize that the need is not being filled. Children experiment with sex because there is a deep hunger they think sex will satisfy, and they keep it up, because the human body is designed to hunger for sex. It is a lot harder just to say NO when everything within you is driving you to YES.

Frederick Buechner, quoted by Mike Glenn in The Gospel of Yes explains that our destiny in Christ is a deep and powerful force which is like the forces that drive people to drugs and sex for fulfillment. Buechner says, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When I read those words, I knew that at last somebody had clearly stated what has happened to me. I never had a “Damascus moment” like the apostle Paul when my world crashed down around my ears and I finally saw my future. My experience has been very different from that, and someone who recently asked me to describe my sense of calling was a little disturbed that I didn’t have a single enlightening moment, a powerful “one thing” that came clear to me. My experience of calling is more like the discovery of what Buechner called “deep gladness” and the arrival at the intersection with a “deep hunger” in the world.

My call is to learn how the world actually thinks in order to learn how to communicate with the world as it is. The Bible teaches me, and I can easily observe, that human beings are fatally flawed from the moment of birth. The Bible explains it as the work of Satan and the will of humans. The Bible teaches me that Christ came to change all that. My own life is a testimony to that truth – I, a flawed human being, met Christ and was transformed by him into the person I was created to be, not the sad failure I had become on my own. I want to share that experience with other people. I want other people to know Christ as I know him. The desire to share Christ with others is a driving force in my life. My experience with Christ created deep gladness in my life.

However, I find that nobody wants to hear me quote John 3:16 as a greeting. People reject most quotations from the Bible, although a few proverbs and some generic selections from Ecclesiastes pass muster as safe aphorisms. If I want to share Christ, I can’t speak Bible language. I must speak the language of the culture in which I find myself. And that is not easy.

The culture uses the same words I do to talk about life, but they don’t mean the same things. Here, I am happy to say, is another deep-seated gladness for me – words. I love the study of words, and the more I study the words of the culture, the better I understand what the real hunger of the culture is. Guess what. The culture hungers for someone who will heal our guilty feeling that each of us is personally responsible for the terrible mess the world is in. The culture hungers for Christ. The problem is that it has classified Christ as an element of religion, thereby defining him as a myth, and in that act, the culture believes that it has removed the Christ problem from the real world. The culture is now engaged in a rational and reasonable search for the solution to the universal guilt that they refuse to call sin, because that, too, is a myth.

My calling is to understand their language, so I can speak their language to share the Christ they have tried to lock up inside houses of worship.

My deep gladness, Christ the Living Word, and my other deep joy, the study of human words, have met with the world’s deep hunger for a cure for the universal guilt.

I have found my destiny – my YES in Christ. How it will all work out I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have never been happier. I have a sense of fulfillment and peace that is like the moment when you sit down by a fireplace on a snowy day. I am working very hard. I spend long hours every day researching the culture and studying my Bible and writing what God gives me to understand. I don’t have a vision of the distant future; I barely have a vision of tomorrow. I forget to do things that should be ingrained habits by now. None of that matters, because I am saying “yes” to Christ’s “yes” to me. I am glad, deeply glad, and I love sharing bread with the hungry world just waiting for Christ’s “yes.”

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