Writer says ‘absurd to complain’; world not Christian, not likely to be

With a church steeple in the background, a psychic reader advertises her services at the intersection of Brainerd and Moore roads in Chattanooga.

The following remonstrance appeared here at Chattanoogan.com in response to my essay, “UTC Avoids Offense, Kills Prayers, Aids Society with Queer Studies.”

Dear David

I am also a Bible-believing Christian, but I think very differently than you, and far too many other American Christians. I have news for you. We live in the world. And in this world, there many, many more non-Christians than Christians. Nowhere in the Bible are we ever promised that non-Christians will think like us, or that our thinking will dominate the land. In fact, the opposite is true.

Throughout much of history, in most of the world, being a Christian has automatically brought persecution and even death. Jesus even said we’d be persecuted, and that we should accept it rather than complain. So why would you express alarm at the fact that a non-Christian college would have classes that teach other schools of thought? Why in the world would a non-Christian think in total alignment with Christianity and still be a non-Christian?

It’s absurd to complain about it. And it’s absurd to think that non-Christians would happily pray in Jesus’ name with us before some stupid sporting event. I wouldn’t want to pray to Buddha before a sporting event, and neither would you. So I am not angered in the least that a group of non-Christians would oppose being forced to pray to my God with me. They’re not Christians. What do we expect?

Back in the ’80s, I used to think just like you, and many other Christians here in America, and then I went on a summer missionary trip to Eastern Europe (the USSR, Poland and mostly Hungary) in 1988, one year before the wall wound up coming down. It was all under communism. I met a lot of Christians in Hungary at our summer camp, in churches and in their homes and I never once heard them complain about non-Christian subjects being taught at the colleges. They never complained about a ten commandments statue being removed from a public place. They didn’t complain about Democrats or political liberals. They just lived out their Christian lives in the face of constant religious, political and philosophical opposition with love, dignity and grace, with a stronger, truer faith than most of us here will ever have. And these people have actually been persecuted, while you and I never have been. They considered it an honor to be persecuted. (In fact, some said that American Christians need to be persecuted in order to purify the church, which is why I say let it be, if it ever happens.)

When I came back home, I saw things in a completely new way. All to often, we’re spoiled brats. Modern American Christians, especially us Evangelicals act and talk like this country belongs to us and that it should be more Christian than any other faith or brand of thinking. We think that our country can be both a democracy and basically Christian. By definition, if we embrace democracy, then we must also embrace the fact that a Muslim or a Hindu have just as much a right as we have to pray publicly before events. If we don’t like that, then we don’t like freedom and democracy. I went to secular schools and college, and I was glad I did–even as a Christian, because I am called to be a witness, and I can’t do that as well at Christian schools. I was grateful for my socialist, feminist teacher of social studies because I was able to learn what she really believed, and to be able to sharpen and express my thinking in class without being angry or defensive, and still give her the respect and love I wanted to show her, so that she could see that not all Christians hated her.

Let’s stop expecting that no one ever think differently than us. It’s a given. Instead, let’s learn to actually listen to them–in love, and then express our views in humility and purity. Maybe then, non-Christians in our lives would ask us why we are different. Jesus said people would know we belong to him by our love. He didn’t say we’d be known to be His by our effective arguments against secularist thinking, or by our Republican political beliefs, or by our protests or carrying signs around in Washington, DC, or by our opposition to non-Christian movies or music, or by anything else so many Christians get caught up in here in America today. And we wonder why we are made fun of, opposed, ignored, etc. It’s because we’re too busy whining and complaining about people disagreeing with us. We need to suck it up, stop arguing, and start focusing on loving God, loving people and letting people see The Lord in our lives by the way we live, not by how well we can argue against feminism classes at a college.

John Stegall

Yes, we are to be gracious to all people; but should live in hope of gospel’s winning world

Dear John,

Trying to reform public schools by making them compatible to Christianity would be hopeless. That’s putting new wine into old skins. Public schools will last as long as modern nation states have any credit, and some indications are that many of them are running on near empty tanks.

I agree Christians in America seem whiny and weak. This characteristic arises because of their doctrine, or perhaps their lack of it. Because they have rejected the great teachings about the sovereignty and grace of God, they are all too ready to make compromises. They have lost world-conquering civilization-changing claims in Christianity premised on God’s rule and the riches of revelation. They accept a back seat in the bus and toleration in a world their neglect has allowed to rise all around them with scarce a challenge, even at universities where modern orthodoxy is so powerful they are no longer “a marketplace for the exchange of ideas and concepts” as Mr. Taylor mentions (in a second rebuttal at Chattanoogan.com).

No one expects East Bloc populations to be Christian, or populations in our country who by modern philosophies and pedagogy are denied literacy and some of the basic elements of independent thought. It is good, Mr. Stegall, that you have lived in dominions hostile to Christianity, as it has improved your sanctification and made you a better person. You have not let your feminist lecturers get you down but have graciously dealt with every new person who might be tempted to despise you as a man of Christian faith.

We differ in our expectations. What will culture look like 100 or 500 years from now? I am confident “of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (Isaiah 9:7). I have been taught that the gospel will, as time nears its end, have won every nation and perhaps nearly every heart. A tiny seed already has become a great tree.

But I agree with you on the personal bearing you advise us to take. Goodwill, interest in others, a willingness to listen. These virtues should be exemplary in a Christian. Your very kind letter indicates you have lived out this good way.

— David Tulis