Evangelicals & Cultural Consciousness

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

These poignant words were penned by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller in 1946.  By Pastor Niemöller’s own admission his poem addressed the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt, repentance, and responsibility.

Almost a full 75 years later the lessons from this dark period in human history apparently have not been absorbed by the Evangelical community in particular, as well as society in general.  Evangelicals, apparently naively believe, as the moral revolution continues to swirl around us it will not have any material effect on our daily lives.  But, as Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is fond of saying, “We cannot hide.”  We are only being foolish to believe the issue will not inevitably reach our door. I would submit it is already upon and we are being found wanting.

Evangelicals continue to gullably embrace the world’s paradigm where certain topics are allegedly off the table for discussion in polite company.  Topics like sex, religion and politics are done only in isolated chambers where we assemble in our holy huddles and only then speak our mind but become closed lip in the public square.  One of Jesus Christ’s pet peeves seemed to be hypocrites, He unleashed some of His strongest rebukes toward them and He was the most perfect human being to transverse the Earth.  My pet peeve are cowards, especially men and especially professing Evangelical males.

There is no place for spiritual cowardice anywhere the Body of Christ, especially with men (more to follow later on that). In fact, I would submit it is a gross and heinous sin to exhibit spiritual cowardice.  It is a complete repudiation of our self-professed trust in the sovereign will and plan of Jesus Christ.  We are told in Holy Scriptures, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

So, despite the imperative, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)” Evangelicals, at an ever-increasing rate, shrink from engaging the culture as well as actively engaging one another and wrestling with the tough issues that confront our times.  I can still remember the sting of being dismissively informed, “we don’t discuss politics” while attending a Men’s Bible study.

While I would certainly agree Evangelicals must insist that all things are done decently and in order and always with love as the glue that binds, when Evangelicals consciously refrain from having genuine and frank discussions, then the alleged unity that is purportedly being protected is being built on sand.  What I do know is we inevitably do have those conversations; we just have them with our select few.  So much for transparency and keeping it 100 as the young people are so fond to say, nowadays.

Several prominent tennis all-time greats, of both genders, have recently called for the renaming of Court Arena. Now, some of you are probably not familiar with the name: Court or have a lot of familiarity with the sport of tennis.  So, to provide some background: the person in question is Margaret Court, a renowned female tennis champ whose heyday was in the 1970’s. Margaret Smith Court, is a retired Australian tennis player and former world No. 1. female tennis player. She amassed more major titles than any other player in history and is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time. As an quick aside, she is currently a Christian minister in Perth, Western Australia.

In January 2003, Show Court One at the sports and entertainment complex Melbourne Park was renamed Margaret Court Arena. Since 2012, the arena has attracted calls for its name to be changed, on the basis of Court’s statements against gay and lesbian rights. Among the tennis luminaries calling for the name change include John McEnroe, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

I must share, for full disclosure, there are some warning flags for me about Court.  She voiced her support for apartheid with this statement, “South Africans have this thing better organized than any other country, particularly America.” Additionally, I would certainly not agree with Court’s understanding of the qualifications for Pastor.  I would hope her attitude towards race would has evolved since she made that grievous statement concerning apartheid in 1970.  As an Evangelical I remain committed to the Biblical admonition to hope for the best of concerning others and not assuming the worst without merit.

Be all of that as it may, there is no question a person of Court’s tennis pedigree is certainly worthy of the honor of a tennis establishment deciding to bear her name, especially in her own country. If Evangelicals fail to rally around the Margaret Courts of the world, when she comes under assault for holding the line for defending the Biblical definition of marriage then it will only be a matter of time that issue or some other will land at our doorstep. Maybe by then there will be no left to speak for us.  We are told in the Word of God to expect to reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).

When the Obama administration argued for the liberalization of laws for same-sex couples on college campuses the then U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy, specifically asked the then U.S. Solicitor General would the administration’s policy run in conflict with Christian Education Institutions’ religious liberty.  To his credit, unlike most would have done in that situation, the Solicitor General replied, “Yes, it would.”

If that confession does not arrest the attention of every concerned Evangelical then, well, that only shows you are not a concerned Evangelical.  I still cannot wrap my head around the fact people act outraged when people of Faith actually attempt to live in fidelity to the objective distinctives of their faith.  No one should be surprised when a Christian institution whose statement of faith declares they believe the Bible is their sole source of authority to actually proclaim and implement practices that are aligned with what the Bible teaches on those relevant moral issues.

I have been criticized numerous times in public forums for espousing Christian convictions.  Fellow Evangelicals need to understand the culture’s approach in this matter is a very subtle attempt to reframe the argument. The culture elites have attempted to subtly change how religious freedom is understood, practiced and implemented.  They have attempted to change the conversation from freedom of religion to freedom of worship.

The subtle change is it is acceptable for Evangelicals to believe whatever they chose to believe in their private worship service, but they do not dare bring their rhetoric or worldview into the public square.  Preach what you want to your heart’s delight, sing what you want till your heart is content, fellowship with all the chicken dinners till you grow feathers. 

But, influenced by the cultural elites the message to the Evangelical Church is crystal clear: DO NOT bring your message outside of your place of worship.  I am always curious as to how confined many professing Evangelicals are regarding their faith.  I remember an occasion that illustrates what I mean perfectly:  I was at one of my Army short assignments. I was there for a two-week course with a free weekend in the middle. I connected with a couple of other fellow officers.  We spent the entire weekend together. So as is my custom whenever I meet someone new I began to probe one male officer in particular about his standing with Christ.  I eventually asked him the diagnostic evangelistic question, “If you were to die tonight and stood before God and He inquired, ‘Why should I let you dwell with me forever?  What would you answer be?  The male officer became deeply offended and proceeded to inform me he believed faith was a “private matter.” 

Needless to say, the rest of that social interaction for the rest of the two weeks was awkward from that point forward, but it neatly illustrates the poor theology practiced and understood by so many in the Evangelical Church.  Faith was not, still is not and will never be a private matter.  Does not the Holy Writ enjoin Evangelicals to let our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16)?  Have you ever seen a witness in a courtroom that did not give testimony?  I would surmise, even though Jesus Christ was speaking hyperbolically, rocks would cry out if there ever was no remnant upon the Earth to bear witness and bring glory to God.

One of the chief reasons Evangelicals remain on the Earth after salvation is to serve as God’s prophetic voice.  That is why we are called to be salt.  Yet, if we lose our saltiness we will not be given a second opportunity.  I wish I could, with integrity, postulate the success of this endeavor is left in the hands of the Church. Yet, that would not be true as the results are always safely ensconced in the strong arms of Jesus Christ.  So, while many in the professing Evangelical church will shrink and refuse to be stand up and be counted God will always rise up a remnant who will be courageous, even to the bitter end.

While Elijah was erroneously contemplating his own sorrowful situation and believing he was the only one of God’s people who remained faithful, God had to set Elijah straight and inform him God had 7000 others who refused to bend the knee.  So, while we will continue to witness the Evangelical voice become more and more marginalized it will never be fully eradicated.

That is the solace I draw each and every day.  That is why I can find the resolve to remain of good cheer no matter how many others shrink, to still count it all joy no matter how many elect to cower in their safe corners. Lord willing, I seek to remain steadfast and immovable no matter how many others chose to capitulate to maintain the status quo.

My biggest beef is with males, not that Evangelical females are not expected to display courage, they certainly are without question.  Yet, I still submit males have, by God’s design, an outsized role in this endeavor.  I do not believe it to be of any small consequence the charge to be courageous is pointedly directed to men.  Take Joshua, when God commissions Joshua to follow Moses God exhorts Joshua not once, but twice to be strong and courageous.  Verse six of the first Chapter of Joshua God says to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.  A few verses later (v.9) God continues, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

This type of injunction is not limited to the Old Testament. Although this New Testament letter is clearly addressed to the entire church at Corinth the Apostle Paul still uses male oriented terms for exhortation.  He tells the church, ostensibly primarily to those in leadership, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).”

H.D.M Spence’s writes in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, “The verb which expresses Christian manliness (‘Play the men!’) occurs here only.  It is found in the LXX of Josh. 1:6. They [Evangelicals] needed, as Chrysostom says, all these exhortations, for they were in, Christian matters drowsy, unstable, effeminate and factious.”

I believe the sentiments Chrysostom expressed even back in the 5th century are being increasedly lacking exponentially in our present day. At a time where we need the church to be led by strong men who will not back down we have a bullpen of men-pleasers who refrain from rocking the boat.  I can vividly remember two particular incidents:

  1. After making a passionate and forceful presentation for what I believed to be the correct Biblical position regarding the qualification for Elders and Deacon the one of the pastors replied, “I could never tell my wife that.”  Maybe it was meant to be a joke, but I seriously doubt it and while I like a good laugh like the next person as the Writer of Ecclesiastes pontificates: there is a time for everything.  That was NOT a time for light-hearted banter.  We were contemplating a major ecclesiastical decision for the life of the church
  2. I was discussing the various interpretations of soteriological (study of salvation) passages with a Pastor.  He was espousing the Arminian view while I advocated for the Calvinist position.  His reply of rebuke to my Calvinist interpretation was, “The people here would never accept that.”

My angst in both examples are the objections were not grounded in what the pastors believed the text to be saying (exegesis) regarding the matter.  This was not a defense of what was “true,” no, this was a defense of what “works.”  Pragmatism plain and simple. 

President Mohler wrote a book I would recommend to anyone.  It is titled, We Cannot be Silence Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong.  That book has helped me immensely in my formulation of a proper Evangelical worldview.  I highly commend it you, the reader. Today it seems to be the LGBT issue running neck & neck with the ever-present abortion and same sex issue. 

Oddly enough, Martina Navratilova finds herself at odds with some within the LGBT community.  Seems that Navratilova was not willing to imbibe deep and far enough in the LGBT worldview when she expressed her disapproval of transgender males being allowed to participate in female competitions.  You see, that is the root of the problem.  Those pushing for this sexual and moral revolution will NEVER be satisfied.  They will always insist upon more and more.

The question before the Evangelicals is simple: How we acquit ourselves?  Spiritual courage is predicated on facing the battle this is before the church.  Spiritual courage is not some abstract concept without an object or adversary to overcome.  Evangelicals are called to be theoretical conquerors.  We are called to engage in actual spiritual warfare, never in our strength and never with our own weapons.

            My departing question is:  Who will stand with me and so many others and refuse to be silent, even if it costs us status, position or influence.  I have a sneaky suspicion there awaits a tremendous payoff on the other side of the River Jordan.  Yet, only for those who grow not weary in well doing.  I am committed to using my remaining day in my fourth quarter striving to live in such a manner to hear Jesus Christ of Nazareth greet me with two simple but profoundly and eternally significance words:  WELL DONE!

Let me know what you think?  Do you agree the church is being internally tamed? I will end this with a quote from Charles Spurgeon, the great preachers of Preachers, when asked for his advice on his to deal with an increasingly secular and hostile culture.  Spurgeon said:

A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.”

Brother Preacher Charles, I simply close with Amen and Amen!

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