In the wake of California’s University System to derecognize Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) because “they require their leaders to have Christian beliefs,” will Evangelical Christians become the “new racists” in our modern American culture? Whether we like it or not, the answer to that question is already “YES!”
The actions taken by the publicly-funded, taxpayer-supported (including Evangelical Christians) University System in California — not to mention previous moves by Vanderbilt University (a private school) — to revoke official recognition of Christian organizations on their campuses, continues a pattern of hostility towards faith-based organizations.
This hostility (not persecution) stems, not just from a disagreement over basic Christian beliefs, but rather stems from an ongoing and seemingly intractable difference of opinion with one particular Christian belief. And, what might that one, make-or-break belief be that is causing public and private colleges across America to ban (mostly) Evangelical and/or Conservative Christian groups from their campuses? Gay Rights.
The issue on America’s college campuses specifically and, in American culture more generally, is whether or not Christian groups, parachurch organizations, and churches themselves, will be able to hold to traditional Biblical beliefs with regard to homosexuality, gay rights, and gay marriage. It depends. Depends on what? Whether or not you want to be labeled as a bigot.
As I have long suspected, Christians who hold to a traditional view of sexuality, particularly the view that homosexuality is not compatible with Biblical Christianity, will increasingly be marginalized in our culture by those who will label such beliefs as bigoted. The same type of pressure and social stigmatization that was used against racists will be applied to Conservative Christians. In effect, Christians who view homosexuality and/or gay marriage as “sinful” will be portrayed not just as homophobic, but also as hate-filled bigots who are the equivalent of the KKK.
That is the reality on the ground, whether we want to accept it or not. That being said, Christians have three options when confronted with the charge of bigotry as it relates to gay rights. First, we can soften our views on homosexuality. This might include changing our views on the Biblical injunction against homosexual practices. While many Christians, including churches and whole denominations, are moving in this direction, I do not believe that this is a valid option for a follower of Christ who wants to be faithful to God’s Word.
The second option, which is being chosen by more and more Christians as a way to defend their faith, is to become angry and defensive. When accused of bigotry, some Christians don’t just stand their ground, but instead come out swinging. Wildly at times. There is no “turning the other cheek” or patiently and lovingly interacting with a lost culture. There is just seething anger. That option is likewise not a valid or Biblical response for Christians who want to be salt and light in the midst of culture.
The third option calls for Christians to follow Jesus’ example of being both “grace and truth” in a spiritually dark culture. That is far easier said than done. However, that is the only valid response to the charges of bigotry and hate. We should not be surprised when we are ridiculed for our faith and when the culture views our love for the truth and love for our neighbor as hatred. Jesus predicted this would happen, when He said in His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount,
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12, ESV)
While the University of California’s decision to derecognize IVCF from its 23 public college campuses is not persecution, it is most certainly an action intended to send a strong message to Evangelicals — change your position on homosexuality or else face the wrath of a culture increasingly hostile to Biblical Christianity.
Our culture — in fact, any culture at any time in history — will simply not understand how Christians can share the truth in love. Jesus Christ, who was the perfect embodiment of that principle, was hung on a cross 2,000 years ago because He refused to compromise God’s truth in order to “go along to get along.” As His followers in 2014, can we do any less, no matter the consequences?