This diary is inspired by an exchange by Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham a few days ago on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. The discussion surrounded the removal of the word “Easter” from the egg hunts of several public schools in the nation. O’Reilly expressed some shock and a little irritation that no churches or Christian organizations had stood up in these communities to protest such an absurdity. Ingraham calmly replied that many Christians fear the growing hostility by secular progressives towards their beliefs and values and simply want to hunker down and retreat. Her response troubled me for two reasons 1). Because of its truth 2). Because this mentality of retreat has been fostered by Church leaders both directly and indirectly. This especially true in too many large, growing Evangelical churches.
To understand the mentality of these churches and how it came to be, you have too look back to the 1990’s and perhaps even before then. Churches had abandoned the social arena long before to the state, but still spoke out on civic and moral issues to a certain degree. Unfortunately, some leaders gained great notoriety by some outrageous statements that were made in the name of God. Their aggressive nature was abrasive and, to be honest, it did turn some off to Christianity. But instead of blaming the individuals, the blame was set on being “too political.” This statement grew to mean anything that was in the least bit controversial in the social or civic arena. The irony of it all was that few, if any, of these leaders were actual church leaders. Unfortunately, this did not stop the wave of reaction among Evangelicals.
The appropriate response would have been to redeem and purify church involvement in civic and social matters by studying the history of the church in Early America and its role in bettering society. Unfortunately, this did not occur. The reaction was swift and decisive. It was determined that these fields must be abandoned. Being viewed as “too political” was equated with turning people away from Jesus. The result was twofold 1). It left the field wide open to the secular progressives 2). The very people who were viewed as abrasive and uninviting were the ones left to represent Christianity in this sphere (although since this time some very worthy organizations have come into being). The very thing they wished to avoid occurred.
Now topics such as same-sex marriage, abortion, poverty, hatred of the rich or successful (our neighbors), the erosion of personal freedom, and so on are rarely discussed from the pulpit. If they are, no public action is advocated or taken. It is usually a reflection on how evil the world is getting and one usually feels like the congregants did in the Disney movie “Pollyanna” afterwards with a serious case of “sour stomach.” If you have not seen the movie, think of how you felt after the worst doom and gloom sermon you have ever heard and you will get the picture.
So I am calling out the Evangelical Protestant leaders. We are suppose to be salt and light and right now we are neither. Increasing the number of converts each week is wonderful and I rejoice at that, but there is more to be done. How can you ask them to go out and change their world when you won’t lift a finger to do so yourself? Whether it is fear of man, losing your tax exempt status, or a genuine concern of turning someone off to Christ, it is all rooted in fear and we do not serve a God of fear. You have great influence and are accountable to God how you use it. It can be used for good, or merely sit idle. Conservative Catholic leaders are unafraid to speak truth and take action, why are you so hesitant? You could learn from their example. It is possible to be intelligent, bold, and full of grace when speaking truth. Jesus did it all of the time.
If ever we needed another Deborah, David, or great leader recorded in the Bible that time is now. It is time to be silent no more. Speak up!