Vanderbilt University has decided student groups on campus cannot determine their own leadership. Consequently, a muslim can run the Christian group, a global warming skeptic can run the Earth First group, a Republican can run the College Democrats, etc. You get the idea.
The rule came in part because, as you will not be surprised to learn, a Christian fraternity “had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay.” Tish Harrison Warren wrote about this at Christianity Today. Her Christian group allowed anyone to be a member, “[b]ut it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect.”
The first bit of Tish Harrison Warren’s column is really the most relevant part for my purposes here.
I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical. I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement. We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.
Nonetheless, the secularists at Vanderbilt kicked her Christian group off campus “for being the wrong kind of Christians.”
My friend Matthew Lee Anderson has some thoughts on it. In part he writes, “if we do not grasp the joy of the martyrs, we do not understand them at all.” I tweeted out Matt’s post yesterday, but was reminded of it again today by my friend Nick. He sent me Rod Dreher’s piece on the whole thing.
“Blessed are you when they persecute you and speak all manner of evil against you.” What if we lived as if that were true?
Folks, this is precisely why I started the saying “You will be made to care.” It all stemmed from a diarist here at RedState who took the position that gay marriage did not affect him, he did not care about it, and he would never care about. But, of course, you will be made to care. It is a larger issue than just gay marriage and many comfortably naive, living at the margins of faith, Christians, think they have a comfortable path through life in the United States.
Put bluntly: if you do have a comfortable path through life with no fears at all of persecution, you probably are not a Christian. Islam may be about submission, but Christianity is about suffering.1 The suffering may not be major. It may be an accumulation of small sleights over time. It may be the loss of a friend or just the expulsion of your Christian group from your private school. But Christianity is a religion of suffering and persecution.
You will be made to care. You’ll be made to care about gay marriage. You’ll be made to care about killing kids. You’ll be made to care about the influence of a secular culture on your children as they grow. You’ll be made to care about a host of issues.
A lot of Christians have long thought they could sit on the sidelines. Only the icky evangelicals they don’t much care for and the creepily committed Catholics would have to deal with these issues and the people who hate those deeply committed to their faith. They, on the other hand, could sit on the sidelines, roll their eyes, and tell everyone that they didn’t think it was that big a deal. They were, after all, on birth control or watching whatever trendy HBO series is on or having a cocktail or perfectly willing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
But it is not so simple. This world hates God and hates the things and people of God. There is no gray in that. Look at John 15:19:
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
There is no ambiguity in that statement. You may think you can sit on the sidelines. You may think you can opt-out of the culture war. You may think you can hide behind your trendy naked Leena Dunham t-shirt while you sip trendy drinks talking about trendy shows and writing columns demanding Christians be forced by the state to bake cakes, provide flowers and farms, and offer up photographs of gay weddings. But not only will you one day be called to account to your God for how you advanced his kingdom, but on this Earth you will be made to care. That does not mean you have license to be bitter or angry or hateful. You should love others and help others. Just do not expect anything in return.
And this is the fun, weird, odd bit of it — the world will make you choose your side and force you to care, not God. God will call you to account, but the world will force you to pick your tribe. As O. Palmer Robertson wrote, “While salvation is by faith, judgement is by works.”2 And on the way to judgment, this world guarantees one thing — you will be made to care.
Just compare the founders of both religions. Jesus of Nazareth died nailed to a cross after torture. Mohammad died sleeping in the lap of one of his twelve wives. ↩
Yes, to answer the question, I’ve been dying to use that quote in a relevant, appropriate context, since I read it last week for seminary. It’s from The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson.↩