Two pieces of legislation, one pending in Tennessee and one just passed in Indiana, and the reactions to them are bringing me ever closer to the belief that Christianity as we know it is coming to an end in the United States.
The bill in Tennessee is a rather straightforward one that I have no doubts our Founding Fathers would have passed in a heartbeat. The bill would prevent professors in the most atheistic department on our public college campuses—psychology—from using the power of the state that their professorial position entails to force a student counselor-in-training to counsel a client contrary to the student’s religious beliefs.
However, the bill is opposed by accrediting agencies and that has made its passage tenuous. Let’s be clear about what’s going on here. Accreditation trumps religious liberty.
And I understand the thinking. If we lose accreditation, it will hurt our universities. They won’t be able to attract students from out of state. And it will hurt the career opportunities afforded our students, who may not be able go to other states to practice if they don’t have a degree from an accredited program. Protecting religious liberty could be costly.
The other bill is one Indiana passed this week to protect religious freedom in the marketplace. It would protect Citizen A from Citizen B using the power of the judicial branch to force Citizen A to do something contrary to Citizen A’s sincerely held religious belief unless there is some really compelling reason for government to trample on religious liberty.
Again, this is something I believe our Founding Fathers, based on the language of the Declaration of Independence, would have supported at the risk of their life, liberty, and property.
But the NCAA is now thinking about whether it should hold basketball tournaments in the state because, in their view, the bill fosters discrimination. And two major conventions slotted for Indianapolis have threatened to look elsewhere for the same reason. Again, protecting religious liberty just might prove costly.
So what does this have to do with Christianity and particularly the “end of it as we know it?”
What I’m referring to is the kind of Christianity whose adherents hold to and live consistently with the historic doctrines of the church rooted in Scripture and are still able to get along with everybody else without it costing very much. That kind of Christianity, I believe, is coming to an end in America.
What will take its place is a costly Christianity, the kind of which Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote before he was hanged for his opposition to Hitler’s totalitarian Nazi regime.
But that is actually the kind of Christianity that is true to its historical roots. Christianity will always be tied to and rooted in the Cross, and only those willing to embrace that Cross really embrace Christianity. When embracing the Cross, one’s hands cannot embrace other things the world might offer in its place.
It was because he’d already embraced the Cross that the Apostle Paul found himself in situations in which he was beaten and left for dead. It was because they’d already embraced the Cross that Christians were willing to deny primacy to Caesar though it meant being fed to lions and used as human torches. It’s because of his faith in the Cross, rather than institutional church, that Martin Luther penned the words, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever!”
And, indeed, God’s truth will endure as will the “Kingdom” kind of Christianity that is build upon it, even as it has for more than two thousand years.
But what’s going on in America’s culture is eventually going to make all of us who fill the pews and pulpits of our churches decide whether we will really embrace the costliness of the Cross when our time comes.
To be honest, I don’t relish that thought, but more than ever I think that day is coming. And perhaps this season of the Cross is the right time to think about it.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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