Should evangelical Christians--whose Bible-based views often counter the so-called mainstream social, political and religious attitudes--be restrained from voicing their beliefs in secular settings?
Two recent situations suggest that there is a growing effort to silence Christians who express their perspective on current issues.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige found this out last week when he suggested that America's public schools could stand to adopt better values systems, even those based on religious teachings. Asked if schools should embrace religious values, Mr. Paige answered, "Absolutely." Asked why there is animosity toward religion and God in schools, Mr. Paige said, "It's a real puzzle to me."
Leftist groups erupted in anger over the comments.
Barry Lynn, president of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, told the Associated Press, "The answer should be there is no hostility toward God in public schools - there's neutrality. This idea of animosity is right out of the religious right's playbook about how to discredit public education, and he buys into it."
Maybe Mr. Lynn should pull his head out of the sand and see the amazing number of legal cases involving discrimination in our schools. Students wishing to start after-school Bible clubs are frequently told they cannot do so, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has said they can. Students face discrimination in scholarship awards because of religious studies. Students are told they cannot hand out Christian candy canes if they bear a religious message or turn in artwork that has a religious connotation.
"Neutrality" is hardly how I'd describe the religious environment in our schools.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network also criticized Mr. Paige.
"The language of religious values--particularly 'Christian values'--has often been misused to isolate or denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," said Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's executive director. The group says schools should sponsor diversity - code word for, "keep the Christians silent."
"The groups firing at Rod Paige have been working to eradicate the constitutional right to freedom of religious expression from schools and every other corner of the public square," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. "The value of teaching young children charity, peace and kindness is indisputable. Jesus taught us to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' and we could certainly use more of that lesson in violence ridden schools."
The fact is, it is only the radical homosexuals and the militant civil libertarians--those who oppose any religious reference in the public square--who are so adamantly opposed to a few religious values being utilized in our public schools.
Evangelist Franklin Graham was also targeted for censure this week. He is to speak at a Good Friday event at the Pentagon. This angered a few Muslim employees there. Thankfully, the Defense Department said it would not rescind its invitation to Rev. Graham to speak at the services. As you know, Rev. Graham earlier called Islam an evil religion last year. Nevertheless, he has devoted much of his ministry to helping people in Muslim nations.
Franklin, who is the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, is president of Samaritan's Purse, a relief organization that is currently conducting relief work in Iraq. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has stipulated that the organization should not be allowed to minister there, even though Samaritan's Purse has a long history of helping predominately Muslim nations, including Bosnia, Afghanistan and others.
The love of Christ reaches out to all. That is the beauty of the Gospel. While Christians and Muslims will certainly disagree on many key issues, that does not preclude Christian organizations like Samaritan's Purse from reaching out in Christian love to lend a helping hand at a time of need. Christ is no respecter of persons and neither should be His followers.
Nevertheless, it has become fashionable to rebuke Christians when they don't follow the party line of vague "diversity" and other feel-good concepts of the day. But Christians will not sanction homosexual conduct. Christians will not adopt "inclusive" policies to accept other religious teachings. We will respect the views of all, but will not be brought into the nebulous middle where "diversity" and "inclusion" exists for everyone except us.
I thank God that men like Rod Paige and Franklin Graham are not afraid to boldly confirm their Christian beliefs, even in this time in our nation's history when it has become terribly unfashionable to do so.