Mark Driscoll wrote an article on his blog The Resurgence titled, ‘Going out of Business for Jesus‘ which told three stories of folks who were taken to court because they refused to give service to same-sex couples getting married. He writes, “A number of high profile cases around the world will indicate whether 21st-century society will honor the Christian’s conscience, or destroy the Christian’s livelihood. At this point, a favorable outcome only seems likely in the sense that we serve a God who works through hardship and defeat.”
On top of that, this past week a judge in Wisconsin ruled that the clergy housing allowance, that allows clergy to shield portions of their income from taxes, unconstitutional. While this will certainly be appealed, and not go into effect, this goes to show that following Jesus will require Christians to pay a cost. While I don’t want to go into the specifics of this now (others better qualified can do that), this does seem to show that the culture no longer sees the church worth supporting as the moral conscience (watchdog?) of culture.
There was a time where being a Christian offered a certain amount of social advantages and protection, now those advantages are being tested and in some cases taken away. In many ways, the Church in the West has enjoyed the privileges of cozying up to western powers rather than critiquing and transforming them. Our churches are well financed, well funded for the most part, and have enjoyed undue influence. Yet, that is in decline. While I’ve written elsewhere that this is good for the gospel, it will make it more challenging to live out Christian Witness.
I don’t know all the details from these cases, but the question I have is if their approach (refusing service to gay couples) is the only approach or if there is a better one. While we don’t live in a Christian society, we are supposedly living in a pluralistic society where we all should be able to come to the table with our disagreements, different world views, and perspectives. This may require us to rethink what it means to live for Christ, and often making a point does not make us effective in fulfilling the great commission.
However, I do not think we should be using the term persecution. We are not there, at some point we may be, but it is not today. As there are Christians being thrown in churches being burned alive, or in jail unlawfully, to call our experience persecution would be insensitive and not do justice for the church universal, or enable us to have honest and hard conversations in the public square.
We are losing privileges, privileges that have made us compromise our gospel convictions. Privileges that have sided us with the powerful, using that power to protect our own interests while crushing the oppressed and the marginalized, and pushing away other voices.
While Driscoll and I disagree on many things, here is one call we can both agree to. The churches that survive will be those that suffer, that will prayerfully think through their approach and focus on making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…. Churches that survive will focus on Jesus. Happy Thanksgiving.
Do you think christians are losing privileges or being persecuted? In these two court cases, could their have been a better approach, or is this the new reality for Christ followers in the 21st century? Why has same sex marriage become such a hot topic in in christian circles?