Disclaimer: This post is not about gay marriage. Don’t get distracted.
26 June 2015 was the day that SCOTUS ruled in favor of gay marriage, and history books will record it as the day that love won. There was, however, another side to that day, and I didn’t see it coming from the homosexual community as much as from the straight people, who apparently really really wanted gay marriage. It was a day of, “F&%k you, Christians! I hope you choke on the SCOTUS ruling and die!”
Christians are now the bad guys. After centuries of peace, with government and constitutional protection unseen since the height of the Catholic church, the tide of popular opinion is turned against us. Think of the last time Hollywood portrayed the church (and Christians in general) as something other than an outdated tool for right-wing propaganda, hate, and ignorance. Do you think that there were be any more court rulings in favor of “religion?” Will the American people get rid of a perceived religious oppression, only to replace it with an anti-religious oppression?
Here is how I see it going down. Keep in mind that I have been told that I am a pessimist quite frequently (usually by my wife). I prefer to think of my mindset as “prepared at a masochistic level,” but I digress. As popular opinion swings against traditional Christianity, there will be calls for the government to revoke the tax-exempt status of the church. Sure, there are literally thousands of tax-exempt organizations in this country, but all those country churches with less than 200 people are apparently hoarding all that money which could have been used to cure cancer by now. Bad church!
Clergy will be required to perform gay weddings, or risk losing their licence. They are given that power by the State, so they should do what the State wants, right?
More mayors will subpoena sermon content from ministers to check for “hate speech,” and next time it will probably actually work.
Churches are given special protection from taxes by the state. Their religious freedom is enforced and protected by the State. The pastors are given privileges and responsibilities by the State (“by the power invested in me by the state of ___, I do pronounce you…”). Now the State wants things to change. Having surrendered authority over to the government, churches will eventually have to change their message, or close.
Some day, the structure of the church as we know it in America will fall and burn, either figuratively or literally. Know what I have to say about that?
Let it burn.
Bring on the pain.
Do you, gentle reader, have any clue where else the church is being persecuted at the same or higher level as in the US? Literally everywhere else in the world. Why should we be any different? As far as the current climate against us, it has come nowhere close to real persecution, but let’s play a game. Let’s imagine a United States where Christianity has been labeled as a hate group. Let’s imagine that the above takes place, and churches are told to conform to the State model, or else. Let’s imagine a nation where the separation of church and state is gone, and there are social and legal repercussions for declaring Jesus as Savior. Now let’s see who shows up on Sunday morning when there are no material, worldly, social, or political gain associated with serving Jesus.
I highly doubt that the men dragged to church by their wives will get out of their recliners on Sundays if they could get ostracized for bigotry. Those bored housewives who come to socialize and gossip will have to find other places to do that instead of a church where they could get arrested. Politicians will still tell their lies, but their lip service won’t be toward us anymore. Westboro Baptist Church will have been executed long ago. Ideally.
Churches might stop acting like corporations who advertise to reach a specific demographic, rather than speak truth to reach human beings, knowing that they could die for it. Worship won’t be trendy and cool, but heartfelt, because every person singing has already shown how much they value God just be showing up. Shallow preaching won’t create shallow Christians, because everyone who walks in those doors will do so knowing that they’re taking their lives in their hands.
People won’t have the consumer mentality inherent in “church shopping.” Instead of going from church to church because they don’t like this detail or that worship style, there will be smaller units of dedicated believers who matter to each other and who are actually in turn needed. Christians will be committed to a church because they have found a place to serve, rather than liking the service because they “get fed” more.
Bring on the house churches, meeting in basements in secret like the French Resistance of World War II. Bring on the pain, while we return to the roots of our faith, where walking in Christ’s footsteps means living a life of danger.
Maybe if we introduce persecution, we will see who the devoted ones are. Maybe if each Christian knows he could lose his job because of his faith, there will be less petty bickering about stained glass windows, communion, or music selection. Maybe if we lose everything, we will start to become generous toward each other. Maybe when we are boiled down to our basic roots, we will grow.
Going to church is like going to the gym, and the church in America is starting to be like going to Planet Fitness. No one judges you there, but that’s because no one goes there to actually get in shape. Oh, there’s a few motivated people who go to do work, but by and large people seem to go to Planet Fitness just to feel like they’re getting in shape, and to feel better about themselves.
Their entire gym membership is dependent upon them having a nice experience, with no scary guys slamming heavy weights, no people doing enough cardio to make themselves throw up, nothing scary or challenging. Just show up, put on your $500 designer workout clothes, and walk on a treadmill for a few minutes while reading a Nicholas Sparks book or watching TV. It’s all very high-tech, with fancy HD screens, lots of mirrors, and $5,000 machines designed to isolate that one muscle group you just can’t get to look perfect for the beach.
The church in America is quickly becoming stagnant, lazy, and weak.
Ever met Christians from a country that persecutes them? Their churches are like a Crossfit or powerlifting gym. People come to put in the work, endure the pain, and become stronger in their goals. There is a sense of community, because the pain is all shared, and they all encourage one another. They don’t have time to argue about the decorations or music selection because they’re all too busy sweating.
That kind of church is strong, primal, and alive.
Persecution is nowhere near that bad for us now, and it will take a lot of time to get to that point, but it’s not going to get better. The US isn’t going to suddenly have a nation-wide revival and institute a theocracy, and the media isn’t going to suddenly start portraying us in a kind light. No matter how many pro-Jesus Facebook posts we make, we’re not going to suddenly become knights in shining armor. The flow of time and change can’t be stopped, and we’re not going to go back to the way it was in the 1950’s. We’ve gone too far now.
If you follow the teachings of Christ, you’re going to make enemies. That’s a good thing. I pray our church is deemed Biblical enough to warrant enemies and persecution.
My wife and I have always been fortunate enough to be in solid churches. The preachers used the Bible, and the congregation generally acted in loving ways toward each other, but I wonder how we would react to suffering. I have never been tested as a Christian, and I wonder how strong my faith is. I pray I live long enough to find out. I wonder how many people will still be there when we have to choose between Jesus or bankruptcy and prison.
If you’re reading this and you call yourself a Christian, ask yourself how much you’re willing to give up to follow Jesus. It’s either going to be the price you pay for your faith, or it will be the price at which your loyalty can be bought.
If you’re reading this, and you hate Christianity, keep doing what you’re doing. If you don’t kill us, you’ll make us stronger.
Bite me, Nietzsche.