Word from the Center: Friday, September 14, 2018

Welcome to “Word from The Center” FRIDAY, a Two-Kingdom, practical reflection on the issues of the day from the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, I’m Gregory Seltz, Today’s topic/issue….

When Being Christian Means You Can’t Be Christian: Part 1

Trinity Western University is Canada’s largest privately-funded Christian university. It’s in the news now because the Canadian government is exercising extreme, coercive power to change fundamental teachings of this University if it wishes to add a Law School to its educational experience. Though the University has met all the criteria for the launch of its new Law School, the courts have decided that the school’s controversial “code of conduct covenants” prevent it from receiving state certification. In fact, only one aspect of that code disqualifies them. Ready? It’s the notion that sexual activity should be limited to marriage between a man and a woman. That’s it! Rather than continue the fight, the school has scrapped its conduct covenant even though it has been an authentically valid expression of the very thing that makes Trinity Western unique, the expression of its Christian worldview and the expression of its faith. [For the full story, see https://www.christianpost.com/news/canadas-largest-private-christian-university-drops-ban-on-same-sex-relationships-226803/.]

Isn’t it amazing? With all the issues we struggle with today, now, the Christian virtue of chastity and marital fidelity is being characterized as detrimental to society. Incredible! What’s worse, the government is dictating its own definition of virtuous behavior through its certification process. Strong marriages as the institution of Father-Mother-Children, have been the foundation for healthy societies for thousands of years. Having worked in urban ministry most of my life, the dissolution of the family – often as a result of bad public policy – is a major contributing factor to the enduring violence and poverty in some of our poorest communities.  Yet in Canada, and more and more in the United States as well, there is further cultural devolution of marriage from its institutional integrity to merely a momentary relationship among consenting adults.

Tragically, the school’s decision to give in to the government’s coercive pressure and to back away from its Christian identity publicly is merely the first step to becoming something that it was never meant to be, just another school promoting whatever society values at the moment rather than an authentic Christian witness in the midst of it.

When I was in New York City serving as Executive Director of Life’s Journey Ministries, I was privileged to visit two Cathedrals that typify the Church’s public struggle in culture, with culture, for the sake of the culture. One Cathedral was St. Patrick’s; the other St. John’s. One was a vibrant church, reflective of its Catholic heritage, fully engaged in the issues of the day in NYC, faithful to its worldview. The other, St. John’s Cathedral, had become a museum of tolerance that accepted  every religious expression one could imagine except the one that had built it hundreds of years ago, the uniqueness of the Gospel proclamation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all.

Christian people find themselves under attack today merely for being Christian. We’ve always known that there are times when obeying Christ makes us look a little “foolish” to the world (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-26). But increasingly such views are becoming dangerous. Unlike Canada, America has enshrined religious liberty protections for its citizens, forever valuing the religious, even Christian, foundations that secured liberty for the sake of all. Many of us have lived with such liberties without much effort.

Now is the time to learn the art and skill of being a public Christian for the sake of the Church and its schools. Now is also the time to stand on the moral truths of the Bible for the sake of the culture as well. Why? Because these truths are not temporary whims of Canada or American Supreme Court justices. Such moral truths are not only written in the Bible; they are also inscribed on human hearts and consciences as well. (See Romans 2:14-15.) They are truths that will once again help us to be better neighbors and friends, even to those with whom we disagree.