Monday, May 21, 2007

The Christian's Place in Society: the Hated

A recent study of academics showed overwhelming bias against evangelicals. More than half of the professors polled by a Jewish research group indicated that they thought unfavorably of Christians. This study, if you have not heard of it, put into concrete terms what many Christians know on a very practical level: many people hate them. For a few days, I want to consider just what exactly our place in society is.

I went to a secular New England college (Bowdoin College) that did not have a single evangelical on its faculty. There was one--yes, one--evangelical among the administration officers. The college, founded on staunch Congregationalism of the Edwardsean stamp, has successfully scrubbed itself clean of even a remote connection to its Christian heritage. This is quite a trend in higher education. Here's a little exercise for you that will show the truth of this assertion. Go to the "History" webpages of places like Bowdoin, Yale, Princeton, or Harvard, places that were founded in devotion to biblical Christianity for the training of ministers and Christians in broader society. You will find on such pages only the most cursory mention of the Christian roots of these schools and many others. Once accorded a place of prominence in America, now evangelical Christianity is hated. We are the despised.

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 not to expect any differently. The world is going to hate you, Paul says. Gear up. You're going to be despised. You're going to be seen as foolish. To apply his words to our context, we might say by way of paraphrase that, while we will not be eaten by lions or thrown into prison for our faith, we will be rejected by admissions committees and avoided at faculty luncheons. We may not suffer the loss of our homes, but we will surely suffer the loss of our reputation when fellow workers discover our beliefs. The reason is simple. Men hate the gospel. It convicts them of sin, tells them they're going to hell for eternity, and assures them that their only hope is the exercise of repentant faith in the existence, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. Now the problem only lengthens and broadens when one considers that Christians, unlike adherents of other religions, are stubbornly committed to sharing this message with anyone they can as often as they can. Such behavior breaks all of the social codes of our world, for even when people of today practice an absolutist faith, they keep their practice as quiet as possible. Religion is allowed to change a postmodern person, but it is never allowed to offend others. Faith must never bleed over into the lives of one's peers. Faith for the postmodern is happily, snugly compartmentalized, and so Catholics, Jews, and Muslims may live the same life six-and-a-half days a week, excepting a few hours for the performance of one's religious ritual. What an age we have. One almost longs for the days when the different religions disliked one another. At least we then observed some measure of authenticity in religious practice. Now, religions that formerly thundered whisper to themselves in society's corner, keeping desperately quiet so as not to bother anyone else.

Christians are, with a few exceptions, the last to proclaim absolutist religious ideas to the culture. We have always done so, and it is right that we have--after all, we are those who have been allowed to find the Way, to believe the Truth, to live the Life. We do not shirk the necessary proclamation of the truth by hiding our absolutism behind social work and a positive media image. Au contraire, we speak the Gospel. We have always been hated for doing so. But now, we are left alone to voice our beliefs. We thus make ourselves exceedingly good targets for the natural man. While only 3 percent of professors dislike Jews, and only 13 percent dislike Catholics, over 50 percent of our nation's intelligentsia hate us. In seeking to locate our seat in the great hall of society, then, we find it rather quickly. We are the hated. To varying degrees, we have always sat in this seat. It is just that now we sit alone. I suppose it is best that this is so. After all, our denigration is itself a form of prominence. We are the most hated, and the publicity that accrues from such a honor draws men to consider us--if only for a moment before they reject us. In that sense, one is reminded of Another who occupied this chair--that is, until death took Him from it. We sit in His seat now, waiting for the day when He will smash it and all others and claim His rightful chair, which, if I'm not mistaken, takes the form of a throne.


Blogger Brian said...

True, we're sitting in the chair marked "hated". But, the chair has termites in it already, and it is rotting. Pretty soon, we will have no chair to sit in, and we will be forced to stand.

6:00 AM  

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