When I was growing up, Christians had to wrestle with whether or not our convictions could withstand the threat of ridicule. We’d be asked, “Are you willing to be mocked and made fun of by a professor who doesn’t believe in God or a friend trying to tempt you into doing something you know is wrong?” About the worst thing to expect from this was what a friend has called “cocktail party pressure” or getting kicked out of the cool kids’ clique.
To be clear, cocktail party pressure was quite effective, though those days seem quaintly in the past. Increasingly, Christians are hated, fired, or otherwise harassed on account of their principles. Particularly bewildering is that the loudest complaints against believers today are for things considered mainstream until just a few years ago.
Just this week, the Alliance Defending Freedom came to the defense of a man in Vermont who was fired after 10 years as a successful snowboarding coach. His crime, as one of ADF’s lawyers put it, was “merely expressing his views that males and females are biologically different and questioning the appropriateness of a teenage male competing against teenage females in an athletic competition.” For that, “school district officials unconstitutionally fired him.”
Clearly, the district violated coach David Bloch’s First Amendment rights and likely, given the legal track record of the Alliance Defending Freedom, he will be vindicated in the end. Still, this is another example of what feels like a new cultural moment in which the question of Christian courage is in the context of even more tangible pressures.
This context is at the center of a conversation I will be hosting Thursday, July 27 at the fourth annual Great Lakes Symposium on Christian Worldview in Bay Harbor, Michigan. If you happen to be in the area, there’s limited space available to join us in person, or you can sign up to join us via livestream. Either way, there is no charge for this conversation featuring two Christians leading the way into this brave new moment: Kristen Waggoner is CEO, president, and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Jim Daly is president and CEO of Focus on the Family. Both are witness to these increased pressures.
For years, Kristen has successfully advanced legal protections and religious liberty by representing courageous Christians such as Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman. Most recently, she represented Lorie Smith of 303 Creative in a landmark victory for free speech at the Supreme Court. However, for her efforts, Kristen has been unfairly attacked and lied about by media outlets, fellow lawyers, and even the Attorney General of Colorado.
Last fall, Focus on the Family’s grounds were vandalized by activists. Though not the first time, there was something different about this attack. The perpetrators falsely and unfairly blamed Focus for the then-recent murders at a local Colorado Springs gay club. These accusations have been repeated by media outlets and critics as recently as last week.
This brave new world of hostility is familiar for our brothers and sisters elsewhere, in places like Nigeria, India, and China. Ours are more experiences of a series of horrible moments, such as earlier this year in Nashville. Christians in the West do not fear for their lives. Even so, something has clearly shifted. Calls to tolerate the views of others are about as 1990s these days as talking about abortion being “safe, legal, and rare.” As we’ve seen in Nashville, it’s a perilously small step from the rhetorical games of wanting to punch “literal Nazis” to literally punching those who dare stray from the cultural narrative.
The only way forward for the Christ follower is to commit again to knowing what is true, to commit again to saying and living what is true even if there is a cost, and to say and live what is true in a way that is pleasing to Christ. In other words, faithfulness will involve both the what we believe and the how we’ll live it out.
I don’t know anyone I’d rather have in this conversation than Kristin Waggoner and Jim Daly. Please join us for the Great Lakes Symposium on Christian Worldview on Thursday, July 27. Sign up to attend live or to join the livestream at ColsonCenter.org/GreatLakes.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy D. Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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