I can still see the look of indignation and astonishment spread across a certain state legislator’s face when I told him that I DON’T feel persecuted. Not at all. He was surprised to hear me—a middle class, white, Christian in the buckle of the Bible belt—say that in no way do I feel my religious liberties are threatened. That same state legislator justified his disagreement with me by rattling off a story about an elementary student who wasn’t allowed to sing “God’s not Dead” at some school assembly.
I’ve got something to say to my Christian brothers and sisters, and some of you aren’t going to like it. Friends, if your definition of “persecution” is a seven-year-old girl being unable to sing a less-than-adequate Christian pop song, then you can probably stop reading this post now because you and I will likely never be on the same page. And I’ll say the same about being unable to force students to recite the Lord’s prayer, or listen to prayer or scripture over the school-wide intercom.
Brothers and Sisters, if you think God is deterred from being present in our lives because you don’t say a prayer from the press box at a football game, then you have a much narrower view of God than I do. If you are deterred from carrying out our calling as followers of Jesus to LOVE and care for our neighbors (all of them) because you can’t hold an in-class Bible study, then you have a completely different idea of this calling than I do.
My God is powerful, but sometimes in subtle ways, at times undetectable by us. My God can speak through my actions: patience, kindness, passion, integrity, thoughtfulness, sympathy, radical hospitality, and joy. My God doesn’t need me to thump my Bible to prove God is here. To honor God we should care for others, and believe me, if you do that, God can speak for God’s self.
I bring this up because I’m growing weary of hearing state leaders justify useless, time-wasting, or even often unconstitutional legislation with the rhetoric they are somehow carrying out God’s will. Call me crazy, but in a world where millions still live without clean water, in a country where half of those living in poverty are children, and in a state where 60% of kids need school for adequate nutrition, I don’t believe erecting the 10 Commandments on our capitol lawn is atop Jesus’s to-do list. If we want to clang our cymbals or drum our noisy gong about how our steps are guided by our belief in Jesus, we better make sure that kind of declaration is true of our motives all the time. Stop using Christian rhetoric when it suits our political ambition (banning abortions) and abandoning it when it doesn’t (eliminating programs that help poor mothers and children). Stop using people’s willingness to answer God’s call to serve others as an adequate excuse to pay them poorly.
I’m working on the log in my own eye. Have you even noticed the one in yours?