How to Evade the New Anti-Christian Reality — And Why That’s Unwise

By Tom Gilson Published on August 25, 2018

The United Methodist Church has a global vote on homosexuality in the church coming up next year. If not for that, this story could have been told about any number of other churches.

But it was a United Methodist Church where I heard a departing associate pastor tell the congregation, “Whether you understand the issues or not, I urge you not to side with the group that only exists to some certain people out of leadership.”

It was a pro-gay message, and a foolish appeal for the congregation to decide without even studying the matter. The senior pastor didn’t agree; his views on marriage and morality were thoroughly biblical. But the bomb had been dropped, right from the pulpit. It was certain to have an impact where it landed

I talked with that senior pastor shortly after, and said, “You know, there’s bound to be a lot of people in the church who are confused over this.” He agreed. So I said, “What you think about announcing a meeting next Tuesday night; not a sermon, but just a conversation in the church lounge, for people who want to talk about it.”

He answered, “Oh, I don’t know, Tom. I don’t like debate.”

I sighed. We both knew the question was certain to heat up more and more as the global leadership vote drew near. So I said just as gently as I could, “Pastor, you’ve got a choice. You can either get ahead of this debate or it’s going to get ahead of you. And if it does, then you’re going to see it turn really hot.”

To my knowledge the church has still never had that conversation.

Denial, Confusion, Avoidance in the Church

Spiritual Readiness Logo - 400This isn’t about just one church. There’s a lot of avoidance going on in Christianity these days. Sometimes it’s denial, sometimes it’s confusion, sometimes it’s just, “I don’t like debate.” Not every church avoids the issues, and in fact some are too willing to put up their fists and fight. But as I observe the American church scene, I see more Christians evading the new reality of the day than facing it.

What reality is that? It’s a dual reality, actually, for God is always in it. But the part we see on the ground has altered drastically. It includes death threats for one of my colleagues here at The Stream, just for standing for marriage and morality. Imagine that happening twenty years ago! The world has shifted under us.

Today’s Changing On-the-Ground Realities

Today’s on-the-ground reality includes an entire state — California, naturally, — on the verge of passing a law strictly limiting Christian speech and ministry. The law’s wording, strictly applied, could even mean banning the sale of Bibles there. It would outlaw many sermons. Some of my best friends stand to lose their livelihoods there if this bill passes.

It’s a reality that’s turning more hostile against Christianity every year. Come to think of it, my pastor might as well have said, “I don’t know, Tom. I don’t like reality.” And my answer could have been, “Pastor, you can either get ahead of this reality, or this reality is going to get ahead of you.”

“I don’t know, Tom. I don’t like debate.”

This reality could show up in the form of a law like California’s being passed in your state. It could come more quickly, too, though, in your son’s or daughter’s announcement that they can’t believe what you’ve taught them any longer.

It could show up at work. A friend told me this week he can’t — and he repeated it, with emphasis: “CAN’T”— tell his co-workers he’s had lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Of course the problem is that Chick-Fil-A has stood for biblical marriage and morality, and it’s been labeled a “hate group” for it. It’s not that he’s hiding his beliefs; it’s just not worth the battle that a lunch mention would start.

Yet Reality Is Your Friend

We could evade all this — but why? There’s a saying in the business world, “Reality is your friend.” Whereas some leaders only like to hear the good news, and some subordinates would rather just say what leaders like to hear, good leaders know they can only make fully informed decisions if they’ve got all of reality in sight before them.

Churches could learn from that. We’ve got to face reality for what it is.

It’s a dual reality, as I said. God is always in it, more real than the most ominous death threat or anti-Christian law.

I wrote recently that I’ve been reading Jeremiah. He wrote chapters full of strong assurances of God’s redeeming love. Read chapter 31, where God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Or earlier, in chapter 29, where God speaks His good plan to restore Judah after its calamity.

Yet he was an on-the-ground realist if there ever was one. He predicted accurately the downfall of many nations, due to their rebellion against God. He kept reality fully before him: the great goodness of God, and the trouble his nation was in for rejecting God. We ought to be seeing reality the same way — especially as the world turns against Christ.

 

Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream and the author of Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel Publications, 2016). Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.

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  • Nick Stuart

    Confronting the anti-Christian culture in which we now find ourselves, or even being identified as a orthodox (small “o”) Christian of any variety (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc.), will carry significant sanctions (job, money, even criminal charges).

    The next 10 or 20 years are going to see a great sifting out of who are and aren’t serious about following Jesus.

    Paraphrasing Francis Schaeffer, modern Evangelicals are interested in personal peace and material prosperity. We are going to have to decide whether to withstand in the evil day, or just crank the sound system to 11 to drown out the sounds of the trains.

    • Jacob Miller

      We’re in the middle of a great sifting with the presidency of Donald Trump.

      And the Evangelical church has miserably failed.

      • Chip Crawford

        How would you know?

        • Patmos

          He wouldn’t. He’s a piece of crap phony.

          • swordfish

            “He’s a piece of crap phony.” Said Jesus.

          • Patmos

            “”He’s a piece of crap phony.” Said Jesus.”

            Sorry, your Hallmark Card Jesus didn’t exist. He compared the Syrophoenician woman to a dog, called Herod a snake, and had choice words for others as well. The fake troll “Jacob Miller” is a liar, plain and simple.

          • swordfish

            “Sorry, your Hallmark Card Jesus didn’t exist.”

            Freudian slip?

          • Bryan

            Wishful thinking swordfish.

          • Jesus wasn’t a Hallmark card character. That’s his point.

          • Patmos, that’s out of line.

          • Patmos

            Calling out an obvious troll is not out of line. This “Jacob Miller” fake account only comes here to post about promoting perversion, notice how “he” never posts about anything else.

          • It’s the manner of calling him out. I’m happy with all kinds of criticism going on, just not the dehumanizing sort that calls a person a piece of whatever. Even our opponents are people, they’re loved by God. and I wouldn’t dare want us to lose sight of that.

          • Jim

            Sad

          • Andy6M

            Disagree with someone, counter someone’s arguments, but let’s not stoop to disparaging them.

      • Patmos

        You’re such a fraud it’s and an ignoramus, it’s hilarious. It’s not up to the church to decide who is converted and who isn’t, so therefore no failure is possible.

        • Jed

          If it sounds like a troll …
          and looks like a troll …

          O, I don’t know …. IGNORE IT ???
          —————————————-
          Otherwise, this thread reads like romper room
          ” I know you are but what am I ? ”
          ” She said a bad word ! ”
          ” Well he farted “

  • JP

    Part of the problem that I see in the churches I go to is that the members are not being trained as disciples with the express to engage the world for Christ.

    • Jacob Miller

      >> Part of the problem that I see in the churches I go to is that the members are not being trained as disciples

      What kind of churches do you go to?

      Are there no churches in your area that encourage members to engage the world for Christ?

      It’s major theme in my church.

      • Up_Words

        Just in case you didn’t notice it, homosexuality is not approved of in the Bible. IF YOU ARE MAKING DISCIPLES WHO ARE “OK WITH ( BEING) ‘ GAY’ ” You are not making biblical, Christian, disciples. You in bed with the world (James 4:4). You can approve of homosexuality, but to do so while saying you are a Christian is delusional (Romans 1:22-28, 1 John 2:15-17).

        • Patmos

          He a fraud troll. They pop up here from time to time.

          • Jim

            You’re a perfect example

          • Patmos

            Do you even know what a troll is? They are people that do exactly what the fake account “Jacob Miller” is doing: Try to sway people on an issue. All this troll “Jacob Miler” ever does here is post about perversion.

      • Patmos

        You’re not a Christian, troll. Stop pretending that you are.

        • Jim

          And you are? Riiiight

  • Ben Welliver

    Look at it this way: it’s fun to be a rebel and a nonconformist. And that’s what real Christians are in 2018.

    • Jacob Miller

      Opposing progress in the name of God is classic conformism.

      • Ken Abbott

        Who defines “progress?” How do we decide which way to go?

      • Patmos

        Embracing perversion is not progress. Only a brain damage patient like yourself would come up with such a thought.

      • You call it “progress,” I see it as today’s passing trend. There was a time when forced sterilization was ethical “progress,” and not just in Nazi Germany, but also in the U.S., Britain and around Europe.

        Later is better when it comes to technological knowledge. Don’t make the mistake of extrapolating that to thinking it’s true of ethical opinions. Slave trading came later than the virtually slave-free European Middle Ages. Ethical progress is never defined by what’s most current, but by what’s most wise.

  • Jacob Miller

    >> California, naturally, — on the verge of passing a law

    strictly limiting Christian speech and ministry. The law’s wording,
    strictly applied, could even mean banning the sale of Bibles there.

    This article could be a case study in religious persecution complex.

    Reality: It’s a consumer protection law. The law most certainly does not ban bibles! It does not ban sermons or Christian speech. One can argue the merits of the law but it’s nothing like Tom Gilson describes. The text of the law is simple and available online — it says nothing about bible or sermons. And, unless your ministry is this descredited, dangerous form of gay conversion — it doesn’t affect you either.

    Persecution complex: Christianity is under attack!

    • Sorry, Jacob, but you’re wrong. The law I really is that broadly worded and that restrictive.

      I don’t expect anyone would try to enforce it against the Bible, but the language would allow it. As for sermons, they don’t have to be mentioned by name to be included in its categories.

      Some forms of gay deconversion therapy are discredited, but it’s a huge overgeneralization to suppose that all are of the sort consumers need “protection” from. Good grief, is there no counselor who can give appropriate hope, or at least compassion, to someone who wants help dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction?

      • The Evangelical

        It has been clarified by the AG in California that it would not include Bibles. Counselors can still provide services on a volunteer basis. As far as the Gospel is concerned, this bill is a minor annoyance, but doesn’t change anything substantial.

        • I’d like to see that clarification. Is it his opinion? Is it what the law actually says? Is it what a judge would say on reading the law? The AG isn’t a judge.

          The bill does affect paid counselors, who do have a gospel ministry.

          It also affects people who write, publish, and speak on biblical truth as part of their gospel ministry.

          And perhaps just as important, it’s a significant move along an extremely dangerous trajectory.

          Don’t pooh-pooh it. This thing is for real.

          • The Evangelical

            Every Christian’s work is part of a Gospel ministry. This secular and sacred divide is creating an issue where there is none.

            It only affects paid services. Why can’t those counselors reorient their services to other sectors and volunteer for the sexual orientation ones? The work of the Gospel isn’t impeded.

            I agree with the danger and the need to get involved. But we already have national ministries calling for civil disobedience on this issue, which isn’t justifiable biblically. This is a bad trend, but it isn’t as bad as some are making it out to be.

          • “Why can’t those counselors reorient their services, do what they’re not most qualified to do, what they don’t care about as much, and take a huge pay cut for doing what they do care about? The work of the gospel isn’t impeded.”

            That’s my accurate paraphrase, “Evangelical.” What do you do for a living, pray tell? Do you like it? Would you like your state’s government to mandate that you can’t do it for pay any longer?

            Civil disobedience isn’t justifiable? What about Acts 5:29? What about all the incre-e-e-edibly long history of Christians sharing Christ and holding church services where it’s been outlawed? What an unbelievable claim you’re making here!!

            This is a bad trend, as you yourself acknowledge. So what do you suggest we do with this bad trend?Take your pay cuts! Stop that part of your ministry! And if The Stream raises a warning about it as a bad trend, tell them to shut up and roll with it.

            Do you not realize how nonsensical that sounds? Do you not realize that bad trends call for awareness, response, and action?

            You, my friend, are one of those whom I hope this kind of article will jolt into real awareness.

          • The Evangelical

            It’s totally believable. Paul makes it in Romans 13 while living under Nero. Civil disobedience isn’t justifiable in this case. Acts 5:29 has to be reconciled with Romans 13 and biblical examples of civil disobedience.

            My understanding is that this situation would not qualify for civil disobedience. Now, it does qualify for activism, protests, or other legal methods of disapproval, so I think what you are doing is a good thing–spreading the word on the topic.

            Regarding jobs, yes, I’m also in a regulated profession and I understand that a license is a privilege, not a right. The state can also determine what kinds of paid services it wants to allow, and which ones it believes are abusive. While we disagree with their conclusions, we do not have grounds for civil disobedience from a biblical perspective.

        • Jed

          Any policy or law constructed by progressive intent is simply a prop or like a limp balloon — “framework” they like to say.

          Then the “living breathing ” ” spirit ” of the law can be inflated or decorated in order to acheive whatever aim desired.

          The activists, however, are getting impatient and lately always tip their hand, or let the mask slip.

          This “policy framework” WILL be used immediately against Christians as a foil. Mark my words.

    • Patmos

      The discredited troll shows his ugly mug here yet again. Why? It’s pretty much what shameless trolls do.

      • Jim

        Typical hypocritical christian.

        • Hannah

          Don’t lump his atrocious behavior in with actual Christianity (as opposed to mainstream Christianity, for clarity’s sake). He’s the exception, not the rule. There is a laundry list of verses to contradict this attitude, of that I can assure you.

          • Patmos

            Pathetic goody two shoes attitude. If someone so obviously fake as “Jacob Miller” fools you, how do you think you are going to make it past the deception? Here’s a verse for you: Be ye angry and sin not, give no place to the devil. And the devil is the father of lies, and the fake account “Jacob Miller” is a liar.

            No wonder Christianity is in such a pathetic state, smh.

          • Hannah

            Oh, don’t think for a second that I’m fooled by Jacob. I’m simply repulsed and disgusted by the hatred I see coming from you (and that’s been called out by others on here), and I wish for others to know that your spirit of bitterness is *not* what Christ perpetuated. One glance at my post history, and it’s clear to all that Jacob’s stance is not one I share, but it is extremely unChrist-like to go about dehumanizing others based solely on the fact that you disagree with them.

            Allow me to also present a verse for your contemplation (sans the mockery and backbiting): “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:27-28;31-32)

            The primary reason I said something was not because I enjoy altercations but because since you profess yourself to be a believer, and you are acting in a manner unbecoming of the God we serve, I am to firmly and lovingly correct you. I will admit that in our past interactions, I have been less than loving, and I ask your forgiveness for that. Jacob Miller is indeed a liar, but he is also who Paul once was. He is who I once was. Who we all once were. If I or anyone else were confronted by the likes of you with anger, vitriol, and the degradation I’ve seen here, I would have fled from the arms of God and wanted nothing to do with Him. We are a walking representation of the One Who saved us – it’s high time we started acting like it. Criticize and correct, but in love. Admonish, but in love.

            If you don’t know what that means, you need to return to His book and rediscover that.

        • Patmos

          Calling a liar a liar is not even close to being hypocritical.

      • Andy6M

        He offers a different opinion. Isn’t that what discussion does? Jacob Miller’s posts at least try to engage with things in a reasonable manner. He’s not a troll like some others. His posts offer and encourage a chance to engage. I very often disagree with him, but that doesn’t mean I need to disparage him.

        • Patmos

          No, he comes here to promote perversion, every single time. That’s because he’s a troll.

      • Kathy

        I remember agreeing with many of your comments in the past, but as with the others posting on this article, I’ve seen a different person in your posts on this site lately. Just a thought….so much controversy we are all experiencing may be getting the best of you right now. Maybe stepping back and keeping your focus on Christ will help. I have to remind myself of that all the time. ( I apologize if I’m getting the wrong impression.)

        • Patmos

          Oh boo hoo, pathetic that you can’t recognize such an obvious fake troll account in Jacob Miller.

          • Kathy

            Can you not tell that I’m on your side? I just think name-calling and put-downs are not necessary and detrimental to our message. I noticed people resort to that when they don’t have an answer (you usually do) or feel threatened. Don’t think I’m getting you confused with someone else on here, am I?

          • Jed

            You know, there ARE trolls …
            and then, there are PROJECTING trolls …

            Kathy you are a Dear, but please … open your eyes!

          • Kathy

            Not at all defending Jacob’s views on this article. You can send a strong message without stooping down to that level. Think it just discredits the messenger.

  • Patmos

    Funny too, people all in a huff over me calling out a liar, yet when it comes to child molesters in The Catholic Church and LGBT being accepted in the Protestant church people want to have a discussion about it and maybe pray about it. Yet when Jesus saw there were money changers in the temple what did he do? How do you think he’s going to be when he deals with all this perversion? I’ll tell you: He’s going to come in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Wake up church.

    • Jim

      Take a break.

    • Bryan

      I agree that Mr. Miller is wrong on his stance. I agree that he seems to almost exclusively comment on the LGBT articles. I agree that he’s a troll by most accounts. However, out of the 44 (including this comment) comments on this article, only 13 actually address the article in a constructive way. The rest are you calling people names and others calling you out for it. There’s a reason that the adage “love the sinner; hate the sin” applies to our current culture. You can’t reach the world if you act like the world. You are doing the same thing you are accusing Mr. Miller of doing: being a troll.
      You are right that God will take his vengeance on the world at his appointed time. You aren’t God though, so you don’t have the responsibility to deal with Mr. Miller’s or the other contrarians sin. You can call out lies and falsehoods. By all means, show the lie for what it is. But attack the issue. I’ve called out others on this issue in another article (can’t remember which one at the moment) and Mr. Gilson has here. Mr. Gilson has called out Tri on another article where Tri started into a twisting of logic and reality that rivals most of what Mr. Miller has so far done. Yet he attacked the issue and while he called Tri to account, he didn’t demean him or call him names. That’s the difference.

      • Thank you, Bryan.

        Disagreement is great. Calling people out is fine. If someone lies consistently, then it’s perfectly fine to say he’s a liar. If someone promotes perversion, it’s absolutely appropriate to say so and to criticize it as such. That kind of thing deserves strong criticism.

        But where I draw the line — not that this is written Stream policy, but it’s how I choose to interact in these discussions — is when people start dehumanizing one another. Calling names is one of the most common ways that happens. Spitting out angry-sounding one-liners is (often) another. Unsupported character assassination is yet another. Some character accusations are supportable, as I just noted. But a lot of them aren’t, here or on social media. (You know what I’m talking about.)

        Jesus instructed us to love our enemies. It’s very possible to criticize and correct another person in love. It’s not so possible to call someone a pile of crap in love.

        • Bryan

          “It’s very possible to criticize and correct another person in love. It’s not so possible to call someone a pile of crap in love.”
          Your last sentence reminds me of the times I would call my brother a pile of crap. Sometimes it was in love.

    • swordfish

      “How do you think he’s going to be when he deals with all this perversion?”

      What is he waiting for?

      • Bryan

        God is described as patient and long-suffering. That’s probably a good thing.

        • Ken Abbott

          “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6, NIV.

        • swordfish

          I’m sure that the many victims of child abuse will be consoled by the news that God is going to deal with the problem in an unspecified manner at some future date.

          • Ken Abbott

            At least they’re assured of justice. How does an impersonal, uncaring material universe provide justice to these victims?

          • swordfish

            Through our imperfect but better-than-nothing legal and political systems. It’s better to have an imperfect human system of justice than a divine one which doesn’t do anything.

            In any case, how exactly are they “assured of justice”? According to Christian teachings, they aren’t even assured of a place in heaven, but their abusers could get in by repenting.

          • Bryan

            The manner is usually specified (not always individual details). You are right that the timing is not. The government certainly has a part to play as well. Not to help God because He needs it, but as the body God has placed in authority for now.
            I hate hearing stories of child abuse. I cringe every time as I wonder what I would do if something happened to my own kids. Then I cringe at what I worry I would find myself doing to anyone who perpetrated the abuse against my kid.

  • Trilemma

    I can think of a few reasons why someone might not like debate.

    1. They’re afraid of losing.
    2. They haven’t thought through their position.
    3. They don’t have confidence in their arguments.
    4. They’re afraid of being embarrassed.
    5. They’re afraid of being ridiculed.
    6. They’re afraid they might change their mind.

    Perhaps this pastor just needs practice in debate. He could get an anonymous Disqus account and practice debate online.

  • MLipenk

    Can someone please explain to me why I should “accept” sin? If I get drunk and beat my wife and kids, why should you “accept” that? If I sneak into my neighbor’s garage and steal from them, why should you “accept” that? And when the Bible is exceedingly CLEAR on issues of human sexuality, and someone claims the contrary, why should you “accept” the falsehood?

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