Friday, May 15, 2015

The End of Christian Identity?

Is the faulty reasoning in the CLS v. Martinez decision actually a reflection of our relativistic society?  A recent study is giving me pause. 

A recent article in Christianity Today reports on a survey that says that many Evangelicals do not think that student groups should dictate what their leaders believe.  The story and title are somewhat misleading, as less than half hold to these beliefs.  Regardless, however, more than 40% of Evangelicals believe that it would be wrong in some way to require that leaders of Christian student groups adhere to Christian beliefs.

Why do evangelicals on public school campuses hold these beliefs?  Is it because it seems discriminatory to hold to a belief that is exclusive in nature or that possibly offends someone who does not believe it?  C.S. Lewis once said that if you believe in everything, you don't believe in anything.

This line of thinking became apparent a decade ago, when we were involved in the Martinez case involving the Hastings College of Law, which eventually became CLS v. Martinez.  The school argued that it was discriminatory for a religious group to require that their leaders believe a certain thing, thus discriminating against those who didn't believe - precluding them from leading the group.

In the end, the Christian Legal Society group was forced to disband.  And in the wake of Martinez, other universities have attempted to pass "all-comers" policies, like Hastings, denying the ability of a group to define its own character and beliefs.

The survey also shows that most Americans do not think that such groups should be punished for sticking with their beliefs.  But recent history is showing us we cannot have it both ways. If we are opposed to some particular act or belief, we eventually punish or malign those who are performing that act or holding to that belief. 

It may not be tolerant to require those who desire to lead a group to share its beliefs, but it seems to be common sense that if you are going to lead a Bible study, you should have knowledge of and believe in the Bible.  And it seems equally intolerant to force people to align with popular beliefs or be driven from the public square. 

To respect a person's ability to choose to believe one thing instead of another things is not discriminatory, it is the basis of freedom.  Freedom, however, must still be freedom when it is difficult.  For example, believing in freedom of speech is easy in the abstract - but respecting that freedom of speech when someone is spewing hatred is much more difficult.  But it in fact tests whether we really believe in freedom.  

So we have to decide as Evangelicals - do we believe in religious freedom?  Or will we be cowed into abandoning the First Amendment, just to get along.  Because there is no getting it back once we give it up. 

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff David. Just discovered this blog after reading your bio ahead of your talk in Pittsburgh later today. Looking forward to hearing more from you in person today.