Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On Protests and Blunt Clubs

I drove by San Juan High School yesterday, where my daughter attends school, and saw a rather large protest going on.

Members from a local church were protesting the suspension of a student for wearing an anti-gay t-shirt during the Day of Silence a week or so ago. The Day of Silence is in support of Gay and Lesbian tolerance on campus, and a Christian young man wore a t-shirt stating "homosexuality is sin". He was asked to remove it, refused, and so was suspended as being in violation of school policies against wearing clothing with offensive messages.

Now, I understand that this places the schools in a tough position, because both sexual orientation and religious views are "protected" groups in the schools. The schools are charged with promoting a safe atmosphere for learning, and State education codes explicitly prohibit discrimination or harassment based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion, among other things. That's not what my letter is about. I feel for the administrators who are mostly decent people trying to do their jobs the best they can, and are put in a very tough spot.

There were about 30 or so people lining Greenback Lane directly in front of the main parking lot of San Juan HS. They held professionally printed signs, with bold letters proclaiming "God Hates Sin", "God Hates Sodomy", Homosexuality is Sin", The Wages of Sin is Death", "Christian Student Suspended for Wearing T-shirt", and several with bible verses relating to Sodom and Gomorrah and Romans 2, as well as a sign saying something about "taking our nation back". The group was general peaceful, standing for the most part quietly along the street, talking to each other while drivers went by and either honked in support or not.

What I want to say is, it broke my heart when I drove by that scene. Looking into the faces of those with the signs, and reading the message they were relating, I felt nothing but aggression and severe judgementalness from that group. Here were Christian brothers and sisters, fellow followers of Christ, and all I could think was "How does any of this show the love of Jesus to students they are trying to reach?" I had no quarrel with the theology of their statements, and the leaflet they were handing out was biblically accurate as far as I saw, but where was the love of Christ?

It honestly brought tears of sadness to my eyes to think that my daughter, who attends San Juan, would look at this group and in some way equate their actions with what I'm trying to teach her about Christ.

I though back to JT's sermon on Sunday. I think he was right on the money. Luke 6:22-24, "God blesses you who are hated and excluded and mocked and cursed because you are identified with me, the Son of Man. When that at happens, rejoice! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were also treated that way by your ancestors." NLT

We know the world will hate us BECAUSE OF our love for Christ. I think Christ is assuring us that, if the world notices we are different, then we are on the right track in serving Him. I just don't see the joy or celebration of Christ in this type of protest, though. Instead, I see a political statement, demanding that the world respect Christ's message and our right to say it, when that's not the way Christ brought his message into the world! He brought it freely, to those that would have "ears to hear", not to be drummed into our ears by force. No one is ever forced to accept Christ's message, OR bend politically to appease the desires of His followers.

Luke 6:26-29, "What sorrows await you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek." NLT

As JT said, this turning of the cheek is the Christian response to the personal attack on our faith, our ethics, our morals, and our very being because of Christ. In so many places throughout the bible, the Christian response to persecution is prayer for our "enemies" (whoever they be), responding not in kind (by protest and political action) but by kindness, gentleness, and assertive preaching of the Good News of Jesus.

Mind you, JT noted that that this passage is not saying we should lie down and allow ourselves to be physically assaulted without trying to protect ourselves. However, he also sighted the example of the early Christians, who, when faced with no other choice, and were unable to do anything to protect themselves, went to their deaths in the Roman Coliseum and elsewhere with that joy and faith that Jesus talked about in Luke 6:22. Jesus spoke that "turn the other cheek" phrase not just as a spiritual lesson, but with full understanding that His followers would, on occasion, have to literally turn the other cheek even unto death.

Anyway, I say all this in an effort to clear my own mind and solidify my own thoughts on this protest that I observed. My daughter said most of her friends thought the protesters were stupid and mean, and she did too. That broke my heart.

As Christians, we do have a responsibility to share the Good News in all places, boldly, but with love. The lack of love makes the Good News into very bad news because it confronts people with sin in their (our, my) life, and places a choice in front of each of us. Without the Good News that not only is there sin, but a
loving, hopeful way to overcome that sin and find reconciliation with God, then the Good News becomes nothing more than a blunt club with which to beat people over the head.

There IS a place for Christian activism, and I will support those who feel led to go out and speak up boldly regarding what they see as wrongdoings in society, but that activism must ALWAYS be tempered with love and gentleness. What I saw yesterday felt much more like a blunt club, and that made me very sad.

I wonder what a prayer rally held in front of the school would have looked like, with signs stating that we are meeting to pray for the students and asking that God would bless those who are standing firm in their faith as a way to show His love to even more students and staff at the school? Probably very different.

If you actually read this far, God Bless you for putting up with my tirade! I speak not as any authority, just as one trying to work things out in his heart and mind, to try to serve Christ better.

I invite your thoughts or comments.