Churches That Preach Fear After The SCOTUS Decision Are Being Pathetic

July 15, 2015
Way to "engage" with the culture.

Way to “engage” with the culture.

Over the last few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with plenty of Christians trying to discern how the church will “respond” to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

Most of the responses are based on fear.

Most of the responses belie an “attack and defend” concept of the church.

There are plenty of Christians who think the American church is on the ropes, that we are very close to becoming a persecuted minority. Soon, pastors will be forced to perform weddings they do not agree with, churches will lose their tax exemptions, and perhaps even worse consequences will occur. Cultural influencers publicly cry that there are thousands of pastors willing to “die” for this cause.

And you know what I can now conclusively say?

All of these responses, based on fear, defensively postured, conceptualized as “attack and defend” are kind of pathetic.

And if your church is responding this way, it’s kind of pathetic too.

Here’s why.

Follow the Money

 

One of the most widely circulating fears is that churches who are not pro-gay marriage will eventually lose their tax exemptions. It is true, there are groups that are gunning for this.

But I wonder why money is one of the first fears we entertain. Does it say something about us?

Churches have existed where they were rich, powerful cultural influencers, and they exist where they are penniless. Your fear of losing money makes me wonder a few things:

Is your church so worldly that it cannot survive without the state providing tax exemptions? Is there no supernatural foundation on which your church is built – it’s just money?

Are you afraid that people will stop contributing generously if they don’t get a tax credit? If so, what does it say about your church, the people, or the teaching that happens every Sunday that the people are so shallow and tight-fisted?

What is your church doing right now with your financial resources that is so great, other than perpetuating itself? As far as charities go, churches are some of the most financially inefficient institutions ever imagined, as far as I can tell. Create a church that gives itself away rather than builds itself up and you won’t have any problems.

If your church’s primary concern in all of this is money, then your church is kind of pathetic.

I Tell You Do Not Worry About Tomorrow

 

My second cause of alarm has to do with all of the, well, alarms that are being sounded. What cable “news” has done to us is keep us whipped up in a perpetual state of fear of what has not happened yet. Guys like Glenn Beck use constant language about how we are looking over the “precipice” and “teetering on the edge,” but he never explains what that means, and he never tells us what is going to happen when we fall over the edge. It’s just intended to keep people afraid.

Churches, didn’t Jesus tell you to not worry about tomorrow? Or are you so worldly that you cannot help it? We are not one step away from pastors being coerced into performing marriages (pastors still have the right of refusal on any wedding request that comes to them.) There are so many steps that have to take place for your apocalyptic vision of the future to take place, it is ridiculous and pathetic to try to anticipate it.

On that note, pastors, now that you are stomping your feet and asserting your right to refuse to do weddings, just how discerning have you been over the last several decades? It seems to me that there were a heck of a lot of you who were asleep at the wheel, performing weddings for people who should never have been married, perhaps just to collect the honorarium. Why the sudden interest in refusing a paycheck?

Churches that live in fear are not engaged with the culture. They are hunkering down in a fortress as if they are under siege. It reveals that we are trying to hang onto some concept of power that we used to have, and it’s pathetic.

What Did We Do With The Power We Had?

I wonder, churches, what you make of what has happened. Suddenly, you find yourselves outside of public influence.

I ask you what did you do when you held the throne of public influence, when the Jerry Falwells of the world helped elect presidents? Did you steward it well? Do you think you created a positive culture that welcomed people into your circle? Because as far as I can tell, many of you did not.

For decades, even centuries, Christians held the title of dominate cultural influence. And yet…

Many of you have spent your energy over the last several decades marginalizing people.

Before our generation, many Christians worked to preserve the marginalization of African Americans, a tradition that goes back to our nation’s very roots.

Protestants have worked, from our nation’s very origins, to marginalize Catholics. Look up the origins of the Maryland colony. Likewise, Christians have aligned themselves wholeheartedly with deceptive party politics to keep themselves in power.

As far as I can tell, the church has a really spotty record when it comes to doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. Our churches, our leaders have built walls to keep the invaders out. We have institutionalized racism and xenophobia against virtually all non-WASP people. Many of our churches are nothing but commercial enterprises with the gloss of gospel promises for the hungry consumers.

We have held the promise of Jesus tightly in our hands. We have tried to make America a theocracy, an institutional hierarchy that keeps the strong in power and the weak out of power.

And after all this, church,

whatever the consequences down the road,

I have to say, I think you deserve exactly what you have coming to you.

10 responses to Churches That Preach Fear After The SCOTUS Decision Are Being Pathetic

  1. I have seen way too many believers freaking out about this ruling and other similar rulings, claiming that “Oh sweet Jesus save us! They’re going to be burning our churches! We are helpless, Lord, helpless! They are going to wipe-out Christianity!”

    In the first place, whose Church is it, anyways? Who is building it, exactly? Whose Name is Christianity? Does anyone actually believe for one second that mere men can somehow destroy His Bride?

    It simply makes me wonder in what do these people actually believe in: their an-made churches, or Christ Jesus and His Sovereignty?

    Is Jesus not able to protect, heal, save, and destroy His enemies as He sees fit and when He wants?

  2. I get what you’re making here, but a lot of this is needlessly mean-spirited and wrong-headed. This is especially true of your first point, regarding money. The simple fact is that anything the church does, such as pay their pastors or own a building, require money. You act as if money is no object, and maybe your church is independently financially stable. I don’t know how many there are, but my own church has been struggling for over a decade now. When you’re fighting a never-ending battle against bills, every little bit helps.

    Now take that struggling church and subtract the financial benefits they’ve relied on for so long. Maybe the pastor has to take a pay cut and consequently a second job (this in addition to losing his house, because churches would no longer be allowed their manses). Suddenly a small, struggling church has much more limited access to their spiritual leader. And that’s to say nothing of the members, who themselves are struggling, and now have more trouble tithing.

    These are not trivial issues, these are potential situations with serious implications. And while it is true that the Church invisible is invulnerable and unassailable, that doesn’t make the church visible so. After all, would you ask our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering in the Middle East “Is Jesus not able to protect, heal, save, and destroy His enemies as He sees fit and when He wants?” Would you say to them “Your fear of losing your life makes me wonder a few things:

    Is your church so worldly that it cannot survive without the state providing protection? Is there no supernatural foundation on which your church is built – it’s just your survival?” This is not to say that the two situations are equal in their severity, merely that God’s omnipotence in no way prevents the church from facing trials and, sometimes, defeats while on Earth.

    And then there is the problem with your final statement. A Christian writer who is unconcerned that someone is getting exactly what’s coming to them? At best that’s a little hypocritical. And at worst, what exactly are you affirming there? That the sins of the past (some of those that you refer to committed by those long dead) justify any injustice the church may suffer now? That has some terrifying implications.

    But overall I really have to question the point of this post. I mean, it’s targeted at Christians who are so afraid they can’t trust in God’s divine will, I get that. I would argue that nearly every prediction I’ve seen from members of the church represents not a lack of faith but rather a desire to warn people to prepare for what is coming. But let’s say that I live in a very sheltered branch of the church and the majority of Christians are alarmists, prophesying nothing but doom. And let’s say they find their way onto this blog, then what happens? You’re going to shame and belittle them into being better Christians?

    I guess you can let me know how that works out for you.

    • Since when did The Bride of Christ become an employment agency, or a financial institution? Once any “church” takes upon themselves any kind of tax status, it ceases to be Kingdom, and is now just worldly. It becomes just another business, with Jesus as the product for sale. This is what happens when mere men try to build their own churches under the false premise that God neeeeds them to do so, and the stop advancing The Kingdom. If these words offend you, or if you “feel” I am seeking to “shame you”, then that is on you, not me.

  3. While I agree with you that Christians in America are having problems trusting God in this situation, I disagree that money and loss of tax-exempt status is the central issue. The concerns I have heard is that the government will eventually define any criticism of homosexuality, including quoting what the Bible says about it, as “hate speech” and will prosecute Christians for it.

    I also take exception to your blanket condemnation of the Church and its marginalization of people, because you are ignoring all those churches in history and today that are not seeking worldly glory and political power but quietly, inconspicuously, doing God’s work of demonstrating God’s love, salvation and justice. I believe that these churches are the quiet majority and that you do them a disservice by lumping them with the publicity hounds seeking their own glory rather than the glory of God.

    Furthermore, I have read what The Gospel Coalition and Focus on the Family are presenting since the SCOTUS decision, and it has been about focusing on loving homosexuals as people made in the image of God, regardless of whether we agree with their decisions or not, because it is what Jesus would do. They have also been reassuring us that God has even this situation covered and that Christians should NOT worry but put their trust in God. Haven’t you been seeing this, also in your feed?

    Also remember, Matt, that God has filled His church with ordinary sinners who need his grace and forgiveness on a daily basis. And He freely gives us forgiveness on a daily basis for the ways we fail Him. He is in control of His church, He sees all that goes on in His church and He loves His church far more than all of us Christians combined. Grace and peace to you, Matt.
    Kristina Overtoom recently posted..Graciousness vs. Tolerance

    • Kristina, you said: “While I agree with you that Christians in America are having problems trusting God in this situation, I disagree that money and loss of tax-exempt status is the central issue.”

      Did you happen to read Thadd H.’s comments above these? That was the thrust of his words.

      • I did read what Thadd H. expressed. It is the first time I have heard someone expressing that particular concern. I am not absolutely denying what Matt is saying. I am saying that *I* haven’t been hearing that particular concern. And I agree with Matt and you that money shouldn’t be the central concern of God’s church because “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). I agree with you that we as Christians shouldn’t be freaking out over this because our Heavenly Father can take care of His children and His church. I loved everything Matt wrote in “I Tell You Do Not Worry About Tomorrow.” Here is what I ask of you and of Matt: have compassion. Be kind and humble. If God has given you greater faith than others, then use your strong faith to encourage those who are weak in their faith, just as you did with J. Pullen. Encouragement doesn’t involve shame or derision. We Christians all have weaknesses in our faith and we need to show each other as much compassion as we show those who don’t know Jesus because we need His forgiveness just as much people who don’t have faith. Or maybe I am the only one? I don’t know you. You might be the most compassionate, loving guy out there and because typed words are totally inadequate for communication, I am not seeing it in some of your posts. So if I am misjudging you, please forgive me for my arrogance. Grace and peace to you, Unapologetic Prophet.
        Kristina Overtoom recently posted..Graciousness vs. Tolerance

        • Kristina,

          No, let me apologize if what I said was misconstrued! Matt mentioned that churches are worried about funding, and then Thadd makes his comments echoing that sentiment.

          In my eyes, Thadd’s comments proved Matt’s summation, that’s all. I apologize if my words came across as piercing or accusatory!

          Grace and peace to you, as well, sister!

  4. Nicely said friend. For one like myself who has reached his limit with the church and turned to a hybrid of universIlism teetering on agnosticism – these words are truly encouraging coming from a man of faith and conviction – as I know you are. It is how I envision the status quo of the church responding someday. And though my desire leads me to hoping that all creatures be accepted and honored under the banner of any belief system – I hope your words are heard by those who can maybe affect change inside the walls of Christendom.

    • J. Pullen:

      There is an excellent example, (in my opinion, only), of agnosticism in The Scriptures.

      It is out of Mark 9 —
      20They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.
      21And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.
      22“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
      23And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

      I quite enjoy this set of Scripture because it illustrates the reality of belief in Christ. I, myself, have moments of doubt, (and some would say I am not saved because of it, but…), and when those moments come to me, I merely say to Him, “Father, I just don’t get this. I don’t see this like You do. But I believe, still. I need You to meet me more than halfway”, and it works.

      So you bordering on agnosticism is actually, in my little opinion, not an unrealistic way to relate to God the Father. It’s a great and honest start.

  5. An outstanding piece that all Christians need to read and think seriously about regarding not only the recent Court decision allowing gay marriage, but also about all the other rights afforded heterosexuals that are still under the law denied to gay couples. Remember this ruling narrowly addressed “marriage among gays” and excluded a wide range of other “rights’ give straight couples. E.g. right of inheritance, social security for surviving spouse, and many more listed on LGBT websites.
    Additionally, the blogger raises serious questions about the gap between the foundation of the Christian faith: the life and teachings of Jesus and how we live and practice our faith. I saw a church the other day with a basketball court, entirely fenced in so no one else could enjoy it besides those allowed in by this group of christians. (really no gate, just a doorway to the church building). I asked my wife, would Jesus do that if he asked us to help and share something beneficial and positive with others? What would Jesus think about the millions (probably billions) of dollars spent to build lavish, churches on every corner to protect and promote the doctrinal interpretations of the word of God, instead of using that money (as is suggested) to help the “least of those” around us everyday around the world?
    How does gay marriage or other equality given LGBT people really negatively impact Christians? Does it force you to be gay? Does it force your church to change their beliefs (however unloving and discriminatory they may be)? Does it threaten you in any way as suggested by many political leaders, religious voices, the media and those given air time to spew fear and hatred? Is this one of the most important issue facing our country? What about destruction of our environment, a continual build up of weapons of mass destruction, the laws that protect anyone over 18 from entering a church, many private businesses, etc. with a loaded weapon, global hunger, cutting public assistance to the disabled, immigration laws that seek to break up families and surround our country with walls from people who want to work to support their families, the dire shortage of treatment available to people with mental health problems (that are an underlying cause of the massacres occurring around us)? The list of serious, threatening and worsening problems like these is getting worse while we witness an obsession with preventing equal rights to minorities in the media, and from our pulpits.
    This article posted makes you think, and that is a unique gift God gave us in order to serve his Kingdom. Please stop, reflect, and reconsider what is really worth giving of your time, resources and influence in our democracy, where everyone can make a difference.