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Cheerleaders can use Bible banners, for now

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Kountze High School cheerleaders hold brea-kthru signs with Scripture verse on it before the start of a game Kountze High School football game. (Credit: Support Kountze Kids Faith facebook page)

Should high school cheerleaders be able to display Bible verses on run-through banners at football games?  Late yesterday, a judge issued a temporary ruling that cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Southeast Texas can continue doing so.  Another hearing is scheduled for October 18.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had forced the school’s superintendent to stop the cheerleaders, stating that “this is not a Christian school and they cannot misuse their authority.”  The Liberty Institute sued on behalf of the cheerleaders, arguing that such a ban would violate the cheerleaders’ free-speech rights.  They also claim that the banners are student-led and initiated, not school sponsored.

The community is backing their cheerleaders.  So are many others, apparently—a Facebook page dedicated to their fight has nearly 50,000 followers, 25 times more than the town’s population.

We should not be surprised: a new study indicates that 49 percent of Americans see athletes’ public expressions of faith favorably.  While 32 percent don’t care, only 19 percent take a negative view.  Americans are especially supportive of teams praying together after games, with 55 percent viewing this activity positively.

On one level, this is good news.  We’re still a religious nation, with a higher percentage of our population in church on Sunday than any other country in the Western world.  Public religion is part of our cultural ethos.  But there’s a danger in generic spirituality.  Someone noted that change is good unless it happens.  It’s the same with religion in America—we’re in favor of it unless it costs us something.

Consider this observation in C. S. Lewis’ classic, Mere Christianity: “One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences.  When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest.  If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children.  The Life Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost.  Is the Life Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?”

Would God say he was your King or your Life Force yesterday?  Which will be true for you today?