The “After School Satan Club” was scheduled to hold its first meeting yesterday at Jane Addams Elementary School in Moline, Illinois. The club is set to meet once a month. After backlash from parents, the school district explained, “The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups.” It cited “the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism fellowship group,” as an example.
In other words, school officials think if they allow Christians to evangelize, they must allow Satanists to do the same. In a culture that rejects objective values, tolerance becomes the highest value even if we tolerate that which demonstrably harms those we are expected to protect.
Meanwhile, USA Today is being criticized for publishing an article Monday originally titled “What the public keeps getting wrong about pedophilia.” The writer cites researchers who argue that pedophilia, or attraction to minors, is “misunderstood” as being synonymous with child sexual abuse.
After a public outcry, the article was retitled as “The complicated research behind pedophilia.” Nonetheless, it claims that “pedophilia is determined in the womb” and states, “Some pedophiles never abuse children.” Of course, a logical way to restate that sentence is, “Some pedophiles abuse children.” The tenor of the article is a clear example of the ongoing effort to “destigmatize” and normalize pedophilia today.
Positive to neutral to negative
Albert Schweitzer was born on this day in 1875. I cannot recall another person in history who can accurately be described as a “theologian, musician, philosopher, and Nobel Prize-winning physician.” While I certainly disagree with some of Schweitzer’s theological assertions, I admire the fact that his faith led him to become a missionary doctor in Africa. He and his wife were prisoners of war during World War I; he used his Nobel $33,000 award to start a leprosarium.
If all Christians were more like Christ, could our post-Christian and even anti-Christian culture remain the same?
Aaron M. Renn astutely observes in First Things that evangelical Christians were viewed positively by society before 1994 as Christian moral norms were seen as the basic moral norms of society. Society took a neutral stance from 1994 to 2014 as Christianity became “a valid option within a pluralistic public square.”
Now we live in a negative world in which Christian morality is “expressly repudiated and seen as a threat to the public good and the new public moral order.” As a result, “Subscribing to Christian moral views or violating the secular moral order brings negative consequences.”
We could respond antagonistically to such antagonism, but remember that Jesus taught us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). We can reverse his logic: One result of being “sons of your Father who is in heaven” is that our transformational faith may then affect our “enemies.”
Steve Jobs agreed with Plato
How, then, do we develop the character that loves our enemies as sons of our Father?
Our culture insists that the path to self-improvement lies with the self. Steve Jobs called us to “have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” adding that “they somehow already know what you truly want to become.” He insisted that “everything else is secondary.”
Novelist William Faulkner agreed: “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
Western civilization learned such self-reliance at an early age. Plato, one of the most significant thinkers in human history, advised us: “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.” This emphasis on conquering oneself by oneself became foundational to Western civilization.
But how is this working for us? Is it even possible?
I cannot conquer the Pacific Ocean by swimming across it—I need a ship or airplane to get me to the other side. I cannot conquer cancer or heart disease by myself—I need the help of physicians.
“The life you find in God will be immeasurably greater”
The One by whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16) is still the One in whom “all things hold together” (v. 17). Commenting on this fact, St. Athanasius (c. 296–373) noted that Jesus “pervades the whole of reality, everywhere unfolding his power and shining on all things visible and invisible. He leaves nothing devoid of his power but gives life and keeps in being throughout all the creation and in each individual creature.”
So we have a choice: we can try to be the change we wish to see, or we can ask Jesus to change us into changed people he uses to change the world.
In Revelation 3, Jesus tells the church at Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (v. 20). The bad news is that Christians can live in such a way that Jesus stands outside the “door” of our lives awaiting our invitation to enter into deeper personal intimacy with us. The good news is that he will enter any door opened to him today.
Craig Denison writes in First15: “God will not fill what is closed off to him. He does not force his will upon us. Rather, he waits patiently, quietly beckoning us to lose our lives so that he can lavish on us a life greater and more filled with his goodness than we could have ever imagined. . . . The life you find in God will be immeasurably greater than any life you could find on your own.”
“Do what you will with me, O God”
Scottish minister John Baillie prayed: “When you knock on the door of my heart, may I never keep you standing outside, but welcome you in with joy and thanksgiving. May I never harbor anything in my heart that I would be ashamed of in your presence; may I never keep a single door closed to your influence.
“Do what you will with me, O God; make me what you will, change me as you will, and use me as you will, both now and in the larger life beyond; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”