I love thoughtful questions and graceful challenges. Reader Barbara asked a really good question in response to my recent article about the marketing campaign by Washington DC atheists. Here is her note to me.
Help me out here, Dave.
I, too, believe we shouldn’t spew hate and should “proceed cautiously and with grace” but am not always sure what that looks like in being Christian living in a secular world.. e.g. As I remember, last year, the city of Ft. Lauderdale was reportedly going to deny Christians the right to place Christmas trees or mangers in a city park but said it was ok to install other religious symbols like a Jewish menorah. Because of a public (Christian) outcry, the city fathers backed down. Should the Christians not have spoken up? Should there not have been a public outcry? If that was all true, and we know there are similar happenings all over the country, how do we proceed cautiously and with grace? I am not arguing with you – I believe we should pick our battles carefully – but I truly don’t always know how or when to ‘turn the other cheek”: or how or when to “turn the tables of the moneychangers”. It would be wonderful if I always felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit – and sometimes I do – but shouldn’t common sense and fair play cause us to seek to have a voice even if we have not felt His nudging?
Can I tell you a little secret? Barbara’s approach gets a much better response than notes I get that start with little nuggets of encouragement like this.
“I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian…”
That always makes me want to read on and respond with joy. But notes like the one from Barbara are indeed a joy. Her question is important so let me give you my take on the cultural “turn the other cheek” issue.
Every situation is different so there is no one rule fits all. But I do think that most of these cultural issues fall into one of two categories. Legitimate threats to our religious freedoms or annoying and/or amusing actions by those who disagree with our views. I placed the Christmas advertising campaign by the atheist group into the amusing category. Another question I ask myself is this one.
Would it further the agenda of (whatever group) if Christians generated free publicity with an angry, coordinated response?
I would wager the DC atheist group fully expects to get ten times their advertising investment in breathless news stories about anguished responses from Christian groups. This ad campaign is not a religious rights issue. It is simply an ad buy. They can spend their money on busboards all day long and so can Christian groups. I could buy busboards that debate their message if I chose. That is why I think this is a battle not worth fighting. I will look at their signs, smile and wish them a hearty “Merry Christmas”!
The particular issue you brought up in your note is, in fact, a religious rights question. One faith was being favored over another and absolutely the Christians needed to gracefully yet clearly express that fact to the city government. And remember that Jesus response when He “turned the tables” was not in the public square. That was going on in the temple and the moneychangers were defiling God’s house.
My bottom line is to prayerfully evaluate each situation. Run my little “bad Christian” diagnostic and decide how to respond. Hope that helps out a bit Barbara. Merry Christmas! And be good for the gospels sake! And did I wish you a Merry Christmas?