Karen Pence taught art at Immanuel Christian School in Virginia for twelve years while her husband served as a congressman. Her office announced Tuesday that she “missed teaching art” and will be returning to her part-time position.
Here’s the problem: this Christian school teaches and operates by a Christian code of conduct.
Immanuel requires parents to agree that they and their children will not act in opposition to “the biblical lifestyle the school teaches.” Examples include “participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bi-sexual activity.”
The school’s employment application requires employees to affirm “that the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union.” It defines “moral misconduct” that would disqualify employees as “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, [and] any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”
According to a CNN opinion writer, “This language is disgusting.” He’s not alone in his outrage, but his argument is so important and so popular that I’d like to explore it with you today.
The problem with acting on your faith
The writer claims that Immanuel’s stance “insults millions of taxpaying American citizens, many who have served their country. That it is acceptable to the wife of the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency should horrify and alarm all Americans.”
Of course, Immanuel’s statements are expressions of basic Christian beliefs that have been affirmed for twenty centuries. For such orthodoxy to be branded “disgusting” is noteworthy.
Even more significant is the writer’s larger argument. He admits that the school “does have a legal right” to what he calls “its brand of hate.” He describes the Pences as “conservative, evangelical Christians who share beliefs about religion and politics” and concedes that “they have every right to do this.”
His point is that “it is deplorable for the wife of the vice president to work in this space.” Here’s why: “It’s easy to imagine, based on his pronouncements in the past, that if he could, Vice President Pence would create a sweeping policy to annihilate the progress of all LGBTQ communities.”
As a result, in the CNN writer’s view, the Pences’ biblical beliefs disqualify them from serving in political leadership. They can believe what they wish, but they must not act on their beliefs.
“No religious test shall ever be required”
We can expect this line of attack on biblical morality to escalate in the coming years.
A postmodern culture that believes all truth claims to be personal and subjective cannot easily reject a Christian’s right to his or her personal and subjective truth claims. But it can–and does–oppose a Christian who acts on such truth claims publicly.
Article VI of the US Constitution explicitly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Did the framers mean that public officials must leave their values behind when they assume office?
Would they have wanted us to elect people who are willing to do so? How would we know which candidates to support if they are required to keep their values private or will not be permitted to act on them in office?
The intolerance of tolerance
In our post-Christian culture, “religious liberty” means the liberty to have your personal religious opinions. But it does not mean the liberty to act on them.
For instance, if you believe that life is sacred from conception to natural death, you’re “imposing” your beliefs on society if you work to end abortion or euthanasia. The same holds true if you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and decline to provide services for a same-sex wedding.
Of course, the other side is clearly imposing its beliefs that a fetus is not yet a human life and same-gender couples should be free to marry. Tolerance is the chief value of our culture, unless our culture decides that someone is intolerant.
C. S. Lewis: “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”
Does Jesus have your “keenest attention”?
How would God redeem the rising opposition to public Christianity in our day? I believe he wants us to make two prayer commitments.
One: Pray for those with whom we disagree.
Jesus taught us to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We should do so with compassion and grace. In a culture where biblical illiteracy is rampant, those who oppose biblical morality may not have been given the opportunity to understand biblical truth. Or they may have fallen victim to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Many who oppose Christians who oppose abortion or same-sex marriage genuinely believe we are “anti-women” and “anti-gays.” In their view, our beliefs threaten the civil rights of millions of Americans. They could not be more wrong, but they are nonetheless not the enemy. They deserve our intercession as we are “beggars helping other beggars find bread.”
Two: Pray for the strength to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Max Lucado, commenting on the time Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee to his disciples: “They didn’t expect Jesus to come to them this way. Neither do we. We expect to find Jesus in morning devotionals, church suppers, and meditation. We never expect to see him in a storm. But that’s where he does his finest work, for it is in storms that he has our keenest attention.”
What if the growing opposition to Christian values in our culture leads us to turn more fully to our Lord and results in the spiritual awakening we need so desperately?
Does Jesus have your “keenest attention” today?
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: January 18, 2019
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash/Aaron Burden