Laying It at the Feet of the Church
He went on to explain, “None of this would be happening if the church was really being salt and light. How does a minority of 2% to 3% make us cower in our cubicles? Why are there people at Cisco who actually think this way? We surrendered the country to the secularists.”
Ouch. That hurts.
Could the church really be responsible for gay rights advocacy? Well, no, that wasn’t quite what he was saying. We didn’t have that much to do with homosexual interest groups wanting to change our culture -- only with their succeeding as they have.
I love the church, and Frank does too. This isn’t about any institution or structure; it’s about Western Christianity as a whole. I use the term “the church” as shorthand to include all of us, not just churches and denominations but also mission groups, seminaries, publishing houses, the Christian media, and all the rest of us.
What did we miss? Frank asked a similar question, and then answered it himself. “Why are there people at Cisco who actually think this way? It’s because the church went anti-intellectual.”
The story of Christian anti-intellectualism goes back at least 150 years. The faith came under severe attack from multiple angles in the mid-19th century. Skeptical theologians, mostly in Germany, undermined confidence in the historical accuracy of the Old and New Testaments. Charles Darwin pronounced that life could be explained without God. Highly influential skeptical, secular philosophies came out of Europe. And some American academics produced widely accepted but heavily distorted histories of religion’s supposed “war” on science.
It was an intellectual assault against the faith coming at us from all directions. What did the church do in response? As J.P. Moreland tells us in his modern classic Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (pages 23 and 27),
Instead of responding to these attacks with a vigorous intellectual counterpunch, many believers grew suspicious of intellectual issues altogether. . . . With notable exceptions, the church withdrew from the world of ideas and the intellectual life and was thereby marginalized. . . . This withdrawal and marginalization of the church has had devastating consequences for our attempt to produce vibrant, confident disciples and to penetrate our culture with a Christian worldview and the gospel of Christ.
This defensiveness turned out to be not just wrongly conceived but ultimately unnecessary, for none of the attacks on Christianity has turned out to be what they seemed at first. Advances in Christian scholarship have provided us with solid answers. Nevertheless (“with notable exceptions”) much of the church remains hunkered in its anti-intellectual posture. One symptom of this can be seen in the progress of homosexual rights advocacy.
Absent From the Intellectual Battlefields
One thing that strikes me about Frank’s situation is how quickly they let him go, once HR heard what Frank had written about gay “marriage.” They spent hardly any time at all deliberating over the decision. It’s as if there were nothing to deliberate, no balancing or opposing views to consider. It shows how far gay rights advocates have advanced toward persuading the world that the questions are settled: The meaning of marriage is entirely up to the participants to define, sexual choices should no longer be considered pertinent to a person’s character, and discriminating on the basis of sexual behavior should be as unthinkable as discriminating on the basis of skin color.
Notice how naturally words relating to the mind, like “persuading,” “meaning,” and “unthinkable,” fit in that context. They represent ground that we Christians have lost by retreating from the battle for the mind of our culture. We have opposing views, to be sure, but we haven’t achieved anything near the success gay rights advocates have in making our views credible in the midst of our culture.
So it’s quite likely that as far as Cisco’s HR staff knew, there were no credible, intellectually serious balancing views to consider. Frank Turek lost a good job as a result. I can’t help wondering when the same thing will happen to the next one of us. (Cisco sent Frank an apology after the fact, for which I commend them. The apology did not include an offer to re-hire him.)
Like other major cultural issues, gay rights advocacy involves more than ideas and the intellect. There are other spiritual forces and factors at play, against which we need to do battle through prayer. Still, Frank was right to attribute much of the problem to the church’s absence from the intellectual battlefields. We have work to do. It hits home when some of us start losing our jobs.
But What Can I Do?
I can imagine two contrasting responses from readers at this point. One would be to say, “Isn’t that just awful what those people have done?” The other is, “This calls for action. What can I do?” Obviously I’m in favor of the second response, and I trust you are, too.
What then can we do? It depends on our station in life, our skills and aptitudes, and our opportunities. Every one of us can and should accept the call to study, beginning with the Scriptures. Some of us will be able to extend our study into other fields. Virtually any discipline could be a strategic spot for a Christian to serve. History, psychology, the arts, biology, education -- you name it, and if it’s a legitimate field of study, God’s truth applies there and needs to be spoken in terms the discipline’s “natives,” its academics and experts, will hear and pay attention to.
There are good ways for the rest of us to contribute, too. Most of us can’t earn Ph.D.s, but just about every one of us can participate in discipleship of our minds (Romans 12:2). Right here at BreakPoint and the Colson Center is a great place to do that, or at your local library or bookstore, maybe even the local community college.
We can also contribute through two refusals. The first one is to refuse to settle for sloppy thinking. How do you know when thinking is sloppy? A really good answer to that question would necessarily be a long one, but I can offer you at least one fairly reliable shortcut: If it can be compressed into a bumper sticker slogan, watch out. Chances are it’s hiding some half-truth, or pushing some irrational, emotional button.
The second is to refuse to pretend we know what we do not. In the creation/evolution/Intelligent Design controversy, for example, I have seen partisans on every side of the issue -- Christians included -- stake out terribly uninformed and incorrect positions. For the sake of our commitment to truth, let’s make a point of learning before we speak.
Space prevents me from covering all that we Christians can do, but I must not fail to include the most important: to encourage one another, especially those in your church or family who are of a scholarly bent. Let them know how vitally they can serve Christ with it.
These are not quick-fix issues. It will take time to turn around 150 years of habits in the church. Frank Turek was right, though: Responsibility lies at the feet of the church. Under God, and by the power of His Word and his Spirit, you and I have work to do.
Cross Examined, the website for Frank Turek's speaking and writing ministry
"Personal Religious Views Can Get You Fired," by John Stonestreet
Basic Discipleship of the Mind, a practically oriented blog series on this topic at ThinkingChristian.net.
Tom Gilson is a Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru writer and strategist currently on assignment to BreakPoint. He blogs at ThinkingChristian.net.