Last week, in response to a Breakpoint commentary about the murders in Nashville, the Colson Center was identified by a critic as being “proudly, if quietly, Dominionist.” To be clear, we aren’t, but he was particularly troubled by how the commentary described Christians as victims which, of course, they were.
In that commentary, we wondered aloud whether, in fact, we have entered a new cultural moment, characterized by an increased hostility toward Christians and others who are, shall we say, culturally non-conforming. The strange and shameful reversal of who is victim and who is guilty in the reporting on the Nashville incident has only continued since, and now there are additional incidents to consider as well.
On March 29, while speaking on abortion at Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristan Hawkins and a group from Students for Life were confronted, threatened, and assaulted by an obscenity-crying crowd who failed to notice the irony of suppressing free speech by screaming “fascists!” Rather than remove those disrupting the presentation, the campus police removed the pro-lifers.
Two days later, on March 31, authorities in Colorado arrested 19-year-old William Whitworth for two counts of attempted murder, in addition to other charges. Whitworth, who goes by the name Lily and was in the midst of “transitioning,” was planning a series of bomb and gun attacks on several sites in Colorado Springs, including schools and churches. As with the Nashville shooter who identified as transgender, police have not revealed the “manifesto” that would reveal Whitworth’s specific motives. However, there is ample evidence that rhetoric about the so-called “trans genocide” is leading advocates to increasingly violent means to make their point.
Then, on April 6, college swimmer Riley Gaines was physically assaulted while giving a speech at San Francisco State University. As she argued against the inclusion of men in women’s sports, she was berated, threatened, and blockaded in a room until she paid a ransom. Media accounts employed terms like “allegedly” to cast doubt about what happened, but audio and video recordings were plain. Afterward, rather than condemn the violent and threatening acts, the vice president of student affairs praised activists for “defending diversity and free speech.”
Three incidents in nine days are notable, but when placed alongside a host of others in the last few years, a disturbing trend begins to emerge. After examining the data, The Family Research Council concluded that over 400 “acts of hostility” have been committed against churches in the last five years including “vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, and more.” Of these incidents, 137 occurred in the months between January to September of last year.
The headline is not that there are suddenly those who disagree with Christian conviction or similar beliefs. That has always been the case. And frankly, the Christian view of the world hasn’t held the dominant cultural position for some time. However, the old school atheists and secular humanists of yesterday were content enough to let Christians have their say, if for no other reason than to ridicule and deride. To think of something as “outdated,” or “silly,” or “non-scientific” is one thing. To think of it and the one who advances it as “evil,” “oppressive,” and “fascist” is something else.
Whereas an older secularist thought of truth as something “out there” to be discovered through study, discussion, and even debate, truth in the contemporary critical mood isn’t about what is said but who is saying it. More specifically, it’s about where everyone is pre-ranked in an ever-shifting, intersectional hierarchy.
Anyone who insists that there are truths of a higher order, particularly truths that establish sexual morality and identity, will become a target of those who are blinded by today’s ideologies. Fifty-years ago, Francis Schaeffer explained, “No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions.” The refusal to live by lies subverts the required certainty in the new orthodoxy.
For the sake of our neighbors, all who believe in the importance of truth must continue to say so. We cannot beat ideological opponents into conformity, and it is sinful to try. We’ll have to say what is true, even when there is a cost. We’ll have to remind the world of the beautiful legacy of the Judeo-Christian view of humanity and the world. We’ll have to hold together truth with love.
On July 27, I will be hosting a conversation about these things for the 2023 Great Lakes Symposium on Christian Worldview in Bay Harbor, Michigan. I’ll be joined by Jim Daly, CEO and president of Focus on the Family and Kristen Waggoner, CEO, president, and general counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom. Please mark the date, July 27, to either join us live or by livestream.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Timothy D. Padgett. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to colsoncenter.org.
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