Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
One of the main themes of my column recently has been the tendency of U.S. Christians to think of themselves as “persecuted.” So, it was with great interest that I read DefendChristians.Org’s list of the Top 10 “anti-Christian” acts in the U.S. of 2011, as chosen by their readers.
While some of these “acts” are legitimate instances of persecution, the dominant theme of the list is the loss of political and cultural favor. The most interesting act was #1: the passage of SB 48 in California which mandated that public schools teach students about the contributions of homosexuals to our country.
How could teaching the historical fact that homosexuals have accomplished important things be “anti-Christian”? This is how DefendChristian.Org described the act:
“California Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill forcing public school curriculum and textbooks to “celebrate” homosexual, transgender and bisexuals.”
“[SB 48] will require public schools to teach children as young as five not only to accept but also to endorse transgender, bisexual, and homosexual identity and behavior.”
Another major Christian organization fighting the bill, SaveCalifornia.com, describes the dangers of SB 48 this way:
“Children as young as kindergarten must be taught to admire persons who engage in homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality. . .”
“Children must be taught to support the political activism of so-called ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning’ (LGBTIQ) political groups.”
“Teachers are required to positively portray homosexuality, same-sex ‘marriages,’ bisexuality, and transsexuality.”
This bill is an “anti-Christian” act because it imposes a non-Christian morality upon our children, forces them to admire homosexuals, forces them to support the homosexual political agenda, and prevents teachers from pointing out the negative aspects of these sexual orientations.
The problem is that the bill requires none of these things. Here’s what the bill actually says:
“[The bill] require[s] instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.”
It also forbids the adoption of instructional material that “contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation. . .”
DefendChristians.org, StopSB48.org, The Family Research Council, and SaveCalifornia.com all misrepresented this bill by grossly exaggerating what it required.
They would probably respond that the wording of the bill is vague enough that some schools could abuse it to promote or “celebrate” homosexuality, which is possible, but the bill does not require it. The bill only requires a “study of the role and contributions” of these groups and forbids teachers from teaching anything that reflects “adversely upon persons on the basis of . . . sexual orientation.”
There are legitimate concerns about SB 48 (e.g. the vague language which could lead to abuses of the law), but overwhelmingly, the Christian organizations that have fought against the bill have grossly exaggerated and misrepresented the bill, much to their shame. Instead of honestly and charitably noting that people of various sexual orientations have done great things while calling for clearer language in the bill, these groups presented a straw-man version of the bill and called for its repeal.
I have three take-aways from DefendChristians.org’s top-10 list and the Repeal-SB 48 movement:
1. The readers of DefendChristians.org conceived of SB 48 as an “anti-Christian” bill, when in reality it was an contra biblical-morality bill. We have grown so attracted to the idea of persecution that when the worldly government does not favor our moral system, we take it as an attack on us and our beliefs, rather than a sign of how the Church’s failure to be a witness to the world has led to a shift in society’s morals.
2. The response to Christianity’s decline as the defining moral system in our nation has been largely political and forceful. DefendChristians.org called upon its readers to contact NBC and demand that they fire the person responsible for leaving out “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance before two sporting events. If NBC will not choose to support our faith, we must force them to. Similarly, if California and its government accepts and promotes sinful lifestyles, we must use political pressure to force them to change. This is another instance of Christian nihilism.
3. Many Christian organizations misrepresented the facts of this bill and framed it as an attack on our children. While it is true that the bill was poorly worded and could potentially lead to abuses, for Christians to present worst-case-scenarios as the clear and stated intention of the bill is dishonest.
As citizens of heaven, persecution should be defined for us by the Cross and the long history of Christian martyrs; our response to the increasing secularization of our culture ought to be first and foremost spiritual and relational, not political; and our political statements, as all our statements, must be honest, charitable, and accurate.