Christian groups aren’t allowed to require Christianity

Vanderbilt’s ruling that campus Christian groups may not require their leaders to be Christians would seem to violate every canon of reason, let alone the freedom of religion.   This happened awhile ago, but I noticed something about the story.  Consider this account:

Is Vanderbilt University flirting with the suppression of religion? Yes, according to Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School.

Specifically, Swain is referring to four Christian student groups being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.

Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. Carried to its full extent, it means an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group, a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.

If they remain in non-compliance, the student organizations risk being shut down.

So what’s behind this? Flashback to last fall. An openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt complained he was kicked out of a Christian fraternity. The university wouldn’t identify the fraternity, but campus newspaper the “Hustler” reported it was Beta Upsilon Chi. As a result, the school took a look at the constitutions of some 300 student groups and found about a dozen, including five religious groups to be in non-compliance with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy. All were placed on provisional status.

Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society. It ran afoul with this language from its constitution. “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.” CLS President Justin Gunter told me, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”

To that, Rev. Gretchen Person – interim director of the Office of Religious Life at Vanderbilt – responded “Vanderbilt policies do not allow this expectation/qualification for officers.” Gunter has been negotiating with the university and has taken some language out of the CLS constitution – including the requirement that Student Coordinators “should strive to exemplify Christ-like qualities.” But he says he has to draw the line at the requirement regarding Bible studies, prayer and worship.

He told me, “At the point where they’re saying we can’t have Bible studies and prayer meetings as part of our constitution – if we go beyond that – we’re compromising the very identity of who we are as Christians and the very thing we believe as religious individuals.”

Vanderbilt officials refused to be interviewed, and instead released a statement saying in part “We are committed to making our campus a welcoming environment for all of our students.” In regard to the offending student organizations, officials said they “continue to work with them to achieve compliance.”

via Professor Says Vanderbilt Suppressing Christian Student Groups Amid Shutdown Threats | Fox News.

So is Vanderbilt opposed to religion?  Not really.  It’s a Methodist-related school.   It has an Office of Religious Life.  And the person laying down the hammer on these Christian organizations is the director of that office, a minister, the Rev. Gretchen Person.  In other words, this  suppression of religion in the name of tolerance is being perpetrated not by atheists but by liberal Protestants!

Did St. Nicholas slap Arius?

Happy belated St. Nicholas Day yesterday.  A piece I wrote for WORLD a few years ago has been going around again, in which I take up the account of jolly old St. Nicholas slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea for denying Christ’s divinity.

Many historians dispute that this ever happened, and they may be right.  Still, legends have a meaning of their own, even if they leave history behind.   (Then again, it might have happened.  The alleged incident is better attested than the claim that the Bishop of Myra is currently living at the North Pole running a gift-manufacturing and delivery service.)

The point is, I have written a more thorough article on St. Nicholas for the latest Lutheran Witness, though it won’t show up online for a few months.  I discuss that article on Issues, Etc.

 

Anti-Tebow bigotry?

A lot of people just HATE Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.  And it’s because of his open Christianity.   Even other Christians sometimes squirm over his overt piety, putting John 3:16 on the patches under his eyes and kneeling down to pray after each of his numerous touchdowns.  And further confounding his critics is that, despite what would seem to be poor football technique and bad passing, he keeps leading his team to one miraculous come-from-behind last minute victory after another!

Many Christians are not that demonstrative about our faith, which is certainly legitimate.  But is there anything actually wrong with Tebow being so demonstrative about it?  And shouldn’t we cut him some slack about it?  Yes, we are to beware those who practice their piety before men, but Tebow certainly isn’t doing it to make himself look good–as might happen in another age–since it is only attracting scorn and contempt.  Shouldn’t we support him and maybe ourselves be more open about our faith than we are?

Displays of faith put Tebow in spotlight – USATODAY.com.

Living in two times

The post about “Happy New Year,” referring to the beginning of Advent and asking about why the last days of the church year aren’t really noted, made me realize that the church year is not supposed to cover everything.  Christians are under two calendars, just as they live their lives in two times.  There is the secular calendar, the time of the world, that progresses from season to season, along with its distinct cultural and national holidays, such as in the USA Independence Day and Thanksgiving.   And then there is the liturgical calendar, commemorating the life of Christ and of the Church.  The church calendar is superimposed on the secular calendar.  Christians participate in them both, just as they participate in both of God’s Kingdoms, His hidden rule over all of the created secular order and His revealed spiritual rule in Christ as manifested in the Church.

We shouldn’t follow the church calendar alone, rejecting the secular calendar,  with its pagan nomenclature from Roman and Germanic deities (January from the two-faced god Janus; Wodin’s day, Thors’ day, Freya’s day), since we must live out our faith in this world.  Nor should we follow the secular calendar alone, since Christ became incarnate in time.  Sometimes the two time sequences counter each other, such as one of the most joyous days of the church year–Christmas– comes at the gloomiest point of winter.  Sometimes they complement each other, as when the other most joyous day of the church year–Easter–comes at one of the most joyous times of the secular calendar, the season of Spring.  And sometimes the church calendar crosses over into the cultural calendar, as Christmas does, just as Christianity has influenced the cultures in which it finds itself, and as Christ did when He became incarnate in human history.

So Christians can celebrate the new church year, beginning with Advent, which–as my pastor explained today–seamlessly follows the end of Pentecost, which also looks forward to Christ’s return.  The church year is cyclical.  It doesn’t count the number of years from Christ’s life, but rather keeps re-enacting them.  Ironically, the secular calendar does count the number of years from the time of Christ, as the years forge linearly ahead.  So Christians can also celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day when the secular calendar turns over.  Christians live in two times, just as they live in two kingdoms.

The megachurch bubble?

There was the dot.com bubble and, more recently, the real estate bubble, markets that grew and grew until they they burst.  Some experts are saying that we may be in for a megachurch bubble:

In the 1970s, only a handful of churches drew more than 2,000 people on Sundays. Now they number in the thousands.

But the collapse of the Crystal Cathedral near Los Angeles, which is being sold to pay off more than $40 million in debt, has prompted fears that the megachurch bubble may be about to burst.

Most megachurches — which earn that label around the 2,000-attendance level — are led by baby boomer pastors who soon will hit retirement age and without suitable replacements in the pipeline. And some fear the big-box worship centers with lots of individual programs no longer appeal to younger generations.

Skye Jethani, a senior editor of Leadership, a prominent evangelical magazine for pastors, compared megachurches to the real estate market of a few years ago.

“If you asked people back in 2007 if the housing market was doing well, people would have said yes,” he said.

Jethani said megachurches have become so big that their economics are unsustainable. They often have multimillion-dollar mortgages and hundreds of staff members. That works while a church is growing.

But churches often shrink when a longtime minister leaves, Jethani said.

“If you are a church of 400 people and you lose 200 people, you can still keep going,” he said. “If you are a church of 10,000 and you go down to 5,000, you may not be able to survive.”

via Some fear megachurch bubble may soon burst | The Tennessean | tennessean.com.

The article goes on to quote other people who deny that megachurches are creating a bubble ready to pop.  What do you think?

HT: Tim Challies

Happy New Year!

Sunday is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new church year.  So happy New Year!

I have a question for you, one that I have been unable to answer, but I’m sure you readers can answer it for me:   Last Sunday we celebrated the last Sunday of the church year, in which we contemplate the final victory of Christ the King at His return.  It was a big deal, a fitting climax to the long, long season of Pentecost.  But we don’t move from that to Advent, which is a full week away, always beginning on a Sunday.  So what’s the story of the last week of the church year?  Specifically, what’s the last day of the church year?  Saturday will be the equivalent of New Year’s Eve.  Doesn’t it have a name and some meaning?  It seems odd to me that the church year seems to just fizzle out.

I would think there would at least be a saint’s day.  In the Catholic calendar, every day, as I understand it, is devoted to one saint or another.   There is St. Andrew’s Day on November 30.   But what saint is honored on November 26?   I had thought that the specific day of the month might vary from year to year.  (Is the first Sunday of Advent always the Sunday after Thanksgiving?  Since Christmas is always on December 25, perhaps there is some consistency.  So in the secular calendar we have Thanksgiving, Black Friday [!], but then, again, what is Saturday?)

I have found that among the readers of this blog are people who are experts on just about everything, up to and including quantum physics and beyond.  So who knows about the church year?


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