David Gushee’s Prediction, Roger Olson’s Response

Roger Olson:

But the real “meat” of Gushee’s essay seems to be something else and more than that rather obvious claim about disappearing middle ground. Throughout most of the essay he seems to be announcing that people, including conservative Christians, who continue to resist granting full equality to LGBT people even in private religious organizations will find themselves persecuted if not prosecuted—in the same way that people who continue to resist full equality for people of all races are persecuted if not prosecuted.

The practical implication is clear. Just as the IRS, for example, threatened to take away a Christian university’s tax exempt status when it failed to treat African-Americans equally, so the IRS will eventually take away tax exempt status of religious organizations that exclude LGBT people or fail to treat them equally with straight people. …

The pendulum is swinging especially since the Supreme Court decision mandating that every state and county grant marriage licenses to gays. According to Gushee, and he seems to look forward to this, in the future churches and other religious organizations will be forced to accept and hire LGBT people or lose their tax exempt status (or worse). Religious colleges and universities that discriminate against gays will lose their federal funding including access to student loan programs. Gushee doesn’t get that fine grained in his predictions, but these seem to be what he is predicting.

I agree; this seems inevitable….

Given the inevitability of Gushee’s prediction coming true, and given the inevitability of government’s intervention in, even control of, religious organizations, perhaps religious organizations in American need to reconsider their tax privileges. Perhaps the time has come already for American religious organizations to bow out of all relationships with government including accepting money and tax exemptions that come with any strings attached (and they all do).

Perhaps Christians in America need to begin to regard themselves as on the cusp of living in the same situation in which Christians in the Roman Empire prior to Constantine found themselves—except for the occasional violent persecutions (yet)—and on the cusp of living in the same situation in which Christians in the former Soviet Union found themselves. Perhaps we are deluding ourselves by thinking we can go on acting as if our government values us (except when we kowtow to its expectations and demands).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.