Irrelevant ChristianityMar 14, 2016
One sentence I heard recently sums up the very thoughts I’ve had for years in a way I could never quite communicate. At a recent event I heard author and analyst Gabe Lyons say that “Christianity has become so relevant, it’s irrelevant.”
Gabe was explaining the notion that Christianity, or better said its followers, built so many of the institutions that are now essential to our society that people now don’t associate their existence with Christianity. In his book Good Faith, Gabe and his coauthor David Kinnman note that it was in fact “good faith Christians” who built “schools and universities, hospitals, labor unions, public libraries, voting rights for women and ethnic minorities, endowments for the arts and sciences and on and on.” Today, many of these societal goods are largely divorced from their faith heritage and government has stepped in and begun to reshape some of them. Any that still cling to their beliefs are experiencing great pressure to remove the motivation of spiritual belief system that drives them.
Never has this pressure been so transparent and public as in the realm of adoption where secular left forces in Virginia attempted to force faith-based agencies to abandon their faith beliefs on marriage and family to place children in homes with two same-gendered parents. Few in the battle even understood that if these agencies chose to shut down rather than violate their faith, a majority of all adoption services in Virginia would grind to a halt, leaving children on long foster rolls much longer or permanently. Why are so many of these agencies faith-based? Because in James 1:21 followers of the Good Book are told to “care for widows and orphans.” In this particular instance The Family Foundation and Virginia Catholic Conference, with then Governor Bob McDonnell, were able to not only reverse the effort but also codify in law a protection of conscience for these charities.
However, adoption isn’t the only area where faith is still a driver of good, nor is it the only realm of charity work under attack. That’s why this year, we helped pass SB 41 to protect a wide array of faith-based charities and institutions from having secular dogma forced upon them while the general public would still expect the same great services. While one can contribute to society without faith as the motivator, let’s not pretend that the bulk of charity work is not in fact the result of such faith.
As one whose college thesis examined the existence of faith as a driving force in social change by looking at William Wilberforce and his band of brothers called the Clapham Sect, I recognize that but for this group’s faith, slavery could still be alive and well. “Donations to religious causes and groups make up the largest single share of national charitable giving, one-third of all money donated to nonprofit organizations.” (Good Faith, p. 30) It’s still the Southern Baptists or Samaritan’s Purse that come running to provided needed disaster relief. It’s still the faith-based Habitat for Humanity building homes for the homeless and Compassion International educating children in third world countries.
For the same reasons Bernie Sanders’ socialism looks palatable to a younger generation, the progressive left falsely believes it can remove faith from charity and get the same societal goods in the same quantity. But the combination of revisionist history and the entire absence of history in classrooms today can’t change the facts, just the perception.
Christianity may “feel” irrelevant in our society today to non-believers but that’s only because it’s taken for granted, not because the contribution is not significant. Forced secular dogma or loss of tax-exempt status would be crippling to our society. If one thinks homeless Virginians should still be clothed, fed and sheltered, victims of tornados and other natural disasters restored to their former lives and the needs of veterans attended to, whether one is faith-driven or atheistic, one ought to support SB 41.