There’s an important lesson for Christians taking place in Beloit, Ohio right now. As American culture continues to embrace secularism, to the point that even those who claim to be followers of Jesus hold first allegiance to the spirit of the age, Christians will continue to not only encounter vocal and popular opposition for our convictions, but legal threats and challenges will also mount.
We should right now begin contemplating and preparing for how we will respond to these imminent challenges.
In the rural community of Beloit, the long-standing tradition of student prayer before high school athletic events has provoked the anti-Christian legal firm known as the Freedom From Religion Foundation to get their dander up. As is their custom, the FFRF sent their standard cease and desist form letter, replete with misstatements and misapplications of prior legal precedent, but bearing the threatening authority of one of their “esquire” staff attorneys.
And as is so often the case, small rural schools lack the resources to be able to fight any drawn out legal battle. So they acquiesce to the demands and the FFRF celebrates another scalp.
It’s easy to get angry about these kinds of things, but that’s ultimately fruitless. Witnessing Christianity lose its place of privileged honor in the hearts and minds of our people isn’t pleasant by any means. But it is also not comparable to the suffering being endured by believers around the world who are being forced to choose between renouncing their faith in Jesus or watching their children be murdered in front of them.
So rather than play the martyr and climb up on our cross, let’s instead covenant to play the disciple, taking up and carrying our cross in joy – whatever its weight may be.
And that’s what I see in the people of Beloit. In a town of 900 they have printed and distributed over 4,000 t-shirts that say “Prayer Matters.” Students and families who are not particularly religious have been impressed by the humble exercise of faith in the face of adversity. No doubt conversations have taken place about why prayer matters, and those for whom faith had been a comfortable, in-name-only reality, now has taken on a new life.
It’s distinctly possible that the evangelistic atheists in Wisconsin have done a real favor to the religious conviction of the people of Beloit. They’ve united them, re-energized them, reminded them of what matters, and opened a much easier door to evangelistic conversation. It’s the paradox the world has witnessed repeatedly: Christianity flourishes most when it is under threat.
Albeit on a dramatically smaller scale than what the brethren worldwide have experienced historically, the people of Beloit are bearing witness to this truth with smiles on their faces.
What man intends for evil…