Church & culture: Challenges abound

Cultural conditions that churches and people of faith find themselves in are far different from what they were in the not-too-distant past. Christians and their organizations and businesses are being marginalized with ever-increasing frequency and intensity. There is a growing intolerance for and hostility toward our faith. Sometimes, that hostility is acted out – and that should get our attention.

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Hardly a week goes by when a mass shooting isn’t in the news. Public venues – even churches sometimes – are the scenes where these heinous violent attacks on innocent, defenseless people take place. While the odds of that happening in any particular church are rather small, it can and does occur.

Is your church prepared for such an event, in the unlikely chance that it may find itself a target of such violence? If not, your church’s leaders should do the due diligence necessary to protect the congregation and staff. There is a plethora of reliable resources regarding the best practices for church security and safety. Various law enforcement agencies and insurance companies are good sources for that help.

The principle of “separation of church and state” has been misconstrued, and its meaning has been contorted to prod the government to adopt an adversarial position against religion. Too often, the courts seem to go out of their way to accommodate that objective. As if that weren’t enough, audacious attempts are being made to revise history to cast doubts on our nation’s Christian heritage. Be certain of this: America is a republic founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and the founders never intended for government to be hostile to or punitive toward people and institutions of faith. We need to unapologetically defend those truths in loving and Christlike ways.

Our nation grows more secular by the day. Even our numbers in the U.S. are shrinking. The number of people who claim no religion has risen 266 percent in the past three decades.

According to a General Social Survey conducted last year, 23.1 percent of the U.S. population claimed no religion compared to 23 percent who were Catholics and 22.5 percent who were Evangelicals. Are your members up to the task of defending the faith and responding to the criticisms of contrarians? Our mandate is clear: “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15, HCSB). The efficacy of the gospel message is largely dependent on this duty.

The radical proponents of the SO/GI (sexual orientation and gender identity) agendas are not shy about trying to force churches and Christians and their businesses and organizations to surrender their deeply held biblical beliefs and standards and adopt the more “enlightened” notions of human sexuality, marriage and gender-related matters. They are using the legal system to try and exert their will on us. If it hasn’t yet, your church should take precautions by adopting policies and statements of faith that could serve to thwart attempts to strip us of our religious liberties.

Larry Page is executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council.

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