Milt Hankins: Whining doesn't help the Christian cause
Recently, I read an article on the Internet listing several "Christian" businesses which, according to the article, included Alaskan Airlines, Pura Vida, Zondervan Publishing House and, of course, Chick-fil-a. Christian schools, publishing houses, thrift stores and other enterprises owned and operated by the Salvation Army, the Mormon Church, and various other denominations also fit the category. None is threatened.
I came across this article while researching the idea that a concerted effort, a consolidated pressure group whose goal it is to destroy Christianity, is afoot in this country. What movement? Where? As I have pointed out on several occasions, a significant majority of Americans (I, among them) are Christians.
It is virtually impossible to drive along any major highway or street in this country without encountering Christian churches. Architecturally, they are hard to miss! None appear to be in danger of imminent attack. Outwardly, at least, they appear to be doing rather well.
What is underway, I suspect, is an understated movement to prevent Christian churches from becoming a major political force in this country. America is not, and never was meant to be, a theocracy. We are a nation made of the fabric of diversity and the freedom of persuasion.
In 1962, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling which stated that "official prayer had no place in public education." The decision has been widely misunderstood. The court had no vendetta against religion. "The court did not rule that students cannot pray on their own; the justices said that government officials cannot compose a prayer for students to recite."
In 1963, the Court handed down another ruling which said school-sponsored Bible reading and recitation of the Lord's Prayer was unconstitutional.
Both rulings, despite being erroneously interpreted by Christians, were appropriate decisions. No child should be forced to participate in a prayer which goes against his or her personal religious beliefs, and no child should have been discriminated against because he or she chose not to participate in reciting the Lord's Prayer.
Let me make it perfectly clear: The church and the home are the fitting places for religious education. They are suitable places for prayer. They are proper places for Christians to recite the Lord's Prayer. The church and the home are not the only place where these activities are acceptable, but public schools should not be among them!
In the late 1700s, my ancestors were driven from the Crown Colony of New Jersey because they were Baptists. They did not whine that the Crown was trying to destroy Christianity. They packed up their belongings and moved to the western frontier where they could practice their religion as they purposed in their hearts.
When churches are torched, bibles are consigned to the flames, ministers are martyred, and it is illegal to openly profess one's Christian beliefs -- then Christianity will be under attack. Until then, can we move away from the flammable rhetoric and paranoia which does Christianity no good whatsoever?
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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