*note: this is a copy of another blog I put together to show formatting. Not original content.
A New Year’s post ought to have something about losing weight or making some resolutions, or at least have a few BCS bowl references in it.
It should not be about Atheism. I get that.
But I can’t let this go. Pastor John Hagee threw down on atheism in his sermon this weekend, and I need to weigh in, if you don’t mind.
I very much respect the ministry of John as a brother in Christ. There are a lot of people serving Jesus who do it differently than me. Actually the truth is – MOST of them would say “Harlow does it differently than most of us,” and that would be closer to the truth.
But on Sunday, John said atheists and humanists who don’t like hearing “Merry Christmas” or carols like “Joy to the World” should do one of two thing: “take your Walkman and stuff it into your ears” or just “leave the country.”
“Planes are leaving every hour on the hour. Get on one,” Hagee added, speaking from his Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.
The Biblical Reasoning Behind Cultural Relevance
First of all, I think its important to try to stay somewhat current with culture. When we started into our version of “What does the Fox Say” on Christmas Eve there was an age defined Mason Dixon line in our congregation. All the young people went “Oh, no they didn’t.” And those of us over 40 said, “Huh?”
All I’m saying is that it would be very difficult to “stuff your Walkman into your ears, without digging it out of a musty box somewhere in the attic – and I have no idea where you’d find a cassette to put in it.
But that’s not the real problem. I get less “hip” every day, and have no chance of being “hipster.”
The real problem is the attitude. It’s the “Us vs. Them” attitude that makes me sad.
I just don’t ever see this attitude showing up in Jesus teaching or any part of the NT.
Yes, Paul talked about this in Romans 1, about those who “suppress the truth” and because “what is known about God should be plain to them. But then he talks in Romans 2 about those who do know God and don’t obey the whole law, and then in Romans 3 he basically says “We’re all in the same boat.”
As a matter of fact, Paul talks strongly about judging. As does Jesus (Matthew 7: ‘DO NOT JUDGE or you too will be judged’…pretty cut and dry).
A Christian Country? Or a Christian Nation?
And while I’m on the subject, can I just jump in on a bit of history here? I understand what John and others are saying about this nation being founded by Christians. This is true of the US of A. Absolutely true.
But two things should be noted:
1. This “nation” was founded by Christians, but this “country” was – to the best of our knowledge – founded by people who worshiped the “Great Spirit in the Sky.” And then they were banished to my home state of Oklahoma (read that – why would anyone want to live there by choice?).
What I’m saying is that if this is about an established territory that exists for the purpose of the Worship of our God, I want out. God didn’t call me to be “hunker down” and stand strong against the forces of hell. He called me to “go into the world” and take the church on the offensive and attack the “gates of hell” (Matt 16:18).
2. The founding of this Christian nation was based in the deepest desire to have “religious freedom.” Religious freedom includes the opportunity to not have one. What is ironic about all of this is that the same people who were complaining about the censorship of Phil Robertson one week, are advocating it this week!
Either we do have freedom to feel and speak and worship the way we want, or we don’t.
Most of the non-Christians I know have no problem with someone saying “Merry Christmas.” But if they do have a problem, they have the freedom to have that problem, whether I like it or not.
Not Standing Against…Talking With
But back on point. Paul said that we should “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that (we) have, but do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15).
Win them with gentleness and respect.
If our calling is to make disciples, seek and save the lost, and preach the gospel (good news), how does that work if we’re just telling people to leave?
“You’re not welcome here, so please leave, but don’t forget that Jesus loves you.”
I interviewed an atheist one time that later wrote
As I read Christian books, and as I spent months attending an amazing variety of churches in different parts of the country, I kept running across a consistent and troubling truth about American Christianity. It is clear that most churches have aligned themselves against nonreligious people. By adopting this stance, Christians have turned off the people I would think they want to connect with” (Hemet Mehta).
Let me just say – if you don’t believe in my God and my Jesus – you don’t have to leave the country. You can move to Chicago and hang out with me. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I’ll still love you. If you come to my church for Christmas, you will definitely hear about a baby who was born to save the world and that includes you. And we will sing Joy to the World and Silent night – including the lyrics “Christ the Savior is born.”
I’m grateful for the work of our awesome church to make more than 20,000 people feel welcome in our 14 Christmas Eve services! I hope a everyone of them walked away knowing that Jesus came for them.
But if I work next to you, I’ll respect your opinion, and I’ll wish you Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy whatever you want.
For me, I believe the only way your year will be “Happy” is if you figure out that God loves you, but I will not lose the opportunity to tell you about it – by forcing it down your throat.
Celebrating the Birth of Christ by alienating those he came to save –by offending those very people – is the exact opposite of what he would have wanted.
It would be like celebrating my birthday by putting up a tree with green and yellow ribbons, Packers ornaments, and Aaron Rogers on top!
If it’s your birthday – it should be celebrated the way you want!
It’s Jesus birthday – how do you think we should celebrate it?