Thursday, February 10, 2011

Two Provocative Posts from DG Hart

I frequent DG Hart's blog because he really makes me think. Often my gut reactions and preconceived notions of the way things should be are dismantled or at least challenged.

Today, he posted about an impending suit brought by seven higher education groups. An Appeals Court has recently sided with Badger Catholics in their complaint against the University of Wisconsin. The University had denied funding to the Catholic student group from student fees, but this decision was overturned by the court. Those who filed the legal brief argued that the Appeal Courts decision. . . took away the right of Wisconsin, and potentially other public colleges and universities, to support some student activities but to deny funds to organizations for worship services, proselytizing, or other activities that explicitly involve the practice of religion, according to the brief. The groups that sued Wisconsin and that are satisfied with the lower court’s ruling argue that universities should not treat religious activities in any way differently from other student activities — and that the limits used by Wisconsin infringed on the First Amendment.

Hart goes on to raise several questions about this situation:

Is that what they really want to say, that religion is the same as politics, sexual orientation, debate, and chess, or whatever other cause or identity for which Wisconsin students organize? Of course, it might seem unfair for Christian groups not to receive funding that goes to other students, but is this really a hardship worthy of hiring lawyers and going all the way to the Supreme Court? I imagine that all the attorneys fees could have funded Badger Catholic for a decade at least and probably several masses for dead Badger Catholics along the way... Meanwhile, is it really too much to ask for Christians to support their own activities? If believers can readily acknowledge the unfairness of being taxed to support indecent art funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, can’t they also understand why Wisconsin students and administrators might object to Protestants receiving funds to conduct Bible studies?

We certainly are quick to cry foul in similar situations, aren't we.

In another piece from earlier in the week, Hart asks, "How much of the Bible do we want the President to apply in his ruling?
He offers the following thought experiment.

"[Imagine President Obama] comes to the conclusion that murder is absolutely wrong and that abortion in many cases seems to be at odds with God’s law. He calls for a meeting of his cabinet to address the matter, calls the Speaker of the House about drafting legislation, and may even decide to address the nation during prime time."

Ok, sound good right. But Hart continues the experiment. Now imagine President Obama continued reading and read the New Testament.

"So let’s say the President continues to read the Bible daily and comes to the conviction, after counsel from nearby pastor, Mark Dever, that infant baptism is sinful. He knows that many churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, practice infant baptism. But he still believes that God’s word teaches only people who have made a credible profession of faith are eligible for baptism. So he calls another round of meetings with cabinet officials, members of Congress, and church leaders to begin to draft legislation that would prohibit infant baptism. Let’s also suppose that he gave the churches a year to stop their practices and if they did not the government would shut down all congregations that still used a baptismal font.

This scenario is not so hard to imagine since Presbyterians in Scotland and Northern Ireland experienced from Oliver Cromwell the kind of repression that President Obama might visit on Reformed churches if he got evangelical religion."

He concludes,
"it does seem mightily selective to think that magistrates need to pay attention to sexual sins but need to mind their business when it comes to liturgical infidelity. "

I'm pretty sure Hart isn't saying we should stop lobby for life (at least as individuals). However, he raises good questions regarding how we should lobby and argue. Should we use Scripture when debating with people who do not regard Scripture as authoritative? Or, should we argue from grounds of common grace and general revelation. Do we really want the President to run the country from a Christian platform? If so, which one? The pacifist Anabaptist position? The radical right or the liberal left? Or, should we recognize that we live as dual citizens and keep the two kingdoms separate. Good questions to ponder.

1 comment:

BenjaminAdam said...

The first step in persuasion is knowing your audience. I am confident that there are some who would more quickly understand the gospel if scripture were not cited but explained.

Does it change anything that the organization was not being funded by taxes but student fees charged in addition to tuition? IU separates this one step further by requiring clubs to petition for the right to have a donation check box during class registration.

Another interesting iota concerning the legal case. Religious organizations are tax exempt, as you know. While some may identify this as a seperation it should be equated with a donation equal to the lost tax revenue. There is more of a case here than there is with he badger, but precedence has sealed the deal.