Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why Glad Submission?

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." (Psalms 139:16 NLT)

God is big.

I know this. Still, I'm reminded today that God is so big.

Why? Because of what David writes in these verses about what God is like.

"You (God) saw me (David) before I was born"

God sees the future. More than that, he's so big, he's outside of time. He sees all of time as right now!

What's future (or past) to us is present to him. He is literally outside of time. After all, he created time. He looks at the timeline that represents our world and he sees everything from the very beginning to the very end as now. Wow.

"Every day of my (David's) life was recorded in your book."

Notice it says "was." As in, God's already written down everything David's done and will do. Yikes! That's big!

He's big enough to know details about each of us--every step of our lives.

"Every moment was laid out"

God's also sovereign. He's not just big but a big king. He's our creator too, so there's that. Because he's our creator, he gets to rule over us. He decided who he wanted to create and for what purpose. This just follows logically.

In the very beginning, he "laid out" every moment of our life "before a single day had passed." He's that big. This doesn't mean I'm a puppet with no choice. It does mean he's extremely powerful. More powerful than we can even imagine.

God is big. Anyone who can speak something into existence from nothing is awesome. He's worthy of our worship and praise and allegiance, as a result.

This comforts me. He not only knows me but he knew me before I was born--and he still created me and he still wants to know me. I'm wanted. I'm loved.

I'm grateful.
I'm affirmed.
I'm accepted.
I'm forgiven.
I'm loved.

This encourages me. He has plans for me. He created me with meaningful purpose. He took the time to lay this out for me.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me so much! I am not worthy. I gladly submit my life to you, Lord! Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Discipleship--A Definition

A sound definition of a disciple of Jesus. (credit Mike Breen, 3DM)

A disciple of Jesus is 

1) A person who learns to be like Jesus.

2) A person who does what Jesus did. 

Therefore, a disciple is someone whose life and ministry reflect the life and ministry of Jesus. 

Dallas Willard defines it way: Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if he were you.

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Flying Christian Flag Over American Flag

National Day of Prayer, Faith Assembly, May 7, 2015 by Barney Barnes

Part 1.

During the time of prayer I was impressed to move up to the front where the Christian Flag and American Flag were positioned. As I approached the flags I was impressed to drop a knee in front of the Christian flag. As I knelt there I was reminded of the founding of our nation…of our birthing and of the centrality of Christ in the hearts of Pilgrims…of banners hung on buildings in Charleston in 1775 proclaiming “No King But Jesus”…of the ebb and flow of righteousness…of great wars at home and on distant shores…of Azusa Street…of depression and of reconciliation…of our emergence as The Great Power…and of our present turmoil and distress. All of this…and I reached out to hold the flag with both hands and realized more clearly the Kingdom that it represented…”No King But Jesus”.

Then I was impressed to move and stand before the American flag…in silence. I was reminded of the many things that it represented…that it had stood for thru our history…of those who taken an oath, like myself, to defend it against all enemies with our life. I saw the 50 stars and began to weep because of division and strife. Then I was reminded of what happens at sea on US Naval vessels…on the ship’s mast, during divine services, the American flag is lowered and the Christian flag is raised to fly above the American flag. This procedure dates back to the founding of our navy. This is announced on the ship’s speaker system that “divine services are now being held”…this is not insignificant!

I came to realize that patriotism is a very good and necessary passion to be resident in the hearts of men but that this is so very limited if Christ does not occupy the highest point on the mast of our heart. We drop a knee before the King…We take a stand for our liberty!

Afterwards I saw a great reservoir of water…and then I saw what it was to become…it was a vast parched earth with great cracks…totally void of life…much like the images of parts of California today. I understood that this was a reservoir of righteousness and looked again to see that it still held water but was at a dangerously low level. I then saw that it was leaking from a hole that no man could repair…only the hand of the Lord could stop this catastrophe from happening. I was reminded of Jeremiah 18 and the potter’s house.

Barney Barnes

What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, May 18, 2015


Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration. This is His story. History. HiStory. This is no coincidence.

We each have a story to share. It's a part of God's story. His story always includes these four elements (Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration). Our story can too. We are created in his image. We are born into a fallen world. We have the opportunity to respond to Christ in faith. This leads to redemption. Then we get to be a part of restoring all things. 

Our story includes brokenness, pain and suffering. These are the result of the fall. They are the result of our sin or the sin of others. God is restoring all things and that includes us. We will be remade. We can be recreated and restored if we trust and follow Jesus. 

Our story is to be told. We share our story to show others how it connects to God's story--and to show them that their story connects to his as well. We listen to their story so that we see where and how God is at work. We can then answer the question, "How is the Gospel good news to this person?" This is usually the flip side to the pain and suffering they've experienced or are experiencing.

So we need to know His story.
We need to know our story.
We need to know how our story fits into his--where he's restoring us.
We get to listen to the stories of others.
We get to share our story with others.
We show them how their story intersects with God's story. 
We lead them to enter in to his story forever. 

It's our story. His story. It's hiStory. 

Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.

Show and tell it today.

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Friday, May 15, 2015

What makes a small group a small group?

I was catching up on MinistryHangouts this week where they were discussing small groups. Thanks to Greg Surratt for that. 

One thing that caught my attention was the question, "What makes something a small group?" Below I've tried to answer that question as a pastor myself. Hope it helps you whether you're a pastor or small group participant. 

What makes a small group a small group? 

I think it requires several things at a minimum:

  1. At least 3 people gathering together in the name of Christ.
  2. Meeting at least twice a month (organized). Other times informally is important too. (organic)
  3. They pray together whenever they meet.
  4. They are studying the Bible in some way. Could be when they are together. Could also be holding one another to read through the Bible when they are apart and then they discuss when together. (think accountability to self-study)
  5. They are on mission together. They have an intentional way they serve the church on mission together. It could be through a ministry at the church or that they each are living intentionally on mission at work and are praying about it specifically together.

Key Values

  • Mission of God (making disciples)
  • Family of God (they are doing life together regularly)
  • Disciples/Learners of God (they are learning to live the word out together)
  • Worship of God (they see prayer as their lifeline to God)
  • Servants of God (they serve the Lord together)

Key identities

  • Family
  • Missionaries
  • Servants
  • Learners/disciples

Better is to become an "oikos" (Greek for "household" on the Bible) (meaning household or extended family on mission together). (Credit 3DMovements and Mike Breen for this)

This group would look like I’ve described above with a couple of edits:

  • They’d start out as at least 12 people and grow from there. Groups of 3 would be DNA groups within this larger group (call it a missional community).
  • They’d make their mission personal and corporate. It would be multi-layered too. It might include their neighborhood, someones’ kid’s t-ball team and Curacao.
  • The learning part would be a combination of self-study in the word (like SOAP) but also times of learning together (preaching, teaching). 
  • Worship could also broaden to include praise times through music and other means.
  • In both cases, unbelievers and new people are encouraged to attend. But in the case of the MC, they’d be intentionally and prayerfully reaching out to “people of peace” they believe God is bringing into their oikos.
  • Multiplication is a key expectation of this community.  
  • A huddle would start for training up for the leaders in the group with the expectation that God would be raising up one or more to lead a new MC (or other kind of group) in the future.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Christianity Dying? by Russell Moore

Terrific article by Russell Moore here. Or you can read it below.

Christianity is dying. At least, that’s what major newspapers are telling us today, culling research from a new Pew Center study on what almost all sociologists are observing these days—the number of Americans who identify as Christians has reached an all-time low, and is falling. I think this is perhaps bad news for America, but it is good news for the church.
The lead editor of the report tells The New York Times that secularization—mainly in terms of those who identify as “nones” or with no specific religious affiliation—isn’t isolated to the progressive Northeast and Pacific Northwest. He notes, “The change is taking place all over, including the Bible Belt.”
This is precisely what several of us have been saying for years. Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering. I say let it fall. For much of the twentieth century, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be “normal.” During the Cold War, that meant distinguishing oneself from atheistic Communism. At other times, it has meant seeing churchgoing as a way to be seen as a good parent, a good neighbor, and a regular person. It took courage to be an atheist, because explicit unbelief meant social marginalization. Rising rates of secularization, along with individualism, means that those days are over—and good riddance to them.
Again, this means some bad things for the American social compact. In the Bible Belt of, say, the 1940s, there were people who didn’t, for example, divorce, even though they wanted out of their marriages. In many of these cases, the motive wasn’t obedience to Jesus’ command on marriage but instead because they knew that a divorce would marginalize them from their communities. In that sense, their “traditional family values” were motivated by the same thing that motivated the religious leaders who rejected Jesus—fear of being “put out of the synagogue.” Now, to be sure, that kept some children in intact families. But that’s hardly revival.
Secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists. Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office. This is good news because the kind of “Christianity” that is a means to an end—even if that end is “traditional family values”—is what J. Gresham Machen rightly called “liberalism,” and it is an entirely different religion from the apostolic faith handed down by Jesus Christ.
Now, what some will say is that the decline in self-identified Christians is a sign that the church should jettison its more unpopular teachings. And in our day, these teachings are almost always those dealing with pelvic autonomy. First of all, even if this were the key to success, we couldn’t—and wouldn’t—do it. Christianity isn’t a political party, dependent on crafting ideologies to suit the masses. We received this gospel (Gal. 1:11-12); we didn’t invent it. But, that said, such is not the means to “success”—even the way the sociologists define it.
The Pew report holds that mainline denominations—those who have made their peace with the Sexual Revolution—continue to report heavy losses, while evangelical churches remain remarkably steady—even against some heavy headwinds coming from the other direction. Why?
We learned this answer 100 years ago, and it reminds us of what we learned 2,000 years ago. Two or three generations ago, Christians who held to the Virgin birth of Christ were warned that their children would flee the faith unless the parents redefined Christianity. “If you want to win the next generation,” they were told, “you have to make Christianity relevant, and that means dispending with miracles in favor of modern science.” The churches that followed that path aren’t just dying; they are dead, sustained by endowments and dwindling gatherings of nostalgic senior adults with a smattering of community organizers here and there.
People who don’t want Christianity, don’t want almost-Christianity. Almost-Christianity looks in the mainline like something from Nelson Rockefeller to Che Guevara at prayer. Almost Christianity, in the Bible Belt, looks like a God-and-Country civil religion that prizes cultural conservatism more than theological fidelity. Either way, a Christianity that reflects its culture, whether that culture is Smith College or NASCAR, only lasts as long as it is useful to its host. That’s because it’s, at root, idolatry, and people turn from their idols when they stop sending rain.
Christianity isn’t normal anymore, and that’s good news. The Book of Acts, like the Gospels before it, shows us that the Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction. Only a strange gospel can differentiate itself from the worlds we construct. But the strange, freakish, foolish old gospel is what God uses to save people and to resurrect churches (1 Cor. 1:20-22).
We do not have more atheists in America. We have more honest atheists in America. Again, that’s good news. The gospel comes to sinners, not to the righteous. It is easier to speak a gospel to the lost than it is to speak a gospel to the kind-of-saved. And what those honest atheists grapple with, is what every sinner grapples with, burdened consciences that point to judgment. Our calling is to bear witness.
We don’t have Mayberry anymore, if we ever did. Good. Mayberry leads to hell just as surely as Gomorrah does. But Christianity didn’t come from Mayberry in the first place, but from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.
The future of Christianity is bright. I don’t know that from surveys and polls, but from a word Someone spoke one day back at Caesarea Philippi. The gates of hell haven’t gotten any stronger, and the Light that drives out the darkness is enough to counter every rival gospel, even those gospels that describe themselves as “none.”

Monday, May 11, 2015

In Life. In Death.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24 NIV)

Jesus speaks words that can be hard to swallow. Let's start with the agricultural part.

Jesus says for a seed to grow it must do at least two things: 1) Rest in the ground, and 2) Die.

Jesus said unless a seed falls to the ground AND DIES, it remains only a single seed. It doesn't sprout. It just sits there. Useless.

The purpose of a seed is to sprout into a new plant that will grow, bear more fruit (to eat or sell) resulting in many more seeds. This is what the seeds was created to do.

The key to this process is that the seed must die (dry out) before it can sprout. Yes, it must also be planted in the ground--that's essential too. But the paradox is that for life to come forth, it must first exit. This is a picture of how life overcomes death in our world.

The enemy kills and destroys. God brings life where there is none. He does this to show the world his power over death. God is life. He speaks life. He resurrects the dead. Death cannot resist him.

The win here is not just life but a multiplicity of abundant life. "When the seed dies, it produces many seeds." Many seeds is part of the fruit that the mature plant yields. It bears more fruit which we sell, give away, or eat. We harvest the seeds from the eaten fruit so that we can plant again--and much more than before.

More Death

One more thing. What kills the seed? Exposure to our world. Jesus willingly exposes himself to the world. The world doesn't recognize him as Creator. The world crucifies him. He dies.

This verse is a picture of this. It's Jesus telling the disciples that he must and will die for his kingdom of life to come, grow and flourish.

Jesus is the first seed to die, be planted, and bring life from death. The next generation of seed are his disciples. They too must live and die to yield more fruit.

We are more of that seed. We too are called to live--and die--for Christ. He is not only the power of the Gospel--he is our example of how to live out the Gospel.

Jesus said he chose his disciples to go and bear fruit that will last. (John 15:16) That's us, his followers. We are to live in such a way that we are so convinced of his goodness and greatness that we choose to die to self and live for him. Even when the world wants to kill us, we embrace that as Jesus did knowing that it is through our death (because of his death) that our true life arrives.


This is a picture of what God does. He is the God of life. Creator. Sustainer. Redeemer. And this God of life creates life, sustains life, and redeems life. He resurrects the dead. That's what he does because of who he is.

God gives us eternal, abundant life when we trust Christ. We are dead in our sins until he plants his gospel in the soil of our heart. By his grace he opens our eyes and we see what is true. He gives us faith so that we can trust and follow him from death to life--abundant and eternal!

But here's the part that we forget. We must die before we can live. We must die to our old way of life. We must die to trusting in ourselves or anything or anyone else. We must die to being lord of our life. We must die to believing we know best. We die to self.

Then the gospel takes root in our heart giving us a new allegiance and a new God. Instead of worshiping ourselves, we worship our Creator and Redeemer--The LORD Almighty.

Not only do we die to self to be born again, we must die daily to the temptations to put ourself back on the throne of our heart.

God, give us to faith to trust you fully in life--and in death. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

The Post-Indiana Future for Christians [repost] by Rod Dreher

Hugely important article on the state of our culture and the implications for religious liberty for all (Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc.). We've witnessed tectonic cultural shifts in the past three years. This article about an interview with a professor covers an immense amount of material. It's worth the time to read and re-read. I'm printing it out and working through it with pen and highlighter. I'm sharing it with as many people as possible. I hope to blog on it in the weeks ahead a paragraph at a time. Darien

The Post-Indiana Future for Christians
Posted By Rod Dreher On April 3, 2015 @ 12:42 pm In | 269 Comments
I spent a long time on the phone last night with a law professor at one of the country’s elite law schools. This professor is a practicing Christian, deeply closeted in the workplace; he is convinced that if his colleagues in academia knew of his faith, they would make it very hard for him. We made contact initially by e-mail — he is a reader of this blog — and last night, by phone. He agreed to speak with me about the Indiana situation on condition that I not identify him by name or by institution. I do know his identity, and when he tells me that he is “well-informed about the academy and the Supreme Court,” I assure you that from where he sits, and teaches, and from his CV, he is telling the truth.

I will call him Prof. Kingsfield, after the law professor in The Paper Chase. 

What prompted his reaching out to me? “I’m very worried,” he said, of events of the last week. “The constituency for religious liberty just isn’t there anymore.”

Like me, what unnerved Prof. Kingsfield is not so much the details of the Indiana law, but the way the overculture treated the law. “When a perfectly decent, pro-gay marriage religious liberty scholar like Doug Laycock, who is one of the best in the country — when what he says is distorted, you know how crazy it is.”

“Alasdair Macintyre is right,” he said. “It’s like a nuclear bomb went off, but in slow motion.” What he meant by this is that our culture has lost the ability to reason together, because too many of us want and believe radically incompatible things.

But only one side has the power. When I asked Kingsfield what most people outside elite legal and academic circles don’t understand about the way elites think, he said “there’s this radical incomprehension of religion.”

“They think religion is all about being happy-clappy and nice, or should be, so they don’t see any legitimate grounds for the clash,” he said. “They make so many errors, but they don’t want to listen.”

To elites in his circles, Kingsfield continued, “at best religion is something consenting adult should do behind closed doors. They don’t really understand that there’s a link between Sister Helen Prejean’s faith and the workd she does on the death penalty. There’s a lot of looking down on flyover country, one middle America.

“The sad thing,” he said, “is that the old ways of aspiring to truth, seeing all knowledge as part of learning about the nature of reality, they don’t hold. It’s all about power. They’ve got cultural power, and think they should use it for good, but their idea of good is not anchored in anything. They’ve got a lot of power in courts and in politics and in education. Their job is to challenge people to think critically, but thinking critically means thinking like them. They really do think that they know so much more than anybody did before, and there is no point in listening to anybody else, because they have all the answers, and believe that they are good.”

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield, Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

Kingsfield said that the core of the controversy, both legally and culturally, is the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (1992), specifically the (in)famous line, authored by Justice Kennedy, that at the core of liberty is “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” As many have pointed out — and as Macintyre well understood — this “sweet mystery of life” principle (as Justice Scalia scornfully characterized it) kicks the supporting struts out from under the rule of law, and makes it impossible to resolve rival moral visions except by imposition of power.

“Autonomous self-definition is at the root of all this,” Prof. Kingsfield said. We are now at the point, he said, at which it is legitimate to ask if sexual autonomy is more important than the First Amendment.
The implications of the past week for small-o orthodox Christians — that is, those who hold to traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and the nature of marriage — are broad. There is the legal dimension, and there is a cultural dimension, which Kingsfield sees (rightly, I think) as far more important.

First, the legal. Kingsfield said he reviewed Ross Douthat’s questions, [1] and thinks they are a good framework for trying to figure out the road ahead.  I didn’t pin Kingsfield down on his specific answers to each of Douthat’s questions; we spent an hour and a half on the phone as it was, and I didn’t want to rob too much of his time. But I did take some notes about his general views.

“I read that list and I think it’s very useful,” Kingsfield said. “I think the bulwarks in terms of a parent’s right to raise a child, and to educate a child, are more durable than others.”

A college professor who is already tenured is probably safe. Those who aren’t tenured, are in danger. Those who are believed to be religious, or at least religious in ways the legal overculture believes constitutes bigotry, will likely never be hired. For example, the professor said, he was privy to the debate within a faculty hiring meeting in which the candidacy of a liberal Christian was discussed. Though the candidate appeared in every sense to be quite liberal in her views, the fact that she was an open Christian prompted discussion as to whether or not the university would be hiring a “fundamentalist.”

“I think in terms of hiring people [within the academy], that’s quite acceptable in people’s minds,” said Kingsfield. (And, I would add, not just within the academy.)

Kingsfield says that religious schools will have a substantial degree of protection in the law, at least for a while, to the extent that the school can be described as a part of a particular church, with clear doctrines that it expects its members to live by and uphold.

“There’s going to be some question as to whether this applies to parachurch charities, schools, shelters, things like that,” he says. “If you’re a church you’re pretty much protected in who you hire, pay, and so forth. If you are a school and are careful only to hire people of your denomination, you’re probably okay, though there are questions about the person who says ‘I’m a good Catholic, though I’m gay.’

“It could be that if bishop certifies that you are a Catholic in good standing, you’re okay,” he continued. “Catholics have a clear line of what constitutes the visible church, and what it means to be Catholic. So do the Orthodox. But if you are an Evangelical church that has a more general statement of faith, and depends on a shared assumption that its non-married members will live a chaste life, I’m not so sure that’s going to hold.”

For hierarchical, doctrinally well-defined churches, much depends legally on what the bishops do. “To the extent that some of the Catholic bishops want to punt, like the New Jersey bishop [Bootkoski of Metuchen] did with that schoolteacher [Patricia Jannuzzi], I’m not sure at all what happens to them.”

(Bootkoski arranged for Jannuzzi to be fired from her position teaching at a Catholic school in his diocese after a Facebook post in which she stated Catholic teaching on homosexuality and the family, but did so intemperately. “The teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance,” the bishop said in a public statement. From what Kingsfield said, this might well have laid down a marker making it hard for the Diocese to defend itself in court in future challenges over hiring.)
“If you’re a Catholic in San Francisco, in a crazy social environment, you’re in good shape, because you have [Archbishop] Salvatore Cordileone, who is going to hold the line. In Philadelphia, you have Archbishop Chaput. But if you’re in Indiana or New Jersey, you’re going to have trouble. There’s a way in which the vigilance of the bishop in governing the local church will matter in court. If the bishops won’t stand up for [orthodox Christian teaching], who will?”

“Even Reformation churches that have specific doctrines that they police, they’ll probably be okay,” Kingsfield continued. “But again, if you define yourselves by a very general statement, even if your ethos is culturally conservative, it’s going to be harder. The low church people may wind up in a position where they have to start policing their churches much more closely in terms of doctrine.”

This could well push religious schools into making hiring decisions that they’re not comfortable with. Say, for example, that a Catholic school had no trouble hiring a chemistry teacher who openly advocated for same-sex marriage, because that teacher was in the school to teach chemistry. His views on gay marriage are irrelevant, in practice. The school may have a different standard for hiring its religion teachers, or its social studies teachers, requiring them to be more doctrinally in line with the Church. But that is a distinction that may not hold up in court under challenge, Kingsfield said.

The result could be that religious schools have to start policing orthodoxy in terms of all their hires — a situation imposing standards far more strict than many schools may wish to live by, but which may be necessary to protect the school’s legal interests.

Kingsfield said homeschooling, and homeschooling-ish things (e.g., co-ops), are going to become increasingly important to orthodox Christians, especially as they see established religious schools folding on this issue.

Businesses, however, are going to have a very hard time resisting what’s coming. Not that they would try. “The big companies have already gone over,” said Kingsfield.

“Most anti-discrimination laws have a certain cut off – they don’t apply if you have 15 employees or less,” he said. “You could have an independent, loosely affiliated network of artisans, working together. If you can refer people to others within the network, that could work. You won’t be able to scale up, but that’s not such a bad thing.”

Kingsfield said religious colleges and universities are going to have to think hard about their identities.
“Colleges that don’t receive federal funding – Hillsdale and Grove City are two I can think of – are going to be in better position, because federal regulations force a lot of crazy stuff on you,” he said. “I think it would be really wise for small religious institutions to think hard if they can cut the cord of federal funding and can find wealthy donors to step in.”

Kingsfield said we are going to have to watch closely the way the law breaks regarding gender identity and transgenderism. If the courts accept the theory that gender is a social construct — and there is a long line of legal theory and jurisprudence that says that it is — then the field of antidiscrimination law is bound to be expanded to cover, for example, people with penises who consider themselves women. The law, in other words, will compel citizens to live as if this were true — and religious liberty will, in general, be no fallback. This may well happen.

What about the big issue that is on the minds of many Christians who pay attention to this fight: the tax-exempt status of churches and religious organizations? Will they be Bob Jones’d over gay rights?
Kingsfield said that this is too deeply embedded in American thought and law to be at serious risk right now, but gay rights proponents will probably push to tie the tax exemption on charities with how closely integrated they are within churches. The closer schools and charities are tied to churches, especially in their hiring, the greater protection they will enjoy.

The accreditation issue is going to be a much stickier wicket. Accreditation is tied to things like the acceptance of financial aid, and the ability to get into graduate schools.

“There was a professor at Penn last year who wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education [2]calling for the end of accrediting religious colleges and universities,” Kingsfield said. “It was a Richard Dawkins kind of thing, just crazy. The fact that someone taking a position this hostile felt very comfortable putting this in the Chronicle tells me that there’s a non-trivial number of professors willing to believe this.”

Gordon College has faced pressure [3]from a regional accrediting authority over its adherence to traditional Christian sexual morals re: gay rights.

“Accreditation is critical to being admitted to law schools and medical schools,” Kingsfield said. “College accreditation will matter for some purposes of sports, federal aid, and for the ability to be admitted by top graduate schools. Ghettoization for Christians could be the result.”

“In California right now, judges can’t belong to the Boy Scouts now. Who knows if in the future, lawyers won’t be able to belong to churches that are considered hate groups?” he said. “It’s certainly true that a lot of law firms will not now hire people who worked on cases defending those on the traditional marriage side. It’s going to close some professional doors. I certainly wouldn’t write about this stuff in my work, not if I wanted to have a chance at tenure. There’s a question among Christian law professors right now: do you write about these issues and risk tenure? This really does distort your scholarship. Christianity could make a distinct contribution to legal discussions, but it’s simply too risky to say what you really think.”

The emerging climate on campus of microaggressions, trigger warnings, and the construal of discourse as a form of violence is driving Christian professors further into the closet, the professor said.

“If I said something that was construed as attacking a gay student, I could have my life made miserable with a year or two of litigation — and if I didn’t have tenure, there could be a chance that my career would be ruined,” he said. “Even if you have tenure, a few people who make allegations of someone being hateful can make a tenured professor’s life miserable.”

“What happened to Brendan Eich” — the tech giant who was driven out of Mozilla for having made a small donation years earlier to the Prop 8 campaign — “is going to start happening to a lot of people, and Christians had better be ready for it. The question I keep thinking about is, why would we want to do that to people? But that’s where we are now.”

I pointed out that the mob hysteria that descended on Memories Pizza, the mom & pop pizza shop in small-town Indiana that had to close its doors (temporarily, one hopes) after its owners answered a reporter’s question truthfully, is highly instructive to the rest of us.

“You’re right,” he said. “Memories Pizza teaches us all a lesson. What is the line between prudently closing our mouths and closeting ourselves, and compromising our faith? Christians have to start thinking about that seriously.”

“We have to fall back to defensive lines and figure out where those lines are. It’s not going to be persecution like the older Romans, or even communist Russia,” he added. “But what’s coming is going cause a lot of people to fall away from the faith, and we are going to have to be careful about how we define and clarify what Christianity is.”

“If I were a priest or pastor, I don’t know what I would advise people about what to say and what not to say in public about their faith,” Kingsfield said.

There is a bitter irony in the fact that gays coming out of the closet coincides with traditional religious people going back into the closet.

“Gays have legitimately said that it’s a big deal to have laws and a culture in which they have been forced to lie about who they are, which is what you do when you put them in the position of not being able to be open about their sexuality,” Kingsfield said.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ forced them to segment off a part of their lives in a way that was wrong. What they don’t realize today is that the very same criticism they had about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ can be applied to what is happening now to Christians: you can do what you like in private, but don’t bring who you are into the public square, or you can be punished for it.”

On the political side, Kingsfield said it’s important to “surrender political hope” — that is, that things can be solved through political power. Republicans can be counted on to block the worst of what the Democrats attempt – which is a pretty weak thing to rely on, but it’s not nothing. “But a lot of things can be done by administrative order,” he said. “I’m really worried about that.”

And on the cultural front? Cultural pressure is going to radically reduce orthodox Christian numbers in the years go come. The meaning of what it means to be a faithful Christian is going to come under intense fire, Kingsfield said, not only from outside the churches, but from within. There will be serious stigma attached to standing up for orthodox teaching on homosexuality.

“And if the bishops are like these Indiana bishops, where does that leave us?” he said. “We have a problem in the current generation, but what I really worry about is what it means to transmit the faith to the next generation.”

“A lot of us will be able to ‘pass’ if we keep our mouths shut, but it’s going to be hard to tell who believes what,” Kingsfield said. “In [my area], there’s a kind of secret handshake that traditional Christians use to identify ourselves to each other when we meet. Forming those subterranean, catacomb church networks is not easy, but it’s terribly vital right now.”

“Your blog is important for us who feel alone where we are, because it let’s us know that there are others who feel this way,” Kingsfield said. “My wife says you should stop blogging and write your Benedict Option book right now. There is such a need for it. My hope for this book is that it will help Christians like us meet and build more of the networks that are going to carry us through.”

Kingsfield said he and his wife send their children to a classical Christian school in their area. “I can’t tell you how happy that makes me,” he said. “Studying the past is so important. If you have an understanding of where we came from [as a culture], you can really see how insane we have gone.”

Through the classical Christian school community, he said, he and his wife have met believers from other traditions who are very sympathetic to the threat to all orthodox Christians, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox.

“We have to get to know them better. We have to network with them. Our kids have to grow up with those kids, even if it means some driving, some traveling, arranging joint vacations,” Kingsfield said.

The professor brought up the book The Nurture Assumption [4], a book that explains how culture is transmitted to kids.

“Basically, it says that culture comes through your peer group,” he said. “The most important thing is to make sure your kids are part of a peer group where their peers believe the same things. Forming a peer group is hard when it’s difficult to network and find other parents who believe what you do.”

While each family must be a “little church” — some Catholics call it a “domestic monastery,” [5] which fits well with the idea of the Benedict Option — Kingsfield says the importance of community in forming moral consciences should lead Christians to think of their parishes and congregations as the basic unit of Christian life.

Hearing Kingsfield say this, I thought about how there is a de facto schism within churches now. It will no longer be sufficient to be part of a congregation where people are at odds on fundamental Christian beliefs, especially when there is so much pressure from the outside world. I thought of Neuhaus’s Law: where orthodoxy is optional, it will sooner or later be proscribed. It is vital to find a strong church where people know what they believe and why, and are willing to help others in the church teach those truths and live them out joyfully.

This is a time, said Kingsfield, for Christians to read about church history, including the lives of saints, and to acquaint themselves with the fact that the Christian church has actual roots, and teachings. It is not about what you “feel” is Christian. That’s the way of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is the death of Christianity.

“The most important question for Christians parents to ask themselves is, do we have a vibrant church?,” he said. “Sadly, only a small number of places have them. My family is in one. Our kids are growing up with good examples that they can look up to, and good older kids who hang on because they can stand together.”

Some people taking the Benedict Option will head for the hills, Kingsfield said, but that will be a trivial number, and that won’t be an answer for most of us.

“We need to study more the experience of Orthodox Jews and Amish,” he said. “None of us are going to be living within an eruv or practicing shunning. What we should focus on is endogamy.”
Endogamy means marriage only within a certain clan or in-group.

“Intermarriage is death,” Kingsfield said. “Not something like Catholic-Orthodox, but Christian-Jew, or high church-low church. I just don’t think Christians are focused on that, but the Orthodox Jews get it. They know how much this matters in creating a culture in which transmitting the faith happens. For us Christians, this is going to mean matchmaking and youth camps and other things like that. It probably means embracing a higher fertility rate, and celebrating bigger families.”

The professor said we also have to band together behind religious liberty legal organizations like The Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom. And we have to make connections not only across denominational lines, but religious ones too — that is, with Jews, Muslims, and Mormons.

“It can’t be said loudly enough that yes, we have big theological disagreements, but the more we can stand together, the more likely we are to succeed,” he said. “The more our struggle is framed as a specifically Christian thing, the more likely we are to lose in the courts.”

Why? Because of liberal culture, and its demonization of Christians as the Other. President Obama will speak out for the Yazidis, but not for the Iraqi Christians, he said. When he talks about the martyred Egyptians in Libya, he doesn’t acknowledge that they were killed for being Christians. It’s simply a fact that there is tremendous animus against Christians within the liberal culture, and that liberal elites will tolerate things from Orthodox Jews and Muslims that they will not from Christians. Small-o orthodox Christians had better grasp that the religious liberties of Jews and Muslims are our own religious liberties, and make friendships and tactical alliances across these boundaries.

More broadly, he said all Christians must take a lesson from many Evangelicals and raise their children to know from the beginning that we are different from everybody else in this culture. We now live in a clearly post-Christian society, and Christian conservatives had better get that straight.

“There are a lot of conservatives who are very chest-thumping pro-America, but there’s an argument that the seeds of this are built into American individualism,” Kingsfield said. “We Christians have to understand where our allegiances really must to lie. The public schools were meant to make good citizens of us and now are being used to make good Moralistic Therapeutic Deists of us.”

Christians should put their families on a “media fast,” he says. “Throw out the TV. Limit Netflix. You cannot let in contemporary stuff. It’s garbage. It’s a sewage pipe into your home. So many parents think they’re holding the line, but they let their kids have unfettered access to TV, the Internet, and smartphones. You can’t do that.

“And if you can’t trust that the families of the kids that your kids play with are on the same team with all this, then find another peer group among families that are,” he said. “It really is that important.”
And for secondary education? Kingsfield teaches at one of the top universities in the country, a gateway to elite advancement, but says he’s not sure he would want his kids attending there. It depends on God’s calling. He remains there because for now, he sees that he has a mission to mentor undergraduates who need a professor like him to help them deal with the things coming at them. The fact that he has his kids in a good school and a good parish makes this possible. But he recognizes that by the time his children become college age, the landscape may have shifted such that the elite universities are too hostile.
“I could still imagine having a kid who was really strong in his faith, and believing that God was calling him to going to a prestige college. I’m not ready to say ‘never’ for that, but I do think there are a lot of kids that we need to steer away from such hostile places, and into smaller, reliably Christian schools where they can be built up in their faith, and not have to deal with such hostility before they’re strong enough to combat it.”

It’s hard to say what kind of landscape Christians will be looking at twenty, thirty years from now. Kingsfield says he has gay colleagues in the university, people who are in their sixties and seventies now, who came of age in a time where a strong sense of individual liberty protected them. They still retain a devotion to liberty, seeing how much it matters to despised minorities.

“That generation is superseded by Social Justice Warriors in their thirties who don’t believe that they should respect anybody who doesn’t respect them,” Kingsfield said. “Those people are going to be in power before long, and we may not be protected.”

Bottom line: the Benedict Option is our the only path forward for us. Indiana shows that. “Write that book,” he said.

OK, I will.

UPDATE: From a reader (who signed his name and gave his institutional affiliation, but I’m keeping this anonymous). He teaches at a major public law school:
Loved the article. I come from a similar background as Kingsfield, although a different legal focus... At my school, I am the only evangelical Christian within the tenure system, or at least the only open one. While I don’t think my institution is quite as bad as what Kingsfield describes, Kingsfield’s observations are consistent with mine and/or with observations by Christian colleagues at other schools. The attitude toward truth that was displayed by the left on the Indiana RFRA is dominant in legal academia. We live in a culture that is now largely post-rational, post-modern, and post-law. Power and emotions drive issues in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.