As I read the enraged responses from professing Christians at the news that Vice President Mike Pence would be the commencement speaker for Taylor University (a leading private, Christian institution located in tiny Upland, Indiana) I realized something.
Keep in mind that Pence has been one of the most outspoken Christian public servants in recent decades. He makes no effort to hide his faith, acknowledging himself as, “A Christian, a conservative, and a Republican…in that order.” Therefore, it is completely logical that a Christian institution would invite him to speak, in addition to the fact that he was a long-time Congressman from the Hoosier state, as well as its Governor, before ascending to the second highest office in the land.
The odds of students at Taylor University getting the opportunity to have a sitting U.S. Vice President deliver their commencement speech are minuscule at best. To say this was a coup for University President Lowell Haines and the rest of his administration would be a gross understatement. Haines announced the news by posting:
“Mr. Pence has been a good friend to the University over many years, and is a Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates.”
And that, the fact that a professing Christian, native Hoosier, and sitting Vice President would give the inaugural address at their school gave a number of alumni and current students the shakes. No, seriously:
"I have never been made to feel so physically ill by an email before. Taylor University, you should be ashamed of yourselves," Claire Hadley, who graduated from Taylor in 2015, began in a long Facebook post. "I am physically shaking. The fact that the school who claims to love and support me, and each of it's [sic] students and alum, would invite such a vile individual to speak on the most important day of the year??"
"The fact that Taylor would invite Pence as a speaker honestly kills me a little bit," Austin Linder wrote on the petition. "I can’t imagine what it must feel like for lgbt students to have to see this man’s harmful bulls**t be honored on the Taylor stage. Really disgusting stuff, Taylor. Really ashamed to be an alum right now."
Claire and Austin weren’t alone. A few thousand signed a Change.org petition calling on the university to rescind its invitation. And that’s when it dawned on me – when the criminalization of Christianity comes to this land (and it is coming), it will be championed by and met with the fanfare of many professing Christians.
The number of supposedly Christian individuals whose moral compasses are calibrated to the spirit of the age rather than the authority of Scripture has become astounding. Leaning on their own understanding they choose the attributes of a god they want to worship, one who seems “worthy” of their worship, and they bow to it. The God of Scripture is too narrow-minded.
When another Christian actually clings to the words of Scripture, not only are they reviled by the world, but a sense of guilt triggered by conviction prompts the culturally compromised Christians to react with bitterness, condemnation, and (ironically) a judgmental contempt. I say ironically given that being judgmental is the go-to condemnation heaped upon Bible-believers by this crowd. All this leads to a surreal spectacle of Christians attacking other Christians as terror-inducing, vile, and stomach-churning. And that’s just at Taylor University; Chick-fil-A could tell you a bit about this as well.
A couple years ago when my local city council was preparing to enact a non-discrimination law for sexual orientation and gender identity, several Christians in the community spoke out against the unintended consequences – everything from opening up girl bathroom facilities to the grown men, to the potential violation of the conscience rights of Christian florists, bakers, and photographers.
When I stood for my public comment, I asked the council a simple question. “Your ordinance exempts ministers from this non-discrimination policy, ostensibly meaning that if a minister doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, he doesn’t have to. I’m curious as to why you’ve done that? What makes a Christian minister’s right to conscience any less offensive, bigoted, or discriminatory than a Christian baker’s?”
While no councilman could or would answer my question, it sparked a conversation in which a culturally compromising Christian journalist in the town admitted on Twitter that he thinks ministers should have to perform such weddings. And if they don’t? “Government fines, jail, and/or loss of tax-exempt status for the church.”
That’s why I often tell fellow Christians that when the day comes that the government is telling them how they can and can’t exercise their faith, the kind of beliefs that are acceptable and the kinds that aren’t, and the type of public expression that will be allowed and the type that won’t, don’t be surprised when it comes accompanied by the raucous cheers of many wearing the name of Jesus.