Friday, February 18, 2005

Areligious vs. Anti-religious

There seems to be a new philosophy emerging out of the Southern Baptist Convention in recent months. The SBC and its leaders no longer seem to understand the difference between being areligious and anti-religious.

Of course, the most glaring example of this philosophy is the movement in the SBC and state conventions to encourage all parents to remove their children from the "Godless public schools." The various resolutions that have been proposed have had statements expressing the sentiment that the public schools are run by the enemies of God, and that they are anti-Christian. I don't believe this is true. I don't think public schools are any more anti-Christian than they are anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, or anti-Hindu. Public schools are not anti-religious, they are, as required by the constitution, areligious.

The first amendment to the constitution reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." While fundamentalist Christians understand and preach the second part, I firmly believe that many of them ignore the first. It is the establishment clause that prohibits Christian prayer in government funded schools. It is the establishment clause that prohibits the display of religious symbols on government property. It is the establishment clause that prohibits studying creationism in public schools without studying the creation stories of all other religions. The establishment clause also protects our children from cults in public schools, and leaves the practice and teaching of religion where it should be: in the home and in the church.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a private Christian school through seventh grade. We had weekly chapel and Bible classes. But I have plenty friends who are equally as strong Christians but were educated entirely in public schools. I never felt persecuted for my Christian beliefs during my time in public schools, but I did have the opportunity to witness to some non-Christians on several occasions. Personally, I believe the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." applies to all Christians, young and old. Students in public schools have the opportunity to reach people I never could, and I believe they can be a witness simply by being there and letting their life reflect the love of Jesus.

In short, I believe that it is up to the students to be the presence of Christ in the public schools. If the Christian students leave, who is going to carry the light into the public schools.

Of course one issue doesn't qualify as a new philosophy. However, in the past several weeks, the SBC seems to be taking aim at psychotherapy.

Last month, an article appeared on the Baptist Press website that was critical of anti-depressant drugs. Here is a quote from the article:
"But, as long as the public demands relief from the pressures of comfortable living, and as long as there exist manufactories of new disorders and stronger potions, there will continue to be a legal drug problem in America."
I have a friend that suffers from serious depression, and the only thing that has helped him is medication. Are these drugs misused? Sure, what drugs aren't. Of course, the worst thing that could happen would be for someone who suffers from depression to stop taking their medication as a result of this article, which claims to tell the "Truth about Anti-depressants."

This week we found out what the SBC's solution to this problem. The pastoral care program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is being transformed from a program that "integrated secular psychology and biblical training" into a program that is "built upon the view that Scripture is sufficient to answer comprehensively the deepest needs of the human heart." I firmly believe it is a mistake to throw out all the knowledge that has been collected by psychologists and psychiatrists, many of them Christians, simply because it isn't scriptural. This is another example of disregarding something simply because it is secular. In order to provide the best counseling possible, counselors need to be aware of all of the latest treatments. Anything less is not just wrong, it is sinful!

The way to reach the lost is not to withdraw from the world or condemn everything secular. It isn't what Jesus did, and its not going to be what I do in my ministry. It is entirely possible to be areligous without being anti-religious.


Anonymous said...

Great article!

Parson Marguerite Earhart said...