Between Heaven and Earth: Sticky notes from the Culture Conflict

Categories: General
by on March 5th, 2009

War, Conflict or Conversation?

It has occurred to me that the title for these little comments on the news might be inaccurate. Are we in fact in a culture war or is it just a conflict? Is the ubiquitous culture conflict a conflict like Vietnam was a conflict or is it just a difference of opinion? Finally while I do think there is at least a conflict, shouldn’t it be a friendly one (at least on the part of Christians)? I worry however that evoking the emergent language of “conversation” gives too much away. After all, a conversation could be quite benign. Two people chatting over the back fence. No need to get lawyers or legislators involved as inevitably happens in the present dispute. Maybe we should call it “the recent unpleasantness” except its been going on at least since the enlightenment. Some of you may be thinking, “Who cares what its called. We must save the children!” To which I have two responses: 1) lighten up. 2) It is the prerogative, nay the privilege of philosophers to ask such questions. It is, in fact, our sole comfort when everyone has a job and we don’t.

Wrong State University

Wright State a public university in Dayton Ohio has banned the Christian Bible Fellowship from meeting on Campus,”because of its requirement that voting members be Christian and its refusal to accept ‘nondiscrimination’ language that would eliminate faith-based standards for its voting members.” After 30 years, Wright State decides that Christian groups who want to make being a Christian part of their requirements for voting members, are wrong for Wright State. Now I know some savy Constitutional scholars might object that since Wright state is a public institution, it has the duty to refrain based on the establishment clause of the first amendment from establishing a particular religion. This the most charitable way of saying “separation of church and state” while avoiding that whole separation-of-church-and-state-not-mentioned-in-the-constitution debate. Here’s the thing though. The courts have ruled that granting facilities to religious clubs isn’t establishing religion provided you don’t play favorites between religions or no religion at all.

This one reason that Ohio State and Tufts University have both recently changed their definition of nondiscrimination to accomodate religious organizations like CBF. Of course they only did so when someone shined the light of day on these egregious practices. That someone would be the good folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education who watch out for students and faculty who dare to rail against the ivory tower.

Something that my secular colleagues sometimes fail to appreciate is the importance of restricting voting membership with regard to religion. The way I explain is that I tell them, “Suppose there was an atheist club on campus that had no atheist requirements for voting members. The problem would be that if Christians were as vengeful and hate-filled, as most secularists think they are, then a veritable gaggle of fundamentalists could join the atheist club and once they had majority, they could vote the bi-laws be changed to allow worship every Sunday. While the atheist club could pull up stakes and start anew with new membership, nothing would stop the evil, hate-filled Christians from doing the same thing again.” When my colleagues agree that this would be a catastrophe, but wonder if this is problem for Christians, I just say ” Maybe not always, but just replace fundamentalists with GLAD and you can begin to see the problem.”

It would be sad, if it wasn’t so funny.

Readers of the Crux will remember the Sacred Sandwich, those Reformed jesters who take Lutheresque satire and make it art. Consider the latest delicacy of prophetic wit: Busy Family Hires Personal Church Shopper. There is so much that is good and true that I hesitate to pull out specifics, but I will anyway.

Lucy Ditmer the personal church shopper explains her service:

“Most churches nowadays have sermons that last anywhere from ten minutes to an excruciating half hour,” Lucy explained. “My clients just don’t want to put themselves through that kind of ordeal when all they really want to know is whether the youth program has a Wii-based or a Playstation-based ministry. With my service, the clients just give me a checklist of all their felt needs and I do all the dirty work.”

One couple explains why they really need the personal church shopper experience:

“Being without a church home these past few weeks has really taken a toll on us,” Mrs. Henman admitted. “Our sex life stinks, Phil hates his job, and the kids are starting to lose their self-esteem. We need a new pastor to show us how Jesus dealt with bedroom problems, work-related stress, and too much school homework.”

Ouch. Right on the mark Sandwich artists.

One response to “Between Heaven and Earth: Sticky notes from the Culture Conflict ”

  1. Bruce Oyen says:

    Don, I enjoy (if it can be put that way)reading your updates on cultural issues. It helps us know what’s going on around us, and you give us soe good insights on what to do about it and how to think about it.

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