Yesterday a professor began class with two passages of Scripture. In a pseudo-serious voice he charged that to make this a Bible class we had to frame it and open the Good book. He proceeded to read from 2 Kings 2:23-24:
He (Elisha) went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying "Go away, baldhead! Go away baldhead!". When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. (NRSV)
Of course my professor did this in jest and we all had a good laugh, but the passage stuck with me. Another professor noted today how the church is no longer the 'center of town' and has lost the prominence of societial focus.
I grew up not too long ago, and there were no such things as soccer games on Sunday or what have you. Church was made a priority in my life, and when I grew old enough I chose to make it a part of mine. I'm not part of the generation that knew blue-laws and such, but even still, Sunday was special. One took a break - although it seems today in our churches, members have not come back from their break. They still hold Christian values and may vote them or occasionally open the Bible, but the church and its mandate seem forgotten.
The power of God, through His Holy Spirit, is beyond our comprehension. The mysterious wind that carries His strength is not something that can be elected or legislated. Growing up I learned that "one plus God can do anything". Our country has seen several Great Awakenings, all with arose from the power of the Holy Spirit, not that of Washington DC. I can go on about how great God is and how He's worked through our country and world, even when working with us sinful humans.
I agree that there has been hostility from certain corners toward the church in our society, but an objective analysis of why is required. Not to contradict Elisha, but how many times, as Christians and the church, have wished that we could sic large wild animals on someone or an institution and just be done with it? How many times has that tactic been employed, and does that correlate at all with the increased opposition?
The church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can do great things - and great harm. Off the top of my head the word "Inquisition" comes to mind. When we are attacked or encounter segments in disagreement, we must engage with those elements in our society and culture. Reactionary condemnation cannot be the first and only solution. According to Jesus (we are Christ-ians after all), the two greatest commandments are to love God and love each other. The natural employment of His teaching is that in every action and saying, we do it in love.
I grieve when the church engages issues such as homosexuality, abortion, stem-cells, church-state, immigration, etc, without love. Sure, there is love of the Bible and the unborn, but what about love for those who disagree? By standing for the Bible, are we in fact turning more folks away from God in our witness? I can respect someone that passionately disagrees with me, but will do me the honor, in love, and listen to my perspective. I know it's not always that simple, but I cannot shake how simple Jesus' commands are. Love one another.
When love fails or is ignored, the quickest reaction of many, I suspect (only because at times I've been there), is to simply call fire and brimstone from the heavens and smote our opposition. It worked for Elisha, but something tells me that should not be applied for every situation.
Nothing about our faith is easy. Let me repeat that: nothing about our faith is easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a false prophet. In the deepest valleys of life when we are persecuted and abandoned, cheap grace pays out its real value. Loving friends is much easier than loving enemies, yet Jesus simply said "love one another". Are we allowed to be angry, frustrated, and annoyed? Yes! How many families put the "fun" in dysfunctional?
Our faith is a journey - in order to reach point Z , we must travel through A, B, C, D, E...etc. That's why it's often referred to as a "daily walk". The ends do not justify the means, even if someone is attacking our faith or our church. God is big enough to handle it, and we should be too.
In times of persecution and in the face of opposition, don't let she-bears be your witness as God's called servant and follower.