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Reflections on Evangelical Blogs (2)

While I don’t mean to just pick on the evangelical blogs, I cannot help myself on this one.  So, please indulge me.  In another post over at Pen and Parchment, another, umm, winning post leads off with this salvo:

Have you noticed it? Do you feel small? Do you feel inadequate to have opinions anymore? Do you feel a heavy hand upon your head? Do you feel demeaned, disenfranchised, demoted?

That is what it is beginning to feel like to be an Evangelical.

The post proceeds to then decry the “new elitism that is sweeping Christianity” in the form of all things characterized by words such as “emergent, post-colonialism, post-conservative, post-modern, post-fundamental, post-Christian, and the like.”

Now, I’m all for lambasting the emerging church.  Hell, one of the most central things about being a hip, cool, cutting-edge Protestant Christian these days entails making fun of the emergent church.  Today its far, far cooler to point out the goofiness of the whole emergent thing that to actually be part of it.  But I digress.  The author of the post in question, however, clearly isn’t trying to be cool.  Rather he has a persecution complex.

Indeed, it seems that, in fact, being an evangelical is the hardest, most courageous thing possible in a country where the, ahem, President is a rabid evangelical (among being rabid about other things), and where there has never in history been a president who did not claim the label of “born-again Christian” (yeah, even Kennedy).  But, no seriously, it’s hard to be an evangelical.  You have to endure the persecution of not having your religion publicly taught by the government, of trying to figure out where to gas up your SUV, and oh, there’s the agony of biting one’s nails over the constant fear that maybe, just maybe, Hilary Clinton will get the nomination.  Being an evangelical is hard.  Seriously.  It is.  Yeah.

In contrast to the rather pedantic pontifications of these sorts of blogs, I really don’t see how it takes any courage whatsoever to be an evangelical in the United States today.  You can be an evangelical and style yourself as whatever kind of person you want, lead whatever kind of life you want, spend money however you want, vote for whomever you want, and well, pretty much do anything however you want.  One can legitimately claim to be an evangelical and create themselves in any way they wish.  Evangelicalism is, by and large, a specter, not a substance; it is an echo, not an identity.  Its infinitely plastic nature allows those who would claim that label to pretty much say and be whatever they want and feel totally justified in their evangelicalness.  And yet it is touted as some noble vocation, some persecuted minority who is under some sort of massive repression.  Maybe I’m beating my head against a wall here, but I still have to pause and wonder sometimes how a religious movement that has influence at all the highest levels of government, whose very ethos defines the whole American project can somehow come to see themselves as a persecuted minority.

What I think is most interesting is the way in which I think evangelicals actually know that this whole persecution complex they have is nothing more than a construct.  Deep down I think they know that thier identity’s are self-constructions, that they are more American than Christian, and that they aren’t satisfied with the shallowness that attends so much of evangelical life.  And this sort of deep-seated insecurity produces the kind of reflexive combativeness that is seen in the post quoted above.  Suddenly it becomes absolutely necessary to slap down anything that might be a threat to the fragilely constructed edifice of evangelical identity.  Even something as fragmentary, faddish, and, well, evangelical as the emergent church!


  1. Jason Oliver wrote:

    My goodness, Halden. You sho’ nuff know how to chase the devil out of the room, don’t you?

    This is expression means that you really called out the self-deception of so-called persecuted evangelical American. Great post.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  2. Hill wrote:

    Totally brilliant supplementary photos.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  3. The last line is like sweet icing on this bitter truth cake…

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  4. cmichaelpatton wrote:

    Halden, thanks for interacting with my post. I am afraid that I must have miscommunicated (isn’t that always the case :) )

    I was not trying to argue that Evangelicals were persecuted, but that the “new elite” look down on historic evangelical theology in issues of truth, believing them to be naively accepting of something passé. My main point is that the “new” does not always have the greener grass and that many may remain committed to evangelical theology precisely because they do understand the issues.

    Hope that makes sense. Thanks again for posting on this important issue.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  5. Craig Carter wrote:

    You might not feel persecuted in the US, but here in Canada the re-paganization of Western culture is a few years ahead of you. So you might be interested in reading about a real-life persecution story in one of our local dailies: The National Post. There is a world beyond the US and from the outside it does not look the same as it seems to look from the inside. The pro-homosexual lobby here is determined either to convert the church to its religion or silence it and push it out of public view. You might want to bear this in mind the next time someone scoffs at the importance of caring about the homosexual marriage issue and how stupid the Religious Right is for refusing to shut up and accept the inevitable.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Well, I certainly can’t speak to things in Canada, given that the constitutional foundations of it are very different than those in the U.S.

    My point is not that persecution is bad, shouldn’t happen, or never happens to evangelicals in the West. It’s just that in the States particularly there are very strong sentiments of feeling like a persecuted minority group that are pure fantasy.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  7. ericroorback wrote:


    I have to agree that the association of persecution with evangelicalism as it’s known in the States is a bit absurd. Such an association seems to severely diminish the suffering and persecution that occurs in places like China and the middle East, where lives are literally lost at the hands of people who are adamantly volatile towards those of the Christian faith. To equate what takes place here in the states by those whom, from within Christian circles, are potentially antagonistic towards some of traits that have characterized American Evangelicalism is quite frankly offensive and absurd.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  8. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, I’m not so sure the situation is all that different in Canada. If you think that the Canadian pro-homosexual lobby amounts to persecuting the church, then I don’t really see how the situation would be fundamentally different in the U.S.. Frankly, I don’t buy it. Ideologically, politically, and culturally I don’t see Canada as all that different from the U.S.. Sure, it is somewhat more liberal on some issues and more socialist leaning on other issues, whereas the U.S. tends to be liberal in most cases but strangely conservative on issues like homosexuality. What you do have in both countries is the privatization of the church, but I don’t want to blame “secularism” or “liberalism” for that, nor would I call this persecution. The blame is on the church for this; for being co-opted by nationalist ideology.

    If you think Canada is headed down a worse path than the U.S. then we must be living on different planets. Canada sure as hell has its problems, but I don’t buy into the idea that the homosexuality lobby is persecuting the church and repaganizing society.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  9. mike d wrote:

    “I have to agree that the association of persecution with evangelicalism as it’s known in the States is a bit absurd. Such an association seems to severely diminish the suffering and persecution that occurs in places like China and the middle East, where lives are literally lost at the hands of people who are adamantly volatile towards those of the Christian faith.”

    Right but in the context of the post from Parchment and Pen that was being commented on there was no mention of such as association….not even a hint. No mention of the broader American culture, political scene, or even the word persecution. Patton was commenting on relations within Christianity – what does that have to do with persecution? He was simply saying that lots of new threads in theology look down on evangelical theology (not necessarily evangelical culture). This response to his post is just a poor reading and commentary and what was not commented on.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:24 am | Permalink
  10. Andrew wrote:

    you know halden,
    only a gnostic would blog bitterly about something. you may need to have Jesus take a look at your theology’s hard drive because i don’t think ‘theology 2.0′ is compatible with the kinds of programs that are required to be christian or something…

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 6:53 am | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    Mike, I agree that the post as such wasn’t talking about persecution in the technical sense, but the kind of bemoaning of being “demeaned, disenfranchised, demoted” as evangelicalis is, to my mind very much a persecution complex. The spirit of claiming marginalized status among evangelicals, be it in response to the emergent church, secular culture, or what have you strikes me as simply victim posturing. Patton has helpfully clarified the intent of his post above, and so I don’t want to impute all these tendencies to him directly, but the language of his post evokes what is a common evangelical sentiment. That was what I wanted to critique, and that critique stands.

    And yes, Andrew I am a gnostic who lives inside of a computer, ruthlessly keeping Jesus from running a hard-drive scan on my iTheology. Get a clue, man.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  12. Craig Carter wrote:

    R.O. Flyer,
    So, given your comments, am I to assume that you think it is no problem for the government to order a Christian organization like Christian Horizons to change its religious beliefs on homosexuality? If so, is that because you think the government has the right to dictate what all Christian organizations (including churches) are allowed to put in their lifestyle and faith statements, (which would make the Federal Government the ultimate court of theological appeal and the Prime Minister Chief Theologian of Canada)? Or is because you think that endorsing homosexual behaviour is so obviously right that it is like the government legislating against drunk driving?

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  13. Craig, your lack of honesty about this case is disturbing.

    Christian Horizons, as I read the Canadian papers, is not being ordered to ‘change its religious beliefs on homosexuality.’ Its simply being asked not to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees at the same time it takes government funds. If it does not want to make this deal, it seems to me that it could reject those funds. If that feels like ‘persecution’ to Christian Horizons, then that might well be a faithful witness to the gospel to reject the government’s funding, which is almost their whole source of income. But it is certainly false to suggest that they are being ‘ordered’ or dictated what to do, unless you consider it persecution to be told not to discriminate with other people’s money. IN fact, your example here seems to me to prove Halden’s point about the false cry of persecution.
    Here, by the way, is a snippet from the tribunal’s report:
    “The Tribunal ruled that Christian Horizons could not require its employees to sign [such a] Statement. It found that Christian Horizons is primarily engaged in serving the disability-related needs of its clients, and the prohibition on homosexual relationships was not a legitimate job requirement for providing quality care and support to disabled residents.”
    Hard to argue with that, it seems to me. Again, if Christian Horizons feels otherwise, then they should have the integrity to reject the government’s money and continue with its anti-gay mission to the disabled.
    Getting fired, beat up, or killed for being gay (and Christian in many cases): that’s being persecuted.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  14. Seems I’ve misread the tribunal’s decision, which would apparently apply even if the agency didn’t receive government funds, because it is fulfilling a public mission in the tribunal’s eyes. For me, that does not make a material difference, but I am quite sure it will for others.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  15. Craig Carter wrote:

    You seem to be the one being a bit selective about the facts here. Readers might want to have a look at this story. Although no Christian have been beaten up, they have been told that they cannot be Christians in public, which is the first step.

    1. CH was ordered to cease requiring its employees to sign its Lifestyle Statement. I teach at a Christian university that has such a statement. We have always thought that, since we have a statement and employees freely choose whether to come on board on the basis of whether or not they can uphold it, we could continue to have it. Now, this is in doubt.
    2. CH was fined $23,000 plus interest.
    3. CH must institute “human rights training for all employees” and adopt anti-discrimination and anti-harassement policies. This is code for promoting all forms of sexual behaviour as morally neutral and we all know that. It is re-education and assumes that the people needing re-education are thinking wrongly.

    If you think that this is not an attack on religious freedom then I don’t know what you would count as an attack on religious freedom. The point about government money is a red herring. It is not the government’s money, it is tax money collected from all citizens including Christian citizens. It does not belong to those advocating the normalization of homosexual behaviour any more than it belongs to any particular group. Evangelical Christians have as much right as anyone to organize and do ministry and if the government would rather close instiutions for the disabled and give the funding to groups like CH, then CH should be allowed to do its ministry without changing its fundamental moral and religious beliefs to suit the majority. It might just end up that CH does close down and the real losers will be the thousands of disabled adults who benefit from their work. If you put enough pressure on Christians to just go away and stay out of sight, they just might do that, although I sincerely hope it does not come to that. I hope they appeal and win.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  16. Craig Carter wrote:

    Saint, CH is being required to pay a hefty fine and to start human rights training and anti-discrimination classes for all employees. Yet you claim that they are not being required to change their religious beliefs on homosexuality. This smacks of heavy-handed Soviet-style re-education. The problem that this Human Rights Tribunal seems to have with CH is that they don’t think in the right way. If this ruling stands, then Christian organizations, including seminaries and Bible colleges, will eventually be forced to hire practicing homosexuals to teach, so when that happens do you think those new employees will be teaching the conservative Christian view of homosexuality? Of course not. So this is just a round about way of changing what the organizations teach. Camps, pregnancy help centers, colleges, youth clubs – practically any ministry can be called “public” by any Human Rights Tribunal so inclined. R.O. Flyer is upset about the way churches have privitized their faith, yet here we have the church being driven from the public arena by an intolerant government-sponsored tribunal.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  17. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, I certainly don’t think the government should dictate the belief systems of Christian organizations. I’m also not familiar with the particular case with Christian horizons. I don’t think endorsing homosexuality is “obviously right” though I don’t think it is necessarily wrong (but that is a separate discussion). Perhaps this is a legitimate case of the government coercing Christian organizations. If, as saint egregious suggested, the tribunal’s decision applies whether or not they receive government funding, then this does indeed pose a problem to religious freedom, but calling it “persecution” appears to be a bit of stretch. I do think the Christian organization needs to do what they feel is faithful to their belief system, if this conflicts with government then they should disobey the government.

    What I was reacted to was the sentiment of this statement: “You might not feel persecuted in the US, but here in Canada the re-paganization of Western culture is a few years ahead of you.” I have trouble buying into the idea that the Canadian government persecutes Christians any more than the U.S.. As far as I can tell, for the most part, the Canadian evangelical experience is not fundamentally different than U.S. evangelical experience.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  18. Hill wrote:

    saint egregious,

    I think that the difference you point out is actually a crucial one. As you highlight in your longer post, it is sensible (under the reigning political structures of the modern west) for the government to take issue with “discriminatory” practices if the practicing body is funded by the government. There are certainly potential problems, but it is at least understandable. However, when the government can simply label something a “public mission” and hence render it susceptible to government regulation, that seems highly problematic to me. What happens when the government decides generally that “religion” generally is a public mission, or various charitable services that religious organizations provide. I think the definition of “public” is a crucial issue in all of these discussions.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  19. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, again I haven’t researched this particular situation, but if what you say is correct and the tribunal is actually fining and enforcing anti-discrimination courses, then this does pose a problem. Is it really true that if Christian Horizons refused government funding, the tribunal’s decision would still stand?

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  20. Halden wrote:

    Wait, just a clarifiying question to this whole discussion. Is Christian Horizon’s funded by the Candian government? If so, this debate is clearly cast in a different light.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
  21. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, you say:
    “The point about government money is a red herring. It is not the government’s money, it is tax money collected from all citizens including Christian citizens. It does not belong to those advocating the normalization of homosexual behaviour any more than it belongs to any particular group. Evangelical Christians have as much right as anyone to organize and do ministry and if the government would rather close instiutions for the disabled and give the funding to groups like CH, then CH should be allowed to do its ministry without changing its fundamental moral and religious beliefs to suit the majority.”

    Isn’t this precisely the problem with liberal democracies? The reality is simply that religious groups don’t have full freedom in public, regardless of their supposed “right” to it. I don’t think the question of government money is a red herring at all. Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker is an excellent example of the importance of rejecting government funding and tax subsidies so that a relgious group could more fully be public.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    Ok, I checked myself and indeed everything I can find indicates that this ministry is funded almost exclusively by the province.

    To my mind this doesn’t seem like persecution unless we think that governments should be obligated to fund social service organizations regardless of thier religious beliefs. In other words, if there was a social service program, funded by the government that had part of it stipulations for employees be that they had to endorse homosexuality as a viable moral lifestyle, and a Christian got fired for not siging it, and sued, I doubt we’d be saying that this ammounted to persecution of the gay community. We’d then say that a government-funded group was pushing a particular moral agenda that was discriminatory. This is an inconsistency.

    This debate all seems to turn on what Christians are supposed to expect from the government. The idea that we should expect to government to fund our ministries and then not impose any regulations on us that might conflict with our moral theology seem to presuppose that we think governments should be Christianized in some sense. In other words, it seems like the only solution to your problem, Criag, is a Constantinian one.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink
  23. Hill wrote:

    Constantinian!?!?!? In italics?!?! Noooooooooo….

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  24. Halden wrote:

    Say what you will, my friend. Constantinianism still matters. But I don’t want this to get drailed.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  25. I’m with Halden on this one. It does seem like a desire to have the government support one’s religious agenda, i.e. constantinianism of a sort.. Do without the money, and do what you feel is right. If that means choosing to end the support of the disabled because you can’t live with gays in your midst, then at least you’ve made a clear moral choice that can be seen as a witness to your faith by others. Though as for me, I would see it as a moral travesty. By all accounts, the woman who sued is a devout Christian who happens to disagree with the agency on the legitimacy of same sex relationships. They have lost a valued servant in the vineyard of Christ by their myopia.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  26. Craig Carter wrote:

    Wow! A majority legislates what a minority is allowed to believe if it wants to participate in the public square and the minority is blamed for being . . . (wait for it) – Constantinian!!!

    First you tell the ministry to refuse the money and head back into private territory and then you complain about the privitization of religion?

    What can we expect from liberal democracies? Tolerance, that is what. Tolerance of what the majority of Canadians disagree with. The House of Commons, the Supreme Court, the media, the intellectuals, the business world, the educational system – all solidly and vocally in suport of the whole sexual revolution. A few Christians (mostly Roman Catholic and Evangelical) still hold out. And they are considered a threat. I’m reminded of the arguments mounted by the Soviet Union that Evangelicals had religious freedom because they could believe whatever they wanted – in pivate, in their heads. They just couldn’t go to university or have churches that weren’t “licenced” by the State. But they had religious freedom according to the Soviet government.

    Constantinian for being denied religious tolerance and the rights of citizens. Now I’ve heard everything.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
  27. I’m sorry, Craig, I know you won’t agree with me, but I don’t consider discrimination based on religious bigotry (in my view tantamount to racist exclusions of non-whites) an issue of religious freedom. The south during the Civil war had plenty of theological rationales for its position, and all of them were morally blasphemous. So is this current attempt to defend bigotry toward gays and lesbians. So that’s why I take the position I do. Again, not one I expect you to agree with, but also not as mindless as you’d like to suggest.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  28. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Do you really think that Dorothy Day and Catholic Worker’s rejection of government funding pushed them back into “private territory”? The problem, as I see it, is that the type of Christian social and political involvement that you seem to be advocating assumes the existence of a free space in civil society that is essentially sectioned off from the totalizing power of the state. I simply don’t think such a free space exists, neither do I think Christians should come to expect such “tolerance” from liberal democracies.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Permalink
  29. roflyer wrote:

    It is important to remember that you are pleading for tolerance in a country that is fully prepared to build weapons in outer space.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  30. Craig Carter wrote:

    R. O. Flyer,
    Think about what you are saying. If we can’t expect tolerance, then neither can a host of other currently unfashionable minorities.

    Do you really believe that it is wrong to call on governments to tolerate the Communist Party of Canada? If they get a threshold of votes, then they get federal funding too. If that happens, should they be banned? Most Canadians disagree with Communism – so that means they should be forced to change their beliefs to embrace the majority view or be excluded from the publc square? The problem with Evangelicals is that everyone feels free to bash them. Someday, it may be you in that position. I hope there is someone around to speak up for you.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 8:44 pm | Permalink
  31. Craig Carter wrote:

    Saint, Well at least you are honest. You think that people like me are bigots for believing what the Catholic Church teaches and what the Christian Tradition has believed for 2000 years and the Jewish for 3000 years. Fine. But please don’t kid yourself that you are more tolerant than Jerry Fallwell.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  32. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    By receiving government funding for their ministry, CH signed up to obey the law of the land, right? Did they not bind themselves to it? What did they expect would happen when they went ahead and broke the law? My point is that if this ministry wants to remain faithful to their convictions then they should reject government funding. I don’t think this amounts to withdrawal at all.

    Friday, May 2, 2008 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  33. Halden wrote:

    Craig, I share your views on homosexuality. I just don’t think that Christians should argue that governments are obliged to financially support us when the civil law of the land conficts with our Christian ethics.

    Relgious tolerance does not mean that our religion’s moral views should recieve the endorsement and funding of the governement while other’s should not. This seemes elementary to me.

    The issue is not “participating in the public square” the issue is more particular than that. If Canada has civil laws that organizations funded by the governement cannot discriminate against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation, then Christians who oppose the governement’s views should not try to put themselves under those legal restrictions by taking their money. This would only constitute a retreat into “the private” if we equated politics with statecraft. I find such a reductive definition of politics highly inadequate.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 12:46 am | Permalink
  34. Craig, I don’t believe that I said anything about being tolerant. I am not interested in being tolerant of evil, but in fighting it. The discrimination against gays and lesbians is an evil and it must be fought against. That the church has practised it for thousands of years does not make it right. Sin has existed in the church since the beginning, and that does not make sin acceptable. The issue is whether fully embodied, incarnate love between two persons of the same sex is a sin. I think not. You think so. My point is that this question will not be adjudicated by abstract theological reasoning, anymore than the issue of slavery was adjudicated that way. Charles Hodge, James Thornwell and other theologians made impressive theological arguments for slavery’s continuation, which in their own terms were irrefutable. What they were unable to do was to look black men and women in the face and see in those faces the very call of God to end the hell, injustice, and soul murder of millions. Their theology was a barrier to hearing God, not a means for it. And that is exactly what I think is happening today when people marshall all kinds of theological arguments against same sex love in the very face of gay and lesbians who show themselves to be loving, committed Christians, often of a very orthodox variety.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 5:44 am | Permalink
  35. Craig Carter wrote:

    R. O. Flyer,
    One does not “sign up” to obey the laws of the land. One has to obey them regardless or suffer the consequences. Whether one receives taxpayer money or not is irrelevant. There is not one law for those organizations receiving government funding and another for those who don’t. Please do not be so naive as to think that all you have to do is not receive government funding and you are free to hold your own religious and moral beliefs in Canada today.

    You and Halden seem hung up on the idea that if a Christian organization receives part of the money they pay in taxes, not for themselves, but to do ministry with, then that Christian organization must therefore change its moral and religious views to agree with the intolerant majority. The money in question here is earmarked for supporting disabled adults and the only question is whether Christian will be allowed to do ministry in this area specifically as Christians. It a question of being Christian in public or not being allowed to do so.

    Let us think about the implications of your view. All churches are registered charities. So all churches indirectly recieve “government money.” So I suppose your view must be that no church in Canada can legally preach against homosexuality, since homosexuality is now legal. Or, in the case of the US, since the government is officially capitalist, any church or mission group that advocates Marxism (think whole liberal denominations and the Jesuit Order) can be fined, ordered to submit to sensitivity training, and be forced to hire capitalists. If this were to be done, I don’t see how you would be in a position to protest.

    The irony here is that Evangelicals are fighting for religious freedom, not just for themselves, but even for those who disagree with them. Yet Evangelicals get slammed for being Constantinian.

    OK, Halden. Let’s say CH takes your advice. They shut their doors and go back to their congregations leaving hundreds of disabled adults on the government’s doorstep. So the government takes it over. What is the result? The government get bigger, impersonal beaurocracy replaces Christian ministers, the church is less visible. Homosexual lobbists feel vindicated. Canada is a little bit more secular. Are you prepared to say that closing down and retreating from social ministry is a better witness?

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 7:40 am | Permalink
  36. I would love someone to explain how having a loving, committed gay Christian ministering to the disabled somehow prevents Christian Horizons from following their mission to lovingly serve disabled persons in the name of Christ. It seems to me she was doing it quite well.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 7:50 am | Permalink
  37. Hill wrote:

    A couple of points. The first is that there are essentially 4-5 disputed points in this discussion, many of which have contested facts. The second is that Craig is making an important point, which is that just by being born in a given country, the case could be made that you are benefitting from government funding. Lots of people actually feel this way, and it is not simply a choice of living in a country or not. This is the issue of the expansion of a government policed, “public” sphere from which one cannot escape. This is a very real threat, and it doesn’t surprise me that in a country like Canada, it has progressed further that it has in the US. We are actually fortunately to have so many crazy fundamentalists in positions of power, because they serve as a check on this sort of thing, even if it is in a totally unreflective and uninformed way. Third point is to suggest that the trope of Constantinianism, in the context of this debate, be abandoned. Calling someone Constantinian (in basically any argument other than one in which someone may be advocating direct Caeraropapism), has very little meaning and is unhelpful. It also requires an extremely uncharitable reading of (or a failure to read altogether) what Craig is actually saying (beyond various factually disputed elements). Fourth, this discussion isn’t about whether or not homosexual union is licit within Christianity. Whatever you make think on that score, asserting that the orthodox position is demonstrably false and then equating it with slavery is illogical. For saint egregious’s question: it prevents them from following their mission in the same way that a heterosexual person in a cohabitating relationship out of wedlock would prevent that mission. You are being extremely dense to suggest you can’t understand how Christians could think homosexual relationships are wrong. You are entitled to your opinion on this matter, but suggesting that tolerating the beliefs of myself, Craig, Halden and the vast majority of Christians throughout history constitutes the toleration of evil is likely to shed any light on this subject.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:07 am | Permalink
  38. Craig Carter wrote:

    I can’t believe you called me Constantinian. You are just feeding a stereotype that Yoder fought to overcome throughout his life – namely, that if you are a pacifist you have no right to speak in the public square. Yoder had a lot to say in the public square. He did not believe in being a sectarian, if being a sectarian means accepting the modern construct of the “private” as the only acceptable areana for religion. He thought of the Gospel as a public message. The only difference between him and many public-minded Christians is that he advocated persuasion and witness, rather than coercive violence. But that did not mean that he accepted the Niebuhrian critique that he should stay in his private enclave and keep quiet.

    If Yoder were here, he would say that the folks at CH have a minority view on homosexuality, but they have as much right to be involved in public ministry as anyone else. No has to work at CH. Everyone who joins the organization knows what h/she is getting into and has to agree up front with the Lifestyle Statement. That is essentially no different from a church making clear up front what the moral/religious requirements are for membership (eg. the 10 Commandments). No one is coerced to join and no one is prevented from leaving.

    Yoder would say that Canada is a big country with a lot of pluralism and homosexuals are very highly tolerated. He would ask if it would really make Canada a less tolerant country if CH were allowed to keep its views without being punished. On the basis of reason, he would try to appeal to the values of tolerance held by the liberal majority. He might get nowhere. Or perhaps a more tolerant judge would overturn the Human Rights Tribunal on appeal. In any case, he would try.

    One last point. The HR Tribunal explicitly said that the reason they were ruling against CH was they CH is in the public service arena. The Enlightenment “public-private” distinction is the basis for this ruling. This distinction asserts that religion must be a private, not a public, activity in a liberal society. Yoder would never go along with that.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  39. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, the situation is a bit different in Canada than in the U.S. but when religious groups seek governmental funding for their ministries this does in fact place limitations on what they can and cannot say and do, as they are now considered at least partially to be public. Obviously, I am not saying that if CH did not receive governmental money that they could do whatever the hell they want regardless of the law, but many times groups do have more freedom. That is all that I’m saying. For instance, in the U.S. (and I assume in Canada) if churches receive (even indirectly) government money, then they ARE restricted from making political stances like endorsing a candidate for public office, for instance. This is just a plain fact in the U.S., which is exactly why some ministries choose to reject government aid. Obviously I am not saying that once a ministry rejects governmental funding they will some how be totally free to do whatever they want, but my fundamental point remains. I’m not sure how the tribunal would rule if the ministry rejected governmental funding, but my guess is that if they weren’t contributing to it they would be at least a little less concerned with what the ministry was up to.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  40. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Uh oh…first the Constantinian guns and now the Yoder guns! What do you say Halden? WWYD?

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  41. Craig Carter wrote:

    R. O. Flyer,
    You undoubtedly believe what you say. But my point is that the Human Rights Tribunal does not believe what you say. The HRT believes that any time a Christian ministry offers a “public” service, it has to be regulated by the State (and the State will tell you what is public and what is not.) The definition of “public” the HRT is working with seems to me to be basically – everything. The HRT is claiming the State is Lord of the Public. But as a Christian I say, Jesus is Lord of the Public and the State is his servant who should not get too big for its britches and actually presume to interfere with the Church’s ministry because the preaching of the Gospel is the reason for history continuing. (The Church, not the State, is the bearer of the meaning of history.) Jesus is Lord of the Public!

    BTW, to the Yoder guns, I would also add the John Paul the Great guns (guns used here in a totally metephorical sense, of course). You should read the speeches JP II gave in Poland in which he lectured the Communist government on its responsibility to respect the freedom of the Catholic people of Poland. He made is sound like the State was the servant of the people or some such crazy notion as that. He also made it sound like the State is not above Divine Law. Imagine the nerve! JP II did not use coercion, but he used truth. Sometimes truth prevails over tanks and guns. Was JP II Constantinian too, Halden?

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  42. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, I just wanted to pause quickly to let you know that I really appreciate this dialogue with you. I picked up your Christ and Culture book at a recent regional AAR and look forward to delving into this summer. Perhaps, this will give me a better grasp of your position. Sorry, I don’t mean to derail this discussion, I do think it worthwhile, even though it seems we are sometimes talking past each other.

    You are certainly right and I think we can all agree that Jesus is Lord of the public and the church should refuse to let the state determine what is good and what is not. What is in question, I think, is precisely how the church should act when confronted with such situations.

    I suppose whether the “guns” are metaphorical depends on whether or not you are advocating a Constantinian position. ;)

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  43. Craig Carter wrote:

    RO Flyer,
    Thanks, I enjoy the dialogue too. When you get to my book, you can evaluate for yourself whether I’m advocationg a Type 4 approach or not. I’m trying to avoid being pushed into Type 6, but it is a struggle (p. 129). Types 1-3 are out for me, but not for the Religious Left, I’m afraid.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  44. Halden wrote:

    Sorry I’ve been away, real life obligations can, at times limit my ability to keep up with these discussions. I’ll just clarify a couple things and then leave the discussion at that unless folks have more to bring up.

    1. Craig, I never called you a Constantinian. Rather I said that I felt the proposition that governments are obligated to fund Christian ministries to fall, inadvertently or not into a Constantinian assumption, namely that the church should have the endorsement and support of the government. This seems to fall somewhere between Yoder’s discussion of “neo-neo-Constantinianism” and “neo-neo-neo-Constantinianism” in his article “Christ, the Hope of the World” (p. 196-197 of The Royal Priesthood). The expectation that the church should link “itself and its vision to its subservience to the nation-state” seems to be exactly what is going on here.

    In other words, all I am saying is that if the church believes that its ministries have a right to be funded by the government, it is assuming a sort of church-state linkage that I don’t think squares with Yoder, or well, Jesus and Paul.

    2. This is not, as you imply to call the church to “stay in [their] private enclave and keep quiet”. You accuse me of relegating Christianity to the private sector. What I am in fact trying to do, following Yoder is to deny that the aparatus of the modern nation-state gets to define what “public” is. The church is a public in and of itself by virtue of its pneumatological constitution as the body of Christ. The church is not public by virtue of how it participates in the aparatus of the nation-state. The church is public because it witnesses to the gospel as the community of God, it does not become public by becoming a social service arm of a national government.

    That church can, and does, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit always will “speak in the public square”. The best way to do that, however is to not cede the right to define what counts as public to the state in the first place. That is what I fear you have fallen into when you equate the church with a private enclave and the government with the public sphere. By so doing you have cut off the ability of the church to critique the statist notion of politics and what counts as public.

    3. Jesus is indeed Lord of the cosmos, every government and every power. However I don’t think this means that we can expect or should expect the government to conform to some minimalist ideal of a Christian culture (whatever being subject to “Divine Law” might mean). With Yoder, I hold that Christian ethics is for Christians, and that they are not possible outside of the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. As such I don’t know what morality we have to call governments to other than Christ’s call to discipleship. Having a programmatic idea for how nation-states should be run and trying to effect that vision is a way of striving to live in control, rather than accepting the “living out of control” that is to characterize discipleship. Even if one does not use violence in the narrow sense to try to order the nation-state to Christian ends, I think this still remains caught up in the kind of grasping for control and security that lies at the root of violence.

    4. In regards to what we can expect from western liberal democracies. Liberalism is predicated on the exclusion of religous particulars from public legislations. As such I don’t know why we should ever expect for groups defined by theological convictions to be handed cake and all the time to eat it they want from a liberal democratic government. Religious tolerance, as defined by liberalism means that you can practice any religon you want, but such religous convictions cannot recieve legitimation or preferential status in the eyes of the government. Once a ministry effectually becomes an arm of the governement by being almost exclusively funded by them, I don’t see how they can expect the government not to try to force them to conform to the canons of liberal deomocracy.

    Now I think liberal democracy is in need or rigorous crirtique, but the way to do that is not to insist that governments should fund us and let us do what we want (effectually saying that they just shouldn’t be a liberal democracy when they manifestly are). Rather the way we critique is by creating alternative social spaces outside of the stricitures of the liberal state in which we can do the public work of the gospel. On this point, I would refer you to William Cavanaugh’s work, especially in Theopolitical Imagination on the creation of alternative social and political spaces from an ecclesial frame of reference.

    5. I appreciate your discussion here very, very much. If this conversations generated more heat than light, that was not my intention. I hope you can see that I am not trying to demean the unfortunate occurances that took place in the event with this ministry which sounds like a great service of the gospel which was doing the Lord’s work. I am saddened by the unChristian acts of this employee who took it upon herself to sue her brethren in Christ in disobedience to the Scirptural injunction not to go before Ceasar’s courts with one another. Personally, I hope that they find other sources of funding so that they can continue to uphold Christian moral theology without being tied to the regulations of the Canadian governement.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  45. Hill, I will try mightily to ignore your insult of my intelligence and simply repeat my question using your example. How, pray tell, does employing a very loving, excellent caregiver for disabled persons (who happens to be co-habitating with his/her heterosexual partner) hinder the mission of being loving, excellent caregivers for disabled persons? Unless that is a mere front for proselytizing and preaching one’s rather narrow theology, I don’t see that one’s sexual orientation/activity is relevant. The public service given here (care for disabled persons) has no relation to one’s private sexual activity or nonactivity. That Christian Horizons thinks that it does suggests to me that they are not quite honest about what their mission really is. And given that they receive state support and presume to be providing a service for the state, this makes their firing of a gay employee absolutely the state’s business.
    THey can certainly continue to hold to their beliefs about sexuality, preach it from their pulpits (if they have them, perhaps in chapels in their face facilities), so I think it is ridiculuous to suggest, as Craig does, that they are being forced to abandon their beliefs. This is exactly the kind of ‘boy who cried wolf’ persecution complex that started this conversation to begin with.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 1:15 pm | Permalink
  46. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, Halden has clarified nicely the basic position I’ve been advocating. I’ve also been influenced by Cavanaugh’s approach, which I think is quite consonant with Yoder. Although you say that you don’t want the nation-state to determine what is public and what is private, it seems you end up allowing this by continuing to work with in the current political framework. I think especially relevant to this discussion is the question of free spaces in civil society and their relation to the power of the state, which is discussed in some length in Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  47. Craig Carter wrote:

    Thank you, Halden, for your reasoned reply. You raise some important points, but clearly we are not yet in full agreement. Let me respond point by point to see if we can close the gap.

    1. I am arguing against subservience to the nation state, unlike those who are arguing for CH to cave in. You seem to have fallen into the trap of thinking the State can be neutral, but that is impossible. It will either endorse principles consistent with Christianity or it will endorse ones consistent with some other religion (eg. Liberal Individualism). If you think Yoder was willing to concede that the State can endorse every religion except Christianity, you might want to take another look at The Christian Witness to the State.

    2. Far from cutting off the ability of the church to critique the State’s definition of public, I have done exactly what you call for in this paragraph. I said that the idea that religion should be private (as if such an area really existed) is an Enlightenment idea we must reject. And the Gospel will define what is public.

    3. I think it is a wild overstatement to equate CH with “having a programmatic ideal for how nation states should be run.” CH is not trying to run the nation state; it merely wants to exist as a Christian ministry – to take up space and be left alone. You seem to be advocating an Amish approach in which the church doesn’t tell the State what to do at all – no prophetic word, no moral demands, no call to faith, no witness. Again, see The Christian Witness to the State, a book written to counter exactly those ideas.

    4. How can you apply your definition of religious tolerance only to Christians? You say that religious convictions cannot receive legitimation or preferential status in the eyes of the government. But liberal Protestants’ religious convictions about homosexuality (and a number of other issues) are being enforced coercively, indeed imposed, by the State here. Why aren’t you upset about that? You and I seem to be agreed that religion cannot be narrowed to what individuals do with their solitude (Whitehead), but if that is so, how can the State be expected to be neutral? I’m pretty sure you don’t really expect the State to be neutral on religious issues. You want it to recognize that all humans are created in the image of God and therefore have basic rights to life and freedom, don’t you? It seems to be only on this issue that you see the State imposing non-Christian liberal individualist views as neutral. Why is that?

    As for Cavannaugh, I’m glad you mentioned him. He writes: “The modern state is best understood as an alternative soteriology to that of the Church.” (9) You seem to have more in common with the vision of John Courtney Murray, which Cavannaugh critiques relentlessly. He quotes Weigel’s definition of “public” as “understandable to all.” You seem to be assuming that since the state cannot understand the peculiar Christian view of marriage and sexuality, the Church must be silent about it to the state. Cavannaugh quotes Foucault against Hegel to challenge the ideal of the state taking over the institutions of civil society and giving them an educative and disciplinary function to order to further the state project. (77) That is clearly happening with CH. Cavannaugh also writes: “In medieval theology, the temporal indicated a time between the first and second comings of Christ, during which the coercive sword of civil authority, under the tutelage of the Church, was ‘temporarily’ necessary. One need not endorse the Constantinian arrangements of medieval Christendom to lament the fact that in modern times the temporal has become not a time but a space . . . located outside the spiritual realm occupied by the Church.” (91) Exactly my point. Cavannaugh has no problem with the Church telling the government “Hands off.” He quotes Oscar Romero, who on the day before his martyrdom “used his authority to order Salvadoran troops to disobey orders to kill.” (88) He ordered the State’s soldiers to disobey the orders of the State! Now, that goes beyond telling the State what to do.

    5. In your final point, you return again to what seems to be bottom line for you – the issue of funding. This is a red herring. The Human Rights Tribunal did not claim jurisdiction just because of government funding, but because the social ministry is a “public service.” If the government merely threatened to withhold funding, I would have less difficulty with its approach. Then at least there would be an opportunity to seek alternative funding and carry on, which you seem to think is an option here. But it is not. The HRT is determined to put this Christian ministry out of business because it is a minority religion that the majority finds offensive. CH does not have the choice to continue doing what it does with Christian money. Why? Because the HRT defines social work as “public.” What next will be defined as public and taken over and made an arm of the state? Publishing? Universities? Summer camps? Foundations? Churches? Money is not the issue here – religious freedom is the issue.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  48. Craig Carter wrote:

    Saint E.
    I am not going to debate homosexuality with you. That debate is over. The liberals have tried to push “Spongism” for three decades and have lost the debate exegetically, historically and theologically. At Lambeth in 1998, the liberals in the ECUSA failed to convince the majority of world Anglicans of their revisionist views and they knew they would fail again in 2008. So they cut off the debate and resorted to pure power politics and coercion because they put their agenda of conforming to secular, liberal, Western society above the unity of the Church. They think they are rich enough and that the poorer churches of the third world can be bought off. The resort to power politics was an admission that they had failed to convince the Church of their position. Evangelicals are not going to cave in and the Roman Catholic Church is much further away from endorsing the sexual revolution than it was 40 years ago. The Church beat back Gnosticism in the 2nd century and it will do so again in the 21st century. There is no future for liberal Protestantism except a sectarian one.

    The Canadian government (through the HRT) is here coercively imposing a liberal Protestant religious belief on an Evangelical organization. No group is more Constantinian than liberal Protestantism.

    Liberals are moralistic, intolerant and dependent on coercion to impose their will, yet they have the nerve to criticize the Religious Right for imitating them in this regard.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink
  49. Craig, I’m not interested in debating homosexuality with you. Gay men and women are not ‘debatable points’ for me, but children of God whose love you seem to want to ignore, deny, or otherwise flee from. The bullies here are not gays and lesbians, who are under constant physical threat for their lives in the African countries whose Anglican bishops now hold numerical power in the Anglican Communion. Your cry of being ‘bullied’ is laughable–when was the last time an anti-gay person such as yourself, was beaten to a pulp and left to die in the gutter or worse for the mere fact that he/she expressed love? When the archbishop of Nigeria lifts a finger to prevent this brutality, rather than stoke the emotional hatred of gays with his vitriol, I will be able to take your posture as the wounded victim with an ounce of seriousness. Until then, I pray for my beleagured African brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for the end of the American capitalist hegemony and its violent power plays (bolstered by right wing evangelical Christians, i.e. the Religious Right) and never forget that the least of God’s people are being murdered body and soul for having chosen not to hide the light of Christ’s love under a bushel.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  50. adamsteward wrote:

    Craig -

    I’m a late comer to the conversation, but I’ve been following along, and had to jump in, since I don’t want you to feel like an unchallenged Job in chapter 32.

    The crucial point of difference that I see here is a conflict of definitions over what the concept of “public” means. You keep insisting that if CH were to refuse government funding without protesting that the Canadian government ought to continue funding a non-profit with contractual stipulations that are opposed to the very ethos of liberal democracy, then they would be succumbing to a privatization of the gospel. That’s absurd. All that it would do would be to change the structure of its funding so that its benefactors were restricted to people who actually supported what it was about from top to bottom. You don’t think that all of our charitable giving has to be funneled through our tax dollars, do you?

    When the HRT uses the term “public service” they mean this not in the sense of “a service to the public” but rather in the sense of a “service provided by the public at large,” of course though still for the public.

    I’m all for critiquing the government. We ought on a daily basis to tell them they should not kill and torture in the name of justice, that they should not kill unborn children, and so forth. But we can’t do that if we in fact are functionally just another arm of the government. How on earth is it a critique of the government when functionally all you are saying is “Hey, give us back our privileges, because we can’t be public unless you endorse us!”?

    Saturday, May 3, 2008 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  51. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    Craig, let me respond to a couple of your points.

    1. I can’t help but think that by arguing that CH should be funded by the government to run its ministry you are invariably asking for CH to become more, not less, subservient to the nation state. I can’t speak for Halden, but frankly I take it for granted that the state will not endorse principles consistent with Christianity. This is not to say the state is neutral, far from it. But I’m not sure how asking the state to endorse principles consistent with Christianity is not Constantinian.

    I find it really strange that you first suggest that Halden and I are advocating an Amish position and then you think it looks like John Courtney Murray! I really don’t get the connection at all here.

    Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  52. Thom Stark wrote:

    I just finished reading this entire thread, and the most amazing thing about it to me is how frequently Halden and Craig (two great readers and thinkers) misread each other. I’m especially surprised at how quick Craig has been to slot Halden into oversimplified categories (in which Halden does not belong) for rhetorical effect. I hope these difficulties can be overcome. If we expect, in the tradition of Yoder, to engage the broader world critically and pedagogically, one would think we might benefit from learning to listen better to each other first.

    I am very interested in hearing Craig’s response to Adam Steward’s clarification of what is meant by a “public service.”

    Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  53. Thom Stark wrote:

    That said, and getting back to the topic of Halden’s original post, it simply is the case that U.S. evangelicals have a persecution complex. Down here, Christians only prize tolerance (whose decline in Canada Craig Carter is bemoaning) when it serves their own interests. U.S. evangelicals don’t just want to keep homosexuals out of their charities and churches; they want to prevent non-Christian homosexuals from being recognized by a secular government as wedded. They don’t just want to keep Marilyn Manson off their kids’ iPods; they want to keep Marilyn Manson out of their cities, and they’re successful at doing so too!

    There is a pathology down here that might not be as pervasive up there. Christians feel persecuted when a Tim Robbins or a Sean Penn movie comes out in the theaters. They feel persecuted when Michael Moore makes a few million dollars, and feel safe only when Mel Gibson makes a few billion. I once was speaking to one of my brothers about how U.S. Christians have trouble reading the Scriptures rightly because they don’t know what it’s like to be persecuted. My brother angrily retorted that U.S. Christians are under a constant barrage of persecution, propagated by the liberal media and the ACLU. I tried to explain to him that his retort had just proved my point, but he just played the big brother knows better card on me.

    While you up there may be in actual jeopardy of losing your right to freedom of religion, down here we’re in jeopardy because people different from us are exercising our rights. And usually, the sense of persecution Christians down here feel has little to do with infringement of religious rights, and a lot to do with any advance or chimera of an advance the political left is making. “America was founded on Christian principles and every time those fascist peace nuts open their mouths they’re silencing the book of Joshua. Those liberals have the gall to tell us to stop killing people.” Somehow, peace advocacy becomes evidence of religious persecution.

    I guess you’d have to live here and talk to the evangelicals I talk too.

    This is the point Halden was making originally, I think. What would you have to say in response to that, Craig? I’m interested.

    Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  54. Halden wrote:

    Thom, just out of curiousity, where do you think I have misread Craig?

    Craig, just to finish up, I am anything but a Murrayite as you know very well. I agree that the state is an alternative soteriology to that of the church. That is precisely why I do not expect the state to embrace our soteriology! When CH hitched its horse to the state aparatus, they thereby tied themselves into just that alternative soteriology. That is where I see them making an error. Such a move legitmizes the state’s power to define what public space is and police it accordingly.

    The alternative is not the theocratic one in which we attempt to make the state accept our soteriology. The state is inherently an alternative soteriology to that of the church, it is a competing public space. As such our way of being public, of being active, is to not put ourself under the dominion of the state by becoming an institutional arm thereof (in this case through recieving funding). CH’s doing of that was a mistake in my estimation.

    You continue to belabor the assertion that the issue of funding is a red herring. If you want to convince me of that you’ll have to to better than just assert it.

    Thanks again for the discourse. I found it very interesting to see how two so utterly similar positions ended up coming to different conclusions on this issue. I feel we have reached a point of clarity about what the other is saying. If that leaves us in disagreement, then at least we can enjoy an informed disagreement.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  55. Hill wrote:

    I think the central point that Craig is trying to make is that state funding or not, in Canada, these tribunals are coming close (if they have not done so already) to using state power to dictate what moral precepts religious organizations can and cannot follow, by declaring various functions of these religious entities “public” and hence subject to the domain of the state, which sees itself as the only licit arbiter of the public space. I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but I certain take Craig’s word on the matter, since he is both Canadian and theologically astute. It seems clear to me how a state might consider any work of Christian charity somehow “public” under its definition, in that it provides a service to the populace (in a way, like the state does). While this seems far fetched, keep in mind that virtually every federal law in the U.S. is a result of the commerce clause, so radical over interpretation of a seemingly innocuous precept can result in terrible things, from a political point of view.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  56. Halden wrote:

    So are Canadian churches being forced by the government to hire, say gay pastors against their will? I see your point, but I still don’t think that’s quite what’s going on here.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  57. Hill wrote:

    I don’t know if that has happened or it hasn’t, but honestly, the “legal” precedent for it doesn’t seem difficult to imagine at all. I’d actually be surprised if this doesn’t happen sometime soon. Even if modern evangelicalism is a highly privatized religion, the fact that people still congregate and have some sort of administrative/authority structure is a threat to the state. It only takes a small group of motivated citizens and a judge to cause something like this to happen. It’s all a matter of public sentiment, and I feel like, if Craig’s assessment is accurate, that such a thing could easily take place. My point is that, the question of funding aside (and again this may or may not be relevant), is that what is taking place is a difference only in degree.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  58. Craig Carter wrote:

    I have posted an article on the Christian Horizons case at:

    Your fears are completely reasonable, as a sober reading of the ruling will confirm.

    Your heart is in the right place, but I think you are a bit naive about the issue of religious freedom in the modern West. Your version of Yoderian theology seems to me to more Yoderian than Yoder. I suppose you think the Mennonite Central Committee and World Vision have sold out too because they accept government funds for aid purposes too?

    And my post gives direct quotes from the HRT ruling to show that the receipt of public funds was not the issue.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  59. Craig Carter wrote:

    I’ve tried to leave a comment 3 times. Is there something wrong?

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  60. Hill wrote:

    That has happened to me before. I have no idea how to fix it. I always thought it was Halden trying to virtually muzzle me from his shadowy internet lair.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  61. Thom Stark wrote:

    I’m still waiting for somebody to respond to Adam, who said:

    “When the HRT uses the term ‘public service’ they mean this not in the sense of ‘a service to the public’ but rather in the sense of a ‘service provided by the public at large,’ of course though still for the public.”

    If this is accurate, then Craig has much less to worry about.

    Halden, primarily what I was referring to when I said that you were misreading Craig is that very early on in the conversation Craig made it clear that the ruling had nothing to do with the tax dollars at work and everything to do with the designation of “public service.”

    Even Saint Egregious, after having reread the tribunal’s decision, conceded this point:

    “Seems I’ve misread the tribunal’s decision, which would apparently apply even if the agency didn’t receive government funds, because it is fulfilling a public mission in the tribunal’s eyes.”

    This is what Craig meant when he said that the issue was a red herring.

    Moreover, Craig even conceded (gratuitously) to your approach, but argued against it by pointing out that technically, in a liberal government, the tax dollars are not “government monies” but public monies. He made an argument. He did more than to “just assert” it. But you never addressed it, and continued on as if he was throwing out the funding issue on a whim. That’s what I meant.

    I do think, however, that Craig’s misreadings of you have been just as careless and unhelpful, if not more so, than yours of him.

    The question of the legitimacy of Adam’s definition of “public service” is going to prove determinative for me in this discussion.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 2:09 pm | Permalink
  62. Craig Carter wrote:

    I have addressed the issue of the meaning of “public” in a post on my blog “The Politics of the Cross in a fuller way than is possible here.

    I provide a link to the HRT ruling itself and quote from it where it states that receiving public funds is not the crucial issue. The crucial issue is that, according to the HRT, in all public areas it is the government not the church which gets to define sexual ethics and the theology on which sexual ethics is based.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  63. Halden wrote:

    Craig, I’m sorry but for some reason your comments were sent to spam and I was away from my computer all day. Thanks again for your comments.

    Monday, May 5, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink
  64. Craig Carter wrote:

    When you get a chance to read my post and the quotes from the HRT ruling demonstrating that public funding is not the key issue here, I’d be interested in hearing if you are ready to admit that just maybe, in this one instance, in Canada, Evangelicals are actually under jeproady of losing their religious freedom. Remember, it’s only paranoia if they really aren’t out to get you.

    Just imagine what Michael Gottheil (the HRT Chair) would have said if he had found that CH only welcomed disabled adults from Evangelical Christian families. Imagine how he would have painted Evangelicals as uncaring, insular, disinterested in the rest of humanity, etc. So Evangelicals open thier hearts to everyone and what happens? They are told that since they are offering a public service, therefore the they have to abide by the “new sexual orthodoxy.”

    R.O. Flyer
    The argument so beloved by many on this tread, that if Evangelicals take “public” money they must abide by the sexual ethics of the majority is nothing more than mob rule. It is a perversion of democracy. The government’s responsibility is to ensure that the rights of minorities are not trampled by the majority (that was the whole idea of the HRT in the first place). But to say that anyone who takes government funding (which is pretty much everyone in modern society) must follow the morality of the government is really to say that they must follow the morality of the majority. The majority of Canadians believe in the sexual revolution (if it feels good it is good) and the Evangelicals and Catholics who resist are the minority. So when the HRT insists that the sexual ethics of the government must apply even to minority groups in their internal operations, then what we have is democracy reduced to mob rule, the persecution of minorities and the denial of basic human rights.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 7:24 am | Permalink
  65. Thom Stark wrote:


    I’m afraid the imaginative exercise you just put to me does not address the question I asked, and further displays your impatient reading habits. I’ll again quote Adam:

    “When the HRT uses the term ‘public service’ they mean this not in the sense of ‘a service to the public’ but rather in the sense of a ’service provided by the public at large,’ of course though still for the public.”

    Apart from this question, which you haven’t directly answered here or on your own blog, I’ll think you’ll notice that I’ve been defending you.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  66. Thom Stark wrote:

    Furthermore, Craig, and I’m venturing to speak for Halden here, the issue is for Halden is not the receipt of government monies per se, but rather what happens when those monies become leverage for the government to have its way with the church. Now, I think I am on your side that the funding issue is not the issue in this case, but your accusation that Halden is more Yoderian than Yoder because he would reject any government funding for any venture seems to me to be yet another rhetorical device of yours to illegitimately reduce Halden’s position to absurdity. Now, I may be wrong. Halden may think that it is always a bad idea for Christians to take government money, but he has not said that yet. He has only said that it is not incumbent upon Christians to continue taking government money when the government is trying to use that money as leverage against religious liberty.


    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 8:48 am | Permalink
  67. Craig Carter wrote:

    I don’t know what point you are getting at in the distinction you are asking me to respond to. What is the exact nature of the difference between “a service to the public” and “a service provided by the public at large.” I can’t imagine what a service provided by the public at large would be, (can the public at large provide services?) but what is in question here is a service provided by a Christian organization to anyone who is in need. I don’t see anyone questioning that including the HRT.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  68. Craig Carter wrote:

    Let’s let Halden speak for himself. But let me make one point clear about your comment about leverage. The money involved could only be leverage if the issue revolved around a threat or implied threat to remove the funding if the ministry did not fall into line. That idea seems not to have surfaced at all in this case. As I said, if that were the issue then it would be far less serious because then other ministries not receiving direct government funding would not be in jeproady. But the HRT ruling is worded in such a way that any ministry that offers a service to the general public, rather than to its own members, is potentially affected by this decision whether they recieve government funding or not. The threat is not to pull funding, it is to close CH down if it fails to comply.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  69. Halden wrote:

    Craig, I’ve made it over and read your post. If I have time to continue this discussion, I’ll do it there. As for now, I must look to other things. All the best.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  70. Janice wrote:

    I wish you’d post on some of the Catholic blogs sponsored by ex-evangelical Catholic converts. To hear them tell it, any evangelical is more zealous, prayerful, interested in evangelization, has a more “personal relationship” with Jesus, yada, yada, yada, than any Catholic in history ever had. It gets tedious.

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  71. Craig Carter wrote:

    Check this out for more evidence of persecution of Evangelicals in Canada. Groups advocating a pro-life stance are increasingly under attack in Canadian universities. .

    Friday, June 6, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  72. Halden wrote:

    What a weird and stupid thing for a university to do. However, I noticed this in the article:

    “Ms. Massa said the new policy would not apply to religious groups that may be opposed to abortion on doctrinal grounds. Rather, it was focused on groups, whether student or external, ‘whose sole purpose is to provide the anti-choice side.’”

    Obviously I think this idea is shutting down dialogue in a way that is contrary to the mission of any institute of higher learning, but it doesn’t seem that religous groups will be effected directly by it. As such I don’t know that its really “persecution” at least not if we want to allow that term to have the meaning it deserves, given the sort of suffering that Christians in Islamic and other third-world countries face for their faith.

    Friday, June 6, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  73. Craig Carter wrote:

    I’m afraid that you took the bait. What I wanted to see was if the fact that privatized religion is exempted from the ban would be of a comfort to you. To say that “it doesn’t mean that religious groups will be effected (I assume you mean “affected”) by it” is to say that the Church can proclaim the Gospel by staying in private enclaves and that it does not need to go out and proclaim the Gospel in public. (If you think that preaching against murder is not part of the Gospel, well then we need to discuss that separately. Everything I am saying here assumes that no dichotomy can be made between preaching sin and salvation.) But my point is that anyone who can say that “religious groups will not be affected by it” is really a practical liberal. What happens in Islamic countries is beside the point. To proclaim the Gospel in Canada today, one must say that God is the God of Life and that the eternal life we offer to individuals is not finally separable from the right to life of helpless babies – the same God wants us to embrace both. For a university (or the Government or any other “Power”) to say that the Church can proclaim that individuals who accept Jesus can go to heaven when they die is OK, but that the Church cannot preach that abortion is sin and leads to the eternal death we need to be saved from, is for that Power to attempt to shut down the preaching of the Gospel. And that is persecution or nothing is. Halden, I hate to say it, but perhaps you are more of an “Evangelical” than you try to let on.

    Friday, June 6, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  74. Halden wrote:

    But nothing in this article says that the church cannot “preach that abortion is sin and leads to the eternal death we need to be saved from”. It in fact says they can do that. The only groups are that are prohibited seem to be groups whose sole organizational ideology is opposition to abortion on non-theological grounds. Those opposed to abotion on doctrinal grounds are not being censored in any way.

    You seem to be reading all of this with a hermeneutic of paranoid desperation. Again, I’m not saying that a school should do something like this. I think it’s stupid, as the leadership of the university seems to think as well. But to say this is persecution seems silly to me. Persecution is when women in africa have their breasts hacked off by machete-weilding muslim extremists. Persecution is the intensive systemic mistreatment of a specific group of people. This just isn’t that. I’m not going to cheapen the language of persecution by putting something like this in the same category with what Christians who are really persecuted are experiencing in the world today.

    You seem to be on a liberal witch hunt. Your desire to label me as such is utterly ill-founded. I fail in many ways in my attempt to live a Christian life, but the entire shape of my life is dedicated to rejecting the liberal “options” that are thrust on us in this culture. Things like a tenured professorship, owning my own house, and a career-centered life that requires ecclesial transience rather than stability are things that I have given up in my attempt to be determined by the logic of the gospel rather than that of a liberal society. But whatever. If you must label me a liberal then so be it. I’m done trying to convince you otherwise. It seems clear that everyone has two options: either agree with you about everything or be a liberal.

    Friday, June 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

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