The Intimidated Church

Not too long back, my pastor Tim Maynard used an expression to describe the American church – “the intimidated church.” He wanted to clarify that the American church is not the persecuted church in as much as Christians in America are not losing life and limb as many other Christians around the world are, but the American culture is becoming increasingly hostile towards traditional Christianity and traditional interpretations of the Bible. This trend is not a new trend. I hear stories from pastors who have gone before me from the 60’s and 70’s with the advent of liberal Christianity. These pastors battled opinions about the legitimacy and inerrancy of Scripture – a truly noble topic. The culture has continued to shift towards a more liberal slant that is in direct contrast to Christian values.

In the last decade it seems to have been accelerated. While church attendance numbers have been steadily dropping in America, the culture in general seemed to appreciate or give respect to the Christians. However, now there is a hostility towards Christianity that was not there, and one of the primary topics that is driving such change is LGBTQ+ rights. This singular topic comes up so much in cultural discourse it feels as if we are stuck in listening to a broken record. Homosexuality could easily be the greatest challenge facing traditional American Christianity today, and with it being “pride month,” I thought it fitting to address the topic.

In a recent article in the New York Times, Eric Cervini reviews a new book by Sasha Issenberg called The Engagement: Americas Quarter Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage. Interestingly enough, even the title of the book uses language to describe how quickly the cultural revolution has taken place. In the grand scheme of history, a quarter century is not a very long time. The wheels of cultural change seem to be moving at blitz pace concerning this topic. The Reformation movement can easily be traced over a full century if not longer.

The reason I found this article intriguing is the author refers to the strategies employed by certain cultural influencers in the last decade to move their agendas forward. Cervini referred to Issenberg’s work and noted that in 2008 many states voted to reject allowing same-sex marriages. However, in only a few short years the votes of the states would be considered unconstitutional in the Obergefell v. Hodges case of 2015 which legalized same-sex marriage in all of America. What happened?

According to Issenberg, the LGBTQ+ community changed its tactics from 2008 to the 2012 election. Instead of lobbying for their opinions, they attacked the fundraising for lobbying against them. They chose to intimidate those with differing opinions into not contributing funds towards the campaigns of those against LGBTQ+ values. People and companies that had contributed to conservatives who disagreed with homosexuality, donated nothing in 2011 leading up to the 2012 election because of fear of being publicly shamed. This was long before the ubiquitous term “cancel culture” existed. However, the methodology is apparent.

One of the main targets of this intimidation was the church and traditional biblical beliefs. Traditional Christianity beliefs that the Bible clearly defines marriage as a sacred covenant between a man and woman for life. Truthfully, the Bible is fairly clear in this area. Anyone who is very vocal about supporting this position has been targeted and publicly shamed and intimidated for holding to such beliefs.

Even to be seen associating with someone of such beliefs is enough to gain a target. In April of 2021, the Seattle Police Department rescinded a dinner invitations to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association because of the organizations conservative stance against LGBTQ values. An article was printed in the Seattle Times. Incredibly, Billy Graham was arguably the most respected pastor in America at one time in our nation’s history.

Similarly, if you are a Christian and you hold to traditional beliefs about marriage as taught in Scripture, you may be feeling the same intimidation. You children may be feeling some sort of intimidation at school or on the sports teams. This is a very common experience now for many Christians in America.

I would encourage parents to have conversations with their children to gauge where they are on the cultural spectrum. What do they believe? I find that many Christian middle school and high school students do not agree with the LGBTQ values but are too afraid of the intimidation to speak. Many of them simply choose to remain silent. If they choose to remain silent long enough, then many of them will simply go along with the change to avoid being publicly shamed.

Here are some questions to ask your child about this topic…

  1. Have you ever been shamed or intimidated for your faith?
  2. Do you talk about your faith with your friends?
  3. Do you think your friends would accept your faith?