Can we support those with whom we don’t agree?

Beheading of Anabaptist Martyrs (Rembrandt)

Goshen College has been in the news a lot this year. This small school in Indiana was founded by believers steeped in the Anabaptist tradition, specifically Amish and Mennonites.

In keeping with their beliefs in peacemaking, Goshen College did not play the national anthem at school activities. In 2010, school officials decided that as a gesture of hospitality toward visiting athletic teams, they would begin to play the anthem at sporting events.

Their was a strong outcry among their alumni, leading the administration to return to the policy their school had practiced for over 100 years. That’s when the national media jumped in, especially Fox News. Reports came out that the school had “banned” the national anthem, and patriots everywhere denounced this act. [Anabaptists have been persecuted for centuries because of their views. As someone said on Facebook, "during the Reformation, the one thing that Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists could all agree on is that Anabaptists ought to die."]

I’m not surprised that groups like Fox News would jump on Goshen. What’s been sad to me is to see the Christians that have done the same. Even if we don’t agree with them, shouldn’t we support a school that makes an unpopular decision based on Christian principles? Someone who stands up for their convictions despite the ridicule of non-Christians?

[A sports writer in Oklahoma had an interesting take yesterday, not as a Christian, but as a citizen of the U.S. He wrote:

The decision brought home the true dichotomy in the debate of freedom of religious expression and paying homage to the nation that enables such freedoms.

Clearly, the school has the right to play or not play any song it wants and it would run counter to everything our many valiant, brave citizens and soldiers have given in the fight for freedom.

It would be ironic if a school were forced to play a song that celebrates the birth of a nation born out of the desire for freedom.

You can read his whole article here.]

Maybe I’m only saying that because I’m sympathetic to their position. (There’s a well-written explanation of one alumnus’ views in this article title “Why I Don’t Sing The Star-Spangled Banner“) So I’ll look for input from you. Should we support those who stand up for their convictions even when we don’t agree with them?

Let me point out, as the discussion begins, that Goshen only changed what the school does as an official organism. They did not ban the anthem, as has been wrongly reported in the press. They do not forbid other schools playing the anthem when Goshen is the visiting team. They don’t burn flags nor beat up soldiers. I feel that their stand is different from that of some who try to impose their views on others or flaunt their views in the face of others. Goshen’s decision affected what they did on their own campus.

Is this a time for Christians to stand united or are their bigger principles in play here?

5 thoughts on “Can we support those with whom we don’t agree?

  1. I suspect that one of the problems is that people do not take the time to actually understand why Goshen College made such a decision. Rather, people just listen to the media spin. Yet taking time to understand a person or groups position does not require any one of us to agree with them. If we cannot learn to do this more (it is severely lacking), public discourse will only increase in sounding like a noisy gong or clanging symbol (cf. 1 Cor 13.1) adding to the increased polarization.

    As for supporting that which we do not agree with… Most Americans believe that Muslims, Buddhists, Jewish, etc… have the right to run their religious assemblies and organizations according to their particular beliefs, so why should a Christian college with a particular set of beliefs not be afforded the same right?

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  2. Sadly, in exchanges like these, we often stop thinking with our brains and express only our passions. For instance, if we insist on public prayer in the public schools, it is both a function of American fairness and freedom (as well as Christian love and courtesy) to support ANY public prayer in the public schools — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, earth religions. But that is not what we mean because we want our way, and in insisting on it, we deny others the same right and freedom we wish to claim for ourselves.

  3. Perhaps before we can support those with whom we disagree outside the church, we need to learn how to support those with whom we disagree inside the church.

    And, because I need to say something slightly obnoxious every Monday, I’m about to the point of declaring those with flags in the assembly to be on the outside: haven’t they said, in effect, “Caesar is Lord.”?

  4. Being a former graduate from a mennonite college we always played the national anthem at all sporting events. Differing factions within a protestant group is nothing new. Graduate of Bluffton College 1972

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