The church is a political institution, but one which is not of this world. Whether or not it involves itself in political issues is a secondary issue. Some may be more vocal, while others may more silent. What matters most is that every church seeks to carry on the mission of Jesus and the apostles by inculcating the values of Jesus’ kingdom. No church, however, should be partisan, since no one secular religious party captures or promotes the holistic and countercultural ethics of Jesus’ kingdom.
In all the years since 9-11, I’ve never once heard a Christian speak up in judgment and condemnation over the 9-11 jumpers. I’ve never heard someone say they sinned because they “hastened death instead of accepting God’s timing.” I’ve never heard anyone say that failing to condemn their choice is a “slippery slope that could send the message that suicide is okay.” All I’ve ever heard about the 9-11 jumpers is how difficult their choice must have been, and how sad it is that their lives were taken by terrorism.
Why then, should we say those things about Brittany– or those who choose to die more quickly and less painfully in response to a terminal disease– a death sentence that becomes their burning building? It’s not a choice to die (suicide). It’s just a choice to pick the most painless way to die.
Furthermore, even though Christians agree with the biblical prohibition of homosexual sex, it doesn’t mean we hate people who violate it. This is an important and obvious distinction that seems forgotten. The Bible, for example, is opposed to gluttony, but we don’t hate gluttons. The Bible is against drunkenness, but we don’t hate people who drink too much. The Bible is against pre-marital sex, but we don’t hate people who have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The Bible is opposed to stealing, but we don’t hate thieves. Yes, the Bible is opposed to homosexual sex, but we don’t hate homosexuals.
The paradox, as they all know, is that religious freedom, if it ever takes hold, might harm the Christian church in two ways. The church might become institutionalised, wealthy and hence corrupt, as happened in Rome in the high Middle Ages, and is already happening a little in the businessmen’s churches of Wenzhou. Alternatively the church, long strengthened by repression, may become a feebler part of society in a climate of toleration. As one Beijing house-church elder declared, with a nod to the erosion of Christian faith in western Europe: “If we get full religious freedom, then the church is finished.”
Don’t believe me? Do you know anyone who left their church because of a change in “worship?” In truth, these changes are barely changes in worship. Most churches still celebrate the Eucharist, engage sermons, sing, pray, and – sadly – have announcements. What changes is the singing! And the reason people leave over “worship” is because they no longer “like” the singing… personally.