“Christianity is speaking a strange and scandalous word into whatever culture that it comes into,” Russell Moore.
Rod Dreher lives in the flood zone of Louisiana. He is witness to unimaginable devastation that is “much, much worse than most Americans know.” He is on the ground, seeing both the destruction and the Christian response to it.
Dreher acknowledges that the affected communities need government assistance to recover. He also asserts that government help without local churches in practical support would not be enough.
Dreher predicts that in coming years, churches will either be forced to embrace an LGBT protocol or lose tax exempt status. He quotes David Gushee an LGBT activist:
“It turns out that you are either for full and unequivocal social and legal equality for LGBT people, or you are against it, and your answer will at some point be revealed. This is true both for individuals and for institutions.
“Neutrality is not an option. Neither is polite half-acceptance. Nor is avoiding the subject. Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.”
“The issue”‘s enforcers will find us. And make us–individuals or institutions–pay for our refusal to accept the new creed. Gushee’s words are chilling and should give us pause. During this pause, we should consider what will we choose when we have to decide?
The first choice will be whether churches and individuals stay faithful to the truth of scripture or cave to social pressure. In a different column, Dreher quotes Russell Moore–head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“The debates we are having about human sexuality now are really not about sexuality. They are about whether the word we have is from God,” said Moore. “If the Word of God has been delivered by God through his apostles to us, and says you must submit your creatureliness, even your sexuality, to the Lordship of Christ.”
So the first choice will be about where we stand. For individuals, choosing faithfulness may mean the loss of employment or business. We will have to decide.
For churches, the choice will mean, as Dreher suggests, the loss of tax-exempt status.
So the second choice for churches who stand for truth will be how to pay the tax bill.
In my city, there is an empty brownstone church. Its congregations suffered low attendance, then consolidated with another church across town.
A family member investigated the possibility of purchasing the building. It was a mere $60,000. Why hasn’t it sold? Because the yearly tax bill was $29,000 (before reassessment) if its use would not be tax exempt–if it were used as a residence instead of a church.
Larger churches will have larger tax bills.
And mega-churches with opulent buildings will pay mega tax bills.
I know of a different kind of church in a nearby town. One congregation meets there on Sunday mornings, a different congregation meets there Sunday afternoons, and a third worship community meets there Sunday evenings. Three congregations will pay a smaller bill for a smaller, non-opulent building.
But where in the budget will congregations find the money?
Possibilities include staff salaries, building maintenance, youth programs, community outreach, and missions. Resources going to flood relief in Louisiana today will likely no longer exist in church coffers if this scenario happens.
But if it does, the Church will still have the same opportunities it always has had. They are opportunities we may overlook when our worship centers are too comfortable. And when we are too satisfied in our daily lives.
We will count the cost of high salaries and fancy buildings. Then we can choose them or youth programs, community outreach, and missions.
And we will still have the chance to stand for truth and love. For love does not lie. And love is willing to sacrifice the approval of society and money, if necessary, to speak truth.
Love is willing to pay a price to speak truth and to meet needs.
Jesus told us to count the cost.
And that’s what we will have to do. When we have to decide.