The Karen Pence Rule
Recently it was announced that Karen Pence - a private citizen who is not even occupying an elected office in the United States of America - is going to resume her teaching career at a Christian school. Part of this school's beliefs is that homosexual behavior is a sin, and they require their teachers and students to agree with this understanding in order to serve as faculty or attend as a student. As someone who attended a Christian college, I am quite familiar with the agreements that students make when they decide to attend a school that finds its roots in historic Christianity. For example, when I attended Christian college in the early 2000s I agreed not to be a drunkard, not to engage in illegal behavior, not to have sex outside of marriage, and yes, not to engage in other sexual behaviors that the Bible explicitly forbids for Christians - including homosexual behavior.
Not only is this not unusual for Christian colleges, but it is normal for nearly all types of Christian schools, including the one that Karen Pence is planning to teach at. To be honest, I was surprised this made news at all. I assume that the wives of elected officials are not expected to put their entire life and vocational calling on hold simply because their husband is in elected office. Modern feminism tells us that a woman is not defined or valued because of who or what her husband is. She can be her own woman after all. However, I often forget that I am not as woke as the next person by Twitter.
I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that the left is having what seems to be a complete meltdown over the fact that Mrs. Pence is teaching at a Christian school that believes Christian things and expects their teachers to share those beliefs. I found myself commenting nearly the same day: "Apparently Twitter just found out that Christian schools are a thing." This has been a frequent refrain from some others on Twitter, such as Rod Dreher and David French, among others.
The responses that they receive back are almost completely uniform. One person says, "The left just hates bigotry in the guise of religion." Another said, "We are against bigotry and hate; something Jesus also preached about being against. We are for love and acceptance - even those who may be considered sinners." And another: "Nah, it's the fact that the Left thinks bigoted Christians may not be good Christians." Here's another flavor of the same chip: "The left believes in following Christ's message. We just don't like you pseudo Christians giving the rest of us a bad name. Jesus weeps over your brand of 'Christianity'. It's not exactly 'love others as I have loved you'. You need our prayers, not hatred." And just for good measure: "Stop doing this. You know damn well what the issues are. It isn't a hatred of Christianity it's a hatred of bigotry." I could probably share dozens more comments almost exactly like this, but it does give a flavor for the response that is very much happening right now.
There are a lot of approaches one could take with these comments. One could ask these apparently learned religious scholars whether they have actually read the New Testament lately (Matthew 19:4-6, for example). One could ask these same people whether they have even studied the issue of what historic Christianity has taught for the last 2000 years concerning the concept of sexual ethics. One could ask such people to carefully define the notion of "bigotry" so we could pin down whether they are not themselves also bigoted against the teachings of historic Christianity.
There is no question that the Christian religion for the entirety of its existence has always taught that sexual immorality is forbidden. It is what defined Christianity in its most public-facing way during the time of the Roman Empire.
And there is also absolutely no question that for the entire existence of Christianity the church has without question, and with one voice always affirmed that it is sin for a man to lie with a man, or a woman to lie with a woman, among other things (see Unchanging Witness by Donald Fortson and Rollin Grams for the best documentation of this claim). What is amazing to think about is that for all the disagreements historic Christians of all stripes have had over issues like baptism, the Lord's Supper, sabbath observance, church government, bible translations, etc. this is one issue where the church has always been united.
This refrain, then: "We aren't anti-Christian; we're anti-bigotry" is deeply disingenuous because it is absolutely anti-Christian if one is talking about historic, credal, orthodox Christianity - in other words, Christianity. The only version of Christianity the left isn't bigoted against is some new, twisted, unfamiliar, unhistoric, non-credal version of our religion that no one in all of church history would have recognized.
Having said all of this then, when the left says they are not bigoted against Christianity, they are only speaking of a highly specific version of what its advocates are choosing to redefine as Christianity; a version of Christianity that has been stripped clean of its rough edges and has become so inoffensive to all as to hardly be "news" at all. It's a version of Christianity designed to repeat back to the culture what it already knows and believes. What we are witnessing in the wake of Karen Pence's recent employment is a highly qualified attempt on the part of the political extreme-left to have their cake (being bigoted against Christians) and eat it too (claim they are not bigoted).
As for the rest of us, if we believe what Christendom has always taught, whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian...if we believe what the Bible has unwaveringly taught...if we are Christians as the term has always been defined throughout all of history...if we choose to work for an organization that holds to historic Christian teachings and requires the same of us...you had better believe that the left hates us. How do I know? They're saying it. In their minds we are bigoted, and as someone has recently put it, "It's a hatred of bigotry."
In other words, the political and theological left really does hate Christianity, no matter how much wordsmithing they might do to persuade the watching world otherwise.
What is the answer, then? How should we then live? The answer is that as historic and orthodox Christians we need to prepare ourselves for even more equivocation and pretended moral high ground on the part of those who openly (or at least selectively) despise the code of morality taught in the Bible. We should be alert for when the people we are respectfully engaging with automatically assume an unrecognizable version of Christianity. We should endeavor to know Christian history and work hard to affirm our historic connections with the past in all areas whenever possible. We should continue to read and confess the creeds of Christianity.
We should learn to rejoice in our creeds and especially to remind the watching world that Christians are bound by their adherence to Scripture and that we do not have the liberty to simply redefine the faith after our own image whenever we feel like it.
Most of all, we have to remember the words of warning that Jesus gave: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). John, similarly: "Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you" (1 John 3:13).
At the same time we must refuse to give in to self pity. There is nothing pathetic or sad about being a Christian. Gone are the days when we could expect to be applauded by the culture. Gone are the days when Christianity held cultural dominance. We are now in an era that is very similar to the one that the early church experienced where we are considered the strange minority for what we believe, teach, and pass on to our children. We are in the era of faithful, consistent unappreciated testimony.