One of the biggest beefs non-Christians have with Christians is that we want to impose our beliefs on everyone else. They do not want to be forced into something they don’t agree with. Just listen to the song “Live Your Dream” by Reel Big Fish to get a small idea of this mentality. There is also Joe Biden’s explanation that he would never bring his personal Catholic beliefs into his politics, or Richard Dawkins as he describes how he is fine with ‘religions’ that don’t believe in pressing their supernaturalistic beliefs on others in his book “The God Delusion.”
Our Apologists these days need to be able to answer these criticisms and tendencies from without–and even within–the Christian faith.
For we cannot forego the mandate to uphold social justice, fairness and equality. These are a MUST! Why do you think all of the prophetic books of the Old Testament rag on against Israel and Judah time and time again for their social injustices! God HATES social injustice. That is why “pure and undefiled religion is to care for the widow and the orphan” (James 1:27).
We cannot give up the evangelistic zeal, nor the support of a moral society. But, perhaps, we have been advocating it in the wrong way. Perhaps we should propagate these things to the world through more of an Ez. 33:4-5 methodology. Tell them, and from there onward the blood will be on their own heads.
At the same time, however, we are called to subject to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-8; 1 Pet. 2:11-24). These passages are merely saying to subject to authority de facto, no questions asked, but they do give us insight that we should be deferring to secular governing authority quite a bit more then our rebellious tendencies want to admit. Our ‘spirituality’ wants to cry out “Freedom In Christ!” It says that if the governing authorities so much as allow something evil to exist we are given the right to disobey the government, and even break the laws if necessary (but look at 1 Pet. 2:16).
One very extreme example is the series of Christian men who have killed abortion doctors over the last decade, thinking themselves as helping to make God’s matters more important than even life itself. One such man, Paul Jennings Hill, who was given the death penalty (justly I might add) thought himself a martyr: “I believe in the short and long term, more and more people will act on the principles for which I stand,” he said. Mr. Hill also said that while it was not his choice to die, ”I’m willing and I feel very honored that they are most likely going to kill me for what I did.” (He will be embarrassed to read 1 Pet. 2:20 in heaven.) And he was a a former Presbyterian minister! An alleged leader of men.
Not that most of us are convinced that such things are okay and justifiable. Let us yet reflect on the ways we go too far in our rebellion of government and society for their rapport with moral evils. But remember, the government rarely forces anyone to do anything particularly wrong. The social injustice of the abortion matter is still a personal choice of both the doctor and the woman. (If you want to argue whether its okay to use public taxes for abortion clinics, however, that is certainly an issue more worthy of debate). Remember, God has established such authorities to do that judging of evil (1 Pet. 2:14), as well as for giving praise for doing what is right. But even if they do wrong, the passages mentioned still say that we should bear under it, even to “those who are unreasonable” (1 Pet. 2:18).
So when it comes down to ‘imposing our beliefs,’ perhaps we should consider what it is we are ‘imposing.’ Is it a menial or personal thing? Is it a mere personality difference? Is it something not specifically prescribed in Scripture? If so, then perhaps the non-Christians are right, and we should stop pushing and nagging.
But what if orphans are neglected and widows rejected? What if eugenics wants to abort all potential living downs syndrome babies and euthanize the elderly and force sterilize the poor? What if social injustices are present, and the government, or any organized group, speeds it along and supports it?
I would argue that it is when the government starts mandating evils and social injustices, then the Christian community must certainly oppose such leadership and laws, but even then, peacefully. If there is social injustice being practiced by the common people, even if its not supported by the government (say, a modern Nazi), then we should certain oppose it, but must have to leave judgment up to God and the authorities.
Take the first century church as a noteworthy example for us to follow. They paid their taxes, even if it went to the construction of the newest pagan temple. But they did not bow to Caesar or any pagan god, even as a social requirement. By this, it seems that matters of core doctrine are worthy of fighting a metaphorical battle, while being defrauded is not (1 Cor. 6:7 perhaps?).
Maybe this would be a good rule of thumb: Focus on the need, not the hate. Focus on the cure, not merely the symptom. Focus on what is loving and just, not on the ad hominem attacks and ‘usurp the power’ fads. Perhaps then the non-Christians will be more willing to listen, and would be able to see the humanitarian aid that we want to provide and can agree with, and ultimately, they will better see the reason for Christ’s sacrifice.
(There are so many more directions this conversation can lead, but I must end here, leaving the rest of the tangents to be mulled over and researched and prayed over by you.)