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With faith under fire today, Dr. James Spencer shares recipe for Christian resistance

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There’s a unique brand of Christian persecution taking place in Western countries such as the United States. 

The same “spiritual forces” are also at work in other parts of the world, where Christians are literally dying for their faith. But in the “civilized” West, the persecution takes the guise of political, legal and cultural challenges.

Said Judge Phil Ginn, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, “You would almost have to be blind and deaf to not see the discrimination against conservative Christianity that is beginning to take shape in this country.”

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For instance, religious freedom on college campuses may be under fire as the Biden administration is looking to dismantle another Trump-era policy. The “Free Inquiry Rule” was implemented to protect student religious groups so they can decide who can and cannot lead their organizations. 

Several have been marginalized or banned for their traditional views on marriage and gender.

The Christian Legal Society said in a statement, “College campuses have become hostile for people of all faiths, particularly from school administrators, who often refuse to recognize religious groups.”  

Lauren Green, chief religion correspondent for Fox News Channel, recently spoke with Dr. James Spencer of the D.L. Moody Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Spencer said that today,

Lauren Green, chief religion correspondent for Fox News Channel, recently spoke with Dr. James Spencer of the D.L. Moody Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Spencer said that today, “Christians need to be like a dam holding back water … The dam needs to hold its shape. You need to be a strong, hard boundary between the water and whatever else is on the other side.” (Fox News)

The statement goes on to say, “In response to this problem, the Department of Education adopted two common-sense regulations in 2020, under the previous administration, to protect religious student organizations on public college campuses. The current administration is now proposing to remove that protection.”

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Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United For Separation of Church and State, applauds the proposed move, saying, “America is premised on the promise of religious freedom for all of us. And that means that you can’t use your religious beliefs to cause harm to others and still expect to be funded by taxpayers.”

Christians in the West are being controlled not so much by external forces, but by being lulled into accepting ideas that are counter to God.

Dr. James Spencer, president of the D.L. Moody Center in Northfield, Massachusetts, warns that we are now living out George Orwell’s “1984.”

He says that Christians in the West are being controlled not so much by external forces — but by being lulled into accepting ideas that are counter to God, not by conscious choice but by the slow “reorientation of one’s beliefs.”

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Those who resist, like the Christian Legal Society, or Jack Phillips the cake baker, or little Lydia Booth who was reprimanded in her school for wearing a “Jesus loves me” mask — they’ve become problems in a world that is growing increasingly in opposition to the claims of Christianity.

A desire to control language, speech

On “Lighthouse Faith” podcast, Dr. Spencer spoke about his recently released book, “Christian Resistance: Learning to Defy the World and Follow Christ.”  

He brings up Orwell’s “1984” because a big part of the subversion of real Christianity in the culture is how Big Brother seeks to control language.

Dr. James Spencer, center, with his family. His new book is

Dr. James Spencer, center, with his family. His new book is “Christian Resistance: Learning to Defy the World and Follow Christ.”   (James Spencer)

That’s certainly seen in the transgender movement’s obsession with pronouns. In Florida, Queen of Angels Catholic bookstore is fighting the city of Jacksonville, after it passed a law requiring businesses to use pronouns that reflect customers’ preferred gender identity. 

The owner, Christie DeTrude, says she can’t speak words that violate her Catholic faith, which believes biological sex is immutable. Now her store, which sells crucifixes and other Catholic materials, risks unlimited fines and damages if it doesn’t comply.

“What we’re dealing with is almost a more influential problem — we’re being inundated with way too much information.”

Spencer said the Orwell analogy is fitting in our high-tech world. Orwell himself probably never imagined the pervasiveness of the internet and social media.  

Said Spencer, “I think Orwell is describing something that’s a totalitarian regime that’s very much sort of iron fisted in its implementation. What we’re dealing with is almost a more influential problem, where we’re being inundated with way too much information.”

James Spencer, PhD, head of the D.L. Moody Center in Northfield, Massachusetts. He warns about needing to

James Spencer, PhD, head of the D.L. Moody Center in Northfield, Massachusetts. He warns about needing to “have the language to speak for Christ” in today’s world amid a furious flood of secular messages. (James Spencer)

It’s that ground clutter of information and people pushing their personal stories of lived narratives that becomes the warfare tactic of the “spiritual forces of evil” that the apostle Paul talked about in his warning to the people of Ephesus. 

Spencer said, “If we’re not discerning about which ones we accept, which ones we set aside, we’re going to have the same sort of problems that Orwell describes in ‘1984,’ where we’re not going to have the language to speak for Christ. We’re going to have the language to speak as we’re of the world.”

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This could also help explain why politicians who call themselves devout Catholics could advocate for abortion on demand. It’s because the influence of the secular public square, i.e. the internet and social media, are more powerful than a professed faith.

More than 70 years ago, Dr. David Martyn Lloyd Jones warned in his book “Truth Unchanged, Unchanging” about the dangers of equating passion with truth. 

Said James Spencer to Lauren Green,

Said James Spencer to Lauren Green, “Believers should remember that the forces that control the world — they don’t have a vested interest in me being a committed follower of Jesus Christ. They just don’t.” (iStock)

The medical doctor-turned-preacher saw even in the 1950s the rise of what he called the “cult of self-expression” — that humanity has a tendency to put feelings before faith. 

Lloyd-Jones cautioned, “Fire makes a good servant but a bad master.” It’s easy to see this “passion equals truth” cauldron playing out in our times. 

“Christians need to be like a dam holding back water … There’s all this pressure that’s coming against it, and the dam just needs to hold its shape.”

For instance, consider the riots that erupted following the murder of George Floyd. Beyond question, his death was a travesty. But many who tried to complain that it didn’t warrant the widespread destruction of communities and property were put down, even silenced.

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Lloyd-Jones argues that truth is still truth, regardless of how we feel. When the fire of passion reigns, it’s the same as using a couch in the living room as a fireplace. 

It will more than likely burn the house down.

How to hold fast against today’s rushing tides

Instead of fire, Spencer uses a water analogy describing what Christians should do to resist a world that is pushing against them. 

He said, “Christians need to be like a dam holding back water … There’s all this pressure that’s coming against it, and the dam just needs to hold its shape. You need to be a strong, hard boundary between the water and whatever else is on the other side. But if that dam breaks, if that dam fractures, if it doesn’t resist appropriately the water that’s coming in — then we’ve got problems.”

Said James Spencer,

Said James Spencer, “When you take away my ability to think and speak and you’re trying to control that, you’re essentially eliminating my free speech or essentially eliminating my thought.” (James Spencer)

But there are consequences of being that “dam holding back water.” 

The governing body of Vermont Public Schools just banned Mid-Vermont Christian School from competing in sports and activities after its girls basketball team forfeited their game in the state tournament rather than play a team with a transgender member. The school plans to appeal the decision.

For 10 years, cake baker Jack Phillips has been embroiled in a legal fight over his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. 

His Supreme Court victory in 2018 was only partial. It didn’t rule on the larger issue of whether a business can invoke a religious objection to refuse service to a person from the LGBTQ community.  

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In his latest case, Phillips just lost an appeal after rejecting a request for a birthday cake celebrating a gender transition. His legal reps at Alliance Defending Freedom say he’s being targeted by those who want to punish him, and others like him, for his beliefs.

Phillips has plenty of company in fighting legal cases because of beliefs.

Jack Phillips, whose case was heard by the Supreme Court five years ago after he objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple, speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5, 2022.

Jack Phillips, whose case was heard by the Supreme Court five years ago after he objected to designing a wedding cake for a gay couple, speaks to supporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)

The College of the Ozarks is fighting the Biden administration over a Housing and Urban Development mandate that forces it to violate its conservative Christian beliefs by opening dormitories, including bedrooms and shared shower spaces, to members of the opposite sex.

The Christian Student group Ratio Christi at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had to file a lawsuit against the university after it refused the group’s request of $1,500 in student activity funding to bring in a respected philosopher who taught at Notre Dame. 

The school said it could not promote “speakers of a political and ideological nature” and wanted the group to provide “another spokesperson with a different ideological perspective” to counterbalance the speaker.  

For every court case and legal action taken, there are many — maybe countless — conflicts that never see the light of day.

However, the school had no problem spending thousands on speakers who were political and ideological. The difference was, they agreed with those speakers’ viewpoints. 

A federal court entered a partial judgment against University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials for discriminating against Ratio Christi.  

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But for every court case and legal action taken, there are many — maybe countless — conflicts that never see the light of day. And there are those conflicts that are squashed before they start.

A recent Ipsos survey found that three out of five people employed in America believe that talking about or explaining their political or religious beliefs at work will result in negative repercussions. That means a majority of the American work force is afraid of backlash for expressing their religious viewpoints. 

The poll also found that one in four people knew of someone who experienced the backlash when they did express their religious views.      

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The culture at large is basically demanding Christians be “uncritical members of society,” to get with the program of a secular, not biblical, worldview.

But Spencer said, “When you take away my ability to think and speak and you’re trying to control that, you’re essentially eliminating my free speech or essentially eliminating my thought.”

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And yet “at the same time,” he said, “believers should remember that the forces that control the world — they don’t have a vested interest in me being a committed follower of Jesus Christ. They just don’t.”

Essentially — and it’s a crucial point — resistance takes effort. 

But more than that, it takes knowledge of what you’re up against.

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