Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Arizona student told to remove her cross necklace, how should Christians respond to hatred and hostility?

In April 2010 I'd reported that in the UK, opposition to outward displays of Christianity were increasing. I'd used the example of a nurse in the UK who was told she could not wear her cross necklace, but that Muslims could wear jewelry in hospital. The denial for the cross was that it was a safety hazard in that distraught patients might grab the jewelry and use it to choke the nurse. This particular nurse had been wearing it for 30 years without incident, she told a tribunal, but she still lost her plea to keep wearing it.

The issue turns into Christian oppression and hatred when the double standard presents itself immediately after. The following news excerpt also occurred in April of 2010 and it also occurred in the UK.

Muslim staff escape NHS hygiene rule
"Female staff who follow the Islamic faith will be allowed to cover their arms to preserve their modesty despite earlier guidance that all staff should be "bare below the elbow". The Department of Health has also relaxed rules prohibiting jewellery so that Sikh members of staff can wear bangles linked with their faith, providing they are pushed up the arm while the medic treats a patient."

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

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The double standard had many shaking their heads, wondering at the obvious bias against Christianity. Many felt that such a thing could never happen in the US.

However, many preachers and Christian leaders have been saying for a number of years that oppression and then outright persecution will occur in the US. America is no different than any other place that is ruled by satan, for he is the god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4). And this world hates Jesus and therefore it will hate Christians. (John 15:18, Matthew 10:22). There is no such thing as political protection from satanic hatred and there is no place that will be favored location untouched by the enemies of Jesus.

Witness the following:
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Sonoma State University Forces Student To Remove Cross Necklace.
"A California college student has filed a religious accommodation request after her university told her to remove a cross necklace out of fear that it may offend incoming students at the school.

"According to The Blaze, Audrey Jarvis, 19, works on the Associated Students Productions crew at her school, Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California. She was working at a student orientation event when one of her supervisors pulled her aside and asked her to remove the necklace. According to Jarvis’ lawyer, the supervisor told her “that she could not wear her cross necklace because it might offend others, it might make incoming students feel unwelcome, or it might cause incoming students to feel that ASP was not an organization they should join.”

"Understandably, Jarvis was troubled by what her supervisor said. She kept the cross on and continued working. When she came across her supervisor for a second time, she was asked to either hide the necklace under her shirt or remove it. Jarvis was so troubled by what she was being asked that she left work for the day."

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“I was offended because I believe as a Christian woman it is my prerogative to display my faith any way I like so long as it is not harming anyone else,” she said. “I was very hurt and felt as if the university’s mission statement – which includes tolerance and inclusivity to all – was violated.” As noted by Fox News, her lawyer, Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute, says the university was in clear violation of California law by asking her to remove the necklace. California law says that “state employees may wear crosses while they are performing their duties as long as the wearing does not interfere with the employees’ duties or harm the employer’s business interests.”

"The university has apologized for the event. “It was absolutely an inappropriate action for him to make that request of her,” a school spokesperson said. School president Ruben Arminana is trying to reach Jarvis to make an official apology to her."

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I'd like to note that the original request to remove the piece of jewelry came because it "may offend." Not that anyone had already been offended. The request was made based on a pre-emptive action founded on fear and an assumption of something that may happen that had not happened yet. The necklace wearing hadn't even violated any rules. For example, active firefighters do not wear metal jewelry to fight a fire. There are rules about that. (OSHA prohibits any facial hair, head gear, or jewelry that prohibits a respirator to seal tightly and no earrings that extend below the ear.). A request to a firefighter to remove earrings would be legitimate because it is supported by an existing policy for a good reason. It would also be a legitimate request if the University already had some kind of rule in place that no one could wear jewelry. Yet the request was made out of thin air to pre-empt a feeling that hadn't been expressed yet by someone who didn't exist.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16).

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The cross offends, it is never more clear than now. (Galatians 5:11). Charles Spurgeon said,

"The religion of Jesus is the most peaceful, mild, and benevolent religion that was ever propagated. When we compare it with any set of dogmas invented by men, there is not one of them that can stand the least comparison with it for gentleness, mildness, and love. As for the Muslim religion, it is the religion of the vulture; but the religion of Jesus is that of the dove-all is mercy, all is mild; it is, like its Founder, an embodiment of pure benevolence, grace, and truth. ... Strange, yet strangely true is it, that the cross of Christ has always been an offense, and that it has provoked the fiercest battles and the severest strifes which men have ever had with their fellowmen."

You have to ask yourself, 

--Did the student do the right thing by refusing to submit to a superior and remove the jewelry?
--Did she do the right thing by being aware of the University's mission and policy?
--Did she do the right thing by abandoning her commitment to work that day? (Colossians 3:17). Or did her departure from work ultimately bring attention to the situation for the betterment of all?

Our lesson is to be prepared, and not to be surprised when it happens to us. The student who had been asked to remove her cross, defied the request. Is that right action? She knew the university’s mission statement and she knew the request was at odds with it. Is it still reasonable to refuse a request by a superior? Do you know the policies of your workplace, of your town and country?

Here are the questions to mull over. Oppression and hatred IS coming, and is already here. US Military Chaplains were told not to pray in the name of Jesus. This AZ student was told not to wear a cross. Towns and Villages are told not to erect a nativity scene at Christmas. Workplace, civic, and personal restrictions against Christianity are already setting in. John MacArthur said on June 30, 2013 of the pollution into the church, "It will come like a flood ... This is going down fast." The thing to do is to have a response ready beforehand, and along these lines:

If wearing the cross is your outward representation of Christ, then decide which is more representative, the piece of jewelry itself, or the Christian wearer's behavior in all circumstances? Do you want to wear your cross at all costs, or use it to begin a dialog? Because, more often than not these days, it will spark a conversation.

I believe that the best thing to do is be ready with bible verses. For example, an imaginary conversation could go like this:

 "I'm sorry my jewelry offends you. The cross IS an offense as it says in Galatians 5:11. The cross offends because it reminds people that Jesus died for our sins, and we are all sinners it says in Romans 3:23. We will all stand in judgment before Jesus one day, called to account for those sins. Would you like to know more about how to stand before Him as righteous and not as an unjustified sinner?" and so on. You could be saying all this as you remove the jewelry. Slowly.

I don't have an answer for all scenarios, because I cannot imagine all scenarios. I hope that US chaplains were not surprised by the rule not to pray in the name of Jesus and had made their responses and decisions ahead of time. That is the point: it's coming and we need to be ready.

So how do we do that?

First, read the bible closely for explicit examples where we are told what to do or by seeing what the Apostles did, we can mirror their actions. Peter and John were told not to street preach. But they continued. However, their preaching in public came at a cost- they were jailed. (Acts 4:19–20, Acts 5:29). Be ready to absorb consequences, and think carefully on what they may be- marginalization at work, a poor work evaluation, job loss, incarceration, violence against you, or death, depending on the circumstance.

If the bible doesn't speak to an explicit instruction on an issue, look for implicit governance on various issues. If there is nothing implicit or explicit, then pray and prepare your heart to be led by the Spirit and not by the ego if a situation should arise.

It could happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Maybe while you're gassing up the car the guy at the next pump sees your cross necklace and calls you a name. Maybe you are told you can no longer pray at work before you eat your lunch. Maybe you are told you cannot bring your bible into the doctor's office to read while you wait. At any time satan could grab a situation and turn it for evil. The key is to be ready with a response that exalts Jesus and glorifies Him and He'll use it for Good.

Decide on some key verses and memorize them. Prepare your heart so that the adrenaline of the moment will not take over, lest you sin. Prepare your mind for acting in ways that exalt Jesus, not win the point in an argument. Pray for strength and wisdom ahead of time and during the time.

The most important thing is to glorify Jesus with our words and our actions. He said He is sending us out as sheep among wolves, therefore be as shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16).

What does that mean? Rev. Matt Slick explains in this mini-devotional:

"Mini-devotional - sheep among wolves"
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves," (Matt. 10:16).

"Jesus' words to his apostles were sobering.  The disciples were sent out as sheep among wolves.  That is, the Christians who would go forth to preach and teach the word amidst great hostility.  Wolves, of course, sought to devour the defenseless sheep and it is this analogy that Jesus uses to illustrate the relationship between the Christian teachers and the ungodly society.  But, Jesus does not tell us to blindly walk down a path of destruction and martyrdom.  He tells us that we are to be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.  In other words, the Christian should be very smart when it comes to avoiding danger and spreading the word, even using the laws of the land for his own protection and furthering of the truth.  Yet, the Christian is not to harm anyone.  The Christian is to be gentle."

"Notice that the Christian is told to emulate both the serpent and the dove.  These two creatures represent the differing functions and callings in which Christians must act as they go about preaching and teaching the word of truth.  We are not to sit idly by and let the wolves have their way.  Quite the contrary.  We oppose them strongly, shrewdly.  Yet we must be godly and not sin." ---end---

American Christians are not used to being challenged about their faith. It's time to get ready for the challenge: and meet it in the most Godly way possible.
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Further reading:

What did Jesus mean when He said to "not cast your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7:6)?

"When is civil disobedience allowed for a Christian?"

Is civil disobedience biblical?

How Should a Christian Respond to Hatred and Hostility?

Tony Miano describes being arrested by (UK) Wimbledon Police for speaking against sexual immorality, including homosexuality. (video, 17-min). "It was surreal. I was interrogated for my faith in Jesus Christ.")

5 comments:

  1. Matthew 10:19-20 19 "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say ; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

    Luke 21:14-15 14 "So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.

    -carolyn

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    1. Hi carolyn,

      Thanks so much for reading the essay and commenting. I always appreciate discussing scriptures.

      However, absent your comment, I am left to intuit what you meant by posting just the verses. If I am off-track, please correct me.

      I took your verses to mean that we should not prepare for conflict at all. That to do so would be going against scripture. I'd like to explore that a bit.

      The verses you posted were an instruction by Jesus to the Apostles that persecution will come and they will be handed over. This is consistent with the point of this blog essay. Americans have so far been insulated from the harshest persecution and only exposed to a pillow-soft version. However, those days are over.

      'Preparing what you should say' in the Greek as it is used in the verses above means memorizing a speech and practicing the exact words- in a court situation. We are not to go out with prepared speeches to say in front of judges. The Spirit will aid us in what to say when the time comes when we are arrested.

      However, and this is a big however, this is NOT to say that the Christian should not be a student of the bible and be prepared with Godly words in witnessing encounters, oppressive environments, and at work places. Psalm 119:11 says that we have hidden His word in our heart. 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

      We have to know scripture in order to be trained by it.

      Being aware of the civic laws is also biblical. Paul knew his rights as a Roman citizen and he employed those rights when he appealed to Rome. (Acts 22:25). The Lord then turned that around as a witnessing opportunity in Jail and to the magistrate.(Acts 22:30). During another council Paul knew "it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Acts 23:5) therefore he humbly apologized when it was pointed out that he had unknowingly insulted a Pharisee.

      1 peter 1:13 says "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Preparing for action means knowing the bible, deciding what Godly behavior is, and going out and doing it- leaving the providential direction and outcome to the Spirit.

      Being prepared with verses that you've memorized, girding our loins for the battle, fore-thinking opportunities to turn a negative situation around to sharing the Gospel in truth and in love is the duty for which we are put on the earth. Relying *solely* on the Spirit without having prayed, been wise, and having put verses in your heart is just wrong. It is testing the Lord.

      Here is what I am saying, persecution is coming: "But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5

      In other words, be prepared. :)

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  2. Hi Elizabeth, I appreciate your additional insight. We are not in disagreement. I am sorry that I didn't make a personal comment with my verses to clarify what I meant. Please forgive me, maybe this will help: 2 Tim 2:15 first - we are to know the word, rightly divided; then pray always 1 Thess 5:17; and then the verses I posted apply - when the challenge comes, let the Holy Spirit do the speaking. He will recall the applicable verses we need at any given time. As you said, we are not to go out with prepared speeches.

    Be wise like the men of Issachar, who understood their times and knew what to do. 1 Chr 12:32

    -carolyn

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    1. Thanks carolyn! I'm very glad you shared those verses, they are the other side to the bookend of living in this world. Both are necessary.

      If I could share a bit of a supernatural thing that happened to me...I was asked six years ago to speak my testimony at a county revival where several hundred people would be attending. I have never spoken my testimony before, being new to the area and fairly new to Christianity.

      My degrees and my profession is speaking. So of course I outlined the general structure of what I'd say, I also made sure I had some bible verses memorized that would be the foundation of my particular testimony. I believe these things are a duty and important in respecting the audience.

      Then I prayed to the Spirit to take over a lead as He willed.

      The moment came and I was nervous as all get-out. I remember approaching the podium and seeing the large crowd. The lights shined on my face, and I remember saying to myself, "Wow, there are a lot of people." Then I opened my mouth and I began to speak. I remember nothing else, absolutely nothing, until I concluded.

      My profession and long years of practice were to be aware of what I speak as I am speaking. 'Blacking out' was new to me.

      I stood there, and there was a silence for about 5 seconds before they clapped. I learned later the word for that is 'holy hush'. Everyone was looking at me like I'd grown two heads, and as I went back to the speaker area everyone in the waiting line was leaning forward looking at me too. Something extraordinarily supernatural had occurred.

      That certainly doesn't happen to me every time. On another occasion I expect to be challenged for wearing my cross necklace and I know unless I ready myself for that possibility I'll be stunned silent, and lose an opportunity to bring it around to Jesus by not having memorized Galatians 5.

      Either way, we need to be prepared of heart and mind, have memorized verses, but also like you posted, allow room for the Spirit to take it where He wants it to go. Emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation- and submission go hand in hand for His most glorious outcome. :)

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    2. That's a pretty amazing testimony. That's exactly what God means when He says the Holy Spirit will give you words in that hour. :)

      Thanks for sharing!

      -carolyn

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