Do you have a child or grandchild who is about to start their college career? If not, do you have a love for our First Amendment freedoms of speech? Then, you will be interested in a recent article in BreakPoint Daily, a blog belonging to the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Eric Mataxes and Stan Guthrie write: The University of Iowa is being sued by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (ICF) for being barred from campus along with 37 other groups for violating the school’s human rights policy. ICF ran afoul of this policy because its charter required that its leaders actually be Christians.
The school accused ICF of discriminating against people of different faiths, or no faith. Of course, no group can keep its distinct character by allowing people who hold beliefs antithetical to its core values to lead it. Daniel Blomberg of the Becket law firm told the Christian Posts Universities should allow students the space to form their own groups that challenge and grow their sincere beliefs. Banning religious groups from having religious leaders flattens diversity and impoverishes the campus. Other groups barred from campus at Iowa are the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, Young Life, the Latter-day Saint Student Association, the Imam Mahdi Organization, and the Sikh Awareness Club.
A spokesman for ICF said: We’re grateful to have been part of the university community for 25 years. Because we love our school, we hope it reconsiders and lets religious groups continue to authentically reflect their religious roots.”
This should sound familiar. Last year, Michigan’s Wayne State University expelled ICF from campus for requiring that its leaders affirm Christian faith. In March, after ICF filed suit for religious discrimination Wayne State backed down.
According to Christianity Today, ICF lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ “all comers” policy.” And for now, Iowa is allowing ICF back on campus until the lawsuit is ended.
What do we do in the face of blatant discrimination against ICF and other religious groups on our campuses? First, pray. This is a spiritual battle. Second, if your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, is about to attend a secular college, find out what its policies are. If they’re discriminating against religious groups, speak up — and if they don’t satisfy your concerns, send your dollars and your kids elsewhere. The same goes for alums. Third, remember that opposition is par for the course for believers. Paul wrote to Timothy: All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. However, Paul also defended his rights in the Roman courts so that the gospel could go forward. So thank you ICF, for fighting the good fight.
Sometimes, it’s possible to be read a commentary on cultural issues but you have no personal experiences to corroborate it. Then there are times when you read a commentary on cultural issues that affirms your personal experiences. Unfortunately, it is the latter that stands at the center of this month’s Messenger article.
Here’s the personal experience. In a recent conversation with a friend I was told that his oldest son has been married ten years. He and his wife have one child and plan to have no more. This friend has two other sons, both married, but neither wants to have children. The reason is simple: having children will prevent them from having enough money to travel and to purchase the things that they want to buy. In addition, child care costs are oppressive. Said another way: Children will keep us from enjoying life.
Here’s the commentary on cultural issues as penned by John Stonestreet, writing for Breakpoint Daily: Americans are having fewer and fewer babies, and the New York Times wants to know why. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average American woman will have 1.76 children during her lifetime. To put that in perspective, that’s lower than the largely secular Western European countries of France, Norway and Sweden. It’s only 10 percent higher than China, with its history of forced abortions and the “one-child,” now “two-child” policy.
The NYT recently ran an article entitled, “Americans are having fewer babies.” The reason is found in one word, “economics.” Four of the top five answers cited financial or economic reasons, led by “Child care is too expensive.” The top two non-economic reasons were: “Want more time for the children I have” and “Want more leisure time.”
Financial and economic considerations play an important role in the choices people make as to when to have children and how many children to have. But the key words are “when” and “how many.” Nothing in the Times’ article challenges the cultural assumptions economic considerations are driving down fertility rates in the Western world.
The first assumption to consider is what we mean in the West by “the good life.” In Luke 12, Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” But modern ideas about the good life turn this on its head. Covetousness is the dominant marketing strategy in our nation. In fact, we’re not even sold stuff anymore; we’re sold experiences, self-fulfillment, novelty, and most of all, freedom from any restraint and consequences. That’s especially true regarding children. For many Americans having kids is a discretionary activity, like collecting classic cars or visiting every parrot sanctuary in the world. Unfortunately, “many Americans” includes Christians. The indissoluble link between sex, marriage, and children may be the single most-ignored, most obvious biblical principle in Christian circles.
Christians, of all people, should understand that self-sacrifice is at the heart of what the Bible calls the good life. The only way to save our life is to lose it. For many Christians, that starts with children. Marriage, “from the beginning” in God’s plan for humanity has both unitive and procreative functions. It’s why we mourn with couples who experience the deep pain of infertility. We know something is wrong. On the other hand, intentionally childless marriages are incompatible with God’s intention for marriages. This would be true even if our fertility rate were three times what it is now.
But, of course, it isn’t, which leaves me wondering if we aren’t taking our cues from the wrong sources: a culture that worships self, pursues freedom from restraint and consequence as the good life, and ultimately separates the pleasures of sex from the contexts of marriage and procreation.