Posted by: smstrouse | October 6, 2012

Atheists 1; Cheerleaders 1

So last week’s crusade against the insidious denial of the right of free speech to Christians was the announcement of ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday.’  This week brings us news of another battle between defenders of separation of church and state and defenders of free speech and religion.

It started with a group of cheerleaders from Kountze High School in southeast Texas, whose football game pep rally repertoire includes hollering out the praises of Jesus Christ. Plus, as a dramatic and inspirational opening to each game, the players enter the field, crashing through a 20-foot banner held up by the cheerleaders, proclaiming a Bible verse such as “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

But someone complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an organization that fights for the separation of church and state, i.e. (gasp!) atheists.  After receiving a letter from FFRF, the school agreed to abide by the Supreme Court decision requiring religion to be kept out of public schools and banned the banners. Round One: Atheists

But then the cheerleaders and their supporters hit back. They brought their plight to the attention of the Liberty Institute law firm, which has taken this on as a major defense in the  attack against religious freedom.  Liberty won a temporary restraining order against implementation of the ban, and the banners continued to provide a biblical entrance for the home team .   Round Two:  Cheerleaders

A hearing will be held this month and both sides will make their arguments. A Facebook group created after the ban, Support Kountze Kids Faith, is up and thriving.

Personally, I have to side with the atheists.  Yes, on the grounds of the separation of church and state.  But also on the grounds of crappy theology.  The thought of a bunch of big bruiser high school jocks crashing through a Bible verse is appalling in itself.  But the idea that somehow Christ is on the side of ‘our team’ is the most insidious of all.  The idea that the strength we receive from God will give us victory on the football field translates all too well into the ‘God is on our side’ mentality of violence and war. Listen to the old Bob Dylan song, With God On Our Side, with words like:
I was taught and brought up, to the laws to abide
     And that land that I live in, has God on its side.

The fact that a lawyer from the Liberty Institute has said that the cheerleaders aren’t asking anyone to believe in Christianity or accept the faith doesn’t cut it. His comment that “they are just well wishes” is as insulting to their faith as it is to mine.  I can’t believe that these good Kountz, TX Christians would call a Bible verse “just well wishes.”  I certainly wouldn’t.  Either you take the words seriously or you don’t.

I take Christianity seriously. And I get really annoyed with this kind of nonsense; it makes all of look like idiots. It’s hard enough to get a message out that we really are about compassion and justice for all, especially for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.  This is what we need strength for, to do the work God calls us to do.

So I hope the cheerleaders lose. And if they do, I trust that their faith in Christ will give them the strength to deal with it.

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Responses

  1. Howdy! This blog post could not be written much better!
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    He continually kept talking about this. I am going to send this article to him.
    Fairly certain he’ll have a great read. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. My choice: c. None of the above.

    I agree that the Cheerleaders miss the mark in their theology, but I would call it misplaced theology rather than crappy. So many teens struggle with issues of self-esteem, a sense of belonging, of not being understood, that it is never wrong to remind them that “I can do everything–I can perform to the best of my ability–through Christ who strengthens me.” And they should be told that Christ is on their side, and on the side of the other team, because the real opponents are not other players, but the forces of evil. As Martin Luther wrote in 1529:
    God’s Word forever shall abide, No thanks to foes, who fear it;
    For God himself fights by our side With weapons of the Spirit.

    If they are to use tenets of Christianity to encourage their teens, they should do so in the proper context. If they could do that, they might stand a chance at withstanding the atheists’ challenge.

    On the other hand, the atheists do not deserve to win either. If it were strictly a first amendment issue, I might concur. But, through groups such as the FFRF, organized atheism in the 21st century has another agenda. By definition, it has become just as much a religion (a religion of non-belief) as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Of course, the leaders deny being a religion, and in doing so, are able to use the first amendment to push everyone else out of governmental affairs, establishing themselves as a state religion.

    Interestingly, the Gnostics of the second and third centuries claimed that knowledge itself is essential and efficacious in the quest for God; the new atheism uses scientific knowledge in the quest to disprove the existence of God.

    The Gnostics were opposed by Irenaeus, who sought to show the cohesiveness and comprehensiveness of Christian faith. Equally important, he recognized the need to provide an evocative theology that provokes response, focuses energy, and organizes life.

    He described the theologian’s task:
    Having more understanding does not mean that people can change the basic idea [of Christian faith]…but it consists in working out the things that have been said in parables and building them into the foundation of the faith; in expounding the activity of God for the sake of humankind…in showing clearly how…in declaring…in showing why…in teaching…in unfolding…in not being silent… (De haereses. I.10.2)

    Like the Gnostic leaders of the past, the atheists rely on attracting simple hearers through colorful rhetoric. And like Irenaeus, we must look past the skillful language and point out the “heresies” hidden in their statements.

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