Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Silence of the...

FREEDOM. What does it mean? Who does it apply to? Is it really free? These are all questions which have come to light over the generations. Once again, the question has come to light in the form of the media. As many of you have probably heard, Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, recently made several racist remarks while in an argument with his girlfriend. If you listened to the audio clip, you probably heard her baiting him into saying more and more. Whereas I question the ethics (or lack thereof) within the deceit, he did still make the statements. Though he may have been baited, we know that the only thing to come out of the mouth of a man is that which is already in his heart (Luke 6:45). Ultimately, we have seen that Donald Sterling is a bigot. This is the inescapable truth. As a result, Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, took action in the form of banning Sterling from anything NBA related and fining him $2.5 million. On top of this, he is pushing for Sterling to be forced to sell the team to a new owner.

There are many out there who think this is a valiant move. Donald Sterling is the new trend. A quick look at Facebook, Twitter, or any other media outlet will show countless individuals praising Silver for his quick decision. There are herds of celebrities who are condemning Sterling as a hateful bigot. Multiple sponsors of the Clippers have withdrawn their support. It’s clear what the world thinks of this man. On the flip side, you have others who feel the punishment is unjustified since they were the beliefs of a single man in his private life. They say that, since Sterling never publicly vocalized his beliefs and never discriminated against anybody, he hasn’t done anything worthy of a punishment. Personally, though I think he is a despicable man, I still find myself in the latter category. However, for the purpose of this blog, that’s neither here nor there.

In this moment, I’d like you to think of the future. We’ve seen how the lynch
mob mentality can silence individuals. Let a man speak an opinion that goes against what the masses believe and he’s sure to receive backlash. We saw this when Chick-Fil-A President, Dan Cathy, made a public comment regarding his belief in marriage being between one man and one woman. The backlash was everything from vandalism to sponsor withdrawal to media fire. Where will we, as Christians, stand in the future?

While I see Sterling in the current news, I can’t help but think of what lies ahead. You can agree or disagree with the NBA’s decision but it won’t change the fact that we all need to be concerned about our freedom to follow Christ unashamed (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8). You may think this is unrelated. What on earth does a bigot being shunned and punished have to do with a Christian standing up to values that God Himself has instated? Well, how do we define values in the world? Can you honestly say that your values line up perfectly with the values of the atheist next door? Do they align themselves perfectly with the homosexual across the street? For that matter, do they even align themselves perfectly with the professing Christian in the pew next to you on Sunday mornings? Truth be told, values differ from person to person regardless of their walk of life. That being said, if we are to take the different walks of life into account, we can see a stark contrast between what Christianity teaches as good and what the world professes to be good (Isaiah 5:20). As a result, if you stand for Christ, you are sure to receive backlash at some point.

We live in a world where atheism is on the rise. Whereas I don’t hate atheists, I will unashamedly speak out against atheism as I find it to be blasphemous against the Lord. I’ve learned to refine my methods over the years but there are still many who view me as arrogant, ignorant, or hateful. Just as with Cathy, if a Christian dares to say marriage is between one man and one woman, he is viewed as an anti-gay bigot. While it isn’t a fair assessment, sadly, it is the way it is. If a man such a Sterling can be silenced for NOT vocalizing his beliefs, how much more should we expect to be silenced when we DO proclaim ours? What kind of punishment does the future hold for Christians who stand for Christ? Taking it one step further, will we see a day when Christians are punished simply for holding a private belief in Christ even if they never make it known? In fact, we have a biblical example of this in the form of Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). He had to sneak out in the middle of the night to see Christ because, if he had made his beliefs known, he would have not only been punished but he also would have surely lost his status as one of the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea is another prime example (John 19:39).

I think we’ve taken our freedom and liberty for granted for far too long. This didn’t always exist. There was a time when followers of Christ had to live in fear of what the masses would do to them if they ever found out what they believed in. Christianity is being shunned more and more by the world. It’s being viewed as an organization which consists of nothing more than hypocrites and extreme zealots. As this caricature gains popularity, I foresee many problems coming our way. Are you prepared to be silenced?

~ Travis W. Rogers

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