PERSPECTIVE: One by one
The United States of America just commemorated one of the darkest days in its history, which has come to be known simply as 9/11. Few Americans alive on that infamous day have forgotten where they were the moment those planes flew into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. No event has so gripped our nation and scarred our united psyche since Pearl Harbor.
It was both our darkest hour and at the same time our greatest hour. The stories of heroics that have been told from that day fill volumes. Because of the Oklahoma City bombing, Oklahoma disaster relief personnel were given immediate acceptance since people in New York knew we understood. Our Baptist Disaster Relief chaplains manned the temporary morgue. Day after day, they ministered to the first responders who brought bodies and body parts to be cared for lovingly. It was a tough job, but all Oklahoma Baptists can take pride in the service rendered during those excruciating days.
Christian organizations served in the many years after the tragedy to meet the needs of the thousands of family members who suffered losses as well as the heart-rending and emotional scars of caregivers. The involvement of evangelical Christian groups was enormous. Southern Baptists, as the largest evangelical denomination in America, stepped to the forefront. Joe Williams, retired director of chaplaincy for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and a lead chaplain during the Oklahoma City bombing, moved to the New York area and spent months ministering to those faced with enormous emotional and spiritual problems from the 9/11 event. Oklahoma and Southern Baptists supported him and his work of mercy generously.
This support by Oklahoma and Southern Baptists makes it all the more sad that when our nation stopped to look back at the tragedy and paused to commemorate this dark event, evangelical Christians were by and large ignored by government leaders. At the National Cathedral, an ecumenical service was held that included Muslims and other non-Christian groups, but no evangelical groups. Yes, the National Cathedral is an Episcopal church and is certainly considered Christian, but a great distance from evangelical Christianity. My dismay is not just that the largest non-Catholic denomination was ignored, but evangelical Christianity as a whole. The event at Ground Zero reflected the same approach.
At other times, I have written regarding the intolerance by our tolerant society toward evangelical Christianity. Inch by inch a concerted effort is in the process of eliminating the influence and public acceptance of evangelical and conservative biblical Christianity from the public square. Some thought my warnings were an overreach—I suggest the evidence is so clear and incontrovertible that it is no longer debatable.
What shall we do? I suggest that loud pronouncements bemoaning a lost influence will do little good. Protestations to those who worship at the temple of tolerance (who have displayed remarkable tolerance toward all but evangelical Christians) will have little impact. So what do we do when squeezed from the public square?
I have a simple suggestion. It won’t wow you, but here it is. Live the Gospel and share the Gospel one by one. The impact of Christianity is not found in the buildings of government. While having godly leaders will bring great blessing, our ultimate strength is found in the church house and your house. When we live a vibrant faith, consistently pray and share the powerful life-changing Gospel with others, the salt and light of the Gospel will have high impact.
Consider East Asia who eradicated every remnant of religion (as they called it) from the public square. Their goal was to render all religion, and particularly Christianity, as null and void. The foundations were destroyed—or so they thought. In the years since communism took control, Christianity has grown more than at any time in history. Today some missioligists estimate approximately 30,000 people a day in East Asia profess faith in Christ.
Followers of the religion of tolerance who are all together intolerant toward evangelical Christians seek to eliminate us from the public square. While I wish they would fail in their intolerant efforts, I see them gaining ground. But I have no fear. The power of evangelical Christianity is not tied to our ability to be present on national venues of government; it is tied to the consistent living of our faith and sharing our faith boldly one person at a time.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.