Complacency in the Midst of Growing Intolerance

This past December, the authors of The Manhattan Declaration were surprised to find that Apple, Inc. had quietly pulled their iPhone app from the Apple store, without notice and in response to a relatively small group of complaints against its availability. (I say “relatively small” because the petition to remove the declaration had approximately 4,700 signatures, while the declaration itself has over 500,000.) Apple’s original rationale was that the document was “offensive to large groups of people.” My husband wrote about this when it first occurred; you can read his blog here.

Since then, the co-authors of the declaration petitioned Apple to reinstate the app, submitting somewhere in the realm of 50,000 signatures.

I read yesterday that Apple has responded to the request for reinstatement: “No thanks.” An excerpt from the explanation reads as follows:

Apple rejected the app, saying in a letter on December 22, “references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected. We have evaluated the content of this application and consider its contents to be objectionable and potentially harmful to others.”

Now, I am not an activist. I force myself to engage in politics because I think it’s the responsible thing to do as an American, but I don’t engage at the level that makes public policy and government initiatives a regular feature of dinner party conversations. You’ll more likely find me talking about Snooki from “Jersey Shore.”

But as I’ve watched this Apple iPhone app debate play out, and read the arguments for why this might be a far bigger issue than whether or not one’s iPhone can easily access and share The Manhattan Declaration, I have realized that I might be far too complacent about threats to my faith and living it out in our culture.

Yes, I can drive to church, park my car and walk in without being harassed or injured. I can carry my Bible into any restaurant or coffee shop and open it up if I want, without being arrested. I can even write a blog proclaiming Christ and post it on the Internet, with my name attached to it, without fear of it putting my family in harm’s way.

At least, those things are all true now.

Already, however, simply standing up and expressing your beliefs – just expressing your own, not attacking someone else’s – is deemed to be “objectionable and potentially harmful to others,” at least according to the whiz kids over in Silicon Valley. This is essentially what The Manhattan Declaration has attempted to do – to affirm the beliefs of Christians in the culture in which we live.

Another example, closer to home.

One of our daughters came home from school this past week with a three-page document from her health teacher that all parents were asked to read and sign, giving written permission for her to participate in sex education in the Columbia, Mo., public school system. Some of the information she will be exposed to in that class will undoubtedly create a tension in her as she tries to synch up what her public education is telling her with what her Bible is telling her. Yet, to voice concern and ask that she not participate in that particular lesson would label her – in her words – as “the weird kid.”

While I’m sure that the concepts of human sexuality presented in this class will differ at a few points from what I believe is a God-honoring view of sexuality, I’m not going to prevent my daughter from participating in that discussion. I believe that a dialogue of differing viewpoints won’t ultimately shake her faith or her understanding of what God’s Word says; His truth always prevails in the hearts of those who belong to Him (John 10:27-29).

In contrast, though, it seems those intolerant to Christianity are not willing to even allow dialogue to occur, but are instead – more and more often – shouting down those expressing their Christian beliefs. Those few voices, whose complaints to Apple successfully removed the app in question and effectively ended one such dialogue, seem to be gaining strength. If, as believers in Christ, we’re not paying close attention to what’s going on in our culture, these kinds of events may well begin to significantly change how we live…how we’re allowed to live out our faith.

The authors of The Manhattan Declaration are warning us about this very valid concern, and it seems as though the powers that be at Apple have (ironically) affirmed the danger. If we as Christians don’t respond to our culture’s increasing intolerance to Christ, we may one day be very surprised to find we can’t just walk into our favorite coffee shop with our Bibles in hand. After all, some people might find the ideas found in that book offensive.

Maybe you think it’s an overreaction to suggest that the currents could change so fundamentally in a country founded in large part on religious freedom. About 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln declared April 30, 1863 as a day of national fasting, “set apart for humiliation, fasting and prayer…that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

I have to wonder how well it would be received today if a powerful politician were to invoke such a resolution? Would an iPhone app carrying the text of Lincoln’s speech be allowed to pass through the tolerance net of today’s powerful culture makers?

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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