Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Texas Cheerleaders' Massacre (of the Bible)

Lord, How We Need Some 2KT

I understand that the first amendment’s original intent was to prevent in particular the establishment of a state church by Congress and to prevent in general the entanglement of federal government and the institutional churches. However, the Jeffersonian doctrine of the separation of church and state (not itself in the Constitution) has come to be understood as requiring the privatization of faith (believe what you will but keep it to yourself) and as confining the practice of faith to worshiping communities (require what you will in your houses of worship do not try to extend that to secular society or even to secondary religious institutions). 

Separation of church and state has come to mean the separation of religion from society. And this idea has been been extended to absurd lengths. Some think that the public square must be absolutely naked. The defense of this requirement of full nudity is covered by the slogan “Separation of church and state!”.

But a recent court case has me sympathetic to slogan (as misused and misunderstood). It is the case is that of the Kountze, TX, cheerleaders who have a tradition of making banners with Bible verses. These banners are displayed on the fences of the school stadium. A big one is stretched between home goalposts for the team to break as they run through the banner to take the field.

Threatened by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, school officials banned the cheerleaders’ banners. Last season the cheerleaders, represented by the Liberty Institute, gained a temporary extension of the right of cheerleaders to continue to make and and display their banners. On May 9 of this year a state judge issued a permanent ruling that the cheerleaders may use Bible verses on their banners.

I know you are wondering what sorts of verses the cheerleaders use for their banners. Well, as you might expect, there is the verse whose reference (Philippians 4:13) Tim Tebow had etched in his eye black: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Some of the other verses are, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us,” and, “For it is God who is at work enabling you both to will and to act for his good purpose.” 

The judge’s decision has been hailed as a great victory for freedom of speech (yes) and for freedom of religion (no) by Gov.Rick Perry, the Liberty Institute, the cheerleaders, their community, and by Christians around the country.

However, whatever we think of the ruling as law, we ought to be embarrassed by the cheerleaders’ banners. 

To say they have used these verses without regard to the original context and intent is an understatement and exercise of restraint on my part. To say that they have at best trivialized and at worst blasphemed the Word of God is less restrained but not an overstatement.

I can hear some world-and-life-view advocates saying, “Yes, but don’t you know the Bible applies to all of life?” to which I respond, “No, I don't know that. To the contrary, I know it doesn’t - at least not in this way.” These cheerleaders and all who would support their banners (except on freedom of speech grounds) misinterpret and misuse the Word of God. 

The holy Apostles wrote to encourage and strengthen believers struggling with sin, going through life’s ordinary trials and troubles, and facing persecution and martyrdom with the assurance of Christ’s present strengthening help and with the declaration of future victory through Christ’s defeat of death for himself and believers. The writers of Scripture did not write, even unknowingly, to motivate football players. Win one for the Gipper? Yes. Win one for and through Christ? Me genoito!

However, I am sure these cheerleaders and others will continue to use Bible verses, and so displaying the spirit of unity and charity, accepting defeat, and wanting to spare them flipping through their Bibles looking for new material I have some suggestions for 2013. “You shall break them with a rod of iron dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9). “O God, break the teeth in their mouths” (Psalm 58:6). (There’s some smash mouth football for ya.)

But there are other ways to go which might show equally how the Bible applies to all of life.” How about, “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), or, “Be kind one to another” (Ephesians 4:32), or, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

But, expecting they will not want to go this direction, I have another possibility, “I wish that
those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12) Perhaps Jackie Sherrill had this verse in mind when in 1992 he had the 400 pound bull, Wild Willie, castrated in front of his Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

Just trying to be helpful, you know.


biggsenator said...

One of your best.

Christopher Lee said...

Pastor Smith,
Thanks for the article. I agree with you about the gross out of context display of Bible verses.

However, please elaborate on how this an issue of 2KT?

The Christian Curmudgeon said...

I was using 2K as shorthand for "don'try to Christianize everything" or "reject civil relgion." The effort of the cheerleaders is a very hamhanded example - taking Bible verses and applying them to football.

Timmy Jimmy said...

You put this far more delicately than I could. Good job.

Dan said...

Well put. I have to admit that a smile creeped across my face with the "break the teeth in their mouths" suggestion. We both know that Mom ain't gonna go for that, and that appears always to wind up being what's final.

Curt Day said...

This is an excellent article. Thank you for writing it. I will be sharing it on facebook and my blog.