The United States of America was founded upon Christian principles, and throughout the history of our nation our Christian heritage has been respected by our government officials, until the middle of the Twentieth Century. Since that time Christianity has come under increasing attack from government officials at all levels, but particularly from those in our national government. To put this trend in perspective, we invited to our conference Dr. Frank Wright who is the president of the National Religious Broadcasters. As such he is on the firing line in the battle to protect freedom of expression for American Christians. For 25 years he worked with the ministry of Dr. James Kennedy. Dr. Wright's topic at our conference was "The Challenge of Government" (watch).
What lessons can we learn from this system of opposition that we have seen over and over again a thousand times? What can we learn in terms of our mission to advance truth and bring the mind of Christ to the culture?
First, realize that in dealing with step one of the Politics of Opposition that being ignored is not all that bad of a thing. When they ignore you, when you can fly a little bit under the radar screen, you can accomplish a great deal. When you are engaged in cultural reformation it may not be a great idea to hold up a flag and wave it in front of your enemy and tell them what you're doing. It might be a good idea to go about the business of proclaiming truth in attempting to transform the culture without so much fanfare.
Second, remember that attempts to marginalize your viewpoint are really a sign of weakness on their part, and it really becomes a platform for a response from you. When they try to say your views are out of the mainstream, that's an opportunity to respond.
We could all learn from a technique that I learned from Dr. James Kennedy many years ago that he called the Judo Technique. Like in all forms of martial arts, taking Judo as an example, what's typically done is you attempt to use the force of your opponent's blow to throw them off balance and use their energy and force against them to defeat them. Likewise, Dr. Kennedy used to talk about using the Judo Technique in using the force of your opponents blow and turning it against them. So, when someone attempts to assign you to the fringes of the debate, you respond by saying, "I'm glad you said that my viewpoint is not widely held, because that reveals to me you don't even understand the foundation of what I'm trying to say. Let me stop for a moment and explain to you what our viewpoint really is and then you might be able to make a decision about whether you want to oppose it or not."
When someone comes at you and says your viewpoint is fringe, what's the motivation that's driving them? It's their pride. So, they act condescendingly as though they understand Christian truth, though they really don't. You can turn that against them and make your case as persuasively as possible, having disarmed your opponent. In this way, when one tries to dismiss somebody as being on the fringe of an argument, that's nothing more than a high school debate team tactic. It's easily overcome as long as you can forcefully proclaim the truth.
Third, remember that the attacks against the factual basis of your viewpoint are also an opportunity to speak truth to a culture that doesn't believe in truth. I don't want you to miss this point. The culture out there today says, "We don't believe in truth." They don't believe truth even exists. But, when you argue for the factual basis of what you believe and they say that factual basis is false, in the world of logic they are arguing that since your position is false then something else must be true. They are arguing that they do in fact believe in truth. They are really undermining their own position when they do that. The very argument that your viewpoint is not true therefore presupposes another viewpoint that is. This is an important advantage.
Fourth, when someone declares the debate to be over, recognize that you have won an important victory. We saw this in a lot a ways certainly in the Global Warming debate. When Al Gore stood up and said, "Listen! The debate is over." You knew for sure it was not over. When anybody says the debate is over you can be sure it is not. It means that they are trying to get away from the strength of your argument and are trying to declare it something beyond debate.
Fifth, we need to recognize that the onset of ad hominem attacks is the first sign that the opposition has become fearful of the strength of your arguments. When they begin to attack you, it's a sign that they recognize the strength of your argument and are becoming somewhat desperate in their efforts to restrict it. This is a signal that they are fearful of your ideas and they must strike at your personal credibility in order to undermine it.
Some who have been around long enough remember the Clinton days and poor Paula White and the accusations that she made against former President Clinton. Here lies a good example of this ad hominem kind of approach. It wasn't until Paula White's assertions became more credible and could no longer be ignored that the ad hominem attacks began. What they used to call the "Clinton attack machine" went into action. It was then that James Carville went on national television and essentially called Paula White "trailer park trash." Shameful! Shameful, but reflective of the fact that they couldn't argue against the facts any longer and had to attack this poor woman who was standing against the most powerful man in the world.
Sixth, we need to recognize that attempts to both restrict and prohibit the advance of your ideas signals the onset of full combat. We can't just deal with all of this intellectually. We are now at the place where all of these attacks are going to demand from the people of God a response. When the attacks shift from the ad hominem to efforts to restrict and prohibit, we're engaged in a great battle not just to defend our ideas, but to defend our very liberties. We must defend the First Amendment which guarantees us the right to free speech and free exercise of our religion.
It wasn't too many years ago that there was a Weather Channel commentator named Heidi Cullen who argued that meteorologists who don't agree with the Global Warming consensus should have their credentials revoked. That's what I call prohibiting the expression of your ideas! You're a meteorologist. You spent who knows how many years, probably 10-12 years in school, studying all this to earn a doctorate of meteorology, and then she comes along and says, "If you don't accept the Global Warming consensus your credentials should be completely revoked." She's not dealing with the ideas or the facts surrounding the ideas. She's just trying to take you out. Here is a signal that significant damage is being done by your stance and is viewed by the other side as something that must be contained and must be prohibited.
The Final Strategy
I hope you can also see how the Politics of Opposition has been used against the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the ages. It fits perfectly. Initially, the Gospel was ignored, and yet it spread exuberantly. Attempts were made by religious and political leaders to marginalize the Gospel by declaring it a small splinter sect of misguided people whose views no reasonable person held. That's the same thing as marginalizing.
They attacked the factual basis of the Gospel from the very afternoon of the day Jesus rose from the dead. "He didn't rise from the dead. They stole His body. The Bible is not true. It's full of errors." The factual basis of Christianity has been attacked since the afternoon of the day Christ rose from the dead.
And, after centuries of argumentation during which the Gospel encircled the globe, skeptics of the last century also attempted to declare the debate as being over. How did they do that? They kept declaring that God's dead. "Hey, God's dead! Didn't you all get the message? The debate is over. God is dead. Christianity is a falsehood based on false premises."
The only strategy remaining is to silence Christians by making it illegal to share the Gospel.