If you live long enough and stay well-read, there’s no telling where you might find an inspirational example. Two sterling cases this week involving an old man and a young woman, a believing Christian and a non-believer, certainly pointed that out to me. But their examples also raised some troubling questions.
First, Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Ernie Harwell passed away last week at the age of 92. For those who don’t follow baseball, you didn’t have to be a fan to appreciate this consummate gentleman who made everyone who crossed his path feel important. In the Midwest, especially in his home base of Detroit, Harwell was revered for his wonderful, folksy style of broadcasting a ballgame, and for his humble, approachable demeanor away from the ballpark. He truly lived his faith in every aspect of life, and the reaction to his death proved once again that certain qualities like character, integrity, and treating others with kindness and respect never go out of style. The most beautiful thing about Harwell’s life was that he modeled, as best as humanly possible, the One whom he claimed as his Savior, and therefore didn’t have to “push” his faith on anyone. What his faith did for him—how it infused his life—spoke for itself. If there was any word that was most assuredly not in Ernie Harwell’s lexicon, it was “confrontational.” Yet in all that I’ve read and heard about him, he never apologized for what he believed.
Juxtapose the example of Harwell with columnist and author S.E. Cupp, who has recently released a provocative book, Losing Our Religion, about the increasing hostility toward Christianity in America. Here’s an excerpt that was recently published on the Fox News web site via Simon & Shuster:
“The media is giving a massive microphone to the anti-Christian extremists in the explicit hope that they succeed. Christians, if they care about their way of life, should fight back against the tyrannical media with as much vitriol and aggression as the godless Left is fighting them with.
“Pretty soon the war won’t be over Nativity scenes and Christmas trees in the town square—it will be over Nativity scenes and Christmas trees in their own homes. Does that sound paranoid? What’s to stop the secular Left from ridding all of America of religious acts of devotion? They are already telling us what kinds of lightbulbs to use in our homes. They’re telling us we can’t smoke in our own homes. They’re regulating our water and our fast food and our soda consumption. And all with the help of an eager leftist press that is telling you in newspapers, on the radio, over the internet, and on television that you’re a bad person if you neglect the environment, eat McDonald’s, smoke too much, or drive a pickup truck. The liberal secular press is already attacking your values. Attacking your God is implied. If you follow the media’s assault on Christianity to its logical conclusion, the fight to preserve Christian values and public worship will be over when there’s nothing left to preserve.”
Pretty powerful stuff, isn’t it? And all of it written by a professed non-believer, as Cupp noted elsewhere in the same excerpt. It’s hard to argue with her extrapolation of today’s truth to a potentially darker future as atheists and others primarily on the Left push harder to eliminate God from American life. But, much as it tempts me to “fight back…with as much vitriol and aggression as the godless Left..” I’m just not sure that’s what we’re supposed to do. Is there another way—a way that allows us to make our points, keep our dignity, not compromise our principles, and yet not have to raise our voices and try to out-shout our enemies?
Now there is talk that this year’s National Day of Prayer may be the last. Since, seemingly, the only thing that stands in the way of killing the day of prayer is the president’s half-hearted appeal of a district judge’s ruling in favor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s suit, it may be that only the heartfelt prayers and supportive actions of many Americans will save it. As the intro to one of my favorite Christian radio programs says, “God is still on the throne…and prayer changes things.” Simply put, but so true.
The question we need to face, whether it comes to the survival of the National Day of Prayer or many other issues that involve our freedom, is this: How confrontational should we be? How confrontational must we be in order to be heard? In the end, we’ll all need to figure that out for ourselves. For me, the Ernie Harwell approach of respecting the dignity of everyone is what I would strive to follow. For others, the confrontational style of S.E. Cupp may work better. In the end, there’s a time and a place for both approaches if used wisely.