Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is New York City the Most Hostile-to-Christians City in North America?

Maybe so.

The indispensable Terry Mattingly details the controversy (about to be a crisis for many churches in NYC) precipitated by the US Second Circuit Court's ruling that NYC public schools can rightfully exclude religious groups from renting facilities for worship, overturning the effect of a decade-old Supreme Court ruling that religious groups are entitled to the same access as nonreligious ones.

The argument is based on the notion that holding a worship service somehow transforms the space into something other than what that space is. Oddly enough, that seems to concede to religious groups a power not available to nonreligious peoples, the ability to do a kind of sacramental magic.

Of course, the religious groups renting NYC churches are almost without exception evangelicals who eschew sacramentalism in its more magical manifestations. So it's the opponents of these groups, not the groups themselves, with the overestimate of the religion's mystical powers, it seems.

Mattingly notes what's really at work here: a deep-seated fear of evangelicalism among NYC's prosperous, nervous hipsters. SWNID has seen that fear in our limited involvement in ministry in NYC, as dark rumors have circulated in chatrooms and bulletin boards about sinister evangelicals infiltrating NYC from the benighted "Midwest" and "South," having attended shadowy academies of brainwashing to become "church planters," luring people into a mind-control cult that oppresses women, gays and minorities by offering them coffee, casseroles and camaraderie. Light the torches! Gather the pitchforks! Throw them tarred and feathered into the Hudson!

All this comes despite the self-conscious, deliberate, consistent efforts of these churches to reach out with meaningful, sacrificial gestures of love and acceptance. No one said that this would be easy: quite the opposite, in fact. Seeds and soils and all that.

This is serious: we know of at least one established congregation with a decade of happy relations with the school from which it rents that now has about two weeks to find another locale for services unless something gets reversed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

NYC Public schools have been so hurt by budget cuts that they are welcoming anyone who might help out with anything. While that is the case, a church who wants to meet in a school and is willing to lend a helping hand from anything to providing school supplies to cleaning a gymnasium are going to find that they are welcome, with some exceptions, of course. They key is building a relationship with teachers and administrators. And that's how it should be.