Gary: Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from last October’s Winnipeg Free Press under the headline, “Lord’s Prayer Controversy Leaves Lasting Scars for Farm Family.”
Except for one dark, lingering scar, their home was just another farm in the Canadian prairie. Near a small Manitoba town 80 km west of Winnipeg, a screen door slams as Sanford Tate runs outside to make sure husband Fred has the dog with him as he starts up the tractor. “There’s not much left for us here now,” she said, with the voice of a woman grateful to have someone with whom to talk.
For more than a decade, the Tates have steered clear of the people of MacGregor, where, as a high school student, their son Chris garnered national headlines by refusing to stand during the Lord’s Prayer. Ever since, they have endured death threats and vandalism as they continue to pick hunks of scrap iron out of their fields and watch for holes dug under cover of night to sabotage farm equipment.
“You can’t stay friends with people like that,” Tate says. “When you have to watch your back constantly, if you can’t trust people, there’s no sense taking part in things with them.”
Chris Tates’ story attracted Canada’s attention in 1986, when he opted to remain seated during MacGregor Collegiate’s tape-recorded broadcast of the prayer each morning.
Tom: This story seems to be the kind that fuels the growing accusations of religious intolerance. So what about those who call themselves “Christians,” who would bring death threats or vandalize or sabotage the equipment of a family who rejects their beliefs? We’re accused of being intolerant, Dave. Now, this adds fuel to that.
Dave: I think it’s terrible. It’s unchristian. It’s nothing that Christ did, or that He would endorse, to act in that manner. How are you going to win someone? I mean, it’s like going to Africa or China or South America, or to our own neighborhood, and instead of preaching the gospel or trying to preach the gospel, and then, if they don’t want to believe it, then we stone them or shoot them, you know… That’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bring the gospel in love and compassion. God loves the whole world so much that He sent His Son to die. And “Christ” (John:3:17), came not…well, it says, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
So, Tom, I don’t understand this—I do not believe that these people are real Christians, and this is one of the complaints down through history. Christians have done such horrible things. They’ve slaughtered, they’ve murdered, they’ve fought wars, and …
Tom: In the name of Christ.
Tom: …far from Him.
Dave: These are not Christians. The crusaders carried the cross in banners and on their shields and so forth. In the name of Christ? Who died to save us? They go out and slaughter people? No, that’s not Christian, so I’m really shocked, and it’s…unfortunately, it brings a reproach upon Christ, it brings misunderstandings, and it gives people an excuse for saying, “Well, if that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want to have anything to do with it.”
Tom: Yeah, Dave, the other evening I was listening to the Michael Medved Show, and there was a caller-in, and this guy—I mean, he was absolutely beside himself accusing Michael Medved of being pro homosexuality, which Medved denied. But this guy was just violent in how “God was gonna…God was just getting ready to judge him, and God was just drooling over the fact that He was going to burn, fry, Medved, you know, in hell. The point here is, this guy would be used as a representative of a fundamentalist…
Tom: Now, come on!
Dave: Unfortunately. Tom, I hope that our listeners out there can make the distinction: when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is how people are saved. If they don’t believe the gospel, they’re lost. We will not compromise when it comes to sound doctrine. And if we’re wrong, if we’re not biblical, please write in or call in and let us know. We will not compromise when it comes to the Word of God, the truth of God, the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the Scripture says we are to try to bring this to people with all longsuffering, and patience…
Tom: You don’t find coercion, you don’t find force, you don’t find…you might find people adamant in their belief and their conviction, but that’s for them. It’s not to impose upon others.
Dave: Right. So, even when Paul says to Timothy, 2 Timothy:4:2: “Preach the Word. Be instant in season, out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine.
So, a parent who really loves his child, or her child, rebukes them. Corrects them. Christ, in fact, said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” But to rebuke someone to correct them, to try to bring the truth to them, must be done in love. It must be done patiently. It must be done with understanding. And what happened there in Canada is a tragedy, and these people, rather than being won to Christ, have been driven away from Him, and now they feel that they have justification, and they can say, “Look, we’re kinder, more moral, and more patient, and more loving, than these people who call themselves Christians.”
Furthermore, I don’t know where it says that you have to stand when the Lord’s Prayer is read, you know. I’ve been in Russia where they stand whenever they pray. But some people kneel whenever they pray. Even around the table for dinner.
Tom: I think it was the lack of respect that these people were upset about.
Dave: But you can’t even say it’s a lack of respect. That’s a custom that they have adopted. But anyway, it’s a tragedy.