Saturday, March 11, 2023

The New ‘Second-Hand Smoke’?

I heard an interesting comment the other day. Someone said that Jesus is the new second-hand smoke. It was in reference to a couple of recent incidents. Back in early January, a man was ordered out of the Mall of America in Minnesota by security personnel. The man was told his tee-shirt was offending people, and so he had to leave. What was on his tee-shirt that was so rude? Two words: “Jesus Saves.”

Another incident occurred at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. A group of high school students were visiting the museum, and they each wore a distinctive light blue ski cap so they could easily recognize each other and not get lost in the crowd. However, the students were ordered by security to leave the museum because their ski hats were offending people. What was on their hats that was so disruptive? Two words: “Pro-Life.” (Or maybe that’s one hyphenated word.)
The students who got the boot were from a Catholic high school, and they were in DC for the annual “March for Life,” a demonstration by pro-life people who take God at His word when He said, “I formed you in your mother’s womb.” These folks sincerely believe abortion is the taking of an innocent life, and they peacefully and prayerfully make their views known every January. And they sometimes, if they’re high school students visiting DC for the first time, will set aside time to visit the Smithsonian museum. Except this time, they were kicked out.

So, the question is, has Jesus become the new second-hand smoke? In other words, does society grudgingly allow people to practice their Christian faith – in private – but they must not be allowed to do so near other people?

Not too long ago, I would’ve said, “What a silly question. Of course people are allowed to express their faith in Jesus in public. The Constitution’s first amendment guarantees the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say people have the right never to hear or see something they don’t like. Obviously, Jesus is NOT the new second-hand smoke.”
Well, nowadays I’m not so sure. Even though the Constitution says nothing about people having the right never to be offended, a sizable percentage of our society now acts as if that’s the case. 

Here is an expression that was popular in the United States in the recent past: “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” And people on all sides of various arguments – political, religious, cultural, etc. – were in agreement about this. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion were sacrosanct, and all sides of a debate believed the antidote for bad speech was good speech. In other words, if someone says something you disagreed with, the thing to do is offer a counter argument of your own to demonstrate that your view is superior. It was believed that everyone ought to exercise their God-given rights in the marketplace of ideas, and the most persuasive arguments would inevitably prevail.

That does not seem to be the case anymore, evidenced by the guy in the mall, the kids at the museum, and many other examples. 
Well, the question still stands: Is Jesus the new second-hand smoke? Unfortunately, it’s starting to look that way. But you know what? That’s nothing new. People were offended by Jesus 2,000 years ago. That’s why they killed Him. People have been offended by Jesus and His teachings for 20 centuries. 

Throughout history, the more people have tried to muzzle the Gospel message, the more it has spread. If you have faith in Christ, don’t hide it. Even if it means you cannot finish your shopping at the mall or look at Charles Lindbergh’s plane.

After all, who are we ultimately going to answer to, a bunch of thin-skinned secularists, or the Creator of the Universe?

1 comment:

  1. As an atheist I agree that people should have freedom of religion ...But the information here is not at all accurate

    Regarding the Smithsonian incident the kids had every right to wear the hats ...The Smithsonian admitted their mistake, apologized & did some retraining of their staff to prevent future incidents. To just tell the first part of the story without the follow up is unfair and dishonest.
    The man with the Jesus shirt also should be able to wear it but the story is not nearly so simple
    1--Although he was originally told to remove the shirt or leave, he ultimately was allowed to stay with the shirt on
    2--He was approached because on a previous day he had to leave the mall for what they call religious soliciting as in bothering shoppers with proselytizing . The mall has a rule against religious soliciting and it would equally apply to Buddhists, Lutherns or atheists.
    3-His shirt did not simply say Jesus saves. The back had the international sign for co existing (which has several standard religious symbols) x-ed out and also said Jesus is the only way. This is not a religious person sharing faith ....this is a religious nut offensively trashing other religions and getting into peoples faces.
    Nevertheless he was allowed to remain in the mall that day with the shirt on.
    Again, giving only a small part of the story is misleading.
    Ruth O'Keefe