Friday, January 7, 2011

Blessed When Excluded

It's a curious document, indeed.

The Manhattan Declaration. Drafted by elite orthodox evangelicals. Named after one of the most liberal places on Earth. Intended to send Washington DC a massive conservative show of force. Signed by fewer people than the population of Albuquerque.

And currently being blacklisted by Apple.

Well, technically, the smartphone app created by the Manhattan Declaration was first removed from Apple's app store, then denied upon appeal.

Battle of the App

By now, you've probably heard about how indignant - or flattered, or both - the framers of the Manhattan Declaration have become regarding Apple's rebuff. I've actually already questioned why Chuck Colson and his cohorts at the Man-Dec sound so surprised at this turn of events: doesn't Apple's politically correct stance help endorse the problems Colson's manifesto claims are twisting morality in our society?

This week, however, the Man-Dec came out with a revised marketing strategy using some of the wording from Apple's recent statement on the subject to show how Christianity is "offensive" to unbelievers.

Well, duh! Isn't it supposed to be?

Jeremiah 6:10 tells us that God's Word is "offensive" to people with closed ears. Shouldn't Colson and his seminary professor co-writers already know this? By siding with those who oppose the Gospel, Apple can't help but fulfill the Word of God in our presence.

Yet Colson and the Man-Dec folks sound perplexed. In an e-mail I received from them (yes, I signed the Man-Dec a while ago) this week, Colson describes Apple's stance as "shocking:"

"As you know, on December 8 we re-filed the Manhattan Declaration iPhone app with nothing except the Declaration and the opportunity to sign showing support.

"Apple rejected the app, saying in a letter on December 22 that the app contains 'references or commentary about a religious, cultural or ethnic group that are defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited or likely to expose the targeted group to harm or violence will be rejected. We have evaluated the content of this application and consider its contents to be objectionable and potentially harmful to others.'"

Yeah, so? Did you really expect Apple would slap its collective hand on its forehead and contritely reply, "Oh, we're so sorry - you mean your app promotes Biblical virtue and morality?! Well, why didn't you say that before!"

Colson's apparent disconnect between the content of the Man-Dec and Apple's post-Christian worldview almost makes me wonder if I signed that document by mistake. Surely he knew it wouldn't be popular?

Isn't It Good We're Not Popular?

But that's just the point with many contemporary evangelicals, isn't it? We have insulated ourselves in such a finely-cultivated right-wing religious culture that we've disconnected from realizing the hostility the world has towards us. We've disconnected from the many passages of Scripture where Christ warns His followers that they will NOT be popular. And we deny the suffering of Christ by glossing over the scorn and derision He - and his apostles - suffered during their own lifetimes.

These lives of ease we evangelicals have been leading for generations in the United States may very well be nearing their end. We've tolerated world-creep into our communities of faith and we've dawdled at the fringes of carnality so long that when we want to talk about Biblical lines in the sand, we're taken aback when unbelievers lurch to a stop and say, "that's wack!"

Now, this doesn't mean that here in the United States, evangelicals don't have any less right as anybody else to advocate for our worldview and principles. And, as I've said before, the actual wording of the Man-Dec takes great pains to honor the dignity of all people regardless of whether they adhere to the authority of Scripture. Colson and his crew are correct in pointing out that Apple's stance borders on tampering with free speech. Unfortunately in this case, Apple is a private company which also has the right to prohibit what it wants to prohibit within its product lineup.

I would say that at this point, the issue has less to do with the app for Apple's store than it does the credibility Apple is lavishing on the Man-Dec's raison d'ĂȘtre. If Colson is simply employing good-old marketing savvy by maintaining his indignance towards Apple, then he should just be sure this battle is a good one to wage. And that it's waged for the right reasons.

If, however, the folks at the Man-Dec have genuinely been caught off-guard by the realities of our hard-core secular world, then I encourage them - and all evangelicals who assume we should be popular - to take another gander at Luke 6:22:

"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."

True, dat.

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