We knew it was coming back in 2015. Justice Scalia saw the writing on the wall in Obergefell. He wasn’t able to stop it – and probably knew he couldn’t. But he asked the question, and warned the church what was coming. Those who do not bow to the new secularist gnosticism of genderism will be disfavored by the government. He sounded the alarm – tax exempt status was on the line. The churches clucked like a bunch of ladies listening to the warnings from Harold Hill about pool tables. But they did little else. There was some organizing efforts on the lobbying front, like the disciples proud of their two swords against Rome. But it amounted to fundraising tactics, and little more.
Now, there is a class action lawsuit targeting the federal funding of colleges that do not celebrate gender dysphoria. An article at the Volokh Conspiracy lays it out in detail. But the basic outline is this: They file a lawsuit, the federal government adopts a consent decree. The courts refuse to allow anyone else to intervene. Colleges may choose to either bow the knee to the idol, or be put to death. Places like Notre Dame have already chosen – they will not die. Our own Concordias have managed to clear the decks of the most rank unfaithfulness. Portland and Bronxville managed to be both unfaithful and incompetent. They are no more. The rest are built on a model of federal funding. They won’t make it. Oh, they’ll struggle on for a while. But without those sweet federal dollars, they have little financial health. And thanks to increasing secularization they don’t even have Lutheran faculty in many departments – and in many cases the Lutheran faculty don’t exist. We don’t have enough Lutherans with PhD’s in Chemistry and Physics and Psychology and etc to staff even the Concordias that remain. Those non-Lutheran faculty aren’t going to work for room and board. They’ll want paychecks. Even the Lutheran faculty will need some sort of compensation. Without federal funds, we could support (Hillsdale style) maybe one or two schools. Not 7. Not even close. With the Concordias gone, the Synod’s health plan (which is really what has bound us together the last 50 years) will not be viable.
And here’s the real kicker. Scalia wasn’t asking about Title IX funding. He was asking about tax exempt status. Trump did the church a solid in his tax plan – he reduced the reliance on tax deductions for charitable donations. That’s been good for us, because soon there may be zero tax deduction. But that’s not the worst part. Without IRS tax exempt status, you are subject to property taxes. This can vary from state to state. But does anyone think places like California, New York, Illinois will be leaving potential money on the table to help out a bunch of federally designated hate organizations? This isn’t about the colleges. This is the congregations. We can’t afford property taxes in the cities, and in many cases, not even the suburbs. Our rural congregations might struggle along for a while. Some might make it. But I live in a rural setting. Not exactly a lot of growth opportunities. Christians aren’t flocking to small towns. And in the small towns, they aren’t flocking to attend the churches.
“Let them have our buildings! We’ll meet in homes!” No, you won’t. Zoning laws. The government’s already figured this one out. Pastors and congregants have been arrested for it in the past. Yup, that’s right, they’ll be dragging Christians out of their house-churches, like it’s the first century again. Of course, the churches with treasures can sell them to pay the taxes for a time. Gold and Silver fetch a good price at the markets. I won’t even tell you what incident that reminds me of, but scroll through the comments of any discussion, and someone will mention them.
The secularist endgame is that churches be extinguished from the face of the earth. And, legally, they are right on track to do it. It need not be a fear-fueled panic (like in The Crucible). It can just as easily – and almost certainly will be a logical and legally precise horror (like in Saint Joan). But the endgame of the endgame is this: It won’t work. House churches will quickly figure out how to move from place to place to avoid zoning enforcement. Pastors will become cleverer about things. The church will go underground. The remnant will continue. Even crazed anti-religious zealotry like we saw in Soviet times failed to destroy the church. The church is alive and well in Mother Russia. I promise, today’s secularists are neither as clever nor as efficiently brutal as that regime.
It will be hard for our people. Losing the buildings will be a blow. Pastors will be even harder-pressed to support their families. Christians will be increasingly pressured to bow down and worship the golden image. And, we’ve seen this past year how quickly and easily Christians will give up the assembling of themselves together if it’s for “The Greater Good.”
But despite all these clouds on the horizon, I am still optimistic. Because our Lord said his word would NEVER be overcome. And in 2000 years, it hasn’t been. The enemies of the church triumph and triumph and triumph, until finally there is nothing left for them to do but fade away. Rome, Arianism, The Reformation. It doesn’t matter the circumstances. You can go back even farther. Gideon wasn’t allowed to fight with a reasonably sized (though still vastly outnumbered) force. He had to fight with less than a skeleton crew. Let God do the victorying. Same with Pharaoh at the Red Sea.
And, especially on this night, we must remember our Lord. Satan was the one who entered Judas and the priests and guided the events that led to him being crushed by Jesus on the cross. Even though he knew the outcome, he couldn’t resist bringing about his own destruction.
And then there’s Jesus: He allowed his Divine self to be abused. He allowed them to strike, spit upon, mock, and finally crucify him. There’s wisdom to be drawn from this. Let them abuse Christ’s body on earth, the church. Let them mock and persecute us. Our task is to be faithful, whatever the circumstance. And it looks like we may have a circumstance in which we may be found faithful. I pray we are up to the challenge.
The news on the legal front is very bad. But it doesn’t much matter in the great big scheme of things. Let the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing. Today, we have much more important matters: The institution of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It remains to eternal life. And all the kings horses, and all Obegefell’s men, can not overcome it.