The Rev. Chad Vegas, a Bakersfield, Calif. pastor and longtime school board member, recently announced he was not going to run for re-election. He’s a very popular politician locally. When he made his announcement, the board president:
“Trust me, Chad (Vegas) will not disappear even if he’s not on that seat,” Williams said. “Just because Chad’s not a trustee doesn’t mean he won’t have great influence in the community whether he sits in a public seat or not. He’s a highly respected leader in his community, and he’s earned that.”
Pastor Vegas has made public two letters he sent to his church congregation. Here is the link to those letters. I reproduce them below, in chronological order. The first one is dated June 2:
I am sitting here in my home having just returned from a Kern High School Board of Trustees meeting. I have almost never discussed my role on the board with you. I intend to change that with this letter.
You are a congregation that has graciously endured my often well-known public disputes regarding political issues. You have graciously allowed me to attempt to love my neighbor through that public service, while also being your pastor. You have done me the great service of not bringing up my board responsibilities at church and left me free to be a pastor. I am sure there are times you believe I represented you well. I am sure there are times when I have not represented you well. You have been gracious on all occasions. You have corrected me graciously when necessary. You have encouraged me greatly when needed. I am deeply thankful for the incredibly mature and kind way you have stood with me as a brother in Christ and as a pastor. The 12 years I have served on the board have been made bearable by you.
Today, I sat in a meeting as our board voted to bring into our district policy the full spectrum of the LGBTQ agenda. I realized as I listened to the numerous legal justifications and requirements that board members uphold these deeply offensive and immoral laws that I can no longer serve in this role. I am a Christian pastor above all else. I could not vote for these policies. I can not remain on a board to enforce these policies. I spoke out against the board voting for this. I called on them to realize that they will answer to God on this vote, and they should fear Him more than the state. I did not prevail.
I plan to address further my own personal realization that government education has been hijacked as a cause for the indoctrination of your children in nihilism, hedonism, and atheism. I will also address more my realization that I was naive not to think this was the only direction government education could go. I am not calling Christian teachers to abandon their posts. By all means, please keep being a light in a dark place as long as you ethically can. I am encouraging you to find other means to educate your children. Please know that this is my advice and not God’s law, nor an official declaration of our church. We believe in Christian liberty. However, I can tell you after 12 years of sitting through meetings that public education means to indoctrinate your children in anti-Christian ideology.
With that said, I will not be seeking reelection to the Kern High School District Board. I will give all my time and effort to being a pastor in our church. I will also be helping look for alternatives for Christian parents to educate their kids. I am called to preach the gospel. I am called to pray for you and minister to you. My time as a public school board member has come to an end. I am very much at peace with this decision. While I am not optimistic about the future of our country, I am deeply optimistic about the future of Christ’s church. Jesus will build his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
He posted a follow-up today:
Ever since I penned the letter [above] I have been asked by thousands of people to reconsider my decision to not seek reelection. It has been incredibly overwhelming to hear the response. I have deeply appreciated how many people have expressed to me that they believe I have been their voice on the school board. I do not take that responsibility lightly. As a result, I have been weighed down for the past month as I pray through these requests to reconsider. I have sought counsel from numerous quarters. I have gone back and forth in my own heart and mind. I have asked many to pray for me.
I want you to know that I have decided to stand by my original decision to not seek reelection. My wife and elders concurred with my original decision. I continue to hold the conviction that my original decision is the correct one.
I know many of you will not understand why I am “giving up the fight.” I am not giving up the fight. I am redirecting my time and effort. I am exhausting myself in preaching the gospel. I am spending my time equipping parents and their children to be godly witnesses of Christ in an increasingly hostile society. [Emphasis mine — RD]
This is what the Benedict Option will require in particular instances. Vegas did what he could in the public square, and was defeated. If he stayed and kept fighting, there was no chance of his winning, and he would open himself up to personal lawsuits. He is not giving up, as he puts it, but rather is taking that same energy and commitment and working to prepare the church for the hostile present and the even more hostile age to come.
This is a great illustration of what I talk about when I say a “strategic retreat” from the public square is going to be necessary for the Benedict Option in many places. It’s a redirecting of one’s resistance efforts to battlefields where one can plausibly find success. The church has got to wake up and listen to prophetic leaders like Pastor Chad Vegas. California public schools are lost, and state lawmakers are working hard to ensure that private Christians colleges that don’t kowtow to the LGBT agenda meet their demise. America is fast becoming a different country than most Christians think it is. Chad Vegas gets it. Do you? More from his letter (emphases mine):
As I considered the many requests I became increasingly dogged by the concern that staying on the board would be giving Christian parents false hope. Why? I do not believe this battle can be won at the school board level. It is lost. The State and Federal governments have co-opted your local schools. They mean to indoctrinate your children in their radical secularism. They mean to cause your children, and Christian teachers and administrators, to bow to their sex gods. I simply can’t be part of enforcing that.
It is now law in CA that your children must be taught how to have safe homosexual sex, how to obtain an abortion, and that gender does not correspond to biological sex. Think of that! It is legally required to teach your children the LGBTQ sexual mores while simultaneously illegal to mention God. I can’t and won’t enforce that foolishness.
I do not know how long Christian teachers and administrators can ethically continue. They will certainly need to increase in their wisdom as they navigate this new legal reality in our state. Please pray for them. I also do not know how Christian parents will afford to find other options for their children. I know they will need to make sacrifices their parents likely didn’t have to make. Please pray for them.
We must wake up to the reality of where our state has headed. We must prepare the church to live as sojourners in a foreign land, a land that feels more foreign by the day. We need to help parents find alternatives to public schools as they disciple their children. We have to shepherd our public school teachers and administrators through wisely and faithfully working in this new legal environment. There are many challenges that face us. I have not given up the fight. I have chosen to direct my efforts fully to these pastoral responsibilities.
Thank you for 12 years of trust. I am deeply grieved that our state has moved us to this point. In the midst of all of this, I am deeply encouraged that Jesus is in his temple and on his throne.
Mene, mene tekel upharsin. The handwriting is on the wall. California is only the start. The time to prepare for what’s coming is now. Fight in the public square as long as you can, but understand that sooner or later, we will all have to make a decision like Chad Vegas’s, on whether or not to cooperate with our faith teaches us is evil. If you think it won’t eventually come to your school district, you’re deceiving yourself. What is your plan for yourself and your kids then? Do you have an alternative when public school is no longer viable? If not, start building them now — and if you have the resources, work so that as many children of faithful poor and working-class Christians can be taken aboard that educational ark.
This is why I am writing the Benedict Option book: to prepare for days like the ones Chad Vegas is living through now. Pastor Vegas is living the future of all small-o orthodox Christians in America.
It reminded me of my review of John Inazu’s new book on confident pluralism and his response. Essentially, I argued that confident pluralism depended upon a balance of cultural and political power. As that no longer existed, pluralism was effectively dead. John responded that I was too pessimistic and that my own tone in my review was not entirely conducive to promoting pluralism.
Well, the fate of Chad Vegas in Bakersfield is a great example of precisely my point. He is a popular member of the schoolboard, perhaps the most popular. Even his liberal opponents acknowledge that and want him to stay. But he cannot. He has already broken the law by voting his conscience. He could be sued for that. And how many of those who want him to stay would be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder during a long, exhausting and punitively expensive legal action?
Power is not a function of numbers any more, if it ever was. It is a function of organization and of having one’s hands on the levers of cultural and legal power. Expect no quarter in the conflicts that are already upon us, however many of your neighbors initially express sympathy with you.
The long Gramscian march of the activist bien pensants through the institutions is reaching its conclusion. It really is. And it is time to face that fact and abandon the myth that the world is run by people who respect difference and diversity, and that all we need to do is behave decently in order to win their respect and earn their favor. They do not think that way. They will never think that way. And they will crush those who do. By any means necessary.
Read the whole thing. So much for winsomeness as a cultural strategy.
UPDATE: Got this from John Inazu:
@roddreher to be clear, I do not argue for “winsomeness,” nor is that my disagreement with Carl’s review of my book.
— John Inazu (@JohnInazu) July 7, 2016
I appreciate it. For the record, when I made the winsomeness remark, I wasn’t thinking about John, but about my Christian friends and acquaintances who think that being winsome will somehow make their opponents more tolerant. Not gonna happen. A friendly bigot, in their eyes, is still a bigot, and must be destroyed.