Yesterday on Twitter I posed the following question:
Your 15-year-old Muslim neighbor is really interested in Christianity, but his parents have forbidden him from going to church. He just asked you to help him defy his parents' wishes by secretly taking him to church youth group. Do you agree?
— Randal Rauser (@RandalRauser) February 19, 2018
It’s notable that a plurality of respondents would defy the wishes of the Muslim parents by taking their child to church. Of course, I understand the reasoning behind that response. But I do not agree. When I contemplate the question I find myself stalled at the Golden Rule. If I would not appreciate parents of another religion deceiving me and subverting my parental authority, I cannot justify deceiving parents of other religions and thereby subverting their parental authority.
That said, I can anticipate this reply. “Okay, but let’s follow that logic out to its terminus. If you were a border guard you wouldn’t want people smuggling contraband across the border, right? So by that logic, it would be wrong for you to smuggle Bibles across the border!”
My imaginary objector is right. That would seem to follow. And yet, I’m okay with smuggling Bibles. So what’s going on here?
The fact is that in both cases, we have a conflict of obligations. We have obligations to respect parents and to help willing children have access to a church. And we have obligations to respect border authorities and to distribute Bibles as widely as possible. And in each case, we need to decide which obligation will trump the other. I believe the obligation to disburse the Bible widely trumps my obligation to respect the repressive orders of border guards. But I believe my obligation to respect the authority of parents (except in extreme cases) trumps my obligation to ensure that their willing children have access to a church.
There’s much more I could say at this point about why I believe the authority of Muslim parents trumps my obligation to help their willing children access a church. But instead, I think I’ll throw it open to others to share your opinions on the question.