If you’ve opened up your computer in the past couple of days you would have seen this red equals sign plastered across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. in response to the current Supreme Court case on gay marriage. I have several friends on both sides of the issue that have chosen Facebook as a battleground and their profile picture as a weapon to fight one another in front of hundreds of mutual friends.
The argument for and against gay marriage is a deep and complicated one. It’s not something that can be solved with simple rhetoric or a no-brain response. Gay is not the new black nor the new woman. However, the topic of the control of religion on matters of the state is one that needs to be addressed.
But this is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the frequency of comments made in the political arena that reflect such ignorance, close mindedness, and hatred on both sides. The main cause of this is our inability to engage in meaningful, polite dialogue with those that disagree with us and instead settling on gross generalizations and slurs that would make our mothers blush. Since I have a Biblical responsibility to speak to my fellow Christians, that is what I will do in this post.
In earlier times, Christians would engage the surrounding culture constantly. We were involved in sciences, healthcare, social advancement, etc. When we started having major issues (blatant corruption, open sin, intellectual censorship), the church was removed from government. Unfortunately, I think we over-corrected. Many of us live life today as if the church should have absolutely no say in government. I’m not talking about the church as an institution here. I’m talking about the people of Christ. We either act in a way that would not bring glory to God and future distance ourselves from the culture around us or we confuse inaction with the only way to express love and grace. Both methods are incorrect, and both stem from our ability to stay ethnocentric in our own little bubbles.
Ethnocentric? — you say — Doesn’t that only pertain to race?
No. Ethnocentrism is the critiquing of other cultures through your own culture’s lens. While you might not believe it right away, Christians definitely have their own culture (it’s even been parodied). It is merely human to want to be surrounded by like-minded peers. Even our social networks filter posts showing us only the posts (and friends) that we might engage more. We feel comfort being in a group of people we feel we can open up to and be completely honest with. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
So What’s the Issue?
So I like being surrounded by people like me. What’s the problem? There doesn’t seem to be a problem initially. It is good to be surrounded by people who share the same interests, the same values and the same beliefs that you do. But if those are the only people who stay in your circle of friends, you then create a group of yes-men who agree with anything you say no matter how anti-intellectual…or anti-Biblical.
You see, you essentially put yourself in this bubble where meaningful dialogue is discouraged and those that hold opposing view points aren’t deemed as intellectual adversaries but rather cartoonish morons. You go to your group of friends and instead of talking about the issues to further your own viewpoint you instead laugh at the bumbling idiots in the other party. For example, you should be utterly repulsed when someone says “All Asians are lazy and stupid” but why are you not when someone says “All democrats are loudmouthed idiots” or “All republicans are greedy morons” or even worse “Conservative Christians are all anti-gay“?
How We Learn
I like Christian apologetics and I’ve commented on it before. But I am guilty of shying away from reading material where people make arguments against God or watching movies where people critique Christianity. I unnecessarily worry that they’ll reveal some huge flaw in my faith. (This is silly and illogical but most fears are). I feel more comfortable reading material from people who have already engaged with outsiders to the faith. The only problem is, in doing this, I have learned to regurgitate arguments from others without ever forming arguments on my own. Additionally, there are people reading this material and thinking its truth. If I can’t show them the faulty logic in this argument and the truth in mine, what good am I doing for my own cause? This is why that despite this fear, I have read more atheist readings and watched more documentaries than I had previously. It has helped not to hurt my faith in the slightest but sharpen and enhance it. Disagreement is where learning truly begins.
So some of us shy away from sharing our opinions and addressing faulty logic in arguments because we don’t want to push friends away. We don’t want them thinking that we’re weird, or fanatical. We don’t want them to think we’re shoving our beliefs at them. We don’t want to fight. So we hide and become doormats. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem. It only seeks to perpetuate falsehood and then because people don’t know your stance they respond with, “Well I don’t know how anyone could oppose this bill! Why are Christians so bent out of shape?!” or worse “Christians only oppose this because they hate this group and are bigoted fools!”
But then some of us think that it’s our job to defend the Gospel. That God has called us personally to fight anyone who disagrees with the Bible. We don’t engage with culture because we know that we’re right and that they are unrepentant sinners. So rather than show them the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we fight them on Biblical technicalities and condemn them to hell if they don’t change their ways. Dr. Timothy Dalrymple has a great response to this in his section of this Christianity Today article. Without engaging with the culture, we don’t have an empathetic heart and can’t offer kindness and grace to people because we only view them as villains to be conquered.
The third way is much better and should be modeled by all Christians. It is to constantly be in engagement with culture, listening to those around us and forming our ideas from them while also rooting ourselves in the teachings of Scripture. We won’t allow ourselves to be watered down but we won’t make our message caustic and dangerous to those around us. Dr. Doug Hankins puts it superbly when he says “Christians live in the tension of confidently proclaiming the Bible’s teaching while respectfully and lovingly pursuing relationships with those who identify as gay for the Glory of God. ”
So don’t disengage, don’t be hateful, extend out your hand to those around you, and proclaim the glory of God.