A YouTube video [be advised, it contains some violence and profanity] showing some Christian street preachers being assaulted at a LGBT Pride Fest in Seattle has been spreading rapidly on social media in the past day or two. One article from LifeSiteNews.com has been shared and Liked on Twitter and Facebook several thousand times. Many of the comments appear to be from Christians outraged at this “reverse hate crime” and the “intolerance” displayed by the festival-goers antagonizing the preachers.
On one hand, some of this reaction is understandable. It is not uncommon for LGBT activists to employ some fairly aggressive rhetorical tactics in public situations, including shouting down Christians attempting to engage them in calm, charitable discussions about the Bible’s views on homosexuality and marriage. Perhaps the activists shouldn’t be surprised, then, if they find some of the same tactics being used against them. And those who advocate ceaselessly for tolerance really do need to examine the hypocrisy involved in shouting down and beating up people perceived as intolerant.
However, Christians need to be careful not to jump too quickly to outrage when we see videos like this. Footage starts only after the crowd has already been enraged; we don’t have a record of what the street preachers were saying or how they were acting before then. Maybe they were just standing by peacefully, preaching a message that featured love and grace as prominently as sin and judgment. But it’s just as possible that the street preachers were being aggressive, confrontational, and focusing exclusively on depravity, condemnation, and hell. Maybe these preachers were just imitating Jesus and the apostles, who frequently aroused the ire of the crowds with their preaching. But maybe they had more in common with Fred Phelps (of Westboro Baptist notoriety) than Paul and Peter. Without more information, we just don’t know.
Christians do need to be prepared to be rejected and persecuted when we preach the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. But when we engage unbelievers, we need to make sure we don’t offend them with our attitude and aggression before they even get a chance to hear the gospel message that is its own stumbling block.
More to the point, when Christians see videos like this, we need to check our own reactions before we jump to conclusions. If we’re convinced that the “homosexual agenda” is inherently violent, “fascist,” and intolerant, we’ll see this as just more proof, whether or not it actually backs up those claims. Worse, we might be tempted to see the people in the video as sick, vile, and inhumane, rather than people made in the image of God to be loved, even if we’re appalled by their actions. And we might not be quick to listen to all the LGBT people out there who will be just as horrified by the violence in this video as we are and quick to denounce it.
Christians, let’s be wise and winsome when we engage unbelievers in conversations about sin and the gospel, even when it’s in a public venue like street preaching. When we see videos like this one, let’s remember that love is not easily angered (1 Cor. 13:5) and that wisdom should make us cautious about rushing into quarrels that aren’t our own (Prov. 26:17).