While I’m on a political roll, I’ll take a post to look back at the fateful SCOTUS decision on gay “marriage,” which I didn’t get around to writing about at the time it was actually handed down. In particular, I want to critique some of the more unhelpful reactions I saw from allegedly conservative Christians, who took it upon themselves to lecture other conservative Christians about how they should or shouldn’t react to the decision.
One theme that folks like Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore and others kept harping on was the unhelpfulness of “panic” or “outrage.” Stetzer’s Christianity Today article contained subtly downplaying language like this: “As Christians, this is just another step as Christians are losing long-held cultural clout in the West. The focus must not be panic… or anger… or fear… or disdain.” (As if Christians who express alarm at the profound social ramifications of this decision are merely pouting over their loss of “cultural clout!”) Russell Moore wrote two pieces, one for the Gospel Coalition that was more constructive, and one for the Washington Post that included lines like this: “Some Christians will be tempted to anger, lashing out at the world around us with a narrative of decline. That temptation is wrong.” And a few lines later, “This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing.”
The truth is, I don’t think Stetzer, Moore, and their ilk have really thought through all these finger-wagging soundbites. I think they feel compelled to put them in there as part of a knee-jerk reaction against anything that might be perceived as blunt, or harsh, or rough around the edges. As proof of my hunch, I’d like to offer an incident I actually observed for myself when I recently sat in on an interview taping with Sean McDowell. (Yes, THAT McDowell. Sean is the son of Josh and has his own writing/speaking ministry, including a recent book with Breakpoint’s John Stonestreet on same-sex “marriage.”)
The main body of Sean’s interview ranged over a variety of topics, including a bit of his own testimony, his dissertation work, and some thoughts on the next generation of Christians. This was all pretty standard, but something interesting happened when he was then asked to record a few quick “spots” of about a minute apiece. For one of them, he was specifically asked to give a quick take on the fallout of the SCOTUS decision. In fairness, Sean tried to be balanced, saying he was definitely alive to religious liberty concerns from Christian business-owners and universities. However, he concluded that ultimately, “fear is selfish,” and Christians need to grow out of that fearful attitude to move forward in the culture.
Now, Sean had asked the students in the audience to tell him if they thought he should do a re-take on any of these quick spots. When he finished this one, a student raised his hand to challenge Sean’s statement that “fear is selfish.” The student argued that the kinds of fears conservatives have may be for others, not just for ourselves. Oddly, this seemed to strike Sean as a novel thought. “That’s a good point,” he mused. But then he offered this head-scratching reply: “Even if we say ‘I’m worried about my kids,’ that’s still a kind of selfishness, because it’s OUR kids that we’re worrying about, right?” “But I don’t know,” he offered, “Do you think maybe I should change it to ‘Fear CAN be selfish?'” Disappointingly, the student backed down and said he didn’t think it would make much of a difference. I was on the point of saying yes, do make that change, but the first student’s sudden reluctance deflated me, and the moment passed as the lights and cameras were packed away. I was even more disappointed when that student later told me that he thought most of the people who would see Sean’s spot really were being selfish, so they “needed to hear” Sean’s message as originally worded anyway.
Furthermore, some of us are disturbed at the thought that children who are complete strangers to us will now grow up in a culture that takes same-sex “marriage” for granted, aggressively propagandizing them from the youngest age to accept this as normal. Some of us are even more disturbed at the thought of children who will now be adopted by such couples as part of this whole depraved social experiment. And Sean didn’t even scratch the surface of the whole “transgender” issue, which has resulted in nothing less than child abuse as parents help their under-age kids “transition” from one gender to another. Is it “selfish” to feel anger, outrage, and fear for these children and their souls? I think not.
Christian leaders, writers, opinion-makers, I appeal to you: Quit obsessing over “tone.” Quit lecturing conservatives about the precise emotions we aren’t allowed to feel. Quit trying to make a biblical mandate out of your personal rhetorical tastes. Let every man grieve in his own way. Now is not the time or the place for picayune quibbles. We are, after all, all in this together now.