If You’re Selling Scorn for Conservative Christians, the Market is Hot

If You’re Selling Scorn for Conservative Christians, the Market is Hot June 11, 2012

I recently wrote a piece entitled “What if the Culture War Never Happened,” where I encouraged progressive evangelicals — who publicly blame the conservative Christians (largely of the prior generation) of the “culture wars” for giving Christianity a bad name and driving people away from the church — not to accept uncritically what their liberal confreres tell them about the culture wars.  Too many young evangelicals, in my view, question the culture wars but never question the “culture wars,” or the very concept and the way it’s developed in liberal circles.

Some of my progressive friends challenged me to point to examples.  I did not really want to call anyone out on the carpet, but it’s a reasonable request.  Sometimes it’s important to speak clearly and openly.  So here’s what I want to say: To be fair, this happens on both sides.  But recently I’ve seen a lot of young, progressive evangelicals denouncing and caricaturing their conservative brethren for their “culture war” concerns.  But by accepting the caricatures coming mostly from secular critics, legitimating and perpetuating them, they themselves — acting out of concern for the damage done to the church and its witness — are doing great harm to the church and its witness.  If we truly care for the public witness of the church, then we (liberal and conservative) need to stop slandering and caricaturing the other half of the church.  Don’t throw your Christian brothers and sisters under the bus.  Even if you disagree with them, you can provide a coherent, charitable explanation for what “those other evangelicals” believe.

Let me start with a generic example.  MissionGathering Christian Church in San Diego, responding to Amendment 1 in North Carolina, purchased a billboard strategically located alongside Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte that says, “MissionGathering Christian Church IS SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of THOSE WHO DENIED RIGHTS AND EQUALITY TO SO MANY IN THE NAME OF GOD.”  Click on the image to the right for the article explaining the billboard.  MissionGathering describes itself as an “Emerging” church, and their Pastor of Spiritual Formation, Alex Roller, says that the purpose of the billboard is to tell the LGBT community that “there are progressive Christians who believe in the Bible and Jesus but still support marriage equality and rights for the LGBT population.”  The church (300 members), he says, was showered with praise for the billboards they rented in response to the Prop 8 fight in California.  “We just want them to know,” says Roller, that “our hearts are with you.”

If that was all they wanted to say, however, they could have rented a billboard with the boards, “Our hearts are with you.”  Given their beliefs on homosexuality and marriage, that would have been a fine thing to do.  Yet that’s not what they did.  Instead they called their fellow believers, who feel differently from them on this issue, “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, [and] manipulative.”  So let’s be clear what they’re doing here.  (1) They’re perpetuating the worst images of conservative Christians who support traditional marriage.  (2) They’re holding themselves our as a better alternative.  They are the good Christians, the more Christ-like Christians, who are not judgmental — even as they’re judging sixty percent of North Carolinians, a majority of Californians, over half of Christians in the United States and the great majority of Christians around the world.  In other words, (3) they’re saying “our hearts are with you” in that “we feel the same anger and scorn in our hearts as you do.”

Their intentions are honorable, but undermined by an incoherent strategy and by their deep-seated scorn for conservative Christians.  They’re trying to encourage love — by being hateful (and no, I don’t think that’s too strong a word).  They’re trying to encourage tolerance — but judging everyone who disagrees with them.  They’re trying to improve the witness of the church — by legitimating the stereotype that the conservative half of the church is bigoted and deceitful.  They hold themselves out as a better alternative — by throwing more conservative Christians under the bus.

Of course, it’s easy to argue with a billboard.  So, as requested, let me give another example.  Rachel Held Evans’ recent post, “How to Win a Culture War and Lose a Generation” went viral.  Rachel is a fine person, and I regret that I tend to engage with her posts only when I disagree with them.  I’m sure she’s deeply and thoroughly convinced she’s in the right here.  But she let her anger get the better of her.  Let’s look at the post, which begins thus:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

(To pause: the study says nothing of “the first word that came to their mind.”  And “antihomosexual” is a catch-all term that people might check if they believe Christianity is bigoted, or merely that some Christians are bigoted, or people who simply think that Christianity opposes homosexuality.  But when your anger gets the better of you, there’s no time for nuance or discernment.)

Evans goes on to say that the belief Christians are bigoted against homosexuals (in the words of David Kinnaman) is “the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation,” and (in Evans’ words) “one of the top reasons 59 percent of young adults with a Christian background have left the church.”  Then Evans points to Amendment 1 in NC and the advertisement that featured a quotation from Billy Graham:

Despite the fact that the North Carolina law already holds that marriage in the eyes of state is only between a man and a woman, an amendment was put on the ballot to permanently ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution. The initiative doesn’t appear to change anything on a practical level, (though some are saying it may have unintended negative consequences on heterosexual relationships), but seems to serve primarily as an ideological statement

….an expensive, destructive, and impractical ideological statement.

Conservatives in the state […] supported the amendment, and last night it passed. Religious leaders led the charge in support of the amendment, with 93-year-old  Billy Graham taking out multiple ads in publications across the state supporting the measure.

The convalescent Billy Graham likely had very little to do with the ad, but my point here is not to debate the rightness or wrongness of Amendment 1.  My point is to examine the ways in which progressive Christians talk about conservative Christians.  Conservative Christians have voted for these amendments consistently.  Yet the reason many Christians feel differently from Evans is completely unexplained.  And since (she asserts) there’s no practical reason (no reason why it might matter to give something a constitutional and not merely legal imprimatur), it must be just to spite gays.  The reader is left to conclude that conservative Christians simply are, to use the terms from the beginning of the post, anti-homosexual, judgmental and hypocritical.  Then Evans brings out the big guns of bold type and larger font-size:

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again…(though I’m starting to think that no one is listening):

My generation is tired of the culture wars.

We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

Evans wonders whether anyone is listening — and the post received 56,000 Facebook shares, and the comments cheer her on.  If you’re selling anger and scorn against conservative Christians, the market is hot.  Of course, Evans does not speak for our generation as a whole.  And these are bumper-sticker arguments.  I am for a family founded on the marriage of man and woman; I am for the defense of innocent human life even prior to birth.  And I am not trying to advance the kingdom so much as I am trying to defend the innocent and defend social structures I consider sacred and valuable.  The dead are not raised by politics, but the living can be protected and served by it.  But we go on (reformatted for space):

Amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults […] from the Church.

So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it? Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church?  Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?  Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians?  And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?

Too many Christian leaders seem to think the answer to that question is “yes,” and it’s costing them.

Because young Christians are ready for peace. We are ready to lay down our arms. We are ready to stop waging war and start washing feet.

For conservative Christians, of course, there are not merely political victories.  These are matters of fundamental moral and theological import, critical to the health of individuals and societies.  I believe these things matter to God because human flourishing comes when we are leading the lives we were designed and redeemed for.  Sometimes the best way to wash a person’s feet is to tell him those feed are striding down a self-destructive path.

But again, the argument is beside the point.  This is not really an argument but a bit of angry rhetoric.  Evans never engages with how conservative Christians articulate the reasons for their actions.  She never gives an explanation at all — much less a charitable one — for the things her brothers and sisters in Christ believe and do.

I understand why Rachel and her fellow progressive Christians are angry.  I have many close relationships with gays and lesbians who do, indeed, find actions like Prop 8 and Amendment 1 hurtful.  I do feel for them, and I genuinely wish for the sake of our relationships that I could agree with them on these issues.  Evans and the MissionGathering church believe that Christians who oppose marriage equality for gays in the name of God are doing a disservice to the God they claim to serve and harming the witness of the church.  I get it.  But this is not the right way to respond.

This is selling anger, not offering enlightenment.  Anger is not always wrong, but it’s always a dangerous substance to deal with.  In its anger, posts and billboards like these lose the capacity to understand believers who disagree.  They rush to judge our elders and dispense with humility or nuance.  Instead of saying, “No, most conservative Christians are not hateful or deceptive.  Here is where they’re coming from, but I stand with you” — they say “I am with you” because “I scorn them too.”

Does it happen on both sides?  Absolutely.  I cannot stand the glib, bigoted “ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven” video that’s circulating.  But one would never know, from a post like Evans’, that there are loving and thoughtful and self-sacrificial people on the conservative side of the argument who are genuinely trying to do the right thing for all people.

There is a growing genre — call it Progressive Christian Scorn Literature — about the scorn progressive Christians have for conservative evangelicals.  It seems to be celebrated on the Left as a kind of righteous comeuppance for the Christian Right, and it wins the applause of the Left for the Christian Left.  But it’s wrong and it needs to be called out.  It’s neither winsome, nor loving, nor constructive, nor right.  It will not improve our witness because it’s soaked through with bitterness and rancor.  I hope that people of good heart and mind, like Evans, leave it behind.

We cannot get beyond the culture wars by simply joining one side and lobbing bombs against the other.  We cannot improve the reputation of the church by throwing half of it under the bus.

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  • Very well said, Tim.

    “I sure am glad I don’t engage in name-calling, like those other guys do.”
    (quote I just made up)

    • By the way, here’s an example of disagreements between Christians being handled the right way, on a national stage:
      A progressive Christian I know (online only) saw a comment of mine on the topic of acceptance of homosexuality, and she was bothered greatly by what I said. She wrote a blog post, and it was accepted by Huffington Post. She managed to explain clearly why she didn’t like what I said, but never resorted to name-calling nor disrespect. She did it the right way. (I wish I could say the same about the 500+ commenters, but that’s another story)
      See the piece here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-timbol/what-does-god-say-about-homosexuality_b_1577579.html

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        Thanks, James.

      • o.g.

        She may have done it the right way, but she’s still wrong. First of all, taking inspiration for your lack of principles from Obama is quite a mistake. Second, Paul, and Jesus himself, state in multiple places that we are to point out the error of other believers. Judgement is to be restrained from the UNBELIEVERS.

        • f.s.

          Well according to the article you are wrong for saying she’s wrong. I’m probably doing wrong for pointing out that you are wrong about calling someone else wrong 😛

        • Sean


          We are even to tell unbelievers when something bothers us, when i was at church the other day the leader of my group was talking about one time when he went to a sales conference (he is in real-estate) and the person talking was using perverseness to explain how to sell better and to sell his company. So, a short time after my leader emailed the guy and told him that the references were unnecessary and that everyone (that is that was there) is above that. The guy replied he was just joking but he no longer used that type of reference, and he WASN’T a christian. It is also a ministry, but we cannot call them out and embarrass them because that also makes the church look bad. Matthew 18:15-17, that means try to win him when he doesn’t list

      • OK, So I’m one of the progressive types I have to admit.

        I think you make some very good and valid points here in the article but I have to question the approach. If you are disheartened by Ms. Evans and other’s approach, which is valid. Would it not be better to reach out to her and others who you find misrepresent the conservative side of the argument and find a way to reconcile and even come out with a combined statement of solidarity in Christ?

        If we’re trying to build a public image of bridge building for the church, which I think is absolutely essential and judging by your article I think you do as well, then how can we elevate the conversation? You have very good points, the other side has very good points. Is there not a way for us to air those points together? Perhaps like the Brooks Collins back and fourths on the NYTimes?

        I just wanted to add that because all this public forum critiquing seems to send the wrong messages.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I hear what you’re saying, Timothy, and it’s a matter to which I’ve given some thought. Honestly, it’s a question that comes up frequently when Christian bloggers have something critical to say of each other, or of what the other has written. My sense is that public proclamations sometimes require public responses, but that those public responses (especially when they’re calling for charity between believers) have to be done with great charity. Whether I succeeded or failed in that is, I suppose, for others to judge.

  • I tend to be very sympathetic with your point about the tone of our rhetoric, and how we talk with all kinds of brothers and sisters in Christ…

    But I wonder if the timing of this post and the examples you’ve chosen only serve to pour fuel on the raging fire of the culture wars?

    Just a thought.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      What “timing” do you have in mind? I was pressed to give examples, so I did. I thought they were the best examples available.

      • ms

        This is a fine article and needs to be said. I see far more rancor and bitterness and self-righteousness and construction of straw men on the left on this issue than on the right. The result is that a very important issue that gets to the heart of serious social problems does not get the deep and thorough discussion that it needs. I understand why gay people want to marry, and part of me would like to grant them that privilege, but at the same time it seems to me that there is a reason that marriage has been what it has been since time immemorial–it is society’s way of saying that heterosexual relationships are special because they can produce children. Society has a strong interest in saying to parents that children need both of them, a man and a woman, for many years in order to have the best chance in life. I don’t believe that men and women are the same. This is not to disparage anyone, but I think that on the whole men and women bring something different and vital to the lives of children. In my mind, marriage isn’t just about two people who love each other. It’s a way of saying that the relationship that can possibly produce the next generation by its actions is so important that we give it special status. This has nothing to do with equality because equality means treating like things alike. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the best way to keep kids out of poverty and a lot of other bad things is for their parents to make good decisions before bringing them into the world, and yet more and more children are born out of wedlock. THAT”S the discussion we should be having–how can we convince young people to get married before sex and babies. Instead, gay marriage is sucking all the air out of the room. And self-rightous dismissal of concerns about marriage are sure not helping.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I agree with the general thrust here. Churches actually do a lot to promote healthy marriages among their congregants — recently our pastor was in the midst of an 10-week sermon series on marriage, while we were attending one of our church’s classes on marriage, while my small group (all from the same church) was going through a series on marriage. That was a coincidence, but not a big one, since I find that evangelical churches are almost always talking about marriage. And some churches have classes for people who are divorced or considering divorce, and most will offer some kind of counseling for people going through marital crises. This is not to say that more should not be done — and I think the Christian witness on the issue of divorce has become very clouded — but I do think there’s a tendency to overlook all the things the church does (far, far more than it does to speak out against same-sex marriage) to promote healthy marriages.

  • Chris

    History has shown that Christianity actually thrives in the midst of cultural warfare. That’s how Evangelicalism spread like wildfire in the 19th century.

  • While I admire your attempt to expose the scorn market, I’m dubious as to the activity’s usefulness. Seems more likely to be just another turn of the screw. Instead of serving as witness to the Gospel, we serve simply as an uncritical mirror of the culture at large.

    As you rightly pointed out, it happens on both sides. How about we all spend more time confessing and repenting of our own sins—both individual and corporate—instead of constantly calling out the sins of others?

  • poo

    what are you a conservative?

  • Brantley Gasaway

    Tim, I tend to think of this phenomenon–as you rightly note, coming from both sides of the evangelical political spectrum–as stemming from a sense of betrayal. Each side thinks the other should know better, that the other side is hurting the church’s credibility. It’s one thing for more liberal Protestants or non-Christians to be wrong about [fill in the political issue]. But it hits closer to home–and is more threatening–when those who ostensibly are working from the same foundational commitment to the Bible disagree. Then it become not just a political disagreement but an implicit attack on closely held religious views.

  • John Carothers

    ” Sometimes the best way to wash a person’s feet is to tell him those feed are striding down a self-destructive path.” maybe that’s what we progressives are doing when we say Stop the culture wars….just sayin….

    • Frank

      Advocatingor the Word of God in no way is going down the wrong path. It’s the only right path.

      Just saying….

      • Frank

        *advocating for.

        Spell check fail.

  • Jeremy Forbing

    First of all, the billboard did not call anyone “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, [and] manipulative.” It was referring to actions. This did not label Conservative Christians as a group, it apologized for any actions taken by members of that group which fell under the listed description. To me, this sounds like the old saw of “Don’t hate the sinner, hate the sin.”

    Second, while there are genuinely loving and thoughtful people who believe they have religious reasons to support laws that suppress homosexual rights, those with more reasonable opinions are hard to hear over the loud chorus of voices screaming hate in Christianity’s name, even though that chorus is not the majority. I think it is to those voices that the billboard and post you quote are responding. And we do not often see even the rational, loving Conservatives you mention exerting themselves to condemn these ugly tactics and rhetoric. The most that tends to be said in that regard is something like “Well, they’re right, they just shouldn’t say it that way.”

    Here, it takes you 13 paragraphs before you finally address the fact that sometimes there are those on the right who express their views in such repellent ways. And even then, by talking about the anger that happens “on both sides,” you seem to be equating this billboard and web post with that abhorrent YouTube video. You didn’t write a column to address the video, even though I know you despise it as much as I do. Perhaps this was because you think rational Christians’ indignation at this sort of thing goes without saying, but given how vitriolic voices have dominated the Christian end of the cultural conversation in recent years, not-saying now in fact has the effect of tacit approval.

    But though you don’t have a column on that video, you do have a column berating those who criticize the worst tactics of the Religious Right, out of the concern that by not always having a disclaimer that says something like “Not all Conservative Christians are this bad,” they are tarring all Christians opposing gay rights with the same brush. It is neither winsome, nor loving, nor constructive, nor right that rational voices in Conservative Christianity do not issue meaningful condemnations of the rhetoric of bigotry when it issues from their own side. This makes it ring a bit hollow when Progressive responses to such rhetoric are castigated so sternly. Someone needs to apologize for the hatred being expressed in the media, or at the very least express respectful disapproval of it, and since Conservative Christians shirked that responsibility, other Christians rented a billboard. If a community will not police its own misbehavior, it cannot expect to escape judgment based on that misbehavior from those outside of it or those it has pushed to its edges for failing to conform. I know you dislike the term Culture War, but many of those on both sides are certainly behaving like warriors, and not getting called on it much by their less war-like allies.

    What would a loving criticism of the tactics of the “Culture War” look like? I don’t know, because let’s be honest, we haven’t seen much of it. But if that’s what you want, perhaps it is time to begin modelling it ourselves towards those who we agree with, rather than just towards the opposition. Otherwise, it seems like less like you object to the stridency of with which the disagreement is expressed, and more like outrage that the side being disagreed with is your own.

    Finally, your main criticism is that these admonishments are too angry, and you may be right. But I’ll tell you something else. At this point, whenever I am in conversation with a gay person, a Liberal, a Muslim, or an atheist, and I tell them I’m a Christian, the next part of the conversation is me explaining that I don’t hate them. And personally, yeah, I am angry about that.

    • Larry

      Do you think that’s a problem created by conservative Christians … or a problem created by a very deft effort in portraying Christians in that fashion.

      I recall conversations with intelligent men and women (young and old) while traveling in the Soviet Union not long before its collapse. They were surprised by many of the Americans which they met. They just didn’t fit the archetypal American presented so convincingly by those for whom the truth was inconvenient … and dangerous.

      They were assured that Americans were bent on the conquest and colonization of the Soviet Union. We were ever poised for attack, ready at a moments notice to rush across their borders, rape their women and enslave their children.

      But the Soviet government was there to protect them. How convenient. With one lie you mask your tyranny and libel your opponent.

      I am a conservative Christian and watch with wonder as the Left labors to portray me as something so utterly foreign to reality that to imagine it as anything other than a calculated effort in deception is naive.

      I know who I am and what I believe … and so do they. But the truth can prove unhelpful when it weakens your argument, so the caricature is offered instead.

      • Excellent. My experience as well. As one who strives to be a Bible-believing follower of Christ I make no apology for my own understanding of Scripture, but caricature is offered up by almost every circle I’ve been in. My response: simply preach Christ: Repentance, forgiveness, justice and love. (And take the “persecution” with grace.) I’ve stopped trying to attract or be accepted for myself. I simply try to obey Christ. What freedom.

      • Holden McGroin

        This is utter hogwash. The left doesn’t run Hagee, Graham. Robertson, Limbaugh, Santorum, et al.

        Your side is led by bigots, and until you stand up to them, you deserve to be highlighted for supporting the churches, politicians, and parties who are bigoted in your name.

    • Perhaps it would be wise to remember that God states all of those OUTSIDE of the kingdom of God who are of their Father the Devil are His enemies. He is angry with the wicked every day! So say’s the word of His to man (His saved folks). Now, having said that, He has told us to pray for our enemies, do good to them, and be kind to all, along with love them (NOT Agape love but phileo love) which is to do good unto our neighbors like we would ourselves. Having said that the scriptures also teach us that if we don’t warn someone about their wrong deeds or sins against God we are NOT loving them at all. We need to advise sinners they need to turn from their idol worship, their sins, their evil ways and perhaps God will have mercy upon them and they will not perish. These type of messages are NOT going out today but rather, all we hear is a false Gospel message that “God loves everyone equally and all they have to recognize is that God has a plan for your life and just trust Jesus”! That is a mixed up confused and convulted message to say the least. It is off base totally. The Gospel message is conditional and so is God’s love. It is conditioned upon repentance and faith without which NO person could please God ever! And we also recognize that no one has that inate spiritual ability if they are in Satan’s kingdom of blindness and shackled with the bondage of sin. So, God calls His elect while yet still enemies and sinners unto Himself changing their hearts and minds enabling them to WANT to come to Him in repentance and faith. That is the way you approach the Gospel message to the lost person. Yes, it is firm, it is perhaps even somewhat hard, but it is real LOVE and being faithful to God whom we are to LOVE. Love doesn’t over look that which is destroying someone and the culture. Never! To do so is folly and is disobedience to the word of God. John the Baptist a man whom Jesus said there was no greater among mankind, told Herod the King, he was sinning and needed to stop and get things right. That wasn’t populat with the King or with the culture. But John did right! Do we? Or are we afraid we may offend someone so much we tell them lies? Go figure!

      • Melodie

        I was reading comments with the thought these are all personal opinions where is the Lord’s Word and truth? The church has bought into the utter lies of a wonderful plan, a better life, Jesus loves you so we have tens of thousands of false converts who live for the devil scorning God’s ways and truths. We don’t want to be Holy and righteous people. We want to be kept out of hell but live our lives as if bound for it. We fail to realize Jesus didn’t come for social reform. He came to save us from Hell. Social reform can and does come from being born again with repentance(you know the old definition of to turn away or stop). God’s word is His truth. His 10 Commandments have and will not ever change. When people get angry with me. I look at them and reply these are not my words. they are God’s. He is very explicit in his Word on all sin. thanks L, for being a voice of truth.

    • John W Gillis

      To the contrary, actions do not posses the character of “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, [and] manipulative.” These terms refer to motives and mindsets, not actions. They are insults.

      When evaluating moral acts, one must consider the object, the motive, and the circumstances. A tendency to conflate these recklessly and tendentiously characterizes much of modern moralism. Perhaps a clearer examination of these differences might make you less inclined to swallow the camel that is the tendency to portray disagreement as “hate”.

    • The Schaef

      “Perhaps this was because you think rational Christians’ indignation at this sort of thing goes without saying, but given how vitriolic voices have dominated the Christian end of the cultural conversation in recent years, not-saying now in fact has the effect of tacit approval.”

      His point – and he said as much in the article – is that the current bend of the secular culture is against conservatism, especially in the church, and that this brand of criticism from the progressive end plays to those sympathies and perpetuates the meme.

      The rise of the vocal atheist – I refer to them ironically as “evangelical” – has been leading a charge to convince the young generation to their worldview in order to undermine the church. I will say it again: they are actively working to UNDERMINE THE CHURCH and marginalize the presence of religion in a post-modern society. It is bad enough when people with those sort of motives use the extremes to define the middle. By effectively validating that view and standing with the people who promote it, such a show of solidarity means one is standing AGAINST THE CHURCH.

      One might not see it as such – based entirely on their own internal motives – but this is the danger of perpetuating a view intended to “free” society “from” religious “oppression”. You have to be careful in whose bed you choose to lie. As a political analogy, the “social justice” churches and organizations who have been taking money from George Soros – standing with an atheist in support of a “common cause” – are going to find themselves on the wrong side of the table when he takes his activism and turns it towards an issue like abortion. He will hold no sympathy for the views you hold once they have diverged from his own, and you will become part of the problem.

      People may have different views on what constitutes a righteous life and how to live it, but the value of seeking approval from the secular world is very limited, and won’t win any points when they hit an issue in which one suddenly finds oneself the “bigot” rather than the open-minded progressive thinker. And when the conservative believer must spend the bulk of his debate time explaining how he has never – NEVER – met a single individual who believes and acts anything remotely like the caricature being thrust upon him, he is undermined by the secularist’s progressive-thinking buddy who says, “no, it’s true, conservatives are TOTALLY like that”, and the church is fractured.

  • Suzi Brooks

    Excellent article and very charitable of you, since I don’t consider many on the left to be of good heart or mind. Hateful words against other Christians is worse than anything you can say to the unbeliever.

  • Larry

    Very thoughtfully, carefully and compellingly written Tim. While a theological and ideological divide almost certainly separates us, it seems, at least to me, that more than a few “progressive” Christians are animated by a deep need to be perceived differently than their “others”. They have been, over time, persuaded that “we” are not one of the beautiful people.

    In movies, television and literature conservative Christians have been convincingly portrayed as only a bracket beyond Neanderthal … and for a generation so self aware (narcissistic?) … that is anathema. Six degrees of separation just isn’t enough … this not a matter of nuanced ideas in conflict. We are simply evil. And hateful. And ignorant. Oh yeah, and ugly.

    Not much room for dialogue there.

  • leanne

    Evil thrives when good people do nothing. Yes, its time to call out the bigots for what they are. This is not some tidy little difference of opinion. Many lives have been damaged or ruined by the people who claim to be Christians. It seems to be that their own culture is primarily what they worship, not Jesus.

    • leanne

      Is my comment posted? It appears with the others but had a note at the top: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    • Frank

      I agree. Saying homosexual behavior is not sinful is extremely damaging to individuals, kids, family and our society.

  • Morgan

    Superb analysis, Tim, as always. Really appreciate your breakdown of this issue.

    I have to say, reading a few of the many, many comments on the RHE post was enough to thoroughly depress me. We’re All SO Tired of Fighting! took about 17 seconds to devolve into… fighting.

    I think they’re tired of conflict itself. They want absolutely no disagreement, and voila! there’s peace.

  • Timothy Robinson

    Jeremy, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Tim, you seem like a decent guy, but discrimination against a minority is discrimination against a minority, and our constitution should not be swayed by any particular religion’s set of beliefs.

    • Larry

      Jeremy, a minority of men would like very much to legalize pedophilia (The North American Man/Boy Love Association) … discriminating against this lifestyle is an “unconstitutional” abridgment of their rights? An imposition of my morality? My religious beliefs?

      Suggesting that religious beliefs enjoy no role our moral framework is kind of a non-argument.

    • Faith

      What exactly is the discrimination? Everyone has the right to marry someone from the opposite sex. Nobody has the right to marry whoever they want. Nobody.

  • Jim Robert

    If a gathering of Christians is considered to be a church, and if the whole of the gatherings are considered to be the church, then I have a few questions for the church: 1) Many clerics have engaged in pedophilia and thereby have driven many people away from the church. 2) Many christians have engaged in racist behavior, where that is seen in the American South, or in Hitler’s ovens, the outcome is the same. 3) Many christians refuse to accept that a loving god would never murder, nor rape, his creation. Yet, these same christians argue about a billboard of apology for these sins. (Seriously? …a billboard?) It says someplace in one of the scriptures that you will know them by their actions–that their words are not nearly as important as what they do. So here is the question: Are there any who profess the christian faith who actually beleive in the goodness of God? If so, why are they silent?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m not sure I follow, Jim. We do talk about the problem of evil. I don’t know if there’s any philosophical or pastoral problem to which Christians have devoted more effort. Does that mean we cannot talk about cultivating greater love and understanding within the church? (This post was not, of course, fundamentally about a billboard.)

  • I am little bit older than Ms. Evans. However, I feel somewhat the same way that she does.
    First, the “Culture War” has come to represent some Christian groups feelings on everything from saying “Happy Holidays” to gay marriage. We have clouded the water so much it sort of all flows together. We may not see it, but those who are not Christians see us as just another special interest group. In other words, we complain about every perceived or real slight against us.
    There is another issue as well. Among us there are individuals who are claiming to represent Christ who are getting media coverage for making some very despicable and frankly upsetting comments. These people go relatively unscathed by some of the most visible of the so called Culture Warriors despite the fact that what they represent is totally abhorrent to the name of Christ.
    My suggestion is two fold.
    First, we need to get those who are clearly misrepresenting what Christianity stands for off of the stage. Media outlets would start thinking twice about using the sideshow acts who are doing damage to the name of Christ, if those who are the big names in Evangelicalism started condemning them.
    Second, we need to keep what matters in sight. Who cares about Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Is that what is really important?

    • Michael

      “Who cares about Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Is that what is really important?”

      Well, yea, it is.

      Symbology is extremely important in the evolution of social mores. The desire to remove “Merry Christmas” is in itself symtomatic of a larger movement, a bigger “rot” if you will, underneath society, which the author alludes to above, that Christianity is a net negative, instead of a net positive, to “social progress.”

      That’s simply wrong.

      But, practically —- if you lose “Merry Christmas”, the right to express your religion publically isn’t far behind. The former is but a simplistic example of the latter.

      • You’d be right if the goal was to eliminate “Merry Christmas” from the public sphere….. which it absolutely is not.

        Nobody can take your baby Jesus.

        It’s the hubub over boycotting stores who choose to say Happy Holidays, you know, to be inclusive and joyful towards all that people find off-putting. By doing so, the “Xmas Warriors” are telling non-Christians that it’s not really their holiday, they’re just being allowed to participate in it as long as they show the proper deference to Jesus when worshiping at the altar of Materialism. When the impression that other celebrations/faiths are, well, less than Christianity, people get turned off by the church.

      • I am in my mid fifties. When I was younger people said “Happy Holidays”, “Season’s Greetings” or “Merry Christmas” and NO ONE got offended. It’s only been in the last 15-20 years that anyone seems to care. We have made a cottage industry out of worrying about symbolism and being offended when things don’t go our way. No, this is not how you lose the right to express religious speech. It’s when we make mountains out of molehills that causes the problems.
        If we want to be taken seriously, then, we need to get rid of the sideshow acts.
        We need to censure the “round ’em up in a concentration camp” group.
        We need to stop worrying about whether some poor store clerk wishes us “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.
        We need to work with those women who are seeking abortions. Instead of protesting in front of clinics, work *with* them as much as possible.

        • Larry

          I too am fifty and while I recall such a time I’m also aware that at that time their was not a concerted effort to shove Christianity from the public square and cast Christians as class dunce or Wackford Squeers.

          The context in which slights are offered and protests lodged are essential to the story … without them its easy but unhelpful to employ phrases like “sideshow acts”.

          When Christians protested slavery it was honorable … would you have suggested *working* with slave owners and merchants had you lived during that era?

          • I have several non-Christian friends who take really deep offense when some preacher states that he would like to segregate all gays and lesbians in electrified pens and let them die. That is what I mean by a sideshow act. There is nothing constructive being added to the discussion except a good dose of hatred and stupidity. Unfortunately, many times preachers, who claim the name of Christ, are not censured for bringing disrepute to that name.
            I really don’t think we’re being pushed from the public square. There are more diverse voices in the square for starters. Then we have the hate speakers who just add noise to our speech. Would you tolerate it if some atheist came along and said that he wanted to put us (Christians) in electrified fences so that we would die out? Why do we tolerate that from one of our own when we wouldn’t tolerate it from someone else?

          • “When Christians protested slavery it was honorable … would you have suggested *working* with slave owners and merchants had you lived during that era?”

            When Christians were protesting against slavery, it was the slave owners not the slaves who got the brunt of the protest. However, when an abortion clinic is the object of protest includes those who might be victims as well. One presumption that is made is that ALL women seeking an abortion are defacto trying to kill their baby. There are clear medical reasons why abortions need to be performed. If we wish to prevent abortions I think that it is pretty well documented that humiliating the women really doesn’t work.

          • Larry

            Steve, only a very … very … small percentage of abortions occur because the life of the mother is threatened. Of those aborting their children in utero the vast majority do so for entirely unrelated reasons (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html).

            You’ve dragged out the standard issue red herrings offered consistently by the left in their desperate effort to obscure the simple fact that a child is being killed when an abortion is performed. The ghastly, monstrous act would end nearly overnight if the public became aware of the actual nature of an abortion.

            Most prefer not to know. Like Germans who allowed the horror of the Holocaust to unfold in their midst, most people prefer to look the other way, rather than consider the implications of such public policies.

            You seem, like so many on the Left, to have forgotten the real victims of abortion. Children, defenseless and silent, suffer an agonizing and tortured end to their lives … while abortionists grow rich, would be mothers sacrifice their children in the name of “reproductive freedom” and self-righteous “men without chests” lecture us against foolish and anachronistic notions of objective truth and moral absolutes.

            I’ve little sympathy for doctors who forsake their oaths, for the administrators of “clinics” who earn their living by making murder a business, and for mothers who forsake their own instincts to protect their babies … choosing instead to punish their unborn child for their own indiscretions.

            Confronting them with their error in hopes of sparing unborn children death is noble, courageous and … the very spiritual response to such unimaginable evil.

          • Larry,
            Why should the number of medically necessary abortions make any difference? Is the life of the mother no less important than the life of a fetus? A true Pro Life position has to balance between life of the mother and life of the embryo/fetus. Discounting the life and health concerns of the mother in favor of the unborn is not a viable Pro Life position. Discounting the health of the mother because well, there aren’t that many abortions because of the mother’s health cheapens the whole argument.
            I do know a number of women who have had abortions. They are intelligent and they did understand at the time what they were doing. Whether you and I agree with their decision, they feel that they made a choice based on the information that was available at that time. The idea that women don’t understand what an abortion does may hold with teens and some younger 20s, but my bet is that most women do understand what they are doing. They are not as clueless as some in the Pro Life movement think.
            Finally, confronting women as they go into a clinic is usually a step too late. They have usually made their decision, for better or worse and frankly the only thing that may be accomplished is that they see Christians as a group of people who instead of comforting them in a time of need, yelled at them. The other thought is that one cannot be sure the exact reason why a woman is going to the clinic. I know of one case where the fetus had died in utero . The fetus was not expelled as part of miscarriage. She had to go have the baby “aborted”. Her and her husband went to the clinic. Those standing outside yelled insults at her and called her a murderer. I cannot imagine how she felt, losing the child that she wanted and having to listen to the false statements. It’s not “noble, courageous ” and it is not a very spiritual response. Tell me, with all of the sinners that Jesus dealt with did He yell “slut” to the woman at the well? Did He scream “fraud, cheat” to Matthew the tax collector? Maybe a re-think of our strategy is in order. We need to be the place that they come to for help first, so they never get to the clinic. That would be noble and courageous. That would be being Jesus’ hands and feet on earth.

          • Larry

            Steve, I’m referring to statistical realities. More than 85% of abortions are conducted as a form of birth control. Of course the life of the mother is important, that is why most prolife proponents believe that abortions are appropriate (though tragic) if the life of the mother is threatened. Again, that is extraordinarily rare.

            You not only seek refuge in rarities and myths but you offer the same tired lies regarding pro life advocates and ignore the extraordinary efforts made daily to offer loving, compassionate care for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. In short, you prefer half truths and whole lies over real people and the actual events they shape through their loving concern for the living. How sad.

          • Larry,
            You’re right, I’m not referring to statistics, rather to real life people who I have encountered. It seems Larry, that you seem to ignore the fact that there have been state measures that in the past year or so have tried to ban abortions all together including when the mother’s life is threatened. I have been trying to suggest a different strategy for dealing with abortion. Obviously, you haven’t been reading my posts. In any event, further discussion is not going to be useful. It seems that we are having two monologues instead of a dialog.

          • Larry

            Steve, your correct … I’m aware of no measures which precluded exceptions for cases in which the life of the mother was threatened. Where were those proposed? As to different strategies, well, the prolife movement has accepted victories wherever and when ever they’ve been possible … so I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

            If you’re looking for prolife advocates to relax their language … well, that’s another matter. Allowing language to offer cover is a bad … no, make that very bad idea. The Left is deeply attuned to the power of words. They abandoned the moniker pro-abortion, opting instead for the refuge of a lie by adopting pro-life as their new title.

            Though pro-abortion described precisely and perfectly their cause it soon dawned upon them that it was, in fact, to descriptive … to revealing. Pro-death? No, no … that won’t do. Let’s instead drape ourselves with the Constitution (though we are clearly trampling under foot the rights of the unborn child) and claim to represent the rights of the would be mother. Of course that has since morphed into the catch-all phrase “reproductive rights” as if America bans the right to become pregnant without their sanction (that would for instance be a perfectly reasonable name for efforts in China to overthrow the one child mandate).

            Deception is simply a way of life for the Left were history must be revised, facts are rarely left unmolested (or unburied) and the narrative (complete with villains and heroes) rules over actual events.

            So again, we’ll take victories (incremental or otherwise) when we can … but don’t ever expect us to obscure the fundamental facts about abortion. Our strategy is simple. Overturn Roe v Wade … in the mean time save the lives of babies … in utero or born.

        • Larry

          Oops … “They abandoned the moniker pro-abortion, opting instead for the refuge of a lie by adopting pro-life as their new title” should have read “They abandoned the moniker pro-abortion, opting instead for the refuge of a lie by adopting pro-choice as their new title”

  • This is excellent (I was linked here by Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church). I was wondering if you’d read CS Lewis’s essay Dangers of National Repentance, collected in God in the Dock – I think you’d find yourself pounding your fist and yelling “Yes! Exactly!” at every other line, internally at the very least.

    A choice quotation: “The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Great point. Thanks for sharing that.

    • Faith

      Thank you for sharing! And thank you, Tim, for this article!

  • The reality on the ground in NC is that many voters did not realize the amendment was also taking steps against civil unions. Hence it is a fair criticism to assert some disingenuousness in the bundling, besides whatever the California group meant. And it is manifestly correct to say that Billy Graham “took out an ad”. But my heart goes out to Graham with the charming Westboro folk being on his case today: http://www.wbtv.com/story/18759590/westboro-baptist-church-protests-billy-graham-library

    • leanne

      At his age in his health, why would Billy Grahm get into the fray on this at all?

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        I think the prevailing assumption is that Franklin wanted to wade in on the issue, so he went to his father and got a comment, or crafted a comment and asked if his father would agree, and then put the ad out. That’s well within his rights as the head of the BGEA and I’m not suggesting it was deceptive, but BG himself, especially later in his career (especially after he realized how he had been used by Nixon) rarely got involved in these kinds of things.

        • Plausible—but as BG and FG surely knew, this makes the truth value of “BG took out multiple ads” attributively the same as if BG had made the call himself.

  • Tim, sorry to just now be getting to this post. I really appreciate what you have done here. It is thoughtful, clear and charitable. It is the kind of discourse I think we need much more of in the Church and in the Christian blogosphere. We owe it to each other to disagree with clarity and charity and I think you did that here. I can see why Rachel’s blog triggered your early post.

  • I had a good friend who was going to participate in a pro gay marriage rally that would have involved people wearing tap over their mouth that said “hate” on it, clearly implying that the only reason someone could have for opposing gay marriage was hatred. I urged him not to participate because I thought it was a terrible way to express a progressive Christian perspective. We need to call each other out when we think something is going to far. Martin Luther King used to say “our means reveal our ends”–in other words, what we are willing to do and/or say to achieve our goals will indicate what our true goals are. I think this happens more on the conservative Christian side, but I appreciate Tim naming it on the progressive Christian side as well.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks, Greg!

    • Rachel

      This reminds me of the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I think I would amend it to “nicely” though.

      We all need to be careful about what we say and how we say it, because even outrage about the “other side”‘s viewpoints can damage the public face of Christianity.

  • Today, we seem to only read articles that speak about what “we” or “they” believe and stand for on issues about the culture. The point really should be and in reality is what God thinks about the culture. From my over fifty something years of reading and studying the word of God, I can say without any of a doubt, he thinks it stinks and is absolutely in rebellion to all of His authority and moral positions stated by Him in His written word! ALL immorality is rebellion and sick and evil. ALL Period! None are good! No not one person! None period! That is His message! The fact is ALL need to repent of their selfish desires and hang-ups of the flesh and mind. So repent and ask forgiveness and seek His help and turn from your wicked ways is His message to everyone Period! I care less about all of the rhetoric which people involve theirselves in. It doesn’t matter what I think, you think, or any groups think. It matters what GOD thinks! And man HE has spoken clearly on the issues being pushed by this culture! It is not a new thing! It is a old thing going back to recorded history in time. So, get a life folks. If you are a Christian believe and trust God and stand up for His truth and His ways and let it be known whether people like you or don’t like you or even if the Government presses you to stand for their side, don’t do it! Be like Daniel and the three Hebrew young men! If you remember they were emphatic about the fact they would NOT bow to any rule or law made by the King regardless. Death or life – fine! We will not bow down to the idol. So that is OUR position if we are Christians and I mean real Christians and not the in name only type! None of what I have stated exempts me from being a needy sinner also. I certainly need to repent of something every day! But I do seek to do that! I also don’t try and make God become like me or the culture in order that I or anyone else can sin and feel good about it all! That is folly and it is evil and it is sinful. It is not being faithful to HIM or HIS word at all. In fact, it is a terrible sin and misleading people all over the place. Misleading the homosexual movement and also the Christian evangelicals out there who we are trying to get them to be “kind” to evil and sin in the culture! Forget it! God say’s it all stinks! Better read it again boys!! opps, and girls!

  • dunce

    Christianity and the bible are what they are and do not evolve into something popular with passing fancies. Leaders who chart a course based on politics are not Christian leaders, they are political pretenders. A Christian ‘s politics are informed by his religion not the other way around. Progressive Christianity is as silly as strawberry Christianity. I am convinced that many have entered into the church with the intent of not changing it from the inside but of destroying it like the pink seminaries.

  • John Mark

    Some believe the age of dialogue is over; it seems true but I hope it is not. When you put up a post, anyone who reads is free to criticize, argue and try to rebut your thinking. So to respond to specific examples of what you think do conservative Christians a disservice is not a bad thing, but to be encouraged; if we are really sincere about following Jesus we should be willing to accept ‘push-back’–and good grief; who in the public doesn’t recieve criticism; not entertainers, not politicians, nor sports figures…..I applaud you for this post and hope it gets wide exposure.

  • Well, I’m not sure about California’s Prop 8, but I honestly cannot see any possible motive for NC’s Amendment 1 except hate and bigotry. It was a hateful law passed by people with hateful motives (and voted in by people who’d been intentionally mislead and didn’t support what it actually said).


  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Well done, Mr. Dalrymple. I hope people listen, and actually look back at what they do and how they are perceived, mostly so they may make amends in this life to those they have disrespected. There may be hope yet that Christians in general understand that we all are sinners, and we have responsibilities, sometimes imperfectly performed, to love other sinners, while we denounce the sin. Perhaps sin is a becoming a relative term for those who profess to be Christian. We should be warned that our personal judgement day will (eventually) arrive…..even those now young and immature. How surprised we may be by our reception by “THE JUDGE”. May be a whole lot of wailin’ and gnashin’ of teeth goin’ on then, as an old friend of mine, a primitive Baptist preacher, once opined to me.

    Again, well done. Thank you.

  • jerry lynch

    To me, using either term, Conservative or liberal, is just plain wrong; self-debasing if self-proclaimed and damaging to the faith ; and insulting and damaging to the faith when using the term about another.
    These labels are wonderland-absurd. These are oversized lampshades for our light, ridiculous and darkening.
    That we so blithely engage in supposedly “serious dialogues” with these silly and grand bonnets is the stuff of Monty Python as well. A “sincere delusion” the Mystic whispers.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m sympathetic, but I find it practically impossible to avoid as a shorthand.

  • Welcome to my world, Evangelicals! What you have here in the “progressive Christians” are a carbon copy of what we Catholics call “cafeteria Catholics”: ie, people who pick and choose what articles of faith they’ll believe in. And always, of course, picking and choosing only those parts of the faith which would never offend the most avowed non-Christian progressive.

    Our quandary is that we can’t judge the faith of these people – and as we are reminded in Philippians 1:15-18, as long as Christ is being proclaimed, something worthwhile is being done. Even in the most progressive of progressive churches, as long as at least some part of the teachings of our Blessed Lord are taught, we should rejoice. On the other hand, when a church gets so “progressive” that start pretending that an adulterous, gay man can be a bishop then it is worthwhile wondering if any of the message of Christ is really being proclaimed there.

    What is really boils down to is that we have to carry these people with us – only in the most egregious cases can we say of someone, “that person, words notwithstanding, is not living in the manner of a Christian”. It is very, very rare that one can say that of another – and even if it is pretty obvious that a person’s self-proclaimed Christianity is a fraud, all Christians should be wary of pointing it out. Really, it is only when we get to the real nitty-gritty, where someone’s actions, say, indicate a clear rejection of something like the divinity of Christ or of the truth of the resurrection that we should make some such statement. Laboring under this strain, we can only resort to Our Lord again and again and again – paying heed to Peter who says, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7); God will ensure that all comes right and that the sheep will be separated from the goats.

    • Eric

      And always, of course, picking and choosing only those parts of the faith which would never offend the most avowed non-Christian progressive.

      I expect to see you at my protest outside of Red Lobster this Sunday for serving shellfish and forcing their poor employees to work on the Sabbath. Since you are a good Christian who doesn’t “pick and choose” your presence will be most welcome. See you there!

    • Kelli

      I do not believe the “progressive Christians” are the only ones picking and choosing here, Mark. When is the last time you strictly observed the Levitical laws prohibiting polyester-blend clothing, eating pork, and working on the Sabbath? It’s important that all Christians, no matter what “category” people put them into, start observing the planks in their eye before removing specks from their neighbors.

  • Brian

    We’re happy for a 61-39 vote… but who knows how much of that 61% is composed of the unsaved? I believe the younger generation of biblical Christians, of which I am a part, sees a startling lack of proclamation of the Gospel in these battles, of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. It is this that bothers me about what happens in the culture wars. Don’t forget that we agree ethically with most traditional religions in the world on most of these issues. Also, there are a ton of nominally Christian people who agree with us who have never experienced a saving relationship with Christ.

    The author here displays the younger generation’s issue clearly, when he says “Sometimes the best way to wash a person’s feet is to tell him those feed are striding down a self-destructive path.” This is a highly incomplete message! We must communicate the the power of Christ to save. This is not happening with the same urgency that the social issues are given. How do I know? Because none of the non-Christians my age can articulate even the basics of the Gospel, but they can all articulate conservative Christianity’s stance on these public issues.

    This is misplaced emphasis.

    Please remember the lesson of the OT historical books, from Judges – 2 Chronicles. If you worship the wrong God, then society declines. We must go after the root cause not just the symptoms. Tearing down the Ashtaroth poles isn’t enough unless the worship of YHWH is established in its place.

  • jd

    Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged!”
    But –
    Jesus also said, “you shall know them by their fruit.”
    At first it seems contradictory, until you realize the difference between Judgement and Discernment.
    You don’t have the right to pass judgement, but you have every right to be a fruit inspector and to reach your conclusions from that inspection of the fruit.

    So, who has the better fruit? Progressives, or Conservatives?

  • max

    Thank you for your interesting thoughts, Tim. You make many good points. It seems from my perspective there are two realities here; the perceptions we get from the internet and the actual experiences we have on a day to day basis. Granted I live in Tennessee when you hear church bells toll on the hour in many small towns and hymns are often played by the public chimes, but nonetheless – the “gay” discussion here is for the most part a done deal; one man, one woman constitutional amendment and there is NOT any viable hate or gay bashing going on, its generally live and let live within the legal standards of the laws we have passed. This is the day by day reality here. The other reality is what I read on the internet about items as you have mentioned today. It may be useful to stop thinking of the good old USA as a single unit and start thinking of it as more 50 individual political subdivions, as originally intended. Let California experiment with what I would consider a debased and unhealthy culture and let us here in Tennessee continue with what we see as the best bet for a safe and healthy society. Give it about 25 years and let’s see who’s ideas play out the best. Regarding pointing out what one deems errant theology or morals, yes I agree, this should be done with great care, much grace and as the bible teachers, first on a one to one basis. Blessings.

  • A.T. Tapman

    Hi Tim I mostly agree with your take on the state of the Culture Wars. I also notice that leftists, such as Evans, only sue for peace when they are losing. If they were frightened of losing, they never should have fired the first shots.
    This may appear to be a less than christian stance but I grow tired of their ways.

  • Basil

    Your spam filter is acting up again!

  • Robert Griffin

    The rather long comment I tried to post a while ago ‘seems a bit spammy’ and you’re ‘not real big on spam around here,’ and even a couple attempts to correct it failed, so I will start again, responding this time to A.T. Tapman and company.
    The left-wing Christians did not fire the first shots.
    I remember the build-up to the Culture Wars in my Evangelical Presbyterian church during the 1970s, when left-wing main-line Christians tended to ignore the Evangelicals, many of whom just a few years earlier (late 60s/early 70s) had been mildly socially and economically liberal based on their readings of the Bible. Then, from 1980 into the G. W. Bush administration there was little or no place for left-wing evangelicals.
    The big deal in the 1970s was stopping the gays. Evangelicals in California felt it necessary that no one who believed homosexuality was OK should be allowed to teach in the public schools. It was just a pity that some young folks took things a bit too far, beating up and even killing gays.
    Be Well,
    Bob Griffin

    • A.T. Tapman

      Hi Bob, the Culture Wars grew hot in the 1950, it started well before that and really got off the ground with the wholesale importation of the Frankfort School and their “culture of critique.” The leftwing christian movement is simply an offshoot of the larger attack on the west.

      Hey, hey, ho, ho, western culture’s got to go. Remember?

  • StubbleSpark

    I agree with Chris and Andy. There is no point in this correction because it begs the point. These “accepting” and “diverse” upstart congregations will fade in less than a decade being so tied, as they are, to the times and the fashions and not unwavering truth.

    You also fall into the trap set by their faulty logic. Namely, that conflict or difference of opinion in and of itself is strife on the same level of destruction as war. Are we to “get over” the killing of thousands of unborn a day so they can have a moment of blessed peace with their broken consciences?

  • Nik

    “good Christians”? Doesn’t that imply that there also must exist Christians who are not quite so good? And what about those “good, decent, Christian Americans” in Georgia (who also just happen to be KKK members)? Are they good Christians because they want to adopt a strip of highway in Georgia? If these guys (and gals) are part of the group of good Christians, then who are the bad ones?

    What on Earth would Christ himself have to say about such broad, conflicting classifications among your ranks and the uncountable ways in which you’ve skewed his teachings and his doctrine to fit your personal upbringing and beliefs?

  • It is very fashionable these days to scorn and throw someone under the bus but never offer a thoughtful alternative. Tim is right on the mark. I kind of spoke about this today at the blog I started. Those on the left side of the political spectrum are just as or are becoming just as co-opted by liberals on the left in mainstream politics.

  • Jerry

    “Because young Christians are ready for peace. We are ready to lay down our arms. We are ready to stop waging war and start washing feet.”

    I’m pretty sure she means that she’s ready for Biblical Christians to “lay down their arms” and become pro-gay marriage and pro-homosexuality, the way she is.

  • Mark

    I suppose Martin Luther was also just being mean-spirited to his Catholic friends.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Sometimes, actually, I think he was. And I don’t think the extremely harsh rhetoric he sometimes employed was all that productive. In fact, I think the divisions could have been much milder — or he might have been able to effect more change within the church, rather than departing from it.

      But obviously I’m not saying one cannot disagree, and even disagree strongly.

  • Matt Anthony

    If her generation is tired of the culture wars, why do they keep starting them? Christian theology has historically stood with supporting heterosexual marriage. It wasn’t until that position was attacked that conservative Christians rose in a defense of that position. If you don’t want to engage in a battle, don’t start one. If you want to change something–an attitude, an action, a tenet of theology–don’t complain that it takes a lot of effort. Saving mankind in line with Old Testament covenant cost Jesus His life. Ending slavery took a civil war. Both were very costly.

  • Dennis Hutchinson

    Tim –

    Thanks for this piece. It’s something I’ve struggled a great deal with in conversations with “progressive” friends. To be sure, many conservatives have a tendency to love “truth” more than “mercy.” And I wonder if many of us know what it is to walk humbly. However, I believe Scripture is clear on the behavior. Standing FOR Scripture does not mean I wish ill upon those who are caught in that lifestyle.

  • Mike V.

    I find it amusing to find members of a small California church think they know more about what is happening in North Carolina than those who actually live there. And to say this church knows more about human sexuality than God is the epitome of human arrogance.

  • If RHE thinks culture wars are a poor witness, why is she launching one against other Christians? Isn’t that essentially what she’s doing? What’s the substantive difference?

  • There are a lot more “generous words” out there, than the Word of God.

    The desire to be liked by humanity far outweighs God’s Word for a great many, including in the church.

    We send our kids away to goverment, union run, leftist run schools to be indoctrinted for over a decade (and let them watch the cesspool of t.v., and we would expect anything else?

    • Charity

      This is a way to caricature those who disagree with you: to claim that your brothers and sisters interpret scripture a certain way because they want to be “liked.” You are dismissing the careful, prayerful, soul-and-scripture searching that other Christians have done. Isn’t this the kind of attitude this article, at some points, denounces?

  • Blog assault

    Still trying to figure out how to accept something the Bible CLEARLY states as wrong. I try not to judge others, but to make them pastors and leaders in a church, well,I believe it’s called the blind leading the blind.

  • Nathanael

    While I agree with your points about how we should be more careful in our disagreements among our Christian brothers and sisters, your fundamental argument is slightly flawed. You assume that Rachel and others are basing their opinions and responses to “their liberal confreres”. But the reality is, these responses are based on first-hand experience with Christians whose actions mirror those harsh words they use.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      No, I’m not making that assumption. I know how and where Rachel grew up. But I do think that her present opinion is also influenced by the liberal caricature of the culture wars.

      • Nathanael

        Fair enough. I just wanted to point that out since I know my view of certain Christians is not based on what others say about them, but by how they treat those who disagree with them.

  • Anyone who rails against what they see as Hate and Intolerance with words filled with Hate and Intolerance is saying, This is how people should be. I am part Cherokee and one of our Elders once said

    “Many proposals have been made to us to adopt your laws, your religion, your
    manners and your customs. We would be better pleased with beholding the good
    effects of these doctrines in your own practices, than with hearing you talk
    about them”.
    Old Tassel, Chief of the Tsalagi (Cherokee)

  • Michael

    Some years ago I read a study on the devolution of European Christianity.
    The article largely blamed progressivism, although that wasn’t what it was called at the time. The observed sequence of events was as follows: (a) progressives moved into leadership positions in the institutions, not only supporting progressives “causes”, but inculating a general skepticism of things like the primacy of Scripture, moral absolutism, the sinlessness of Christ, and in some cases, even the deity of Christ. (b) The net result was a general “watering down” of Church teachings, where moral commentary was suppressed, and relativistic views were promoted. Then, (c) since the church no longer provided the moral guidance that people desired, large portions of congregations became disenchanted and left, taking the financial support of the churches with them. Finally, (d), the progressives themselves left, leaving behind a sorry commentary of religion, destitute, with only the clergy and the very old remaining.

    These ‘progressives’ will not be here for long. They will leave after they rape the churches.

    AND, what we have learned in Europe is that the people who left at stage (c) with destroyed hearts and spirits and calloused towards God have had children. Their children, like all children, were born with hearts crying out for God, but the parents told them of the rot in Christianity, so they did not seek God there.

    What religion are more Europeans converting to than any other? Islam, who unabashedly holds to its moral principles.

    Are we heading for a world where the only place one can live in a moral culture is an Islamic country? Seems so.

    • Charity

      Wow, you’re calling Progressive Christians “rapists”? Hows that for scorn?
      Do you think that one of the problems in Europe might be civil religion, and state-run churches, rather than progressivism?
      Do you not see that, in this country, Christian groups who call themselves “progressive” do so because they believe Jesus taught some things that aren’t being attended to by the church at large, namely, responsible care for the poor?

  • Tracy

    Wow, if somebody signed Billy Graham’s name to something he didn’t agree with — that’s the story you should have written, not this one. You can’t just wave that one away. It isn’t a “Whatever” kind of thing. *

    Also, you suggest that Evans is misleading about the Barna study. I didn’t think “First thing that comes to their mind,” was an actual survey question, but you seem to think she missed the substantive points of that study. I’d appreciate some clarity.

    *Some of us, sad to say, remember Graham’s unfailing support for Nixon, and his horrible comments about Jews found on Nixon’s secret tapes. We’d hoped he’d been humbled. But now in old-age, he’s enjoying near sainthood status. Somehow, we forget how horribly he surprised and offended people in decades past, and how that was one of the early shaming episodes for the evangelical church.

    For some of us, pointing this stuff out is not “airing dirty laundry” it is truth telling. Some of our brethren do behave badly. Is that “judgemental?” Well, Paul occasionally felt it necesary to call out bad behavior and to name names.

  • Mary Morrison

    I do not believe in attacking individuals, or even specific groups. I’m not at all sure, however, that the purpose of progressives and liberals should be to be “fair” to conservatives. Being fair generally results in the implication that both sides of an issue have equal value, and in this case, I don’t believe that’s so. Additionally, conservatives have had the primary public voice for a long time. I don’t have to be discourteous to get my points across. In fact, I will not engage in angry exchanges and name calling. I do, however, feel perfectly free to voice my concerns and convictions because I believe they are a better alternative, and I’m not at all concerned with being fair. I just don’t have to be insulting to do that.

  • CB

    I encourage the author to also examine name calling on the part of conservative Christians. Having frequented World Magazine’s blog, I can tell you that there are a good number of blog commentators that will question the Christianity of a democrat or liberal; that will question a person’s faith on the basis of their position on abortion. To this article, I have to comment, pot meet kettle.

  • Don Johnson

    I wish you have split this post into 2, using a single example in each post. By bundling them, I think it makes it more difficult to address each one and any concerns one has with it alone. Also, it would have been helpful to choose 2 other ones from the “conservative” side that you did not agree with. Then each of the 4 could be discussed.

  • Basil

    Spam filter still on overdrive. Oh well, I guess the conversation is closed.

  • Basil

    This post is defensive, with a “how dare you accuse us of [bigotry, hypocrisy, etc…]”, and there are lot of convenient, but glaringly obvious, omissions. Is the problem that Rachel is throwing Conservative Christians under the bus? Or is it that she is calling out Conservative Christians for bigotry, hypocrisy and belligerence towards the gay community, and that maybe it is an uncomfortable truth to hear?

    I have been watching Patheos’ Evangelical Channel since the Amendment 1 fight flared up, to see if any of the authors would condemn the anti-gay diatribes from the like of Pastor Harris , or Pastor Worley . Nothing — not a peep. At some point, silence = consent. Given the really long track record of inciting homophobia and even violence towards gays, I think conservative Christians have earned their reputation for bigotry.

    I’m glad to know that you are opposed to the video from the Greensburg Indiana church (the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle). I would note that in the fall of 2010 that a young man named Billy Lucas committed suicide because of an unbearable burden of years-long anti-gay bullying (something I can relate to). He was from Greensburg, Indiana. I bet $100 (to be donated to the Trevor Project) that at least one of the kids who bullied Billy Lucas (or their parents, or the school administrators who did nothing to stop the bullying) attended the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle. Christian-inspired homophobia kills gay kids. Don’t ever forget that.

    • Frank

      It’s not hatred, bigotry, homophobia or bias to believe the bible when it says homosexual behavior is a sin.

      Those who tell kids that they should just follow their feelings are the ones who are complicit in any tragedy that results. There is nothing loving about affirming or encouraging sinful behavior. That’s hatred.

      • Basil

        The Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior. If you want to torture Scripture to conform to your prejudices, that’s your business.
        The fact that you condone the bullying of gay kids just means that you are a monster. People like you are complicit in the deaths of those children. The Lord will hold to account for that on judgement day.

        • Frank

          That’s a pretty empty statement considering what scripture says. Please enlighten us scripturally that God condones and/or blesses homosexual behavior. Otherwise your position is not a theological one just an opinion which you are entitled to have but it carries no weight about the will of God.

          I don’t support bullying for any reason. Your inability to interpret words and truths is glaring.

  • Basil

    Frank, your prior statement about gay kids stands on its own. You, and those of your ilk, are complicit in enabling bullies to torment gay kids. That makes you a monster.
    I’m done feeding trolls.

    • Frank

      Basil thanks for showing all of us just how lost someone can get in the progressive camp.

    • A.T. Tapman

      The monsters usually reside in the “fever Swamps” of the left, I think you have taken a wrong turn son.

  • Priscila Who?

    I don’t worry about these people that think i’m like “the other Christians” because i have my identity in Christ. (: No need to argue, because i know who i am. No need to pull out my hate guns against anyone, because it was love that changed my heart. To God be the glory. May the peace of Christ be with you all! 😀

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    I think you’re basically right Tim.

    Rachel and I are on the same side in the so-called culture wars, but it’s important to remember that we’re the ones trying to change the status quo (on LGBT rights anyway, on other issues we’re the ones on the defensive). It may be frustrating that the fight goes on and on, but what’s the alternative? This discussion is clearly different between groups of Christian than it is between groups of voters, so I suppose I’m not really in a position to get the full force of either of your perspectives, but I think your point is a good one. (Jeremy Forbing above nails how this all looks to me from the outside.)

  • Hi Timothy,

    I wish I had more time this week to respond to your post in depth. You made some great points. (This, in particular strikes me as a wise way of putting it: ” The dead are not raised by politics, but the living can be protected and served by it.”)

    One thing I would like to clarify, though, is that I’m really not trying “sell scorn” with my writing. I try to be thoughtful, fair, and persuasive, and I’m careful not to write in anger. I care deeply about the future of evangelicalism, and that’s one reason why I am calling for change in this particular area. My purpose with that post was simply to make the point that legislative action against gays and lesbians is counter-productive, that young Christians are growing increasingly uncomfortable with constitutional amendments and that sort of thing. Obviously, people of goodwill can disagree, but it’s possible for me to hold this position with passion and not scorn.

    Also, you will notice that I’ve never referred to folks who are against gay marriage as “bigots” or “hate-filled” or anything like that. Many of the people I love most in my life are against gay marriage, and I know they are not hate-filled bigots…and so I would never make that generalization.)

    • Larry

      “young Christians” or “some young Christians”. Rhetoric like that is not only inaccurate and so, misleading, but in its own way, bullying. It suggests to the many young Christians who oppose same sex marriage that they’re somehow out of step, wrong-headed and generally uncaring. Yet you accuse conservative Christians of that very act … that’s hypocrisy writ large.

      It not that your simply painting with extraordinarily broad strokes (though, it seems to me that you are) … your treating (in this case) “young Christians” like a monolithic whole. That’s just not objective. To be frank, it actually strikes me as dishonest.

      It rather reminds me of the hushed tones of piety I hear so often on NPR when the speaker is suggesting that their point of view is really the only right, honest and morally correct one. Their tone is so reasonable … so pleadingly pious (and eerily self-satisfied) that no thinking person would ever question their conclusions. To do so would betray your essential wartish and hardhearted indifference to these “victims”.

      Again, I find it not simply uncharitable and dishonest … it is an attempt to bully people into agreement. Have a point of view? Fine … offer it with a reasoned argument. If it can’t stand on its own two feet … time to consider the possibility that it may just be wrong. Last time I checked, appeal to emotion was still considered a logical fallacy.

    • John W Gillis

      Mrs Evans, you may protest that you ‘never referred to folks who are against gay marriage as “bigots” or “hate-filled” or anything like that’, but your less guarded words betray you when you ‘make the point that legislative action against gays and lesbians is counter-productive’.

      I’m not aware of anyone anywhere who at any time has proposed legislation “against gays and lesbians”. That is a tendentious and uncharitable characterization of the actions of people motivated by the love of God and the well-being of the community to secure a legal basis to the public order which reflects both the will of God and the proper end of mankind in human flourishing and sanctity.

      If you think you possess greater wisdom and knowledge of God than do the defenders of the moral wisdom of Christian patrimony, then speak it plainly and without vilification. To insinuate that those you disagree with (or do not understand) make themselves to be enemies to those they are trying to correct is calumny.

  • DLE

    The problem with both the conservative and the “progressive” sides of this issue is that they are both wrong. The bigger problem is that neither wishes to man up and confess their sins, whether past or present.

    Conservative Christians took a scorched earth approach with homosexuals starting in the Anita Bryant days and never looked back, treating the sinner as sin and not as a person Jesus Christ would have broken bread with.

    Liberal (heck, let’s can the progressive pretense) Christians took the opposite approach, conceding to the spirit of the age, rejecting biblical authority, and ending up sanctifying sin.

    That said, getting either of these two groups to admit they are wrong is akin to building a bridge to the sun. The lack of repentance on both sides is both stunning and sickening.

    When you get right down to it, the same problems that afflict our politicians afflict our church folk. No one wants to find the narrow path to the best way of dealing with genuine problems. We instead paint with broad brushes, point fingers, and claim it’s the other guy who is ruining everything.

    What a bunch of babies.

    This is why Christ wondered when He returned whether he would find faith on earth. All people involved in these wars, no matter which side they are on, are in need of some serious and sober self-reflection on the sins of their past and present. That they all would rather be sanctimonious and refuse to acknowledge the errors of their own side is truly regretful and a stain on all of Christendom.

    • Larry

      Both wrong, eh? Perhaps from your lofty perch you’ll be so gracious as to propose a way forward. Perhaps your self reflection on things past and present has not only liberated you from sanctimoniousness and pride … but has yielded an irreproachable path forward.

      One so inarguably and obviously right that none would oppose and nearly all would hail it. Conflict? Never … indeed, it would be so reasonable, so charitable that defending it would be unnecessary, yes? No more bickering!

      Finally a reasonable man who transcends labels and leaves behind the petty warriors of another era. Yes, the clearly “unserious” and unreflective brutes who have so clumsily and buffoonishly stained Christendom with their narrow views of things moral need to bow to the nuanced wisdom and moral beauty of these … uhm … these, well … never before seen … or heard heralds of a new and better way.

      Indeed, let us now make way for the Prophets of earnest ambiguity. No more prophets in gray flannel robes … make way for the nonconformist prophets … the prophets of the rainbow robe.

      • DLE


        Sarcasm is not a very Christian way of dealing with tough issues.

        The problem with the current situation is akin to the unwed mother and her newborn, illegit child. Some things are not readily undone. You have to deal with the permanent fallout.

        Shoving a pointy stick into the bear’s den is likely to get you mauled. Better to have taken a wiser course of action when dealing with the bear. Sadly, the bear has already been poked.

        Conservative Christians poked the rather powerless, unorganized lot of homosexuals out there and wound up both creating and facing a bear. Admitting that perhaps there had been a better way is the first step to a solution. That we can’t get anyone to acknowledge this is a huge sticking point. Calming down riled bears is not our best skill, and undoing the damage may very well prove almost impossible. I say almost because with God nothing is impossible. Getting conservative Christians to start praying that God would work to undo the damage they created would be a start. Sadly, that’s where the true impossibility may lie.

        Second would be to put down the pointy stick. This doesn’t mean be soft on sin. Instead, it demands we be more loving toward our enemies. I don’t know why it is so impossible for Christians to say, “I don’t approve of what you do, but I can still care about you.” We do it with our wayward children all the time. The reason we don’t do this with the homosexual community is that it requires time, humility, and some genuine interest in the lives of people who are not believers. Again, that is our problem, not theirs. In general, too many Christians lead self-absorbed lives that involve as little contact with non-Christians as possible. That’s not going to work anymore. We must fix this.

        We then need to serve. How do we serve the homosexuals we may know without tacitly approving of their behavior? I leave that to you to decide by the leading of the Spirit because it will vary depending on each individual we encounter. We live in a post-Christian world that IS post-Christian because many Christian inoculated people against the Gospel by being all talk and no walk. That must be reversed. And that begins with serving. You may be the only person who shows up at your gay neighbor”s house when he is sick or when his mother dies. Be there. Earn the right to be heard. You never know what God is going to do if you take your own personal selfishness out of the picture.

        Be prepared to be scorned. Why? Because the most opposition you will receive is from fellow Christians. Jesus suffered the same kind of scorn for eating with sinners. We should expect the same treatment as our Lord.

        Then pray more and expect God to work.

        There’s your solution. It’s biblical and not so hard to implement.

        Throwing stones is something any yahoo with a 70 IQ can do. Do something wise and grace-filled instead.

        To liberal Christians who are ready to embrace the spirit of the age: STOP. All destruction comes in degrees. One day you’re a crusader for what you think is good, and the next day you’re condoning the worst stuff imaginable. Honestly, you’re one small step away from the worst stuff imaginable, and God will judge you for it. Ignore His word, play games with semantics, and put people higher than God Himself and you will be on the losing side in the end, and it will not be pretty.

        Both sides have been wrong. Both have been hamfisted. Both have been complicit, just in different ways. Both need to repent.

        • Larry

          DLE, actually sarcasm occurs throughout scripture. Paul seemed especially fond of it … Jesus even employed it. Especially for tough issues. Gee whiz. I’m going to be frank DLE … that was annoyingly puerile. Got an argument … make. Wanna deploy your thoughts through sarcasm … go for it. But please, dispense with the holier than though rubbish.

          You wrote,

          “Shoving a pointy stick into the bear’s den is likely to get you mauled. Better to have taken a wiser course of action when dealing with the bear. Sadly, the bear has already been poked.

          Conservative Christians poked the rather powerless, unorganized lot of homosexuals out there and wound up both creating and facing a bear”

          Uhm, DLE … that’s a rather dishonest rendering of history. Militant homosexuals have forced a response … Christians didn’t pick this fight … it came to them. Forced to acquiesce or mount a defense Christians wisely opted for the latter. The response of militant homosexuals? F*** You! You’ll accept our demands and enjoy it … or else.

          Crass, in-your-face insults, smashmouth thuggishness, a campaign of carefully crafted lies and characterizations. If anyone went poking about the bear’s den it was the “LBGT community”. Christian citizens, animated by a Christian worldview … have sought to protect culture from the deleterious effects the LBGT agenda promises to deliver.

          Furthermore you imply that Christians are not already deeply involved in ministering to the homosexual community. Where have you been? You write, “I don’t know why it is so impossible for Christians to say, “I don’t approve of what you do, but I can still care about you.” … again, where have you been? You are apparently steeped in the misinformation regular dispensed by the Left and utterly disconnected from the reality on the ground.

          You are perpetuating lies. You are “legitimizing caricatures”. You are not offering a solution. You contributing to the confusion.

          You write “Throwing stones is something any yahoo with a 70 IQ can do. Do something wise and grace-filled instead” (was that sarcasm?) … indeed, you may not be hurling stones (though that’s debatable) but what you are tossing around, liberally, ought only to be broadcast in a garden … as fertilizer.

  • Jace

    [Patheos, what follows is something from the web that takes a really different approach to things.]

    (and thinks children have a “right” to see it!)

    Google “Zombietime” and click on “Up Your Alley Fair.” After recovering from the uncensored photos (!), Yahoo or Google “God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up” on the “ucmpage” (even Jesus told Judas to hurry up – John 13:27). Also Yahoo “Dangerous Radicals of the Religious Right.” View these before the predicted California earthquake happens a la Rev.16:19 (“the cities of the nations fell”) – and before meteorological “lows” like hurricanes and tornadoes which predictably reflect society’s “lows.” Gays have invented strange architecture – closets no longer opening on to bedrooms but on to public Main Streets where children can watch police-protected sex between naked men in “Madam” Nancy Pelosi’s brothel district! I wonder how soon San Fransicko’s underground saint – San Andreas – will get a big jolt out of what goes on above him and will suddenly change the political left into the EPICENTER-LEFT!
    Since Luke 17’s predicted “days of Lot” (see Genesis 19) immediately precede the Second Coming, gays and gay-loving SF politicians are hurrying up, and thus helping to fulfill, Christ’s return as Judge and making the Bible even more believable! Not one to mince words, Jesus said in Mark 9:42 that anyone hurting a child in any way deserves to be hanged and have his body thrown into the ocean – and that includes any President whose favorite drink seems to be infanti-cider! It’s far from coincidental that the more America elevates gays and other violence, the more the cost of gas, food etc. goes up! If America is smart, it will pick up the big dust-covered book everyone owns and almost never reads – no, not the Sears catalog – and find out that the One who made the universe has some rights too!
    Also Google “Obama a Black-Slavery Avenger?,” “Michelle Obama’s Allah-day,” and “Islam Will Purify Jews and Christians.”
    PS – New pro-life slogans: “Unborn babies should have the right to keep and bear arms – and legs and ears and eyes etc.!” & “Unborn babies should have the same right to be born alive that abortionists had!”

    (Obama and his porn-protecting California friends – including Brown and Pelosi – did NOT approve of this message.)

  • Paul Ashley

    “We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.”

    What this says to me is that the speaker has been worn out by the attacks of the Left and, ala Rodney King, just wants to get along. When pressed, you can bet that what they’re for is pretty close to what the Left wants, and that ends up coming close to a redefinition of orthodox Christianity.

  • Nate

    Seems to me like the real problem here is that somewhere along the way we found it convenient to chop Christianity and just about everything else into little pieces or ‘sides’. Then we got all emotionally entangled in our ‘sides’ and ‘positions’ on issues, so that now the slightest little comment starts a conflict. I know that as humans we naturally try to categorize our world, but isn’t that exactly what Jesus and the New Covenant stand in opposition to? I mean, under the levitical laws everything was categorized for you according to something obvious like action, gender, race etc. and you could go around categorizing to your hearts content. One of the key (and revolutionary) points of Christianity is that the heart as well as the actions matter, that the world (and especially people) cannot simply be thrown into a bunch of easy-to-recognize categories. Yet in spite of that, we’ve turned around and made Christianity into ‘The Law 2.0’ by embracing many of the same mindsets that caused the law to bring spiritual death to its followers. There are no sides, there is only objective truth, and we have been promised the Holy Spirit to ‘lead us into all truth’. Each one of us will stand before God on judgement day and give answer for our lives, and there will be no ‘sides’, no excuses, only the one standard of Truth against which our beliefs and actions will be measured. In recognizance of that, I suggest we think learn to think and act as individuals, instead of taking the easy (and erroneous) way out – blindly following tradition, fashion, or comfort and creating broad generalizations about the world. Only then, when we form our own opinions yet remain open to truth, will we be able to effect real and lasting change in our societies.

    • Larry

      Nate, am I less individualistic if I recognize that 2+2=4? In order for me to avoid “choosing sides, blindly following tradition, fashion or comfort” must I instead conclude that 2+2=5? Or 3, or whatever seems right at the moment?

      Or, what if I should adhere to 4 as an answer (ignoring nominal and ordinal measurements) simply because, well, because its right? Does the fact that a rather large group of thinking people for whom rational, objective thought have also collected there invalidate or throw into suspicion that conclusion.

      Or, are there certain immutable laws and principles, which when adhered to provide for predictable and favorable outcomes? Are such principles “generalizations” simply because they are broadly applicable and unchanging?

      There’s no doubt, especially in this day and age, that a choice to challenge 4 as the only correct answer would find me celebrated by more than a few as courageous and deeply insightful. Or, if I simply suggested that the answer is different for different people, times and places I might be hailed as profoundly broad-minded and urbane.

      Or would I just be wrong … and worse … foolish? What sort of change do fools promote within a given culture and society?

      • Nate

        1.Mathematics is precise and based on rigorous proofs and therefore is not a fair comparison to philosophy, which is based on reasoning about non-mathematical subjects.

        2.I was very clear about the notion of objective truth that exists independent of our opinions. Straying from it because it is widely accepted would be absurd.

        3.The error in ‘choosing sides, blindly following tradition, fashion or comfort’ is doing it blindly, as if any of those things can reliably deliver truth.

        4.Being an individual is to ‘form our own opinions yet remain open to the truth’.

        5.Group consensus does not prove a belief correct or incorrect. Its your life, your responsibility before God, so its reasonable to say that you shouldn’t have others do your thinking for you.

        6.Discovering ‘certain immutable laws and principles’ is completely different from ‘creating broad generalizations’. A general principle is unchanging whereas broad generalizations you created are arbitrary – that’s what’s wrong with them.

        7.The primary point of my original post is that this whole ‘us-against-them’ type mindset is hurting Christianity by dividing us up into innumerable pieces, so since each of us is eventually going to have to ‘stand on our own two feet’ as far as beliefs and actions before God, we might as well start doing it now.

  • Stingray99

    Christians, and especially conservative christians suffer from dunning krueger. The illusion of competence.


    • Gary Simmons

      Uh, actually, quite a few people suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect, as well as other cognitive biases. This is why I have to stifle a laugh whenever I hear of secular, non-religious thought as if it were synonymous with “Reason”.

      What specifically were you referring to? Illusory competence with respect to… what?

  • Timothy:

    Thanks for putting this up — the post focuses on an important point about unity in the body of Christ. I must admit, however, that I much prefer the way Sam Brown has recently described and discussed the issue at By Common Consent — http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/06/03/the-hepatization-of-the-body-of-christ/

  • Aonghas MacDubh

    Talk about intolerance? What could me more intolerant that the homophobic destruction–with malice aforethought–of the cities of the plain? There was no tolerance, no understanding, no reaching out to the LGBT community: Only explosive sulpurous bitumen raining down on cities and killing every man, woman, and child.

    What could be more intolerant than that?

    I’d suggest we all remember the golden rule: the one with the gold makes the rules.

    What you or I think on any given subject is irrelevant.

    I think Bob Segar said it best…. we only have one thing in common……

  • Aonghas MacDubh

    I forgot to add one item to my previous post:

    May God be true and every man a liar.

  • Curt

    As a pastor, I have fought to keep my church out of politics as I believe I represent a kingdom that is not of this earth and that transcends all the political systems of this world. After America, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and liberals have all perished, the kingdom of God will remain. It is therefore cruial that we do not tie the gospel to any of these ephemeral institutions and philosophies as we dont want Christ discredited when they fade away. Of course, we must teach what the Bible teaches regardless of the poltical fallout, but we must not use this teaching to support any law, party or politican, as none of them will perfectly conform to God’s Word.
    In my experience, sometimes those who say the church shouold not get involved in the culture war are really saying they dont want the church to get involved on the side of the culture war they disagree with. For after shaming those who get involved on one side of the issues, they themselves then proceed to make political and judgmental statements from the other direction. If we really believe the gospel transcends politics, then is will be transcendent over our own views, just not those of our political opponents.

  • Charity

    Perhaps other commenters have noted this, but towards the end of your post you claim that Rachel Held Evans does not engage Conservative Christianity – at least not in an honest way. This is untrue. Her entire first book is about growing up in the movement, and her readership carries an understanding of her background (which most, I hazard to guess, share) into their reading of her blog. I fear that your recasting of her work in this article is unfair, at best – and dishonest, at worst. I will give you the benefit of the doubt as a brother in Christ and assume that you are unfamiliar with the ways she has engaged Conservatism in her body of work.

  • Jonathan

    Just my thoughts…..we need to be careful about what we apologize for and when we do it. Granted, I don’t condone mistreating anyone for any reason, but so many today are equating standing against homosexual marriage with discrimination and mistreatment of gays. I don’t disparage gays or make fun, but neither can I apologize for taking a stand against what they do. Why do I believe that homosexuality is wrong….because the Word of God says that it is an abomination to Him. I we start apologizing for issues that the Word says is sin and we are ashamed of fellow Christians who don’t kowtow (spelling?) to our popular culture then we are ashamed of God because the Bible tells us that the Word WAS God. And Jesus said if we are ashamed of Him then He will be ashamed of us. Don’t be afraid to take a stand….the Word also says if we are lukewarm, then He will spew us out of His mouth! So many people today form opinions of doctrine and Christianity in general but their arguments never one time mention what God says in His Word….we all need to look to the scripture when we discuss these things. Don’t be so quick to apologize….some things should be apologized for, but then some things should be rallied behind because it’s God’s opinion, not ours.

  • The church has been fractured from the beginning (as far as we can tell): Christians have always been fighting amongst themselves, ever since Peter and Paul fell out (at least!). The Nicene creed came as a late (and controversial) compromise designed to end the squabbling among various sects of believers (which continued on despite it). Martin Luther was hailed by the Catholic church as an atheist, an insult which Protestants turned right back on the Catholics (who were not above slinging it at each other, either: remember the schisms that produced multiple popes, Pope and anti-Pope?). I was born a Mormon, and have done my share of fighting over who is really Christian, and who is just faking it (as a service to Satan). To me the whole thing is ridiculous. If God cares that there are so many people who claim to do some many different, contradictory things in his name, then He can sort it out. Who are the true Christians? God knows. (This is something even many atheists would agree with!)

  • Pamela

    Anyone interested in this topic should read the book, “For God’s Sake, Shut Up!” by Brian Kaylor. It is a book about how some Christians approach to “furthering the Kingdom” actually hurts it. It is a very interesting read.

  • Prof Override

    Conservative Christians, more specifically, political social conservatives -aren’t conservative. Political social conservatism in analagous to economic socialism, using the state to achieve social ends vs using the state to achieve economic ends. True social conservatism would be far closer to to the positions of the Libertarians (see Gary Johnson, not Sarah Palin). The built in hypocracy of the phrase personally sets my teeth on edge. The characterization of political social conservatism as bigotry is correct and should be considered antithetical to Christianity. The core of Christianity is based upon individual choice. Political social conservatism is all about limiting the freedom on which that choice must be based. Ron Paul makes the choice to live a personally social conservative life, but understands that this is not an acceptable political position and should not be an acceptable chruch position.

  • Jay Saldana

    When I started this two days ago, I had a long diatribe all plotted out and then I wrote it. Posted it. Reread it. I erased it and saved it to reread again later. I wrote it again on day two, and when I posted it the second time I repeated my actions – the same as after the first post – after I read it again.
    While what I sad was valid for me it was missing the seriousness of Tim’s request and blog. So here is my attempt at not being “right” and replying to Tim’s Post.
    Now to the questions Tim raised. The progressives are making up for their guilt. First, let me say that while not a progressive, I do share many of the values they espouse but being more conservative on the interpretation of scripture. We have guilt becasue we have been silent all this time. We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated by the strength of the conservative voice. the self righteousness. The indignation. We cowered not wanting to lose our faith or our friends through what could possibly be an error. So we swallowed. We kept quiet while the culture wars raged. We let people say awful things about politicians, democrats, anybody who wasn’t Conservative Evangelical Christians. We saw the poor be neglected. We saw money be raised to a necessary sign of saintliness. We saw politicians do things that were patently against everything we understood Christianity stood for and not get called out by our pastors or church leaders. We saw great human beings who were struggling with their sexuality as we ALL struggle with our sexuality be shunned and called horrible names, be accused of bestiality and a host of other things to make a political points. Who cares what it did to that person. We saw that anyone who disagreed was excommunicated instantly. Very few tried to correct them, just reject them and move on. You saw it in the posts written here. Black and white. You are going to hell! So progressives lost faith with their brethren and became angry. Anger leads to foolishness. So we are seeing pent up frustration and anger and resentment for the mess we have collectively created. Oh yes, progressives are responsible too and very guilty. We could have made a difference if we all had the courage of our convictions and spoke up. Since we did not, we do so now as an over reaction.
    Ultimately, here is my point. When you look at what I wrote and you want to refute me point by point you have missed the point. Our souls are sick with self righteousness. It is time to remember that we all sin and all of us have been forgiven much. Time to do some missionary work. Go find a homosexual and be a real friend to them without ever discussing the error in their life. Instead, discuss your error and how your faith helped. And progressives, time to come out of the closet and find a conservative and share your heart and hurt not your indignation. Ta;k about what you hoped the people of faith would accomplish not how we have fallen short. I am sure a number of you will say that you already do this. Then go find a stranger who doesn’t know you from Adam and see if you get a different reaction. Lots of our friends hide from us. they like us, so they never tell us the truth becasue they think they know how we will react. Yes, even your homosexual friends. Yes, even conservative straight shooters. No one wants to be ostracized. In the end we will have to come the realization that we are not in charge of the world and learn to make do with it. We have good history for doing that. Paul did it. Peter did it. Augustine did it. Certainly you will not claim our society is sicker than their time. If you do, I suggest you find a good historian. Marriage is as much a civil function as a religious one and it is time we all faced up to it and the differences between them. It time we fought for marriage durability the way we have fought for legal exclusion.
    Wow Tim you really got me going…. thank you for your thoughts and wisdom, I hope I helped a bit, I know it helped me.

  • Dave C.

    I am in a mainline church who has decided to ordain same sex clergy in committed monogamous relationships. I am sure the leaders in getting this policy passed had in mind being inclusive of same sex relationships. Since then, congregations have left the denomination. Financial losses from these congregations have hurt many areas. I am wondering if anybody in the younger generations who are supportive of same sex relationships even care or would be willing attend mainline churches who have taken such risks?

    • Aonghas MacDubh

      My best friend Mike, while tripping on LSD, hitched a ride and was picked up by a van load of Jesus Freaks. Word on the street afterward was that Mike had become a Jesus Freak, and I believed it because I knew the mind-altering power of such hallucinogens. I avoided Mike for two months until, quite by accident, we came face to face. He enquired regarding my repudiation of him then explained that he hadn’t become a Jesus Freak at all. The people in that van told him about Bible prophecy, and Mike believed it. Subsequent to that revelation, I cut classes one afternoon and spent time with Mike, sharing herbal essences and talking.

      Mike told me then about the “end of the world.” I’d never heard this before, and though I cannot explain to this day why, I nevertheless could see the Great Tribulation unfolding before my mind’s eye. Two months later, I gave my life to Christ at a home church that advertised on local radio. “If life is, yada yada yada….”

      The moment I heard the beginning of those announcements, I promptly tuned to another station. On the last day of February, I telephoned the radio station, got the address of the home church, and drove over to find out more about what Mike had told me.

      Long story short, I walked out of that home church feeling like a major twit for having succumbed to the very weird desire to meet this Creator I’d heard so much about. They led me in a prayer, you see, and I did focus my mind on God and spoke directly to him…and nothing.

      Before I reached my car, however, I realised that something had reached down and snatched a ten tonne rock from my shoulders–a weight I didn’t know existed until that moment. I knew then I was free.

      I wish I could tell you I lived happily ever after, but I did not. I slipped back into drugs, alcohol, and immorality and felt despairingly guilty about it all. Walking in Christ is a daily struggle for me. I must cross swords with apathy, for example, and most days don’t care to do so.

      I do not therefore condemn anyone, for how could I do so without hypocrisy? Even with my Debt paid-in-full, I seemed to have remained a connoisseur of my own vomit. Of course, as the years progress, my desires to do that which I know I should not do has lessened considerably, as has increased my desire to serve God and please him.

      Mike was perplexed by my decision to become a Christian. He told me he had a plan for his own salvation that involved waiting for the Anti-Christ to be revealed, then refuse the Mark of the Beast, and become one of the martyrs beheaded for the witness of Christ.

      I asked, “What happens if the Anti-Christ is not revealed in our lifetimes?”

      He said, “In that case, I’ll wait until I’m on my deathbed then accept Christ right before I die.”

      “But Mike, what happens if you die instantly of a massive heart attack?”

      Mike shrugged. He had no answer and did not wish to entertain that possibility.

      On a cold January mid-morning, my best mate, shy of his forty-third birthday by two weeks, died of a massive heart attack in his car while waiting for his girl friend to emerge from a bank. The autopsy indicated Mike had died even before his head struck the side window.

      That was the second time I’ve experienced such a loss. The first was my biological father, a confirmed a-theist, who abandoned my mother and me while I was yet a foetus. Thirty years later, I had the opportunity to witness to him. For six years, we debated many aspects of God’s existence and his plan for mankind’s redemption. My father would spring such gems on me as “If God did not exist, man would invent one.”

      “But, Dad, on the other hand, if Man did not exist GOD would invent one.”

      Finally, after six years, he admitted what he hated most about God. “The blood.” He hated the blood.

      I gently reminded him that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.

      But, to no avail.

      Then, on a cold February afternoon, less than two weeks after his fifty-second birthday, he suffered a massive heart attack and died before striking the floor.

      SO, pardon me if I am not particularly interested in arguments between social liberalism and social conservatism. I carry no brief for dominion-ism and think it silly that otherwise sober and intellectually agile Christians believe they, by their efforts, can bring about God’s Kingdom on earth.

      There is no communitarian-ism at work here, no community to share the burden of individual rejection of God’s plan of salvation. Every single individual will stand before the Creator when this life is finished. Will your loved ones be irked if you focus your efforts in leading them to salvation? What will they be if they die without the opportunity to hear the gospel from you? Charity begins at home.

      Will your friends or relatives say the very same last words as those spoken by a young Iranian woman in the summer of 2009–after she’d been shot in the heart by a gunman for the regime? Her last words were as chilling to me as the news of my father and my best mate.

      As she lay dying, she told her father, “I’m burning. I’m burning.”

      What else matters beyond doing everything in our power to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

      What else could possibly be more important?

  • K Houts

    Scripture is quite clear: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

    8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Ephesians 5)

    Even Christ Himself has said: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. ” (Mathew 10:21, 22)

    While “culture war” in uncomfortable, unpopular – it must be waged. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

    We are to STAND FIRM in the truth of Scripture, in the belief that “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (Numbers 23:19)

    • Aonghas MacDubh

      Excellent. And wounding for someone who has struggled with the war between flesh and spirit, between righteousness and unrighteousness. You are right and correct to quote these scriptures which are good for guidance and reproof. Excellent points….all.