Christians Do Not Need a Gamaliel Moment

Editorial Note: This essay is part of a symposium hosted by Patheos' Catholic Portal and Evangelical Portal, entitled, "For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism."

For the most part I appreciated Tim Muldoon's article at Patheos' For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism entitled "Fighting Gay Marriage Is a Lost Cause" because he reminds us of the importance of living our faith as the true foundation of evangelization. That is as true as true gets. However, the argument feels somewhat like another one of those pleas to separate citizenship from faith. I respectfully submit that Christians reject pleas to ever separate faith from anything at all because if Truth is not everything, then it is nothing.   

I realize Mr. Muldoon is not arguing that we actually do separate faith and citizenship, but to even suggest that legality and morality are separate seems like a sop to secular culture. I'm frankly tired of the upbraiding rhetoric in secular media that tells people it is inappropriate to acknowledge faith-based viewpoints in the public square. Are perspectives only appropriate if they are secular?  This isn't what our founders meant by "separation of church and state." 

To be fair, I admit that I have myself tried to make convincing arguments against contraception, abortion, embryonic destruction, homosexual marriage and adoption and other issues by bringing a scholar's mien to the table, and trying to de-emphasize God from the dialogue. What I ultimately discovered is that all such arguments are hollow. Unanchored and lacking depth, faith-excluding public discourse becomes unreasonable discourse, subject to spin and trends. For public policy to be reasonable and sound, it must be rooted in Truth. 

The secularization of the public square has been trending in our society, perhaps beginning with John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. Kennedy's attempt to dispel the charge that he was a "tool of the Pope," created the myth that in America "the separation of church and state is absolute," and our public discourse has since become incoherent, with politicians attempting to convince that they can legislate against their own consciences, being "against abortion personally," but not politically.  And something similar is happening now, with regard to marriage.  Law-making should be instructive to society—an opportunity to teach of the beauty and social health of the intact family.  Broken people, broken families and broken communities are tragedies.  

Having considered this as a citizen and a parent, I cannot agree with Professor Muldoon that it is time leave the political battle behind. Rather, I believe it is time to bring what we really know about Truth back into the public square, solidly and without flinching, and to even more fully evangelize.

Parents know that freedom demands virtue.  We teach our children that and it is true in society as well. If everyone is a slave to their basest instincts then no one is free. We have to remind the nation that the faith that unites Christians is not tyrannical, but wide in love, even as it instructs. 

There are unfair assumptions made by some, that bringing a faith-filled perspective to policy formation means we Christians are trying to create a theocracy, which is nonsense. Theocracies are in consistent with Christianity and an affront to human dignity. Christianity is about freedom and free will; it is also about responsibly serving the common good and loving thy neighbor. Why wouldn't we make the case for those values to be reflected in our laws?

Professor  Muldoon wrote a second article arguing that Christians need to have a "Gamaliel Moment" and take the advice of this Biblical legal scholar and "leave the legalities behind." He quoted from Acts 5:38-39 Gamaliel's words, "...if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."

Christians do not need to take Gamaliel's advice. Gamaliel was a Pharisee, and in this passage he was telling his fellow members of the Sanhedrin not to kill the Christians who were speaking publicly about their faith. So they instead tried to silence the apostles with scourging.  

Christians are not the Pharisees trying to kill or silence anyone. We are the same as our early brothers and sisters in Christ who were martyred and who are still being martyred in parts of the world today where faith, virtue and freedom are not honored. If Truth is worth living for, it's worth dying for.  And if it is worth dying for, it is worth proclaiming in public discourse and policy.

5/23/2011 4:00:00 AM
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