As if we Christians don't already have enough serious issues to discuss, I heard last week about a local church in a far western state where a small group of long-time members is now threatening to leave because the pastor thinks it isn't necessary to refer to homosexuals as "sodomites." They say he's trying to gloss over serious wrongdoing by refusing to call a particular sin by its real name.
Well, of course, even the Bible doesn't use that term. The report reminded me of the time when a WORLD subscriber canceled her subscription because we had used the term gay in a headline rather than sticking with our more usual homosexual. Even after we explained that this wasn't our typical policy, and that we too regretted the changing of the language and the fact that common usage had burglarized a formerly happy little word, her anger was unabated. We weren't the purists she had thought us to be, and her only recourse was to cancel.
When will we learn to pick our battles?
The bottom line is that while we squander our resources with such petty arguments, homosexual activists continue to gobble up huge chunks of yardage in the battle for ownership of public-policy advantage. In that conflict, I suggest two lines in the sand are emerging where we need to stand firm. Neither of them has to do with mere terminology and word usage. But our failure to stand firm will cost our culture dearly.
The first line in the sand has to do with an employer's right to hire or not to hire, even on the basis of so-called "sexual preference." Nearly a decade ago, I wrote in this column how much we need "to be aware how drenchingly and deliberately we Christians, like the rest of society, have been brainwashed by the homosexual lobby. The conscious campaign prompting us to include homosexuals in the same list with racial minorities, with women, and with physically disabled people has been massive in the last few years-and it has been massively successful." Case in point just a couple of weeks ago: the decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court to require the Boy Scouts organization to admit practicing homosexuals as members. The slippery slope continues.
The result is that employers throughout America have virtually lost the right not to hire-or promote-someone who is a homosexual. Even worse, they seem by their silence also to have conceded that loss.
Note well that I am not calling for a systematic or blanket exclusion of homosexuals in hiring. There may be many times when employers (including those who are Christians running their own businesses) properly think it is a good thing to hire such people. I cannot any more find fault with that than I would with one who chooses to hire someone with an alcohol problem or someone who is chronically late for work because of laziness. Our sinful hearts produce all kinds of problems that employers have to deal with regularly.
But when a society imposes on an employer a legal duty to hire such people, that society has taken a giant step toward a terrifying kind of totalitarianism. Some may argue that the same threshold was crossed when discrimination against racial minorities, women, and the physically disabled was outlawed. But thinking Christians will assert a profound difference: For while the first three situations all represent expressions of God's sovereign placement of humans in particular categories, homosexual behavior is by contrast (and has been throughout human history) a choice directly against God's stated standards. To require an employer to make allowance for the first three is only to insist that an employer make allowance for God's purpose. To require an employer to make allowance for homosexual expression is to require that employer to provide a platform for the amplification of rebellion against God's purpose.
The second line in the sand, not yet drawn so definitively but still emerging with scary clarity, is the issue of state approval of homosexual marriages. No comfort should be taken from the fact that even the Clinton administration has so far opposed such approval. The climate is nevertheless altogether ripe not just for permissive legislators, but for a permissive electorate, to give their approval sometime soon to such policies. It will not be startling when it happens; it will be startling if it does not happen. And that line in the sand, for all the same reasons, must not be crossed by conscientious Christians-or even by non-Christians who value certain stabilizing forces in our culture.
What it means for faithful people to refuse to cross such lines is obviously still to be worked out. And there may be other lines that need to be drawn. We need to pray for courage when the time comes-and for wisdom to distinguish real issues from those that really don't make much difference.