A Filipino boxer is banned from a shopping mall because of his public statements about biblical teaching on marriage. A lesbian parishioner demands the removal of a priest who denied her communion at her mother's funeral. A counseling student at a Southern university is ordered to attend a "remedial" program to bring her views on human sexuality in line with current wisdom. The president of the United States confesses that he is now personally in favor of same-sex marriage. Incidents like these are skirmishes in a conflict that is shaping up like no other: the civil rights battle of the century-or half-century, at least-is in direct opposition to biblical teaching.
What do we do?
For the most part we've been putting out fires. Organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund race to the scene of the latest challenge, but what's needed is a grand strategy from the rear echelon. How does the evangelical, Bible-believing, gospel-preaching church respond to an agenda that's just now hitting its stride? We might start by trying to understand the nature of the conflict.
Gay rights advocates like to compare their struggle to the civil rights battles of the 1960s: Stonewall was no less a flashpoint than Selma, Harvey Milk a righteous martyr just like Martin Luther King. But here's the difference: The aim of the civil rights movement was civil, not personal. It was a demand for human beings of one color to go to the same schools and hotels and vote in the same polling places as human beings of another color. Far too many Christians opposed it at the time, but they were also opposing the Bible.
Feminism, the next great social-justice movement, struck closer to home-literally. Christians agree that women are not spiritually or socially inferior to men, and a woman doing the same job (with the same hours) as a man should earn the same pay. Unfortunately, feminism went far beyond the point of fairness and respect. It was often angry and personal, striking back at traditional roles, biblical norms, and a paternalistic god.
The gay rights movement is even more personal. Racial equality challenges society and feminism challenges the home and family, but homosexuality challenges the heart of our very being. "Male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27)-but what is male and female? It's no accident that the gay community has morphed into LGBTQ, that awkward acronym embracing a full range of sexual expression and experimentation. It also raises difficult questions about personal identity, which we don't get much leisure to debate because we're manning the barricades on so many fronts.
The three major fronts, as I see them, are:
- Same-sex marriage.
- The "bullying" issue.
- Normalization through popular culture (TV, movies, comic books) and the public schools (sex ed, children's literature).
The grand strategy of the opposition is to behave as though the debate is already over, that resistance is futile, and that full acceptance is a truth we hold to be self-evident. In 20 years, morality has flipped like the value of a Las Vegas condo: What's up is down, and vice-versa. Aggressive "tolerance" seeks to box the evangelical church in a corner and smack down every protest until she cowers in silence.
Again, what do we do? Not as Republicans or libertarians or conservatives, but as the Church, committed to our Lord and sharing his compassion for the lost? The opposition is not a monolith-these are friends (or former friends), family members, neighbors, children-all bearers of God's image and desperately in need of His grace. Is our call only to individuals, or do we have something to say to the culture at large? And if we have something to say, what is it and how do we say it?
This is big. It's not only the defining civil rights issue of the day, but also the crowbar that will be used to marginalize Christianity. And even though I feel inadequate to address it, I'm going to try, over the next few weeks, to get down to the root and work out a godly and biblical response. What do we do … any thoughts?