I’m thinking about never eating cake again. Well, probably not never, probably will have some this weekend at a birthday party, but at least never see cake the same way again.
Maybe you’ve heard about the whole Christian baker not wanting to bake a cake for a gay wedding because she felt it was against her religious belief to participate in that ceremony. Now last December a Colorado baker refused to create a cake for a man that wanted “God hates gays” and other like slogans and pictures on it; this baker, who identifies herself as a Christian, said that she wouldn’t participate in something that was hateful like that and now a lawsuit is being filed against her.
Of course, it’s not simply bakery, but all sorts of hot topics. Homosexuality, abortion, science and faith, evolution, biblical inerrancy, atheism, church corruption, women in the church and the like that get people all riled up and unreasonable.
We hear any of these things and as Christians we get some gut reactions that we don’t always know what to do with. First there is this very deep cultural divide in the public square, not only on this question of homosexuality but on marriage, relationships, sex and the like. I have very close and dear friends, all very rational, genuine and faithful Christians who have such diverse opinions on this subject that it’s like seeing black and white. Then, we wonder, what does the Bible say about these things, how are we to interpret those statements not only in the Biblical, historical, cultural and linguistic categories but also in how it applies to us today through the universal truth of God’s Word that transcends every culture and time. (I know; trying to parse that sentence is about as easy as doing what it asks us to do!) Then, of course is the whole question of what role does our Christian faith in the public sphere play and whether or not we are supposed to be, “morality police” or leave the culture altogether and become isolationists, or something in-between or greater.
Here is just one more of the many problems we face when sorting through this labyrinth, whatever we say, however we say it, we will get yelled at by someone with an axe to grind about something. This is the landscape we must deal with and learn to deal with in an honest and effective manner that maintains integrity and exemplifies compassion and faithfulness. Not too tall of an order, is it? So in the next few newsletters I want to spend some time talking about how we can do this, negotiating some of this craziness with honest, faithful and compassionate hearts, minds and conversation.
So here goes, let’s start with laying down some principles to work with.
- The impossibility of being the Morality Police
If we are going to enter into the secular world as a professional ______________ (fill in the blank), are we also entering into that field with the intent of judging the morality of our customer base? As a business owner, customer service rep, cashier, etc…. am I going to ask every customer, “What do you plan on using that cookie for? Oh, it’s to give to your illicit lover that you’re cheating on your wife with. No, I can’t sell you that cookie.” Or “are you going to use this lumber to build a deck where people will likely drink too much, no of course I can’t sell you that lumber.” And no, the whole “ don’t ask, don’t tell thing,” doesn’t work here either. The only option seems to be to put out a sign that says, we will only serve “Christian, sinless people who have no intention of using this product in anything we might disagree with,” and have them fill out a questionnaire and contract before hand. But that isn’t reasonable or what going into business in the first place is about. Homosexuality has become the current battleground for this particular cultural fight but we don’t hear people holding the line over selling cigarettes, which do irreparable damage to our bodies that are the temple of the Holy Spirit. In the realm of reasonable, secular work ethics, we must be very careful about what hills we are trying to die upon.
- But this doesn’t mean silence is the answer.
But just because someone may be offended by a value we hold that doesn’t mean we should be seen and not heard, standing silently in the corner. We have very good and positive things to say about life, society, morality, hope, compassion, faith and love. Things that society needs and needs in abundance; but in the sharing do people have to be jerks about it? You can be right and be a jerk and nobody will care if you’re right or not. If we approach our culture with a pitchfork and torch, crying out “kill the monster!” no one’s going to listen, especially people who happen to like the monster and are trying to stop it from being killed. Silence isn’t the answer, but how we speak, in civil, rational, careful and compassionate ways makes a world of difference in how people hear the words coming out of our mouth.
- But just because someone has an axe to grind…
I have heard from very conscientious and faithful Christian’s their very deep concern over not entering into every fight. They feel that somehow, if you don’t go into every fight, defend every belief, shine the light on every error then somehow you’re not being faithful to your convictions. The main problem with this is that not every fight is worth fighting and the wiser choice is to be quiet and to listen well and try to here the heart and the hurt behind the words and the actions. On every side of any debate there will always be people who are simply in it for the fight, to prove they’re right and your wrong and don’t care what kind of damage is done in the process. But just because someone has an axe to grind doesn’t mean you have to let your head get chopped off. Fighting for the sake of fighting doesn’t get us anywhere and looking at the conversation with our culture as a cage fight won’t fix anything.
As Christians, ultimately we are not at war with the world but are followers of the Savior of the world. We have to be honest about our own motivations when we speak and when we engage. Are we entering into a throw down fight to prove we’re “right” or are we following our Savior and His heart to redeem His world?