During Lent this year, I stayed away from social media. Well… basically. We don’t have cable of any kind and I’ve never been a news junkie, so I mainly hear about current events from social media. Because I was disconnected, I was largely out of the loop on whatever was going on, which actually just made me a happier person. Right now, I can’t really give you a good reason to be invested in social media. Maybe later when I’ve gotten re-addicted. At the moment, I just feel happier and less cluttered. Anyway… that’s a tangent.
One thing I found out eventually was that something happened with a law in Indiana and a pizza place and I think wedding cakes all over again. I’m really not clear on the details of any of that. I started to try to find out, but then I found it all so depressing and angry that I just left the particulars of the legislation behind. I was more interested in reading how people talked about the whole thing. Most of the loudest reactions, both for and against, mainly just sounded shrill to me. Screeching and name-calling and hyperbole. I was pretty impressed with outrage at the bill (which, again, I know very little about) and then the outrage at the outrage. It really was just outrageous (surely you saw that one coming). I was struck by a few things, though.
1. I find it pretty alarming that any concept of the pluralistic public square has been removed from our modern construction. There really just isn’t room for disagreement on certain issue. People cannot be listened to by the opposing side without being shoved into some box labeled “bigot” or “denier of morals.” Not only that, but increasingly it seems that people on each side of an issue have less and less willingness to protect those with whom they very deeply disagree. When everything takes the tone of an ideologue, there is no room for civil disagreement. Everything is a moral crusade. Violators of The Ethic be not only damned, but fined and possibly imprisoned before they’re damned. I don’t think this is a very good sign for our democratic republic or for our culture. I understand the compulsion either to A) legally police moral boundaries or B) reverse, undo, and avenge mistreatment under the law of the land. I just don’t think you should always act on those compulsions in the ways that may come to mind. I have no specific direction for that sentiment, I’m just stating my skepticism. Unequivocally, I’m sad that the public square is becoming smaller and differing perspectives are being shamed into silence.
2. I can’t help but thinking that the vigor with which moral conservatives are campaigned against socially and corporately (as in, by businesses) is, in many respects, provoked by years of similar sorts of efforts when conservatives held political and ideological power. We can debate sexual ethics all we’d like, but I don’t know that many sexual conservatives today would be fans of criminalizing homosexuality. But for years, this was indeed the case. It was not just socially and morally frightening to be gay, but legally also. In fact, that fear is still very much around. I think that in many cases, this is a real shame, a black mark that has overshadowed any debates about law and sexuality. There is a degree of understandable thirst for vengeance. Vengeance isn’t a great motivation, but neither are actions that create that thirst.
3. I am really and truly delighted that morality is on the table, culturally. I see that as an unbelievable good. Of course, I often disagree with people my age about morality, sexual or otherwise. But I think we live in an environment where having real, deep conversations about what is The Good and what is right and what is wrong is very live possibility. We perhaps realize more than we have in a while that morality simply cannot be a merely private endeavor. Liberals and conservatives now agree that morality, even sexual morality, has a bearing on society and private choices cannot be merely private anymore. I think the liberal argument usually is, “Let people do what benefits them and doesn’t harm others,” but the assumption of the language of moral crusade is a proclamation that, “Our vision for what is Good should not be opposed by those who do not have that vision. And if you disagree, we will weed out your outdated beliefs.” That means, of course, that there really isn’t a belief that people should be able to do what benefits them and harms no one. Morals extend beyond that. I think that’s a wonderful development, even if competing views of morality are often very sharply opposed.
4. I think it is increasingly likely that Christians with an orthodox view of sexuality (that it is, it is only properly expressed in the context of heterosexual marriage) should just get comfortable with the idea of being a minority people. History moves in waves (as much as moral crusaders want to think it’s unerring line) and there are many cycles of history where Christian ways of viewing the world have been socially unacceptable. It’s ok. We’ve been there before, all over the globe. Early Christians certainly did not expect to live in a world where their spiritual, social, and religious choices would be acceptable to anyone but them. Am I sad that my kids and more likely my grandkids will struggle to identify with the Church and Her way of life? Yeah, sure. A bit. But I’m also grateful that we are moving past the ability to hold onto Christian identity for the sake of social advantage. This is, I think, better for understanding the Christian claim that God’s people are truly a distinct and weird people. We must be ok with Jesus and the early Church promised us: You’re weird, guys. People won’t always like you. If anything, we’ve been in a long anomaly. I guess this is a market correction on being acceptable. I think that’s kind of nice.
5. Christians should be comfortable with letting competing moral visions play out. Do I think life is best when living according to Biblical norms? Yes of course. At the least, do I think that competing moral visions should be protected so that citizens aren’t shunted off into dark corners? Yes. And I appreciate smart people who work toward that end, to provide legal fencing that benefits everyone, not just a few. But I’m not a lawyer or a legislator. It’s not my job to work in those realms. I’m not afraid of letting moral visions play out. I don’t mind people telling me why belief in God is stupid. I don’t mind scientific quests to explain everything about the visible world. I don’t mind philosophers trying to describe Truth or Morality, even if they don’t include God. I’m confident that world is not only preferable personally with Jesus at the center, but that the actual world that we live in functions properly with Jesus at the center. Christians have historically been accused of having an overly narrow view of sexuality. You know how that played out in the past? It worked out for us. People have said before that Christians overly valued worthless humans burdens that should be disposed of to protect people (then, it was infanticide, now it’s just abortion). You know how that played out before? It worked out for us. We need to just keep being who we are. We are Jesus’ people who love the fringe, the despised, the “worthless,” the rejected. We’re foot-washers. We tell the world that sin and death are horrible and terribly real parts of the human story, both in ourselves and out there in the world, but God is a loving redeemer. We keep our eyes up. We proclaim Jesus as King, not moral cuddle-bear. We pursue faithfulness to a God who is exceedingly more faithful to us. We put the city on a hill, the lamp on the stand. We let the Good News be good enough.
I know my perspective on these things is incomplete. I’m really not thinking of these issues as a legal expert or as someone making inroads to cultural institutions. That’s not my gig. This is just where I am as a young pastor, a husband, and a father. I’m saddened by a lot of things I’ve read from a diversity of voices after this whole Indiana thing. But I can’t say I’m really afraid. I don’t mind if people judge me as hateful without knowing me. They don’t understand me. I get that. I just have to show them what I believe about marriage or sex or money or whatever doesn’t stop me from loving those who disagree with me. I can’t legislate away the fear that I’m a bigot. I can’t legislate into existence Jesus’ vision for life. I have to keep doing what Jesus told me to do. I have to love Him with my whole life and love my neighbor because I’ve been a recipient of so much gracious love. I don’t think we’re headed in a good direction, but I’m not afraid. I believe that not only is Jesus better than any other kind of scheme, but I believe He’s also the real and true Lord of the whole universe. He cares for His people and He’ll take care of us no matter if our “persecution” is some name calling or if it’s guns to our head in some desert hideout. He’ll take care of us. More than anything else that people may try to say about us, I believe Jesus’ promise to us.
“I’ll never leave you.”
I trust that just as He is true, what He said is true.
He’ll never leave. And that’s enough.