By / Apr 8

Last month, USA Today reported that Facebook is now recognizing 58 distinct gender options, with a 59th for “fill in the blank.”

According to Facebook, “We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.”

There is nothing “authentic” about defining oneself by a sexual or gender impulse inconsistent with who one is. But more on that later. For now, here are some thoughts on terms increasingly used in the public parlance but which merit a bit more than casual acceptance – both for the sake of linguistic integrity and for the sake of the troubled men and women and the social conditions about which they speak.

Transphobia: “Intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people” (Oxford English Dictionary). No one should be treated cruelly, in word or action, because he or she dresses or behaves in a manner commensurate with his or her opposite gender. Period.

On the other hand: People who believe men and women should only be allowed to enter restrooms or locker rooms designated for persons of their same biology or those who believe companies should have the right not to hire persons wearing opposite-sex attire are not prejudiced or phobic. They are responding naturally and intuitively to things that not only are visually jarring but internally dissonant. These responses are innate, inherent, natural.

Moreover, one’s gender cannot be undone by cosmetic changes or even surgery: DNA is permanent. As my friend Russell Moore has written, “We believe we can no more surgically alter our gospel than we can surgically alter our gender.”

Homophobia: “Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people” (Oxford English Dictionary). So, unlike transphobia, the dislike doesn’t have to be “intense?”

There is no doubt some people bear hostility to homosexuals and cause deliberate pain to persons open about their same-sex attraction. That is regrettable and, for Christians, completely unacceptable. But the following beliefs do not represent such hostility:

People who believe in marriage as the covenantal union of one man and one woman, for life.
People who believe children thrive and mature most successfully with a mother and a father.
People who believe that sexual intimacy is reserved for one man and one woman within the covenant of marriage.

Disagreement is not, by definition, evidence of fear or hatred, whether it deals with moral deliberations or things less profound (you’re a Yankees fan, I like the Mariners). Asserting a moral viewpoint that such has implications not only for personal behavior but law and culture is not necessarily hostile or a demonstration of bias.

For example, when in the civil rights movement the heirs of Lincoln proclaimed that human equality meant that people of color should be treated with legal justice and social dignity, their proclamation was informed substantially by religiously-based moral conviction. So are the claims of people of religious faith who argue that marriage is solely the union of one man and one woman. This is not irrational bias or hateful speech; these claims are grounded in 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian moral teaching and social understanding.

Cisgenders: According to sociologists Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago) and Laurel Westbrook (Grand Valley State University), “cisgenders” are “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.” In other words, they are men who identify as men and women who identify as women.

In an article this past December, TIME magazine explained that the word “cisgender” “exists to serve as an equal to transgender.” The author, Katy Steinmetz, writes:

Cisgender is a word that applies to the vast majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a doctor announces, “It’s a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child’s body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender. Similarly, a baby designated male in the delivery room who grows up to identify as a man is cisgender. This is the case for about 99% of the population, at least according to the best available statistics.

Steinmetz goes on to note, “In general, there aren’t too many places outside of a dictionary or chemistry lab where one would likely see the prefix being used, but cisgender is seeing an uptick in use.”

Well, maybe. But it is saddening and quite forced that some are asking that the vast sphere of those who understand that their maleness or femaleness is determined by their biological sex – in which, as Steinmetz observes, “about 99 percent of the population” coheres – has to be defined in distinction to a tiny fraction of self-identified “transgendered” persons.

Heteronormative: “Denoting or relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation” (Oxford English Dictionary).

To say someone is abnormal is understood commonly as aspersive. Consequently, saying someone with same-sex attraction is “abnormal” can be perceived as unkind, even if in the most literal sense of the term it is true (if the overwhelming percentage of a certain group – say, about 99 percent – is identifiable by the same characteristics, can they not be considered normative?).

However, it is indisputable that all but a small percentage of the persons in North America are heterosexual. As such, they compose the norm against which that small percentage is cast in relief. It is not pejorative, then, to assume the heterosexuality of most of one’s fellows.

Recently, the editor of an LGBTQ blogsite wrote me that “Genitalia determines sex, not gender. Trans people should use facility of their gender; it’s safest.”

Trying to divorce biology from gender is akin to attempting to separate wings from a bird: That which defines its very being constitutes its essence.

Genitalia do indeed determine sex. And biology, morphology, neurology, and other factors do as well, such that if someone is a biological male, he is a man, or if she is a biological female, she is a woman.

The editor who wrote me argues that apparently one’s sincerely-held beliefs about his or her gender determine whether or not he or she is a man or woman. This defies logic, of course; believing something sincerely does not make it so. And to claim a man is a woman, or vice versa, and insist such a claim be taken seriously in law and public conduct erodes the healthy, safe, natural functioning of society.

As far as my editor correspondent’s apparent claim that it is safer for “trans people” to use public facilities commensurate with their self-asserted gender, (a) I wonder on what basis he asserts this and (b) if, in his world, other people matter.

That sounds harsher than I would like, but it’s fair to ask: What about the men and women and children who feel, understandably and naturally, offended, frightened, or even traumatized by viewing opposite-gendered persons disrobe in front of them in locker rooms or use opposite-gender bathrooms? The reactions of dismay and even fear of the great majority of heterosexuals to such behavior are understandable given that such behavior is evidence of an internal disorder within those who commit it. Their behavior runs counter to their identity; it is inauthentic at a most fundamental level, and thus jarring and disturbing to others who observe it, at the least.

And given a culture in which sexual assault is much too common, is it really surprising that women would be frightened by seeing men in their showers, even if those men profess a genuine internal alignment with their opposite gender?

Must some in the “transgendered community” simply demand that those opposing their agenda get over their native sense of shock or fear? Must all of culture bow before an insistence grounded in the abandonment of rationality?

The “laws of nature and of nature’s God” cannot be reversed by political pressure or popular will. Two plus two always equals four. The sun always rises in the east. Water always runs downhill. And men will always be men and women always will be women.

To make this latter claim is not homo- or trans-phobic. It is not inherently hateful (and should never be used as a pretext for hate, either). It’s a matter of simple honesty we should not be afraid of speaking. To have, or inspire, such fear is to encourage ratiophobia – the fear of reason.

People struggling with same-sex attraction deserve the same compassion, respect, mercy, and grace that Christ offers all sinners – to every person, in other words.

In sum:

Politically, Christians need to oppose efforts to change public law to accommodate those who wish to undo the undoable (human nature, biology, sexuality, et al). Not to oppose initiatives to conform law and custom to sexual unrealities would be unloving both to the advocates of such (by enabling and encouraging them to believe and participate in falsehood and error) and the broader culture, including persons whose well-being or livelihoods are jeopardized by others who press for legal and social change involving religious intolerance and crass personal and public disruption.

But as the church of Jesus Christ, as His representatives, we must also be there for those same persons, ready with compassion and counsel and practical help. Opposing their political efforts does not mean either to hate or abandon them as beloved image-bearers of God.

For years, psychologist Dr. Jerry Leach struggled with feeling like a woman in a man’s body. Through counseling and the transforming power of God’s love, he overcame his gender identity disorder (GID). Describing his journey, he writes:

I began the painful process of exposing my secret to trustworthy leaders of my church, as well as good friends. I fully expected their rejection. Instead, they reached out to me with overwhelming love, acceptance and compassion. This simple act of exposing my secrets defused much of the inner anguish and shame. Discarding my secret identity was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. Many times, I didn’t know if I could emotionally survive without cross-dressing. Eventually, however, I came to realize that casting off that false feminine persona was the best thing for my life. Today, as I gaze out the window of my office, my reflection in the window pane is different. It’s no longer a stylishly-dressed woman, waiting for the receptionist’s announcement. Now I see the man – the healthy man – God created me to be.

Rob Schwarzwalder
Rob Schwarzwalder has served as chief-of-staff to two members of Congress and is a long-time member of the Evangelical Theological Society. He currently serves senior vice-president of Family Research Council.

By / Apr 3

Tolerance. The modern, cultural elite praise this virtue in every school setting, media outlet, and job training workshop. There seems to be no truer way to love another person than to fully accept everything about them. Christians have often joined the tidal wave of this mainstream value and often long to be known for their acceptance of others' opinions and lifestyles. On the surface it seems to be a positive virtue, one that exemplifies the life of the Christian.

But have you ever considered that tolerance is never encouraged in the Bible? The fruit of the Spirit includes love and kindness, but missing from the list is tolerance. In fact, Christians aren't called to tolerance, because we serve an intolerant God.

Just consider a few stories from the Old Testament:

The Garden: God didn't tolerate Adam and Eve's sin. He didn't accept their lifestyle choice to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He banished them from Eden and left an angel with flaming swords to guard the entrance so they couldn't return. 

Noah and the Flood: While the sanitized version of this story is pleasantly detailed in children's storybooks, we cannot forget this story is about immense judgment. Picture a tsunami of destruction instead of a nursery filled with smiling stuffed animals. The flood involved terror, suffering, and death. It was a catastrophic event that only one family survived.

Uzzah: One of the most uncomfortable accounts of divine intolerance is found in 2 Samuel 6. This story recounts Uzzah's attempt to steady the ark of the LORD after an oxen stumbled on the journey back to Israel. When he reached out and touched the ark (an expressly forbidden action), God didn't say, “Well, his heart was in the right place. I know he was just trying to help.” Uzzah's instinctive response was met with God's intense anger, and Uzzah was immediately struck down.

We could go on and on throughout the Old Testament, considering Achan, Korah, Aaron's sons, the Canaanites, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, just to name a few. All perished by the very hand of God. He did not tolerate their sin; he punished it.

Greater judgment

Lest we somehow think Jesus represents a different God than the one of the Old Testament, though, consider his teaching to the disciples in Matthew 10:14-15:

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus claims a greater judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah for those who reject the message of the gospel. He warned many would believe they knew him, only to learn they have been rejected with these words: “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 13:22-27) Rather than find welcome into God's kingdom, they would find themselves in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Both the Old and New Testaments display a God who doesn't tolerate sin. Yet there is one story in Scripture that demonstrates most clearly the intolerance of God.

It is the story of the cross.

Take a fresh look at the terrifying and uncomfortable reality of the cross. Here is an innocent man—whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, bearing the sins of the world. For you. For me. Is this the picture of a tolerant God who ignores evil? No, this is a gruesome picture of divine wrath and judgment. The story makes no sense if God is a tolerant God.

The cross demonstrates God's character in all its complexity. It shows his love, kindness, and mercy united with his justice, holiness, and wrath. It perfectly demonstrates a God who surpasses understanding. The Lord is giving us a glimpse into the immensity of his love for us. The love of God is not a tolerant love. It is much better. It is a redemptive love.

Tolerance is unloving

Sin must be paid for. To tolerate evil is to deny justice. God unleashes his full wrath on evil because he's good. If good tolerated evil, it would cease to be good. Refusal to tolerate sin, then, is an essential part of loving others well. It might be tolerant for a mother to let her children play in a busy street or run with scissors, but it's not loving in the least.

We also should hate sin because it's harmful, even if we don't always understand the harm that may be caused. As a child is unaware that a car may quickly appear, we must understand that we're unaware of all the dangers of sin. God, our loving Creator who understands our frame more fully than we do, bids us to flee from evil and find abundant life in him alone. Life outside the revealed will of God doesn't ultimately fulfill; it leads to misery and emptiness.

As his people, then, how should we live? Romans 12 provides helpful insight:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. . . . Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God calls us to abhor evil, while at the same time warning us against being agents of his wrath. We should hate the act of stealing while showing mercy and compassion to one who steals. Loving people well doesn't mean we must embrace the choices they make. It means we openly welcome and embrace all who come into our lives with a heart of understanding and the message and hope of the gospel. We love people well when we call them out of sin into relationship with King Jesus. It may not be the world's definition of tolerance, but it's the truest way to love.

This was originally published by The Gospel Coalition.

By / Mar 20

Recent controversies about the nature of marriage, assisted suicide, the conduct and personnel policies of Christian institutions, and other fraught questions have brought to the forefront of civic discourse among Christians a reticence to be perceived as making judgments. American Christians, especially evangelical Protestants, are judgment-shy. This is not without reason. A handful of prominent Christians have expressed judgment in unloving ways, and a willing secular media has celebrated them as typical Christians. But it is an over-reaction to empty oneself of all practical judgment. The effect of non-judgmentalism is to replace, Seek first the Kingdom of God, with, Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

One species of the broader phenomenon of non-judgmentalism is today far too prevalent among many Christians. It takes the form of the trope that to affirm the categorical and absolute moral norms contained in natural law, human law, or (especially) the Bible or Christian teaching is judgmental, and therefore wrong. Call it the Non-Judgmentalist Assertion. The assertion is both incoherent and unloving.

We might note in passing that behind the assertion is pride dressed up as humility. I am not like those who are judgmental. I don’t judge. But leave that aside and focus here on the problems with the assertion itself.

The Non-Judgmentalist Assertion: Incoherent and Unloving

The first problem is the assertion’s incoherence. The Non-Judgmentalist Assertion generally takes one of three forms. The non-judgmentalist might assert that: (1) A’s action of judging wrongful the action of B is wrong; or (2) A’s action of judging B for taking some action is wrong; or (3) A deserves disapprobation for judging the actions of B or for judging B.

Notice that 1 and 3 are operationally self-refuting. If it is wrong to judge another’s actions wrongful then there is no basis to judge wrongful the act of judging someone’s actions wrongful. If it is wrong to judge a person then there is no basis for judging the person who judges.

In fact, those who assert the Non-Judgmentalist Assertion have no principled objection to judging. Instead, they object to making judgments with which others disagree, or which are controversial, or which might hurt someone’s feelings (unless that someone is deemed, in the judgment of the non-judgmentalist, to be judgmental). Notice that these criteria are entirely subjective. Some judgments should be judged right and others wrong, but not according to the truth or falsity of the judgment.

Form 2 of the assertion is not self-refuting but it generally lands well wide of its intended target. It consists of the non-sequitor that to judge someone’s action (eg, an act of intentional self-destruction, or non-marital intimacy, or abortion) to be wrongful is to judge the person (eg, the destination of her soul or her putatively lesser moral status). This canard is so obviously absurd that it borders on bad faith.

The second problem, which deserves more attention, is just how unloving the Non-Judgmentalist Assertion really is. If someone I love is engaged in wrong conduct then I ought to–and will, if I genuinely love him or her–point out that what he or she is doing is wrong and is likely to lead to a harmful end.

We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. So how do I love myself? Well, I love myself first by rendering practical judgments upon my own choices and actions, then by acting upon those judgments. I judge that it is better to brush my teeth than to let them rot, and I love myself by acting on that judgment. I love myself by judging that I should not ingest heroin, commit adultery, or eat that extra cookie; and by judging that I ought to read good books, give to charities, and take the stairs rather than the elevator. I render these judgments on the grounds not only that acting rightly will please God, but also that acting rightly will go well for me.

Actions that are good and right are directed toward good and right ends—life, health, knowledge, community, and virtue. Actions that are bad and wrong are directed toward death, illness, ignorance, alienation, and vice, or are directed at good ends by wrongful means. Because one must distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong, in order to act well, judgment is necessarily entailed in self-love. Precisely to the extent that I judge my actions good and bad, right and wrong, and act upon those judgments I am loving myself. Precisely to the extent that I fail to make those judgments or fail to act upon them I fail to love myself.

For “my” and “myself” in the previous two sentences substitute “my neighbor’s” and “my neighbor.” The logic is the same. So, judgment is entailed in loving one’s neighbor.

Don’t we want our lives to go well for us? Of course we do; we act like we do. The question therefore is: Why don’t we want our neighbors’ lives to go well for them, too?

Of course, pleasing God is also important. Right judgments evince a will that is pointed toward God’s eternal kingdom. Wrong judgments, or a refusal to make right judgments (which often amounts to the same thing as wrong judgments), evince a will that is directed toward That Other Place. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” Christ told us.

God calls us to love others as He loves us. And God is not content to leave us in our rebellion and sin precisely because He loves us. Right judgment is entailed in His love; it necessary precedes his mercy and grace.

The truth is that the authority of God and the love of God are inextricably tied together. Without the love of God the righteous judgment of God would destroy us all. But without right judgment, love is meaningless. We are called to share God’s love, not to mouth insipid greeting-card slogans.

 Anticipating Some Objections

Yes, yes, I know: Judge not, lest you be judged, and all that. (Matthew 7:1-6, for those of you not proof-texting at home.) This is followed by the admonition first to remove the plank from our own eyes, and then to remove the speck from the other guy’s eye. It does not take a theologian or Bible scholar to notice that, in context, this cannot mean, Never make any moral judgments. For Christ admonishes his followers to make all sorts of judgments, many involving people other than themselves. And having first removed the wood from one’s own eye, what loving Christian leaves his friends to walk around blind?

I am emphatically not suggesting that we ought to walk around thumping people on the head with a King James Bible yelling, Repent thou sinner!, as if we are not sinners ourselves. But we should not fail to speak of the reality and effects of sin. In a world that has forgotten how to live well, we sometimes need to exercise right judgment about actions not only with our lives but also with our mouths.

I am also emphatically not claiming that we should render judgment about the eternal fate of the people who take wrong actions. There are many tepid people who avoid grave sins but also fail to love God and their neighbors (perhaps I am one of them); just as there are many people who burn hot as they run in all directions, who make tragic blunders and perform heroic deeds of faith and love (perhaps I am one of them, too). Which one gets the eternal reward? I have no idea. The point is that we should be prepared to admonish the tepid person to perform great deeds and to admonish the fiery person to avoid pitfalls. And we should be prepared to do this whether the tepid or fiery person is ourselves or someone else.

Yes, Christians are called to exercise mercy, and to forgive. And notice that the Non-Judgmentalist Assertion renders that call meaningless. Show mercy in lieu of what righteous, just response? Forgive what offense? The non-judgmentalist has no answer. Only the person who judges rightly can show mercy. Only someone who recognizes wrong can forgive that wrong.

 Loving by Judging

How can we judge well so that we can love our neighbors well? Serious Christians ought to give that question serious consideration, yet in our day the problem is largely unexplored. In the space I have left, allow me to open to view just one area in need of exploration.

Consider how Christians might respond to the marriage crisis that our nation is currently experiencing. Many Christians are reticent to speak out about the evils of divorce, cohabitation, adultery, and out-of-wedlock birth for fear of offending divorced people, single mothers, and sexually-active young people. But consider that many of those people might actually want us to judge. For example, in our age of unmarried cohabitation and no-fault divorce, many single parents, divorced people, and especially children have been wronged by unfaithful exes and parents but have been denied the vindication that attends a legal judgment in their favor. By expressing moral disapproval of infidelity and abandonment we demonstrate our concern for those who have been harmed by the licentiousness of the sexual revolution and our belief that the wrongs they have suffered really matter.

And even those who do not want to hear our moral expressions might need to hear them. If a man is considering leaving his wife or his pregnant girlfriend and no one is willing to challenge him to be manly—to honor the obligations he has created for himself—then he is far more likely to perform an action that will cause tangible harm to his girlfriend, wife, or children and great moral harm to himself.

There is more to it than this, of course. But we need to start by acknowledging that exercising right judgment about human choices and actions—our own and others’—is the loving thing to do.

Adam J. MacLeod
Adam J. MacLeod is Associate Professor at Faulkner University, Jones School of Law. He holds degrees from Gordon College and the University of Notre Dame.

By / Feb 23

In Washington state, a florist who has employed and served gay people for years, but who declined to arrange flowers for a same-sex ceremony, faces the potential forfeiture of her home and life savings. In Atlanta, a decorated fire chief lost his job for self-publishing a book that dared to offer an opinion on sexuality that historic Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all affirm. In Oregon, the owners of a bakery face up to $150,000 in penalties for declining to bake a cake for the wedding of a gay couple. There are countless other examples that could be shared, but they all follow this pattern: Run your business or institution according to your faith; or publicly express moral or religious convictions that dont celebrate homosexuality or gay marriage, and youre liable for very real consequences such as fines, lost employment, and the harassment and intimidation that follows from media exposure. According to this rigid ideology, indecent views that run contrary to so-called mainstream and enlightened opinions on sexuality cannot be tolerated or given quarter in the public square. Though supposedly guided by a blind relativism that denies any ordered purpose to our sexuality, this dictatorship of sexual relativism is very insistent that you comply with its demands as a matter of moral obligation and justice because, as political theorist Matt Franck presciently warns, there is no good reason for the new legal order to make room for conscientious religious dissenters, for clearly their consciences are malformed and unworthy of respect. A 2009 paper from the Heritage Foundation explained just how traditional marriage proponents would be pushed out of the public square:

Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that preserving marriage as unions of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons who want the state to license their relationships. As increasing numbers of individuals and institutions, including public officials and governmental bodies, embrace this ideology, belief in marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman likely will come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from public life through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.

This prescient quote brings us to our current moment, where we see, increasingly, the targeting and marginalization of religious persons by a community that foretold of a laissez-faire approach to sexuality. Those of us who believe that marriage is the exclusive, unalterable union of a man and woman were promised that all that the LGBT community wanted was equal treatment like everybody else. They advertised a live and let live mentality that would supposedly allow for difference in viewpoint. We were told a lie, many of which knew was a lie to begin with. As the LGBT activist wing reveals its true intentions, there can apparently be no grand bargain where religious conservatives who disagree, civilly, on important matters of sexuality can co-exist alongside gay persons who desire to live free lives as well. History reveals that when one group gains cultural favor over another, it typically overreaches, going to extremes to mercilessly subjugate their enemies to whatever table scraps are left over. Thats the phase were in now. In these circumstances, dtente is discarded. Instead, embattlement and entrenchment passes on to the next generation. It is the activist wing of the LGBT community that has settled the terms of the current debate, pitting the gay community against religious conservatives, wishing to extract every last pound of flesh they can from who they view as their troglodytic oppressors. Religious conservatives dont desire this. We want freedom for all. We desire magnanimity, tolerance, and compromise. That means, under reasonable standards, allowing all persons, religious or not, the freedom to live according to their sincerest convictions. It means instead of filing suit against a Christian florist, allowing for the free market to solve the problems of needing a floral arrangement for a gay wedding. That also means freedom for gay persons to live meaningful lives, too. It means acknowledging that gay persons are citizens. Though the favor hasnt been returned to religious conservatives, it means not coercing a baker to bake a cake with a religious belief about marriage that she does not agree with. It means recognizing that hiring or firing on the basis of sexual orientation, rarely, matters as a condition of employment eligibility. Religious conservatives stand ready to live at peace. Yes, we welcome the debate about whose vision of sexuality maximizes human flourishing, but that debate can be persist without punishing those who disagree. Public debate by private citizens is what makes America so unique and exemplary. Lets not litigate public debate out of existence. Tragically, all we've seen thus far is the vanquishing of those whose beliefs are different, but we will not beg for the constitutional rights that are inalienably ours. We will not assent to the dhimmitude of the Sexual Revolution. The unknown is whether the LGBT community will accept this. Those who believe in a religious or moral conviction that marriage is conjugal, meaning between a man and woman, should continue to advance the cause of why the conjugal view of marriage is rational, true, and best serves the needs of civil society. They should also pursue every policy mechanism that protects against encroaching, coercive legal strictures that turns ordinary, hard working citizens into litigants and law-breakers. Pluralism and true tolerance requires magnanimity. The culture wars grow colder as these disputes pit Americans against Americans, not just Christians against the community. As Christians, one of the most loving things we can bring to society is an advocacy for a genuine civic pluralism. But well need the other side to play, too.

By / Jun 9

You need to watch this insightful dialogue between Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take. They are reacting to Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend moments after becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL and the suspension of a Miami Dolphins’ player who reacted negatively to it on Twitter.

Here’s a clip from the conversation.

I’d encourage you all to listen to the conversation in it’s entirety. The link to the podcast and minutes are provided: Podcast (Minutes 1:03:35-1:16:35)

I love the show First Take. I listen to the podcast almost everyday, and as funny as this may sound, I think these guys may be providing a great example for cultural dialogue in America. They model how to openly “embrace debate” on controversial issues that they often have profound and deep disagreement about, and yet at the same time they are united in their friendship with one another.

We have deep divides right now in the American cultural discourse, and the conversation has become heated, especially on issues like gay marriage. This show charts a different course. Here are a few of my observations about their conversation regarding Michael Sam.

  • Tolerance must go both ways- Stephen A. says that the gay community talks about tolerance and an elevated understanding, “but maybe tolerance goes both ways.” Right now tolerance seems to mean endorsement rather than kind disagreement and the call for diversity is actually a call for uniformity, and where those things are not present there is vitriolic speech. May the cultural dialogue be truly tolerant, but, even if that doesn’t happen, may we in the Christian community be truly tolerant – genuinely loving and kind to those who disagree with us.
  • We should treat each other with dignity and respect- In the conversation both men are clear that NFL players need to treat Michael Sam with kindness. Skip uses this phrase several times, “You can’t condemn, even if you can’t condone.” Now, theologians can parse that phrase, but I think it basically is a helpful rendering of what Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 5. We need to befriend, be kind to, and not judge the world. We need to seek to win them, and leave the rest up to God.
  • We should value freedom of speech- Stephen A. and Skip argue that someone should have the right to voice their opinion if they are not physically assaulting the other person. They recognize that might have repercussions in terms of endorsements from advertisers, but someone should not be fined for expressing themselves in a non-violent way. America was founded on the principles of free discourse, but we are now in an interesting time where that ideal is under threat.
  • Parents are responsible for shielding their children- They didn’t mention this on First Take, but I will throw it in for free. It is the parents’ job to shield their kids from things they don’t want them to see not ESPN’s.
  • The Church needs to stand up and make its case- Interesting that even on ESPN the church is called on to take a stand. Yes, the church needs to stand up and make the case, but that doesn’t mean screaming at those who disagree with us. Rather, it means the kindness of God in the gospel driving people to repentance, and it means modeling the gospel in our heterosexual marriages. We’ve stated neither case well in our recent past.
  • Contend for the faith- Skip and Stephen A. acknowledge that the church is divided on the issue of gay marriage. That’s kind of like saying that the early church was divided over Judaizing (Gal. 3:1-6) or Nicolaitanism (Rev. 2:15). Was there genuine disagreement on these issues in the early church? Sure. Was one group wrong and one right? Absolutely. It should not shock us that some in the church will bow their exegesis to the cultural errors of the day, and then act like we’ve misread the Bible the whole time. That’s always been the case. We need to contend for the faith that’s been handed down to us not an interpretation that showed up yesterday.

This article was originally posted here.