Irreverent musings: pop apologies

I’m under no illusion that the Christian community has an impeccable record on any social issue, but isn’t it possible that our critics are just using us as convenient scapegoats?

And so, to get rid of this rumor [that he was the cause of the great fire of Rome], Nero set up as the culprits and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians. …an immense multitude was convicted, not so much on the charge of arson as because of hatred of the human race.

-Tacitus, Annals (from Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd ed)

It’s one thing to have liberal secularists blame Republicans, conservatives, and Christians (but I repeat myself) for the mass murder in Orlando. It’s something else to have Christians blaming Christians for it.

To cite just two examples, Sammy Rhodes (RUF campus minister) and Jen Hatmaker (author/blogger) have both posted mea culpas* for our contribution to the barbarity that claimed the lives of 49 people in a gay night club.

I have no intention of divining the sincerity of these apologies or the impetus behind them, but I do want to draw attention to some troubling aspects.

First, it’s striking to note that these comments were offered in response to charges leveled by prominent gay & lesbian individuals. Hatmaker was “listening to my gay friends and leaders” while Rhodes came across a tweet from “author and lesbian Támara Lunardo.” I’m under no illusion that the Christian community has an impeccable record on any social issue, but isn’t it possible that our critics are just using us as convenient scapegoats?

For example, here is the tweet that drove Rhodes to his keyboard:

When Lunardo was told that Christians had, in fact, been speaking out she responded:

Maybe I’m just a hardened cynic but it sounds to me like Lunardo (et al) would be shaming Christians no matter how we responded.

Second, the language in some of these apologies can actually dull the Christian witness in an important way. We know what militant secularists mean when they accuse us of promoting inequality, supporting injustice, denying civil liberties, etc. These charges are leveled against us any time we affirm a biblical sexual ethic or seek to live out our faith in the public square. Parroting their lingo in an apology sounds like tacit agreement. We can love others without adopting their terms. Language matters.

Third, a personal apology should regularly employ the singular personal pronoun (I, me, mine). I may be in a very small minority here but when your personal apology goes on to talk about “we” and “us” it sounds like posturing.

Tacitus’ account of the events in 64 AD isn’t a perfect analogy but it makes for an interesting thought experiment. Had social media been available during the Roman empire, a large segment of the population would have been happy to blame Christians for the fire. Assuming that Christians were no more perfect then than now, would Peter have taken to the blogosphere to apologize for the anti-pagan bigotry that rendered Rome combustible?


*On the whole, Hatmaker’s post wasn’t exactly an apology.



Live and let die

Last week World Vision’s president, Richard Stearns, announced a policy change that would permit the Christian organization to hire “someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ.” And two days later World Vision reversed the decision when it became apparent that the organization stood to lose millions of dollars from their sponsors.

For many this was just the latest sign that conservative evangelicals would rather wage war than offer compassion.

An exasperated Jen Hatmaker chastised those who just can’t come to grips with the fact that the church will never have consensus on homosexuality. Rachel Held Evans asked whether the “‘victory’ against gay marriage” was worth the ensuing losses and submitted her resignation from evangelicalism.

Not surprising but still noteworthy was a contention shared by Stearns, Hatmaker, & Evans — namely that the church’s debate over homosexuality should be treated like the church’s debates over divorce/remarriage, modes of baptism, etc.

Agree to disagree. Live and let live.

But the debate over homosexuality is not like these other debates.

First, Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality enjoys a clarity & consistency the other issues lack. Homosexuality (along with all other sexual immorality) is explicitly condemned & prohibited every time it’s addressed. No exceptions. No “problem passages.” No arguments from silence.

Second, the consequences for getting it wrong on homosexuality are fatal. Practice what you will when it comes to baptism—infants or believers, sprinkle or dunk—you have no word spoken against you. But those who practice sexually immorality (regardless of orientation) are said to be barred from entering God’s kingdom (1Cor 6:9-10).

So which is the greater danger: promising peace when there is no peace or promising grace for all who would repent?

For my part I can’t see the love in subscribing to a live-and-let-live theology that offers cultural comfort for eternal death (Rom 1:32).

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