There’s plenty of hot-headed political commentary out there. I comment about assumptions beneath opinion–not just what people believe but more, why they believe it. Regarding the latest California craze, I hope to show how to respond without becoming “tit-for-tat.”
A new California law allows boys into girls’ locker rooms if they feel confused about gender. In the name of compassion for a few, boundaries protecting the sensitivity of healthy children are disappearing. The public square has become a place where people without boundaries define freedom. Constraints which have long made freedom flourish are under attack as exclusionary.
As I think about the kind of world I want for my kids, brute force almost seems justifiable to swing the pendulum of permissiveness back the other way. Almost.
Tough talk about the cultural slide won’t bring a change of heart where it’s needed. I received a phone call from a gal extremely distraught about a recent civil action which seemed to be yet another nail in the coffin of traditional values. She wanted to know what our church was going to do about it.
Here’s the assumption behind her question: the church is an institution with the power to push back against forces of wickedness. But where is God in this equation? I’m all for drawing lines and standing up for truth, but the way you take a stand also sends a message.
When churches leverage institutional power for their camp, they send two screwy messages:
Screwy message 1: The problem with the world is everyone opposing traditional values.
That message is not consistent with the Gospel. G.K. Chesterton responded to this question about what’s wrong with the world. He answered in two words: “I am.” That message wins people over to a hope which is bigger than what human institutions alone can provide.
Screwy message 2: Christians fight like everyone else–like there’s no tomorrow.
Instead, according to C.S. Lewis, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
So what do I suggest? Let the single-issue activists have their way? Hardly. I’ve seen enough retreating. For a generation, churches have withdrawn from the public square, positioning themselves as fortresses of fear rather than outposts of hope. It should not surprise anyone that, without participating in public life on a personal, messy level, you lose influence. Riding in with guns-a-blazing won’t gain it back. We must pursue the basic practices which earned the right to be heard in the past. Like Lombardi once said as he started rebuilding his team: “Gentleman, this is a football.” Compassion and sacrifice have always been the true platform for Christian influence.
Anyone who wants a winsome voice in the public square must get involved life on life with marginalized people. They must “bind up the broken-hearted, free the oppressed and not turn away from their own flesh and blood” (Isaiah 58). Leveraging power for a personal agenda, even in the best interest of the whole, operates at lowest common denominator.
When our actions show unambiguous compassion and ultimate hope for marginal people, then our words will carry weight in the marketplace.
Where have you seen this work?