Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Several days ago I was watching a panel discussion on television which was attempting to tackle some of the most controversial issues facing our society today. As is typical of televised panel discussions, both sides quickly degenerated into an attempt to shout down opposing viewpoints. If you squinted your eyes you could almost imagine them as enraged chimps hurling feces, beating the ground and shaking branches. It was about as comfortable to watch as an eyeball extraction. Only a macabre fascination with their red-faced huffery and puffery kept me from changing the channel. In the wake of the furor surrounding Chick Fil-A's support of a traditional definition of marriage the discussion predictably turned toward gay marriage. One of the panelists, a young lady whose credentials were printed on the bottom of the screen as a DNC strategist, made the observation that the arc of history is marching unstoppably toward the legalization of gay marriage and the normalization of homosexual relationships. She confidently presented it as an inevitability, and predicted a coming day when popular attitudes would adjust to reflect greater acceptance of homosexual relationships and gay marriage. She drew some tiresome comparisons between the current debate and the civil rights movement of the 60's, and concluded that although homosexuals still had hills to climb things were generally trending in the direction of increased acceptance. Clearly, in her view, opponents of the movement were on the wrong side of history and would one day change their minds or die, leaving a more enlightened generation at the nation's helm. At the risk of coming off as a fatalist, I actually agreed with her that this is most likely the trajectory of things, but I can only imagine we hold differing emotions about such an outcome.

That is not the point of this post, however.

The thought I've been chewing on for the past couple of days is this, and I'm a little surprised that I've never thought of it before; Liberals fully expect our society to someday evolve beyond  conservatism. They believe that conservative thought will one day cease to play a significant role in shaping our society. Conservatives, on the other hand, hold no such expectation for a post-liberal America. In short, conservatives don't think liberals are going anywhere. The implications are enormous for the dialogue(a polite sort of word which does not accurately capture the spirit of the discourse I've witnessed on televised panel discussions) between the two camps. 
The dynamic, which largely goes unspoken, is that liberal thought is ascendant, unstoppable as the tide, and conservatism is back on its heels in a permanent posture of defense. Conservatives may still win a few significant national elections, possibly even the upcoming presidential election, but that would not negate the general thrust of my position. The only chance that conservatism has of surviving is to be redefined to such an extent that it is merely a more conservative form of liberalism.

Liberals have no reason to be tolerant of conservatives or respectful of their perspective. After all, in their minds conservatives are already irrelevant- an ideological speed bump.

Although it would be fair to describe me as "conservative" with regards to my political preferences, my primary identity is that of a Christian. As such, I believe in a larger metanarrative, which transcends the waxings and wanings of the American socio-political scene, and which finds its eventual culmination in the judgment at the end of time. The church was made for such a time as this. God has brought His people and the country in which they live to this intersection so that who He is can be put on full display through the church.

I am supremely confident in the ultimate victory of Christ. "Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." (Phil. 2:11)

During these days of huffery and puffery, panel discussions and rancorous debate I am finding it increasingly helpful to untether from my identity as a conservative American and settle more firmly into my role as an ambassador for Christ.

Speak the truth with love.

Be eager to do what is good.

Let your words toward outsiders be seasoned with salt.


Al'xae said...

I find the most frustrating part of this is that people are so concerned with making other people follow one set of ethics weather or not they agree on them. Mutual respect and human rights should be what we worry about. Living in the same house any amount of squabbles about paying bills and balancing budgets are going to occur but the best way to keep the peace is by respecting others as equals. I don't get all of this tying religion to politics (especially since I know a good amount of sensible Liberal Christians and Atheist Conservatives). There is a good deal of bullying and dismissive behavior on either side when we should be respectfully disagreeing but trying to work together anyway.
Basically I think I'm trying to say; politics suck but we can still be friends. Don't let the media get you down.


Once a person is trasnformed by faith I don't see how anything can be separated from it- politics included. All of life flows from and is viewed through the lens of faith. I agree by the way about respecting others, this is why we are told in 1 Peter 3 to talk about our faith with "gentleness and respect," and in Romans 12:18 "If at all possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone."

All conflict in the history of mankind, whether between two people or between two nations, has been made up of two basic parts- a relationship and an issue. I find that you can map how most people respond to conflict according to which of these two is more important to them. For some, winning on the issue is paramount and they'll ride rough shod over anyone to chalk up a W. Others would sell the farm, even if they're in the right, to preserve harmony in the relationship. A fair number of people don't care about either. The rarest sort of people care about both in equal measure. Jesus was such a person. Their was a broken relationship between the creator and His creation and at the heart of that brokeness was the issue of sin and its attendant consequence, death. Jesus didn't place the relationship higher than the issue by simply waving the consequences of mankind's rebellion. Nor did he deny His love for the world by destroying all of Adam's progeny, which He would have been in His rights to do. He held the relationship and issue as equal in weight which brings us to the cross. For the sake of restoring man, the offender, to right relationship with God, the offended party, Jesus took man's penalty onto himself.

Christians have an imperfect track record when it comes to handling conflict. That must be conceded, but ultimately this only shores up the core tenet of the faith, which is that men are imperfect sinners in need of a savior. We get it wrong all the time. In order to find fault with Christianity, its critics must find fault with what Christianity itself claims to be perfect, and the example of Jesus is perfect.

The difficulty for Christians living in America today is that our political system is built around the concept of personal influence. Our government, at least in theory, is by the people and for the people. Americans can't blame an out of touch King for disastrous or immoral policy. Our nation's policies are directly tied to values of the public. Therefore, every citizen has an obligation to bring their values into the public forum and discourse.

As the United States continues its inexorable drift away from a cultural Christianity people of faith will increasingly find themselves in conflict with their society. Jesus said it would be so so we ought not be surprised.

The point of my post was that some of the mean-spirited and intolerant language which is being leveled at people of faith, such as the CEO of Chick Fil-A, who possess the unmitigated gall to do something so unamerican as to speak their minds, and express a view which was unchallenged down through the millenia of human experience until the past few decades is directly tied to the expectation that society is "evolving" or graduating from such primitive perspectives.

Where I landed personally is that I must seek to hold a posture of persusuaion toward people who are not like minded which is balanced by a respect for them as a free moral agent as well as a sincere love for them and concern for their eternal state

Marlene Rini said...

That's right! Thankyou so much for the reminder. I LOVE this post!