Recently there has been a media storm concerning the Patriarch of Duck Dynasty and an interview in a magazine wherein his views about homosexuality were solicited, and he expressed them. A gay advocacy organization demanded that A&E fire the man, and A&E complied by suspending him indefinitely.
I offer that very brief review of the situation just in case the reader is ignorant of my reason for writing. The reactions of Christians have been varied. Many have been vehemently agitated and angered at this attempt by an organization to censor someone's free speech based on their personal religious beliefs. Some were angered that a group dedicated to the defense and advancement of homosexuals should have such power to cause a believer to lose his job and ironically to actually declare him not to be a Christian. Some were concerned that he may have indeed insulted homosexuals by calling them "sinners". Others didn't think this was a very serious issue at all since it involved fairly wealthy people who were part of the television and media culture.
I am concerned about how people have responded to the situation. While some have brushed the incident aside as not really having anything to do with it being a threat to freedom of speech (usually citing that it was not government that objected to it), others have been alarmed. Freedom of speech in not simply a governmental issue, actually it is the role of government to defend it in the private sector. Certain governments in the world proclaim that they have freedom of speech and religion, but culturally everyone knows that certain things cannot be said, lest you lose your job, your home, your family, even your life.
Some Christians seem to think the answer to this kind of situation is to be quiet and seek in every way not to be offensive. In case the reader hasn't noticed not all Christians are actually the same type. Some believe the Bible and take it as true and authoritative in all to which it speaks. Others have felt they can reinterpret the Bible, lessen its offense, make it more culturally acceptable based on the idea that the words themselves are not literally the words of God. Bible believing Christians think that idea is heresy and not true Christianity. My concern in this writing is to speak to Bible believing Christians, and to help those who are not believers to understand a little about them.
Many Bible believing Christians have had family members or friends who were gay. This has presented a real challenge of love for them. Some have decided that the way to love gay family members was to accept their behavior as normal and thus have re-positioned themselves on what the Bible teaches. Others believers have refused to accept such behavior but have still sought in some way to show love to homosexual members of their families. Some families have been torn apart.
Bible believing Christians have some very real challenges here. I would like to encourage believers to rise to those challenges. I want to exhort all of us to love homosexuals, whether they be in our families or in our community. Obviously if their behavior is immoral then our stand against such will have repercussions for them. The gay community has striven to overturn those repercussions which include everything from the dismantling of laws against sodomy, changes in prosecution for contributing to the delinquency of minors, and gays openly in the military. None of those changes allows believers not to show love to homosexuals, though we may hate their cause. As in the struggle against alcohol as a public vice Christians have had to come to grips with the allowance of whiskey; loving alcoholics while preaching against drunkenness. However, this is not the same thing as being made to shut up about our view of such behavior.
I think our future in this country, and in fact the future of this country, depends on whether or not we will continue to demand the freedoms for which our forefathers fought and died. Freedom is not something we should easily relinquish. I doubt the problem is that someone will snatch it away all at once, this is a progression (or regression) and something we must be aware of and actively resist. It is not unchristian to stand for these principles; the manner in which we stand will either be loving or not. Loving is what Jesus demands of us, nevertheless, we must stand for freedom or we will eventually find it compromised and taken away from us.
If we allow fellow believers to be shouted down, shut out, fired, ostracized because they simply answer "ambush" questions and reveal themselves publicly as actually believing that what the Bible says is true then we will have a hard time maintaining our ability to practice our religion in this country. Those who want to stay on the sidelines in this struggle will one day find a muzzle over their mouths, blogs, books, and pulpits. Gay advocacy groups are asking for nothing less than for us to change our religion or refuse to ever acknowledge what is means. We must let the world know that is not going to happen. This is not simply an issue for Christians, but for anyone who has an unpopular view, or who actually believes in the freedom of speech and religion.
Contrary to the propaganda so prevalent concerning how these old fashioned views of Christians will change and fall away gay organizations and their supporters should realize that Bible believing Christians find no Biblical evidence that this issue is the same as civil rights for racial minorities. Therefore believers cannot see this as an issue of justice but rather one of morality. Any act of disobedience against God's Word cannot be justified as a right or a lifestyle no matter what public opinion might say. In fact, we see this as an issue of the allowance of public immorality, which leads to injustice, and therefore should be resisted. As long as people believe that the Bible is true in how it was written then their views will not change. Surely anyone familiar with the history of Christianity knows that will continue to be so, no matter the cost. Racial justice partly came about in this country not because Christians stopped believing their Bibles but because they were convicted by what it does teach.
Christians have co-existed with sinners in this country for a long time. We see ourselves as very much in this category ourselves. When it comes to dealing with social issues, whether of justice or morality, Evangelical Christians seem to go to one of two extremes. Evangelicals either want to become aggressively political and abandon principals of love and gentleness in the process or they think that it spiritual to abandon the political arena. This abandonment of politics can come about due to the belief that the way to change society is through personal conversions on a grand scale, or that changing society ought not to be our concern at all. For me the quest for public justice is part of my Christian responsibility, whether I see it achieved or not.
We must love those who consider themselves homosexuals. Our country has often tolerated their mistreatment and Christians have often been silent about that. We must not allow them to be abused and mistreated and we must give to them the same protections given to all other people. At the same time how can it be loving for us to not tell them the truth? A truth they may not want to hear is not the same as "hate speech." This is the ground we believers must not surrender. If I believe the whole Bible I must love everyone and compelled by love tell everyone they are sinners (and the practice of homosexuality is one of those sins) and need to be saved, and can be saved, by the grace of God. How can I love someone and not warn them about their need to repent and turn to God if indeed there is a judgment which is to come? If persecution comes to me on that account so be it, I understand that price as a Christian. Yet I am not just a Christian, I am also an American, and that means that persecution is not my only option here.
Every Christian who is also a citizen of this country owns the country along with all other citizens. My understanding of American democracy is that we the people make our government. If it fails and I have not sought to affect change then I am partly responsible. Our views may not always win but abdication of the defense of our freedoms is not a legitimate option. I can still be a Christian without freedom, but it would certainly be a betrayal of all America has stood for and for which it was founded if I allow that to happen. Gay organizations have exercised their freedoms to pursue a cultural and political agenda with which I completely disagree. Yet, I believe they have the freedom to speak about what they believe.
What we must not allow is for them to silence us in the statement of our beliefs because it hurts their feelings, or because they have attempted to redefine our beliefs as hateful toward them. This redefinition has now taken root in almost all pubic media and social and public culture. Homosexuals don't want to consider their behavior to be evil or sinful though we say it is sin. Ironically, we say the same thing about moral, legalistic, self-righteous, religious people. They don't like hearing we think they are sinners either, and those are the ones that nailed Jesus to the cross. While the present imbroglio might be dismissed because it is concerns television personalities, and one may not share all the views of the individual, nevertheless this is a dangerous threat to the free practice and proclamation of our religion, and therefore should be resisted by all Americans, not just Christians.