My spirit is shell-shocked. My heart is grieved.
Perhaps there is also some frustration and even some anger, but mostly there is grief. My grief is due to the most recent installment of the American culture wars which have been raging for some time, polar wars between conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat, faith and unbelief. We stare across the battle lines in disbelief, from whichever side we’re on, disbelief that our opponents could possibly have done or said or believed that. My grief comes not from the fact that we disagree, or even that we disagree so passionately. Passion is one of our great qualities as Americans. What grieves me is that our disagreements so often cause us to demonize and demoralize our opponents, and sadly, this has been done by both camps of the culture wars.
Recently, Christians have been labeled as hateful bigots for holding to a Judeo-Christian sexual ethic based on Biblical teaching. (And yes, this sexual ethic is found in the Old and New Testaments, including the teachings of Jesus.) On the one hand, the accusations of hate and bigotry seem like nothing more than a rhetorical strategy for shaming people out of an “outdated” Christian ethic. Who wants to be labeled as a hate-monger or bigot? On the other hand, there seem to be many people for whom these labels are more than a strategy. They honestly believe these things about Christians. Hence, my grief.
If I’m honest, I have to admit that having my heart and motives judged based on my beliefs also makes me a little angry. It’s quite unfair to be grouped in with the likes of Fred Phelps (of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church) when I and many other Christians genuinely strive to love and respect all people in our day-to-day lives, regardless of their age, gender, race, politics, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Yet while I might respond in anger to labels, I do not want to respond in anger to people, even those people who see me as their enemy.
I know that I’m not the only one who doesn't want to be labeled, Christian or non-Christian. I know that we all struggle with the best way to navigate the mine fields of the culture wars. But I’d like to offer the following to Christians in particular as we respond to cultural attacks. These are thoughts, not pre-packaged solutions, but I hope they might be helpful.