The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, but it likely will not end the strife or wrangling that this issue has inflamed. Although public opinion has accelerated in favor of same-sex marriage (50% of Americans favor it, up from 39% in 2008, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life), staunch opponents remain entrenched.
The subject has evoked a lot of attention in the media and many would argue that the coverage unfairly supports the homosexual agenda. Matt Slick is one of those making this claim. Founder of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) in 1995, Slick was invited to an interview by The Daily Show, Comedy Central’s show that satirizes the media and politics. The show’s producer explained that the interview would cover homosexuality and the anti-Christian bias in the media. Skeptical of their intent, Slick repeatedly expressed his concern about “being promoted as a wacko who they could mock.” The producer assured him that this was not the show’s objective.
The sketch, aired June 17, would argue otherwise. Slick claims that the 3 hours of taping was shrewdly edited to misrepresent him and his views. He gives a lengthy explanation of the events that transpired and his interpretation of them on his website, http://carm.org/matt-slick-daily-show. The show’s host, Samantha Bee, injected several dissenting – and humorous – comments to Slick’s assertions, especially when he claimed that “homosexuals go out and find straights to beat up.” Slick claims that this statement was edited, that he clearly said that he did not know if homosexuals actually bully straights. Yet, he goes on to say in his rebuttal that he believes such cases must surely exist due to sinful human nature. Sorting through the facts of this dispute would require the acumen of a team from The Good Wife.
Unfortunately, The Daily Show does not release copies of original footage. Was the producer underhanded? Was Slick misrepresented? Does this prove Slick’s allegation that there exists an anti-Christian bias in the media?
For several decades now, Christians have complained about being the target of secular persecution. Some Christians warn of an increasing hostility towards followers of Jesus. The IRS scandal has fueled the paranoia. The IRS was guilty of targeting political groups when reviewing their applications for tax-exempt status, delaying approval as long as 18 months in some cases. Words like “Patriots,” “Israel,” “Tea Party” or “Occupy” in the application flagged the group for more tedious scrutiny. Although the IRS was reprimanded by the Treasury Inspector General and at Congressional hearings, Christians interpret this action to foreshadow an intense crackdown by the government on Christian institutions.
Where does this presumed persecution occur? Primarily in the political arena. When the Church decided to organize as a political action group, it subjected itself to the same battle tactics from opponents as any political party would experience. When Christians act like a political party, we should expect to be treated like a political party. The Democratic party does not bemoan being targeted by the Republican party for persecution, even though they have been treated with all kinds of hostility in the political fracas for power.
Attacks on Christians have increased with the decision to enter the political dispute over same-sex marriage. In an effort to present a biblical standard of holiness, some Christians have said mean things. Some speak with a condemning tone. Some appear self-righteous. In the secular ring, why are we surprised when opponents use harsh tactics in retaliation to our attacks? Is this persecution? Hardly. It is politics, pure and simple.
A bigger question emerges from this conflict: When Christians publicly denounce homosexuality and its practitioners, are we faithfully representing Jesus? Would Jesus be compelled to appear on FOX News or Bill O’Reilly’s show to oppose same-sex marriage?
An examination of the gospels does not reveal a political activist, but a proponent of justice (which includes mercy) and redemption. The only place we might sense a condemning screed from the Savior is his public denouncement of the religious leaders, not the political opponents of righteousness. He condemned these leaders for their hypocrisy, their greed, their self-indulgence, their neglect of justice, mercy and faithfulness (cf. Matthew 23:13-36).
When dealing with sinners, Jesus was anything but condemning. When an accused adulteress was thrown into the dust at his feet, Jesus surprised her accusers by inviting the man without any sin to fulfill the law and cast the first stone. One by one, they all left. Jesus asked the woman if none remained to condemn her and she responded, “No one.” Jesus tells her, “Neither do I condemn you,” although as the sinless Son of God, he had every right to do so. In redemptive form he extends mercy and releases her, but tells her to sin no more. (cf. John 8:1-12)
Where do Christians acquire the notion that we are responsible to publicly denounce sin, such as same-sex sex, without offering forgiveness through the gospel to the guilty?
Political discourse truncates our message, leaving only the condemnation of sin and, by extension, the sinner. There is no place for the proclamation of the good news of God’s love of sinners and grace for their sin.
This reduction of our message should give Christians pause when we are tempted to fight for the preservation of righteousness in social law. That fight may alienate the very people we are fighting for: sinners who need the gospel. Instead of appearing as messengers of reconciliation, we are more likely to sound like political adversaries, attracting the ire of our opponents.
This has surely happened in the battle over same-sex marriage. Any public opposition immediately gets categorized as homophobic and self-righteous. We have forfeited a gospel pulpit for a political platform, losing the ear of those who need to hear about the saving love of Christ and God’s transforming power. Members of the LGBT community see Christians as their enemies rather than their friends. This sadly compromises the reputation of Jesus, who was known as a “friend of sinners.”
We have a lot of work to do to reverse this trend and recover an opportunity to love LGBTs the way Jesus would certainly would.