Certainly in light of the recent decision of the PCUSA church to endorse gay marriage, a pastor whom I follow offered a blog post warning against seeking friends with the culture. This post made me think for, though I’ve heard the same thing before, it seemed to make some questionable, even contradictory, points.
If you are a true follower of Christ, you will have enemies. A lot of enemies.
This isn’t a popular idea.
Many Christians seem more intent on fitting into culture, or at least getting its affirmation, than opposing it. And the entire idea of being an enemy, or having one, seems out of sync with the Christ life.
I have heard, even said, this sort of thing many times in my life. Yet now I am growing skeptical of how it is presented. While the idea that Christians will have enemies may be true, it is often forgotten that Jesus’ enemies were the religious establishment. The recent case of the chaplain dismissed from preaching for questioning America’s love of violence is an example of this. Those who talk about how important it is to oppose culture rarely, if ever, speak of our culture’s love of war and violence. Most of the time the problem is gay relationships. Jesus was accused of being friends with the wrong sort of people. If we are following Jesus, will we scare away traditional religious people or skeptical outsiders?
So why is there such a great temptation for Christians today to opt for a popular stance instead of a prophetic one?
Such statements appear to me as a huge double standard. First there is the assumption that Christians are taking such stances to be popular. How on earth does this writer know that is their motivation? Second, the exact same accusation could be pointed at to those who remain within the conservative evangelical Christian fold. If you want to garner approval from the popular preaches and leaders of the day, if you want a place on the evangelical speaking circuit and to have your books fill the shelves of Christian bookstores, do not come out in favor of gay marriage.
To put it another way, perhaps it is true that a person, let’s call him Reggie, moves from a traditional belief on gay marriage to a progressive one accepting it. And perhaps Reggie does this to gain friends with the worldly sort of people this blog post is warning us about. It is just as possible that another person, let’s call him Carlton, continues to hold a traditional belief in order to gain friends within the evangelical Christian world. He may continue to hold his beliefs in hopes of approval from Albert Mohler and John Piper or a place on the stage of a big conference.
My point is, if you accuse some of taking a position to gain popularity, you must recognize that there is another kind of popularity to be gained by taking the opposite position. Most of the leaders of traditional evangelicalism are okay with you supporting violence, despite what Jesus said, as long as you toe the line elsewhere (As I noted here). Where is the call to turn away from popularity to be prophetic in those situations?
If anything, there is more to fear by abandoning the tradition. Sure, if you hold a traditional position you may find yourself being mocked by the Jon Stewarts of this world. But if you abandon the traditional position you are told you face an eternity of burning in the flames of hell. If fear of being made fun of causes some to move one way, fear of eternal torture certainly moves some the other.
Perhaps rather than accusing people of taking positions solely to be popular, we ought to listen to the reasons causing people to change their beliefs. And we ought to be just as critical for why we hold, or change, our own beliefs.