Culture can never be underestimated. It can exert a mysterious influence. Cultural thought can establish trends that sweep a society and subtly demand compliance. Of course, not all cultural trends are wrong. What should always be concerning, however, is when the voice of democratic and civil people is not heard. Austrian–British philosopher Karl Popper commented well when he said, “in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” Here, polite society should take a lesson.
Evangelical Christians have always believed that sex outside of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman is sinful. Lately, some evangelicals have begun to negotiate this belief. What has caused this shift? Was it a great biblical awakening? No, I believe it’s cultural pressure. In short order, cultural thought has changed drastically and placed immense pressure on evangelicals to find appeasement.
In my country, the Anglican Church of Canada commissioned a team of its leaders in 2015 for the purpose of “developing a biblical and theological rationale” to affirm same-sex relationships. The committee recommended that it’s “theologically possible to extend the marriage canon to include same-sex couples, without thereby diminishing, or curtailing the rich theological implications of marriage as traditionally understood.” This suggestion reinterprets the ACC’s “theological and doctrinal heritage” and tweaks its understanding of the “marriage canon.”
In other words, what it has always maintained must now be negotiated and weaved into our cultural fabric. The committee was also “charged with developing a conscience clause.” “So that no member of the clergy, bishop, or congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.” Why didn’t the ACC institute the “conscience clause” as a denomination and articulate it accordingly? It’s obvious why: cultural pressure.
In culture, the gay lobby has become a tour de force. Think about this. In January, the Americans take one day known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honor the great achievements of the civil rights movement. In Ontario, we take one day in February to observe Family Day. Good Friday is one day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Canada Day. Independence Day. Labor Day. Christmas Day. New Year’s Day. All the soldiers who died to protect the freedoms we enjoy, Remembrance Day. The gay community can have one day to observe its cause, but they have managed remarkably to make it Pride Month. Every day in June, the rainbow flag becomes ubiquitous. People are being enculturated into going along with it. Truth be told, in Canada, there are many who disagree but remain silent, because the cultural narrative does not tolerate disagreement.
For example, this past September in Canada, concerned parents organized the “1 Million March 4 Children” to protest nationwide against an “ideological approach to gender identity” as the only way to educate children. The events were framed by Canadian media and politicians as “hateful.” Thankfully, a transgender person spoke at one event and wrote about the experience in an article published by the National Post:
“I experienced no hate or dissent from a single individual … Needless to say, I was disappointed when … the Mayor of Whitby made strong statements the following day, lambasting the protests as both harmful and hateful … Rather tellingly, her narrative describes the hate in the most general and non-specific terms possible … devoid of a single example … That warning of hate from the Whitby Mayor seems to be the norm in the pushback against the parental rights movement. Whether from aspiring politicians or progressive news agencies — we have received a clear message that condemns parental hatred in the strongest terms while neglecting to provide any tangible example of what in particular is so hateful.”
Canadian politicians and media have become enculturated with bias, and they are making things worse by ignoring reality, that is, the diverse views and convictions of all people. Society must tolerate the shared center of civility and accommodate the rights of parents to have a say in how their children are educated. Shouldn’t their concerns be heard and discussed at the table of civility? How is it possible that parents are asking too much?
Christians believe in love and kindness for people of all sexual, political and religious orientations. Yes, there are times when our biblical conscience cannot accommodate some requests. If and when that were to happen, people should tolerate the evangelical conviction and respect society’s shared center of civility.
Can a Christian attend mosque services and expect an accommodation to read the traditional creeds of Christianity? Can a member of the Conservative Party of Canada attend a rally of the Liberal Party and expect to take the microphone and voice Conservative values? Can a conservative Christian attend meetings that plan for Pride events and expect to be accommodated in a leadership capacity? Polite society goes forward by the shared center of civility, and not by the usurpation of one group’s will over another’s.
I have heard and read many stories of openly gay people who attended a church that was welcoming and friendly, but when they requested to participate in leadership roles they were declined. They were under the impression that welcoming implied ministry opportunities. Those church leaders should have made it clear from the outset where they stood, instead of dancing around the topic.
Now it should be noted that requests for church ministry are also declined for many reasons. Doctrinal distinctive are particular to each denomination. Not aligning with a distinctive will most likely disqualify one from a leadership role. Qualifying for ministry in a local church is based on various criteria that apply to everyone. It has never been a free-for-all wherein anyone can come and lead.
The evangelical conscience should remain faithful to its distinctives, and not feel culturally pressured to engage in biblical and theological eisegeses. Do you honestly believe that our rich heritage of scholarship and exposition got it wrong on its biblical interpretations of sexuality? So you now have biblical revelations from God that they did not have? Seriously? Regardless, don’t you agree that evangelical thought should not be intimidated by cultural opinions of its worldview? When have we ever allowed culture to exposit the Scriptures for us on any topic?
The cost of practicing the Christian faith has never been cheap. “Fear not” is everywhere in the Bible. Evangelical Christians need to be reminded of how courage has always been required to uphold biblical values: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
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