Monday, 4 September 2017

What "Intolerance" Can Offer Christians

Here in Australia, as the debate continues to rage over marriage equality, there are many christians loudly and publicly lamenting that they are being subjected to intolerance when they voice their opinions in public arena. It would appear that the tide of public opinion has turned, leaving many christians feeling washed up and alone on the shore.

I understand how painful that can be. Everyone wants to feel free to share sincerely held beliefs without fear of being labelled, shamed or rejected.

Unfortunately, christians are every bit as guilty of this behaviour as anyone else. Affirming christians are being attacked, ridiculed and even having their faith categorically denied by their non-affirming brothers and sisters. LGBTI christians are suffering an even worse offensive, including open and absolute rejection.

Is it unreasonable to expect that those who claim to follow Jesus would have a better way of engaging with opposing views? If we take the name of the one who advocated that we turn the other cheek, and bless our enemies, and even lay down our lives to serve our fellow humans, how can we credibly object and lament simply because our doctrine of sin is no longer accepted or adhered to by the (non-religious) majority?

And how seriously can we expect our complaints to be taken, when we engage in exactly the same behaviour we are so loudly denouncing? How credible do we think we appear, when we "do unto others" the things we are publicly protesting having done to us?

Maybe it's time that christians realised that "the church" no longer holds the position of power in our society it once did. Even more so, that it has squandered any right to expect to be treated as a moral authority by the general population.

It's not comfortable; and it's not pleasant; and it's not what we're used to. But so far, I have not heard of any Aussie christians being beaten senseless, or criminalised, or declared mentally ill, or chemically castrated, or jailed, or murdered for holding an unpopular opinion. And yet for decades, many members of this country's LGBTI community have been subjected to these things simply because they existed.

In light of that, I would suggest that we are facing an important choice. We can continue to complain, and protest, and fight for our rights, and lobby to legislate our morality... or we can choose to see a truly redemptive opportunity for our community in this current climate. Because after living in privilege for so long - experiencing little but power and consensus - we finally have the chance to learn what it means to identify with those who have been marginalised and rejected by society (and the church).

And best of all, despite the well-voiced fears of some, no-one has to "compromise" their convictions, or "water down" their gospel, or "deny" their beliefs. All that is needed is a recognition and acknowledgement of the pain inflicted when people are rejected by their communities and deemed "unacceptable" by their peers; coupled with a willingness to stand with "the least of these" and simply love and serve them.