The National Conference on Preaching 2014

Anderson University host NCP2014 at Cross Pointe Church in Atlanta, Georgia, May 13-15. For more information visit or call 864.328.1809. More>

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The National Conference on Preaching 2014

Anderson University host NCP2014 at Cross Pointe Church in Atlanta, Georgia, May 13-15. For more information visit or call 864.328.1809. More>


Homosexuality, culture wars, and the example of the pro-life movement

No issue flummoxes and frustrates evangelicals in today’s culture wars more than that of homosexuality.

It seems to many Christians a no-win issue. If we speak about the issue in any way, the media attempts to marginalize us (see “Fil-A, Chick”). If we stay on the sidelines, it feels like we are sitting silent on the Titanic of traditional marriage as it sinks in the sea of cultural chaos.

A great example of this Catch-22 faced by evangelicals was seen several months ago in the controversy surrounding professional football player Michael Sam. Sam, a star University of Missouri defensive end and open homosexual, was selected by the St. Louis Rams back in the April 2014 NFL draft. He subsequently was cut by the Rams, but in recent days has been signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Over the past few months, the media has continued to follow and celebrate Sam, who has become the first openly gay athlete in professional football.

Looking back to the April draft, I remember observing the predictable national and social media maelstrom with interest. On one side, you had rousing celebration of Sam as a “Jackie Robinson-style” forerunner by the popular media; on the other side, you had ill-timed and unwise and untactful Twitter critiques from some so-called conservatives, even some “Christians.”

In the midst of this type of rhetorical crossfire, most evangelicals found themselves in the uncomfortable middle. Most of us realize that salt and light are not sprinkled and shone best via social media.  For example, some Twitterers called Sam’s actions—such as his televised kiss of his boyfriend after being selected by the Rams—“‘OMG’ horrible.” We evangelicals should recognize such expressions as unhelpful and hurtful, both to the cause of Christ and to the individual. But at the same time, we grieve when a practice that is clearly demarked as sinful in Scripture is given hearty approval.

I found myself at the time pondering—as an evangelical father, as a Bible professor, as an elder in a local church—how to navigate these chaotic cultural waters. As evangelical Christians and as ones convinced of the biblical plan and theological mandate of traditional marriage, what should we say, think, and do, in this world where our views are disregarded and impugned as antiquated and intolerant?

I think we first need to realize that the current culture is the present (but perhaps not irreparable) reality. Reasoned disapproval can and perhaps should be expressed in the right circles and circumstances. But we also need to realize that homosexual behavior is only going to become more public, more prevalent, and more praised. And most anything we say publically against homosexuality will be misinterpreted, misunderstood, and mischaracterized.

I wonder, then, as evangelicals, if we might take some lessons from the pro-life movement. Early in the pro-life movement, many tried to argue against choice and the pro-abortion arguments. Though these arguments were correct and many times biblically grounded, this strategy of negativity did little to impact the direction of the debate—principally because of the shifts in culture and the movement away from biblical authority.

However, in recent years, the pro-life strategy shifted from arguing “against” abortion and to arguing “for” life. Ultrasounds, pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers, and science itself seems to be winning the day for the pro-life argument. Studies have shown that Millennials are much more likely to support life than any other cultural issue.

In no way should we shy away from calling homosexuality what it is, but at the same time, I wonder if a positive and “grassroots” strategy might prove more effective—especially among Millennial Christians, who seem to be moving further away from biblical marriage. In other words, instead of focusing public efforts on arguing against homosexuality, constructively promote “for” biblical marriage.

So, for example, evangelical preachers should celebrate the beauty of the biblical metaphor of marriage, as rightfully patterned after the relationship of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this way, we should show that marriage is at root a profoundly “Gospel” issue. We should also commend the original creation-vision for marriage as demonstrated in Genesis 2. Indeed, is this not what Jesus did when faced with unbiblical views of marriage in His day (Matthew 19:1-12)?

Church leaders should demonstrate healthy marriages in their own lives, purposefully inviting especially younger Christians into their homes to witness their examples. Christian parents should teach and model the principles of biblical manhood and womanhood, as well as God’s purposes for marriage, to their children. Truly, discipleship on the church and family level must include the issues of marriage and sexuality.

Social media, when used, should trumpet the virtues of biblical marriage—edifying, rather than tearing down. We should be known by our love—for one another and for the outcast. And perhaps most importantly, we should pray that the light of the Gospel and of the Gospel-centered vision of marriage might penetrate the cultural fog surrounding this issue.

Of course, no easy answers exist. And we should be prepared to be maligned by many, even if we do attempt a more constructive approach. Yet, if it is clear we are attempting to maintain an unhelpful strategy, maybe we need to look at changing. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”

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On Stereotypes

“I stereotype. It’s faster” – George Clooney (as Ryan Bingham in the 2009 motion picture: Up in the Air)

Stereotypes. We all subscribe to them. The ones you trust might be different than my favorites, but you’d be hard pressed to deny having any or being swayed by them.

Though the book is not about stereotypes per se, but rather about considering how we make instantaneous decisions in the “blink” of an eye, Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is a helpful work to consider how easily, and in many ways how purposefully, our brains can figure out some things before we are even aware of it. The focus for today is not, however, on the “adaptive subconscious” – as its called in the field of psychology – rather on the potential negatives that come with snap judgments and blink-of-an-eye decision-making in normal, routine activity with others.

To be clear: there are times when you need to follow what your defense mechanism auto-response system “tells you.” That sudden nervousness when you think someone is watching you might be accurate. You might really be in danger. I’m not telling you to ignore basic clues or instinctual responses that are innate and designed to protect you.

What I am wanting you to do is stop and consider what stereotypes guide your daily routine. Especially, consider how you deal with and engage people you don’t know well, and perhaps have just met. Do you make judgments that hamper your dealings with them? Do your stereotypes lead to a spiral-effect of self-fulfilling prophecies as they often can in work place or school settings?

Here is where you might expect me to list some common stereotypes. Because that might only defeat the purpose of the thought experiment I will forgo listing stereotypes. You can think of the most common in your life and simply ponder how you have been wrong and where your stereotypes have failed.

For an alternative approach please take a look with me at 1 Samuel 16.1-13.

Though this is not the ideal approach to handling scripture, we’re going to jump into the middle of the scene for expediency and consider the question before us:

When it comes time to anoint a new king, then naturally the strongest, ablest one was chosen, right? The one who might best be a leader in battle? The one with the most resources? The one with the most support? Well, no and yes, at the same time. If the criteria for selection are based on how we judge and assess a future king, the outcome would likely have been different. You know, if you used stereotypes to decide.

God doesn’t stereotype, because the considerations and criteria involved are extraordinarily different than the ones we often rely upon.

Specifically, read 1 Samuel 16.7 . “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”

We don’t have the perspective of God, so we cannot see things rightly and fully, as God can.

We do, however, have the responsibility of looking beyond our stereotypes, editing them for accuracy, and even dismissing them altogether. Overall, stereotypes are problematic for sound thinking, and a wider perspective on the person in front of you. More specifically, we need to move beyond the surface qualities and features that guide our stereotypes. A librarian would say “don’t judge a book by its cover.” I say: “be careful about making decisions – even split-second judgment calls on unfounded, outdated, stereotypical grounds.” Jesus rightly says: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

More precisely, and in contradistinction to Ryan Bingham, I say: “Don’t stereotype. It’s dumber.”

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