I’m neither a psychiatrist nor do I play one on television. But I’m fascinated by the patterns found in the typical Christian argument.
The other day, I inadvertently started a Christian argument between two others. Fortunately, it didn’t last long because the wiser of the two quickly shut it down.
The genesis of the conflict was a post a friend of mine made on Facebook. In multicolored lettering, the graphic read, “You Matter. You are Loved. You are Okay.” The text accompanying the graphic read, “Happy Pride.”
Before I say anything else, you should know, I think, that the guy who posted it is a former pastor who is heterosexual, happily married and is a father. There’s no homosexuality hiding beneath the surface here.
He’s what’s called an Ally, a straight person who doesn’t condemn those who aren’t. And his post came towards the end of June, which is known as Pride Month.
In other words, he was trying to bridge a gap the church seems to work as hard as it can on deepening.
There are a lot of folks who happen to be Christian but who also happen to realize that the way the church treats certain groups is hurtful and drives people away from God rather than trying to encourage them to build a relationship with God.
I looked at the reactions the post received. There were a total of 21 of them. The “like” reaction was selected 13 times. There were seven “love” reactions.
Of course, that only adds up to 20. The remaining one was “sad.”
The Christian argument I immediately started happened after I left a comment stating that it made me sad that anyone would react with the “sad” button to that message.
After all, no matter whether God considers homosexuality a sin, we are supposed to believe that we all matter to God, that we are all His children. God loved all of us, not just a select few, enough that He gave His Son to die on a cross to send that very message.
My friend commented that if I’d known “Mr. Sad,” I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Mr. Sad then chimed in with the typical “Love you, brother,” directed to my friend and then said he was praying for my friend. The comments have since been removed, so I’m having to paraphrase from memory; if I misquote, the fault is mine.
My friend pointed out that Mr. Sad’s comments were typical of people who always insist that their interpretation of things is the only possible interpretation, despite the obvious fact that the Bible has been used to justify things we now accept as wrong.
Then Mr. Sad pulled the classic Christian argument strategy.
He drew the classic line in the sand.
“Just tell me this: Are you saying that homosexuality is not a sin?” Mr. Sad asked.
It’s like the schoolyard bully who draws a line in the sand in front of his victim and dares that the victim step across it. If the bully were really so courageous, he’d just attack without the drama of the line in the sand.
But such arguments rarely involve any real courage. It’s more about who can yell the loudest.
My friend shut him down by responding that this was exactly what he was saying, to which Mr. Sad responded by deleting his comments and suggesting that he and my friend should meet over coffee and discuss things, followed by another “Love you, brother.”
The Mr. Sads of Christianity love to through that phrase around as if it makes their previous nastiness somehow more innocent or benign. I suppose they think it makes people forget that little line in the sand they drew.
I’ve referenced my favorite Bible story before but this is a good example of a reason to bring it up again.
An angry mob tried drawing a line in the sand.
You can find the story in John 7:53–8:11. A woman had been caught in the act of adultery. It wasn’t rumor. It wasn’t a suspicion.
The mob brought her to Jesus Christ so that he could decide her fate. It wasn’t at all about her, though. They didn’t particularly care about her one way or the other. She was just a pawn so that they could test Jesus to see what He’d say she deserved. The only correct answer, they believed, was that she should be stoned.
They drew a line in the sand and dared Jesus to step over it.
And he did.
He uttered the line that has been quoted so many times over the centuries.
“Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
They hoped that by drawing a line in the sand, they’d have a reason to charge Jesus with a crime and make him conveniently go away.
The law was the law. Jesus was mercy.
Yet Christians who claim to follow Jesus always want to inflict the law rather than mercy on those they feel don’t measure up.
The guy who responded to the post phrased his “line in the sand” by prefacing a question with this: “Just so we’re clear.” He wanted to make sure the line he’d mentally placed was about to be crossed. He asked if the pastor was saying homosexuality isn’t a sin. The pastor responded that’s exactly what he was saying.
Suddenly, the guy removed all of his comments, apparently disappointed that his attempt to railroad the discussion failed. He then suggested they should sit down and meet for coffee.
Christians love a line that tells us that if God is for us, who could be against us. But some Christians simultaneously insist to others that if they’re not for us, they’re definitely against us. And those Christians have no problem with being against them.
It’s always more fun somehow when there’s a them to be against.
We need some sort of enemy to make ourselves seem superior.
And therein, so many in the church continue, year after year, to miss the point.