Faith

Why Making It Personal Only Hurts Your Argument

So I’m the type of Christian the LGBT community loves! So says an angry commenter who identifies herself as a Christian, despite an epic fail at acting like one, in a response to my post about the Chick-Fil-A controversy.

Her response is typical of exactly the problem we have in our society: a growing number of people who see anything other than complete, blanket agreement as a declaration of war that can only be responded to by making it personal.

Her comment is the kind that gives a blog owner two options. The first is to respond in kind, to be as mean-spirited as the commenter appears to have set out to be. The second, the harder one, is to step away from the computer for a while, and think about what’s being said and what it says about the person saying it. And more importantly, what it should say to the rest of us.

When you write a blog like mine, after all, a site devoted not to a narrow niche but rather a broader concept like common sense, you sometimes find yourself obliged to provide details of both sides of an issue so that it can be more properly discussed. At times, my role is more of a moderator. My intention isn’t to declare war on anyone personally, but rather to the kind of intellectually-lazy thinking that nearly everyone employs at different times and on different issues.

That said, I’m going to respond to her comment, but in a different way than I might respond to comments written by people who exhibit courtesy and good manners. Unlike this commenter, I don’t wish to make it personal: this is about a real-life issue that needs to be discussed, but discussed in a way that is respectful to everyone.

So here’s what “Erin” had to say:

I started off really liking this because I feel the same way as this statment you made. “That’s exactly what people on the other side of the issue demand respect for when they do it, isn’t it? If you’re only going to support one side for doing that, you’re engaging in double standards”

But then, you showed your just the kind of Christian that GLBT (hope thats right) LOVE. One who wont truely stand up for what they believe. You have your feet, one on each side of the fence. And I totally Disagree with this Statement “…so I understand that homosexual acts are a sin according to the Bible. I also understand, from just simple observation, that the Christian community as a whole has for years placed a disproportionate amount of scorn on the gay community. The Bible lists a host of acts of equal rank as homosexuality. Gays, it seems, are “too easy” a target for the church; I don’t think that’s right and I certainly don’t think it’s what God intended”

The Christian Community as a whole is called to stand against ALL sin, THAT’s what God intends, IN LOVE, BUT without compromising what is right and thats a very hard thing we are called to do but WE ARE. And since the Gay community is fighting for rights, such as wanting to force all to call their “unions” marriage, its not like they are an easy target, they are just bringing attention on them selves so they are being responded to. Just like when pedophiles or theives bring attention to themselves, They get responded to. And so just one question if Christians are showing a “disproportionate amount” just what is the right amount? That part of your statment really confuses me.

Your own words show your inability to make a clear choice, well except to say you agree with both sides, on an issue that is clearly not one you can agree with both sides. Unless you are an apolegetic christian or an apologetic Gay person.

Maybe your logical logic is not as logical as you think it is. The bible makes not apologies and has very clear lines.

Sorry I don’t have time right now to further “discuss” this but I have 5 kids and its summer time so they are all here and all wanting my attention right now Hopefully I can come back later. Also I see you have a dislike for bad grammar and as a home schooling mom I agree, but as a MS patient I must say I know I’m not perfect and sometimes my thoughts get mixed or my spelling is less than perfect so I’m hoping your reading this for the message not to critique it like an assignment I’m turning in

My challenge now, as a blogger whose site is devoted to common sense, is to try to make some out of this message. There’s a good chance, I figure, that she won’t come back, anyway. So all the while, I am trying to remind myself that this needs to be about the issue, not about her.

Here goes.

Whose side are you on?
She opens with a basic fact of life. One so basic, in fact, that most of never think to mention it: we like things that fit our own preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be. Look no further than cable news for proof of this: despite a survey showing viewers consider Fox News to be the most skewed news source (regardless of the direction of the skewing), there’s a contingent of viewers, mostly conservative, who say that Fox News is the only source that gives you the truth.

Likewise, there are those on the liberal side who feel that cable networks like MSNBC, which have earned a reputation of being on their side of things, think they’re the ones getting the truth and dismiss what that “other” network says as propaganda.

It goes both ways. Things almost always do.

I guess I tend to be a little different: people who don’t think the same way I do don’t make me angry. They intrigue me: I want to know how other people feel about situations, and why they feel the way they do. I think understanding different perspectives helps us better understand those around us, and they can even help us solidify why we believe what we already believe.

If I am to apply it to a “Christian warrior” scenario, one might call this “knowing your enemy,” even if that’s not what I chose to consider “them” in this scenario.

Speaking in Love or in Hate?
Then comes what I’m sure she hoped was the most insulting line in her comment: that I am the kind of Christian the gay folk must love.

Well, I hope I am.

I hope I’m the kind of Christian everyone loves, no matter what race, religion or orientation they are. I don’t intentionally set out to be hated by anyone. I know a few who seem to enjoy a certain amount of rage from other people and even seem to enjoy bringing it out. I don’t happen to believe, however, that the God of love really wants us to be mean-spirited.

The Bible tells us that Christians can expect to be persecuted for our beliefs. The Bible does not tell us that we should prompt our own persecution by treating others so rudely that persecution begins to be the response we’d deserve in return.

The commenter even comes right out and says we’re supposed to communicate things “in love.” That much is true. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any love in that comment. The Bible, in John 3:17, makes it clear that God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save the world through Him. Not exactly ample evidence that God intended to hate anyone.

Even Jesus was labeled “a friend of sinners.” If I’m the kind of Christian who’s trying to follow Christ’s example, shouldn’t I be the kind of Christian who tries to bridge the chasm between those pious Christians who like to keep a “safe distance” and point fingers and those at whom they point? Shouldn’t I be the one who gets to know those people, and tries to be someone who demonstrates what Christ’s love really means?

In Luke 19, Jesus encounters a tax collector named Zacchaeus who fought the crowds to try to get even a good glimpse of Him. Christ could have pointed an accusatory finger and turned His back. He didn’t. In fact, Christ told Zacchaeus that He would stay in Zacchaeus’s home. Care to guess what happened next?

When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner.”

What was wrong with Christ?!? How could He make such a strategic mistake?

Consider the passage Mark 2:15-17:

And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. And when the scribes and Parisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, “How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.”

Yes, there’s that nasty ‘R’ word that stings so much. If there’s anything I feel a need to “apologize” for, it’s what many Christians seem to forget when they deal with people that they think aren’t measuring up: that we are all sinners. I’m no better than the person who left the comment; but she’s no better than I am, either. All of us — Christians and non-Christians — fall short of the mark: we are all guilty of sin. So we all have, at some point, an obligation to repent. And as soon as we walk around with the attitude that we’re perfect and everyone else is wrong, it’s time for us to move to the front of the repentance line.

Jesus said it very well when he told the angry crowd so eager to stone the woman they caught in the act of adultery, “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone.” It’s time for some Christians to drop their rocks and try actually reaching out to people.

Jesus did tell the woman, after her accusers had been shamed into submission, that she should “go and sin no more.” He certainly didn’t compromise God’s law. But we see that the first thing He showed was compassion. He came to where the woman was to demonstrate what treating someone with respect so that they could experience a hint of what it’s like to be valued.

Did the woman really go without ever sinning? Of course not. We are all fallible; only Christ Himself was capable of being sin-free. But for what may have been the first time in her life, someone treated her like she mattered.

Christians who can’t understand that should re-read the Bible and try taking notes this time.

When is a Sin a Sin?
Many Christians just want to hear others say definitively that homosexuality is a sin. But it’s worth considering what part of homosexuality is the actual sin. The sex act? Biblically, it’d by impossible to argue that the act itself isn’t a sin. But the problem here is for some Christians, that’s where they want to end the dialog.

That’s not where the dialog needs to end: it’s where the real dialog needs to begin. I would love to know how many of these same Christians are as ferocious when it comes to sex acts between unmarried heterosexuals. Isn’t that a sin, too? How about the near-rage that the topic of homosexuality brings out in some of the more pious Christians? Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Why does it seem that so many Christians have a rage issue about things like this when we’re called to hate the sin, but not the person?

Sin is sin. There are a list of them in 1 Corinthians that are stumbling blocks to eternal life. It’s not like homosexuality stands alone as the one, unforgivable sin. Some Christians don’t seem to want to acknowledge that; they’d rather make it personal and attack anyone who is gay or anyone who doesn’t join them in their holy war against the gays.

That is what I mean when I refer to a disproportionate amount of attacks on the gay community.

Is being gay, (that is, having attraction to the same sex), a sin in and of itself if there’s no act being committed in response to it? I don’t think so. It’s no more sinful than a heterosexual man who finds a woman attractive but stops short of engaging in lustful thoughts or behavior in response to seeing her.

There are people who’ve struggled with same-sex attraction for years, who’ve prayed to God that the attraction be taken away only to have those requests not be granted. There are even gay people who have joined a movement known as “Plan B,” who believe that living a “gay lifestyle” is unacceptable to God, and who therefore make a commitment to God to be celibate. Are they sinning? I can’t argue that they are, as they seem to be doing everything they believe they can to not commit what even they acknowledge is a sin.

So Much Antagonism, So Little Time
The rudeness doesn’t stop on one side. I’ve read that a midwest LGBT group is planning a “kiss-in” at Chick-Fil-A. Their idea is that same-sex couples will go to area Chick-Fil-A restaurants and start making out with each other for all the patrons to see. Why cause such a spectacle? Why not just resolve to not set foot inside a Chick-Fil-A, as they initially said they’d do, and leave it at that? If their boycott was really going to hurt Chick-Fil-A as much as they might otherwise claim, that should be enough.

For some, it isn’t.

They need to make a spectacle, to needle those who disagree with them. Why? Simple: when you look at how Christians treat the gay community, and even other Christians who aren’t out to burn a cross on their lawn, it’s not hard to understand. Especially when it’s the Christians who are quick to claim the moral high ground.

Take a look at Chick-Fil-A’s Facebook page. The restaurant has moved on from its leader’s remarks. Others haven’t. When it posts something about a new milkshake, gay supporters can’t help from showing off that they, too, can act like asses, by posting comments like, “I’ll take that with a side of intolerance.”

Others have said they plan to just go through the drive-thru and make similar statements to the employees. That’s not fighting the company: that’s fighting individuals who work for the company but don’t necessarily have any remote idea who their employer donates to. It’s being made personal against people who have no control of the situation and are just expected to smile and take the venting.

If the LGBT community and their supporters don’t want to go to the place, then they by all means shouldn’t go. That’s absolutely their right. But if you’re going to leave them alone, then leave them alone.

When both sides only want to stir the pot, no progress is ever going to be made. If all you’re going to do is start up war after war, you can’t then feign surprise when there’s no peace.

That, friends, is common sense.

The Free Pass
All of us, even us Christians, deep down, want a free pass. Even the commenter who chose to make her attack so personal, and who began by questioning my faith and even suggested that I must either be an apologist or gay to take “their” side, then had the gall to ask me for a free pass on her lack of good grammar and spelling, adding excuses that she is a busy mom and a sufferer of multiple sclerosis.

A nice double standard there.

Her view of God, it would seem, is a being who wouldn’t concern himself with any reasons for why a gay person might be gay, or why someone calling himself a Christian wouldn’t come down hard — like a guillotine — on someone who is gay. Yet she wants to make some excuses to get a friendly little “Get Out of Jail FREE” card for usage errors in her own self-righteous diatribe. It’s very typical of how all of us are: we’re against whatever we’re against, and you better be as well…but when we slip up ourselves, please don’t hold that against us.

For the record, I don’t hold her typos against her.

But it isn’t because she’s a busy parent. It isn’t because she suffers from MS, a disease which I suspect she may well have prayed that God would take away from her. It certainly isn’t because she asked me for grace after refusing to give me anything even resembling the benefit of the doubt.

I choose not to hold them against her because I don’t hold them against anyone who makes an effort to comment here on a discussion, even when they decide to treat me rudely. She doesn’t get special treatment. She doesn’t deserve it.

And that’s the real irony of Christianity: we get a level of grace that we don’t deserve. God doesn’t like me more than He likes her. And vice versa. And here’s a little inconvenient truth that a lot of Christians don’t want to hear: God doesn’t like Christians more than He likes gay people. God loves all of his children equally.

There’s your equality in as pure a form as will ever exist.

He values each one, knows the number of hairs on the head of each one, knows the needs, joys and pains of each one, and sent His son to die in an effort to save each one.

When Christians act as though we’ve conveniently forgotten this most basic truth of our faith, it doesn’t go unnoticed by those we’d like to reach. Quite the opposite, in fact: it pushes them that much further away. If you can give me a clear explanation of how that makes us “fishers of men,” then I’d really like to hear it.

I’d like to give anyone who asks — and even those who don’t — a free pass. As any Christian should, I hope as many people as possibly can will receive God’s word, feel His presence in their lives and begin following Him.

As my pastor told a lesbian who approached him after attending a service and asked if he could love her as a member of the church, it isn’t a pastor’s job — or a Christian’s job — to make a gay person straight. Likewise, it’s not my job to make a rude, judgmental believer be nice and treat others with the kind of love Christ exhibited.

The best I can do is try to be a friend to those who want my friendship and to try to live a life that demonstrates that my faith is in a Father who loves and values each one of His children, not just those who seem to mirror everything I believe.

And given the chance to impress the kind of Christian who’d leave such a mean-spirited comment or the chance to please God, I’ll take the latter.

Every time.

12 Comments

  1. Excellent blog, my friend.  Exactly the kind of measured, well-thought-out response I’ve come to expect of you.  Logic tempered with God’s love.  Bravo.

  2. Excellent blog, my friend.  Exactly the kind of measured, well-thought-out response I’ve come to expect of you.  Logic tempered with God’s love.  Bravo.

  3. Excellent blog, my friend.  Exactly the kind of measured, well-thought-out response I’ve come to expect of you.  Logic tempered with God’s love.  Bravo.

  4. Excellent blog, my friend.  Exactly the kind of measured, well-thought-out response I’ve come to expect of you.  Logic tempered with God’s love.  Bravo.

  5. This is an awesome blog! I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. The writer actually has a grasp on what’s going on with the world around us. It’s so rare to find such a genuine and intellectual person.

  6. Great post Patrick.
     
    I personally could care less what choices other make or what beliefs they hold…UNLESS…they try to force those beliefs on me or unless the practice of their beliefs knowingly infringes on the ability of others to peacefully practice their own beliefs.  Their beliefs are between them, their loved ones and their God.  It’s really that simple.
     
    When did we become a nation of protests?  When did it become the norm to boycott anyone who disagrees with you?  Neither should have occurred and to those who engage in promoting such protests and boycotts – thanks for showing your true colors.  You are clearly more interested in making a spectacle of yourself and bringing controversy to your cause than you are in winning hearts and minds.  For the record, controversy is not the same as discussion and the old saying that “any publicity is good publicity” is a lie.  Ask Penn State.
     
    I’ll be eating lunch today at Chick-fil-A because I support their right to believe whatever they want.  That, and I like the chicken sandwiches of course.  What I won’t be doing is taking a bag of Chick-fil-A sandwiches to a local gay bar and eating the sandwiches there.  To me that would be disrespectful of the good folks at the bar and just about as ridiculous as the LGBT community staging a ‘kiss in’ at Chick-fil-A restaurants.  It’s a fast food restaurant people and not a Waffle House or IHOP at 3 in the morning after the bars close.  No one wants to see Public Displays of Affection in a fast food restaurant regardless of the gender of those sharing the affection.

    1.  @Hammond You summed up very well the notion of the “kiss-ins” planned for this Friday. And like you, I don’t care to see PDAs among straight couples while I’m trying to eat, either.

  7. First of all, as a Christian I read Leviticus in the light of the gospels–Jesus came to remove the burden of the Old Law. (THANK GOD, for sure!) Secondly, Jesus doesn’t address homosexuality in any way shape or form; only Paul passingly mentions it. And I think if anyone were to take some time to actually check the translation of the Greek words used in Romans 1 (the Big Gun we haul out to shoot gays with), they would find that what Paul is arguing against is sexual inequality/slavery: important, powerful people forcing others to have sex with them, thus perverting the purpose of sex as an wonderful gift that God has given us to experience TOGETHER. (Is the Catholic Church paying attention here??)
    As for when is a sin a sin…thank you Patrick for making me think this through. Logically. OK, it makes sense to me. My take is that a sin is a sin when it takes you away from God. Note that God for me doesn’t equal Church. So, sin could, technically, be going to church on Sunday “just for appearances” but spending the sermon thinking about how hot your girlfriend is in those pictures she text you last night. So, wow, how would *I* know you’ve committed a sin? I mean, I can’t SEE what you’re thinking….aha! Sin is really between each of us and GOD. Which is why there is that period in worship (at least at most churches, I think) where we are supposed to confess our sins of the week. As a child I was much more in tune with reading the corporate confession and feeling a twinge at everything listed: yup, did that..and that…and that…
    Obviously, some sins we CAN see: causing pain for ourselves or others, being selfish, saying/doing hurtful things, publicly cursing God…those are easy. What’s NOT easy is differentiating between motive and action. If I say something unkind to someone that’s a sin, yes, but perhaps that person has done or said something really horrible to me that no one (and perhaps even that person) knows about. That doesn’t give me the “right” to sin, but it does explain why, and give me some direction in ways I need to improve the way I deal with the situation, and with God.Anyway. The most important part of the New Covenant is the love part. If you say mean things in the name of love, that’s not love. And people who do that are delusional. How do I know that? Because I do it all the time, and when I stop lying to myself, I know it. Love = not lying, to yourself, to God, to others.

  8. First of all, as a Christian I read Leviticus in the light of the gospels–Jesus came to remove the burden of the Old Law. (THANK GOD, for sure!) Secondly, Jesus doesn’t address homosexuality in any way shape or form; only Paul passingly mentions it. And I think if anyone were to take some time to actually check the translation of the Greek words used in Romans 1 (the Big Gun we haul out to shoot gays with), they would find that what Paul is arguing against is sexual inequality/slavery: important, powerful people forcing others to have sex with them, thus perverting the purpose of sex as an wonderful gift that God has given us to experience TOGETHER. (Is the Catholic Church paying attention here??)
    As for when is a sin a sin…thank you Patrick for making me think this through. Logically. OK, it makes sense to me. My take is that a sin is a sin when it takes you away from God. Note that God for me doesn’t equal Church. So, sin could, technically, be going to church on Sunday “just for appearances” but spending the sermon thinking about how hot your girlfriend is in those pictures she text you last night. So, wow, how would *I* know you’ve committed a sin? I mean, I can’t SEE what you’re thinking….aha! Sin is really between each of us and GOD. Which is why there is that period in worship (at least at most churches, I think) where we are supposed to confess our sins of the week. As a child I was much more in tune with reading the corporate confession and feeling a twinge at everything listed: yup, did that..and that…and that…
    Obviously, some sins we CAN see: causing pain for ourselves or others, being selfish, saying/doing hurtful things, publicly cursing God…those are easy. What’s NOT easy is differentiating between motive and action. If I say something unkind to someone that’s a sin, yes, but perhaps that person has done or said something really horrible to me that no one (and perhaps even that person) knows about. That doesn’t give me the “right” to sin, but it does explain why, and give me some direction in ways I need to improve the way I deal with the situation, and with God.Anyway. The most important part of the New Covenant is the love part. If you say mean things in the name of love, that’s not love. And people who do that are delusional. How do I know that? Because I do it all the time, and when I stop lying to myself, I know it. Love = not lying, to yourself, to God, to others.

  9. Something that has stuck with me for years is a word picture from a book – I can never remember whether it’s one or the other book/author, so I give credit to both authors without naming names because they both inflame folks. Anyway, what if there’s all of us arguing a point along a line, two-dimensional space from point a to point b. You’re either closer to Billy Graham and Mother Teresa on this line, or you’re closer to Hitler at the other end of the line. You’re pro choice at one end or pro life at the other. You’re against _____ or you’re for ____ – and your passion determines where on this line you fall in your argument, in your religion, in your politics, etc.
     
    And what if God’s not on the line at all? What if he’s more like a circle above the line, above the fray, taking in and participating in more than anyone in the 2D line space can even imagine?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.