Rachel Held Evans, notorious blogger extraordinaire, has written a very insightful and in many ways helpful entry entitled: “The Cost.” She highlights the painful relational cost of being ostracized from her conservative roots when she came out as an evolutionist, feminist, LGBT activist. She also, very helpfully (and perceptively) sympathizes with conservatives who are labelled as bigots and extremists in the media and the culture-at-large. Here are a few highlights with her conclusion (on which I will comment below):
They say I’ve taken the easy way out.
They say I’ve given in to the culture in an effort to be welcomed and liked by my peers. They tell me I’ve counted the cost of following Jesus and considered it too much, so I’ve jumped on the liberal bandwagon— embracing evolution, feminism, LGBT equality, and theological views that veer from the evangelical norm — because it’s the easy, convenient thing to do.
And I want to shake their shoulders and ask, What culture do you think I came from? Who do you think are my peers? This church, this community, was once my whole world until it took he questions I offered with trembling hands and smashed them against the wall. How dare you say I took the easy way out when these questions have cost me relationships, reputation, status, and security? How dare you say I took the easy way out when this path has been so lonely and treacherous?
And the very helpful balance:
Because the truth is, their convictions come with a cost too.
It’s painful to see your beliefs mocked in the media and satirized on TV. There’s a cost to sticking with your values when they strike others as old-fashioned or strange. It hurts like hell to be the butt of jokes at your office or called a “bigot” or “extremist” on your college campus when nothing could be further from the truth. It takes guts to raise your hand and challenge the professor in a secular classroom or walk away from a compromising situation when it may mean damaging relationships that have been hard-won. And it’s got to sting to be called a fundamentalist by other Christians (like me) when you’re just trying to do the right thing and do it in love. It must hurt to be subjected to the rolled eyes and the know-it-all attitude we progressive-types can conjure as well as anybody.
And her conclusion:
Maybe we don’t have to change each other’s minds to lighten one another’s load by not assuming motives, by giving each other the benefit of the doubt that we arrived at our beliefs through honest searching.
There’s a cost to every conviction.
What mine have cost me may be different than what yours have cost you, but the sense of loss is the same. And so is the hope that comes with breaking bread together in spite of our theological and political differences and settling into the sweet certainty that following Jesus doesn’t have to cost this. It doesn’t have to cost our love for one another.
Not if we don’t want it to.
Please do read the whole thing, then consider below:
Unity in Essentials, Charity in Non-essentials; Who Says What is Essential?
To extricate yourself from any community, whether to the left or to the right, is a painful and difficult process, and we would all do well to think of “the other” with greater love and empathy than we would for our self (and others “like us”). While I definitely understand the sentiment and agree with Rachel’s article at many points, motive alone (“honest searching”) cannot validate a position.
Case in point:
The well-meaning International Eugenics Congresses of the 1910′s, 1920′s, and 1930′s, attended by Americans, Germans, British, Christian, Atheist, many of the enlightened elites from the enlightened countries of the world, came to a screeching halt when Hitler swept through Jewish homes like the plague; indeed, there was a higher, common-to-all morality that the once-united intellectual elite appealed to against their old conference buddies.
I, for one, do not desire a “sameness for all Christians.” I’m with C. S. Lewis when he said that when people of different Christian denominations grow closer to to the heart (distinctives) of their denomination then we actually grow closer to each other.
A Present Day, Front Page Issue
Regarding Evan’s “LGBT equality” badge, let’s be honest, this is the rub of our day, however much raging-anything-ists and Answers-in-Genesis-types irk us. Here again, Clive Staples Lewis has much to say.
Lewis had a lifelong, homosexual friend (Arthur Greeves) whom he loved dearly and corresponded with, visited on vacation throughout his life, and loved equal to or more than any other person on earth. But Lewis still wrote chapter 2 & 5 of Mere Christianity (and the whole book for that matter, along with many letters addressing this topic) and made appeal to a Real Morality which transcends all and to which we all must appeal in the end.
I’m for people not being arrogant know-it-alls, because the end goal in an appeal to another believer (to turn to an orthodox belief, to repent, whatever) is not about “winning” an argument but is about restoring relationship and reconciliation.
Agree to disagree, while amiable and well-intentioned, will not I fear bring unity. Sure, family reunions might be better in the short run, but shouldn’t our eternal reunion be worth the discussion (not fight)? Articles like this seem to say “stop the discussion” and love one another. If by discussion you mean “fight” then “Hurrah,” we’re on the same team. But I digress.
One might argue that some Christians disagree on infant baptism (and other not-unimportant doctrines) so why are homosexual acts (NOT homosexuality) any different? The stakes (inheriting the Kingdom of God, 1 Cor 6:1-11) seem to be higher on this point, thus, while to each his own works (and is essential) for earthly countries, it must not do for this discussion.
My intention is not to debate/fight/win, and if I have come off this way, please forgive me. However, I do wish to persuade you to not count this topic among the “agree to disagree” discussions that can be so often fruitless and hateful. I count myself as one of those (odd) persons who do not hate homosexuals and have thought-out and loving disagreements and would like to be allowed to keep the conversation going.
Here’s a helpful exploration, although I think “lifestyle” (only mentioned once) isn’t the most helpful word.