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Touchy Subject

Stacey Tuttle on February 28, 2017 - 11:00 am in Christian Living

When we deal with the question(s) of sexuality, gender, etc. facing our culture today, much of the time what we are dealing with is the feelings. How do we make people feel? How would we feel in their shoes? How can we hold to truth in a way that still feels (and is) loving? Etc. These are important without a doubt. The problem, however, is that when I’m talking with younger generations, so often that is ALL they can talk about. The feelings around the thing in question is the only reality for them.

This is probably largely in response to former generations who were so focused on the “truth” behind the matter that they completely denied or ignored the issue of feelings …or worse… But, as pendulums do, it’s now gone too far to the feelings extreme. In time people will get tired of the shifting sand of feelings and start to swing toward having a foundation of truth in the discussion, but who knows how long that will take. (A generation or so, usually.) And maybe it’s already beginning to happen.

Simple-Pendulum

For now, I think the challenge for us is carefully recognize where the pendulum is (the feelings side), and then to gently and respectfully enter truth into the conversation, striking a balance between the two. We need to recognize that feelings need to be heard and considered but that we also need a foundation of truth. It’s like building a house. You need a firm, solid foundation, but you also need some soft and cushy sofas and beds to rest on. It’s both/and, not either/or. Eventually things will shift on their own, but we can actually begin that process by not reacting to one or the other, but instead reaching for a balance.

And you know what I’m finding? Younger generations actually want that foundation. They actually want to know and understand other points of view. They want to know why people don’t agree with same-sex marriage, for example. Why not? It seems so obvious to them that they are genuinely curious to understand the objections. The challenge with that is to present it in a way that still acknowledges feelings and the difficulty presented in the matter to all involved. It’s not a simple answer. Things are hard because our world is broken. They may want to know, but they are also sensitive to how you say it. They’ve been taught to stand up for themselves and that their opinions have great value. This is the age where everyone has a voice, remember? So they also feel very empowered to shut yours off. Where previous generations might have respectfully listened to their elders even when they didn’t appreciate how they were being talked to, this generation probably will not. How you say a thing is as important as what you say—now more than ever.

All of that being said, I think if we are honest many of us feel a bit ill equipped to speak into the issues of sexuality and gender, etc. at times—especially when we are talking with an honest seeker of information who doesn’t come from our point of view. Why is this? I think one problem is that we too have become sympathetic to a large degree. (Just note how many churches have changed their stance towards the LGBT issue. Regardless what you think about it, the fact is, as a whole, we are changing and becoming more sympathetic.) We’ve become so sympathetic that now it’s getting hard to see—Why shouldn’t gay marriage be allowed? Shouldn’t they be allowed to be happy, too? Admittedly, there’s the little issue of the fact that the Bible isn’t for it, but why not? It’s not God’s design, but why not? Isn’t the Bible’s policy on sexuality outdated, anyway? I mean, honestly, how many Christians actually believe they should take God seriously and wait to have sex till they’re married (or live together first)?[1] We may have answers but we really don’t know how to explain them to our own satisfaction much of the time, much less to someone else’s.

I’m not going to try to answer these questions here, but I did want to point to a quote I read recently that does a great job of pointing out one reason why this issue is such a big deal. Because that’s part of the question I’m hearing, “Why does it matter?” “Why are Christians so opposed to a female child identifying as a boy?” “Why don’t they want gays to be able to marry and be happy?” etc. etc. etc.

The sexual revolution is not just about the licentious freedom to follow our impulses among consenting adults. It is a radical revisioning of what a human being is, namely: a sophisticated beast that is radically autonomous, even self-creating in a godless universe. Thus, we don’t receive or discover our moral framework. We simply will whatever morality we fancy. We will even ourselves, our identity. So, for example, children are not born boy or girl, but rather at some choose to identify as one or the other. There is no sovereign Creator God, only sovereignty over oneself and thus sexual autonomy.

The sexual dimension of the culture wars is not ultimately about “sins of the flesh” but about what it means to be human. If Christians don’t speak up on this matter, there is almost no one else who will. It is hard to speak in defense of people’s humanity when the very concept of “human” is in flux. [2]

So, he’s saying this is a big deal because it’s about the nature of man. Are we created beings or are we autonomous evolutionary beings? If we are created beings, then we need to ask what we were created for. If we are evolutionary beings, then we are simply a product of our environment and free to choose—there is no right or wrong answer. As we talk about this however, it’s sometimes helpful to explain to someone, “Here is the issue… This is why this really matters to me. If the Bible is true, then… If we are created, then… But if not, if I’m wrong, then some of this doesn’t matter as much. Of course, there are still pretty big implications for society and economy to consider as well, so I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter at all… But part of why this is such a big deal is… ” And so we talk softly and gently about our foundation but still keep in mind their feelings. We say why we believe what we believe, but also allow them the respect and dignity of being able to form their own opinions, even when they differ from ours. If we are honest, we have had plenty of changed opinions ourselves through the years, so we can trust God to change theirs if He wants to.

This also really reveals to us why the creation/evolution argument is SO critical to Christians. If there is a Creator God, then what we are is determined by HIM. We see this in our own creations. A small child comes to me with a drawing. I have no idea what it is so I ask her, “What did you draw?” And she tells me. “That’s you and me and a dog.” I can argue with her. I can say I think that it’s really a little boy and a rhinocerous and a rainbow, but my opinion isn’t the one that matters. She drew it and though it might not make sense to me and though I may not see it, she knows what it is. She drew herself, a little girl, and she drew me and a dog. My opinions otherwise are wrong on the matter because I didn’t make it.

A young friend and I were discussing the holocaust the other day and I said something about how it’s really the natural result of evolutionary thinking. She was flabbergasted when I said that. She’s been taught evolution in school and also been taught that the holocaust was wrong. Now I’m telling her the one was a natural result of the other. How can that be? Well, evolution is about survival of the fittest and natural selection. If that’s where we come from, then why shouldn’t superior nations take out lesser ones?

We really do mean well—I know we do—but sometimes we are clueless about the natural progressions of our thoughts and ideologies. For example, the same reasoning that we use to say that LBGT is acceptable (it’s the way we are made, and therefore should be accepted and embraced), is the same reasoning that will be applied to pedophiles. A gay person can’t help being attracted to the same sex, right? Well, a pedophile can’t help being attracted to a child either. What makes one OK and the other not? Don’t pedophiles deserve to be happy, too? They are people with feelings, just like we are, after all.

In some ways, I agree that we need to come up with some discussion points that aren’t centered around “the Bible says so” because not everyone agrees with the Bible. How can we hold our ground when our only ground is what the Bible says and we are in a world that doesn’t acknowledge that as a worthy foundation?   But on the other hand, it’s the root of all of these questions. It changes the argument entirely. If there is a God, then we have an authority to submit to. (If not, we are our own highest authority.) If there is a Creator, then we have a purpose and a design to discover. (If not, then we choose whatever we want to be.) If the earth was created, then everything in it has a purpose and an order. (If it happened by evolution, then who are we to object to survival of the fittest, even the forms of terrorism and genocide and abortion, etc.?)

As we try to discuss these things, we need to get to the heart of the matter—is God real? That is the lynch pin, the cornerstone. If that one thing is in place, everything else can and will come together in time. Without it, nothing will.   So, rather than trying to get other people to agree with us on the peripheral issues, we can actually start using the peripheral issues to get to the core issue. I can use a discussion about the holocaust to show a young girl why the theory of evolution can be dangerous and why the idea of a Creator God changes things. I can use LGBT issues to show how the question isn’t about feelings so much as it is about a willingness to submit to God’s authority (just as every person has to do in the area of their sexuality, gay or straight). I can use the issue of gender identification to point to the question of whether or not we are created with intention and design.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. -Philippians 3:15-16

[1] JUST to be clear, I’m voicing what seems to be popular opinion… NOT my opinion!

[2] D.C. Innes in WORLD magazine, “Sex and the City of Man”. Quoted in: Reply All. (2016, January/February). Christianity Today, p. 13.

 

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