It is critical, especially in light of the ongoing culture wars (and they are ongoing; and appear to be worsening) how we behave as Christians in the world and in the marketplace of ideas, and right now, it’s my observation that we have a tendency to behave very badly. Actually, so is everybody, but “everyone’s doing it” has never been an excuse for bad behavior. People are becoming more and more combative and I have noticed how Christians can hit just as hard as anyone else, and often below the belt.
Demonizing, belittling and making your opponent look stupid are clearly the ways the game is being played right now, but Christians, for the sake of the gospel and grace turned outward, must resist the temptation to join in. We need to be known as being gracious, and if we disagree with others, we need to do so with visible respect for the other person or group, and for what they believe. Certainly we have the right to create an argument and to be persuasive, but without knocking down those who think and feel differently. Be winsome in your persuasion, not like the others who try to incite emotional reactions to prove a point. If your argument is a good one, it will stand up intellectually on its own, not as superior, but as making sense, so those who disagree can think about the merit of your point of view without having to fend off an emotional barrage of personal attacks at the same time. No one is giving any thought to any point of view other than their own when their point-of-view is under personal attack.
If you have the truth on your side, it’s not necessary to add a couple of swings at the opposition. Sometimes it’s in the form of a joke, so we think we can get away with it, but jokes at anyone’s expense are not funny to the person or group being ridiculed. Sarcasm will not help our cause. It will only cement those who already agree, and drive the others further away.
We are all guilty of this. Our argument seems so obvious that we think it would take a fool to not see it, but that’s only our opinion. We have no idea how the person who disagrees with us has come to their current conclusions about things. We are not standing in their shoes. (Indeed, we dislike them so much that we wouldn’t be caught dead with their stinky shoes on our feet!) We fail to realize that their argument makes perfect sense to them. If we want to try to get them to think differently, we need to build a case for our point of view that understands how they got to theirs. That’s a lot different than taking pot shots over the wall that separates us. When you listen to the other side, you usually find out at least two things: 1) they aren’t as dumb as you thought, and 2) you might even see where you can challenge their argument in a fair and respectful exchange.
My deepest concern about all of this is that we have lost sight of our goal. Our goal as Christians in the world is not to win a culture war, but to spread the news about the gospel of welcome and grace turned outward. Think about it: you can even win the culture war and lose the battle for the souls of men and women in the process, and what good will that have done?
All of this is called taking the high road, and hardly anyone is doing it right now, Christians included. I’ve been following a highly respected Christian publication that recently insinuated that Democrats were zombies, and anyone who thinks banning plastic straws will make an impact on the environment should have their head examined. That argument could have been made without tearing down the other guy. That wasn’t necessary. You can make your point without making the other person look stupid. That would have been taking the high road.
With just about everyone taking the low road right now, we might even get someone to stop and pay attention to what we have to say by taking the high road, and wouldn’t that be unique?