If you’re in Australia at the moment it’s hard to miss the fact that we’re in the midst of cultural conflict. I am, of course, referring to the upcoming vote on whether Australia should legalize what is being referred to as Same Sex Marriage (SSM). It’s easy to tell because on one hand the editorial columns are filled with statements on why this is a thing that we must do, while my Facebook feed is being filled with people sharing articles on why this would be the worst thing in the world. Both sides have (what they believe to be) a compelling case, but there seems to be a lack of serious, mutually respectful debate and I think we need to take a step back and consider how we’re approaching the whole issue.
Prevalent on social media today are people who share every article they can find about how legalizing SSM will destroy the very fabric of society, stripping religious freedoms, and doing away with logic altogether. The problem is not necessarily the claims themselves, although I cringe when people share the ‘No’ ad (with the claim that a boy was encouraged to wear a dress when the claim has been refuted by the school involved). Indeed from looking at what has happened in other countries following this legislation passing, it is clear that there are some very credible objections that those outside the church could reasonably affirm. (I would argue that all of these are secondary issues for Christians but that is another story) When we consider our own approach to this very public issue, we would do well to carefully consider our audience, and appropriately adjust our tone.
First (before we get to sharing) we should always seek to fully comprehend the context we find ourselves in. Increasingly social media allows us to live and engage in an echo chamber, populated by people who agree with everything that we say and think. We share articles and videos to make our case but the only people who are seeing them are people who are already on the same page as us. On the other side of the equation, our viewpoint is only being reinforced because our friends are sharing the same things, thus we’re not forced to think about the other side of the argument.
Secondly, we are responsible for considering what would happen if (when) we had someone viewing our feed who was on the other side of the argument. Are they going to be persuaded by the dozens of items that we share daily about how society is imperiled by the advancement of the LGBT agenda? More pointedly, are they even going to bother looking at them and engage or are they going to just scroll right past because they don’t agree with the headlines? And what if – God forbid – we actually had a Facebook friend who identified as LGBT? Will their life change (not lifestyle but life) because we shared a video about somebody who didn’t like that they had two mums? I highly doubt it. Given these issues, we need to seriously think about how we engage this issue and ask what would be worse: SSM being legalized or people being so repulsed by our unflinching resolve that they are driven away from Christ?
Where to from Here?
The most important thing that we need to remember is that we’re not just dealing with An Issue, but behind the issue are real, flesh-and-blood people. These people have hopes, dreams, and feelings just like the rest of us and deserve to be treated with the same respect that we expect to receive. Does this mean that we abandon our convictions? Of course not, but it does mean that if we have an opportunity to actually engage with somebody with a different opinion then we should discuss it with grace and love. As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
[Author’s Note: I highly encourage reading The Nashville Statement from the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for a biblical foundation of this issue and Rosaria Butterfield’s autobiography Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert for further thoughts on how we engage the people on the other side of this issue.]
This post comes from Ben Smith, who shares a deep conviction of Scripture as the infallible counsel of God, and that aided by the Holy Spirit we can arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches as a whole.