The Corner

Christians, Don’t Fall for the ‘Compassion’ Trap

As I mentioned in my piece on the home page, I’ve been saddened at the number of Christians who either sit out the battle for religious liberty entirely or actively take the other side. In my piece today I tried to address those who claim that the threats to religious liberty are no big deal and that religious liberty legislation is a solution is search of a problem. But here I want to briefly address a different objection — that advocating for religious liberty or opposing the latest advance of the sexual revolution doesn’t present Christians as “compassionate” or “loving.” Here’s a sample taken from my Facebook feed:

Attention all Christians. The Transgender bathroom issue is not a fight we are called to enter into. I started to, and regret that, but now see it as trap to separate people, to vilify people, to make enemies and to distract us from the real heart issues that Christ demanded we pay the most attention to. Jesus died for straight, gays, transgenders etc. We aren’t here to change society, we have never been called to point out behaviors of the unsaved that we don’t agree with. We are called to love, we are here to change hearts and let God change behavior where He feels best. Distraction and divisiveness is the devils greatest tool and when we get caught up in causes such as this we lose sight of the true work of Christ and the Holy Spirit which is freeing sinful man from the burden of sin – which included us at one time as well.

You’ll see a number of variations on this same theme whenever there’s an argument about religious liberty — especially when religious liberty conflicts with sexual liberty. Christians should love the opposition, and to some people loving the opposition means either sitting out the fight or watering down the message to the point of impotence. I have a few objections.

First, there is no inconsistency between defending our culture from the latest sexual “reform” and loving our neighbors. It is compassionate to women and children to argue that governments and businesses shouldn’t render them more vulnerable to sexual predators. And if you believe the words of the Bible, there is nothing compassionate about acquiescing in the latest cultural demand to normalize immoral and troubled behavior. Yes, transgender men and women need the love of Jesus, but if by our words or deeds we contribute to the notion that their “transitions” are perfectly acceptable, we’re contributing to their own tragic self-mutilation.

Second, when one actively opposes Christians who are seeking to preserve religious liberty and opposing the relentless march of sexual decadence, then they marginalize and isolate their own brothers and sisters. For those few Christians who have the courage to stand against censorship, there is nothing more discouraging than enduring opposition and vitriol from fellow believers. I’ll never forget comforting a sobbing Christian client who filed suit to allow her Christian club to stay on campus — only to wake up the next morning to discover that a coalition of pastors and ministry leaders were the first to oppose her.

Third, a public political stance is not the same thing as a personal relationship. I can oppose gay marriage or transgender normalization yet still treat every single gay or transgender person I know with dignity and respect. Indeed, that is my God-given moral obligation. If a gay person chooses to shun me because I hold and profess orthodox Christian beliefs, that’s on them. In my experience, however, people can differ wildly on politics and come from dramatically different religious and political backgrounds and still forge meaningful relationships. 

There is of course an enormous amount of public commentary that is snarling and hateful. But the existence of the intolerant Left and the crass Right make it more important — not less — that thoughtful Christian voices engage the debate. Leave the field, and the screamers take over. 

I see the appeal of the “loving” approach. Very few people relish these kinds of conflict, and it’s never fun to be labeled a bigot. Moreover, it’s intoxicating to be hear the Left’s applause. They always like the “thinking” Christian who sees things their way. But these Christians are loved not because they’re pulling secular progressives closer to Jesus. Instead, the Left loves those who help them win. 

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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