Guest Blogger: Bethany Blankley
Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, North Carolina created a firestorm among Christians and non-Christians when he suggested that homosexuals be rounded up and put inside electrical fences, left to die. Obviously, this is not the Christian message of loving our neighbors, let alone loving our enemies, which Jesus preached. Yes the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination to God but that does not justify hate speech by anyone.
Worley does not speak for the Christian community. At a time when national debate centers on same-sex marriage, Christians and their ministers find themselves at the heart of the debate.
Why is this the case?
One very simple reason is that marriage is a ceremony most often performed by ministers. But it’s more complex than that. Marriage was designed to reflect the gospel, the message of good news, which all ministers are entrusted to preach.
Because Bible-believing ministers preach on Biblical texts, it’s their responsibility to speak the truth to their congregation about what God’s word says about various cultural issues. The Bible is explicitly clear that God designed human sexuality and marriage and that His idea for marriage is a union solely between one man and one woman as described in Genesis 2. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul explained that marriage is more than just a union between two people. It is an act of worship that points to Christ’s sacrificial relationship with the church (Ephesians 5). Therefore, most ministers teach that marriage is more than a contract or a financial engagement, but a sacred union that should reflect God’s love. As in all acts that Christians perform, the goal of marriage is to glorify God.
Another reason, is that evangelical ministers in particular, follow an approach to cultural engagement similar to what John Stott, a world renowned evangelical Christian leader suggested in his last book, The Living Church, before his death. In it he recommended six “weapons of social change”: prayer, evangelism, example, argument, action, and suffering. Understanding these principles helps explain why many Christians believe they are to engage in American culture.
First, in 1 Tim. 2:1-2, Christ-followers are told to pray for their national leaders so that they “may live peaceful and quiet lives.”
Second, the fruit of evangelism is a changed life– which leads to a socially responsible person. The more that Christians evangelize, the more they will change lives, who will in turn, change the culture.
Third, scripture teaches that the local church is meant to be a “sign of the kingdom” of God; it’s supposed to be a model human community that others seek to emulate. If Christians lead by example in their own lives, they will attract, rather than promote, their beliefs.
Fourth, Stott and many evangelicals assert that Christians must seek to change unjust social structures, and within a democracy such as America, this is primarily done through enacting legislation. Most evangelicals believe that changing culture by changing laws reduces the level of evil in society. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr. Stott wrote, “morality cannot be legislated but behavior can be regulated.” Therefore, it’s essential to not only participate in public debate, but to win it in order to assert that God’s standards are best.
Fifth, it’s important for Christians to be engaged in socio-political action to act as “salt and light”, something to which Jesus referred. Jesus commanded his followers to go out into the world to serve others, which includes being responsible citizens. This means that many ministers encourage their congregations to vote and to influence others’ votes, to speak up and write on current issues, to engage in the public, and to peacefully protest and witness.
Finally, Stott warns that Christian cultural engagement is costly– not everyone will agree with their efforts so Christians should expect and be willing to suffer for their beliefs.
While Worley’s remarks fall outside of mainstream Christian thinking and do more harm than good, the context of speaking about homosexuality or marriage from the pulpit is not uncommon. Hopefully, his message of hate will not overshadow Christ’s message of love nor confuse the issue of religious political debate in America.
Bethany Blankley is a religion and political analyst. Her web site is: http://bethanyblankley.com/