Just watched part of a weekly TV interactive talk show, where a panel of experts respond to questions from the audience. Tonight was a departure from the norm – it was an entirely Christian panel, responding to all sorts of questions that linked issues of faith to modern concerns. For example, the Christian response to gays and gay marriage (just one of many issues raised).
On the TV screen a regular stream of Twitter feeds is displayed. Most weeks it varies from agreement to disagreement, praising or damning various speakers. Tonight it was almost entirely negative (I didn’t watch the whole show though – only about 15 minutes). The question being debated at the time was if Christians were being marginalised and their voice being ignored or worse, actively being shouted down (my words not theirs, as an attempt at a summary).
The Twitter feed certainly seemed to give credence to that supposition. Constantly saying things like “You’ve got to be kidding, you guys have a say about everything”, to “the church can have a say when it starts paying tax”, to “when religion stops speaking in hate language, maybe I’ll listen” and so forth.
To me, I can see both sides of this issue. If Christians speak out they are almost automatically branded as speaking hate, but many Christians I know are not hateful people. What they are doing is speaking their mind – not the same as speaking hate. If you hear something that offends you, that doesn’t mean the person speaking it is intending to be offensive.
On the other hand, Christians tend to speak out on issues that impacts on the life decisions of others – gay marriage for example. And whilst they may do it from a standpoint of faith and not hate, they are nevertheless seeking to control the lifestyle decisions of others. No matter where you stand on the issue, you can’t blame people for not being thrilled that you want to minimise the decisions they can make.
So there ends up being quite a bit of hate speech towards Christians. Ironic, really, since they are the ones being accused of hate speech. But maybe all religious people who expect others to live by their beliefs should expect this opposition. After all, if you’re not a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, why should you allow others’ beliefs to shape your world?
At the end of the day, of course, other people’s opinions ARE shaping your world. I’m guessing that no-one agrees with all the laws of our land. Some, for example, are furious about the gun laws that prohibit automatic and semi automatic weapons in Australia. Somebody other than them has judged it to be a safer place with these prohibitions in place, and our recent history seems to bear out that it is indeed safer. That someone (Prime Minister John Howard in this case) made a decision that most people, but not all, were happy about.
How different is that to the issue of allowing or prohibiting gay marriage? In some ways they are the same (limitation of freedom) but in other ways they are different. No-one feels second rate because they can’t carry an automatic weapon, whereas I’m guessing that gay couples who are refused marriage feel ostracised and on the outside.
Maybe that’s where most of the tension is coming from. Christians are proposing views that fundamentally affect how we view ourselves, and our society. Gay marriage comes to mind, as well as LGBQTI acceptance as a lifestyle, sex outside marriage, the place of women in roles of authority and power, the rights of women (eg abortion). And I’m sure there are others. When people’s very autonomy is threatened things can get very ugly indeed.
That doesn’t mean that people (Christians or otherwise) shouldn’t stand up for things they strongly believe in. The opposite to this is the weak kneed political correctness that tries to say nothing but the “right thing” (whatever that is) at this particular point in time. Curious that – the “right thing’. It seems to change from generation to generation, so if you just go with the flow do you have an opinion at all?
A lot of people become outraged (that is such a common word these days I’m tired of it), by any opinion other than that which is currently in vogue. The focus of their fury may be someone who is simply be giving their point of view but which happens to be against the status quo. As long as they have a reasonable argument, I wish them well. After all, if the prevailing opinion is right, then it can stand up to scrutiny.
So whoever you are, don’t settle for being PC. Speak up. Don’t hold back saying what you truly believe. But be prepared for an onslaught, particularly if you are treading on the freedoms of others, and don’t go playing the victim card. Rightly or wrongly, you have brought it on yourself. That’s just the way it is.