I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said, “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” I’m usually against “bumper-sticker-theology” because it tries to make something complex into something simple. But this is one time where I think the saying actually does justice to the concept.
Traditionally, Christinas have supported ideas that are not always popular. Whether that be celibacy or monogamy in light of a sex-driven culture, taking in and raising unwanted children, refusing to bow down to the powers that be, or refusing to become more inclusive, Christians have tended to stand at the outskirts of the faith.
Even during the reign of “Christendom,” those who dared to stand against the Pope in the West or the governments based upon Scriptural and traditional grounds were cut down by the governments. In the East, though under Muslim occupation, many Christians stayed true to their belief.
In America today, Christians, for the first time in American history, have actual repercussions for being Christians. These repercussions are nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis around the world and for that we should both be thankful and also pray for their relief. But the fact remains that as Christians in America, what we believe can get us in trouble. For Christianity, there are two aspects of our beliefs that open us up for hatred among non-Christians:
1) Our belief in the exclusiveness of Christ – one belief that unites orthodox Protestants with the Eastern Orthodox and even some traditional Roman Catholics is the belief in the exclusive nature of Christ. While we are slaves to sin and therefore bound towards eternal punishment, Christ is the liberator for our sins. In ancient Christian history, the worship of Christ and Christ alone was something people died for. To them, there was no other. The idea of going to a pagan service and offerring tribute to a pagan god was foreign to them and would cause them to lose communion with the body of believers.
Yet today, Christians seem to have no problem embracing other faiths. While they worship Christ, they likewise follow Buddhism. Even though there is truth to be found in Buddhism, we must never forget that it is a false religion. The same stands true for all religions; though they have truth with them, some more than others, we should never synchronize them to our faith. When we synchronize our faiths we lose something in our own. Since true Christianity is absolutely true, to synchronize is to lose some of the truth. Instead, we should appreciate the truth in one religion, but continue to follow Christ exclusively.
To say such things immediately labels me as intolerant. Were I to say such things publicly I would have a difficult time running for public office (unless I said such things in the South, and even then it would be difficult). Saying such things immediately makes me unpopular with most of those who claim to be Christians. I am reminded that such a belief is part of a dying minority and that soon most people will believe that Christ is simply one way to heaven.
And that is the truth factor for modern pagans and heretics: if the majority believes it to be true, then it is true. To be in the minority on a belief is to be anathema. To say, “Well that’s the minority belief” or “well no scholar believes that anymore” is considered the end-all to an argument.
To those who would deny the exclusivity of Christ, I would say that if tomorrow every scholar rose up and declared that Christ is not exclusive, if every pastor got up in their pulpit on Sunday and said that Christ was merely one way of many to heaven, and if every person who claimed the name of Christ began to worship other gods, or at least said other gods existed on par with Christ, I would still stand firm with those who came before me. I would need to be shown that Christ did not die and raise from the dead and that all of early Christian history is a lie before I would abandon my belief in the exclusivity of Christ. I suspect that for many other Christians, the same holds true.
2) Our stance on moral issues – from the beginning Christians have taken moral stands. We know that the Romans made a practice of leaving unwanted babies near temples to simply let the babies die. The Christians petitioned the Roman authorities to make such a practice illegal (sound familiar?), but also would sneak up to the temples at night and snatch the babies away and raise them as their own. Christians were hated for this.
Early in Christian history, Christians were mocked because they took their religion to slaves and women. The Romans laughed at such an idea because slaves and women were lesser humans in their minds. Christians, however, believed that everyone was made in the image of God and subsequently treated everyone in that manner.
Traditionally, Christians have always held that to follow Christ is to adhere to Christian morals. Now, our view of what is and is not moral has changed over the years. At times such a change was needed (in the case of segregation – although traditional Christianity and even Christians during that time recognized segregation as wrong) while at other times it was not.
In Christianity, Christ is the standard for morality. Goodness comes from him and therefore so do morals. Unfortunately, we are fallen, meaning we cannot perfectly understand Christ’s goodness. That means that if we say something is immoral, it is only actually immoral if it doesn’t align with Christ.
But there are some things in Christianity that have remained immoral and will not change any time soon. One of those is sexual sins. Though Christians have always advocated that virginity was the ideal (and there is still truth to this), they have also advocated that marriage was a blessing and a good thing. Christians have held for 2,000 years that marriage was the proper place for sex between a man and a woman and that this marriage could not be disolved with ease.
Even today, Christians have succumb to the sexual revolution. To them, sex is divorced from marriage as a pleasurable activity that has no bearing upon the unification of two people. Our churches are suffering from an epidemic of divorce and unfaithfulness. Adultery is no longer a travesty, but a punchline. And now Christians are saying there’s nothing wrong in engaging in homosexuality, so long as one is monogamous (but why should monogamy matter if homosexuality does not, assuming all parties agree to abandon monogamy?).
For Christians to stand against all sexual sins, ranging from divorce to homosexuality, makes us look like fools. We are labeled as such. We are told we’re behind the times. We are told that we’re adhering to ancient beliefs and not progressing. To them I say that they are correct. We have accepted the wisdom of God and are therefore fools in the eyes of the world. We are behind the times and are adhering to an ancient faith because the truth we follow was founded in eternity, whereas their’s is manmade and therefore subject to decay, rot, and destruction.
Christians in the first few centuries would not abandon their moral principles for the sake of appeasement. More than being labeled intolerant or being passed over for promotion for their beliefs, they were tortured and killed for refusing to abandon their moral principles. We too should be willing to do the same.
But we will also follow in the tradition of the ancient Christians to be loving towards all. Just because we disagree with the person’s moral choices does not mean we should hate the person. Do I believe that homosexuality is wrong? Yes. Would that prevent me from having someone over for dinner who engages in homosexual activity (assuming the person does not claim Christ)? Not at all. If a greedy CEO who has abused his workers, a person who has engaged in homosexual activities, or a child abuser were dying of a disease, as a Christian I would sit by their bedside, clean their sores, hold them as they died, and plead for their repentance. In all of this, I would not serve them in some pragmatic fashion so they would accept Christ; I would serve them because they were beautiful images of God who had fallen outside of His grace and that by being in His image, they deserved my help.
For Christians, to love does not mean to accept, it means to sacrifice and serve. With this in mind, we can disagree with the moral choices, but still love the person. This is what true Christianity has always taught.
What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right. But it takes virtuous fortitude to stand up for what is right when it will cost us.