If you’re trying to win the culture war, don’t do this…

Proof-texting-300x246Well, the culture wars are heating up. With the government’s latest directive about gender neutral restrooms, things are starting to get out of hand.

But not in the way you might think.

First, let me offer my own disclaimer on the rest of this article.

WHAT THIS ARTICLE IS NOT

It is not a diatribe for or against gay rights or toilet privileges. I have my opinions which will likely line up with most readers (but not all). However, I am not writing about them today.

It is not a rant for or against one political party or another or one political position or another. Again, I have my opinions but they are, in this case, irrelevant.

It is not an attempt to establish a moral standard or to malign a moral standard held by anyone. I have mine and I am confident of its origins, but it is not the subject of what I want to say today.

So then, you ask, what is this and why should you keep reading?

It is a discussion of the tactics being used by religious people to defend their positions and to attack those of the culture in which they exist…and why they won’t work.

I’ve been watching my Facebook timeline light up for many days by people on the march. The voices have become increasingly loud and often strident. There is a hint of desperation and more than a hint of sanctimony in too many voices.

Religious people commonly quote chapter and verse to defend or to further an opinion. This is not inherently wrong but it is often ineffective.

Why? Because the people we use it against hold little regard for chapter and verse. Now, before you quote more chapters and more verses to attack their lack of respect for chapter and verse, take a step back and ask yourself why they hold such little regard for it…and correspondingly those who use it?

They’ve usually read it too and they often see it more objectively than you do. I can hear the clicking of mouse buttons from all the way over here but please bear with me. This article I am writing right now will help you further your positions and your arguments if you will listen to me.

Do not use passages in the Old Testament  upon which to base your arguments. Just don’t.

Why?

Because your opponents have read them, too, and they are more balanced about it than you are. They see it more objectively.

How can I say that?

Well, consider this?

Are you against gay rights and gay marriage?

Many of you will answer yes.

They will say that Jesus never mentions it. (They’re right by the way)

You then trot out the book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy and quote chapter and verse.

They respond by asking if you like bacon. If you say yes, they will trot out chapter and verse to establish that eating pork or pork products is banned in the same set of laws you hold to and have set forth to support your position. If you even hint at arguing your way around that one, you’ve lost the argument.

Then they ask about shrimp. You might have a season pass to Red Lobster and thoroughly enjoy the shrimp specials, but then you’re in trouble with that one, too. Why? Because eating shrimp is also banned.

Or they might ask you about that tattoo you’re sporting. But it’s a tattoo of Jesus, you explain. Doesn’t matter. Tattoos are banned.

How about that wedding band you and/or your partner are wearing? Yes, you say. It is a celebration of our marriage. But once again, adorning yourself or anyone else for that matter with gold is also forbidden. If they ask you if the ring celebrates a first marriage or a second (or third or??), they’ll use chapter and verse, this time from the New Testament to condemn divorce and remarriage.

See what I’m getting at? Arguments ring untrue because of the inconsistencies in the use of them and the application of them.

Picking and choosing always ends this way.

Always!

I am not suggesting that you compromise your commitments and your standards. I am suggesting that you remember that the law has never ever been able to make anyone righteous, principally for three reasons.

  • First, it deals with internal dynamics using external forces. Laws cannot change the heart.
  • Second, and more damning, is that tendency to selectively apply its statutes.
  • Third, is that over time, laws tend to reflect the state of the culture.

We may deem things to be wrong but pronouncements of condemnation and impending judgment have never changed anything. They do make such proclaimers look a bit self-important and subject them to scrutiny which invariably illuminates the inconsistencies. I am embarrassed by some of the posts made by my devout friends. They pronounce judgment, refer to passages of great calamity having befallen those whose behaviors are, according to them, like those they decry today, and claim to speak for God, a dubious and delusional claim to everyone outside the world of religion. At best, they think you’re nuts. At worst they think you’re hypocritical. All of them erode the ability to speak into the situation.

That requires skill, diplomacy, and humility, none of which are we seeing much of.

No, it seems it is far too easy to stir up amens by preaching to the choir. But such exercises in proclamation are not only futile they are folly.

Do you want to speak into the situation or speak at the situation? If you want to speak at it, then selectively highlight such verses in the Old Testament or New as may suit your fancy and sling them around.

If you want to speak into the situation, it might take a little more time and a lot more understanding. If you really believe that God has everything under control then I fail to understand what you are doing.

So what should you do?

Remember that there is only one God and you are not Him.

Decide if you want to push others around or bring them along.

Pay more attention to yourself and the methods you readily resort to. In short, beware selective applications.

Accept the fact that it is not your responsibility to point out sin wherever you see it.

If you insist that it is, please send me your mailing address. I’d like to send you a mirror.

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