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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Conservatives, Progressives, Peacemakers and Same-Sex Marriage

BREWING is a new war. Not the aggressive secularists and new Atheists against the church and the Christian worldview, but between protagonists in the Christian milieu. There is an emergent battle, hot on the heels of militants of the marriage equality lobby. The new battle will help the marriage equality lobby no end. This new battle pits the conservative against the progressive and vice versa. Quickly forgotten in the midst of politics are the gospel basics, but we need to know that political issues have been fought and have needed to be fought, within the church, from ancient times.
As those being labelled ‘progressive’ begin to fall — some having fallen for the issue of same-sex marriage since close to the beginning — the chasm broadens. The conservative is frustrated that his or her progressive brother or sister is weakening the cause. The progressive is appalled at the ongoing harm the church is suffering, as Christians are labelled bigots and homophobes. But, to be fair, the genuine progressive is more appalled that his or her conservative brother or sister, in their view, may fail the test of love. To think this is self-righteousness.
The progressive sees the issue as a justice issue. The conservative remains unfazed; it’s a moral issue. But the justice issue is also a moral issue. Those who once had an iron-clad case against same-sex marriage now observe that same cladding as rusted all the way through. The moral case has backfired. The conservative Christian is now on the stand, or so it appears.
A word on appearances. It does appear that the debate is hotting up, yet not all appearances are what they seem. There are the vocal minorities on each side of the extreme. These are the voices we cannot drown out. We take them to bed with us. They resound within our dreams. They concern us with what they say, but more in how they say it. Whichever side we are on there is some real concern for the direction this is headed in and for what is being said.
But there are literally millions of us in the middle — nearly all of us sit more appropriately in the mid-ground, closer to the conservative end if truth be told. Many of us can offer some sort of qualified opinion. Many of us have some valuable context to share. But social media is not really a platform we should choose to use, no matter what side of the debate our allegiances lay. It is a devil’s playground for this sort of thing.
If we don’t have a role as a conservative or a progressive — i.e. we don’t hold down a role in the public square in either of these schools of thought — then we are not compelled to choose a side. Our hearts have made a choice on the information we have gleaned. But we are not under any pressure to join one lobby or the other.
What would Jesus do?
Jesus wouldn’t join either lobby, because Jesus shunned the political locale — not that politics is inherently evil. Jesus was just no Pharisee or Caesar or Scribe. Jesus’ role was not to advocate for any other side than the meagre, the maltreated, the marginalised, and the maimed. Jesus was a peacemaker. His role was not as a conservative or a progressive, and, though he was deeply radical, it would be wrong for the progressive to think they are more Jesus-like than the conservative. Again, to think this is self-righteousness.
Peacemaking in Wartime
We have the opportunity to be the peacemakers. Not to make peace our object between the conservative and the progressive; that is, to oversee and manoeuvre and broker a truce — an impossible task.
Being a peacemaker means praying for conservatives and progressives alike; that they may glorify our Lord in every interaction and dialogue they are involved in. It means taking our opportunity to get out of the way. Maybe we are passionate about the topic, but our limited knowledge will only hinder debate. We stay well clear. Perhaps we do know much about the overall topic, yet we have resolved to love like Jesus does in a particular pacifistic (nonviolent) way. Maybe we see the damage this is doing to the church, but we are also encouraged to know that this is not the first political football to be kicked all over society or within the church.
Peacemaking in wartime is a blessed activity. And this has to be God’s call of the disciple who has no role in either camp. As peacemakers we don’t begrudge the conservatives for their defence of the same gospel. And as peacemakers we also don’t disparage progressives for preaching what God has put on their heart for what is seen as an equality issue. We pray for God’s understanding and for a divine perspective.
If we don’t have a role we have a role as peacemakers. And let us hope that we are not forced into one camp or the other. Peacemakers can play the role of relieving burdens and pressures through a pastoral approach.
The world needs to see Christ at work. Given that debates between Christian progressives and conservatives may tend toward messier conflicts from time to time, it’s good for the peacemaker to gently remind those speaking on either side to add some genuine Christian decorum into the mix before it’s too late.
As peacemakers, we make up probably eighty percent of the authentic Christian base. We are not in favour of change to marriage legislation, but we are also in favour of everyone being loved with the love of Christ. Some on the peacemaking front may resonate with the marriage equality lobby, but they don’t feel so passionate to enter the debate.
Blessed is the peacemaker who has been called to pray for Christians who agitate either for or against same-sex marriage. The peacemaker may have their view, and may hold to that view passionately, but their perspective is impelled by the image of their Lord for the damage such an issue can and is doing to the church.
The advocates on both Christian sides of the same-sex marriage issue deserve our prayers. They need our prayers. They are positioned to advocate from their position. We, otherwise, are positioned in order to be peacemakers. Our role to pray is no less important. We pray no damage is done to the name of Jesus. We pray all parties may advocate with integrity. We pray that whatever outcomes are reached that Jesus’ name is held up high and glorified.
© 2015 Steve Wickham. 

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