Uncivilized Public Discourse

I just read a blog lambasting Franklin Graham for his reaction to Target’s new policy eliminating all reference to gender in its toy department.  The article made some really good points – like, do we need to label dolls and toy kitchens as “girl” toys?  What if a boy wants to play chef?  Or daddy?  Is that wrong?  Of course not.  Same with tool belts and big trucks.  When I was a little girl I could be found digging in the dirt more often than playing Barbie.  Well, most of the time I had Barbie out there buried in the dirt, but you get the point.

The thing is, that blog post, I think, missed Mr. Graham’s real objections, whether intentionally or not.  I hope it was unintentional but given the educational level of the writer I’m inclined to think it wasn’t.

Anyone familiar with Mr. Graham and his beliefs would understand that his objection was not based on wanting to force little girls to play only with dolls and kitchens, and little boys with trucks and tool belts.  There’s a bigger picture here.

Mr. Graham believes, as I do, that God created men to be men and women to be women and that He did not create a third category called “other.”  He believes, as do I, that the Bible is clear in its teaching on this topic.

So, then, his objection to Target’s action is that it is one more step toward complete gender neutrality in our culture, a trend many think is a good thing, but many think isn’t.

Those who think it is have decided that those who think it isn’t are {fill in your word of choice here}: bigots, intolerant, homophobic … the list of derogatory terminology goes on and on.  Maybe we should look at some of those terms.

“Bigot” is defined as “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.”

“Intolerant” is defined as “not willing to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own.”

“Homophobia” is defined as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.”

The problem, as I see it, is that the same people who are calling Mr. Graham – and me – intolerant, and bigoted, and homophobic are themselves intolerant, and bigoted, and, what? Christianophobic?  (Or Muslimophobic, because Islam has the same beliefs about homosexuality as Christianity does.)  Because it is obvious from the vitriol leveled at Mr. Graham, and at Christians everywhere who are trying to stay true to what they believe, that those who believe differently will absolutely not tolerate us.  Not only do they disagree with our beliefs, they also malign us as people.

I have no problem with someone debating my beliefs with me.  I have no problem with someone telling me, “I disagree with you; I think you are wrong; I abhor what you believe.”  What I have a problem with is that when I stand up for what I believe in – when Franklin Graham stands up for what he believes in – our beliefs are not attacked.  We are attacked.  All of a sudden we become bigots.  We become haters.  We become small-minded extremists.  We as human beings get marginalized, denigrated, vilified.

I want to make it clear:  I do not hate or fear or have any antipathy toward homosexuals or transgender people.  There are people I love very, very much who fall into those categories.  I do not believe having same sex attraction is a sin.  I believe what the Bible says:  Same-sex sex is a sin.  Extramarital sex is a sin.  Premarital sex is a sin.  Those are all unpopular positions in this culture, but it’s what the Bible says, and it’s what I believe.

But that doesn’t mean I hate, or fear, or have antipathy toward people who engage in those sins.  The Bible also says love one another.  Love your neighbor.  Love your brother,  Love your enemy.  That means – love everyone.  If you believe the Bible, you have to believe all of it.  You don’t get to pick out the parts you want to believe and reject the ones that don’t fit with how you want to live.  (So you folks at Westboro Baptist, you’ve got it all wrong, and you need to put down your signs and open your Bibles, because you really are bringing shame to the name of Christ.  Just sayin’.)

We all sin.  I can’t judge someone else just because they sin differently than I do.  The thing is, Jesus came to save all of us from whatever our particular sin is.  That’s the universal truth.  Do I think a homosexual can be a Christian?  Yes.  Of course.  What kind of question is that anyway?  Anyone can come to Christ.  But in order to walk in obedience to God, he or she will have to practice celibacy, as do the millions of unmarried Christians out there.

It’s a fallen world.  Every one of us has things we have to deal with in this life.  Adam and Eve were the last people to come into the world in a perfect state.  I don’t hold myself out to be any better than anyone else; in fact, I know I’m a whole lot worse than a whole lot of people.

It hurts my heart that our society has digressed to the point of conflating people and their beliefs – instead of having a good, heated debate and then going out for a drink, we’re now more likely to throw the drink at one another and stomp off.  We “unfriend” people who don’t agree with us or who dare to say things we find “offensive.”  We call them haters.

The era of civilized public discourse is over.  The lines are drawn.  As are the swords.

But as for me, I will choose to love as best I can.  I will love my friends, love my neighbors, love my brothers and sisters, love straight people and homosexual people and transgender people and those who are still confused, and with God’s help love my enemies – even the people who unfriend me after they read this.  Even the people who leave hateful comments.  Even the people who won’t tolerate my “intolerance.”

I will stop and take a breath before I speak; I will try to be Jesus to the world around me.  It’s what the Bible tells me to do.  Maybe it’ll catch on.

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