Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Cost of Convictions

Let's face it. Christians in the United States are NOT suffering for their faith in comparison to the plight of the faithful in other countries abroad. Voice of the Martyrs catalogs various regions of the world in which believers truly suffer for maintaining exclusive loyalty to Jesus Christ. So it would be unseemly to engage in the laughable exercise of equating the challenges to a believer's confession in America today to the slaughtering of Christians in the Roman Colosseum. Nevertheless, even the believer of the present day, that appreciates any sense of continuity with devout followers of old, has their mind quite made up about the next potential test coming around the corner. They say to themselves, "This test of my loyalty to the Lord is far more benign than others have endured before. How much less understandable would be my compromise now than any they were tempted with back then?"

Nevertheless, although the cost for some convictions today nowhere near meet the "apples and apples" comparison to persecuted Christians elsewhere in the globe or in history, maintaining firm resolve on some issues may very well cost something at some point in the present society. I'm speaking of those social or vocational contacts that expect a level of relativism unachievable for the committed believer in Jesus Christ. It is a lamentable reality that simply being polite, agreeable, gracious and humble often is not enough for those nearby that will not abide a differing opinion. Regardless of how much the Christian has attempted to "live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18), their mere stopping at "tolerance" cannot be tolerated. Either they will shed their convictions and fully endorse the deviants around them, or the cost of their convictions will become evident.

What is it about the present headlines in California that raises the ire of so many, particularly the volume of objecting rants from religious circles? Some may ask, "What's the big deal? How does this affect you? Why can't you just let others be?"

The saddened Christian hangs their head in solemn grief over these questions and mutters under their breath, "But I didn't seek you out to offend. You backed me into a corner." There may be all manner of ways the devout attempt to show grace and be a good neighbor, but what one cannot ask them to do is deny their faith. "But I'm not asking them to deny their faith," the advocate of gay marriage will counter, "just to accept my right to live with full societal endorsement as they do in heterosexual marriage." And therein lies the problem; to officially declare, by means of a marriage license, the moral equivalence between heterosexual marriage and homosexual unions is to make the same societal declaration that no god exists that has prescribed these moral norms in the first place. In essence, it is to make law a 'functional atheism' that denies the right of any god (of any type) to dictate morality to which I must conform. It's right because I feel it - goes the logic. While this philosophy has been tolerated by the law up until now, this issue requires the endorsement of the law. Tolerance is simply not enough.

Thus the Christian, who formerly was content to simply be neighborly and agreeable, is left with an impasse. They want to avoid offending those with whom they have developed friendly or professional relationships, but they cannot "retreat" any further. With backs painfully pressed against the wall they declare, "I'm so sorry, but I simply cannot deny the God who has made things as they are. And to deny that God has made the morality upon which society is built is to deny the God who made the morality - for no such 'god' (that will invent new moralities to suit you) exists." So fundamental is this to basic theism that for government to endorse the moral equivalence of homosexuality with a marriage license is for that same government to officially deny God's existence and right to dictate moral norms. To those that find the religious community's objections so puzzling, you'll forgive us if we're not all prepared to declare our collective atheism just yet.

What's more? Endorsement of moral equivalence between GLBT and straight couples is to do away with redemption. For what need of we for redemption if there is no standard from which we have deviated? Furthermore, redemption is rendered meaningless by voiding any Divine power to declare norms which I might be guilty of violating. He cannot declare me redeemed who has no power to first declare me lost. Thus the issue of 'licensing' moral equivalence in marriage is to attempt undercutting the foundations of faith and society that have been in place for millennia. The Christian has stepped politely back for many an issue, but they are now alarmingly brushing against the precipice and know they cannot step back any further.

Therefore, the follower of the God that exists (and there is no other) knows that they must offer the "push back" of vocal objection, also knowing that this slight contrary gesture may cost them something valuable. It will not cost them health, property or their very lives, as occurs in other places and times. It may, however, cost them that opportunity for vocational promotion or the advance of a growing friendship. Some pain, though small in the grand context of history, will nevertheless be felt. There is, indeed, a cost for convictions at some time and in some places. Certainly the "martyrdom complex" has produced many a jerky contrarian, but at some point even the most peace-making Christian will have to say, "I'm sorry. I can't go there. It would deny too much of what I know to be true." For this they know a cost is in store, but they meditate on faithful believers of old and think, "By comparison, this isn't costing me all that much."

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