Have Christians created a harmful atmosphere for gays?
That’s the question The New York Times asked me last week in the aftermath of the massacre in Orlando by self-proclaimed ISIS supporter Omar Mateen.
If you think the question is startling, you’re not alone.
While Christians have mourned the loss of life in Orlando and area Christians have jumped in to provide tangible love and support for those impacted by the violence, there’s been a push by some to put some of the blame on Bible-believing Christians – specifically, those of us who support God’s design for marriage and who have advocated for it in the public square.
Last week The Washington Times reported on LGBT activists who blame Christians for the attacks. Since then, the opinion pieces keep coming in.
A few examples:
- Slate accuses conservative Christian activists of spending “decades fomenting anti-gay hate in Orlando.”
- A senior correspondent for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) accuses Christian traditionalists (among those of other faiths) of portraying their “homophobia as a matter of religious freedom.”
- Saying “hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum, The New York Times Editorial Board blamed Christians (and Republicans) for helping to create an atmosphere that facilitated Mateen’s “hatred toward gays and lesbians.”
- The New York Times also ran an article saying the biblical book of Romans “calls for the execution of gays.”
As a Christian, it’s hard not to be outraged by these accusations. Like I wrote last week, it’s hard not to hit back.
But responding in kind will do little to demonstrate the reality of Christian teaching.
We now live in a culture where those of us who hold to a biblically orthodox view of sexuality are in the minority. As mainstream church attendance and Bible reading wanes, more people will be learning about Christianity second-hand through media pieces like the ones I’ve listed above.
That means that now, more than ever, we should take our mandate to witness carefully.
We must witness through our actions and deeds, of course. But we also need to witness with our words.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
More than ever, Christians need to understand what the Bible says about issues like homosexuality – and how they tie into the bigger picture of sin, grace, and redemption. We need to have boldness to share this message with our friends and family, online, and with our neighbors. Not with a pushy arrogance, but with the humility of someone who was lost but now is found.
That’s why when The New York Times asked me to respond to the startling question I shared at the start of my post, I said I would.
I wanted to unequivocally defend our right to live out and share our Christian faith – but to do so by sharing some context about what the Bible teaches.
You can read my full answer, “Restricting Free Expression Is Not the Answer to Terrorism,” online in the Room for Debate section of the paper’s website. I’ll leave you with an excerpt:
It’s a big mistake to link events of this nature with the cultural debate about same-sex marriage and L.G.B.T rights. Taking away someone’s right to express his views openly is not the answer to terrorism.
To be sure, the Christian faith includes very strong views on sexual morality, but it also teaches tolerance – not violence and murder. It tells us to express our understanding of God’s eternal truths by loving our neighbor, not killing him.
Christians aren’t trying to control the culture by means of force. Instead, our goal is to influence it by presenting a Christ-like example to the world.
I hope you’ll head over to the Times and read the entire piece. I also hope you’ll pray for us here at Focus on the Family as we continue to engage the culture – we need the Lord’s wisdom and grace to do it well.