How to Get Out of a Corner

The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in morality.

I have a friend who is a deeply committed Christian woman and whose boss is a lesbian. That in itself isn’t a problem. My friend has the maturity to know you can’t expect non-Christians to live like Christians. But her boss posed a difficult question to her, and talking about it with you might help expand your horizons on how to get out of a tough situation.  

The boss wanted to know what my friend’s attitude was toward homosexuality.

Now that’s a tough one, isn’t it, because she’s a Christian and has strong views on the issue. At the same time, she was concerned that expressing her own personal views to her employer (for whom the question was not merely academic) might compromise her situation.  

My friend’s response was, “Please tell me what my feelings about homosexuality have to do with our professional relationship?” In sword fighting that’s called a parry. She deflected her boss’s question, pushing it aside by asking about its relevance. Because she was quick, my friend avoided what might have been an unpleasant confrontation. 

It was a fair response. Sometimes you’re asked a personal question when it’s not the best time to express your opinion. When we make our case about the Lord or our religious or ethical views, we want to choose the time and place so we can be the most sensitive to the person we’re talking to. We don’t want our views misunderstood or twisted. 

In less-than-ideal circumstances it’s entirely fair to say, “You know, I’m not really comfortable offering my point of view at this time,” or something like that. Or, as my friend did, “Could you clarify what this has to do with our relationship?”    

My friend had successfully parried the issue for the moment, but suspected it would come up again. She might not be able to sidestep twice. What should she do?

Here’s what I suggested. Her answer would depend on precisely how the question was put to her. “How do you feel about homosexuality?” is different from, “What do you think about homosexuality?”  

If someone asked me what I felt about homosexuality, I’d answer honestly: I don’t feel uncomfortable simply because someone is a homosexual. Some homosexuals are likable, some are not. I treat persons as individuals.

If I were asked what I think about homosexuality, however, my answer would be different. I think that homosexuals are human beings that should be treated with respect, should not be bashed or called names, and should be given the same individual rights that any other citizen has. That’s what I actually think.  

I also think that homosexuality is unnatural, unhealthy—physically and psychologically—and immoral. I say this not as a personal preference, but as a personal conviction—I think that statement is accurate and true. I’m also glad to give the reasons why I think so. These are my thoughts about homosexuality, as opposed to my feelings.

What this approach does is make a distinction between my attitude about homosexual people and my point of view regarding homosexuality. When dealing with people in the public square, it’s very important to make this distinction because people may mistakenly infer your feelings from your thoughts. So if you start off by saying, “I think homosexuality is immoral,” or “I think it’s a sin,” people will infer from your ethical conclusions about homosexuality that you actually hate homosexuals, that you are condescending towards them, etc. And, of course, they’ll take offense.  

Don’t go down that road. You don’t want to hide your moral point of view, but you also don’t want them to draw wrong conclusions about your feelings—and how you might be inclined to mistreat homosexuals—from your moral assessment of homosexuality. By offering how you feel about homosexuality up front, you minimize that risk.  

There’s another thought I offered as a post-script to my friend. There’s a clever way to answer her boss’s question directly, while eliminating most of the risk.

If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, then turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue, preface your remarks with a question.

Say, “You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views.  

“So let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from your own?”  

Now when my friend gives her point of view, it’s going to be very difficult for her boss to call her intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too.  

This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view she thinks is right and everybody passes judgment at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in morality.

Greg Koukl

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