How We Should Treat Political Opponents

Mark Galli has a good editorial in the current Christianity Today issue. I disagree with a couple of points. But I appreciate his primary message – reminding Christians that we’re to love and care for those who oppose and persecute us.

He makes an important point very succinctly that I took a long blog post to make. Religious conservatives and LGBT activists are arguing from two very different metaphysics and are therefore talking past each other. He writes:

The first group believes that sexual mores are rooted in God-given teaching and the natural order. The second group believes every individual has the right to determine how to live sexually….

This is a seemingly irreconcilable situation. While the legal issues are significant and worth fighting for, Christians also need to remember we cannot hold hatred and animosity toward others no matter how they revile us for Jesus’ sake. And we are called to a higher ethic than only protecting our rights.

But I disagree with a couple of other points.

Mark writes, “Yet we also believe that the Lord calls us to look out for the interests of our political opponents. So, we must not seek legislation that protects our freedom if that same legislation denies the rights of people with whom we disagree.”

He’s making a good point here, reminding us of the call to look beyond our own interests. But I’m not sure of the “rights of people with whom we disagree” that he’s referring to. Since it’s the discussion in our culture right now, I think he’s referring to the rights of gay people to marry others of the same sex, and transgender people to use bathrooms of the sex they identify with, and generally the demand not to have others disagree with their behavior. If so, I don’t think these are rights they can claim at all. A right is a just claim to something. The U.S. Declaration of Independence states the grounding and source of rights quite succinctly: they are God-given. And we can also find sufficient grounds for rights in natural law. In neither of these can rights be found to force others by law to support what is immoral and unnatural. If there is no right, then I don’t see a responsibility to protect those rights. If Galli is referring to the rights to be safe, not be harassed and harmed, then I certainly agree. But I’m not familiar with any legislation that would take away that right or any other just rights claims made by those we disagree with.

A few paragraphs later Galli expands on his good point about going above and beyond. He equates Jesus instructing His followers to help a Roman soldier carrying his load with a Christian baker baking not just one, but two cakes for a same-sex wedding. I get his general point about the higher ethic Christians are called to, but I don’t think his example is a good parallel. A Roman soldier enlisting a Jew to carry his load may be unjust but it’s not an immoral activity in any way. A modern vendor being involved in a same-sex wedding is, arguably, being involved in an immoral activity, which is why Christians are objecting to being forced by law to do so.

Galli’s overall points are good ones. And his conclusion is wise counsel:

In the meantime, what would happen to us if our liberties were trashed and we were forced to suffer penalties and indignities for our faith? Jesus says that we’ll enjoy a reward, and that our reward will be great. Sounds like a win win to us. Maybe that’s why he also said, “Fear not.”

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Melinda Penner

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