Christians are routinely pressured to compromise their convictions. Sadly, it’s other Christians who leverage a good-faith principle to achieve an unfair end. I want to encourage you, though. If you’re feeling pressured to accommodate a request from an LGBT person that violates your conscience, know that there’s a line you do not have to cross.
One of the principles I’ve taught for nearly two decades is that we ought to maintain our relationships with friends or family who identify as LGBT. It’s wrong to end a relationship or distance yourself from someone merely because they identify as LGBT. After all, I’ve argued, relationships connect people like a bridge by which you communicate love, show compassion, or share the gospel. Therefore, I’ve argued, you should lean into your relationship with a friend or family member who identifies as LGBT.
Lately, I’m seeing this principle misused (although not always intentionally). Christians are being told they should never jeopardize their relationship with a friend or family member who identifies as LGBT. If they’re asked to affirm or accommodate something that violates their conscience, they’re told to go along anyway because they must “maintain the relationship.”
That’s a problem. Yes, we should strive to maintain the relationship as best we can. There’s a limit, though. If you must violate your conscience to accommodate another person’s preferences or opposing values, then it’s reasonable to decline. Tell them, “I’m sorry…I can’t do that. I care about you, but you’re asking me to deny my own values and convictions.”
Might that cause your relationship to suffer or end? Possibly. Although that’s not ideal, it’s still okay. You can only go so far to accommodate other people’s values or worldview.
Many Christians, however, get guilted into violating their conscience because maintaining the relationship has been elevated to an unreasonably high priority. This forces them to reluctantly participate in social rituals, making them feel supportive of ideas they know are harmful.
For example, Christians are pressured to use a transgender person’s preferred pronouns even though many are uncomfortable with doing so. It’s said to be a benign yet simple act of love to practice “pronoun hospitality.” They’re told that using the “incorrect” pronoun will damage their relationship. So, they feel they’re held hostage: Failure to go along with this request will destroy the relationship, so they must comply.
Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that declining to use preferred pronouns would damage a relationship with a transgender friend or family member (though I know it doesn’t always have that effect). I still think it’s appropriate to decline to use preferred pronouns if you’ve reasoned it’s wrong and doing so would violate your conscience. Even though the relationship will suffer (and that’s not ideal), your decision is still appropriate.
Here’s why. You shouldn’t make maintaining the relationship the highest goal. It is important, and we should strive to nurture healthy, lasting relationships as best we can (Rom. 12:18). That pursuit, though, should not trump your fidelity to other important aspects of your life: fidelity to biblical values, fidelity to reality, and fidelity to what you think is right. It’s unhealthy to deny those components of your life just so a relationship doesn’t suffer.
It’s one thing to deny your preferences for the sake of others. You may not like mushrooms, but you’ll go along with your friend’s insistence on putting them on a pizza. You might not like science fiction films or hiking in the desert, but these are preferences that don’t have a moral quality to them. It’s an entirely different thing to deny your own values or convictions.
Even if you compromise your convictions and use your friend’s preferred pronouns, will that be enough? Is it sufficient to practice “pronoun hospitality” even when you don’t believe they’re the opposite sex, or would a transgender friend or family member also demand your sincerity? If you accommodate that, then what’s next? When will they be satisfied with you? As long as you don’t accept transgender ideology wholesale, you’ll always be at odds with their values and worldview. You can never do enough.
Therefore, what’s the point of appeasing them? All it does is compromise your own convictions to uphold a false ideology you know is dangerous and damaging to them and others.
Besides, “pronoun hospitality” is anything but hospitable. Why? It’s insincere. When you use a preferred pronoun, you’re saying something with your words (they’re a different sex) that you don’t believe with your heart. Would they genuinely want that from you? It’s patronizing.
If the roles were reversed, I would never expect a non-Christian friend to be insincere simply to appease me. If I invited them to my child’s baptism, but they were opposed to Christianity, I wouldn’t expect them to pay lip service to a theological truth they didn’t believe. I wouldn’t demand they attend the ceremony against their convictions or else I’ll end our relationship.
There’s no moral principle that elevates relationships to a point where they trump your deeply held beliefs. Therefore, there’s no duty to accommodate every request made by a friend or family member who identifies as LGBT. The same would be true of relationships with non-LGBT people. Do your best to love your friends and family, and honor those relationships as best you can. Remember, though, that fidelity to God and your convictions is also important.