How this is so not about popular opinion

Yesterday, as the Supreme Court heard arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, red equal signs like this began appearing all over Facebook:


Regardless of what the court decides, public opinion has shifted decisively in the 17 years since DOMA. Today, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Even if some polls exaggerate the degree of support (as gay marriage opponents suggest), no one denies that a substantial shift has taken place.

Evangelical Christians have not been immune to this shift, either.

Some have softened their political opposition to gay rights while maintaining their religious objections. Some have gone further, questioning the biblical basis for a heterosexual-only point of view.

Either way, whenever someone publicly shifts their thinking on this issue — whether it’s Rob Portman, Rob Bell, or some random Christian on Facebook — they’re generally accused of caving to popular opinion.

Of being too easily influenced by the winds of cultural change.

Of sacrificing their convictions for the sake of social acceptability.

Just ask Ryan, a friend of mine who was shunned by his campus ministry group, all because he wrote a post questioning the notion that gays automatically go to hell.

“Homosexuality, if sinful,” he wrote, “is a sin of love.” We ought to be much more concerned with sins of hate, he argued — including the sin of hating gays.

For that, he was condemned by his friends. His campus ministry leaders ordered people to disassociate with him. He was told he couldn’t be a Christian and think like this.

During a particularly grueling marathon confrontation, Ryan’s spiritual mentor looked him in the eyes and said, “God absolutely hates you.”

All of which brings me to this…

For those of us who have wrestled with these questions, who have gone back and tested assumptions we long held by default, and maybe even shifted on some of them as a result… this is so not about caving to popular opinion.

Most of the people we’re connected to — most of our friends and loved ones — are still firmly on the other side of the fence. Things are changing, yes. But 57 percent of evangelicals — and 75 percent of white evangelicals — still oppose gay marriage.

If this were about winning the approval of a majority of those who are closest to us, believe me, we would not be asking these questions. We would not be reassessing long-held assumptions.

As it is, we walk this path — we ask and we reassess — because our hearts and minds compel us. Because it’s the right thing to do, even if it costs us the approval of most of the people we care about.

We may not agree on everything. But please don’t say that people like Ryan are just caving to the whims of popular opinion. To do so is to miss the point of their journey — and the price they’ve paid for taking it.

6 thoughts on “How this is so not about popular opinion

  1. I hugely appreciate your ability to take divisive issues and diffuse them. As Christians we need to start remembering that we are all making the best decisions that we can—but that those decisions, words & actions need to come out of love – God’s love (not “moral rightness”). No matter what side of the issue we’re on. You nailed it, and thank you!


  2. I’m glad you re-tweeted this one, Ben. It dovetails well with RHE’s post today, and people should read them side-by side.


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