Are Christians Too Nice?
In a piece over at Fox News, Larry Alex Taunton argued that evangelicals “need to stop being wimps.” (A glance at the URL suggests that the writer’s original title may have been a bit saltier.) Taunton makes a vividly argued case.
As an example of wimpiness, he adduces Barnabas Piper, famous for being the son of John Piper. Writing at WORLD, Piper reassured the world that he’d not eat at Chick-fil-A to support a fellow-believer targeted by “gay agenda” activists et al for the compounded crimes of (a) being a Christian (b) out-loud and (c) in public. Piper was very concerned about being perceived as “divisive” – by the sorts of folks who do all they can to muzzle Christians like Dan Cathy (and Barronelle Stutzman, Aaron and Melissa Klein, and others), and to drive them out of the public arena and out of business. Piper suggested that publicly and materially supporting a brother persecuted for his faith would not serve “the Kingdom of God.”
Taunton is incredulous at Piper’s rationale and argues at length that it’s symptomatic of a growing evangelical disdain for meaningfully opposing evil, displaying the emasculation C. S. Lewis warned against decades ago. Evangelicals must be willing to fight, to push back against evil cultural influences, in the light of prevalent blasphemies, abortion, sexual degradation, and increasing hostility towards Christians. We may have the “do not sin” part of Ephesians 4:26 down pat, but we’re failing to observe the first two words: “Be angry.”
Is Taunton right? Do I agree? Mostly yes, kinda no.
I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world.
Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.
Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.
However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters, these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers.
Beyond doubt, we Christians want (or should want) to make Jesus and His Gospel the central issue. As I argued at book-length, it is the Gospel alone that identifies, targets, and solves our real and deepest miseries and brokenness and wrongs. Success in persuading unconverted pagans to become moral pagans is failure. True, it would make for a better life for them and society in the short run; but Hell will be eternally full to the brim with unredeemed moralists.