Story behind the article: This past week the Family Policy Institute shared a video in which an interviewer asked students how they would respond to a number of ways he could self-identify. That video can be seen at the link below. This article is a response, in part, to that video, but is more of a response to the larger climate of cultural tension, disrespect, and fear wrought by the collision of postmodernity and Christianity. More than a simple response, it is a larger challenge for the Christian community to be conscientious of not only what we say, but how we say it, and to remember that we are dealing with human beings – image bearers of God.
I once heard a story of how a Jewish professor opened his advanced students’ study of Genesis each semester. He asked if one student would stand up and recite Genesis. (Could you imagine the crickets if that were asked in a Christian seminary? Don’t. Make. Eye. Contact.)
So each semester a brave student would stand up.
“In the beginning God cre…”
“Stop. Start over.”
“In the beginning God creat…”
“Stop. Start over.”
“In the beginning God cr…”
“Stop. Start over.”
At this point, the students are clearly perplexed. Their professor then adds:
“If you don’t believe that, none of this matters. You’re dismissed, see you next week.”
In the beginning, God.
The Bible begins with a bold assertion of a character who needs no introduction; a character whose unmatched nature would unfold in the events of biblical history, recorded by prophets and apostles, then preserved as a witness to coming generations. Before any conceivable beginning, ultimate deity existed. God, the source, creator, and sustainer of all dwelt in perfect community, wholly within himself. This Triune God’s existence centers all existence. All things were created by him, through him, and for him, and in him all things hold together. Without this center of thought, this anchor of objectivity, everything is fair game, and philosophers have more fun than a youth group at WinterJam.
We can and should have existential discussions with our postmodern neighbors, hearing their concerns, questions, doubts, and fears. But it is becoming increasingly common that we simply don’t have enough common ground for some ethical discussions. The ethical fruit from a worldview grounded in the soil of consistently postmodern thought will be essentially different from the ethical fruit borne of a Christian worldview. As secularism continues to advance (which it will), any worldview with undergirding objectivity will be increasingly rejected. The questions for Christians, then, are not, “How could anyone believe this?” or, “How could people be so stupid?” Rather our questions regarding how to have ethical discussions need to sound more like this: “How can I best love my neighbor, understand his/her worldview, and most accurately bring the good news of Jesus to bear on it?”
One widely accepted rule of worldview engagement is to present opposing viewpoints in the best light possible. If I’m going to disagree with Nietzsche, let me present Nietzschian thought in his terms and proper context. Then, I counter Nietzsche with my own thoughts, and the arguments will rise or fall on their own merits. This new “journalistic” practice of walking up to people you’re likely to disagree with so you can pin them with gotcha questions and create out of them an object for public mockery is popular among late night talk shows and political talking heads but seems unbecoming of a people genuinely interested in spiritual transformation. These are exciting times to do ministry, and we should be honored that we’ve been entrusted with good news of great joy for broken hearts and perplexed minds. Imagine seeing yourself, a young person with your own questions and insecurities, in a video shared by thousands as an example of what’s wrong with the world. This is reckless and irresponsible, and I’m equal parts disappointed and unsurprised that the Family Policy Council’s latest video reflects the rich tradition of Christian rhetoric and graciousness so poorly.
Perhaps a worldview that looks and sounds Christian but isn’t Christian is a far greater threat to the Kingdom of God than the relativism of secularism and postmodernity. I’m a Christian and a millennial. I’m frustrated that my friends are being mocked and that we continue fighting a frivolous culture war on a frivolous quest to make the quintessential other seem uneducated, dumb, and dangerous. Do I believe secularism threatens orthodoxy? Absolutely. But I also believe arrogance threatens orthopraxy. There’s rest in being right, but there’s joy in being compassionate.
As the culture war rages and confusion compounds, come, my friend, come. You bring your identity, and I’ll bring mine. I know I neither look nor sound like a saint, but let me tell you why I am one. Let me hear your story and let me tell you mine – how I found hope in suffering, meaning in chaos, and life in Christ.
Guest Writer: Mason Ballard is a church planter, pastor, and seminary student in Charleston, WV. He studied at Davidson College then transferred to the University of Charleston to finish undergraduate studies while pursuing ministry in Appalachia’s urban center. Mason graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English and is currently pursuing an M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is passionate about millennials, justice, and the Great Commission.