The challenge of voice and heart

Despite claims from mainstream media and keyboard warriors that the Church has no place in modern society, the reality is that most people continue to tolerate the presence of Christianity.

There is little doubt that in Western countries, an attitude of post-modern or post-Christendom is setting in. But the question of how Christians can be effective in influencing society that is seeming increasing “hostile” and “politically correct” ought to be at the forefront of every believer.

Advent of political correctness

Whether we like it or not, society changes along with language and acceptable norms. What was once seemingly commonplace could now be viewed as questionable, and in recent decades the boundaries of traditional Western and Judeo-Christian values have undoubtedly narrowed.

Under the premise of promoting diversity and equality, “political correctness” has become mainstream to the extent that a good friend (and church youth leader) was asked to lead a discussion on the topic at a recent Sunday gathering.

I may or may not have been helpful with her preparation by offering my two cents, but I honestly think many Christians and non-Christians from both sides of politics get caught up in arguing about words instead of looking at the actual issue.

For example, being “politically correct” nowadays would be to say your husband/wife is your partner to reduce the emphasis on their gender because of the marriage equality movement. And some countries such as Canada have made it illegal to call transgender persons by the pronoun of their birth sex.

It is a common Christian doctrine to believe that God made man and woman, and marriage is to be between a man and a woman. Therefore, many Christians would find “political correctness” as going against Christian values.

Many conservatives and Christians also say that political correctness is a form of censorship against our right to free speech. To a large extent that’s the chilling effect of “political correctness”, so much so that some people go the extreme by using this issue to say offensive things in the name of free speech.

Speaking the truth…

Not being able to acknowledge God created differences between the sexes and genders is concerning but also using the notions of free speech and anti- “political correctness” to vilify others is wrong too. Ultimately Christians ought to be able to and act to speak the truth (such as about sex and marriage) but to do so with love and gentleness.

The truth may be offensive, and that is okay because the world was offended at Jesus’ presence as this world is one of sin and Satan. Christians ought not to get caught up in worldly political squabbling, we are in but not of this world…

…but preferring love

A practical example of a Christian approach that shines Jesus’ love is with the LGBT community: I come to your church as a transgender person who asks to be referred to as she/her — having to refer to me as she/her is “politically correct”. Even though it’s clear that I am a man, the church ought not to get caught up with “political correctness” debates because, at this very moment, you’re dealing with a real human being, not a political forum. Nor ought prayer be used as a weapon of human judgement.

If I ask to be referred to as she/her then out of Christ’s love, be “politically correct” as Christians and churches are the meetings of imperfect sinners regardless of whatever identity a person is.

But the big thing that many churches fail to grasp is that regardless of how much a person’s lifestyle and identity is different to Christian beliefs, everyone needs Christ. The Christian challenge is not to be constrained by secular politics or how the world thinks about words. The Bible tells us to have a transformation of the mind and seek after Christ’s likeness.

Just because you call me, “she/her” doesn’t mean you compromise on Christian teaching. Churches need to be more welcoming of LGBT people and realise that it’s not Christians vs “political correctness”/LGBT/censorship… but that the victory has been already won through Christ.

If you turn away a transgender person by offending them, you might be turning them away from their willingness to engage with the Church. So, don’t let our own political views hinder the preaching and proclamation of God’s truths!

Remember our understanding is limited

Remember when God was chasing down Jonah, it wasn’t just because he was disobedient for refusing to go to Nineveh. But rather God pursued Jonah because he allowed his and the Israelites’ disdain to step in the way of the opportunity for the Ninevites to repent.

Jonah even said he wanted to die because God who is slow to anger, merciful and compassionate wanted to save the people of Nineveh. God was clearly upset with Jonah for trying to use his own limited understandings of the world’s “politics” in deciding who deserved God’s redemption.

And as we advocate for the truth, we should tread carefully not to add stigma to those who are suffering. Our goal ought not to be encouraging or advocating for a detransitioning towards their birth sex but to present them like every other person with the importance of coming or continuing to live under God’s authority.

Adding to the pain experienced by transgender people will undermine the Christian testimony and make it harder to live in accordance with an identity vested in Jesus Christ.

This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Wednesday 6 February 2019