Toning Down the Rhetoric

Last week Jerry Falwell was in the news again talking about homosexuality, but this time, he was not attacking gay Teletubbies. Instead, amidst much fanfare, he was meeting with 200 homosexual activists at his church in Lynchburg, Virginia. The purpose of the meeting was to seek greater civility between Christians and gay activists. While I applaud Falwell's call for more civility, the meeting fell short of the biblical model for reconciliation. Falwell delivered his comments at an "anti-violence" forum he organized. It was attended by hundreds of evangelical Christians and homosexual activists, many of whom call themselves "gay Christians." Falwell said he organized the forum to help stop escalating violence against both Christians and homosexuals. He cited the shootings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and the murder of Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming. While re-affirming his moral opposition to homosexuality, Falwell pledged to "take greater care in his characterizations and criticisms of the homosexual community." "It is wrong to hate homosexuals," Falwell said, "and those who lift a violent hand against them invite the wrath of God upon themselves." For his part, Mel White, a gay activist who once worked for Falwell, apologized for the hateful language homosexuals often use to attack Christians. He said that he and Falwell have agreed to further discussions, and added he will set up "monitors" to peruse Falwell's publications to make sure he keeps his promise. Now, there's a lot to applaud about Falwell's initiative. When it comes to homosexuals, many Christians HAVE failed to distinguish between the sin and the sinner. Still, there are aspects of the much publicized meeting that leaves me troubled. It's good for Christians to "take greater care" in our rhetoric. But by relating that rhetoric to the murder of homosexuals, One might think we're suggesting a link between Christian public opposition to gay political agenda and the murder of people like Matthew Shepherd. Nor is it homophobic to fight against the gay lobby's insistence on legalizing and normalizing gay marriage. I for one wish Falwell had exacted a few reciprocal promises of his own from his homosexual interlocutors. For instance, how about a promise from White to let Falwell monitor HIS publications to hold him accountable for HIS rhetoric? I for one have personally felt the bitter lash of Mel White's rhetoric who calls all conservative Christians homophobic just because of what we believe. And how about a promise from White to publicly disassociate himself from groups like Act-Up, which have invaded Catholic services and thrown urine-filled condoms at the alter? It's not enough that White has never taken part in these kinds of disruptions if he appears alongside those who do. I'm not trying to scuttle Falwell's initiative; I'm for it. The Bible urges us to "make every effort to live in peace with all men," including those with whom we disagree. But biblical reconciliation requires mutual repentance and accountability. And most important, biblical reconciliation does not mean papering over genuine moral disagreements. While Falwell deserves credit for trying, we ought to remember that civility is a two-way street, and it can never take the place of speaking the truth.


Chuck Colson


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