(*Disclaimer: COVID-19 consumed my week with work causing this post to be late and not as well developed as I would like.)
Observing white Evangelicalism in America for several decades I’m curious as to what causes many in this group to become fierce activists on two main topics while seemingly turning their heads away from others? The two big buttons which are easily pushed and bring about a vehement response are abortion and homosexuality. Many have politically aligned around the party that, for them, promises to appoint the most conservative supreme court justices regarding these two issues. Their stance is one of deep commitment to save America. One organization is currently making a movie to warn us of “Enemies within the Church” who they believe are propagating Marxism and other evils. They include the author of our text this week, Rebecca McLaughlin who holds a PhD in literature from Cambridge and a degree in theology from Oak Hill College in London.
In her book, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion, McLaughlin takes on these two issues and many others in an effort to answer some of Christianity’s criticisms. Her two quotes that caught this reader’s attention and inspired this post are concerning these two subjects:
Unmarried mothers have been ostracized. Illicit abortions have caused many maternal deaths. I am keenly aware of the hypocrisy of people who advocate for unborn life but neglect the vulnerable after birth, and I think the “blame” for abortion lies primarily not at the feet of women who make that choice in desperate circumstances but rather at the feet of all of us who are part of a society that separates sex from commitment, creates an ecosystem of unplanned pregnancy, and fails to support women who find themselves in that situation.
Despite Paul’s refusal to cast himself as morally superior, Christians have often confused the Bible’s clear boundaries around sex with a license for unloving, superior, and judgmental attitudes toward gay and lesbian people. But while the New Testament is clear on its no to homosexual relationships, it leaves no room for a “them and us” approach. By Jesus’s definition, every adult Christian is guilty of sexual sin, and Christians with homosexual desires and histories helped to launch the early church. While I do not believe that upholding biblical sexual ethics is innately homophobic (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “Having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people”), many Christians today do need to repent of their unbiblical attitudes.
These two particular quotes reveal a fullness of truth and grace and confront the deeper systemic issues that many are unwilling to consider. My appreciation for McLaughlin is based upon her personal stories, educated research, balanced and bold presentation of scripture. She takes on the big two hot topics and their activists, while holding to a traditional position and engaging her readers in broader perspectives. McLaughlin takes a calculated risk in sharing some of her own story of life long same sex attraction though she is now happily married to a man. Taking on these two topics, she seems to take the reader by the hand and slowly step us back away from the issue to grant a more multifaceted vantage point, a wide-angle lens through which to consider the matter.
The white evangelical Americans I have referenced often communicate in ways that infer the whole of Christian morality is encompassed in these two concerns. They fail to look at larger contributing factors, other matters equally important in our society, and also fail to look in the mirror. As I write this statement I stop to consider my own culpability. What pet sin do I rail against in order to downplay my own guilt? Do we list sins in a descending order of more to less evil?
What many see as hypocritical judgmental attitudes in white evangelical America has caused them to place all Christianity in the same category. It is hard for them to reconcile what they read about Jesus and what they see from his followers. In 2008 writer and director Dan Merchant made the movie, “Lord Save us From Your Followers.” Merchant’s intent was to provide a “humorous, provocative and moving examination of the Culture Wars and faith in America.” He dressed in an outfit covered with bumper stickers to get people’s responses to various Christian clichés and conducted a game show with liberal media elites against young conservatives. He also provided a “reverse confession booth” at a gay pride event on the campus of Reed College which elicited unexpected emotion and openness by many.
McLaughlin addresses these complex topics in a manner that answers the questions of Christianity’s critics while also addressing the narrow judgment of some evangelicals. My hope is that the white American Evangelical church will humble ourselves, gain empathy for the human beings profoundly carrying the pain of these two subjects, and will begin recognizing the many issues affecting our society. May we engage the things we can to make a difference. Starting with giving grace as generously as we have received it.
 Rebecca McLaughlin, Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), Kindle Loc. 3026, 3406.