Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moral Authority

In the second or third century, the anonymous writer of the Epistle to Diognetus said that Christians are the soul and conscience of the world. If that was true, it doesn't seem to be true in America now. In general, the opinions of Christians are not given automatic weight and consideration. Whether this is a good thing or not, we can't change it. We can't force people to respect our morals, nor can we convince them to adopt them by virtue of the fact that we are Christians instead of convincing based on the reasoning behind the morals themselves.

We have lost whatever moral authority and credibility we had. We have failed to be a good steward of that authority. Instead of treating people with gentleness, kindness, and understanding, we have considered our authority "something to be grasped and used to our own advantage." We have put great burdens on people's backs and have not helped them to bear it.

Nowhere is this more true than in the area of sex.
-We have restricted access to important health information to the detriment of people's emotional and physical health.
-We have allowed child molesters to have authority in our churches and have not done enough to protect and make amends to victims.
-We have shamed women who are raped or pressured into sex, convincing them they are broken and don't deserve justice or a healthy relationship.
-We have treated gay, lesbian, trans, and bisexual people, as well as others with marginalized sexualities, shamefully and cruelly or have stood by while others did so.

Is it any wonder that people don't care what we think anymore? The fact that some anti-gay Christians try to express their views lovingly doesn't change the fact that people view those beliefs as at best irrelevant and at worst immoral.

So when something asks me how I can tolerate my friends being gay, or how I can let them think that it's okay with God, I'm more than anything confused. My friends make their own decisions. Their own values and moral reasoning dictate their actions. They have no reason to defer to what I think just because I have a bible.

If I told my friends I could no longer support their "lifestyle", it would not change what they think about God or their relationships. It would change what they think about me. They would think that I believe I have moral authority over them and that I know their lives better than they do. I am convinced this would do no good, and a great deal of harm.

Until the church, in true humility and repentance, acknowledges the wrongs we have done and makes an effort to correct them, we will never regain that moral authority. Truly, I don't think this is a bad thing. Just as we who did not act have done harm by being too trusting of our leaders who committed spiritual and sexual abuse, so will harm be done if the church is given full authority and trust in American society. None of us can be trusted with that power. We must have the humility to acknowledge the truth and righteousness of those who correct us, and they must have the freedom to do so.

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