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Conservative Christianity vs Christianity

HomeChristianity and the BibleConservative Christianity vs Christianity

I’ve been involved in online discussions about Christianity for many years now. Much of what’s written on GodWords is based on those discussions, and on the research I do to make sure I’m prepared for those discussions.

One such discussion has been about liberals vs conservatives, written from a decidedly conservative Christian point of view. Earlier I’d written that conservative Christians tend to worry too much about ‘liberal issues’ and not enough about actually loving people. I thought I’d post today’s response…

Most “Conservatives” I know mind their own business and don’t try to tell other people how to live. On the other hand we are not going to sit idly by and allow people to ram their ideologies down our throats without a fight. …I don’t preach to them about their sin nor judge them for it. Neither do 99% of Conservatives.

The Other Guy

While I can’t address this gentleman’s personal position, I can point to some facts about conservative Christians:

Now…you and I and the people we hang out with might not be self-righteously judgmental hypocrites. Obviously, though, many are – or they appear to be that way to non-Christians. If “most conservative Christians” were actually salt and light, the unbelieving public wouldn’t have such a negative view of them.

An anecdote: my friend sells real estate. She recently sold a house to a gay couple. After the sale, they asked whether she is a Christian. When she said yes, they said “We thought you might be a Christian, but you were so nice to us that we weren’t sure“.

While I’m sure that the average non-Christian’s view of conservative Christians may largely be inaccurate, I’m also sure of this: that doesn’t matter. We’re to live at peace with all men (if we can) and we’re supposed to live lives that cause people to ask about our faith and we’re supposed to be the kind of people that others look up to because we’re both salt and light. The opposite is obviously true, according to The Barna Group’s many polls over many years.

Why are we thought of in this way? Simple: because we spend more time worrying about the way other people live and whether the courthouse has the Ten Commandments on the wall and whether kids can have a Bible club in school and whether Heather has two mommies than we do about whether our love for God and for each other and for our neighbors shines through in all we do.

We worry about the gay agenda and about atheism in science education. We worry about whether a Mormon would make a good president and about whether Obama is really a sleeper-cell radical. We worry about sex and violence on television and about internet porn. We worry about the dissolution of the family unit and about the United Nations. We worry about whether George Bush or John McCain is actually a closet liberal. We worry about churches that don’t sing hymns and we worry about women pastors. We worry about the Pope and we worry about James Dobson.

We worry about all kinds of important things, but we apparently aren’t worried enough about how non-Christians – those who need what we have – think of us. If they despise us as much as the surveys say they do, it’s no wonder that the church is shrinking.

What upsets us is that we have been taking a beating from these folks for the last 40 years. They are trying to take our country apart from the inside and they are succeeding in many ways. They are doing to same to our churches now.

The Other Guy

Conservative Christians spend a lot of time ‘defending our way of life’ against those who would take it away. For some reason, we think that the Christian way of life includes making sure that gays can’t marry. We think that the Christian way of life includes making sure that movies don’t have swear words in them. We think that the Christian way of life includes making sure that our money always says “In God We Trust“.

Well, we’re wrong. Our way of life is the way of love. We should live the same kind of self-sacrificing love that Jesus taught by example. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about our “way of life”. The early church didn’t have a culture to cling to…they were persecuted by their government for their faith and the church grew exponentially. Why do we cling to our culture instead of clinging to the One who can change the hearts and minds of our “enemies” from the inside out? Obviously, most conservative Christians are more concerned about the conservative part than about the Christian part.

I’m sorry to say, but in many cases it is “them against us” because that is what they have made it. Conservatives are not picking a fight. We are simply not going to act like “wusses” and tuck our tails and run from one.

The Other Guy

Maybe we’re fighting their fight rather than fighting God’s fight.


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Comments

9 responses to “Conservative Christianity vs Christianity”

  1. fransisca says:

    Thank you so much for writing and posting this article. I also found in my country that how we lost Jesus in our Christianity today. And what the saddest thing is, we lost Jesus in our daily life, in our everydayness. May God bless you.

  2. Daniel says:

    This is EXCELLENT!

  3. JR says:

    Tony,

    I typically agree w/ your positions and do share a portion of your sentiment in this article. However, I believe some of your approach is overly simplistic and, quite frankly, naive. The reason the church is shrinking in the United States is because the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in school. In an amicus curiae filed by the ACLU, they quoted a letter written by Jefferson stating there should be a wall of separation between church and state. Ironic how that letter was written to the Danbury Baptist and closed in a PRAYER. Each successive generation has been further and further removed from the word of God. This is OUR fault. As Christians, all of us should have risen to our feet. Same thing when abortion was made legal throughout the nation, once again by the Supreme Court. Can you guess who also had a hand in that case? I believe Jesus demonstrated righteous indignation when he witnessed people turning His father’s house into a den of thieves. I also believe Christians would and should take a stand for Godly values… values upon which this great nation was formed. It is not about being judgmental or hatful towards others. I agree with you, as it does not represent Christ’s behavior. Nonetheless, this passive approach you seem to take is exactly why the church and this nation are experiencing a declining state of affairs.

    • Tony says:

      JR:

      Thank you very much for your criticism. Seriously! I love it when someone is comfortable disagreeing, and not afraid to say so. I appreciate you!

      And now, right back atcha. The church in the United States is not shrinking because of actions by the government. If government actions were truly able to shrink the church, there would be no Christians in China. There would be no Christians in North Korea, or Iran, or Malaysia. If government actions could do this, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground in the first place!

      Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church. I believe that with my whole heart. While we agree that government can make things easier or more difficult for Christians, the problem is not – and has never been – opposition to the gospel. The problem is – and has always been – Christians who do not live as Christ intended.

      The problem with the church in America is that we have allowed non-Christians and immature Christians into positions of leadership in the church. We have watered down the gospel, ignored Scriptures we don’t prefer, compromised biblical theology, and sought the approval of men rather than God. When most people see today’s exodus from the church, they suggest that there’s a problem with Christianity. I would suggest the opposite: that the churches are being emptied of people who (largely, but not entirely) were never followers of Jesus in the first place. That makes it no less tragic, of course. We had the opportunity to spread the gospel INSIDE OUR WALLS, but too often failed to do so. We made converts instead of disciples. We seldom exercised discipline in the church as prescribed in Scripture. We taught our own opinions instead of God’s Word. We replaced the power of the gospel with business and marketing techniques, and we’re reaping the resulting harvest.

      The gospel is no less powerful today than it was in the first century, when there were only a relative handful of believers. The gospel is no less powerful today than during the great revivals of the past. Christians don’t need a cooperative government to fulfill God’s purpose for the church. There are no political solutions to spiritual problems. Yes, there are situations that government can create that make things more or less difficult… but responsibility for the shrinking of the church lies not at the feet of the Supreme Court, but that the feet of men and women who failed to watch their lives and their doctrine closely. There is no power on earth that can stand against Jesus’ church when we are obedient.

      What you perceive as my “passive approach” is anything but passive. I’m a patriot. I believe that America is a great benefit to the world, and that the world has largely benefited from this ‘safe space’ for Christianity. However: we have also done much harm, as people tend to use liberty as a license for being libertine. God needs you and me and the rest of us to do all that He has told us to do, and the church will be just fine as a result. He doesn’t need us, but He chooses to use us anyway… and while some of us have been faithful, many have not. To use your own words, it seems simplistic and naïve to blame the Supreme Court for our own failures.

      What do you think?

      • JR says:

        Hi Tony,

        I thank you for the thoughtful response and also appreciate a vigorous discussion; as iron sharpens iron…

        Also, I must say I am encouraged by your views related to non-Christians and immature Christians taking leadership positions in the church. Selfishly, because I could not agree more and objectively, because there are examples of the resultant failures too numerous to count.

        Regrettably, you comparison with the diminishing number of Christians in the United States and ANY Christians in a communist nation is sophistry. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Christian principles were more easily shared and even reinforced in arenas where government and the public intersect, such as public school. After the ruling, and incessant anti-Christian efforts by organizations such as the ACLU, each successive generation has received less and less exposure and/or expression of Christianity (admonition and consequences when it does occur). The difference relates to the percentage of Christians, not any Christians.

        Moreover, even with all of the points in which we agree and my sincere respect for your patriotism, the last two paragraphs of your original post is where I believe your opinions are mostly off base.

        As Christians we have an indelible responsibility to “defend our way of life”; a life modeled after the teachings of Jesus. This is intricately tied to politics. If we do not elect people with biblically centered principles to office, we will not have laws that are biblically centered. Yet, you seem to diminish the importance of Christians standing up for conservative values. Although you touch on quite a few examples, for the sake of brevity I will only address what you called “the gay agenda”.

        Clearly and repeatedly the Bible shows homosexuality to be offensive to God. That is not to say their sin is any worse than my sin. Nor is it to say we need to shun a sinner… of any variety. Jesus came for sinners, not the righteous. However, it IS to say that homosexuality is a sin. The world has applied an effective marketing approach to describe it as merely love. And anyone who quotes the Bible to disagree with their opinion is shamed for spreading hate. Ridiculous!

        Instead of standing firm on biblical principles, you say Christians who hold fast are wrong, stating; “Our way of life is the way of love. We should live the same kind of self-sacrificing love that Jesus taught by example. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to worry about our “way of life.”

        That, my friend, is the overly simplistic naivety of which I spoke. To my mind, it is the same problematic approach related to the non-Christians and immature Christians in a position of leadership. Well Tony, you are in a position of leadership. Perhaps formally in your own congregation and certainly as a subject matter expert, sharing your views with millions of readers worldwide.

        Imagine if George Washington and the Framers of our Constitution took the passive approach… a way (only) of love…. There would be no USA and billions of people would not have been saved through efforts from our great nation.

        Beginning with the early disciples, on through our founding fathers, Christianity was advanced through a way of love AND affirmative behavior. So, although you and I are in close alignment with the majority of points, my criticism (apologies for any harsh tone) relates to the passive, rather than active approach.

        I ask you to indulge me a bit further by answering some questions. I will share my opinion, but humbly submit to your more thorough education and understanding of scripture. (I’m not being facetious in the least by the way; I’m truly interested in learning from you in this regard.)

        In Genesis 18, when the Lord appeared to Abraham, Abraham looked up and saw 3 men. One of those men, (the one Abraham bowed down to and the one who remained with Abraham as he attempted to intercede for Sodom) are clearly God in a form other than spirit. Jesus stated no man has seen the father except for Him. Jesus was also clear when he said “before Abraham was born, I am”. Although there are a few other reasons to support the belief, this should be enough to ask if it is reasonable to believe Jesus was the Lord speaking with Abraham about Sodom? And whether it was God the son or God the father, isn’t He the same yesterday, today and tomorrow? If the sin and societal reprobation were egregious enough for God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah back then, why would the sin be any less offensive today?

        In another post you support a church displaying the photo of two men (married to each other) in a church directory. Although this comment may be better suited to that article, I believe it relevant to this conversation. Now pardon me Tony, but that is a terrible position to take. It supports something wrong in the sight of God, as if it were right. If a man committing adultery wanted a photo in the church directory with him and his mistress, would that sin also be ok? Just to pacify someone? So, because Hollywood, mainstream media, and certain elected officials tell us homosexuality is right, are we to disagree with God? Acts 4:19 comes to mind.

        Help me understand your point of view, Tony. These positions you’ve taken seem incongruent with your reply, stating; “We have watered down the gospel, ignored Scriptures we don’t prefer, compromised biblical theology, and sought the approval of men rather than God.”

        I acknowledge one of the arguments in your reply: “The problem is – and has always been – Christians who do not live as Christ intended.” But honestly, that always has been and always will be the case. As much as I love the Lord and strive to live a life pleasing to Him, I always fall short. Probably a good thing though, as otherwise my hubris would likely take over, haha 😆.

        In any event, I will close by again thanking you for your thoughts, as well as providing a forum to respectfully discuss and even disagree. I also support your position about the absolute sovereignty of God and our need to do what He told us to do.

        • Tony says:

          >> iron sharpens iron

          Absolutely!

          >> sophistry

          Maybe you should look that up. It’s a serious accusation, and I’m not yet convinced that you mean what the word indicates.

          >> Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Christian principles were more easily shared and even reinforced…

          Of course. However: Christian principles have never made anyone a new creature. I fear we may have fooled ourselves into thinking that Judeo-Christian cultural mores were somehow an indication that the Kingdom of God was the dominant force in America, rather than simply the result of a society that appreciated Jesus’ teaching without the transformation that comes from surrendering to Him as God. We agree that basing our culture on biblical principles is better than otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that the culture at large was comprised of more who were born again. It likely meant that people were Christian-ish, rather than Christian.

          >> incessant anti-Christian efforts by organizations such as the ACLU

          We probably agree on all of this. I’ve spent plenty of time listening to folks like Barton, and am aware of both our roots and the purposeful, consistent, generational efforts at undoing them.

          >> each successive generation has received less and less exposure and/or expression of Christianity

          While we can agree on this, I will continue to lay the failures of the church at the feet of the church, not at the feet of her opponents. We can – and should – seek to influence culture at all times… but our primary responsibility is not to form culture, let alone to protect culture. Our primary responsibility is to be obedient. The New Testament says virtually nothing about politics, beyond giving to Caesar what is his, and honoring the emperor, and obeying civil authorities because they were put there by God. God’s people are to be known, as expressed clearly in Deuteronomy 6, as people of peace. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for, or even fight for, equality in the public square. It means that our calling is the same with or without that equality.

          >> As Christians we have an indelible responsibility to “defend our way of life”

          Chapter and verse would be helpful here.

          >> If we do not elect people with biblically centered principles to office, we will not have laws that are biblically centered.

          Clearly!

          >> Yet, you seem to diminish the importance of Christians standing up for conservative values.

          Not at all. I apologize for not being clear enough to understand. I spend A LOT of time in conversations about that exact topic. However: in a contest between living the gospel and winning the culture war in America, I’ll go with living the gospel. I don’t have to choose, thankfully… but they’re not the same thing. Being a red-blooded, patriotic American who teaches people that originalism is important and that no other system in history has benefitted humanity so greatly is not at all the same as preaching the gospel and making disciples. For far too long the American church taught the principles of Christianity without teaching people to actually follow Jesus. In the absence of the latter, the former is entirely insufficient.

          >> Clearly and repeatedly the Bible shows homosexuality to be offensive to God.

          Agreed.

          >> Instead of standing firm on biblical principles, you say Christians who hold fast are wrong…

          It seems important to point out that you’re arguing with something I haven’t said.

          What I did say was that we have shot ourselves in the foot – that is, become less effective in accomplishing our mission – by focusing MORE on reforming our crumbling culture than on being personally and collectively obedient to God, who called us to be His witnesses. Not witnesses to the definitions and effects of sin alone, of course… but also witnesses to the peace, joy, comfort, and satisfaction of surrendering to God. As Pascal wrote, “Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true and then show that it is.” When American Christians are better known for complaints about sinners than for glorifying God, we’re simply doing it wrong. Were we known for being happy, well-adjusted, peace-loving people who avoid hypocrisy and gossip and excess… well, I suggest that the church in America would be far more mature and, consequently, much larger than we are.

          >> my criticism (apologies for any harsh tone) relates to the passive, rather than active approach.

          Other than the word sophistry, I have absolutely no problem at all with your tone. Like I said: I appreciate you!

          It seems your active approach focuses more on politics. Nothing wrong with focusing on politics. However, my active approach focuses more on personal obedience. My audience isn’t simply Americans. People in literally every area of the world visit GodWords. It’s awe-inspiring and humbling. The principles that I focus on are necessarily broad, rather than narrow. Believers in China aren’t allowed to vote on their leadership, so I spend more time focusing on what they CAN do, which is be faithful to God in every area. Submission to God will spill over into the political realm, as it does in every other facet of life… but focusing on maintaining the Judeo-Christian roots of America does nothing for people in Ghana, or Malaysia, or Egypt. I would suggest that Christians have had the same responsibilities throughout all of the 2000 years since Jesus left, regardless of age or location or vocation or financial status, or whether their government encourages or discourages them in their faith.

          >> reasonable to believe Jesus was the Lord speaking with Abraham about Sodom?

          That does seem reasonable. Of course, there are situations that might suggest otherwise, like Moses seeing God’s backside. I wouldn’t suggest that this was NOT a theophany of Jesus.

          >> isn’t He the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?

          Of course.

          >> If the sin and societal reprobation were egregious enough for God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah back then, why would the sin be any less offensive today?

          I wouldn’t suggest that any sin, of any kind, is less offensive to God today than at any other time. I might suggest that we recognize that the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah came from God, and not from His followers. While anyone with a conscience would know that the city was chock full of sinners, the question of what to do about it seems germane. Here’s a thought: Paul wrote this tidbit in 1 Corinthians 5, and it seems to have been overlooked (or unseen) by most American Christians:

          I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world…. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.

          I don’t believe that Paul meant for anyone to not notice the sins of others, or to turn a blind eye to the sins of others. Clearly, from the context, we all recognize the sins of non-believers, but he took a hands-off approach to correcting non-believers. Christianity is not a behavioral modification program. We don’t tell people to become righteous in order to be acceptable to God… we tell them that they ARE acceptable to God if they come to Him in submissive humility. The Holy Spirit then regenerates them, frees them from slavery to sin, and begins the process of sanctifying them from the inside out. I see nothing wrong with telling sinners what God has said about sin, of course. I simply don’t believe that it’s as effective – in most cases – as other approaches. Someone else’s sin isn’t my responsibility. Obedience in witnessing, and faithfulness with the gospel, are my responsibility. I see nothing in the New Testament to suggest that Jesus wants the church to spend any significant portion of our time pointing out the sins of others. Again: I see nothing wrong with telling sinners what God has said about how we should live… but that, in isolation, is hardly “good news.” You might consider whether what you’re suggesting IS “good news” to sinners.

          >> In another post you support a church displaying the photo of two men (married to each other) in a church directory.

          Again, you’re arguing with something I did not say. You might try reading it again: https://godwords.org/gay-couples-in-your-church-directory/. In no sense was I suggesting that anybody affirm same-sex relationships. I pointed out that if we allow sinners to attend church – and we do – the purpose of a church directory determines who should be in it. If the goal is to identify only those who are living as they ought, we would have tiny, inaccurate directories. If the goal is for people to put names and faces together, we should include anyone who attends regularly. It would be silly to exclude a gay couple from a directory solely on the basis that they’re sinning… if that’s the criteria, we would have to exclude gluttons, gossips, and anyone who breaks the speed limit. The article says nothing about being affirming of same-sex relationships.

          I find this discussion meaningful, JR. I’m sure that many who read it will benefit, and I’m glad you’re asking these questions.

  4. JR says:

    Hello again Tony,

    Sophistry refers to reasoning or arguments that sound correct but which are actually false. This application of the word, relating to your comparison of the United States with communist countries, was intentional. The measure of offense to you was not. As a philosophy major, I suppose it safe to assume your concern is with the etymology of the word, with its roots in Greek philosophy. Given that application, your rankle is understandable and I will be more sensitive to that background in the future. I appreciate you too!

    It seems the disconnect with vocabulary choice, as well as most of our areas of disagreement, are related to intent and interpretation. More than once you’ve replied that I said or are arguing something you never said. However, what you said is right there in black and white. Reasonable conclusions are 1) You are dodging responsibility for your words, or 2) You truly did not mean to communicate in the way I interpreted your message. I will suggest it’s unlikely I am alone in those interpretations.

    By all appearances you are a sincere man interested in furthering the kingdom of God. (Although, I think there are times you take pleasure in a mild contrarian stance 😆).Nonetheless, you deserve and shall receive the benefit of the doubt.

    That said, I’d like to spend a bit more time clarifying the areas where there appears to be a gap. You see, popular culture and certain gutless leaders in the Christian faith portray Jesus as some hippy, milquetoast shaman ONLY interested in love. Some of my purpose in writing about Jesus’ righteous indignation at the temple and pointing out His decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow) is to debunk that passive image. Yes, He is the lamb of God with unyielding love. And, He is the Lion of Judah who will return as judge.

    I say gutless because some leaders don’t want to confront real issues… they attempt to conceal the fear associated with their beta personalities as righteousness and thereby take a passive approach. This is not love or kindness, it is cowardice. Don’t get me wrong, Tony, I am in no way saying that about you. I don’t know you well enough to level such a strong and offensive accusation. And frankly, after reading many of your articles I don’t believe you are cowardly in the least. I say it as one of the representative reasons we are in a declining state of affairs.

    I very much agree our primary responsibility is to be obedient and to live the gospel. But here is a place where we seem to differ; I don’t believe those behaviors and taking affirmative steps to positively influence the culture are mutually exclusive values. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.

    During Christ’s 33 years walking the Earth as man, there were no democracies in place. No option to vote on leaders, lawmakers or judges. But in this great experiment called the United States, we have that wonderful opportunity. I go so far as to call it an indelible responsibility because our voting decisions have a direct impact on our culture. Which has a direct impact on the ways and means by which we spread the gospel. If a church has a bad pastor, it will learn and spread, bad theology. Same cause and effect with politics in our country.

    Problem is, most Christians have been anesthetized by the entertainment industry. Hollywood portrays Christians as kooky, angry or, crazy people who are deserving of mockery and ridicule. And we swallow it whole, just to be entertained. Again, I agree, much of the blame is to be laid at the feet of the church. But, more than a fair share belongs to the world, (heavily represented in the entertainment industry) who hates us.

    Good grief, we can’t even say Merry Christmas anymore. It has to be Happy Holidays, so as not to offend. And we have replaced Christmas with Xmas. This is OUR fault. Instead of standing up for the Christian influence in our culture, we take the passive approach, thinking “oh well, as long as we are the salt and light, things will just work out”. Nonsense! I again relate to the point about the George Washington and the Framers of our Constitution (there is irrefutable evidence our Constitution and nation are established on Christian principles, but that is a long discussion for another time). Think of the billions who know Christ because they demonstrated strength in leadership.

    Another example… most “Christians” have a subscription to Netflix. An organization that spews trash down our throats at an astonishing rate. If most “Christians” would/did not have such a subscription, the company would lose revenue and cease to push out such filth… ergo our ability (indelible responsibility) to shape culture. Please don’t misunderstand my directness. In no way is it meant to be mean, hurtful, or offensive. Kindness and respect must be cornerstone to our approach… a multi-pronged approach including love and strength, not one or the other.

    Back to the concerns we touched on in earlier conversation. The 1 Corinthians scripture from your last post addresses people “in the world” and people in the church. Especi

    Here’s the incongruence, Tony. When you write articles such as this one and the one related to publishing a photo of a same-sex couple in a church bulletin, you are endorsing the very behavior your response admonished:

    “We have watered down the gospel, ignored Scriptures we don’t prefer, compromised biblical theology, and sought the approval of men rather than God. “

    And although you pasted the 1 Corinthians scripture, when you wrote “church bulletin”, one can’t help but presume you are talking about people within the church.

    What’s next… do we also perform same-sex marriage ceremonies? Certainly not! Tell me Tony, where do YOU draw the line?

    Check out this excerpt from an article that just posted today (12/9/21) to serve as an example of the slippery slope you “seem” to support:

    NEW YORK – The Rev. Craig Duke has been a Methodist minister for three decades, building a reputation as a staunch advocate of LGBTQ inclusion. His pastoral duties have now been terminated — the result of a bitter rift surfacing in his Indiana church after he sought to demonstrate solidarity by appearing in drag alongside prominent drag queens in the HBO reality series “We’re Here.”

    I do not suggest we keep sinners out of the church. Again, certainly not! If that were the case none of us (myself absolutely included) could attend. The point is to not label what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong.

    Returning to your lesson in the last reply, I commit to reducing any appearance of complaints about sinners and instead enhancing my glorification of God. Respectfully, I ask you to give consideration to ways your articles may be perceived as overly passive.

    I’ve spoken my peace, Tony. I will withdraw from further engagement on this topic. Not that I don’t very much enjoy the interaction, but I fear continuing would lead to a place where we are more interested in proving ourselves right, rather than continuing our growth. I believe Maya Angelou said it well:

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    I will heed your reply with the utmost respect. And who knows, perhaps we will have future conversations on another topic.

    I am confident God will continue to smile on you and your family, as you apply your knowledge and experience to bless others!

    • Tony says:

      JR:

      Again, thanks. Sincerely. If you were anywhere close to Denver, I’d buy you lunch so we could hang out.

      >> sophistry

      Here’s why I took issue with the word: “the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.” As you might imagine, the idea that you would accuse me of being deceptive didn’t sit well. You don’t seem to have meant that, so it’s water under the bridge.

      >> Reasonable conclusions are 1) You are dodging responsibility for your words, or 2) You truly did not mean to communicate in the way I interpreted your message.

      A false dichotomy. A third option: I meant exactly what I said, but you misunderstood… or simply disagree. Both are equally reasonable but don’t cast aspersions on my character or denigrate my communication skills. Yes, I’m a sincere man and, yes, I’m often contrary. In fact, both are defining characteristics. You seem to think I’ve either contradicted myself or that I’ve been somewhat weaselly. Neither is the case. Needed or not, I’ll defend my position one more time.

      Church Directory
      The point of a church directory is to put names and faces together… to promote community inside the walls of a church. If we encourage sinners to attend (another topic entirely), and want to create a directory, they should be included. Why? So they can form meaningful relationships with believers who can encourage and challenge them to submit themselves fully to God. A fairly recent statistic says that homosexual couples who attend church regularly are 250% more likely to attend a non-affirming church than an affirming church. That’s mind-blowing, but understandable. Nobody likes being pandered to, and nobody likes a hypocrite. Why would they go to a church where virtually everybody sees, judges, and rejects their behavior? Because they desire authenticity, and because people love them in spite of their obvious disagreement. Excluding them from the church directory seems contrary to the point of a directory, and contrary to the point of community. No, we shouldn’t invite them into positions of leadership… but if we invite them to church, they should be able to take part in the community. I wouldn’t exclude them from a potluck, so I wouldn’t exclude them from the directory. Their sinful behavior is visible, which tends to lull us to sleep with regard to behaviors that are equally sinful but less obvious.

      Gutless
      Don’t even get me started on this one. I’m as critical of weak-kneed, milquetoast, ineffective, mumbly-mouthed, beta leaders as anyone. I’ve been attending church since before I was saved at 6 years old, studied religion and philosophy (and broadcasting) at a solid Christian college, was a licensed minister, and have been a leader in multiple denominations. I know exactly how the sausage is made, and I can easily point out where we fall short. During a recent staff meeting at church, one person – admiringly – described me as a ‘disruptive force’ because I have no interest in doing church as usual. You can’t see that kind of thing on GodWords, generally speaking. Why? Because most of my readers aren’t church leaders who are in a position to make changes to church as usual. Most of my readers are either non-believers, unbelievers, or incredibly immature believers. Being strongly critical of the typical American pastor would discourage them from making a commitment to attending church, which is the opposite of my goal. Rather than having robust, mature conversations like this one, they ask questions like, “is my granddaughter appearing to me as a butterfly?” or “would God be angry if I cut my hair?” If you prefer a stronger approach, I do have a (new) section on False Teachers. You might see a hint of the disruptive me there.

      ‘Merica
      I love America. It’s awesome. You can stop trying to convince me of our roots, as we agree. The question is what to do about our failing society. I take a one-way street approach to combining Christianity and politics: my faith informs my citizenship, but my citizenship does not inform my faith. I don’t pretend that being a mature Christian is the same as being a committed patriot. I’m both, and there’s a TON of overlap, but they’re really separate things. I do whatever I can do to help Americans understand the point of America, and to adjust their behavior to fit. That’s not a topic on my website, generally… that’s the stuff of Facebook, where people interact more readily and most of them know me personally. Here at GodWords, I have a worldwide audience of strangers. Were I to spend time writing about how America should be, my readers in India and Scotland and Mauritius would not be included. In past iterations, GodWords was full of politics, jokes I thought were funny, and more. I decided to dedicate my efforts here to simply helping people understand Christianity, which has no homeland, no capital, no political system, and no earthly leader. God has not chosen to turn the rest of the world’s countries into representative democracies. I would personally prefer that He do that, but I’m not in charge. He knows best, so I deal with everybody’s spiritual understanding and mostly leave the politics out of it. Where the two directly intersect, I might write… but too much of that waters down my impact. The way to fix America – at a grassroots level – is to change hearts and minds. The idea is that we vote so that we get what we want. Over the past 50+ years, I’ve watched us change what we want. The only way to return to sanity, politically speaking, is to convince people that what they want isn’t working… that they should want something else. Again: there are no political solutions to spiritual problems. When we fix our hearts, we fix our minds and change our votes and choose better leaders. Those changes would move us back in the direction of our founding documents. I see no other effective way forward, so I work – here and everywhere – to change hearts and minds.

      I worked for a time in radio, and may again at some point. That’s “push” technology. There are a limited number of frequencies on the dial, and you can assume that you have listeners for that reason alone. Your approach can be more ‘pushy.’ You start conversations on radio, and (sometimes) invite listeners to call in and interact. I’m now a web professional. The web isn’t like that. It’s “pull” technology. The number of websites is virtually unlimited, so the way to get your message out is to be the target of someone’s search. People ask search engines a question, see the results, and guess which one has the answers they seek. The way to get traffic is not simply to tell people what you think, but to offer answers to their questions. Almost everything on this website was written in response to an actual question that an actual person actually asked me. I get far more emails than comments, by the way… most of my work is done in my inbox, one on one. I’m far more direct there, since they’ve asked me to be. Here, I have to write answers in ways that might apply to anyone, rather than to the one person who asked it. It seems to work, as around 93% of my visitors come directly from search engines. That means I write a bit more vaguely here than I would in person. It’s entirely strategic, and pretty effective… not evidence of weakness. At the moment, I’m seeing more than 100,000 pageviews per month. That means that I’m writing what people are looking for, which gives me the opportunity to interact with a broader audience. Based on the emails I get, it seems I’m reaching an audience that needs what I’m doing. Yes, I always work to be more effective. No, I don’t think I need to change my approach at this point.

      Am I making sense? I’m totally open to both criticism and encouragement, but I’m clear on my role. People ask questions about God, and I try to answer them. If someone wants to talk politics, like this, I’m game… but my goal is not political agreement. My goal is spiritual agreement, and political agreement will naturally follow. Others take a different approach, and that’s between themselves and God. I’m in no position to tell them they’re doing it wrong if they’re being obedient.

      >> What’s next… do we also perform same-sex marriage ceremonies? Certainly not! Tell me Tony, where do YOU draw the line?

      I try to draw the line exactly where God, as outlined in the Bible, draws it. I make sure to separate human tradition from biblical theology. I work to adjust my personal perspective in light of God’s revelation. Sometimes people think I’m too strong, sometimes people think I’m too weak. I’ve been called every name in the book by people who disagree with me, and I don’t mind at all. My goal is obedience, which – in this situation – means writing carefully what I believe God has said in the Bible. Jesus ate with hookers and traitors. Isn’t there a VAST difference between embracing sinners and condoning their sinful behavior? If the Holy Spirit continues to work on those who are far from Him, so will I. Their behavior isn’t my problem. I only have to be obedient. I have no problem correcting people, as you can see by reading the comments on some of the more popular articles. I know my own heart, and the fact that I once seriously considered a life of crime reminds me that I would continue to be lost without Him. For that reason, I accept everyone at a personal level, and encourage everyone to move in a God-ward direction. I’m as concerned about maturity in the church as I am about sinners outside of it. If the church did our job, there would simply be fewer sinners. Part of the reason our society is falling apart is that we’re wayward, rebellious people… but part of it is the fact that the church in America kinda sucks. My roles in the kingdom work this way:

      1. Follow Jesus
      2. At church, help people grow to maturity
      3. Outside church, help people understand how awesome God is so they can trust Him fully

      It’s really that simple. So far, it seems to be working. When God tells me to adjust, I adjust. I totally get the fact that many would read GodWords and conclude that I’m either some kind of spiritual weenie or an overly-aggressive fundamentalist wacko. In the early days of the web, I was far more aggressive… to the point of being insulting. I’ve softened my approach without compromising my position. I take the same approach to my work here as I did to sports as a kid. I was a jock, and very competitive. I was motivated, skillful, and effective. Sometimes you need finesse. Sometimes you need to be a linebacker. I have no problem with you preferring a more aggressive approach. I’m simply trying to do what God has told me to do, in the way that the Holy Spirit guides me to do it. I leave the results to Him.

      If this is the end of this part of our discussion, let me again thank you for your time. If not, I welcome more. You’re good people, JR. Lunch is on me.

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