I am an unhappy member of the Religious Right. While the ideals and intentions of our current family-values agenda are good, the tone is not. In our attention to three A’s, the battlegrounds of family values, we miss the biblical balance between morality and compassion and between sin and the opportunity for forgiveness. In so doing, we may be sacrificing humility for a fourth A—arrogance.
• Alternative lifestyles is the first A. The Bible is clear on homosexuality. Genesis 19 calls Sodom and Gomorrah cities of moral degradation. Their homosexuality revealed a deep, moral fall. Paul also condemned such alternative lifestyles as the outworking of human rebellion, exchanging the one-fleshness of the marriage bond for a mismatch.
The Bible is likewise clear on another matter. Jesus reached out to tax collectors and sinners not with condemnation, but with an invitation. His explanation was, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.… For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Moral truth is moral truth; it cannot be redefined. Those who choose an alternative lifestyle are accountable for their decision. But accountability ultimately rests with God, not with a government and not with us. Gay bashing is not how we should respond. Where is our invitation to receive grace alongside our warning against sin?
• AIDS comes next. The public reacts negatively to the disease because many people who have AIDS have chosen to engage in the first A or because they are drug abusers who have used infected needles. No doubt abstinence, monogomous marriage, and saying no to drugs are the most effective ways to stop the spread of AIDS. But “innocents” are also infected: health-care workers through cuts and needle sticks, and children of drug users, for example.
Biblical compassion calls us to care for and minister to people in both groups. Maybe through finding compassion in the face of tragedy, such people, some of whom did make wrong choices, will consider where they stand with their Maker.
• Abortion is the third A. A woman considers an abortion. Is her condition the result of a moment of thoughtless passion? Was it escape and experimentation in a sex-saturated culture? Does she consider an abortion because of rape, incest, or to save her life? Or, tragically, is it simply a matter of convenience? Whatever the reason, she faces life-or-death consequences, either for herself or her child.
At the same time, in defense of the child, we scream, “Murder! Stop!” But what concrete measures do we take to care for the mother and her new child? Where are our family values when need exists beyond the womb? Where is the invitation to receive help beyond the condemnation?
Our responses to these needs often seem to miss our religion’s point and appear to be only efforts to score political points. We are not called to pray for our country, but for the people in it, and for its leaders, all of them.
We in the Religious Right should never forget that we do not possess the truth inherently, but are to reflect it, not only by what we say on moral questions, but by how we act in addressing them. When we don’t, we come dangerously close to a fourth A—arrogance.
Our message must be: Your actions have many powerful, even external, consequences. For your own sake, do the right thing before God. It is to him that you are accountable. Consider your actions and your need, turn to him, and join us in the journey that began when forgiveness was offered through the death of an innocent, Jesus Christ.
And like him, we are to be humble and meek, not arrogant. We in the Religious Right must beware of becoming the Religious Self-righteous.
By Darrell L. Bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and minister of the Word at Trinity Fellowship in Richardson, Texas.
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