Have you ever seen the movie As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt? Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a man who pursues "Carol the Waitress," played by Hunt. Until he falls in love, Melvin is rude, insensitive, racially bigoted, homophobic, and severely obsessive-compulsive. As his gay neighbor Simon Bishop explains, so it is: Melvin is the worst kind of human. As difficult as it is to deal with Melvin, it is perhaps even more difficult to imagine that this man is a best-selling author of romance novels. In fact, when a young unknown female fan who is the receptionist at his publishing house asks him how he is able to portray women so accurately in his works, Melvin tells her that women are like men, only without reason and accountability.
But what does all this have to do with apologetics? Everything. Everything, that is, if you want to engage people truthfully and relationally—and not treat them dismissively. So often I am like Melvin. I talk about romance novels—usually God's love letter to us recorded as the Bible—but I'll never understand the depth of his love. I talk about relationships with people, but I rarely develop them myself. I lecture on incarnational, life-on-life apologetic engagement, but I often fail to respond to people life-on-life, keeping them at a distance ….
Conservative Christians often approach people as Melvin Udall does. We can wax eloquent on romance and relationships, but we rarely experience them. We approach Mormons, Buddhists, and homosexuals as Melvin does: categorizing and dehumanizing them until we are forced to deal with them face-to-face. Only then do we see that they are humans and not stereotypes …. In other words, we can know about homosexuals ...1
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