When Even Joel Osteen Is Treated as a Bigot
For those who regard homosexual behavior to be sinful, it’d be hard to imagine someone less offensive, definitive, and informed than Joel Osteen. He doesn’t preach about the holiness of God and he doesn’t preach about sin, much less the sin of homosexuality. To my knowledge, he never talks about it unless asked on a talk show. But that’s not good enough, as can be seen in his most recent interview on CNN:
This reminded me of a recent comment from Carl Trueman, in typical Trueman style:
You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.
How then should we respond?
The answer to that takes much more than a blog post.
But here are a few points and resources that come to mind.
First, read Trevin Wax’s dialogue post, “How I Wish the Homosexuality Debate Would Go,” where Trevin explains how he wish Christians would respond on TV shows like this.
Second, remember the point that Greg Koukl makes here:
If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue, preface your remarks with a question.
You say: “You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking, and I’d be glad to answer. But before I do, I want to know if you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person. Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse ideas, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from yours?” Let them answer. If they say they’re tolerant (which they probably will), then when you give your point of view it’s going to be very difficult for them to call you intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too.
This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view they think is right and everybody judges at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in any kind of morality.
I highly recommend Koukl’s book, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. For a book-length analysis of The Intolerance of Tolerance, see Carson’s book by that title.
Third, we need to be informed about the larger presuppositions at play here regarding morality and the criteria of harm to society. Collin Hansen’s 15-minute conversation with Tim Keller and Al Mohler is a helpful introduction to thinking through some key ideas: