Rewarding the Bullies

James 1:19-22

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”


Earlier this week World Vision, one of the top ten charities in the U.S. (they took in over a billion dollars last year), announced that it would now hire gay and lesbian individuals who are legally married in the same way they hire married heterosexual individuals. State sanctioned gay marriages would now not be discriminated against. In a Christianity Today interview entitled “World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages,” Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, discussed their decision. And it was a big one. And they seemed ready for the criticism and reactions that it would receive. I’m sure they knew that many Christians wouldn’t like their decision. Many would speak out against it. But they probably didn’t prepare enough for what it’s like to get gang-bullied by some of the most influential (white) evangelical leaders in America.

Their responses were quick, sharp, and harsh. I consider many of them to be the various “popes” of their respective evangelical communities because of their incredible influence in theological matters and in church conduct.

John Piper, the Reformed “Pope,” wrote this. 

Al Moher, the Southern Baptist “Pope,” wrote this.

Franklin Graham, president of  Samaritan’s Purse and son of Billy Graham – Evangelicalism’s previous generation’s “Pope,” wrote this.

And aspiring “Popes” Trevor Wax and Justin Taylor, from The Gospel Coalition, also added their thoughts on this issue.

When this was all unfolding a couple days ago I thought to myself: Here we go again…

Something happens to disrupt the conservative, white evangelical status quo and the gatekeepers immediately blow their horns, rile up the troops, write blog posts, preach sermons, write and sell books in response, and become all the more influential.

This sort of thing happened just a few years back when Rob Bell’s book Love Wins came out. Multiple contributors responded on The Gospel Coalition website (many without first reading the book), and a whirlwind of discussion, debate, name-calling, finger-pointing, accusing, judging, and damning soon followed. It was like Rob Bell’s detractors were dead set in trying to prove the antithesis to love winning.

Just a few months ago A&E tried to remove key member Phil Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty due to some incendiary comments about homosexuality in an interview for GQ. But the conservative community was outraged. News articles, interviews, sermons, and blog posts were written in response to our “religious freedoms being stripped from us.”

The LGBTQ community was caught up in the middle of a culture war. And ultimately, the side that was fighting for them threw in the towel for whatever reason – money, sponsorship, ratings, change of heart, not worth the trouble – who knows? But they gave up the fight.

And now, World Vision took a bold step to move forward to support Christians who are a part of the LGBT community.

Richard Stearns said in his interview,

This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate, we’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.”

And let me say, I think it is quite okay to disagree with their decision. I can understand why some would have issue with the consistency of their approach to theological matters, but how we react in disagreement matters. What we say and how we say it matters. Especially if we say that we’re followers of Jesus Christ.

Within hours of the announcement reportedly 2,000 child sponsorships had been dropped.

That just doesn’t seem very Christ-like. Even if they start sponsoring a child elsewhere. The poor are not political pawns. But they are being used that way. The influential “gatekeepers” of evangelicalism ran in and bullied World Vision, not only through their words but through their actions – and at the expense of poor children. Is this the love that Christ says that we are to be known by?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

A couple days after  World Vision’s big announcement they reversed its decision, calling it ‘a mistake.’

We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

and

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”

Once again, the LGBTQ community finds themselves in the middle of a religious and cultural warfare in which a large organization was defending them, then threw in the towel.

And the bullies are being rewarded.

I feel like this is only encouraging the process which is starting to become routine. It’s enabling and empowering the (white) evangelical Popes all the more, whose voices are already a little too loud, whose interpretations and opinions are already a little too revered.

Many in the conservative evangelical world might rejoice and celebrate that World Vision “repented” from their original decision. But I think that there is more going on here. To celebrate is to be very short-sighted. I’m afraid that those who see this as a victory are only deceiving themselves (cf. James 1:22).

My friend Rory Tyer, who consistently writes thoughtful posts in response to various cultural happenings, wrote on this topic yesterday.  In the end of his post he asks some good and relevant questions to be considered if we hope to move forward from this pattern. I recommend reading them and considering them.

Obviously, I have not referenced my opinion about whether World Vision’s decision was right in the first place – but that was not my focus in this post. The topic of how the LGBTQ community and the conservative Christian community relate to one another is complicated. American politics has really been infused with evangelical Christianity in ways that are simply not healthy. Thankfully there are organizations attempting to help bridge the gap between these communities.

As we interact with one another, we should continue to listen to one another in such a way that we hear and can grow in understanding of one another. We should AT LEAST do this before pulling our monthly financial support from impoverished children. It’s better to err in love than to err in haste judgment.

Proverbs 29:20

Do you see someone who speaks in haste?
    There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

2 thoughts on “Rewarding the Bullies

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