Much discussion has been had by Christians today (and in past ages I’d imagine) of the role of the Christian should take in the public square, especially in a modern multicultural democracy. People speak derisively of a Christian ghetto and/or the consequences of withdrawal. Others promote activism, marches and other ways of
For myself, I would offer another tack, that our ventures in the public square be dominated by some of the cardinal virtues from early Christianity: humility and charity and love.
A hermit advised, “If someone speaks to you about a controversy, do not argue with him. If what he says makes sense, say, ‘Yes,’ If his comments are misguided, say, ‘I don’t know anything about that.’ If you refuse to dispute with his ideas, your mind will be at peace.”
We can carry that into our public life and projections. I’d further that with the observation that others bad opinion of us, is good our our souls, it fosters native humility at the very least.
So, if you are told you hate gays because you oppose gay marriage, do not defend your pride and your honor, with rebuttals on loving the sin and hating the sinner or anything such as that. Just offer “I don’t know anything about that” or go further and just humbly assent … and continue volunteering for hospice and other medical care.
If you are told, because you don’t support various tax policies or the current healthcare shambles that you hate the poor, don’t explain your view or defend yourself. Just offer, “I don’t know anything about that” and keep giving freely of your time and money for the homeless and those in need.
If you are told, that because you adhere to a pro-life position, you hate women, don’t counter with argument of person and the life of the fetus. Just offer, “I don’t know anything about that” and keep working with PASS and the like.
If the law asks you to act against your conscience, fill the jails with psalter and song. What do you fear, you who have the words of eternal life? Do you think you need to strike out with political power and organization to defend Christ? If His armies were of the world, they would have mobilized before Pilate to defend him.
In all cases where a person with which you are interacting is convinced your beliefs are hateful or harmful, rhetorical defences will not convince the other that you are right or righteous, but that you are clever enough to rationalize those harmful beliefs. Hitler killed millions, convinced he was doing it for the good of Germany. Lenin, Stalin, Mao and the other communist leaders killed their millions seeking to reshape society to what they felt would be a better world. With these examples still ringing in the air, one cannot use dialectical methods to convince the other your cause is just. You can’t convince a person with polemic. Rhetoric and the pen might be mightier than the sword, but a carpenter born in a stable and a dozen fishermen from the back-country didn’t change the world on account of rhetoric nor by their particular actions. The charity, their love, and their humility did.
Each of us, made in the image of God, has the flame of His Spirit burning within us. It is the Christian calling in community to foster and help that flame to grow in our neighbor. When confronted with secular culture, more specifically with a person or persons with whom you disagree over point or principle the question should not be how do I persuade that person I am righteous. The only question at hand is how do I nurture their flame?
Don’t argue, but do vote your conscience. Don’t talk, but do act. Teach your children to love and fear the Lord with your love and example. And when acting do so always with the humility and the love that comes from Christ.