When I was a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, there was an intentional confrontation of traditional values in the media. Specifically, same sex relationships. It was a then-shocking kiss scene in Roseanne, then Ellen coming out on her sitcom, and even a couple of episodes of Star Trek. And then, of course, Will & Grace. No surprise, it worked. It shifted our larger cultural view on this issue. But it did more than this: it reshaped our understanding of what it means to be human.
This is something that I didn’t fully grasp until I was listening to John Stonestreet at the ERLC National Conference on Thursday night. And what made it make sense to me was when he shared how, historically, what it meant to be human is that we are metaphysical beings—that is, we are creatures that ask big questions about the world around us: is there a God, why is there evil and suffering, and so on. Behavior flowed from our understanding of the answers to these questions.
But in recent years, as more and more individuals—particularly celebrities and athletes—began openly identifying, this coming out was met with the message, “Now they can finally be themselves.” Behavior became the answer to the metaphysical questions. What do you do is who you are, and ideas that don’t affirm this view are untenable.
That’s when it all clicked. This is something every Christian has experienced at one time or another, although we might not have understood it for what it is, or at least in this specific way. We know that evangelism is important. Many of us understand the concept of worldview, and recognize that there are multiple views out there that are often in conflict. And when worldviews collide, as we so often see in discussions of human sexuality and gender identity, that conflict escalates because we’re challenging those most deeply held beliefs.
So here’s the challenge for us: how do we meaningfully engage others and not have it blow up in our faces? Ultimately, we have to compassionately challenge the narrative. We need to show that the gospel tells a better story of humanity—of a richer, fuller meaning to existence. In our lives, in our words, in our homes… in every area of our lives, we need to graciously, compassionately, and respectfully demonstrate this reality. It’s slow work. It’s hard work. But it is the best work. May God give us the grace we need to see it to completion.