New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wants conservative Christians to change their thinking on LGBT relationships. Unfortunately for Bruni, he doesn’t know the first thing about them.
In his most recent column, “Bigotry, Bible, and the Lessons of Indiana,” Bruni argues that while conservative understandings of sexuality are understandable, “homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.” At the conclusion of his article, he says furniture maker Mitchell Gold told him “church leaders must be made ‘to take homosexuality off their sin list.’” Bruni then comments that Gold’s “commandment is worthy—and warranted.”
Most conservative Christians probably stopped reading after the headline—calling people “bigots” isn’t the most effective way to start a conversation—and Bruni’s arguments are not exactly novel. But the bigger problem with this column is that the author misunderstands the very people he hopes to persuade. As a result, his column will likely embolden, rather than convince, America’s conservative Christians.
Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards.” Those who hope to direct Christianity’s future must comprehend its past. The world’s largest faith was built upon the ashes of martyrs and forged from the fires of persecution. And the narrative of oppression and struggle has united Christians throughout the centuries. To wit:
- The anonymous “Letter to Diognetus” (AD 80 – 200): “Christians…love all men, and are persecuted by all.”
- Augustine (AD 354 – 430): “If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God.”
- Martin Luther (AD 1483 – 1546): “Men despise the Evangel and insist on being compelled by the law and the sword.”
- Dietrich Bonheoffer (AD 1906 – 1945): “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Keeping this history in mind, how might you predict conservative Christians will respond to a columnist—especially one who works for a publication many already consider to be suspect—issuing a “commandment” that church leaders be “made” to abandon what they believe to be orthodoxy?