Speak To Be Heard

~~My son has been writing for a national online college newspaper. I’m so proud of him finding his voice and the courage to make it heard. He’s a college student; what first year college student has a shortage of opinions? I can remember the thing I was most passionate about for the short time it dominated the news when I was a college freshman was Miss America’s scandalous photos. That was a different age, for sure.

Today Wil experienced his first rejection. Here’s the irony: he was writing about how society has told him that his Christian, cisgendered (you’ll have to look that one up…I just can’t even…), white male opinion is bigotry, plain and simple, and he is not entitled to have a voice in response to the culture he lives in. His editors confirmed that by calling his article “hate speech”. Ah yes…censorship at its finest.

 You can’t know the weight of the arguments, the strength of the resistance, the hatred and narrow-mindedness and reverse-bigotry behind this young cultural movement for “tolerance”. It’s so far more than anything we faced when we were 18. The message is that you will be tolerant, or you will be silenced, and if you can’t be silenced, well, then, you can die. I’m not even kidding. (You can google the words “die cis scum” if you are interested, and if you dare.) The ironic hypocrisy would be funny, except that it’s scary, and it’s coming from intelligent people with powerful voices whose arguments sound like, ‘we should all love one another’, but is really, ‘conform, or else’.

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here, but in case I’m not, here are some things to consider. If you don’t like someone calling you ugly names, don’t call them ugly names. If you want your voice to be heard, then be willing to hear someone else’s (even if you disagree…that’s allowed…it doesn’t even make you a militant extremist!). If you don’t want someone to generalize, marginalize, and gag “your people”, then don’t do it to other people, categorizing them into groups and denouncing them as bigots, haters, oppressors, or whatever, and telling them to shut up. Really, it’s as simple as that. By doing anything different, by closing yourself off to the dialogue, you become what you deride.

I counseled my son to pray before he implemented his hasty threat to quit writing for the publication and decide whether he still has a voice that can affect his readers for the Kingdom. He sees revision and rewriting as compromising his own voice, and I agree, but I think there’s a way to speak to be heard even in the face of enmity. He just has to find it. And there it is: so do we.

Hear me now…this is the hardest thing for me!! I understand on an intellectual level that my “enemy” is lost, blinded, and under the control of our enemy. I get it. But that does not make me love them…I so wish it did. I am far too much like Jonah, deciding from a place of hurt and fear and self-defense that they are not deserving of Christ’s sacrifice, but God’s grace is for all. If it is for me (seriously!), it is for them. I cannot withhold the answer to a problem they can’t even perceive because I’m angry about the characterization I will acquire as a result of sharing it. I can’t sit on a hill outside the city and wait for them to burn. I should not even want to. Heaven help me.

I know I’m not alone in my dichotomous feelings because the Spirit is losing to the flesh in the push / pull we all experience as we attempt to live in a manner worthy of our calling. I know that because of what I see and hear around me. Christians react to this conflict of “tolerance” with ugly rhetoric and diatribes that are beyond the understanding of “those who are perishing”. We feel like my son, that the compromise inherent in “loving” our enemy means that we must condone their sin, validate their beliefs, and sacrifice our own, and so we react instead with anger and defensiveness. We behave as if dissension is a threat to our faith. It may be a threat to our practice, but only we can forfeit what we believe. So if there is only perceived threat, why the rage? We’ve all read the end of the book…right? This particular turn of events should not surprise us. It should perhaps even move us to rejoice that surely the coming of the Lord is near! Instead, we stew, and we cocoon, and we rant while hiding behind our social media shield because we know that we’re right in theory, but we’re afraid.

Before you can throw out righteous anger as an argument, I will respond by saying preemptively that the only person who can demonstrate that in true holiness is Christ. When we support our sin with that foundation, as if we are justified for our bad behavior and hatred toward our enemies, it only solidifies their argument and proves their characterization.

And let’s get real here…shoot…we can’t even offer scriptural correction in the church anymore for fear of being labeled “judgmental”. If we can’t accept correction according to our own tenents…how can we offer it, or expect it to be received by a world that does not even share what we claim is truth?
Talk about hypocrisy.

So how do we learn to speak to be heard? I think it’s the age old answer of humility. “But for the grace of Christ, go I.” Who is the worst sinner you know? The answer should be staring at you from the mirror. You know you better than you know anyone else. If you can examine your own heart and not find the blackest spot of sin, not understand that the whip and the hammer were in your hand, then you are not ready to engage this culture with truth…because you haven’t found it. It’s a daily thing, this personal wrecking, and if you believe you’re going to say something the world will listen to without doing that work first, you’re bound to be disappointed. And they are bound to label you a self-righteous bigot.

See, I believe that success in this cultural conversation begins somewhere at the intersection of true brokenness and love, where we understand ourselves well enough to find love for one another. What I want for myself, I should pursue for my friend, my enemy…at all personal cost. Bearing all offense. Taking on the very nature of Christ – a slave to the salvation and freedom of men, emptied of my self, my voice, my message, my agenda – filled with the purpose of the Kingdom: to plead for reconciliation with God.

Tall orders, but from here we can speak to be heard. Only from here.

Am I there yet? Well, if you could hear a snort on paper it would be here. I am still a resounding gong and a clanging cymbal. I’m still angry and defensive and afraid. I’m still full of pride and self-stuff. I’m hopeful, however, that since the Lord has shown me the way, He will also conform me to this image as I choose moment by moment to release to Him the stuff cluttering up my heart and trust Him with the outcome of seizing the opportunity to speak to be heard.