I’ve been accused in quarters anonymous of not really responding to Bobbi’s question because I did not directly address her final question – “When asked these questions, what will you say?” There are several reasons I chose not to respond to this particular question, and hopefully I can explain them here briefly.
First, I believe we live in a culture (and especially a Christian culture) that is obsessed with answers. Often we aren’t really interested in understanding the nuances and issues behind someone’s objections and questions, we simply want a talking point, ten word answer to the question so that we can spout it off and move on. When we are faced with charges of being racist, it’s easier to fire back with a quick retort than it is to actually examine and acknowledge the shortcomings of our own positions and actions. Jesus, I think, encountered the same attitude in Scripture, with people wanting checklists of what they needed to do. Jesus responds to a litany of questions regarding specifics of how we should act with two commands: love God with all you have, and love your neighbor as yourself. My hope is not that my answers to the question would become everyone’s answers to the question, but that we would all begin to think about how we will answer the question. Only when we encourage a culture of thinking about questions instead of answering them will we make any progress in finding real answers, as opposed to advertising slogans.
Second, as I mentioned in the first response, I don’t think there are simple or singular answers to any of the questions I posed. In particular, one thing I mean by that is that my response to any of those questions would be heavily influenced by the person asking the question. Are they female? a minority? an atheist? Trying to formulate a response without knowing the audience, especially with questions as richly textured as these is difficult at best, dangerous at worst. If we do not address these questions on a personal level with those who ask them, we are missing the entire point of the issues raised in many of the questions to begin with.
Finally, while the objections I raised are, in some sense, more concrete than the underlying point of my original post, I don’t feel they were really what the first post was about. For many of the questions, the first answer is that we are, at least partially, guilty as charged. I don’t believe it’s fair to say that we are *as* guilty as charged, but there is at least some reality to all of the questions asked. However, the greater issue which I hoped to raise with the original post was not whether we were homophobic and racist or not, but how closely or not our actual practice lines up with our stated theology. Any weak paradigm will manifest itself in dysfunctional practice. I believe that in many ways recent cracks in the “religious right” – excessive Christian divorce rates, highly publicized crises involving influential pastors in large evangelical churches, a perceived lack of compassion related to issues like the death penalty, homosexuality and the war, and a wide variety of other issues point not simply to imperfect individuals within a system, but endemic weakness in the system itself. If Christianity is to contend as a viable paradigm going forward, then we must examine our current system, and reform it into a system that “practices what it preaches”.