To My Fellow Social Rejects
I have become accustomed to the indoctrination. Truly, I have. It seems almost every tv show and film makes an effort to normalize homosexual desires and relationships by prominently including them in their storylines. As a strategy for shifting popular opinion, it has thus far been executed flawlessly. In 2004, only 31% of Americans were in favor of gay marriage; in 2019 it is reported that 61% are in favor. Possible libertarian concessions aside, that is an undeniably marked shift in the span of fifteen years. By all accounts, it would seem that LGBT proponents have won the day.
And yet unrest remains.
Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop has been dragged to court yet again, this time for refusing to make a “gender transition” cake. The Supreme Court has put off hearing his case, some suggesting a legislative solution is preferred, one such possible solution being the “Equality Act,”crafted by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI). The stated purpose of this act would be, “To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes.” This of course aims directly at people like Jack Phillips who would conscientiously object on the basis of their religious beliefs. This is made crystal clear when the bill later mentions, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”
Now, some of you may share Jack’s sexual ethics, but believe he should be forced to make gay marriage and gender transition cakes regardless. I disagree and want to point out a significant pop-culture moment that should concern you as a Christian of orthodox belief.
I present to you, Taylor Swift.
She’s no stranger if you are a millennial like me. Over her career, T-Swift has traveled the musical spectrum, from her early years of sickly sweet love ballads to her more recent odes of vengeance. I unashamedly admit her gift for putting out catchy tunes (my old BICS roommate would out me anyways based on how many times I played “Mean”). Her talent and popularity make the message of her latest song release all the more striking. It’s a message made especially clear through the medium of a music video released on June 17th, which has already received over 32 million views on YouTube. The song is entitled,“You Need to Calm Down”.
The lyrics and music video leave no doubt that this song is intended to serve as an anthem for LGBT pride month. Moreover, it is intended to drive support for the “Equality Act” as can be seen when at the video’s conclusion the viewer is invited to sign a petition in favor of the act. However, what is noteworthy is not this support, but rather the further step taken to delegitimize those of opposing opinion. Notably, Swift chooses to depict those who would adhere to traditional and biblical conceptions of human sexuality as hate-mongering buffoons. The selected lyrics and image below tell the tale:
You are somebody that we don't know,
But you're coming at my friends like a missile.
Why are you mad
When you could be GLAAD?
(You could be GLAAD.)
Sunshine on the street at the parade,
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Making that sign Must've taken all night.
You just need to take several seats
And then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream
About all the people you hate
'Cause shade never made anybody less gay[iv]
When I hear these lyrics and see these images, my first impulse is to protest with nuance:
“I’m neither ‘mad’ nor ‘GLAAD’...I’m mostly just sad.”
“I don’t hate those with same-sex desires and I certainly don’t want to scream at them.”
“I’ve never thought throwing ‘shade’ would change anybody’s desires – God might, but often we will struggle with corrupted desires until the day we die.”
But you see, no one is really interested in that nuance. The point is to place everyone in one of two camps: GLAAD or Mad. You are either in the sunshine parade or the dark ages. Without such nuance in the way, it’s much easier to make the case to the general public that folks like Jack Phillips are strident bigots for whom nothing less than legislative compulsion shall suffice. Once such legislation is in place, Christian beliefs about human sexuality will have as much standing as the racist doctrines of the KKK. We will be confirmed as social rejects.
Truth be told, we are already branded as such. However, unlike Jack Phillips, most of us have the luxury of privacy. We haven’t been secretive about our beliefs, but we haven’t exactly been trying to publicize them either. Rightly, we do not want to be pigeon-holed as an “anti-gay” church or person, consumed more by what we’re against than what we’re for. However, this wisdom has come with a cost. While we have kept private about our sexual ethics, the evangelists of progressive morality have been very public. The result? Taylor Swift’s tune gets stuck in our heads and people respond with shock when they learn about traditional Christian beliefs. (If you doubt this, just see the sharp reaction Bishop Tobin received for his recent, rather mundane, remarks.)
Now maybe you’re the type who doesn’t want to get wrapped up in all this socio-political tumult and really just wants to focus on the Gospel. Frankly, I’m with you. I’m an Advent Christian pastor, I have no satisfying political solutions other than Christ’s return. But if you take a step back with me, I think we can see how this concerns the Gospel.
In an explicitly interreligious encounter (e.g. Christian meets Muslim), the Christian empowered by the Holy Spirit seeks to tear down walls of false conceptions that are getting in the way of a person turning to Christ. Tearing down each wall often takes much prayer, time, and effort. If one of those walls weren’t there to begin with or was already weakened, it would make the going much easier on both sides. We easily perceive these walls between Christianity and other organized religions, but the same exists between Christianity and American progressivism. There is a veritable wall being constructed between the Church and the American public on the turf of sexual ethics. Other walls certainly exist, but day by day this wall is being heightened and thickened, further separating the Church from the unsaved. The more we reach out to the young and the unchurched, the more we will find this to be case.
For the sake of the Gospel, I believe we have an interest in weakening this wall at a societal level. We have a real Gospel interest in not being equated with the KKK. Pursuant that interest, I believe that means we should oppose legislation like the “Equality Act.” More importantly, I believe that means we must openly and joyfully proclaim a Christian vision of what it means to sexually flourish as creatures made in God’s image, commissioned to fill and care for the earth. Consequently, I believe that also means we must better communicate the nature and consequences of the Fall, readily acknowledging that all of us are born with confused desires and that the answer is not approval but grace found in Jesus Christ. This alone will not tear down the wall, but it will get in the way. The more we force the public to work around these claims, the more we stand in the path of progressivism’s ethics program, the more the structural integrity of this wall be weakened and the closer it will be to crumbling in some of our individual encounters.
Now, if you do intend on actually acting like the buffoons in the music video, by all means, please calm down. Otherwise, I believe now is the time that you and I should start being more winsomely public about what we believe, why we believe it, and what follows from such belief.
"Majority of Public Favors Same-Sex Marriage, but Divisions Persist," Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, May 14, 2019, , accessed June 19, 2019, https://www.people-press.org/2019/05/14/majority-of-public-favors-same-sex-marriage-but-divisions-persist/.
 Kelsey Dallas, "Why the Supreme Court Sent a New Case on Same-sex Wedding Cakes Back to Lower Courts," DeseretNews.com, June 17, 2019, , accessed June 19, 2019, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900075665/supreme-court-same-sex-wedding-cakes-masterpiece-cakeshop-religious-freedom-scotus.html.
 H.R.5 - Equality Act, Sec. 1107 Claims https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5/text