Some really good words from Matthew Loftus here:
I want the BenOp to succeed because I do think that Christian communities in the West will need to implement the principles Rod talks about in order to remain faithful in the generations to come. I am pretty much in agreement with Rod on the dictates of human sexual morality as the Bible teaches it. Yet I (and many of my peers like me) are deeply sympathetic to Emma’s line of questioning because we have to find an answer to this question in order to live out the Bible’s commands in our daily lives, bear witness to non-believing friends, and teach our children how to do the same. Dealing with a world that hates us is nothing new, but every age will bring with it unique opportunities and challenges for how to do so joyfully. If the Holy Spirit is working in our world, then we have to ask where and how He is bringing about new life and testifying to Jesus in others – and being confident that we can participate with the Spirit in such a way as to even break “the tip of the spear at our throats”.
If Rod and other BenOp enthusiasts want non-Christians to parse between not wanting LGBT activists to drive Christians out of business and not wanting to get away from LGBT people, they’re going to have to start that parsing themselves because Christians have failed to do this over and over in the last few decades. If they don’t want journalists to make bad faith assumptions about their work, they’re going to have to stop making bad faith assumptions about every possible manifestation of LGBT activism. Most importantly, if we expect the Church to endure the threat posed by the Sexual Revolution (and thrive beyond it!), then explaining how Christians love and serve LGBT people – particularly under the regime which the BenOp anticipates – is inevitably part of bearing witness. A Benedict Option that isn’t good for LGBT people will not stand the test of time.
I say Amen to almost every word of this, but that last sentence leaves me uneasy. What I find myself asking is whether people who share Matthew’s views of sexuality can agree with many LGBT people, especially activists, about what is “good for LGBT people.” Isn’t rather significant conflict inevitable here? That doesn’t in any way abrogate or even compromise the commandment that we Christians “love and serve” those who, for whatever reason, mistrust us — even those who curse and persecute us. We don’t get to turn away in hatred of or even indifference to those who have declared themselves our enemies, much less those who are merely our fellow-citizens about which we disagree on some matters. But I do think we need to reckon straightforwardly with the costs. If we teach our children “the dictates of human sexual morality as the Bible teaches it” — and they accept that teaching, which, frankly, is not very likely — then they’re going to suffer for that, far more than most of us do.
I have some problems with the way Rod presents the BenOp — for instance, I really dislike the “tip of the spear at our throats” metaphor and all that it implies — and I’ve suggested alternative ways to describe the situation, for instance in this post. But I admit that I’ve given more attention to criticizing the critiques of Rod’s articulation of the BenOp — I am, as it were, consistently anti-anti-BenOp — and there’s a reason for that: I, and most of my friends and fellow believers who have been highly critical of the BenOp, have very strong motives for thinking that Rod’s diagnosis and prescription are both wrong.
We have an interest in accepting the general cultural consensus about sexuality and gender. And if we can’t manage to accept it, we have an interest in soft-pedaling our beliefs, both publicly and to our children. Accepting, explicitly or tacitly, that consensus may in some cases open doors of professional and social opportunity to us and our families; vocally refusing to accept it would certainly close doors. We have an interest in believing that we can continue to live more-or-less as we have lived, that it is not necessary to change anything radically, or put ourselves or our families at risk.
Now, to be sure, there are certainly people whose interests lie in the other direction: who might lose social position, or be cast out of church communities, or even lose their jobs, if they were to express doubt about the traditional Christian take on sexuality. But that’s not where I, or my friends and BenOp debating partners, are. So what I would really like from many critics of the BenOp — and by the way, I don’t mean Matthew Loftus here, who has a very nuanced response to the whole movement, as you can see, for instance, in this post — is a frank acknowledgment of the dangers of motivated reasoning and an account of what they’re doing to avoid it.
As for me, I don’t think I’m avoiding it very well. My particular situation, my particular personal and vocational path, leads me to want to be theologically conservative enough to be acceptable to the Christian institutions I love but not so theologically conservative that I can’t get published by reputable secular magazines and publishers. And lo and behold, my convictions perfectly match my interests! How remarkably fortunate for me!
And this is why I’m reluctant simply to dismiss the BenOp, even as formulated in Rod’s the-spear-is-at-our-throat mode. Such dismissal would be wonderfully convenient for me; and I think it is convenient for many of the BenOp’s critics as well. That doesn’t make them wrong, of course; but I’d like to see more frequent acknowledgment of the possibility that, like me, they’re prone to allow their interests to dictate their opinions.
Because the other possibility is that they’re just better Christians than I am. And that I definitely have an interest in disbelieving.