Last week, I discussed the fact that black gays were aggressively enlisting in the culture war. I mentioned the fact that the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach to the gay issue by many black churches is unbiblical and weak. I described a debate that took place in an historic black church in Philadelphia. In that setting, I voiced my concerns about the negative impact the current gay rights movement is having upon the institution of marriage, adoption, and early childhood education. As I expected, many writers attacked my article, my faith, and my character last week. They accused me of narrow mindedness, hypocrisy, and a host of other mental and emotional short comings.
Although I believe that my stance at the debate was morally sound, I realized that many of my critics were saying, “who gave you the authority to criticize my lifestyle?” As a conservative Christian leader, I have always believed that the Bible and common sense were the source of my moral authority. I believe that there is an objective, absolute truth that is superior to my personal opinion. In other words, I do not believe in moral relativism.
Therefore, I have considered myself and like-minded colleagues’ defenders of moral truth – not judgmental hypocrites. Unfortunately, the rage of my opponents seems to have grown louder than ever before. In addition, many liberals and moderates are more prone to say, “We cannot listen to evangelicals or right wing conservatives; they have nothing to tell us.”
During the week, I had discussions with several people who were very critical of evangelical Christians and social conservatives. These folks were not gay or liberal. They were politically moderate Christians who are concerned about the growing influence of the evangelical right and social conservatives. In their minds, the personal failure of conservative leaders has so tarnished the credibility of our movement that our moral positions may soon seem irrelevant.
As a movement, we may have overlooked a simple truth. The personal lifestyle of any messenger can pollute or pervert the power of the message he wants to deliver. Like a drunken man preaching against drinking, our current condition makes our statements laughable and comic. The whole nation gasped at the Marc Foley congressional page scandal, the
Abramoff corruption problem, and the exposure of Reverend Ted Haggard’s personal dalliances. During the barrage of media attention given to these problems, no credible national leader stood up for our side and apologized to the nation for our lack of vigilant leadership. Our blame shifting and comparisons of our sin versus their sin can seem like the ultimate in double standards.
Whether conservatives like it or not, we are held to higher standards than the liberals. Conservatives and evangelical Christians must remember that we have set high standards. The culture did not ask for the standards we have espoused.
The conservative movement volunteered to be a conscience for America. Anytime a group assumes this role, their motives and integrity will be closely examined by skeptics. For this reason, the media and many people in the public square were surprised that conservatives did not denounce Foley, Haggard, and Abramoff more vehemently. In their minds we are engrossed in an “old boy” network without principles.
Many conservatives have realized that the men we have just cited have all lost their careers, credibility, and reputations. Their personal indiscretions have cost them dearly. I sure we realized that these people would be severely punished for their actions. What we did not realize is that all of us would be judged for the sins of a few.
As a movement, we did not take responsibility for our failing to internally police our movement. Perhaps we need to remember that evangelicals have teamed with the conservatives as a reform movement. We are attempting to rescue a society that essentially does not think that it needs help. In fact, many liberals see us as passé moralists who are out of touch with the world around us. Others see us as a force that is attempting to take America back to the days of “Leave it to Beaver.”
Somehow we must regain the right to be heard by the culture. We must reestablish the sense that our desire is to serve the nation and keep it from self destruction. There has to be integrity of lifestyle, clarity of thought, and a sense of mission among our leaders that restores conservative credibility.
In my years of marriage counseling, I have found that reestablishing trust is a difficult task – yet it can be done. It always starts with recognition of shortcomings and repentance. Therefore, as an evangelical and a conservative I want to apologize to the nation for not checking the leaders of this movement a little closer before I lent them the support of my voice and my vote. I hope that other leaders will take the small step of repentance for the indiscretions of our movement whenever and wherever they feel it is appropriate.
Let’s regroup. Let’s get back to truth. Let’s get back to humbly serving the nation!