Your Testimony in the Court of Public Opinion

When Trayvon Martin was shot, there was a media rush to announce the public opinion that George Zimmerman was a murder, and a racist murderer at that. Many of the slurs against Zimmerman that passed for actual charges of which the reports convicted him have since been debunked. The court of public opinion is not a very good place for achieving justice.

There is not much justice in the court of public opinion for Christians either. Christians are under fire for being narrow-minded and disconnected from reality. They are accused of meddling in things that have nothing to do with Christianity, and they are accused of not being Christian by people who do not know what a Christian is. Christians often feel rejected and belittled, at the very least. Sometimes they feel positively oppressed. The court of public opinion is not rendering much justice any case involving Christians.

Let’s look at the charges.

Christians are narrow-minded and disconnected from reality.

A prime example of this accusation is found in the ongoing discussion of whether an adoption agency can be compelled to place children with gay couples. Advocates of the LGBT agenda contend that it is illegal and immoral for Christian adoption agencies to refuse to place children with gay couples. They accuse Christians of narrow-minded bigotry in their unwillingness to approve gay couples as adoptive parents. LGBT advocates believe that Christian agencies have no right to implement rules for adoptive parents based on the Christian view that homosexuality is a sin. (It should be noted that Christians today are not of one mind about this. However, acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate sexual expression by any Christian group is very recent, and the vast majority of Christian groups continue to classify homosexuality as sin.)

Christians like to meddle in things that have nothing to do with Christianity.

Even though the Supreme Court decided in favor of the church in Hosanna-Tabor public opinion considered the decision unjust. The core of the case was a question about the employment contract between a teacher and a church. The teacher signed a hiring contract that included a requirement that she submit any disputes about the terms of her employment to arbitration within the church. This contract amounted to a prohibition to go outside the church with any such dispute. However, when the church ruled against the teacher in a dispute, the teacher went to the EEOC with her complaint against her employer. The terms of the contract into which the teacher entered of her own free will led ultimately to the determination against the government. In the court of public opinion, there was considerable dismay that the contract was not set aside in the courts, because public opinion did not like the idea that the church was able to enforce such a contract. Public opinion felt that terms of employment are precisely the sort of thing churches ought to stay out of and leave to the government. What do terms of employment, the public asks, have to do with Christianity?

Christians are accused by non-Christians of not being Christian when Christians assert moral principles at odds with popular political and social agendas.

This problem is expressed on a broad range of issues. Non-Christians seize on a Christian teaching such as “Love your neighbor,” and accuse Christians of not loving their neighbors when they call their neighbor’s behavior “sinful.” It is likely that Christians contribute to the problem when they react with anger and outrage, but non-Christians do not understand that Christians can reject the behavior without hating the person. Christians can call homosexuality “sin” while simultaneously inviting homosexuals to church or while continuing to befriend a homosexual neighbor. A Christian can rejoice in the birth of a baby to an unmarried couple without condoning the fact that they live together without marriage. Non-Christians seem to believe that we cannot love people with whom we differ. More important, they believe that we DO NOT love our neighbors who engage in behavior we call “sin.” We probably need to work on our behavior and speech, but we probably also need to accept the fact that most people will continue to call us bigots for not approving and accepting all behavior we consider to be sin.

In the court of public opinion, these charges are made and the media reports conclusions without much published testimony from Christians. How are we to offer a defense against the accusations?

It is not likely we will ever refute these arguments once and for all. The arguments do not spring full-blown from the thinking of human philosophers. These arguments are the same arguments our enemy Satan has leveled against us from the beginning. When you boil all the accusations down to their essence, Christians believe they should listen to God, and Satan wants us to stop listening to God. It is the argument Satan used against Eve when he asked, “Did God say that? Well, he lies.” (My free paraphrase of Genesis 3:1-5)

Probably the touchiest issue is to be able to disagree respectfully and sustain love for the person with whom we disagree. Our opponents do not make it easy. In public discourse there is a lot of completely illogical speech. Too many people have been called “racist” or “bigoted” simply because they disagree with public opinion. It would be wonderful if that sort of thing could be ended. It can’t. If you speak or act to defend Christian teaching or Christian values in the court of public opinion, you need to be ready to cope with mindless name-calling.

Our only real defense against these accusations is to live lives that faithfully demonstrate the love of Christ for all people. When people say terrible things about us, when people lie about us, when people make fun of us and act as if we are immature children who believe fairy tales, it is easy to become angry. Satan loves it when that happens. It simply proves his point. The big challenge before us is to trust Christ completely. If we remember that he said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” then we will be able to respond lovingly to name-calling and public scorn. We don’t need to be doormats. We do need to be loving at all times. When we don’t quite know what to do, we need to ask ourselves what will show Christ to those who see us.