Don’t Let Our Broken Politics Mangle Our Faith

In 2007, I had a conversation about the culture war with the evangelical pastor Tim Keller that I’ve never forgotten. Keller, who was the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, died last year, a devastating loss.

Keller was describing a change in his church’s young adults. “I’ve long seen friendships flourish across political differences,” he told me. “Now I see that disagreement often ends friendships.” As he put it, what he was seeing was a change from a culture in which younger Americans were intolerant of cruelty and tolerant of good-faith political differences to a culture in which people were intolerant of political differences and tolerant of cruelty — so long as that cruelty was aimed at the right targets.

Keller wasn’t just describing young Christians. He was seeing the change everywhere. Your political or theological positions were becoming the primary measure of your virtue, and your conduct was a distant second. According to this ethos, being for or against abortion rights, for example, defines you far more than the way you treat other people.

I’m reminded of a recent conversation I had with a college student who said, “When I first heard you speak, I thought you were a decent conservative, and then I found out you were pro-life.” I’ve heard comments like that many times in recent years, and not just about abortion. Any disagreement about any important issue can lead to crushing disappointment and outright anger.

Hidden within comments like that is an assumption — that her point of view was so obviously correct and mine so obviously wrong — that my pro-life position created an irrebuttable presumption of bad character.

This dynamic runs both ways, often with a vengeance. On March 29, President Biden issued a proclamation declaring March 31 to be the Transgender Day of Visibility. He’s done it all three years of his presidency so far, yet this year, March 31 also happened to be Easter Sunday. And so a number of prominent Christians chose to interpret Biden’s proclamation as a direct attack on the Christian faith. The popular Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh called Biden a “demon.” Biden, Senator Josh Hawley said, “deliberately desecrated the most sacred holy day in the Christian faith.”

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