The Dead End Of Winsomeness Alone
I’m a conservative and a Christian, and indeed a theologically conservative Christian — but I’m not angry about it. My natural approach to life is Chestertonian. That said, I have no illusions that personal kindness or a pleasant demeanor will dissuade those who hate us from doing so. They hate us not because of the way we believe, but because of what we believe. Despite what some well-meaning middle-class Christians think, winsomeness is not a winning strategy.
Andrew Walker of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writes about the case of Isabella Chow, the UC Berkeley Christian student who is to all appearances an icon of winsomeness. Doesn’t matter: the ideological fanatics want her gone. Walker:
But Chow did not launch into a barrage of missives against the LGBT community. In her prepared remarks, she even spoke out against discrimination and hate against the LGBT community.
Chow is the very definition of class, dignity and civility. She’s a model for what faithful Christian discipleship looks like in the public square. There is no foaming-at-the-mouth hatred for anyone. She loves everyone; she just did not want to violate her conscience.
[T]his story is a reminder that no amount of cultural sophistication or intelligence will absolve the Christian from being seen as a backward-thinking bigot. I say this because there’s an evangelical temptation that believes that if we can just communicate orthodox beliefs in the right way, if we can appear as nuanced as possible, then those on the other side of the aisle will see us as goodwill, reasonable actors. We’re tempted to think that finding the right aesthetic or tone will resolve the underlying tensions that exist when Christianity confronts the world with an ethic that the world does not want to hear. We think we can have our cake and our popularity, too. Chow is a living example of how this approach is naive.
Winsomeness as the utmost priority for Christian faithfulness in the public square will leave individuals with no place to go when this kind of witness still earns us the reproach of culture. As Chow’s example demonstrates, we should be willing to share our convictions without the fear of what reprisal will come.
Be gracious. Be winsome. Be civil. Be polite. Of course, never be less than these things, but at the same time, realize that to be a Christian, more may be required of you, like sharing what’s on your conscience and being willing to pay the price for it. Your kindness will still get you in trouble.
“Over the past couple of days, I’ve learned a lot about the viciousness of online harassment. If people want to attack me, it’s much easier for them to whip out their phones and tweet a scathing remark that will gain likes, comments, and reshares,” Chow said. “It takes a lot more courage to send me a personal message or email with direct threats or insults, and even more courage to look me in the eye and say the same slurs that they so casually use on social media. Even though vocal opponents have largely avoided me on campus and in personal communication, it doesn’t mitigate the pain of hurtful words that I see on social media every day.”
Chow said she stands by her comments and does not plan to resign.
Chow has also been voted out of the Publications and Media Board without being granted a meeting to defend herself. “I’ve also been disaffiliated with pretty much every publications/media club on campus, almost all without a heads up or before I had the chance to speak with club leaders that I’ve worked so long with.”
Chow also provided The Daily Wire with the following statement:
For me and the church here at Berkeley, free speech is an issue that has been highlighted, but it’s not the primary issue at stake here. As one of my staffers put it, this is “people issue” – people who feel hurt and unable to reconcile how the traditional Christian worldview can profess to love LGBTQ+ individuals while disagreeing with their lifestyles and the promotion of their identities. Even if the church continues to be misunderstood and slandered, our responsibility is not to shout our beliefs loudly above the noise, but to emulate the unconditional love and truth of Jesus.
As tumultuous as the past couple weeks have been for me, my deepest prayer is that the church in Berkeley and beyond would increase dialogue regarding the intersection of faith and the LGBTQ+ community. We do not have to agree 100% theologically or practically, but must recognize that the LGBTQ+ community has been shunned and hurt by the church for too long. I recognize that behind all the anger and backlash are wounded hearts and traumatic narratives that only God can redeem. I pray that the Lord would use my story to shed light on how the church can better love the LGBTQ+ community while not compromising His truth spoken in love.
That young woman is heroic in her courage, for not backing away from her convictions despite being made to suffer for them, and in her refusal to return hatred for hatred. She’s winsome, but she has a spine of steel. Wonder if progressive Christians will defend her… .
A couple of years ago, a professor at a conservative Evangelical college told me that the overwhelming majority of students there are products of youth group culture, in which they are taught that Christianity is primarily relational. They come to the college and are more or less in a bubble for four years. When they get out into the world, and encounter people who rebuke them, saying that Christianity is “mean,” they don’t know how to respond, having been discipled to believe that winsomeness is next to godliness.