Responding to the Raw Hatred of the Gay ‘Nativity’
Jennifer Hartline’s reaction here at The Stream to the gay “nativity scene” in California was spot on. She condemned it in literally the strongest possible words: “demonic;” “perverse;” a “lie … from the pit of hell.” If stronger words had been available — barring foul language, which is merely more shocking, not actually stronger — I’d have supported her using them, too.
She focused on the way the display rewrites God’s final word, erases women and defiles God’s design for families. That’s bad enough, but there’s more to be said about it besides. It’s raw hatred on bald display. We Christians now have to decide how we’ll respond to it, and other displays like it.
When It Isn’t Really Hate
The word “hate” has been overused through all the years of controversy over gay marriage and variant forms of sexuality. Somehow “disagreement” has become equivalent to “hate;” but only when it’s Christians and other conservatives disagreeing with gay activists. When they disagree with us, it’s their expression of “tolerant” virtue.
We could have said in tit-for-tat fashion, “If our disagreement is ‘hate,’ then so is yours. You’re haters, too!” I haven’t seen much of that from Christians. More often I’ve seen Jesus’ followers put it more reasonably: “Whether we disagree with you, or you disagree with us, we simply don’t think disagreement equals hate. Could we please quit using that word to mean something it doesn’t mean?”
So in other words, yes, “hate” has been badly overused in this debate. This time, though, it fits.
And When It Really Is
Whoever erected this display must have known what it meant. They had to have known they were poking a finger in the eye of Christian believers. They must have realized it would spark anger. They had to have known it would provoke disgust. I can’t believe they wanted to accomplish anything else but that.
It’s not going overboard to call this hate. It is what it is.
They had to know, too, how deeply Christians cherish the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God born of a virgin, come to teach and to demonstrate God’s love to all the world.
They might not realize how much our relationship with Jesus Christ (and especially for Catholics, His mother Mary) is an actual relationship of love. But still they could hardly be oblivious to how important Christmas images and symbolism are for us — and how very close these things are to our heart.
Yet given that awareness — which I am convinced they held — they chose to aim a hugely symbolic arrow at Christians’ hearts anyway. They intended it to hurt. And it does.
So it’s not going overboard — it’s not some false “Christian persecution complex” — to call this hate. It is what it is.
How Then Should Christians Respond?
I recoil from at the sight of this outrage; yet I must remind myself it’s really an expression of hate toward Jesus Christ. He says in John 15:18-19,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
He goes on a moment later to say the world’s hate comes from its unwillingness to heed His word. It’s not us that they hate; it’s the standard of God’s righteousness that we represent, and which we seek (however imperfectly) to uphold.
“They hated me without a cause,” Jesus says in verse 25 of that chapter. Yet He loved them. And willingly suffered and died for them — as He did for you and me and everyone. And forgave them, even from the Cross where they killed Him.
That’s a standard to which I have not attained. I really don’t know how to love as Jesus did. Not even close. But I’m committed to following Him until I learn, even if it takes all eternity.
It isn’t Christ or His glory that’s at risk in this display.
In the Meantime, Jesus Is Still Okay
Meanwhile, I want to remember that every arrow aimed at Jesus is bound to bounce right off. This is an attack on Jesus like blowing paper covers off milkshake straws would be an assault on Andrews Air Force Base. It isn’t Christ or His glory that’s at risk in this display. It isn’t even His followers. It’s the people who set it up, caged in their own hatred and no doubt congratulating themselves for their creativity in displaying it. We’ve all got our hatreds, petty and grand; but it’s especially tragic when we consider them so worthy of parading before the world this way.
So I pray for them today, that God would soften their hearts. I pray they’ll see true goodness of the One who came to earth to redeem us all from our errors, and the arrows we unleash at others’ hearts. And I pray with new fervor for peace on earth, good will among men.