This article first appeared at CBMW's Public Square channel on April 24, 2014.
Greek mythology tells us of the irresistable songs of the Sirens, mythological figures whose voice and song were so lovely that sailors turned from their charted course through safe waters only to crash upon the rocks to their doom in their chase of the Sirens.
In reading the coverage of the new book by Matthew Vines, God and the Gay Christian, I wonder if some may be lulled into a modern-day Siren song.
In response to Jonathan Merritt's colloquy with Albert Mohler and Matthew Vines, Merritt concluded with a unique question. He asked, "If there is one thing you could ask the other party and those they represent to prayerfully consider, what would it be?"
The response by Matthew Vines may have unwittingly struck a few notes of the Siren's song:
My main request to non-affirming Christians is simply to listen. If you are straight and don’t have close relationships with many gay Christians, it isn’t appropriate to respond to this conversation with knee-jerk outrage and condemnation. I may be young, but this issue affects my life far more intimately than it affects the lives of straight Christians, and I think it is important for straight people in particular to be open to listening and learning. We won’t all agree in the near future, but if we turn down the volume and respect and value one another’s faith, the church will be able to offer a more Christ-like witness because of it.
Listening is a lovely, aspirational term. Ought we all not be marked as a, "good listener?" Listening is equated with learning. It assumes the posture of the student who listens to the teacher. It is by listening that we transfer knowledge and receive conviction. One who listens is one who goes beyond merely hearing and allows that which is heard to penetrate one's mind and mix with one's thoughts.
It is good to listen, but why would this be the "one thing" Vines would ask of those who oppose his thesis? Indeed, it is not unique to Vines. Same-sex activists are never concieved as those who would actually require anything of anyone else; they simply want to be heard, for us to listen to them. Only the culturally tone deaf, close-minded, proseletyzing fanatics known as, "Christians” suggest that we ought to conform to a moral standard!
The Assumption of Listening
No, the assumption of the new tolerance is that one who listens is wise. Ever learning and never arriving at knowledge is much in vogue. That is tragic and, if uncorrected, will result in a future society full of wise looking nincompoops too passive to assert a simple truth, giving fulfillment to Francis Schaeffer's old evaluation of modern man having, "two feet firmly planted in midair."
This is a wise rhetorical device - and it is an intentional argument - being used by those who wish to push the needle on the authority of Scripture and any moral understanding of sexuality. In asking you to listen, Vines is not asking you to commit. By suggesting you listen, Vines avoids the appearance of asserting an argument. By requesting a listening ear, Vines breaks down your rhetorical guard and sneaks around any filter you may have in place to weed out faulty arguments built on questionable logic.
What is more, if you refuse to listen, you are perceived as intolerant. Truly tolerant people, of course, use their ears and mouth in direct proportion, listening twice as much as they talk.
And, do you note the implicit arrogance involved in this request? It is masked by piety, so it is easy to miss. By requesting that you listen, Vines is suggesting that you have something to learn. In the context of the Merrit article, it is especially interesting. Here is a recent graduate of Harvard requesting of scholar, theologian, author, and seminary president, Dr. Albert Mohler that he - and those he represents - listen. Dr. Mohler is far to gracious to have even allowed the slight of this young buck pawing the ground and pointing his antlers at the wise old stag. Listen? Has he even earned the right to be heard?
Warning: Rocks Ahead
Let me firmly plant a lighthouse on these rocky shores to warn you of the danger you now face.
Vines, and others, do not really want you to simply listen. Yes, that is where it starts, but it will not end there. Like other words with a commonplace meaning, the sirens of the same-sex seas have redefined what it means to, "listen." Rather than hear and understand, listening has come to mean, "hear and change your mind to conform with what you hear from me."
It is assumed that listening, now redefined, is a one-way demand. There is no agreement that suggests, "I'll listen to you, if you'll listen to me, and betwixt the two of us, we'll arrive at the truth." No, the demand is that we listen as Vines transfers <em>his </em>wisdom to we mere rubes in need of a good schooling.
Those are the rocks ahead. To put it in the context of the Odessey, if listening meant what Webster says it does, your boat could sail safely along, hearing, but not yielding to, the distant song. But, these Sirens lure you with a "listening" song until you dash the ship of your convictions upon their rocky shoals, shuddering the cargo of your convictions to be lost forever.
Do not be fooled by these requests to listen. It is a lure, bait meant to sink the hook of re-education in the school of the new tolerance.
Whose Voice Ought We to Listen?
In one account from Greek mythology, Orpheus managed to steer past the Sirens by pulling out his lyre and making music more beautiful than that of the Sirens themselves. Orpheus drowned out the very music that would have meant his doom.
Likewise, we have been given music more beautiful than Vines in the form of the sacred text of Scripture. Listen to it and the voice of the Shepherd. If you are a sheep of His eternal fold, you ought to recognize the voice of your Shepherd (John 10) as he calls to you. Listening closely enough to His more beautiful music will inevitably drown out any of the calls of the Sirens and bring you safely into the port that opens into his land of eternal delight.
Those of us that serve this Great Shepherd of the sheep, let us make a joyful noise (Psalm 100) as if we were the lyre in the hand of Orpheus. Let us make music far more beautiful than that of these Sirens of the same-sex seas and so draw others to the Light of the World (John 8).