On a monthly basis I get the privilege of writing a column in the Twin Falls Times News paper. The paper has approx. twenty thousand daily readers (not including the online readers.) The privilege to write in the public square is a privilege I treat more like a responsibility. Not to the paper, not to the reader, not to myself but a responsibility to herald truth from the perspective of a minister of the Gospel.
This reality comes with a learning responsibility to guard my heart from reacting to reactions.
Case in point: Today, the Times News published my column entitled “Unromantic Duty“. This was essentially a blog post from about a month ago that I tweaked to a broader reader base, but still directed to believers. Usually I will receive an email or two from a column and a few social media “likes” and “tweets”, but rarely will a column generate a public comment. Today was a reminder to myself that I must discipline myself always.
The first comment came early this morning. As I read it I began to think I should probably respond. After all, he thinks I’m from the bronze age of mythology and a fascist for forcing my moral code on everyone. Then I wanted to take him to task for saying that he has “no problem with folks believing what they want.” No problem with folks believing what they want except for Christians. This began to show me that my reaction was going to be less about advancing the gospel and more about defending my feelings. So I prayed for him and others who won’t understand what I wrote about and consider it foolish to submit to the authority of God’s word. Good lesson to remember when in dialog in the public square. Speak as an ambassador of truth and resist defending self.
“The sooner we can move beyond allowing adherents of bronze age mythology form public policy based on tenants of said mythology, the better. I have no problem with folks believing what they want. However, forcing your moral code on EVERYONE because you’re positive that your god is the god we ALL have to listen to and obey is fascist.”
The other comment came later this afternoon.
With marriages not being a wholly religious event(meaning marriage ceremonies are not solely conducted by religious leaders or in churches), being conducted by government officials in government owned buildings, defining marriage as between a man and a woman based on the bible won’t work. With the separation of church and state in this country, how a civil authority decides to conduct civil unions/marriages is up to the civil authority, a.k.a. the voters. Now if a pastor decides that he/she doesn’t want to conduct same sex marriages as a private person in a private entity(a church) then that is completely up to him/her. But to say that “marriage” is an institution that only came from religion is historically incorrect. Marriages and unions were being performed by “civic leaders” long before Christianity, Judaism, or even Islam became widespread across the world.
Yes, both are examples of poor logic. They both miss the point of my column and make their comments about their own agenda. This is normal in a public forum dialog where readers are invited to comment. I like the interaction it provides but I also acknowledge that it affords itself to an ego feeding frenzy. It’s hard to make a point in a written forum that doesn’t quickly unravel into a total mess.
I do think that engaging in the public square by commenting on articles is an important place for a Christian to engage with truth. This engagement should be done carefully. This engagement should be done with purpose to show truth.
This engagement should be done with integrity, kindness, and gentleness. Followers of Christ must remember that we are strangers in this land and that we speak as ambassadors not residents.
The thing I’m learning about this interaction between author and reader is indeed a spectacular element columnist in the past would not have to contend with. Immediate interaction to a columnist provides a platform that quickly lessens the initial impact of the written word.
I’m thankful to write a monthly column in the public square. I’m thankful if my column helps the reader. I’m thankful if my column causes discomfort. I’m thankful if my column drives the reader to pursue truth in Christ.
The Times News has been generous to allow me and the others to continue writing. May the glory of the Lord be seen in the public square.