The View from Outside

Take a moment to read this article about American Evangelicalism’s relationship with the phenomena of divorce.

I don’t know if David Van Biema, the author of the above article, is a Christian or not but I’m going to take a guess and say that he’s not.

So what?

Nothing really, except that sometimes I find the perspective of outsiders interesting. The reason that I believe he’s an outsider to the Christian community is his choice of words, his phraseology. Take this sentence as an example:

The heated controversy provoked by the story showed how Biblically flexible some Evangelicals can be – especially when God’s word seems at odds not just with modern American behavior, but also with simple human kindness.

Consciously or not, Bieman has effectively identified two opposing sides in the debate on divorce: God and humans (particularly “modern American”s). It appears that from his perspective, God (as represented by Evangelicals) is both out of step and unkind in his opposition to divorce while Americans are both “with it” and kind by comparison. Or perhaps, his position is that Evangelicals are finally doing the smart thing by facing up to the facts and changing their position on the issue of divorce and then reinterpreting their holy book accordingly. These are two perspectives that I would expect from an outsider.

Another example of what seems to me an outsider perspective is in this sentence: “Evangelicals define themselves as being tightly bound by scripture.” Bound, like bondage. Slavery. Deprived of freedom. I can understand how an outsider might feel that Evangelicals are enslaved by their belief that the Bible is God’s word.

Don’t most slaves want freedom? Don’t the majority of them want to escape? From Bieman’s perspective, the article by Instone-Brewer in Christianity Today, “appeared to be its editors’ attempt to offer Evangelicals an escape from a classic dilemma.”

Finally, look at what Bieman suggests that a softening on divorce among Evangelicals could lead to;

“Flexibility on divorce may mean that evangelicals could also rethink their position on such things as gay marriage, as a generation of Christians far more accepting of homosexuality begins to move into power. “

As a Christian with one foot in the Evangelical community (and the other foot in his mouth) I can say with some confidence that Bieman has misinterpreted the situation. An increase in compassion toward homosexuals is not the same thing as an increase in the acceptance of homosexuality. Admittedly, it’s an easy mistake for an outsider to make.

I’m curious: How would insiders to the Christian community reading this post attempt to address what I’ve called an outsider’s perspective on:

  • the character of God and how it is revealed in the matter of divorce
  • the relationship between Christians and the Bible (pertaining to divorce)
  • the current attitudes of younger Evangelical Christians toward homosexuality

The comments are open.

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