I want to start off this post by making it clear that I am a lifelong Bible-believing Christian. Not going to hide from that either–I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to pass myself off on anonymous forums as a homosexual atheist woman with a multicultural heritage to rival Kamala Harris but I don’t figure I could pull that farce off, and it’d only get me a tiny bit more credit with people whose opinions aren’t worth caring about anyway. I can discuss exactly what I mean by that in more detail but for the moment my point is that, if you’re just trying to convince me of something, the classic “God said so” is more than likely going to be good enough for me, or at least will weigh favorably on my personal scales.
That said, you’re not trying to convince me. I’m not trying to argue with people like me. When I’m making an argument, especially with someone who doesn’t see things my way, I’m not going to hold my Jesus card up my sleeve until it looks like things aren’t going my way and play it like it’s some sort of trump. This is primarily because, quite frankly, that does not work. The left has spent centuries trying to discredit Christians and portray them as Bible-thumping know-nothings who are just trying to “impose their morality” on other people, to the point where bringing your religion into a discussion of anything is practically game over–for you. It’s equivalent to a leftist crying “racist” except that when they call you on it, it actually works.
I’m reminded of a video that went viral of a homeschooled high schooler participating in a pro-life protest outside a high school and being confronted and berated by the high school’s principal. First of all, good on this kid for standing up for his beliefs, I do not mean to be unconstructively critical. As the principal got more and more angry and unhinged, the kid stayed calm and made some good points about both abortion and his own right to free speech… and then he said something along the lines of “you need to consider what Jesus would do” (I don’t remember the exact words). The principal’s whole posture changed and not for the better. He had been acting all along like he had the authority of his office on his side and not much else, getting more and more unglued as the video went on. After that argument from the teenager, however, the principal acted like the kid had conceded the point and admitted to being an ignorant reality-challenged dimwit, and thus the principal engaged again with the same derangement but also renewed ferocity. His arguments were still based in nothing but hate, but now he could attack religion itself instead of confronting the kid’s pretty decent arguments on free speech and abortion. The principal had a long litany of accusations and vitriol to throw and while they were no less deranged than his earlier nonsense had been they carried with them a tone of smug, mocking superiority. He basically filibustered the kid all the way from there. And the fact is the kid opened himself up to that blistering attack by making an assertion that did not help his point at all. Again, I commend this student for taking a stand and mean this only as constructive criticism.
No, it doesn’t work in reverse when a leftist wails “Jesus was a socialist” or “God doesn’t put up walls.” That’s just how it is people. Moving on.
Many if not most Christians understand that sooner or later, what we learned in the Bible gets borne out by history or science. The kosher code, for example, helped prevent foodborne illnesses in an era where refrigerators weren’t a thing. We’re at the point in history where we’re able to figure a lot of these things out for ourselves, whether it’s that socialism doesn’t work or that an unborn baby is a baby, but the problem with some arguments (especially the argument against abortion) is that it got framed early on as “you shouldn’t do this because the Bible says so.” Pro-life rallies and marches end up being revivals as much as they are protests, and who hasn’t seen a billboard on the side of the road with a baby’s face and a verse out of the book of Jeremiah that actually doesn’t prove a damned thing? The fact is that when legal abortion became a thing in the 1970s, science hadn’t bothered to really look into when human life begins because people just assumed like they had for millennia that a baby was a baby. Oh sure, we had a general understanding of how that worked but it was more of a curiosity than the centerpiece of a massive unresolved controversy. We had laws dating back to time immemorial imposing severe punishments for causing the death of an unborn child or harm to a child in the womb, so society’s position on the matter looked pretty clear and not in urgent need of settling. So science wasn’t ready to say “um, you know you’re legalizing murder right?” in 1973 because that was what rational people generally thought up to that point, until the children of the 60s became the low-information voters and overly vocal minority protesters of the 70s. And while it was important for good people (which in general does mean Christians) to stand up and cry out against this atrocity in progress when it happened, the problem was that they had a lot of moral authority but not a lot of scientific backup–not that the other side had either one, then or now. That legacy haunts pro-lifers to this day, not because there is anything wrong with being on the side of God and the Bible, but because arguments like “you make the baby Jesus cry” are as simplistic as they are seen as irrelevant and ignorant by the very people you’re trying to convince. What’s worse is they make you look stupider than the people who are arguing that killing a baby is okay.
That is the real crux of the problem. I know people who make these arguments see promoting their religion as every bit as important as promoting their politics, and while I agree with that, my point is that these arguments fail to do either. You discredit your own argument and your faith when you try to use Jesus as an I-win button. All that tells people is that A: your argument is based on mindless religious dogma, and B: your religion creates people who apparently can’t think.
The way out of this is not to use your religion to sell your beliefs but use your beliefs to promote your religion. To continue to use the abortion argument as an example, science has conclusively proven that human life begins very early in pregnancy if not at conception itself, the unborn baby is not part of the mother’s body, and many other points that are compellingly convincing (I’d get into them but that’s not the point of this post). Make your arguments based on them. Sooner or later someone will notice your calm, logical, levelheaded response to the frothing harpies screaming about “their bodies” and making internally inconsistent farcical statements full of words they don’t understand. They’ll see your composure and willingness to take a verbal (or even a physical) pounding on behalf of the innocent and some may eventually be moved to ask what motivates you, or might notice something like a cross on a chain on your neck, or they may simply associate you with Christians because that’s what pro-lifers tend to be. Remember that you’re not arguing to convince the harpies, most of the time they are beyond all hope of redemption, you’re trying to sway bystanders and people who are just listening in. In other words, however the opportunity presents itself, don’t use your faith to promote your beliefs, use your beliefs and how you live them to promote your faith.
To use one of the silliest things ever put into an overused phrase, What Would Jesus Do? Well, under the right circumstances he’d grab a whip and clean house, but most of the time, he’d just be nice and calm and civil and do good things for people. He would NOT go around saying “because I said so, THAT’S why.”