Let me say right out the gate that this post is not a slam on boldness. I think in our present cultural moment there is a need to be bold and stand on Christian truth. There are cultural pressures at work that seek to undermine the fabric of Christianity and an increased hostility towards an historical witness of the Christian faith.
In recent years, I’ve observed how positions on issues are more determined by what is felt, particularly with a group identity at stake, than what actually is, especially when you have Christian doctrine and ethical applications at stake. People, even Christians, are being swayed by the mood of arguments, over objective reality. It can be hard to speak into this paradigm but necessary nonetheless.
Scripture calls us to speak truth in love. That means we should be willing to say what needs to be said in the face of opposition particularly when we believe an erosion of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy is at stake. We should be willing to defend the faith against people and ideas that oppose it.
But we may not always be prone to correct or address, especially in polarizing environments like you find on social media. We may have experienced backlash for daring to speak against troubling trends that contradict a robust Christian worldview. We may be fearful or anxious to address elephants in the room, especially when it could be deemed racist and supportive of white supremacy on one hand, or capitulating too much too secular culture, on the other. We don’t want to appear unloving to our neighbor, whether that be in consideration of immigration policies, ethnic considerations, or the same-sex attracted person.
So we appreciate that bold truth teller. The one who seems to abandon any kind of hesitation to speak to the issues of our day. They say what needs to said without fear of reprisal. They take on people or groups and proposals they deem flawed and contrary to a Christian position. They will address the elephants in the room. There is just something about this kind of boldness that is appealing especially when we feel short of courage to be so brave.
But just like anything, an attractiveness to boldness can be an idol. We can become so enamored with the bold stances that we lose discernment of when an honest desire to preserve Christian truth turns to hubris and bad faith arguments. We can misconstrue opposition to people or proposals as faithful to the Christian task because its done “in Jesus’ name.” We can miss when the stances become more about taking down others than upholding the beauty of Christian truth because our vision is blurred in the applause.
Like us, the bold ones we uphold are flawed and may not see everything with crystal clarity, especially when there is a particular agenda at stake-the agenda against white supremacy, against CRT/”wokeness”, the agenda against LGBTQ intrusion into the church, etc. And to be sure, agendas can create certain biases that disable us from making good faith distinctions where necessary, even more so when we exalt their spokespeople. That’s not to say that opposition is not warranted when sin and contrary positions are involved. But we best be careful to render judicious evaluation lest our icons become idols.