ALEXANDRIA, La. – Public and political discourse in the United States has become, at the very least, discourteous and, at the worst, rancorous. From debates on the floors of our legislatures to exchanges on Facebook and Twitter, people seem to be conducting themselves in a less than civil manner.
There is an answer to our current contentious discourse, and though simple it is in no way easy. “Do unto others,” Jesus taught, “as you would have them do unto you.” Known as the Golden Rule, the teaching encourages individuals to act toward others as they themselves would want to be treated.
At the most fundamental level, the Golden Rule should encourage us to treat people, even those who oppose our ideas, with dignity and respect. We should be able to disagree with ideas, philosophies and political positions without resorting to name-calling or disparaging remarks. That’s why the following story is so encouraging.
Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and a nationally recognized leader in the homosexual rights movement, recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled “Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A.”
Windmeyer began: “I spent New Year’s Eve at the red-blooded, all-American epicenter of college football: at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, next to Dan Cathy, as his personal guest. It was among the most unexpected moments of my life.”
Windmeyer continued, “Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A’s president and COO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it. I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain’s giving practices.”
Later in his column, Windmeyer wrote: “Like most LGBT people, I was provoked by Dan’s public opposition to marriage equality and his company’s problematic giving history. I had the background and history on him…. I knew this character. No way did he know me. That was my view. But it was flawed.”
In his column Windmeyer wrote about how Dan Cathy reached out to him, initially through a phone call, and showed sincere interest in him as a person. The president of Chick-fil-A treated him with dignity and respect. It led to much dialogue and finally an invitation to watch the Chick-fil-A Bowl from Cathy’s box.
At one point in his column Windmeyer wrote: In many ways, getting to know Dan better has reminded me of my relationship with my uncle, who is a pastor at a Pentecostal church. When I came out as openly gay in college, I was aware that his religious views were not supportive of homosexuality. But my personal relationship with my uncle reassured me of his love for me – and that love extends to my husband.”
Windmeyer continued, “My uncle would never want to see any harm come to me or Tommy. His beliefs prevented him from fully reconciling what he understood as the immorality of homosexuality with the morality of loving and supporting me and my life. It was, and remains, an unsolvable riddle for him, hating the sin and loving the sinner.”
While it might seem like a riddle to Windmeyer, it is actually the grace of the Lord impacting a person’s life and enabling him to live out the teaching of Jesus to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Several years ago I had an encounter with a homosexual activist that, while short-lived, was similar to Windmeyer’s encounter with Cathy. I was at an event and wearing a media badge that displayed my name. A woman approached me. “So you’re Kelly Boggs,” the woman said. “Yes,” I replied.
“You write that vitriolic, anti-homosexual garbage for Baptist Press,” she said in a rather caustic tone.
“Well, I suppose that’s one way to look at it,” I said while smiling.
For the next several minutes we talked. I listened carefully to her concerns. She believed herself to be a follower of Christ and talked about her “evolution” on the subject of homosexuality. She also expressed dismay at how someone like me could be, in her words, so unloving.
I asked her to share specific instances where I had been unloving in anything I had ever written. She said she couldn’t. I then explained to her that I had nothing personal against her or her homosexual friends, I just fundamentally and strongly disagreed with her ideas and arguments.
I also made it clear that I primarily took issue with activists who pushed for the normalization and celebration of homosexuality. I also said that my conviction on the matter was rooted not only in the Bible, but also my understanding of biology.
After we had talked for about 30 minutes the woman said to me, “You know, you are actually pretty nice.”
“You sound surprised,” I replied.
“Actually I am,” she said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to speak,” She added, “But I am still probably going to disagree with most of what you write.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “Just keep reading.”
There is no doubt that public and political discourse is way too uncivil these days. While I have no control of those with whom I disagree, I do have control over myself. It is my strong desire to follow the teachings of Christ and to treat others, in print and in person, the way I would like to be treated, and that is with dignity and respect.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)