In an open letter to conservative evangelicals at The Daily Beast, Jay Michaelson, a Prius-driving, vanilla-latte-drinking, gay rabbi who is married to a man, appeals to evangelicals to join him in opposing the sexualization and vulgarization of society and other signs of cultural decay.
You may want to read that sentence a few times.
Yes, a homosexual rabbi is appealing to Christians to help him stop the demoralization of America. He admits that he and evangelicals disagree about the solution to this problem; but he believes we are all agreed that there is a problem.
Although it’s difficult not to see a gay rabbi who has long campaigned for gay marriage and gay rights as a major part of the problem, there is one sentence in his letter to evangelicals that hits the bullseye of truth. Here it is:
The trouble is, you’re trying to solve cultural problems with political solutions—because politicians have convinced you to do so.
He makes the persuasive case that although the Republican party have never really believed or practiced evangelical Christianity, they have used evangelicals to get themselves elected in order to further their primary constituency – the super rich.
He then asks, “Which side of that partnership has won and which has lost over the last thirty or so years.” He answers by demonstrating the hyper-success of the ultra-rich, in contrast to the dismal defeats of numerous evangelical causes over the same period.
Not only is gay marriage now the law for over two-thirds of Americans while the value of marriage in general has been declining for decades; not only are television, film, music, and video games more vulgar than we could have imagined in 1980; but more Americans are declaring themselves “Nones,” that is, people of no religious affiliation, than ever before in our history. Sure, some churches are expanding, but overall, your way of life is in steep decline. In short, you are losing horribly.
Michaelson challenges us:
So, who is using whom here? Have the rich Republicans been good for you, or have you been good to them? I look at the alliance you’ve forged with these people, and I don’t understand why you’re in it. Their agenda keeps winning, and yours keeps losing.
Culture Not Congress
While denying that he’s trying to get Christians into the Democratic party, Michaelson warns “that this Republican claim that you can build a Christian nation through politics is bogus, and only serves their goals. You’re fighting the wrong fight. You should be making your case in culture, not in Congress.”
Michaelson urges Christians to learn from the LGBT movement’s failures and successes. When they took the political approach (campaigning for equal rights, civil rights, etc), they failed. It was only in 2000, when they moved into the cultural arena through personalities like Ellen and shows like Will & Grace that successes began gathering unstoppable momentum. And carefully ponder this line:
We went into churches and synagogues, testifying about our lives and our families. We changed people’s hearts, not their laws.
An Enemy’s Advice
It’s difficult to know what to make of this “friendly advice” from an enemy. I don’t agree that Christians should give up the political battlefield – there’s still an important role there for some Christians. I do agree, though, that too many of us have for too long “been trying to solve cultural problems with political solutions.”
Or to put it more accurately, we’ve been trying to solve spiritual problems with political solutions. We’ve petitioned Presidents and Governors more than we’ve petitioned the King of Kings. We’ve tried to change people’s laws, but forgotten about their hearts.We’ve also failed to testify positively and persuasively about our lives and families.
Apart from working towards a more winsome and winning witness, the best reply we can make to Jay Michaelson is not another open letter, but to print it out and use it as Hezekiah did when he received a letter with similarly mocking threats dressed up as friendly advice:
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God….Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone (2 Kings 19:14-19).