Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Risk of Patronization

This article is making the rounds on Facebook. There is a lot of lively debate, as you can imagine. One big discussion point is whether it is overly 'patronizing' and whether Christians should be 'patronizing'. What do you think?

Some of you fundamentally disagree with the premise of this article - that homosexuality is somehow inferior to God's preferred approach to sexuality. Please don't upset yourself by reading this article, and please be very cautious commenting (comments attempting to change such fundamental components of each other's worldviews will likely struggle to have any constructive effects whatsoever).

But ASSUMING the premise is correct, I would like to hear suggestions on how you would encourage people into God's best, WITHOUT seeming patronizing. I struggle to do this - I don't want to be patronizing, I want to be humble, loving, and dedicated to pursuing the truth alongside my fellow struggling humans. But I can't seem to avoid it.

Maybe we CAN'T avoid it, because 'encouraging people into God's preferred approach to sexuality' ALWAYS WILL equate to 'being patronizing' (at least to some people). In which case we have three possible approaches:
  1. We could do our best to continue to encourage people in this direction, just accepting that we will appear to be patronizing to some people.
  2. We could stop addressing the issue, favouring 'bigger' problems like modern day slavery. But try doing this without appearing patronizing to those who promote slavery! Is there something about slavery that makes us willing to take the risk of patronizing someone? Is it conceivable that there could be something about homosexuality, that means we should also be willing to risk patronizing someone?
  3.  We could stop addressing the issue, favouring the 'ultimate' aim of 'just loving' everyone. In this case, how does this view of 'love' fit with God's (Biblical) concept of 'love'? Does 'love' automatically exclude all forms of apparent patronization? How does 'love' deal with the problem that homosexual people are not living in God's best? And how does the 'ultimate' aim of 'loving' people mix with the 'ultimate' aim of glorifying God?
I believe there are clear answers to all these questions, provided by God through Scripture, and supported by our natural sense of relationships, beauty, and logic.

  • To me, loving God means loving people, which means encouraging them into God's best, which means making every effort to speak the truth in a way that matches is beauty and avoids unnecessary distractions. 
  • This gets very complex, because it requires making every effort to avoid patronization AND speaking the truth whenever and however we think it will be constructive. And this requires accepting risks due to our fallibility - risk that we will be unnecessarily silent at times, and risk that we will be unnecessarily patronizing and so distract people from the truth at times.

Blanket statements and blog posts will automatically exaggerate these risks, because by nature they can't be as contextually tailored. Is this acceptable? Should we use blog posts to do this? What about letters to all Christians, or entire cities (like the ones written in the NT by the Apostle Paul)?

I'd like to hear your thoughts below!