The Challenge Being a 'Christian Defender' and a Social Advocate

By Rich A Rosendahl

America has reached its tipping point in many important ways.  This includes the rising emphasis on important Social Issues that many in our society are bringing to light and seeking to significantly change.  Issues like Misogyny, Islamophobia, Racism and more have been thrust into the spotlight and rightfully so.  At the same time, there is an emerging group of 'Christian Defenders' who are trying to wade into Social Advocacy as well, exposing an often incompatibility between the two.

What is a 'Christian Defender'?

This is any American who has a Christian background and feels a significant responsibility to defend Christianity. This includes those who feel the Bible or God has commanded them to do so in a book of the Bible called 1 Peter.  This also includes those who may not verbalize that they feel compelled to defend Christianity but tend to quickly bristle and become 'defensive' when something negative is said or implied about Christianity. 

While it's great to see more people engaging in Social Advocacy, and this should be encouraged and celebrated, a 'Christian Defender' often hits a wall of incompatibility.    

For example, imagine someone who Advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and is a 'Christian Defender'  At some point, Christianity's role in the harmful and hateful treatment of LGBTQ+ neighbors is going to need to be address.  When this happens, the 'Christian Defender' now has a dilemma, do they defend their faith or defend LGBTQ+ neighbors?  Often what ends up happening is the 'Christian Defender' deflects to something else, like pointing out something they or their church has done that is helpful for LGBTQ+ neighbors.  Or they may start the 'who is a real Christian, who isn't'.  Or even the 'it's not so black and white' or the fancier version 'we don't have to be so binary'. 

All of these common responses can help soothe the 'Christian Defenders' conscience but often (knowingly or not) deflect the issue away from what may be a key reason the issue exists in the first place, making change more difficult or even impossible.  When this happens one must wonder, for the 'Christian Defender' - is Christianity more important than the lives of those they are trying to Advocate for?

Whether someone is supporting LGBTQ+ rights or seeking to end Misogyny or Islamophobia, or opposing the proposed Wall or active Muslim ban, in each case, lives are literally on the line and the 'Christian Defender' must face Christianity's role in it all. 

This does not mean a Christian cannot be a powerful Social Advocate.  It also doesn't mean the 'Christian Defender' can't do a whole heck of a lot of good.  But as a former 'Christian Defender' myself, I can tell you, this can be a wildly hindering roadblock for anyone who is genuinely trying to Love others.  And often, it exposes the limitations or the conditions by which we are willing to Love others, whether we consider ourselves Christians, Followers of Jesus or Liberal or Conservative or anything else.

Let's take a quick look at some common statements, and accompanying ideologies, that often - but not always - indicate someone may be trapped in the role of 'Christian Defender' when Christianity is critiqued.  Probably the most common is 'Not all Christians____'  or  'Not all Churches_____'.  In addition to, 'but those aren't Real Christians', 'Christianity has been hijacked', 'We need to reclaim Christianity and/or Evangelicalism' and 'that's over generalizing', 'that's painting with too broad a brush', 'that's being Judgmental'...

By no means, does saying these things automatically mean someone is a 'Christian Defender'.  But it can be an indicator, not because of the words or phrases but because of the ideologies than can often be associated with them. 

Why should any of this matter? 

Like in the Movie and Book, Silence (that I highly recommend) when lives are on the line, the depths of our Love can often be revealed through our ideology and theology. Or more specifically, the actions we will or won't take because of those beliefs. 

So, for those who identify as Christians or Followers of Jesus, the next time Christianity is criticized for its contributions to harmful or deadly Social Issues, will you slip into the role of 'Christian Defender' maybe even using some of the phrases or deflections above?  Or will you resist the urge to unhelpfully soothe your conscience, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, and plant your feet firmly in the fullness of Love?