A good friend in Christ recently told me he does not like to use the word “against” and concentrates on what we are for instead. His point was that we are often known for what we oppose instead of what we favour. I of course agree for the most part.
The context of this discussion was homosexual marriage, and I had mentioned a piece I had written on it called “The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage”. He said he wanted to be on the offensive, and promote what we are for, and what are the good things we can champion.
He is not alone in sharing such concerns. I have had many people saying the same things over the years. They want us to be on the front foot, leading the way instead of just responding and just defending territory. They argue that we have to be on the offensive, not just the defensive.
I of course know what they mean and I certainly concur – at least to a fair degree! Yes we should try more to emphasise what we are for, and try to let our voices be heard in a more positive light. But of course no matter how hard we try to avoid the negative, or play down what we are against, it really is unavoidable to speak of that which we oppose.
It is pretty much impossible to fully proclaim what you are for without at the same time proclaiming what you are against. The two almost always go together – of necessity. To favour something means you are not favouring that which is opposite to it. The examples of this of course are legion.
If I am for my wife (which I am) then of necessity I am against all other women – at least in terms of them being off limits as a marriage partner. To choose my wife has meant choosing against every other woman on the planet. To favour the one means to not favour all the others.
We of course do this all the time in sports. We favour one team, which means we oppose the other teams, at least when they are playing our favourite side. If you are a diehard Geelong fan then you are opposed to all their opponents. Your loyalty to just one side means disloyalty to all the others.
To favour vanilla ice cream means you are against, or not favouring, chocolate ice cream, at least on that occasion. Your choice for the one means you have not chosen the other. Of course in many areas to choose something does not mean you are against the others.
If I have a latte today that does not mean I will never have a cappuccino tomorrow. But on important things which you declare your allegiance to, those things which are opposed to that become things you are opposed to. Thus almost all important choices involve being for something and against other things.
And in the culture wars, there really is no way of getting around this. If you are for heterosexual marriage, you have to be of course against those things warring against it, such as homosexual marriage. The two are incompatible, and to favour the one means you reject the other.
Not to oppose homosexual marriage means you really do not care very much about the institutions of marriage and family. Indifference allows for an anything goes attitude. But those supporting things such as the institution of marriage must of course be against those things which are warring against it.
And this works out more generally as well. Consider the Ten Commandments. Most of them are against something (“Thou shalt not…”). Only two are for something, or stated in a positive fashion (the Fourth and Fifth Commandments).
Some folks might argue that Yahweh should have had a marketing guru to help present his case with a much more positive spin. After all, we don’t want to be known for what we are against now do we? Of course my friendly critics are not saying such things, but sadly many other Christians are in effect.
They are so against anything “negative” that they dump on you any time you are not positively affirming something. They think it is wrong for believers to concentrate on what is wrong with the world, and that we should just ‘accentuate the positive’. Well, the old 1944 hit tune by Johnny Mercer by that same name may have been appropriate back then, but biblically speaking it is only partially true.
The Bible is full of negative statements. If we only wanted to have the positive and uplifting stuff, we would have to cut out large slabs of Scripture. But I have written elsewhere about such matters: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/11/04/on-being-negative-or-positive/
Again, I am with my friends here. We need to think of finding creative and positive ways in which to make our case, especially in the culture wars. These folks are right to suggest that we should be known more for what we champion than what we resist. But in most of these contentious issues of the day, to be for something means automatically that we are against something else.
It seems that is the nature of the beast, and there is no getting around it. So yes, by all means, let us try to think up proactive strategies and aim for promoting that which is good. But to do so will always entail resisting that which is evil. Even Scripture constantly offers us these fixed pairs, as in Romans 12:9: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”.
Oh, and by the way, in addition to having written articles with titles such as “The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage”, I have also written pieces with titles like this: “The Case for Marriage”. So I seek to do both where possible. That may be all any of us can do in these battles.