Lest it be misunderstood, I wanted to follow up on my post about the propriety of certain kinds of arguments in the immediate aftermath of something like the Connecticut tragedy.
The issue is not relevance, but demeanor and spirit, in this case measured by timing. The issue is not whether you are right, but whether you are right all the way down. If you do not know what spirit you are of (Luke 9:55), the wrongness down below will work its way to the surface, and one day you find yourself among the Westboro Baptists.
Suppose you lived in a neighborhood where a horrific murder took place, and the grieving family members were clustered on the front lawn. Suppose the neighbor on one side of the victim’s family was a salesman for security systems, and he believes that had they only purchased it last month like he asked, all this could have been prevented. And suppose the neighbor on the other side of them had a bad experience with that very same security system, and started to argue with the salesman neighbor about it. Does it really matter who is right?
Let me illustrate it another way. I believe I can say without controversy that I have dedicated a significant part of my life to getting Christian children out of the government school system. Those are my convictions, and I haven’t altered them. I am a declared and open foe of the whole system, as I think many may have gathered by this time. And yet, I want to say that Victoria Soto, the first grade public school teacher who gave her life for her students, was everything a teacher ought to be. There is no greater love than that (John 15:13). There is no finer teacher than that; she was no hireling (John 10:13). And I don’t care if she was a member of the Connecticut Education Association. If she was, then a member of the CEA crowned her teaching career with greater glory than I have done. If my politics on the thing blunt my ability to see that, I am more ideological than principled.
Dragging in irrelevant issues is obviously wrong-headed because the issues are irrelevant. Relevant issues — like abortion and gun control — need to be brought in at the right time, and at just the right time. If you crowd them in early, you come off like an opportunist trying to sell something. If you bring them up after the memory of the tragedy has faded completely, you have missed a genuine opportunity. If the security system salesman had a good heart, and a good security system, he would have had a long talk with his wife that night about what they do to make the neighborhood safer, and they would do so in a way that will likely be appreciated.
My father taught me many years ago that the point is to win the man, not the argument. If you win the man, the argument follows. And if you have won the man’s attention and respect, you will have the opportunity to present an argument that will be heard.
There are issues that we must address, and address in the near future. But I don’t just want to say them with no one listening. That is not a prophetic voice — that is just venting. In the aftermath of this, we will make decisions, and we shouldn’t make stupid ones. As we debate those issues, we must do so intelligently.
As Christians, we must begin with the gospel issues. We have to know and understand that we cannot cultivate a culture of death and expect life to be honored and respected in that culture. The abortion culture has had consequences, and if you compare the president’s recent remarks with his abortion record, the irony really is flabbergasting. We need to say so, but we need to say so at the right time — not because the issues are unimportant, but rather because they are crucial.
We will also debate gun control. But if people are introducing legislation before the funerals are held, the only thing we should say in response is that we believe that respect for the victims dictates waiting until a more appropriate time before we get into it. When we get there, which will be pretty soon, another issue (a relevant one) that must be placed on the table is the place of prescription drugs in all this — in the last ten years, out of all the school shootings by young people, what prescription drugs were they on? May we talk about that?
Yes. When the time is more appropriate, and that will be soon enough.