If your social media feeds are full of Christian leaders then you already know about the fiasco inflicted upon all of us by World Vision’s board. After declaring that they would permit hiring of those with legal same sex marriages for their US offices, they reversed their position claiming that their constituents had helped them see that this position was an affront to biblical ethics.
Whatever one thinks World Vision should be doing in regards to the hiring of homosexual employees, this whole matter is a keen instance of the failure of Christians of all stripes to make decisions based on principled and theological commitments rather than political pressure and economics. Culture wars are dirty places to get dragged through the mud.
I don’t think we will know the motivations behind World Vision’s initial decision. Maybe it was a desire to appeal to the progressive Christians that would otherwise be drawn to their primary mission. Maybe there were particular employees that they were trying to accommodate with their policies. No matter the reasoning behind that initial decision, the latter decision was based on nothing more than political posturing. Conservative Christians across the country were calling for contributors to drop funding. This wasn’t about Scripture.
World Vision’s board can claim that their constituents helped them realize that their new policy was an affront to biblical ethics. But these leaders have, like the rest of the Christian leaders in our country, thought long and hard about issues related to homosexual marriage. The reversal of their previous decision is due to a lack of fortitude, not a biblical awakening.
I’m convinced that broad Evangelical support of the Republican party’s positions on economics and the poor is due to a similar pragmatism. Many of these persons care deeply about the poor. But they also care deeply about abortion and “traditional” marriage, and they are willing to accept political positions that exacerbate the plight of the poor and dehumanize immigrants because the Republican candidates agree with them on abortion and marriage.
It’s time for a clarion call for theological ethics and principled decision-making. We shouldn’t care what our chicken sandwich supplier or a reality show duck call salesman think about the ethics of marriage any more than we care what our other neighbors think about these issues. These aren’t theologians, pastors, or biblical scholars. They aren’t experts in social policy or law. They aren’t moral leaders.
By all means, let’s have a meaningful and intensive debate about theological claims regarding marriage. Let’s talk about biblical texts that call Christians to holiness and to compassion. But can we finally refuse to make decisions based on the opinion of the masses or economic consequences?
For what it’s worth, though I’m deeply concerned by how this entire matter has gone down, I think it would be a mistake for anyone to pull support from World Vision because they have fumbled this decision so badly. The question must remain whether their ministry is indeed declaring the coming Kingdom of God.