Blessed are those who can disagree respectfully

Conservatives of all sorts have frequently been judged as “haters” by leftists of all sorts. Anyone who dares publicly state their belief in God or a traditional view of sex and marriage is liable to be rebuked by politically correct criteria that such views are “intolerant” or “bigoted.”

Repeatedly we are admonished that in our 21st century world that we should keep our religious beliefs private for the sake of peace. Religion/private and politics/public is a false dichotomy.

Bible-believing Christians and Jews regard the Ten Commandments as relevant today, no matter how unfashionable. When I have commented on some news blogs in recent years, I have been challenged to abandon such old-fashioned hateful notions. Often such challenges have come with colorful expletives and rebukes that self-professed Christians must love everyone and not judge anyone.

Some of my critics have cited Jesus, “And you must love the Lord, your God with all your heart, ….”   The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30 and 31). I agree. But when some demanded that I must affirm, “Gay is okay” and join them in the next Pride Parade, I disagreed. Can I do that respectfully? I think yes. 

Depending on the situation, I have sometimes explained that I agree with Genesis 1: 26-28 that God created humans in His image as male and female with the command to be fruitful and multiply, etc. and whatever else this means. This at least implies that I should love and respect every human, regardless of what they may believe, do or say. Understandably, I disagree with the truthfulness and morality of many things my fellow humans believe, do or say, as does everyone else.

When my critics appeal to relativism, the notion that today every person has their own “truth” and “morality,” I challenge them to prove to me that this belief is actually true and valid. If they appeal to some authority (e.g., some teacher or text) that advocates this, I ask them why they believe this authority to be reliable on this matter, rather than another authority who may hold a differing view. 

In recent years a highschool teacher friend of mine has invited me about ten times to take a guest class in his Grade Eleven ethics class to address ethical relativism vs ethical absolutism. Each time I’ve begun the class by asking the students to mark on their papers whether they agree or disagree with a series of ethical judgements that I have presented to them. 

Though student responses have varied widely on most of these, they have unanimously agreed with, “It is always wrong to torture babies for fun.” In my view all our class discussions have been respectful of every participant. 

Since January the Conservative Party of Canada has been in a contest to select a new leader. Four candidates have met the entrance requirements. Having explored the platforms of each, I have followed the Facebook discussions of Dr. Leslyn Lewis, a Toronto lawyer of 20+ years with three post-graduate degrees (MBA, MA in Environmental Studies and PhD in International Law), a black immigrant from Jamaica and a Bible-believing Christian. Her mainstream media interviewers have expressed shock that she would dare “reopen the abortion issue.” Her characteristically calm, respectful response is that she believes in the sanctity of all human life and in democracy and that over 90% of Canadians oppose sex-selective abortions. About that many also oppose coerced abortions and funding foreign abortions. 

She similarly explains her many other policy proposals, including reversing many punitive environmental and leftist laws passed by the present government in the past five years, especially those that have reduced the freedoms that Canadians formerly enjoyed when she was growing up here. 

For example, she would repeal C-16 with its required speech. She wants her children to enjoy free speech too. She also indicates that she does not march in Pride Parades but she has successfully defended LGBTQ+ clients in court.

On several Facebook sites, Dr. Lewis’ critics have complained that religion and politics don’t mix. To some of these, I have responded that just as there is no values-free education there is no values-free politics. Both politics and religion deal with values and human flourishing. Absolute separation between these two dimensions of any person's worldview is in principle impossible. The demand for such a separation seems to be a common strategy of atheists who claim no religious beliefs. 

However, they tend to be uninformed about non-theistic religions, e.g., Buddhism, Shinto, Confucianism, etc. If "religion" is defined functionally (e.g., worldview beliefs about human origins, purpose, morality and destiny) then capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, naturalism and atheism can also be seen as non-theistic religions. In addition, those who wish to ban all Canadians with religious worldviews from all governmental functions are making anti-democratic demands rooted in bigotry. I think I can say that as respectfully as Jesus’ forthright critique of the hypocrisy of his critics in Matthew 23.

Yes, we must always “…speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…” (Eph. 4:15). But our commitment to love should not inhibit us from speaking the truth in every dimension of life today. In truth, love is greater than faith and hope as Paul has so famously written (I Cor. 13:13), but this fact is an illogical diversion when making specific premises that call for evidence and explanation in a line of reasoning. 

Hence, I say, “Blessed are those who can disagree respectfully.” 


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About the author


Al Hiebert, PhD, currently serves as President of Growing Up In Christ, Inc. Previously he served as the first Executive Director of Christian Higher Education Canada, as Assistant Director of the Association for Biblical Higher Education and for 33 years as Professor of Theology and Philosophy, first at Providence University College and Seminary and then at Briercrest Seminary.

About the author