Monday, August 24, 2015

Don’t Bury the Lede

In newspaperese, a “lede” (or sometimes “lead”) is the introductory section of a news item. Its purpose is to entice the reader to continue on, enjoying the rest of the story.

Thus to “bury” a lede is to begin a story with details of secondary importance while postponing more essential information.

There’s a video up on the YouTube website that was posted back in May. It shows camera phone footage of a middle-aged, nerdy-looking evangelical doing some street preaching on the campus of Arizona State University. He is holding a sign that appears to read something like “Warning: Homosexuals, etc. will burn in hell”. The preacher is abruptly assaulted by a crazed student who, along with many profanities, shrieks out, “You call yourselves Christians!”

The particular evangelistic technique that provokes this outburst is what I call “burying the lede”. Among other things.

Triggering the SJWs

Hey, the raging student is quite clearly off his nut. In social justice parlance, he has been “triggered”. He throws punches, howls and screams, while the offending evangelical with the sign urges his hulking, red-shirted companion “Mark” not to hurt the student and to let him go, whereupon the freed student immediately re-assaults the street preacher.

Not something I’d want to associate myself with. Not a “win”, in any way, shape or form. Sure, you can do such things while claiming to be a “preacher of righteousness” like Noah.

But this is not the age of Noah.

What’s the Lede?

While it’s certainly true that all unrepentant sinners — thieves, adulterers, liars, drunkards, slanderers, the proud, and yes, homosexuals — will burn in hell, I cannot see how it forms the single, most critical component of the “good news” all believers are commissioned to spread throughout the world. One may well make the argument that it is not good news at all.

But aren’t we to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you”? And wouldn’t that invariably include teaching them that homosexuality and other sins are displeasing to God?

We certainly are, and we absolutely should. But the word “them” in Christ’s command to his followers refers back to the world “disciples”. A disciple in this context is an individual who has professed saving faith in Jesus Christ and has been baptized. Absent the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have neither the motive nor the ongoing self-control to obey the commands of scripture or to seek the will of God. Even if we were to miraculously blunder into behaviour that roughly approximates the will of God, we would still have achieved nothing beyond a futile legalism since without faith it is impossible to please him. But this is impossible since without the Holy Spirit we do not even possess the ability to fully comprehend the commands of God, let alone grasp the reasonability, love and holiness with which they have been given to us.

In other words, as distasteful as they may be to us, I’d suggest that the world’s sexual habits are very much a secondary consideration in the public presentation of the gospel.

Who and What We Are

With the possible exception of sociopaths and psychopaths, most of this world’s sinners already know what they are, even in a day in which we pat one another on the back and excuse, extol or celebrate virtually everything.

But the specific violation of God’s character and word in which each sinner engages is not terribly relevant to his or her eternal destiny (unless of course you believe in a hierarchical hell with greater torments for particular infractions). Consequently, singling out trendy and common sins to attack in the hope of prodding dull consciences seems to me off-message at best, and possibly quite counterproductive in the long run.

I contrast this preacher’s method of choice with that of two young believers who, years ago, approached my cousin on his college campus and politely inquired whether it would be okay to speak to him about Jesus Christ. Today he is a saved man and the head of a Christian home.

Anecdotal, I know. Still, I think that, for those who proclaim Christ, burying the lede is a really, really bad idea.

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