It is not a compromise of moral integrity to work with someone with whom you disagree.
“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes, I have difficulty anticipating how people will react to what I write. I do everything I can to be as unambiguous as humanly possible while illustrating complex issues. However, it can be challenging to foresee gaps in the way in which I articulate my opinion.
My desire is that when people read my writing, they come out of it fully understanding the intent behind my arguments and positions—and I do my best to preempt potential misunderstandings.
Yesterday, I wrote a piece about someone I’ve looked up to for quite some time in terms of political opinion writing: Guy Benson. Just a few days ago, Benson came out as gay. In my piece (which you can read in full here), I argued that his coming out should have no effect on how he is perceived as a conservative.
Specifically, I wrote directly to Christian conservatives, who, as one would expect, might have difficulty with Benson’s disclosure:
“You may not agree with him regarding his beliefs on gay marriage, but you likely agree with him on his beliefs that religious freedom should be protected in the face of leftist bullies…you likely agree with him on nearly every political issue outside of gay marriage…disagreement on one issue should not preclude one from being in the ranks of conservatism.
However, this is not to say you must agree with him on gay marriage either—it’s a balance.
He’s a conservative, and although his views on one or two issues may differ from yours—even in the extreme—you likely stand on 95% of the same ground. Are you willing to push him off the ledge for that five percent?”
To me, this was clear as day. As a Christian, you may believe that homosexual behavior is a sin, because it says so unmistakably in scripture and, as an extension of that belief, you may believe that same-sex marriage is culturally dangerous. However, this shouldn’t preclude one from interacting with and forming coalitions with those who believe otherwise on that singular issue.
Not every conservative is a Christian, and we need to be gracious in our interactions with others who don’t believe the way we do. This doesn’t mean that you cannot make your opinion known regarding the issues over which you disagree—conservatism thrives on rigorous debate, and any fellow conservative should be thoughtful enough to listen to what you have to say.
I didn’t write this out explicitly in the piece, because it was not only stated in other ways, but heavily implied.
Though I don’t often read comments, I was curious to see how this piece was perceived by those who read it. After reading numerous despicable comments (truly awful), I came across one in particular by a person I will refer to as “J,” that was not only extraordinarily condescending, but completely missed the point of my article.
Take note of the numerous spelling and grammatical errors (I’m just gonna throw in a dose of condescension right back at him):
After reading this comment, my blood boiled. I hate being misunderstood, but even more than that, I hate being responded to with condescension. However, I will be admittedly hypocritical here, because my response is definitely sarcastic. Oops.
1. Never in my piece did I imply that one must place “UNITY” above “seemingly abstract concepts of integrity or truth.” I neversaid that Christians should hide or betray their beliefs for the sake of UNITY (caps-lock makes you look smarter). I even explicitly said “this is not to say you must agree with him on gay marriage either.”
To not agree generally implies an understanding of disagreement between or among parties. That seemed clear enough to me at the outset, but J either read my piece with a shallow understanding, or with deliberate intent to misunderstand.
2. I never mentioned the word “compromise.” Not once. J implies that not banishing Guy Benson from the ranks of conservatives is a “compromise,” which sets aside integrity and truth for the sake of not appearing “bigoted.” That’s an entirely different idea, oceans away from what I was writing about.
A Christian conservative can say, “In accordance with my faith, I cannot condone your personal behavior,” and still move in the same political stream as someone who disagrees with that sentiment. There are numerous values and issues that comprise conservatism, and to interact with someone who disagrees with you on one of those issues is not a compromise of one’s integrity.
To have stated and understood disagreements between individuals while still working together on other issues does not constitute a compromise of integrity and erosion of truth.
3. My response to J’s final paragraph could simply be summed up with me putting on my best little moron voice and sarcastically saying “Really? It’s by God’s standards that we’re judged? Satan mixes truth with lies? Well gosh, thanks for saving my eternal soul, cause I didn’t already know that!” I guess I’ll go into more detail, however.
Once again (and I’m only repeating this because it seems repetition is the order of the day), supporting a fellow conservative who happens to be gay does not constitute a compromise or erosion of one’s integrity. Disagreements can be well understood, and people can still behave with respect, working together toward other common causes.
Behold, these are not mutually exclusive ideas!
But thanks for your input, J. In the future, I’ll try to be less ambiguous.