The Vice and Virtue of Rebellion: An Open Letter to My Students

For the past ten years, I have taught middle, high school, college, and graduate students just like you. During this time, a lot has changed. For one, I have learned a great deal through my own studies. For another, I have learned a great deal by studying you.

Society has changed as well. Most of you no longer read blogs. You will find this post through Twitter. You will read it on your phone. We are more technologically advanced at this period of history than ever before.

Some believe we are also more morally advanced than ever before. As I write this post, a rainbow colored banner covers the top of the page. Yesterday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled in favor of so-called “Same Sex Marriage” for all 50 states. The Internet is abuzz with celebration.

The hashtag #LoveWins is everywhere. So are rainbow banners, logos, and icons. The White House was covered in rainbow colored lights last night. Same sex marriage advocates can no longer claim to be the voiceless, victimized minority in this country. Support for same sex marriage has grown rapidly from a tiny minority in the early 2000’s to an overwhelming majority only ten years later.

Now, I mentioned that I have been studying you. When I teach, and when I listen, I learn about you, and I learn from you. You are actually quite intelligent. Anecdotally, I have noticed you are getting smarter. There is a tendency for my younger students to be even brighter than the ones before them. Your IQs are on the rise. Psychologists have confirmed my suspicions about your intelligence, and in particular, your heightened ability to follow abstract reasoning, through positing what is known as the Flynn effect. You are bright.

But the “arguments” I see for ethical positions on issues like same sex marriage, if they can even be called that, are nothing short of stupid. Yes, I know we are not supposed to say “stupid.” That is another thing I have noticed about your generation. You are far too easily offended, and act as though if you are offended by something, that automatically makes it wrong.

That is not how ethics work.

Might I suggest that you have been sold a bill of goods? Does your moral reasoning consist of nothing more than applauding popular memes and avoiding what seems mean? When someone resists your idea of right or wrong, do you take comfort in how many Likes and Favorites you get on Facebook or Twitter? Do you hide behind words like “tolerance” and “equality” and “unity” and “love” and “hate” and “bigotry” in order to suppress dissenting viewpoints? Do you refuse to think about criticisms at all?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you are engaging in what is known as “groupthink.” That just means you are a follower. A parrot. A conformist. You repeat what you see or hear other people saying. Then, the people within your subculture reinforce your beliefs.

This groupthink, no doubt, is what has spawned such a swift change in opinion regarding same sex marriage from what it was ten years ago to what it is now. While I have witnessed a general increase in intelligence in your generation, I have also witnessed a widespread failure to put that intelligence to good use when it comes to thinking about morality. What is right? What is wrong? How do we know?

Some of you answer those questions as conservative Christians who believe that what God determines to be right and wrong is, in fact, what is right and wrong. You know what is right and wrong because God has revealed what is right and wrong in his Word.

Meanwhile the cultural Christians believe in right and wrong relative to what their parents, family, church, and school told them is right or wrong. Perhaps they find homosexual practices disgusting, unpopular, or un-American.

And then there are the compromising Christians who jettison the right and wrong of Scripture and tradition for what feels right. What feels right is most often based upon what they have seen and heard on the Internet, in movies, and on television. What feels right is sometimes based upon inclinations toward same sex attraction. It is much easier to give in to these social pressures or lustful desires than it is to come out and say that homosexuality, as well as same sex marriage, are not God’s original design for sex and marriage and are morally wrong.

While celebrating same sex marriage is rebellion against Jesus Christ, it is also conformity with a sinful society. Where temptation once consisted in a desire to rebel against your God and your family, it is now content to rest in your unthinking amassing of peer approval. The problem with cultural Christians and compromising Christians is not so much the vice of rebellion as it is the comfort of conformity.

Rebellion, in other words, should now be thought of as a virtue. If you are a conservative Christian, and by that I mean a theologically conservative Christian, then you must rebel. You must rebel against society. You must accomplish this while being gracious and truthful. You must be clear and consistent in your convictions. You must stand out. And you must do so without compromise.

Christianity is no friend of comfort. If you are to remain faithful to Christ, you must redeem the virtue of rebellion. You will no longer be thought of as popular. You will no longer be thought of as pleasant. You will be hated and called hateful. These are probably a young person’s two worst fears. But God has given us a spirit of love, and power, and a sound mind.

So I am calling you out. Come be foolish with me. Now is the time to stop playing Christian and actually be one. Really believe what you say you believe. Be the rebel who lovingly sacrifices yourself for the sake of others. We do not hate homosexuals, but we do love God. God loved us first by sending Jesus Christ to die in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. We want the world to know, because that sort of love is the kind that actually wins.

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