I grew up in a place that is best known for being on the wrong side of history. If you know anything about Birmingham, Alabama you know about its tragic history of racial oppression that culminated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Although white churches in Birmingham had a great deal of power, most used that power to resist racial equality rather than achieve it.
My generation has a fear of repeating the mistakes of our ancestors. We want to be the ones marching for justice and equality, not the bigots unleashing the dogs and turning on the fire hoses. Those striving to discern the civil rights cause of our day have proclaimed that gay is the new black, and the result has been the acceptance of gay marriage at a rate more accelerated than anyone could have foreseen.
This simplistic view of history has many problems, as Rod Dreher and others have pointed out. We may look back at historical episodes and make judgments about the moral winners and losers, but hindsight is no guarantee of foresight. Our good intentions are no indication of how we ourselves will be judged by future generations. Fear of future disapprobation is not a sufficiently trustworthy method for making moral judgments in the present.
Instead of viewing history as a series of discreet moral battles, we should take a longer view. In addition to a right and wrong side of a particular historical clash, might there truly be a right and wrong side of history as a whole? To determine the crux of a contemporary issue, we must first determine the crux of history.
Crux, the Latin word for cross, is used in our English vocabulary to mean the most decisive point of an issue. For Christians, the etymology of the word is significant because we count the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as the decisive point in human history. Everything prior led up to it, and everything since should be influenced by it. The Cross is the crux of history, and it should be central to our attempt to understand the sins of past generations as well as our own.
The majority of white Christians in the South did not adequately apply the implications of the Cross to their relations with African-Americans. They didn’t affirm the good news that the Cross tore down the dividing wall of hostility not only between Jew and Gentile, but between black and white as well. They did not repudiate the sin of racism; they reveled in it. They failed not because they resisted liberal progressivism, but because they didn’t look back at the back at the Cross and apply its implications.
Christians today could fail similarly by ignoring the Cross in our eagerness to be on the socially acceptable side of history. Jesus died to set us free from the guilt and power of sin. If we seek and celebrate sin, we are pursuing the very thing Jesus died to save us from. The key question we should be asking in determining the morality of homosexual behavior is not how we will be viewed by future generations but whether or not the Bible warns us against it. If it is sin, it will lead to death. If it is sin, then encouraging someone with homosexual inclinations to embrace them should be as reprehensible to us as encouraging a cancer survivor to smoke.
We can choose to accept the morality of the majority, to land with the crowd. Or, we can step back and apply a biblical lens to history, looking back to the Cross and forward to the Judgment Day. There will be a right side and a wrong side on that day. Which side you are on will be determined by whether or not the Cross was the crux of your history.