Civility in the Face of Hostility

The little family had gone to hear the speakers who had arrived in Albany, New York, to talk about the need to protect traditional marriage. But they soon found out how determined some people were that they not be allowed to hear this message.

As the family tried to listen, a group of men and women lined up directly in front of them, holding “rainbow” umbrellas and balloons, blocking their view. As the mother later told an interviewer, “I was scared in the beginning. After a while I figured their goal was intimidating me and my three children.”

If it was, it didn’t work—not there, and not anywhere else. The speakers were part of the “Summer for Marriage” tour, put on by the National Organization for Marriage. The speakers are traveling by bus to 22 state capitals to talk about the need to protect one-man, one-woman marriage. They are determined to engage the arguments of their opponents, and argue with civility and respect. In return, they’re being harassed, threatened, and bullied by same-sex marriage supporters who tried to shut down their events.

In Providence, Rhode Island, protesters shook bottles filled with rocks and shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!”  One angry man can be seen on a YouTube video threatening to kidnap the child of traditional marriage supporters.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a priest prayed for “our fellow human beings,” noting that in the church, “there is no place for gay-bashing or gay-bashers.” As he began the Lord’s Prayer, opponents—holding signs reading “homophobic bigots”–tried to shout him down.

In some cities, protesters have climbed onto the speakers’ platforms. They’ve screamed abuse in their faces. Police have been forced to intervene.

Now, if this is all news to you, I’m not surprised. This harassment has been ignored by members of the national media. But isn’t it interesting how little tolerance is displayed by those who keep demanding it from others? But members of the “Summer for Marriage” tour are right to keep things as civil as possible—just as civil rights workers did a generation ago, no matter what was done to them.

This is not only a good strategy politically; it’s a good spiritual strategy. In the New Testament book of Acts, we read of how Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for sharing the gospel. Instead of getting angry, they prayed and sang hymns. Their behavior so impressed the jailer that he accepted Christ.

Despite their hostile reaction to the “Summer for Marriage” speakers, I believe the loving response of the speakers can have an impact on the hearts of those who are showing up to shout them down—an impact that may one day bear spiritual fruit.

As Christians fight cultural battles, we must remember that the most important thing we can do is pray. This is why I am part of the Pray and Act Campaign, a group of Christian leaders in all walks of life who are inviting Christians to spend 40 days in prayer and fasting for our nation. The time of prayer and fasting begins on September 20. You can learn more about it by

And if the “Summer for Marriage” tour comes to your city, I urge you to attend, to listen with civility—and to pray for those caught up in a lie about sexuality.

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