At this point, I’ve heard it all:
- “Stephen, you’re a bigot.”
- “Stephen, you’re ignorant.”
- “Stephen! I did read the bill, and you are such an arrogant jerk for pointing out that so many people didn’t read it.”
- “Stephen, you obviously have no credentials, so you should keep your opinion to yourself and let the lawyers handle this.”
- “Stephen, you really don’t understand Christianity at all. I’ve never met you, but please let me ‘lovingly’ correct you because I ‘really care’ about you.”
- “Stephen, here is why I think you are so stupid. And don’t you dare respond to me because I never want to ever hear from you—ever.”
- “[Insert any other argument here, explaining how different Indiana’s RFRA is from every other RFRA ever passed]”
Now, I respond. But first, let me introduce myself. I am Stephen Warner—yes, that guy who wrote this blog post—the one that went crazily viral in Indiana for like 3 days. I’m still not sure exactly how that happened, but it did, and I want to share with you some of the aftermath I experienced from the post, as well as my response.
Initially, when I realized how much attention my blog post was getting, I seriously was not happy. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. It was the weirdest feeling ever! It was getting over 100 views a minute, and at one point, it was the third most popular WordPress blog post in America. I had no idea why. I was shocked to see it getting so much attention, and mostly, I was just shocked that so many people actually cared about Stephen Warner’s opinion—my little opinion. I’m just a college student and a youth minister. That’s all I am. I’m not even a blogger! Of course I was flattered by the positive response, but I dreaded what was inevitably coming my way next: hate mail. So much hate mail. And let me tell you, it came.
The feedback I received was all over the board. There were hundreds of comments and emails, and a great majority of the feedback was positive. The overwhelming consensus from people who contacted me and shared my post was, “finally, someone who can put into words what I’ve been thinking all along!” But despite all of the positive feedback, the responses that seemed to stick with me the most came from critics. My mailbox was overflowing with criticism, and the quotations I used to introduce this post are variations of the many criticisms I have received. I’ve never experienced hate mail on this level before, and it’s totally weird.
But it was more than just the hate mail. News articles and blog posts started surfacing. I was quoted by a dude with a Ph.D. People sent things to me—articles almost directly quoting my blog post and attempting to refute everything about it. It was kind of cool, and it was kind of hilarious. It was like they were asking me for a debate. It was crazy!
And let me tell you, with everything inside me, I couldn’t wait to respond. I couldn’t wait to put out a follow-up blog post refuting every single one of those criticisms. Of course I’m not a legal expert, but take note that there are conservative lawyers and liberal lawyers who read the same legislation in question and still strongly disagree with one another on the correct interpretation. Some of you have been easily convinced by someone on one side of this issue simply because they were emotionally, intellectually, and maybe even spiritually persuasive. That is what’s driving this whole thing—not credentials, but persuasion. And that’s why my blog post got so much attention. It was emotionally engaging, logically thought out, grammatically correct, and spiritually aware.
In my observation, how something is said is very much more influential than the actual information being conveyed—that’s just how society works. It’s all about knowing your audience and understanding how to persuade them. I may not be a lawyer, but I can hold my own in a good old-fashioned debate. And now, I’m ready to go. People have publicly disagreed with me and scrutinized my every word, and it’s time to defend myself. Buckle up and get ready for the ride, because it’s going to be fun. Controversy is fun!
No. Not today. Today, I refuse to debate. Today, I restrain myself. The reason? It’s quite simple: I’m different from how I used to be.
I used to thrive on conflict; now, I strive for peace and love.
That was the real reason I wrote the blog post in the first place. And if you’ve seen any of the recent things I’ve written, you’ll probably notice a similar theme; no matter how confrontational and sarcastic I come across at times, I am almost always doing everything in my power to convince people to just love each other!
My commentary on Ferguson was written in an attempt at encouraging racial reconciliation. My post about same-sex marriage was written to unite Christians with people who experience same-sex attraction (two groups who should never be seen as mutually exclusive). And if you read my recent post about the general public’s response to the RFRA, you probably understand how badly I want Christians, both liberal and conservative, to unite for the common good.
And I’m speaking to Christians now: Let’s unite God’s people!
That’s really all I want. I want unity, I want peace, and I want love. I want Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Arabs to love each other. I want people who identify themselves as straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual to love each other. I want sinners to gravitate toward Christians the same way sinners gravitated toward Jesus because of his unfailing love for them—not because he condoned their behavior, but because he showed them much he loved them despite their behavior. I want to see the hands and feet of Jesus at work. I want to see lives changed by the love of Christ, expressed through the actions of his Church. I want to see the kingdom of God active here on earth!
Let me share with you my loyalties: I am loyal first to Christ, second to my family, third to the Church, fourth to my country, and never to a political party. To be an active part of the kingdom of God means to put His kingdom above all earthly kingdoms. When Jesus was with his disciples, he told them “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And if Jesus believes the kingdom of God is at hand, then why don’t we?
As Christians, I think we spend way too much time waiting for God’s kingdom to arrive and not enough time pursuing it. Imagine what we could accomplish if we stopped sitting around waiting for God’s kingdom to arrive and started actually building His kingdom together!
Christians, I beg you, join me today in building His kingdom together.
God bless you.