One of the unfortunate but unavoidable consequences of writing articles online is that there’s a detailed record kept every time I get something wrong. All I can do is write the truth as best as I understand it at a given moment.

But everybody grows, learns, and changes over time – or at least we should. And as my understanding evolves, some of the older articles start looking pretty bad. That being the case, it’s important to address those things and correct them.

The problem with political neutrality

One thing I got wrong was falling for “Third-wayism.” Third-wayism is the approach to political and cultural issues that rejects the left and right sides presented to us and strives to find some common, neutral ground. Tim Keller, a presbyterian minister and popular author from New York City, has been the biggest driver of this kind of cultural engagement. Whether you’ve heard of him or not, I guarantee you some preacher or writer you know has been influenced by his work. “Christianity is neither right nor left,” he and those like him will say.

But as the divide has grown so much bigger over the past 5 years or so, the failings of this ideology have become clearer and clearer. One useful analytical tool shows why.

Reading the Overton Window

The Overton Window shows why elevating neutrality to the highest good is a mistake. If you’re not familiar with the concept, the Overton Window is the range of acceptable discourse in political and cultural matters. There’s nearly always a left, middle, and right, and it’s always moving in one direction or another.

For example, the legalization of gay marriage once belonged on the left fringe of the window. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stood against it in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Just 6 years later the Obergefell decision was handed down and the White House was lit in rainbow colors. And, this year a number of conservative voices offered their congratulation to homosexual pundit Dave Rubin and his “husband” on the adoption of two children. In other words, in 14 years the Overton Window shifted hard in the leftward direction, dragging what formerly was a far-left position slightly into the right side of the window.

So, if the window is moving that hard to the left on so many issues, and yet we insist on maintaining neutrality, guess what that means about our position? We move wherever the window goes – leftward, in this case. Insisting on finding the middle ground at every turn means you’re going to be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14b). Our beliefs are not being determined by God’s Word, but by wherever the culture has pushed the Overton Window. An attempt to be above it all and “neither right nor left” keeps inevitably ending up on the left.

The issue of abortion drives this home perfectly. Keller recently posted a thread to Twitter explaining that, though the Bible is clear that abortion is wrong, there’s room for debate as to what should be done about it. Some people are going to want to outlaw it. Others don’t want it outlawed, but would rather the government financially support those who might seek abortions. So, in Keller’s equation, you say to-may-toe, somebody else says to-mah-toe, let’s agree to disagree and not make it an issue.

But if the outlawing of baby murder is not the time or place to take a stand and plant a flag, what is? If a Christian who says “I think abortion should be legal” can’t be rebuked, who can be? It’s in matters like this you see the grave error in striving to always stay neutral.

I’m not making the case that every Christian has to be a Republican, because there are certainly plenty of failings there. However, neutrality isn’t the answer, either. Truth is the answer. We stand for God’s truth on abortion, sexuality, race, and any other issue the world wants to debate.

In a society pushing the window leftward as fast they can, that might make us look pretty right-wing. But how we look to the world is not our concern, and that’s not really for us to decide. Our job is to stand on truth and let the chips fall where they may.

But won’t this drive people away?

What about our witness, though? Wouldn’t appearing to be on the “right” side of certain issues drive away the world?

First of all, we aren’t pragmatists. We don’t base our positions on popularity. If Jesus had done that He would never have been crucified. If the apostles did that there wouldn’t be a church today.

But secondly, the world are not a political and cultural monolith. Plenty of people outside of the church see the insanity of things like gender reassignment and child grooming. By putting our flag on God’s Word and showing a better way, we drive away some but attract others. The Gospel has its own way of offending and attracting. Let’s let it do its work.

Neutrality is not a virtue. Sanctimoniously declaring oneself “above it all” is not a virtue, either. Standing on truth is a virtue. Figure out what God says is true, stand for it, and let Him handle the rest.