Several of my friends recently attended a General Assembly of a denomination in the Wesleyan-holiness evangelical tradition. Social media posts featured many smiling faces, stirring sermons, and lots of friends reconnecting. I wish I could have been there. I’m sure that I would have seen another familiar face around every corner.
Controversy was stirred at this same event. The vendor hall featured display upon display of various ministries. One of the vendors represented a local church within the denomination with a rainbow-hued backdrop and the slogan “Love Wins. LGBTQ.” Alarms went off among the faithful. Myself included (see figure 1).
I don’t know the motive or agenda of the vendor. I don’t know if they are seeking to advance an LGBTQ agenda in their church. Apparently, they claim they are not. Attendees inquired and learned that someone in the church has been converted out of a LGBTQ lifestyle, and is launching a ministry to people grappling with sexual identity issues. While the ministry outreach may appear laudable, the ignorance of the symbolic use of words and colors is disturbing.
For years, I have observed as the church and para-church organizations have been so influenced by the prevailing culture that they/we have co-opted the symbols of the culture and made them our own. We follow the culture’s lead and use the word “gender” when we mean “sex.” We adopt the language of neo-Marxism liberation theology and use the term “social justice” when we mean “biblical justice” in the spirit of Christ’s mandate in Matthew 25. We use the world’s language to represent a Christian cause, and are shocked when the world’s baggage of meaning comes along with their symbols. Try as we might to sanctify the world’s language and visual symbols, we cannot. We are bound by the larger socio-political-cultural meanings. Gradually, we abandon our biblical principles in a quest to be relevant.
Some folks make this compromise in direct capitulation to the world. They surrender the battle field. They declare loss to the enemy. They are defeated, conquered. Others, attempting to be relevant, adopt a lexicon of talk and images that is so laden with the world’s agenda, they cannot communicate a redemptive, transformational message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are compromised. Whether one is the compromising actor or the one who is acted upon by the prevailing culture, compromise with the world’s sinful agenda is always wrong.
At Wesley Biblical Seminary we faced a symbolic issue in the summer of 2015. We had redesigned our logo in 2013. The new logo was a beautiful color presentation of a “W” for Wesley, an open Bible for the inerrant Word, a fish for the fellowship of believers (koinonia), a flame for the abiding presence of the sanctifying Holy Spirit, and a triangle representing the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see figure 2).
In the summer of 2015, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land, in its landmark Obergeffell v. Hodges decision. That summer, “Gay Pride” rainbows were everywhere.
One day, a Wesley Biblical Seminary teammate approached me with horror in his eyes. He showed me a photo of a rainbow hued condom wrapper that was being distributed at “Gay Pride” events (see figure 3). The proponent of the blasphemy was the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Wesley Biblical Seminary responded quickly with symbolic awareness, and distanced ourselves from any brand confusion with the LGBTQ agenda. We moved to a blue monochrome logo which we continue to use (figure 4).
Here’s the issue. We, as Christians, had better understand the significance of the symbolic world in which we live. Noah’s rainbow from God has been hijacked by the LGBTQ agenda. I would love to retrieve our symbol from the abomination, but we will not redeem or restore the rainbow to its proper symbolic place by further compromising its colors with the language of the world’s agenda.