Following the Phil Roberston/Duck Dynasty snafu, I had a discussion with my teenage son (nearly 17) and his good friend and next door neighbor (almost 18) about homosexuality, Christianity, and navigating these waters in the increasingly complicated public square. Our talk occurred late at night while we were watching Rebel Without a Cause on PBS. Young men with pressing questions about Christianity, homosexuality and pluralism amid a James Dean flick during Advent? Interesting combination to be sure. But I was up to the task.
Given that Roberston’s trouble began by 1.) agreeing to be interviewed by GQ and 2.) being asked by the interviewer, “what, in your mind, is sin?” I simply asked my son how he would have answered that question. With little hesitation he responded, “sin is disobeying or not keeping God’s laws in any way.”
Surely my son didn’t come up with this answer on his own. He needed a little help, which he received from a catechism we’ve used with all of our kids. A longer answer comes from the recent New City Catechism, which answers the question “what is sin?” this way:
Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
Suddenly, Roberston’s root problem became clear to me: he wasn’t catechized.
How do I know? Because he wouldn’t have responded as he did, i.e. wrongly beginning with a specific sin (in this case homosexuality). Instead, using a simple children’s catechism he could have answered the question “what, in your mind, is sin?” that, far being cold, canned, and clinical, was instead a helpful point of reference to better inform his answer.
This is part of the beauty, and necessity, of catechisms–learning biblical truth about God and humanity not only for ourselves, but also as a point of reference while in conversations with others, many whom are curious, skeptical, or hostile about Christianity and its place in the modern world. A catechism combined with wisdom, tact, grace, and a dose of shrewdness is a surprisingly effective tool in the public square.
So do yourself, your kids (if you have them) and others a much-needed favor: catechize. Among the many benefits, you will likely avoid stepping into a trap question and becoming a lame duck.