The Cost of Conscience in the Culture Wars

At the time, Michael Lindsay had no idea he’d just lit a fuse that would threaten to explode his institution.

As the president of Gordon College, a Christian school near Boston, Lindsay simply joined other Christian leaders in signing a letter to the White House, concerning a proposed employment rule about hiring homosexuals. The private letter was released to the media, and a firestorm ensued.

Lindsay found himself the object of waves of hate mail, his college’s accreditation was questioned, longtime supporters of the college fled, new student enrollment dropped, and budgets had to be slashed.

All because he wished to hold onto the institution’s long-held convictions.

It cost him and his school dearly. “It was a debilitating, hurtful, painful episode in my life,” he says on the Holy Soup podcast. “I found myself waking up with a pit in my stomach. I lost weight. I lost sleep. I shed tears. This has absolutely been the loneliest season of my life.”

Listen to the compelling conversation with Michael Lindsay here:


At this time of societal upheaval, those who take positions that differ from fervent cultural or political movements often find themselves in the cross-hairs. And, as in Lindsay’s case, even when one makes subtle and quiet moves, the opposition is ready to unleash a torrent of attacks. Some of these will undermine the viability of some churches and other faith-based organizations.

Lindsay learned a lot from his experiences. And today’s churches would do well to think carefully about how to handle the hot issues of our times.


  1. Churches and other faith-based organizations should anticipate a strong opposing response to currently controversial positions. Some opposing voices don’t simply want to be heard; they want to damage those with whom they disagree. Christian organizations need to understand the possible costs of taking various positions.
  2. Talk with the “other side.” Lindsay said, “It’s so much harder to demonize people when you know them as human beings.”
  3. Get ahead of it. Talk with your people, fully discuss the issues, and prayerfully establish positions on things that really matter. Know where you stand–and why–before trouble comes.

Wars are messy–including culture wars.

16 Responses to “The Cost of Conscience in the Culture Wars”

  1. These statements by Michael stood out for me: “The Gospel is both an offense and unstoppable.” “The end of a comfortable cultural Christianity.” “The crucible has a way of uniting leadership teams.” “I have never prayed as ferverently or as passionately or as ‘longly’ as I have the past year.” “Part of the maturing of my heart involved the process where the pain, (even the anger and bitterness) was supplanted by godly love.”

    Michael’s brokenness comes through. When we let ego go, the Holy Spirit can freely flow and redeem our pain for His glory.

  2. True Christians will stand for the Gospel and all scriptures no matter the cost.

  3. It’s heart breaking to hear what Lindsey has gone through. It sounds like his intent was not mean spirited, but it was interpreted otherwise. The most profound reflection he shares in this blog is #2 “Talk with other side. It’s so much harder to demonize persons when you know them as human beings.” Homosexuals are not the enemy, but oppressive discriminating behavior is. When we talk to people who are not like us, we have more opportunity to discover God at work in all of us. I’m so proud of Lindsay for being able to survive and yet give personal reflection for growth. John Wesley said, though we may not think alike, may we love alike. May the message of Jesus’ love continue to permeate the world.

    • We Christians are to be kind and considerate to gays but not to condone or accept the sin of practicing homosexual. Gays are not born that way.

      • Bill, I’m curious why you went straight to sex? Also, I respectfully disagree with the notion that gays are not born that way. Have you talked to a queer person and asked them? Have you talked and listened to their story? Being kind and considerate is polite, but don’t forget what Jesus said, Love God, Love neighbor. Kind and considerate is not enough.

  4. I definitely agree with getting ahead of it. Unfortunately, attempts to do so in some churches is met with a brick wall as they seemingly live in a bubble that they don’t need to deal with certain issues or they are incredulous at the thought that they should change in any way or that they have anything to learn.

  5. Really. Acting according to his convictions cost him, it was debilitating. I have lost jobs for acting according to my convictions, and I was responsible only for myself. This man is in a position of authority and the representative of his institution. Of course it was costly. It was costly to Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Harvey Milk, Cesar Chavez, students at Kent State, Benazir Bhutto, Nelson Mandela, Oscar Romero, and countless others who acted according to their convictions. I admire Lindsay for doing so, but it was not as costly to him as it was to so many others.

  6. This podcast was a half-hour well spent. Michael Lyndsay’s crucible experience and his response to it are are both instructive and inspirational. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone in a position of Christian leadership.

  7. If Christians don’t stand up for the scriptures as written in God’s Holy Word…you might as well just resign yourself to hell with the rest of the world. God’s Word is very clear on what sin is and that we as Christians are not to have any part of it. Hate ?? NO!! And I will never deliberately call someone out for their beliefs or be mean to them. But follow the Word of God and stop being afraid to offend others that DON’T follow it. They sure aren’t afraid of offending you in any way. They persecute you for believing the Word of God. They persecute you of you don’t want what they do stuffed down your throat. Others can live a s they wish and sin as they wish, it I refuse to have it shoved in my face at every turn of every corner. I WILL stand for what I believe God says in His Word.

  8. Be bold to preach the gospel, the Word of Yahuah at all times and in every places and under severe persecutions even if it will cost you dearly as your rewards in Haven is great. Be steadfast and Stand strong in His Word for HE will deliver you. Everything we owns are temporal. No regrets but trust Yahuah for salvation belongs to Him. Shalom.

  9. Wisdom is vital – especially on sensitive issues of the world. Before we act,
    We are instructed : to be subtle as the serpent but harmless as a dove. to shake the dust off our feet when the gospel is rejected, Not to give holy things to dogs and don’t cast our pearls to swine lest they turn around and bite us. Not to be conformed like the world. Do good to eschew evil. Bless them and not curse them that persecute us. Judge not the world for vengeance belongs to Yahuah. Tribulations is inevitable but be rest assured we already have the peace from Christ. Seek not our own wisdom but seek Christ for wisdom. Shalom.

  10. If a strait man were to want to go spend time in a gay club, they would be questioning him as to why he would want to be in a place he would not fit in and make the attempt to push him away. Why a strait man would want to go to a gay club or a club on gay night makes as much sense a a gay individual who would want to work at a Christian institution that teaches against such a lifestyle. This is an article that has the reverse problem :

    Basically, you have to be thick skinned and tough. If you don’t believe a lifestyle to be right, just say it and let who ever call you every name in the book. The problem lies in that churches or religious institutions get a tax exemption or set up as an official business which gives the government the ability to dictate certain things. All business has to follow discriminatory laws. The problem is the church is a well integrated part of the world.

  11. CW commented on Facebook: “I’m sorry to hear about what happened with Michael Lindsay and Gordon College. I disagree, based on the way I understand MY Christian faith, with their position on hiring, and I’m also disappointed that people would bring injury upon an institution and people over these differences. I’ve endured that treatment myself, and it’s as painful as Michael Lindsay describes. May God bless us all.”

  12. Excellent article Thom!!

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