**This is a personal view, not an Eternity view. Eternity is open to feature people who are both to the right and left politically within the Christian family.**

He’s the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, and an extremely polarising figure in Australian Christianity, but Lyle Shelton has just been named WORLD Magazine’s Daniel of the Year.

WORLD Magazine is a little bit like Eternity News, but in the United States.

WORLD has a strong record of journalistic independence – it has uncovered some great stories including investigating the secretive C Street centre in Washington that involved very influential politicians. WORLD recently called for Donald Trump to withdraw from the presidential race, but it is fair to describe it as a conservative publication. Along with Christianity Today, Charisma (from within Pentecostalism) and Crux (within Catholicism) it represents the most credible Christian media in the USA.

Each year WORLD identifies one Christian leader who has stood for truth in a way that resembles the biblical character of Daniel.

…when someone in our family is trying to speak up for Jesus in that sphere, perhaps our role is first to encourage them.

Previous winners include the Christians martyred in Libya by Islamic State (2015), China’s persecuted Christians (2012), Baroness Caroline Cox (2004) and Franklin Graham (2002).

Shelton has been awarded this honour because of his outspoken participation in the same-sex marriage debate in Australia.

“The Christian leader in this battle who takes the most heat, and yet maintains a civil public presence and wins allies when possible, is Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL),” writes Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD Magazine.

But not every Christian agrees with WORLD’s assessment of Shelton.

I have recently been struck, again, by how difficult it is to be a public Christian.

On almost every story Eternity News has run about Lyle Shelton and same-sex marriage in the last couple of years, at least one (and usually more) Christian has commented, saying something like, “Lyle Shelton doesn’t speak for me,” or more broadly, “the ACL doesn’t speak for me”.

I get it. I have been one of them. I don’t always love the tone and rhetoric I hear. And I confess I am unenthusiastic about the selection of issues they appear to spend most time on.

There is a type of Christian person out there who will get frustrated when I do not say to them what they already believe, in the language in which they already believe it.

But I have recently been struck, again, by how difficult it is to be a public Christian.

In my top drawer at work I keep a collection of letters and emails written to me in response to articles I have written. Many of them are guilt-ridden, a few say they expected more from me, some call into question my own Christian faith, and some wonder out loud whether or not I actually think the Bible is authoritative.

…he hasn’t talked about the Bible and Christianity the way I wanted him to. Because I would have done it differently, I think he is doing it wrong.

There is a type of Christian person out there who will get frustrated when I do not say to them what they already believe, in the language in which they already believe it.

In a way, this is what I have been doing to Lyle Shelton: judging him because he hasn’t talked about the Bible and Christianity the way I wanted him to. Because I would have done it differently, I think he is doing it wrong. I’m pretty sure that is just pride.

Speaking up for Christianity is something we should see more of, not less.

It’s not that disagreement is a problem – in fact we would have a wholly different problem if people never felt free to disagree – but I do wonder whether or not there is a better way to disagree than simply saying, “Lyle Shelton doesn’t speak for me.”

And I wonder if it is possible to support and even applaud Shelton for standing up for the Bible in a world that considers Christianity increasingly dangerous, even if we would express our convictions about the same book, in a different way.

Speaking up for Christianity is something we should see more of, not less.

The truth is that not many of us will occupy positions of great influence, at least not in the federal political sense, and when someone in our family is trying to speak up for Jesus in that sphere, perhaps our role is first to encourage them, and later to figure out how we will speak about the same issues in our own patch.

You never know, working towards Christian unity with Lyle Shelton might actually give Christians greater credibility to speak intelligently into the very issues we disagree with Lyle Shelton about.

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