More on the media blackout of the Gosnell trial.
I have come to think it best for Christians to preach the Gospel, live like Christ, defend the weak, and help the suffering. Ours is the responsibility to be the voice on the outside speaking truth to power. Ours is the calling of John the Baptist, Paul the Apostle, and the millions of Christians who’ve come before us. We are to preach Christ and him crucified. That said, events of recent weeks have me concerned about religious freedom in this country. While I still don’t think our strategy should be to adopt the conventional culture war mentality, we are facing something now that we have not faced before. We need to struggle against it in the way we have always done when at our Christian best: by being like Christ.
For months now we’ve watched Christian institutions struggle with the new healthcare mandate. We are watching a privately held corporation owned and operated by a Christian family take a stand against the mandate and those provisions within it which they feel violate Christian morality. Who knows how it will turn out for Hobby Lobby?
Just yesterday we heard that well known Evangelical pastor Louis Giglio was uninvited to pray at the president’s inauguration. Technically, Louis gracefully withdrew. Why? Because he once preached a message about sin and repentance full of grace and truth and healing in which he called out all unrepentant sexual sin as the sort of thing that leads to everlasting death. His was a sermon like hundreds I’ve heard in my lifetime and have preached myself.
I believe a significant portion of Evangelism/Fundamentalism shifted its focus over the last 40 years to pursue political power as our primary means of societal transformation because, at the heart of it, we don’t really believe the gospel is enough to change this world. We have preached the gospel of the next politician promising us big things. We have preached the false gospel of the Christian Nation instead of the Kingdom of God. We have deluded ourselves into thinking this nation has a special place in the plan of God, and now we might be tempted to panic. While it may well be exceptional in terms of human kingdoms, if the United States left the stage of history tomorrow, it wouldn’t stymie God’s plan for His kingdom in the slightest. Compared to that kingdom, this nation is utterly unexceptional. We live in Rome, and like the first Rome, this one might well pass away.
(I had another post written up for today as I try to get back into the rhythm of writing, but given the tragedy in Newtown, CT I thought I would weigh in.)
Newtown, CT is a town I’d never heard of. It is a small place of about 2,000 citizens, and it has been the center of our attention since Friday. In the aftermath of the shooting, there has been much comment and opinion. I held off posting about it mostly because I wanted to sort out my own thoughts and emotions. Today felt like a good time to share.
It Comes From Inside Us
There have been a lot of opinions offered on the matter. Some have pointed at violent video games as a culprit. Some have talked about the need for better strategies for dealing with the mentally ill. The subject of guns will keep coming up. Some will make this a culture war issue. Politicians and pundits will debate. Maybe some conclusions will be reached, and maybe some positive moves will be made.
In all this, we will be looking for something to blame: poor mental health programs, lack of security in schools, violent entertainment, access to firearms, or that schools don’t force children and adults to pray to the God in which they don’t believe. It will be talked about as if this shooting is something from outside of us, caused by external conditions, and if we could just get those right this won’t happen again. Continue reading
Dorothy Sayers was a really interesting lady. Perhaps best known for her fiction writing, she also wrote on matters of theology with a whimsical and winsome demeanor. I’ve read a bit of her work this past week, and really enjoyed it.
In my reading I came across this paragraph. In it, Sayers is talking about human sin, and the Christian need for clarity on this topic. The less popular the subject becomes, the more important it is for us to be clear about it. Even though she was writing to a thoroughly modern culture and we are living in a post-modern age, the truth of her claim is still important and useful to us.
Read the quote, and we can discuss…
“The final tendency of the modern philosophies—hailed in their day as a release from the burden of sinfulness—has been to bind man hard and fast in the chains of an iron determinism. The influences of heredity and environment, of glandular makeup and the control exercised by the unconscious, of economic necessity and the mechanics of biological development, have all been invoked to assure man that he is not responsible for his misfortunes and therefore not to be held guilty. Evil has been represented as something imposed upon him from without, not made by him from within. The dreadful conclusion follows inevitably, that as he is not responsible for evil, he cannot alter it; even though evolution and progress may offer some alleviation in the future, there is no hope for you and me, here and now. I well remember how an aunt of mine, brought up in an old-fashioned liberalism, protested angrily against having continually to call herself a miserable sinner when reciting the Litany. Today, if we could really be persuaded that we are miserable sinners—that the trouble is not outside us but inside us, and that therefore, by the grace of God, we can do something to put it right—we should receive that message as the most hopeful and heartening thing that can be imagined.” Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? Continue reading
I had a mix of opinions about Pulpit Freedom Sunday. For one, I don’t like the notion that a government agency has power over what a pastor can and can’t say from the pulpit.
I have real problems when a pastor loses focus on his purpose as a proclaimer of Jesus Christ. Further, in this particular election, I have problems with both candidates, and without going into detail, my problems with each are significant to me precisely because I’m a Christian. (And no, I don’t have a problem with a Mormon president.)
That said, this post from the Internetmonk.com gives some good perspective on issues like this.
Earlier this week, I posted something from the Parchment and Pen blog about the idealized vision of America’s moral past. I happen to agree with Michael Patton completely. We do have this myth that America was more moral than it is now. This, I believe, is simply untrue. The form of immorality was different 100 years ago, but I’m not convinced we are that much worse than we have ever been. That essay and a few others I’ve read this week have me thinking again about America in this political season (will it EVER end?!). For my part, I’m tired of the rhetoric, and really want to focus on something more secure and lasting – like – I don’t know – the gospel. Continue reading
The “good ole days” are a myth, but we keep falling for it. Good thoughts from Mike Patton over at Parchment and Pen. Here’s his closing paragraph…
I don’t think America is going downhill morally. We have always been in the valley of depravity. Is our moral climate today THAT bad? Yes. But it is not THAT much worse than before, is it? God’s judgement was as deserved then as it is now. I just don’t like all the talk about how bad things have “become.” God’s grace sustains us now as it did then. Let’s keep improving and fighting for human rights, the family unity, sexual morality, and all these things. But let us also realize that we live in a broken world. No matter where you go in history, I don’t see it being too far “uphill.” And maybe we should tone down the fear propaganda in the church. It might get some donations here and there, sell some books, preach some good sermons, and get people fired up, but it also fails to take its cue from history.
Read the whole post…
(Edit 8/17/12: Because I put my foot in my mouth, and said some things I can’t defend, I decided to cut out the problem paragraph in this post. I was rightfully called out for it, and I’ve changed it.)
If you haven’t heard of David Barton, you should know that he is a self-taught and mostly self-published “historian” who is quite popular among conservative Evangelicals for his brand of history and politics. Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee love him. He makes the argument that America was founded, constitutionally speaking, to be a Christian nation, and that almost all of the founding fathers were Christians. No legitimate Christian historians I know of have high regard for David Barton’s work. Continue reading
From his book, The Myth Of A Christian Nation, Greg Boyd asks some pointed questions we need to consider.
…rather than spending time and energy defending and tweaking the civil religion, might it not be in the best interest of the kingdom of God to distance ourselves from the civil religion? Couldn’t one even go so far as to argue that it would be good for the kingdom of God if this civic brand of pseudo-Christianity died altogether? Isn’t one of the primary problems we’re up against in this nation the fact that Christianity has been trivialized by being associated with civic functions? Continue reading
Last Wednesday, I posted my objection to the culture war mentality as man-centered, power-taking way to solve the world’s problems. I was feeling a bit testy, and maybe left you with an impression I didn’t intend. For today, I thought I would give you some of my current thoughts about how I want to use my voice to advocate and agitate in the public square. What I’ve written here will possibly upset some of my readers, but if you’re going to grab the third rail, you might as well do it with both hands. It is also my birthday today, so I’m feeling particularly bold in my old age. Continue reading