The Christian Church in Revolutionary Times (2)

identityWhat is the Core Issue?

At the top level this potential revolution is about the clash between a Progressive “elite” ruling class and the “commoners” who do not wish to be ruled by them.  However, the deeper issue is how the concept of identity is understood and put into practice.

The Progressives see culture and politics through the lens of victimhood.  Therefore, individuals are organized into victim groups who have suffered oppression.  Because of this oppression a powerful government operated by morally superior people is necessary to protect and advance the interests of the victims.  This ideological system is often described as “identity politics.”  That is, by asserting identity as a member of or a champion for a victim group one obtains moral standing to exert power over those others who are the designated victimizers.  Power over the victims is also obtained, since it is only by submitting to the designated ideology that victims can earn protection.

Commoners have tended to define themselves by associations and interests outside the realm of politics.  To them, though politics may be an important part of life, other domains like faith, family, neighbors, sports, etc. have clear priority.  Commoners see themselves as part of a common heritage and culture.  Thus, they have appreciation for the nation and those through whom it was formed and maintained.  This appreciation often finds its voice through concepts such as adherence to our Constitution and other founding documents of the nation.

As a consequence of the Progressives so aggressively organizing around “identity politics,” the commoners who find themselves under siege as the designated evil victimizers have also began to organize under a group identity.  The most common form is to claim the Hillary Clinton insult of “deplorables” for themselves as a badge of honor.

Thus, the forces unleashed with our nation are driving people into opposing identity camps where good and evil exist not within each human heart but rather are the uniform attribute of each tribe.  If you are a Progressive then virtually all good exists within your camp and all bad in the other.  And, to an increasing extent, commoners/deplorables are engaging in this same theory of moral distribution (obviously with the roles reversed).

This dynamic is a key reason why the possibility for civil, reasoned discussion is shrinking at an alarming rate.

 

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iBook Publish Announcement: The Language of Suffering

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 5.09.24 AMI have published an eBook on iBooks.  If you do not use an iOS device, a PDF version can be found on this blog’s “Document Repository” page using this link.

The Language of Suffering

We have all experienced suffering. Too often though, we leave unexamined the spiritual implications of these difficult life events. In this book we will seek to gain an understanding of suffering within the framework of God’s will through a topical study of Scripture. In the process, we may begin to place our own experiences within the context of a Christian mystery that delivers redemption from affliction, hope from anguish, and power from weakness.

 

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (5)

MargaretThatcher-PersonalAttacksThe Politics of Personal Destruction

The Encounter

I’m not going to dwell on the personal aspects of this encounter because what troubles me is less the incident itself than what is behind its occurrence.  Suffice it to say that I was in a debate regarding the PCUSA’s ordination of practicing homosexuals that turned into a vicious attack on my motives and character.  That is, because I was making the case that public unrepentant sin (in any dimension of Christian life) disqualified a person from ordination, I was accused of purposefully inciting hatred of and violence (including torture and murder) on homosexuals.  I was also accused of wishing such evil things to happen to homosexuals.  As with the case of the previous post, I forcefully and effectively repulsed these vile accusations.  But the fact that they were confidently made by a person with good standing in a Christian community is indeed troubling in profound ways.

The Implications

How, I wondered, could an individual with whom I had spent significant time have been spun up into an emotional state that justified such conduct?

Firstly, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that such conduct occurred.  For I had it on the authority of an overture from the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago titled “On honoring Christ in our relationships with one another” that this is was indeed the case.  This overture almost perfectly described my experience.

Some Presbyterians read the Scriptures to condemn all forms of same-gender sexual intimacy, and sometimes accuse other Presbyterians of abandoning the authority of Scripture, ignoring the need for repentance, and leading persons into serious sin.

Some Presbyterians read the Scriptures to bless committed same-gender relationships, and sometimes accuse other Presbyterians of bigotry, responsibility for bullying and suicides, and other harm caused by anti-gay attitudes.

The primary deviation is that I argued that God created male and female to be bound together by marriage, and, that this pattern for human relationship was instituted for our best good (see Matthew 19:4-6).  Thus, homosexual relationships by deviating from this God-ordained pattern are not serving our best good, and, fall under the category of sin.  I also regularly stated that Christianity had erred greatly by treating homosexuality to be a sort of “super-sin” that was worse than most other sins.  This is a position far short of “condemnation,” though it does maintain the boundary between righteousness and sin.

In my commentary from 2012 I focused on the issue of equivalence between these two positions, stating that:

A careful examination of the preceding two paragraphs’ content and relationship is called for. To begin, they apparently are designed to constitute the relevant end-points for comments that are deemed to be vilifying. Therefore, they would appear to be intended as equivalent.

But whereas the first paragraph describes a critique of the arguments of others, the second paragraph describes conclusions about other’s motives and culpability for acts of violence. The difference is striking, and disturbing. Apparently, to make a case for the authority of Scripture, the need for repentance and the seriousness of sin is an act of vilification. One is left to wonder under just what terms the authors propose to pursue “respectful dialogue,” when the central concerns of those opposing the current ordination standards are made equivalent to character assassination and accusation of fomenting violence.

This is the very dynamic within which I found myself.  However, over six years later I have come to believe that there is a second issue at play that had previously eluded my consciousness, that being incitement.

Note the order of the Rationale’s set up.  First, a Presbyterian makes the case for the orthodox understanding of Biblical authority, sin and repentance.  Second, the response is accusations of bigotry and culpability for violence.  In this ordering the Rationale makes the implicit case that it is the voicing of the first position that incites the second.

There is another great advantage to this ordering.  Consider the encounter from a third party’s point of view.  One Presbyterian says something to another and the response is an angry rebuke.  The uninformed assumption will often be that the first speaker must have said something very bad to elicit such a strong reaction from the second.  Even if the viewer is well informed, it is the first speaker who appears to have “started it.”  Finally, responding with anger and vile accusations discouraged orthodox Christians from voicing their views at all.

Thus, there existed a Progressive group in the PCUSA who considered the open argument for orthodox Christian positions on sexual sin and repentance to be an approval of hatred toward and violence against homosexuals.  They also saw the statement of these views to be an incitement.  With this mindset wouldn’t it be immoral not to confront the offending party for their assumed evil conduct?

I believe that this is what happened to me on that painful day.  In their eyes it wasn’t that I had a different understanding of the Bible’s teaching.  It was that I was a hateful, violence approving bigot who was camouflaging their evil in Biblical terms.  It was high time that someone called me out, and this person stepped up to do just that.  I should be personally destroyed because I was a vile, evil person.

Had I argued on their terms I might well have exited the debate personally destroyed.  But, I rather responded by pointing out the absurd cruelty and baseless justification for arguing along these lines.  Once they were forced into the position of explaining why such accusations were being made the bottom fell out.

So, yes, I survived this onslaught against my motives and character.  However, this and other similar experiences profoundly affected my understanding ofattitude towards and response to those in the Progressive camp who imagined themselves to to be at the pinnacle of Christian virtue.

Christian Hymns

Hynms-Church

Opening Thoughts

I have long thought that there is a wondrous but underappreciated reservoir of Christian beauty and wisdom in our classic hymns.  Therefore, I will occasionally turn my attention to information about and meditations on this topic.

Easter

resurrectionNext comes the resurrection from the dead. Without this what we have said so far would be incomplete. For since only weakness appears in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, faith must leap over all these things to attain its full strength. We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full. Nevertheless, we are said to ‘have been born anew to a living hope’ not through his death but ‘through his resurrection’ [I Peter 1:3]. For as he in rising again, came forth victor over death, so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone. Paul better expresses its nature: ‘He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification’ [Rom. 4:25]. This is as if he had said: ‘Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection.’ For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ’s death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that–thanks to his resurrection–his death manifested its power and efficacy in us.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xvi.13.

 

Good Friday

CB03_1920x1080Lest in the unmeasured abundance of our riches we go wild; lest, puffed up with honours, we become proud; lest, swollen with other good things – either of the soul or of the body, or of fortune – we grow haughty, the Lord himself, according as he sees it expedient, confronts us and subjects and restrains our unrestrained flesh with the remedy of the cross.

John Calvin: Institutes 3.8.5

Happy Thanksgiving

christian-thanksgivingGive Thanks to the Lord!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
     Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

 Know that the Lord is God!
    It is he that made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him, bless his name!

 For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures for ever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (RSV)