Here is a poster I adapted for the concept of Marriage Integrity. In our current talking culture’s hourly attack on what is labelled traditional marriage, it is difficult to respond without being slandered by supposedly “progressive” redefinitions. For instance, to adopt their politically biased terminology and speak of a “ban” on X marriage is to forestall rational discussion of the issue. To label someone as “banning X” is simply bald assertion and begging the question. Nothing is being banned. The integrity of marriage is simply being maintained. Note the red equal sign on the thought police is there to mimic the “marriage equality” sign and movement whose talking class majority are swift to label and libel (meaning marginalize) those on the “wrong side” of political correctness. The rainbow colored “marriage” is to show that natural marriage (joining a man and a woman) continues to unite men and woman across a rainbow of diversity.
(Initial picture on Integrity before adaptation from site, “A Woman’s Journey to Life,” March 22, 2013)
The Last Beattitude & the Trophy for Caring
The Beatitudes were Jesus’ beginning statement in the Sermon on the Mount which began with, “Blessed are …..” Do you recall the last Beattitude mentioned by the Lord? It is in Matthew 5:11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus’ Beattitudes that began with “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” reach a counter-intuitive crescendo. It is only natural to ask for clarification: “Lord, Do you mean 1) that You expect us to be reviled by others and persecuted, and 2) that we are to see this as blessed???” I believe the Lord is saying YES to both. Of course our natural human protests, “Isn’t everybody supposed to like us?” And Jesus no doubt would say NO! Instead, we should expect persecution and all types of verbal abuse. One blessing of the persecuted is that it marks our authenticity as disciples (when we are truly persecuted “on His account” and not for our unfaithful caricatures of Jesus.) The onslaught of verbal assassination and other persecution is one of the most sure indicators we are right in the middle of doing the Lord’s will. And counterintuitively before the Lord, it becomes a strange form of encouragement.
Will we follow a Lord who calls us to this kind of social embarrassment and suffering? It is not that we actively seek revilement, but that in the natural course of discipleship, following the earlier beatitudes for instance, we will provoke the ire of people who are “convicted” by our words and behavior. The revilers reveal that they have alternate visions of what the kingdom of God looks like, conflicting views of what it means to show care and compassion, and ultimately different pictures of Jesus.
The current worldly picture of Christ here in America is “Jesus the Nice Guy who Cares.” And there is truth to this picture, as in any caricature. It is hard for Christians here to correct and deepen this picture of Jesus, for we are tempted daily to buy into it, to be nice like the world thinks Jesus is nice. But this would ultimately lead to our denying the Christ who was an equal offender of the religious (Pharisees) and the worldly (Sadducess and Herodians) who together planned to kill Him. One could just as accurately paint a portrait of Jesus on the other end of the spectrum, along the lines of “Christ the Controversialist.” Sure enough, Jesus is nice and caring–BUT on His own terms. He is not preoccupied as are his 21st century disciples with being perceived as caring. In fact, Jesus’ form of caring was often downright offensive and troubling. Pure and authentic compassion has to be grounded enough in the Kingdom and the Word to take the risk of revilement.
Let me illustrate with a real but unnamed example of what a disciple looks like whose Jesus is the worldly caricature: The Nice Guy who Cares. This is a hard-working minister type involved in many good works. Fine and good. But his glory, what makes for music to his ears is not “Well done, good and faithful servant,” but a headline in the New York Times reading: “Such and Such Church Gets Our Trophy for Caring!” If we deep down want the world to like us and to think well of us, then we will be tempted in making Jesus just a nice and caring guy, who wouldn’t offend a soul or make anyone angry. Compassion is indeed called for, but not capitulation to the culture’s mandate to call blue red, just so everyone can feel better and we can be given a “trophy for caring” by a culture that deep down really doesn’t like us. Where would we display such a trophy? Hopefully not in sight of the cross.
So the question at hand before the disciple is this: Where is your holy ground? You take off your shoes on holy ground, like Moses did when meeting the Lord at the burning bush. Your culture has places it considers holy ground, whether matters sexual, political or ideological. You are being asked to take your shoes off on this holy ground so that no feet are stepped on. Where’s your holy ground? The failure to recognize our culture’s holy ground will most assuredly mean our stepping on some feet. And you will hear about it. When this happens, Jesus calls you blessed.
No wonder Jesus said on another occasion: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26) LH
When Tolerance Becomes SLOTHFUL
Part of our reflections this Lent have involved reminding ourselves of the seven (even eight) deadly sins, those squid-tentacled sins that stick to us and ensure there are more entrapping arms to come. We pondered what is THE deadly sin of America, and saw there are surely several strong candidates. It came as a surprise to me, but the more I considered it, the more I came to see the “pedestrian” and “sleepy” sin of Sloth our greatest concern. In a time of overwhelming busyness, it is tempting to neglect more important things as well as substitute lesser visions for greater and more demanding ones. Among the greatest expression of sloth in our time is an unthinking dependence on Tolerance as an answer to our greatest social and moral problems. This does not take away from the value and validity of the classic form of tolerance described as bearing with those whose beliefs and practices differ from our own in view of the common human dignity of being in the image of God and in view of the Lord’s example of patience and bearing with sinners (like ourselves).
The good and helpful classic tolerance has been remolded by many in the “talking class” (media/educators/politicians) as meaning not merely recognizing the right of others to hold differences but also the necessity to accept and even validate that all differences are equal in value and in truth. This is a subtle but real form of dogmatic social engineering. Here are some ways I describe the “new dogmatic tolerance”:
Toxic Tolerance: tolerance to such a degree that truth suffers and is poisoned; regression to a moral stone age where folks impress themselves with the discovery of the wheel
Tolerance with a capital “T”: Tolerance above all; what “thinking Americans” think before thinking, a means of coercion, experienced as bullying, thought control, condescension, manipulation & hypocrisy to those on the corrective end of the “Be tolerant” stick
Total Tolerance: the illusory and impossible idealistic-modern-dream that one can be totally tolerant, maintained by the pretense of ignoring the many things that person or group will not tolerate
An alternative to the above morphed and massaged versions of tolerance can be described as:
Tolerance with a small “t”: this is the classic tolerance mentioned above, which although admitting many failures in application, has been a part of the Christian teaching as early as Tertullian, the Christian apologist from Carthage who wrote around 217 A.D:
“It is a human law and a natural right that one should worship whatever he intends … It is no part of religion to coerce religious practice, for it is by free choice not coercion that we should be led to religion.” (To Scapula 2.1–2)
Objections: Some object that tolerance with the small “t” is not enough. It takes the “Big T Tolerance” as THE method for getting along. Coexist, right? So tolerate is the answer.” I quote University of Texas Professor of Government, J. Budziszewski, who reveals real problems in applying the Big T Dogmatic Tolerance:
“If you really believe that the meaning of tolerance is tolerating, then you ought to tolerate even intolerance. If you really believe that the best foundation for tolerance is to avoid having any strong convictions at all about right and wrong, then you shouldn’t have a strong conviction that intolerance is wrong. If you really believe that when you do have strong convictions you should refuse to express or act upon them, then your tolerance should be a dead letter; it should be one of the things you are pusillanimous (faint-hearted) about..…
What then is the truth about tolerance? The meaning of this virtue is not tolerating per se, but tolerating what ought to be tolerated. Practicing it means putting up with just those bad things that, for the sake of some greater good, we ought to put up with. We aren’t practicing the virtue when we fail to put up with bad things that we ought to put up with, such as the expression of false opinions in debate; nor are we practicing it when we do put up with bad things that we ought not to put up with, such as rape. But making such distinctions requires knowing the truth about goods, bads, and greater goods.”
Why then is the new Big T dogmatic Tolerance slothful? Because Jesus calls us not to tolerance but to love. Josh McDowell & Bob Hostetler put it this way:
Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behavior offends me.”
Tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.” Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk.”
Tolerance seeks to be inoffensive; love takes risks. Tolerance is indifferent; love is active. Tolerance costs nothing; love costs everything. Lance H
The Song of Songs by Donald E Curtis (click to view)
song-songs (link to Bible.org site for article)
This Sunday we consider Contentment. One helpful writer in this regard is Richard Foster, who wrote the now classic Celebration of Discipline, and followed that book with a detailed treatment of one specific discipline entitled, Freedom of Simplicity. What follows is a link to read an excerpt from the book, which has benefited quite a few folks in seeking first the kingdom.
“The Michael Ramsey Prize is intended for theological writing which, by freshness and originality, somehow changes the theological landscape, and also serves the needs of the Church … ” We are glad to see confirmation of our high recommendation of David Bentley Hart’s book, Atheist Delusions, by its winning the 2011 Michael Ramsey Prize last month.
Michael Ramsey Prize 2011 (click to view)
So what if I don’t have time this summer to read the artistic and engaging Atheist Delusions? (Which you may recall is actually a book setting our civilization in the context of its historical roots–doing the homework of tracing what is owed to the transforming influence of Christianity.) You can get the gist of the book by the short summary below by C Burrell. Note the four ways mentioned of how Christianity transformed society.
Hart: Atheist Delusions (click to read)