Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Deliver Us From Evil

Sometimes I wonder if some of my best posts are just stolen from others. The "Top Ten" list on men's/women's ordination is easily the one I've gotten the most comments on in the entire time I've kept a blog. And I regularly make reference to something or other that Slacktivist said. It appears that today will be no exception.

Slacktivist had a number of interesting points to make about a recent rally for evangelical teenagers, but this bit particularly caught my attention.
If [Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll] really is the apotheosis of evil, then Mick Jagger really is the Prince of Darkness -- a greater threat to humanity and a greater source of pain than Osama bin Laden, or Kim Jong Il, or Ken Lay or any other predatory purveyor of pain and injustice. The confusion here seems to be mistaking vice (and an expansive understanding of vice, at that) with genuine evil. Vice has to do with weakness; evil has to do with injustice. The Teen Mania obsession with SD&RR winds up declaring "war" on weakness while ignoring injustice. That's not good. Nor is it compatible with Christianity.
This is a clearer statement of the weakness of much of conservative Christianity (Slacktivist speaks of "evangelical" Christianity, but I still want to keep that name for those of us who believe in the call to spread the gospel, but who reject many of the more extreme stances of conservatism). We (despite my last statement, I must include myself here) spend so much time rallying against the ills of society, but so often we're fighting against the wrong things. Jesus had something to say about this sort of thing: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)

I see this as the major failure of American Christianity. We fight so hard to live in a culture that honors and respects our faith, and try to cultivate an environment (often that the expense of those who do not share our beliefs!) that is conducive to godly living. But we focus so much on sex, or national allegiance, or "inerrancy", or any number of other red herrings that we identify as "true Christianity." As a result, Christianity is made unappealing to those who might be brought to Christ. This isn't their fault, their "hardness of heart," if you will. It's ours!

But I must beware of being too self-righteous when I talk of these things. Jesus had something to say about that, too: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?... You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person's eye." (Matthew 7: 3, 5)

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