In perusing another article (Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church), to which I might proffer an opinion at another time; I was struck by the Evangelical culture wars. Rachel Held Evans’s op-ed, as to be expected in mainstream media, reflected the Evangelical left. Of the almost 10,000 comments, (I did not read all the comments. I still do have a life.) I choose this one by choirlady (August 24, 2014) to encapsulate most of the talking points of the Evangelical Right, and done fairly eloquently. (The handle choirlady seems like something from an SNL skit.)
Millennials are leaving the church because they have sat at the feet of skeptics, liberals, Bible deniers, liberal educators and Hollywood elites via Glee, Will & Grace, Ellen, Seinfeld, and so many shows with entertaining gay characters who surely must be “born that way.” They have been propagandized to believe that Jesus was only about acceptance, love, hanging out with sinners and chastising the Pharisees whom He called hypocrites. Their Jesus has no standards of right and wrong –except the wrong of thinking you are right for believing the Bible. They believe that Jesus is “liberal” which comes from cherry-picking from the scriptures while they accuse the devout of doing such “cherry-picking.” Jesus was on the side of the poor –in commanding that we share and be compassionate toward the “have-nots” and “have-lesses.” He did criticize the rich. But He didn’t recommend confiscatory gov’t that steals from the people (his tax collector-turned-disciple repented for such theft.) He didn’t say there would be no judgment for not investing the master’s talent with which we servants are entrusted. He confirmed the teaching of a Heaven vs. Hell. He didn’t say all the poor and sinful people would go to heaven while His followers and the righteous would go to Hell. He said REPENTANCE and HUMILITY and BELIEF are the requirements for Heaven –and generosity and friendliness, too as in Matthew 25. He didn’t re-define righteousness –(or marriage) –he fortified the definition of marriage in Matt. 19:4-6 –as in Genesis. He said the Church would suffer for righteousness’ sake and for faith in HIM. And so we are –starting in Iraq and Iran and most Muslim states. But also here –with the hostility of the rainbow crowd and abortion advocates expressed toward any who disagree –which Bible believers do. We are supposed to practice PC speech only –or they say we are racists and bigots. I feel the hatred toward me –not from me.
Having a more complicated and nuanced mind, I tend to navigate, (not straddle), to more moderate positions. Those who walk in the dry land between the two turbulent walls of theological extremes, tend to be seen as traitors by each. Be that as it may; I still prefer to walk on dry land.
Simplism tends not to acknowledge the validity of any of one’s adversaries’ legitimate values and concerns, or the intrinsic necessity of synthesizing the competing claims. This is not mere political compromise. There is a right or wrong. But life is more complicated. And political issues tend to require a navigation through a set of considerations in order to obtain the optimum resolution. Ideological, ethical and sociopolitical schisms are, to a considerable extent, products of simplism.
Which gets back to the Title of this piece. “In Him All Things Hold Together.” (Colossians 1:17) True Biblical Christianity synthesizes the inherently contradictory impetuses of justice and mercy, purity of truth and love, human free will and Sovereignty of God, etc.. Pressed too far in one or the other direction, it collapses or spins out of control. (Think planetary orbit.) When there occurs a loss of spiritual vitality in a church, denomination or movement, to which declining baptisms and memberships are lagging indicators, that unity between these seemingly contradistinctions disintegrates. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” (Yeats, The Second Coming, 1919) Adherents either rush headlong into an arrogant legalistic moralism or an incoherent lawless sentimentality.
I think of the famous story, at least in Christian circles, about the woman who was caught in adultery and about to be stoned. The Pharisees ask for Christ’s opinion, to which He replied “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”(John 8:7) The Left, religious and otherwise, will construe that passage outside of its context to argue for total social acceptance of what ought not to be accepted. Political tolerance and social acceptance of the person is another matter.
The narrative proceeds…
Neither do I [Christ] condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. (John 8:11)
It strikes me that one can symbolize the ripping part of that intrinsic synthesis from this one passage. For the Evangelical Right only hear and from now on sin no more. And the tin ear of the Evangelical Left only recognizes neither do I condemn you.
The Right advocates holiness without grace; the Left, grace without holiness.
The Right tends toward self-righteous moralistic toxicity which crushes the psyche and oppresses society. And although the Left is equally arrogant, its tendency is towards maudlin sentimentality, lawlessness, anarchy, social entropy and disintegration.
The Right defends torture under principles of utilitarian situation ethics, which at one time, they had vigorously declaimed. The Left, in extremis, would hand the keys to the kingdom to terrorists and criminals through the advocacy of a New Testament theonomy (Law of Grace).
To the poor, the Right declares that it is always your fault. The Left pleads that it’s never your fault. “It’s the system man”.
To the mentally distressed, the Right declares that it is always about sin (e.g. Nouthetic Counseling). The Left exonerates and excuses a person of everything because they were genetically, neuro-chemically and/or environmentally conditioned into that state of being.
There is an image that I recall; whereby chromosome strands within an original cell separate into two complete discrete and disconnected sets before cell division. Social and civic mitosis. (This is not a perfect metaphor; in mitosis, chromosone sets are identical in nature.)
I am persuaded that most adherents from both theological factions are unlikely to be regenerated and genuinely converted. Faith in Christ and His Full Counsel, and the operations of His Spirit would hold those intrinsically contradictory impetuses together.
© Copyright Johnny Hutchinson 2015