December 14, 2017

iMonk Classic: The Unlikely Outrage of the Gospel of Light

Waiting. Photo by Master Bi

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

• Philippians 4:4-9

• • •

The Unlikely Outrage of the Gospel of Light
An excerpt from a 2006 post by Michael Spencer

The message that God has taken an interest in this tiny world, and in any one of us, is beyond outrageous. It’s mind-boggingly incredible. It ought to stop us in our tracks in astonishment that we are claiming, continually, the absolutely unlikely and stupendously impossible.

Evangelicals have convinced themselves that the light shines in a room where it’s been patently obvious for a long time that we needed some light around here, and Christianity has the best bulb for the job. Scripture tells us that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot comprehend it.

We have convinced ourselves that every reasonable person is looking for a Savior, and that Jesus’ contemporaries should have been waiting for him with a welcoming committee. The Bible says the Word became flesh, came to his own, and no one wanted anything to do with him. In fact, the thought of God visiting this world is every bit as outrageous within the Christian story as it is outside of it.

…If we appreciate the outrage of the Gospel, then we ought to understand that shouting it in the face of an unbelieving world is a particularly inappropriate response. Paul knew this, and in our newer testament reading, told the Philippians how to live in a world of unbelief: our lives should show the evidence that this incredible story is true, and the light that shines in the darkness should be visible in us.

The city of Philippi presented Christians with the opportunity to live out their story- the story of God incarnated in an executed Jewish rabbi — in the midst of the story of imperial Roman power and culture. Their calling was one of contrasts and community, very similar to our own. Look again at the Paul’s encouragements, and hear them in the context of living out the unlikely outrage of the gospel of Light.

“Rejoice in the Lord.” Joy is an irresistible quality in a dark world. No matter what produces it, the world is curious. Joy in God lies at the heart of the Gospel. It lies at the heart of Advent, of Christmas and of all Christian worship. If we mistake entertainment or pleasure for joy, we make a crucial error, for God means for the light to be not simply a contrast in what is seen, but in what is experienced.

“Let your gentleness be known to all.” Christians often make unbelievers think of arrogance rather than gentleness. It’s not unusual to hear gentleness lampooned by evangelicals as being overly tolerant. The world is cruel, but Christ is gentle, especially with sinners. Our culture war rhetoric and determination to fight for our “values” often sounds anything but gentle. We are called to go gentle into a night that isn’t good at all, but our failure to value the gentleness of Jesus has discredited our claims of knowing him throughout history and today.

Another nuance of the same word is “moderation.” We live in a culture of excess and live lives of culturally and religiously justified excess. Christians are deeply idolatrous of the success worship that runs our culture. We bizarrely believe that God guarantees and justifies our devotion to have the “best” of everything, American style. Do such deeply idolatrous values give evidence that the light has shown in our hearts to reveal the glory of God in the face of Jesus?

“Do not be anxious” is a command to lay aside the worries and anxieties of life and to trust in God. Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount that believing in the God of the Gospel deeply convinces us that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” The Gospel does not produce the kind of anxiety that drives the culture war and the manipulation of Christians for political purposes. The Gospel produces prayer and worship to the God who sovereignly reigns in every circumstance.

The Gospel produces, Paul says, “the peace of God.” This peace passes understanding, which means, I believe, that we don’t spend vast amounts of time explaining it as if a lecture could outline God’s peace in a convincing way. This peace is a quality that belongs to the person of faith, and to the community of faith. It’s a fruit of the light that invaded the world at the nativity, and that comes to live in human beings who are vitally connected to Jesus.

Then Paul describes a litany of the good, the true, the beautiful, the excellent, the praiseworthy. Think on these things. Love these things. Create these things. Build lives and families and communities that value what the world distorts and despises. These wonderful evidences of the light of God are rare gifts in a vulgar world, and those who are children of God by faith value and treasure these gifts wherever they find them.

The good, the true and the beautiful are not, by the way, our exclusive property, and Christmas should remind us that the fingerprints of the God who made the world and redeems it in Christ are everywhere. The atheist has no sustainable reason to see a good gift anywhere- they are accidents of time, matter and chance, at best- or a reason to differentiate good from mediocre aside from the assertion of blatant preference. In Christ, we see a life full of the good, the true, the beautiful and all the other gifts of a gracious creator. We are privileged to put these gifts on display and to be grateful for them in worship and thankful use.

In other words, Paul reminded the Philippians that, as they lived beside and with those who did not share their faith, there was always the opportunity to show that those who live in darkness have seen a great light. We are a community that embodies the light of Christmas visiting a dark world.

We are never surprised that the darkness denies any light exists. Darkness is, in the Gospel, nothing if not self-justifying and exclusive. But darkness, no matter how many books it writes or speeches it makes, cannot dispel light, no matter how small the source or how meager the effect. Light illumines and reveals irresistibly and with continual wonder.

Our advent worship has been themed, as so many are, from the words of Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Such is the wonder of the incarnation that we can feel all the depths of the unbeliever’s skepticism, and thereby increase our wonder at what God has done at Bethlehem. But the Gospel asks us, and enables us, to become the actual community of that light. Jesus says we are light in the world, a community set upon a hill to say that not only has the light indiscriminately invaded our planet, but it has also come to dwell in human beings, and this- who we are, what we do- is in some way the evidence of that light.

It’s an intimidating kind of invitation. It’s much easier, in many ways, to talk about a culture war or a truth war than it is to talk about being a community of gentleness, peace, prayer and transformation. It’s much easier to be right, and outraged at those who disagree, than it is to take on the meaning of the Gospel in our own families and callings.

• • •

Photo by Master Bi at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    Chaplin Mike, I wrestle with this as I am sure many conservative Christians do. Are we engaging in a culture war when we oppose same sex marriage or adoption of children by same sex couples? Are we to accept the judgment of secular society that individuals can decide what marriage is and the legal system will enforce the secular law. How do we be transformational when society moves to invalidate one of the sacraments of the RCC for instance and most conservative religious dominations? Are we only to apply our morality derived from our belief to ourselves and cede to the secular world the influence and direction of society and culture. How are Christians to react when behavior they regard as sin becomes not tolerated by society but accepted, protected and to some extent promoted to a status of immunity? Is standing up to the sin of abortion a culture war? Who decides what the culture war is over I guess is my question.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Are we engaging in a culture war when …

      Yes. If there is the need to ask – then the answer is Yes.

      > Are we to accept the judgment of secular society that….

      Yes, a secular [aka non-sectarian] society gets to decide those things for itself. If what is desired is a sectarian society then just call it that; no euphemisms like “Culture War”.

      > How do we be transformational when …

      Through love, peace, compassion, and understanding. None of these things are Oppositional.

      > Are we only to apply our morality derived from our belief to ourselves…

      Yes.

      > when behavior they regard as sin becomes not tolerated by society but accepted,

      What does this mean?

      > protected

      Who should be “unprotected”?

      > Is standing up to the sin of abortion a culture war?

      Depends.

      > Who decides what the culture war is over

      Who decides what “the culture” is? That is the central beef I have with Culture Wars – they seem more like Scorched Earth to me; nobody is the enemy – so functionally everyone is the enemy. The Culture Wars narrative depends on Boogeymen. Nobody is asking me to morally endorse anything; not even my friends ask for my moral endorsement for their relationships . . . because that would be crazy weird. The Culture Wars are threading a needle of moral entanglement with a pattern as selective – and decisively exclusive – as an elaborate needle-point.

      You mentioned no issues other than Abortion, Marriage, and Sexual Orientation (aka: the Pelvic Agenda). This is a horrifically impoverished set of issues with which to approach a topic as broad as Society-and-Culture. No concern for arts, no interest in race relations, no interest in economic equality, no concern about housing affordability, no interest in people having accessible transportation, no bothering with health care cost, no concern about clean air, no concern about clean water, no interest in parks, no bothering with children living in lead contaminated environments, no concern for the isolation of the elderly, etc… because Morality!

      • The Pelvic Agenda…lol. That sounds like something that should be trademarked.

        Those issues are easy to print pamphlets about. They are considered black and white by nature. By and large there are no negative repercussions by engaging in these battles and defending The Truth(TM).

        The other issues you mentioned are more nuanced, and require much more thought and internal wrestling. Since these issues often require some degree of conceding and sacrifice to address, they are often ignored.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I remember a novelist on the old Lost Genre Guild, a now-defunct writer’s group for offbeat Christian (but not Christianese) F&SF. Don’t remember her name, don’t remember the title, but I DO remember her premise:

          Her novel was a fantasy about a land of low-tech tribal people who were being raided for slaves by a civilization across the ocean. The indigs’ religion was apparently a very fear-filled animism, full of appeasing the spirits or else. Yet the God of the slavers raiding them was omnipotent AND benevolent, a much better deal than their Old Gods. Yet this was the God of those who were kidnapping them and shipping them overseas as slaves, and much of the plot was driven by this dichotomy. (I don’t think I need to mention what color the author was.)

          Well, in Pelvic Issues, she did have several sex scenes in her book. Most of which were exploring sexual abuse of her heroine/primary character, sex as abuse, sex as power, sex as weapon. (I think this was what caused the character to start checking out the God of the Slavers.) And that author got Christian feedback — the type that caused her to explode on the Guild chat. The Christian feedback was all denouncing her for the above sex scenes, completely ignoring the context and purpose behind these scenes for a Ted Bear Movie Watch-esque tally of each kind of Pelvic act, with appropriate chapters-and-verses. Her explosion concluded with “It makes us all look like Sex-Crazed Ninnies — Sex-Crazed Ninnies with nothing else on our minds!”

      • “You mentioned no issues other than Abortion, Marriage, and Sexual Orientation (aka: the Pelvic Agenda). This is a horrifically impoverished set of issues with which to approach a topic as broad as Society-and-Culture. No concern for arts, no interest in race relations, no interest in economic equality, no concern about housing affordability, no interest in people having accessible transportation, no bothering with health care cost, no concern about clean air, no concern about clean water, no interest in parks, no bothering with children living in lead contaminated environments, no concern for the isolation of the elderly, etc… because Morality!”

        Exactly. Evangelicals define ‘ethics’ as being about one thing – ‘sex’. But the Bible, especially the OT, but even the NT, has far more to say about how the poor are treated, justice, honesty, integrity, and living as community than it does about sexual immorality, drunkenness, etc.

        And even when it talks about sexual immorality it is usually in the context of community and the detrimental affect it has on community (e.g. 1 Thes 4:3-6, which Paul concludes by saying ‘that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter’).

        And what’s more, one thing has become clear to me from reading the New Testament – the early Christians didn’t give a hoot what non-believers did or how they lived (e.g. 1 Cor 5:12). The early Christians (and Paul in particular) are concerned about how believers live in relationship with one another (and, as iMonk’s post emphasizes, how that community reflects the gospel to outsiders). The New Testament is about God creating a new community and the majority of its ethical teaching is about how his people are to live in that community (e.g. Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount’ is almost completely relational, Paul’s ethical teaching is as well).

        Somehow modern Evangelicals have got it exactly backwards. They are so concerned about what non-believers do and how they live, but have very little concern about the ethical issues the Bible does stress, and often justify sin within the Christian community (especially outrageous or abusive sins committed by leaders). They are much more likely to ‘forgive’, simply overlook, or even justify, a ‘Christian’ who sins than they are a non-believer. They will justify the sins of ‘one of our own’ and vote him into political office (without any hint of repentance) but condemn others even though they express contrition. That’s spreading the darkness, not shining a light.

        • Sorry for the lack of ‘gentleness’ in my post. I’m still suffering PTSD from my years as a culture warrior. 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Somehow modern Evangelicals have got it exactly backwards. They are so concerned about what non-believers do and how they live, but have very little concern about the ethical issues the Bible does stress, and often justify sin within the Christian community (especially outrageous or abusive sins committed by leaders).

          Which is just inviting a pushback by those non-believers who keep getting targeted.

          As for “outrageous/abusive sins by Christian leaders”, that’s become a Privilege of Pastoral Rank. Divine Right of Christian Leaders, you understand.

      • +11111

    • Patriciamc says:

      Did Jesus tell us to go out and fight for our view of marriage, or did he tell us to tell the world about him? How many are drawn to God by our yelling about what marriage is and is not? Maybe society wouldn’t have problems like these if we Christians had just done what Christ said and told the world about him and loved our neighbor.

      • john barry says:

        Patricianc, What is your understanding of Matthew Chapter 19 Verse 4- 6. One of the first things God ordained was the Sabbath and marriage. As Jesus said in his earthly time God has defined marriage not the laws of man. So thousands of years Christian teaching and tradition have been placed asunder and replaced by what ? Again , that is why our culture war issue is so complicated as Christians try to navigate the rapids of a no absolutes in a secular society. Now children outside of marriage is not only acceptable but in many cases applauded as it is promoted as individual choice. If society and culture can be changed by the a change in the law breaking thousands years of social/cultural and religious traditions than the USA should apologize to Utah who was not allowed into the Union unless polygamy was not officially legal. That is why George Romney , Mitt”s father was born in Mexico. Anyway as science and economic freedom reduce the need for secular people to be concerned with “moral” issues what do Christians do without being accused of being in a culture war. My view is on a workable , social beneficial pro nuclear family level the traditional view on marriage worked best for society even without the moral imperative. Your point about how we present and conduct ourselves to the “world” is well taken. Again one of the battles in the culture war that is so perplexing unless you just rely on Matt 19 if you are a believer.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Patricianc, What is your understanding of Matthew Chapter 19 Verse 4- 6. One of the first things God ordained was the Sabbath and marriage. As Jesus said in his earthly time God has defined marriage not the laws of man.

          I smell “Teh Fag Card” delivered with “I Have a Verse!”

          Actually, there’s nothing Christian about they dynamics behind Christian Culture War and The Pelvic Agenda.

          It’s the dynamic of a Mass Movement of Righteous True Believers; from Citizen Robespierre’s Republique of Perfect Virtue through Vladimir Lenin’s Soviet Union through Adolf Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich through Ayatollah Khomeini and Mullah Omar’s two Perfect Islamic States. Crush the Unrighteous and PRESTO! Perfect Utopia! Unicorns Farting Rainbows and Free Ice Cream for Us The Righteous!

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer

          • john barry says:

            Headless Unicorn Guy, I do not think asking someone who referenced what Jesus said their opinion on what he actually said is playing The or even The Fag Card. I agree with you I think , I am not good nor see the need to apply a “verse” to every situation or debate issue. I certainly for years like the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer. He is right in that in every movement there must be a cadre of true believers and certainly the leaders must be a true believe who is steadfast in his unshakeable belief. I do think to equate the positive impact of the true believers in Christ who acted on their beliefs to Hitler , Stalin, Hold the Mao and every terrible true believer is a bridge too far. Climate change advocates and gay rights activist are true believers and are steadfast in their beliefs. Love the Eric Hoffer input , c he was of the working class I think

          • Ben Carmack says:

            John must be new around here.

            There’s no trigger happy true believer like Headless Unicorn Guy. No righteous true believer like HUG. No perfect virtue like what he sells.

            Say anything, anything at all, even remotely to the right of Comrade Spencer and he’ll pounce with…whatever force a middle aged man into My Little Pony may possess.

        • Patriciamc says:

          Well, those verses in Matthew are actually about divorce. We’re still not commanded to go fight for these “culture war” topics. We are though, told to go tell about Christ and his kingdom. If you feel led to fight the culture wars, fine, but it might be a lesson in futility. In the last 30-odd years, there have been no right-wing culture war wins (well, one if you count saying “Merry Christmas.”). For all their efforts, the conservatives have lost ground in the culture wars and have actually damaged the perception of Christians (thanks Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell!).

          • Yes. In fact, back in 1999 Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, who were leaders of Moral Majority (Thomas was Falwell’s right hand man) made exactly that argument in their book ‘Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?’. They argue that :years of political action resulted in no victories, no turning America back to God, only political compromises, and polarization – branding evangelicals as the ‘no’ people in American culture. Maybe that’s one reason the early Christians were apolitical (granted, another being that they had no voice in their political system) and showed little if any concern for what non-believers did or how they lived.

    • SottoVoce says:

      In Numbers chapter 5, God commands that a woman whose husband suspects her to be unfaithful should be given an abortion-inducing mixture and says that if she is guilty, she will miscarry. God commanded that adulterous pregnancies should be forcibly ended. Read it yourself. Also be sure to check multiple translations to get the full sense.
      Also, fun fact: evangelicals strenuously approved of abortion until they needed to recruit Catholics into their political agenda; until then, allowing abortion was considered to be a good thing and one of the reasons why Protestants were better than Catholics. The switch was a purely political move not rooted in morality at all.

      • john barry says:

        SottoVoce, Did not know we under old convent law and customs, just had a pork chop and going to Red Shellfish this weekend. Is it possible that people who were on the “wrong side of History” as they say now , could change their views based on their growth in their faith. It is a basic of Christianity that once salvation is accepted by belief in Christ as Savior ” I am not was I was” basically a new man etc. Is opposition to abortion a political or moral issue? I would say that most people of all faiths who oppose abortion do so in beliefs rooted in morality not politics. I do not refer to Numbers other than to remind myself that the law does condemn and cannot save us. Thanks for your thoughts as we all look at things differently and that is what is nice about this site

        • I do want to say, John, that I very much appreciate your gracious engagement on this site. There are precious few conservatives anymore who are willing to do so.
          My primary point in citing the above Bible passage is that I have never heard a single Christian engage it and I would be surprised if very many of them even knew it existed. It shows that one can actually make a “Bible-based” case for abortion being permissible and even mandated and for certain people that is a bit of a shock that may lead to new thoughts on the matter. I hope you will think about it, too. Please also remember that pro-choicers root their arguments in morality as well.

          • John Barry says:

            SottoVoce, Thanks for your comments. The main reason I like this site is the free exchange in opinions and perspective. As I do have to label myself as a conservative Christian because that is the shorthand description we now use such as left/right, pro/anti, Never Trump/ Trumper we all lose our id with a generic label with no depth or explanation. To me the reference in Numbers alludes more to the guilt associated with the crime of adultery would allow the mixture made by the priest to bring on the abortion but that is really not the issue. Many with great sincerity do believe their support of abortion is a moral imperative based on their interpretation. So if I would say my own “culture war” position on the subject would be at odds with many of my fellow Christian conservatives. I do not think Roe v Wade will ever be overturned and abortions made illegal as most Americans do not want it to be. So the “best” Christians can do is limit and oppose as much as possible “mission” creep on the issue for example stopping late term abortions, parental notification of minors seeking abortion and other issues. It is like the starfish story where the man throwing them back cannot save all but he does what he can, save those he can. Trump stopped American taxpayer money going to the UN funded global abortion effort which would not have happened without a political change. So in my daily experience when non believers use Biblical references to support their positions it would be like me quoting Mao, Castro or Stalin or the Communist Manifesto to support my position. I do not think that support of abortion makes you immoral but to me more amoral. Just to sum up I do like the diverse well represented opinions of many on this site even though I may not agree with but that is why I am here. No use preaching to the choir, will not grow if you just stay in your own comfort zone. I know even now when I come in from heavy lawn work my wife considers me “unclean” until I shower so I am glad we are not under the old code as my ban could be permanent .

            • SottoVoce says:

              Advice: calling me “amoral” because my morals are different from yours is still very rude and appropriative. I suggest avoiding that if you want to have productive conversations with pro-choices, or anyone who belongs to a different religion than you.

              • john barry says:

                SottoVoce, Sorry if I offended you with my choice of words. I was trying to conjure up in my own mind how to describe someone who is at ease with abortion. I don’t want to describe those who I disagree with on abortion as immoral as that harkens back to the culture wars aspect of our discussion. I could not come with a word that did not imply judgment other than amoral, can you. If I am discussing abortion and someone is for unrestricted abortion based on what they consider correct and have no moral apprehension or moral reservations about it but I did stipulate my amoral description with the qualifier “but to me” as could not come up with a better description. As I recall learning 1000 years ago science is amoral as it deals with just facts. Certainly did not mean to apply the word to insult or demean.

                • I was trying to conjure up in my own mind how to describe someone who is at ease with abortion.

                  How about human?
                  How about Biblical?
                  How about Christian?
                  How about compassionate?
                  How about honest?
                  How about just?
                  How about graceful?
                  How about righteous?

                  Now how would you describe someone who is not at ease with abortion?

                  • john barry says:

                    SturartB. How would I describe someone not at ease with abortion, Personally I would describe them as people who believe life begins at conception and that how society treats its most innocent and helpless shows the value society places on life. You gave examples of what you think what is your rationale behind your thoughts , human to kill your child? What Bible? What form of Christianity ? Compassionate to who? Honest, really honest to who, babies are life changing events born with tremendous challenges. Graceful, ? cannot come up with question except maybe grace to who. Righteous, in their own eyes. SottoVoce got me thinking and I still do not have a better word , sorry to say. My reference to science was that as science is amoral just facts then amoral science turns the moral question over to the individual. When does a baby become capable of life. Tough topic but for the pro choice crowd the battle actually the war has been won in this world unless you advocate for full on demand at any time abortion. thanks for your descriptions of those at ease with abortion. That’s why I am here, different views than my immediate circle.

      • +11111

    • John Barry, thanks for the courage to ask these questions at this site. Sometimes that line of questioning triggers people here toward ungracious responses.

      Likewise, Adam, Greg, David H, Patriciamc…excellent responses. As pointed out, certain Christians love warring against the easy stuff while ignoring the difficult issues.

      I was going to add more, but I think Adam, David, Greg and Patricia covered most of what I’d say. Bravo!

  2. john barry says:

    Adam, thanks for your perspective. It is like the old Cole Porter song “Anything Goes”. To me that is the issue, how do people of faith who base their morality and actions on the Bible navigate , participate and have a voice in the social, culture and political world. I do believe in the Boogeyman if unchecked the Boogeyman creates conditions that are totally against Christian belief. I mentioned no other issues but the what you call the Pelvic Agenda as they are the flash points and most pronounced of the “culture war” issues. Your list of concerns at the end which are valid concerns/issues are to me more political, economic and social issues based on interpretation of the Gospel, that is always going to be so. So in essence everything is a Gospel issue. In our American society and culture it is true , no one asks you on a personal one on one level, we have a political system that determines our course on collective governmental laws. We have influence only at the ballot box but also have influence in social and cultural interactions that affect the government. My poorly worded question about what happens when the culture of the society we live in takes actions we consider sinful such as abortion, If abortion is lawful, morally acceptable and common what is the impediment to forced abortion for medical, social an economic reasons? Two kids , on welfare get abortion or no money, The reality of what is happening in America is that the faith community is losing its influence and voting power in the secular world and there is no recourse except to become the faithful remnant , which is fine if that is all we can be. In reality the culture war is over as the success of our country built on Christian principles have negated the consequences of bad behavior and living up to personal codes of conduct. I believe the last verse I the Book of Judges is every man did was right in his own eyes , well we are pretty well there. I do agree with you (I think) in the fact that the shotgun approach of trying to enforce Christian morals on every issue diluted the power by making trivial the core issues of faith based values. Thank you for your thoughtful answer.

  3. Ben Carmack says:

    “It’s much easier, in many ways, to talk about a culture war or a truth war than it is to talk about being a community of gentleness, peace, prayer and transformation. It’s much easier to be right, and outraged at those who disagree, than it is to take on the meaning of the Gospel in our own families and callings.”

    I would say that Michael is right in his observations, but in many ways, it’s easier to talk about a truth war or a culture war. Because being a community of gentleness, peace, prayer and transformation is…wait for it…a culture.

    But of course, evangelicals are the idiots.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    We have convinced ourselves that every reasonable person is looking for a Savior….

    And that the only reason they don’t is Deliberate Hardness-of-Heart REBELLION Against GOD.

    Just like in Bad Christian Fiction, where even Utter Heathens speak and think in fluent Christianese.

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    The thing about culture wars is that they have a limited life span. Then they die away, and eventually people deny that the culture war ever actually happened. A century and a half ago it was considered entirely plausible to see kids playing baseball on a Sunday afternoon and rail about the stench of brimstone coming from them. Sunday ball was explicitly denounced as immoral. That fight was finally lost about a century ago, and now Sunday afternoon football is regarded in some places as nearly sacramental, and people deny that the fight was ever really serious. So it goes over and over. There are still some odd corners here and there that rail against dancing and alcohol, but they aren’t really issues the way they used to be. Want to talk about interracial marriage? I didn’t think so. It was condemned in explicitly religious terms within living memory, but I have people routinely deny that this was ever really a thing. Yeah, right.

    Here is my prediction: gay marriage as a culture war issue has a short life expectancy. I expect within my lifetime that it will be relegated to the KJV-only crowd, while mainstream Evangelicals will deny that they ever had a problem. Abortion is trickier. On the one hand, as a Protestant culture war issue it is newer than (as Fred Clark likes to point out) the Happy Meal. This would suggest that it could be dropped pretty easily. On the other hand, it has been the central issue within Evangelical Protestantism, and by extension with populist Republicanism, since the early 1980s. It would be awkward to pretend it never happened: awkward both in the sense that it would be difficult to shove down the memory hole, and in the sense that it is too useful to too many people. That one, sadly, will stick around a while longer.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Evangelical Protestantism is pretty mutable. Not as mutable as mainstream Protestantism, but moreso than Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

      I’m sure y’all thought there would be priestesses by now, right?

      The problem is that Orthodox or Catholicism [I presume] doesn’t treat these things as ‘moral’ or ‘culture war’ issues, but more like category errors. “Female priests” and “Gay marriage” belong in the same null sets as “unwed husbands”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In that SF novel I co-wrote set in an interstellar future, the RCC does not have priestesses (the English feminine for “priest”, NOT “womanpriest”), but they DO have Permanent Deaconesses.

      • Patriciamc says:

        Sorry Burro, but I’ll bet you money that in say 100 years, and probably sooner than that, both Catholics and Orthodox will have female priests, if the Holy Spirit has its way. You’ve got many people growing up with the idea of females truly being equal and will look at the church as crazy for reading the Bible through the lenses of the antiquated male-entitlement mentality (not to mention taking verses out of context). The more women advance in society, the more people will wonder why the church would limit them. It’s already happening now.

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          I wouldn’t be around to collect. 100 years isn’t that much time for either communion.

          People already look at the Church as crazy.

          Equality [whatever that means] does not imply interchangeability.

          Whatever the priesthood is, it is most certainly not an entitlement.

  6. Burro [Mule] says:

    Some disjointed thoughts:

    Re: Pelvic Issues. For better or for worse, there are a lot of what you could euphemistically call sexual non-participants on this board. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but your views change when you have some skin in the game. Particularly adult children who have to live in a confusing sexual milieu and who probably will not form strong or stable families at any time in their lives, but rather pursue the ignis fatuus of sexual pleasure through serial monogamy or worse. This mostly true to the fact that most of the dominant voices in our Labyrinth of Shouts proclaim the doctrine of theosis through frequent orgasms rather than participation in the divine energies. This has not been good for people, although it has been a godsend for various bacteria and spyrochetes.

    Re: morality in general. I’m tired to the bone of both left-wing and right-wing virtue signalling. They both make me want to burn things. Fr. Stephen Freeman has been hitting it out of the park as usual in his last two posts, pften more in the comment section than in the posts themselves.

    The insanity of our culture seems to think that only sexually active people can be normal or healthy. If the last 60 years or so has taught us anything, it is this assumption is patently false. The sort of assumptions behind current sexual practice have destroyed families and created a culture that is simply sick and getting sicker.

    Orthodoxy, as evidenced by its canons and lives of the saints, has been extremely aware of same-sex activity. It does not blush when, in the lives of the Desert Fathers, it says something like, “Two monks fell into sin.” It just treats it as sin – but doesn’t get weird or want to stone them or any such nonsense.

    Re: Pelvic issues and Soshul Justuss issues. These things are far more intertwined than we should like to believe. I remember struggling in my sexually participatory days with a false concept of what sort of woman was the most valuable and what the price tag for that sort of woman was.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Re: morality in general. I’m tired to the bone of both left-wing and right-wing virtue signalling. They both make me want to burn things.

      Virtue Signalling is just another way for the Righteous to count coup on the Unrighteous (everyone else). Preen, preen, preen.

      The More the Virtue Signalling, the Greater the Corruption.

  7. john barry says:

    Burro, we must be related and it is heredity , all my thoughts come out disjointed and my chain of thought is missing links.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Thing is, these days American Evangelicals have a New Trinity:
    Abortion, Homosexuality, and Evolution.

    And two of those three are Pelvic Issues.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Regarding Pelvic Issues in general:

      1) Everybody these days is sexually obsessed and sexually screwed up. And Christians are as sexually screwed up as everyone else, just in a different direction. (“Thou Shalt Not!” instead of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”)

      2) And everybody of Importance these days (including wanna-bes) is obsessed with Virtue Signalling, i.e. “Rubbing MY Righteousness in YOUR face”. As Burro put in once, “New England Puritans, distilled down to eliminate any hint of God, yet retaining all the Righteousness and Moral Fury.” Christian Culture Warriors just retain the God-talk; otherwise it’s jump on the bandwagon time, yelling “Me, Too!” Like Communists and Objectivists, total opposites on the surface, identical beneath, always at each others’ throats to the death.

      Anyone got contact info for this Rabbi from Nazareth?