December 17, 2017

Boxing: A Metaphor for North American Christianity?

mayweather-pacLast Friday I asked my son if he was interested in the Pacquiao versus Mayweather fight.

“Why would I be interested”, he replied. “On one hand you have a guy who uses his position and prominence to put down gay rights and on the other hand you have a serial sexual abuser. Who would I cheer for? I have no interest at all in watching this fight, or in watching boxing in general.”

A few hours later it struck me. I have heard exactly the same thing from young people who don’t have any interest in Christianity. The things I hear complained about most often? The anti-gay agenda of the Evangelical right, and the sexual abuse scandals of the Roman Catholic church.

The parallels don’t end there. Boxing, was once a much talked about sport, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Hagler, Leanord, and Hearns were all household words. Now the sport is in serious decline, and other than the recently hyped fight is barely on anyone’s radar. Christianity has followed a similar path. There may be pockets where it is doing well, but by many it is deemed objectionable or perhaps even worse, irrelevant.

Perhaps I am not being fair to either Boxing or Christianity. There are of course many Christians doing many wonderful things. There are many other types of churches from which to choose. However, for many, perception is reality. If I perceive church to be irrelevant then that becomes my reality.

We shared similar thoughts from Michael Spencer last Sunday:

I recently read an article in the London Times. Seems the Church of England is trying to find ways to tap into the spiritual interests of England’s church-abandoning younger generations. After extensive research, the conclusions were not at all the expected.

There was little interest in God at all. There was little interest in heaven, spiritual matters, or even life after death. What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world. They were comfortably, happily attuned to this world. Spiritual tattoos aside, they had little thought of much beyond what their senses or experiences presented to them.

In other words, Augustine’s famous “God-shaped void” didn’t make its expected appearance in anything near the numbers expected. Those with interest in some aspect of non-Christian, alternative spiritualities were often simply engaging in the enjoyment and exploration of culture, social groups, symbolism, trends and/or their own this-worldly curiosity and preferences.

So what do we do about this? Michael continued by writing this:

Today’s young people are bored with God. They are not “seeking” God at all, but are living on the hardened surface of a fallen human experience, seeking to make sense of what is incomprehensible apart from Christ. We cannot “create” interest apart from the work of the Spirit. Our calling to be witnesses is not to approach the world like cattle to be herded, but as persons to be loved in the way God loves this fallen world through Jesus Christ. We live in a generation and time dead to God and alive to entertainment and a consumer mythology that promises and delivers meaning through stimulation and amusement.
Christ has become the servant and savior of such a world. We live in that world, fully human, fallen, redeemed, rescued, living and hoping in the new creation. How do we speak of these things? It’s a question we must keep answering fearlessly.

A friend posted a series of statements on Facebook today. Number 3 was: “It is possible to follow Jesus and demand equality for LGBTQ people.” I responded with the question: “Is it possible to follow Jesus and NOT demand equality for LGBTQ people.” Based on conversations I have had with young people I would take that one step further: You are pushing people away from Christ when you make anti-gay statements in public or on social media. You push people away from Christ when the culture wars become more important than Christ himself.

I probably had the most meaningful spiritual conversation with my 14 year old daughter today that I have had in the past several years. It all started with her asking me a question about Bruce Jenner. I answered with words that treated Jenner with respect and that allowed the conversation to progress into different areas.

I struggle to understand this whole area. I find it hard to reconcile my high view of scripture, my belief system, with the world around me. The more I study, the more I struggle to understand. How are we to understand Scripture that seems so out of place in our society. Are the texts about Homosexuality going to go the same way as the text about stoning a rebellious son? On what basis? How do we decide? As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Humankind is in a state of rebellion against God and HAS been since Adam. As they push against anything related to God’s righteousness the only code we have to go by, the bible, is held up as a standard by believers. The natural reaction of the rebellious is to discount the book because in it they see themselves for who they really are. We do not have to say anything, nor do we have to defend the bible. But if we DO then we will be (and HAVE been) assaulted by the rebellious.

    Jesus called out to the weary and heavy laden, and those who heard then followed gladly, but the rest just called out “crucify him!” If we say nothing and stand for nothing but non-confrontation, it will not curry favor with the rebellious. They will just keep pushing the limits and challenge us to react. Eventually, we will be backed into a corner where they will attack us and tear us to pieces.

    Jesus obeyed His Father and it led to His death. He warned His disciples that “If they have hated me they will also hate you”. Knowing this, then, how are we to comport ourselves when faced with questions of conscience where we are asked to approve of unrighteousness? Lot was put in that position and Paul reproved the Corinthian church for accepting unrighteousness in their midst. Are we somehow more sophisticated than they so that what the early church called wrong is now acceptable?

    Specifically, accepting “equal rights” for LGBTQI people in society may be “fair” as far as that goes. The society can approve of whatever it wants to approve. But what if that same measure is forced on us in our midst? Are we to say that the writers of the bible were just ignorant and that we now know better? Where do we stand? Where CAN we stand? Where SHOULD we stand?

    Love others? Yes, but does that mean to remain silent? We can deal fairly, honestly and with compassion with INDIVIDUALS, but when organized groups attack our standards then how do we handle THAT? How did Jesus handle that? He remained silent unto death. Can WE do that? SHOULD we do that?

    Please excuse the length of this post. I am just writing stream of consciousness style. I am finished…

    • Eeyore says:

      How seriously have any of us looked at how the church in Europe has handled these issues – both the state /”mainline” branches and the “evangelical” branches? Other than decrying Europe’s secularism and casting pitying glances on the poor, shut-out-of-cultural-relevance-cum-control Christians over there, have we really looked at the choices they face, how they choose, and why?

      Personally, I happen to think that God allows the Church to face the consequences of her actions. We have, for almost two generations in this country, tried to force evangelical morality on the rest of the country. You can argue that it’s transcendently true morality, but even so, where is the biblical warrant for imposing it on those not in the Church? And in Europe, that was the case for far longer. What if God wants us to dwell in the cultural and social wilderness? What if God is using these circumstances to FORCE us to examine these questions that we would rather leave unasked?

      If that is the case, every moment complaining about how non-Christians “hate truth” and bewailing our lost cultural hegemony is just time wasted.

      • where is the biblical warrant for imposing it on those not in the Church?
        Where is the warrant for imposing cultural beliefs on Christians ?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Where else?
          “IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN!”
          “SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”

        • Eeyore says:

          Where is the warrant for imposing cultural beliefs on Christians ?

          But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

        • Witten says:

          It’s called Liberal Democracy, and it’s the system of government we have.

    • StuartB says:

      Humankind is in a state of rebellion against God and HAS been since Adam.

      Proof? That’s a statement meant to be taken as fact, but I’d like to unpack it theologically. Who originated this idea? Based on what teachings or scripture passages? Who wrote those scripture passages and to whom? Who was the first to interpret those passages? Who interprets them now?

      I hear what you are saying, Oscar. But I’ve still got to ask.

      • Mike H says:

        Stuart,

        That quote highlights why the conversation can often be so unproductive (and why I thought the boxing metaphor was going to be more about how people metaphorically beat the hell out of one another).

        Is it really true that such discussions about the complexity and nature of the Bible and it’s authority are nothing more than a secret way for the “rebellious to undermine the book” and glorify their own sinful rebellious nature?

        • StuartB says:

          Is it really true that such discussions about the complexity and nature of the Bible and it’s authority are nothing more than a secret way for the “rebellious to undermine the book” and glorify their own sinful rebellious nature?

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            That is the scariest place to go with the Bible. Given our unplumbable capacity for self-deception and self-congratulation, it is dangerous to pursue that line of thinking in reference to anybody but yourself.

      • Proof? I guess you are looking for particular verses which would indicate that in general human kind has rebelled against God from the very beginning?
        Genesis 6:5 5 ¶ The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
        Psalm 14:2-3 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
        Romans 3:9-11 9 ¶ What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

        That’s just off the top of my head without really searching hard. Just consider the whole story line of Scripture. Why were Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden? Why was the world flooded? Why are the nations judged? Why was Israel sent into exile? Why did Jesus die of the cross? Why do we need to be reconciled to God? It certainly isn’t because we have all been so good and so obedient.

    • Pattie says:

      Oscar…..thank you for saving ME the trouble of gathering my thoughts and posting. You said it all, and I appreciate the flak you will take for it, even here….

  2. Christiane says:

    “I find it hard to reconcile my high view of scripture, my belief system, with the world around me”

    it may be that we were never supposed to be enabled to make sense of these great mysteries of our faith on our own, MIKE
    . . . we certainly have been given a desire to TRY to understand, and a desire to TRY to know those answers . . . it’s something probably from that part of us that is ‘made in the image of God’;
    but to our humankind, the knowledge of good and evil was closed to us, as it would make us like Our God, hence the images of Eden and its result: our need for Christ

    the answers will come . . . but not fully now, not just yet . . .
    well, as of ‘now’, we have been given ‘love that surpasses all knowledge’ and ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’, which are in themselves transcendent gifts that offer solace in the midst of ‘this world’ and its trials,

    in the mean time, we are asked to TRUST the only One who did view the world around Him with reconciliation from His elevated position on ‘a lonely wooden tower’ . . .

    the ‘lamb that was slain’, was, is, and will be the only One with the power to open our hearts to the meaning of the mysteries of sacred Scripture . . . He alone can lead us into all understanding . . .
    this was revealed to St. Peter when he said this: ” Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life”

    Maybe we shouldn’t be the ones to judge our LBGT folk . . . maybe Pope Francis got it right . . . who ARE ‘we’ to judge, when ‘we’ are not the One Who understands the big picture. If we are asked to trust HIM, then we can also entrust Him with our LBGT people . . . and we can put our stones down and turn back to face our own contrition for the sins we know we have ourselves committed. ‘Stones’ were never the ‘burden’ we are supposed to carry for the sake of one another, anyway, come to think of it.

  3. Robert F says:

    Well, young people may be abandoning interest in boxing, but they are going over to an even more brutal and bloody “sport”: Mixed Martial Arts. This human cock-fighting is getting more and more popular as boxing gets less and less. Young people seem to love this “sport”.

    Does the comparison with loss of interest in Christianity hold here, too? Just because they are jettisoning Christianity due to its faults doesn’t mean they are not going to something just as bad or worse in other respects.

    • Robert F says:

      This growing fascination and interest among many young people (both male and female, btw) in being spectators of extremely violent entertainment, including entertainment that involves real violence, is something that concerns me about them. I do think that in many respects they are far more tolerant than earlier generations; I’m not as convinced, however, that they are more empathetic, and this interest in increasingly violent and bloody forms of entertainment leads me to believe that they may be less empathetic in certain important ways.

      • Trevis says:

        Like yourself, Robert, I loathe the “human cockfighting” pits of MMA. I wonder, however, whether there’s all that much larger cultural meaning to it. Much as with violent video games, perhaps it’s “just” the spectacle of two fighters voluntarily putting beating each other senseless, as uncouth as that may be. I don’t get the sense that the sport’s fans, young or otherwise, would enjoy watching an innocent person be assaulted by a thug. The fighters are in their own little box/cage.

        Moreover, from what I gather of the past, playground fights among boys were a rite of passage for a putatively more civilized generation. We don’t countenance that sort of behavior in children these days, so it seems to me that Stephen Pinker is probably correct in saying the world is becoming less, rather than more, violent overall.

        But perhaps I’m underestimating the corrosiveness of this sort of entertainment, which neither of us watch. Goodness knows there are better things to take in.

        • in saying the world is becoming less, rather than more, violent overall.
          Travis, I have no idea where you live but in my 62 years the world has become a much more violent place including the violence of younger and younger children.

          • In North America in general, crime, especially violent crime has been in a steep decline for quite some time.

          • Violent crime in the United States rose for the second year in a row, a government report said Thursday, indicating that the nation’s two-decade decline in crime has ended.
            The report follows the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report, released in September, which documented more than 1.2 million violent crimes nationwide — about 1% more than in 2011. For 2011, data from the victims survey also showed an increase in violent crime: up 17% from 2010, the sharpest rise in two decades.
            It appears to be swinging the other way

          • Trevis says:

            David, I live in greater Atlanta, where the crime rate is far lower than when I first moved here in the early 1990s. Things really are a lot better. NYC’s crime rate is down 80% over roughly the same time frame. The very quote you bring up underlines my primary contention: a two-decade decline is a very much different thing from things always getting worse.

            If there’s been a two-year uptick, which I won’t contest, I’ll still view it as a glass 90% full and you can go with the glass 10% empty and we can both be right.

            Regarding youth, “superpredators” were the bugbear of the 1990s — everyone thought we’d be overrun with teenage thugs by now. It simply didn’t happen: the youth crime rate is far lower than it was 20 years ago. No one really knows why. Teen pregnancy rates are also down by 50% from when I was a teen; abortion rates are also down considerably.

            And, most importantly, kids don’t chew gum much any more.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Fewer teens, until recently

        • Robert F says:

          Trevis,
          Ancient Roman gladiator fights would have been morally hideous even if all the participants were volunteers, quite apart from the level of violence in the wider society.

      • steveh says:

        when in Rome…

        interesting observation Robert. The parallels to where our hedonistic culture is heading is frighteningly similar to ancient fallen Rome.

        Good day…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Counting down to the first Coup…
          “AVE, CAESAR!!!”

        • Rome did not fall due to its ovrrhyped decadence, though. In fact, it was thoroughly xtianized by the time that the city “fell” to “barbarian” invaders (who also happened to be xtian, though of a different sect). The eastern half of the Romsn empire held on until the 1450s.

    • StuartB says:

      Hmm…I’m getting a little more into MMA, go and watch maybe two or three matches a year, but I’m largely turned off by the uber “dude bro” aspect of the community, so I keep it at arms length. Last fight I watched was Rousey winning in under 12 seconds; was amazing.

      MMA, to me, appears to take more skill than boxing. Boxing is largely just dodge, dip, duck, dive, dodge…and punch. MMA, on the other hand, is judo, kung fu, brazilian jujitsu, and so many other disciplines all at the height of their game. It takes real skill to win, rather than just pummel the face of your opponent.

      It’s definitely more violent and bloody than boxing, but it’s more graceful, has more finesse, is more beautiful than boxing.

      An analogy: MMA is to boxing as soccer is to football.

      It’s a beautiful sport.

      • as someone who loves Chinese mwrtial arts, I’ve gotta say that MMA seems entirely martial and no “art.”

      • Robert F says:

        A pox on boxing and MMA. There’s nothing beautiful about a human being being beaten unconscious, even if it doesn’t lead to the fall of civilization.

  4. I found it interesting that you published these thoughts right after I read this article: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-failure-of-winsomeness-evangelical-gay/

    Here are the segments that really grabbed my attention because they resonate so deeply with my experience:

    “This is a reality that many Christians, Christians of all kinds, do not want to face. I know very little about Evangelical culture, so prior to Q, I asked a prominent Millennial Evangelical, a thinker I greatly respect, to tell me what I might expect there. He told me that Evangelicals, especially those of his generation, have a particular blind spot about the broader culture. In his view, they have a naive understanding of cultural dynamics, and think that they will be more acceptable to the mainstream if they simply behave with more winsomeness towards them.

    …A new book I need to read is Collin Hansen’s aptly titled Blind Spots, which is about how Christians react out of their own experiences, and fail to see truths about themselves and their approach to the world that are obvious to others. Early in the book — this, according to what I could read on Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature — Hansen talks about how what drew him to faith as a teenager who had grown up in an unbelieving home was the happiness and confidence radiating from Christian kids in his school. From what I gather about the book, it’s about teaching Christians how to be fully Christian — that is, knowing the Christian story, living it out counterculturally, and doing so not with brittleness and hostility, but with joy….

    Now, we ought to react to the rest of the world with kindness, empathy, and respect not as an evangelism strategy, but because it’s the right thing to do. That said, I think it’s simply true as a general matter that you can be as nice as you can be, and the world will still hate you. This is massively true when it comes to the gay rights question. There’s a racist joke that speaks to an ugly truth here: “Q: What do you call a millionaire black brain surgeon? A. [racial slur].” The idea is that for people who hate black folks, nothing that black folks do matters; it’s who they are that the racist cares about. Similarly, for many (though certainly not all) modern people liberal conviction, it doesn’t matter that orthodox Christians serve the poor, or do good in their own communities. What matters is their stance on homosexuality.

    In short: You can be as nice as you can be, and the world will still hate you.

    I believe we are fully and deeply into that era and will continue to be so for some time.

    • That Other Jean says:

      I think you’ve come to a false conclusion here. Speaking as a liberal living mostly among other liberals, I’m pretty sure the world, or at least most of the non-Christian, liberal parts of society in the US, doesn’t hate you at all. It is, though, thoroughly exasperated with your efforts to legislate your your Bible-based morality into US law in defiance of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. It thinks you’re wrong on a number of points, a woman’s rights over her own body and the right of homosexual individuals to marry the partners of their choice among them; but disagreement, however strident, isn’t hatred. You’re welcome to choose for yourselves, just not for the rest of us. Please, continue to do good and serve the poor in every way you can. Many of us are already doing that and supporting programs that do what we can’t, and we’d appreciate the help.

      • Jean, discussion is one thing, but that stage is over. Now it is “Shut up and take it because you are wrong!” And I’m NOT speaking of Christians saying that, either.

        • Christians control 24 complete state governments, 31 governorships (a record), both houses of congress and, by certain measures, the supreme court. Pretty much the only thing that’s happening to ‘you guys’ is that some of us are being a little less than fully enthusiastic in our genuflecting to your magnificence. I guess all I can say is, “Sorry.”

      • As a right-of-center, Christian student, during graduate school, I was “in the closet” so to speak. And I heard professors and lecturers privately and in class speak as if Christians, conservatives, and Southerners were stupid and despicable to the point where I believed if I was found out I would be unemployable. Perhaps that does not count as hate, but it was quite threatening.

        This has no bearing on how Christians, conservatives, and Southerners should behave. I’m simply countering your anecdote with mine.

        For Jesus followers of any stripe, I wonder if how we are perceived or treated is irrelevant. We move forward in love, to the glory of God the Father, guided by the Holy Spirit and submitting ourselves “to live as Jesus would if he were living our life.”*

        *Dallas Willard quote.

      • Jean, I wish what you said was the case. Because if it was just a matter of “to each his own” I would be ok with this. I don’t expect those that don’t believe like me to have the same values as me. In fact, I assume their values will be different.

        However, the “you’re welcome to choose for yourselves, just not for the rest of us” trope is becoming increasingly hypocritical, as the converse is becoming less true by the day. Christian institutions become more and more pressured through everything from legislation to downright bullying, to conform to a liberal worldview of marriage equality. In fact, statements made by the government to the Supreme Court in its recent same-sex trial suggest strongly that Christian universities will lose their tax-exempt status.

        Just the other day, Hillary Clinton said “”Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” This should send a chill down everyone’s spine. Or at least, those that believe in religious freedom.

        • Stephen says:

          The “Christian victim/persecution” trope is ridiculous.

          What religious liberties are threatened? You can believe what you want. you can freely associate with like minded individuals. You can attempt to convince other people of your point of view through argument.

          OTHER THAN THAT YOU DON’T GET.

          Christians don’t just want liberty. They want PRIVILEGE.

          The obligation of the secular state is to treat each of it’s citizens as equal under the law. Consequently, the issue of Gay rights is not a religious question at all. The Supreme Court is not arguing theology.

          • The “Christian victim” trope is ridiculous I totally agree, and in fact have made this very claim in my own teaching and preaching. You are right, we are not being persecuted.

            But this is not what I am talking about here. Gay rights may not be a religious question, but marriage is. As an institution created by God (I believe), it is therefore profoundly theological, regardless of how many times you say it isn’t.

            My religious liberties being threatened are this: I don’t care if gays marry. I don’t care if the government says they can. But I DO care if the government forces me through fines, legislation, and punishment, to marry people that I believe should not be married. This is not “privilege”, in my humble opinion. When Hillary says *my* religious beliefs need to change, exactly how do you think she plans on accomplishing this?

          • Stephen says:

            Marriage is not a religious question. The ceremony in the church is not what makes you married. It’s the license you get from the state that makes you married.. You are free to not enter into a same sex relationship but you are not free to use the coercive powers of the state to impose your personal religious beliefs on everyone else or have your personal religious beliefs privileged in the public square. Politicians pander to their constituencies. The First Amendment to the Constitution still applies.

            It’s pathetic to hear bullies whine about being bullied when someone objects to their bullying.

            I think the best thing that could possibly happen to the Church is for it to lose it’s privileged position in our society. The first thing that would happen is that those bad actors who associate with the Church simply because they perceive some advantage to doing so would be scraped off like the carbuncles and leeches they are. After the purifying fire then renewal could truly begin.

          • “The ceremony in the church is not what makes you married. It’s the license you get from the state that makes you married.”

            I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Married as a legal construct under our government maybe, but I don’t think a government official stamping a piece of paper is the ‘event’ that makes me married in the sight of God. But that’s just me.

            “you are not free to use the coercive powers of the state to impose your personal religious beliefs on everyone else or have your personal religious beliefs privileged in the public square.”

            Again, I agree. Perhaps you’re not actually reading my post? I have never attempted to impose my personal religious beliefs on anyone, including this specific marriage issue around homosexuality. I don’t preach against it, I don’t protest against it, nothing. So I’m not sure why you keep going there in response to me.

            By the same token, my church is not the “public square.” This is the religious freedom I am talking about.

            “I think the best thing that could possibly happen to the Church is for it to lose it’s privileged position in our society.”

            I couldn’t agree more. They don’t worry about these things in China, or Indonesia, or places where the very act of meeting puts your life in danger. A little *true* persecution could go a long way toward purifying the church.

        • StuartB says:

          Well my preference is that you don’t get your preference…why aren’t you respecting my preference?

          • Stephen says:

            Because it’s not about personal preference. It’s about the rule of law and equality under the law.

        • Witten says:

          [[Christian institutions become more and more pressured through everything from legislation to downright bullying, to conform to a liberal worldview of marriage equality. In fact, statements made by the government to the Supreme Court in its recent same-sex trial suggest strongly that Christian universities will lose their tax-exempt status.]]

          Oh no, the’re going to: *change the tax code*.

          • Lol, Witten. I actually cut my thought short. This doesn’t concern me all that much. But experience and observation suggest to me that efforts to curb speech and behavior will not stop here, and eventually filter down to the church, as the government will attempt to tell me how and what I can preach. If it comes, so be it. But that’s my fear, irrational or not.

    • If I hear the word “winsome” used one more time in any kind of Christian writing, I swear I am going to murder something…

    • That said, I think it’s simply true as a general matter that you can be as nice as you can be, and the world will still hate you. This is massively true when it comes to the gay rights question. There’s a racist joke that speaks to an ugly truth here: “Q: What do you call a millionaire black brain surgeon? A. [racial slur].” The idea is that for people who hate black folks, nothing that black folks do matters; it’s who they are that the racist cares about. Similarly, for many (though certainly not all) modern people liberal conviction, it doesn’t matter that orthodox Christians serve the poor, or do good in their own communities. What matters is their stance on homosexuality.

      In short: You can be as nice as you can be, and the world will still hate you.

      Something that has bothered me about Christianity over the last several years — and I only came back to the faith in 2008 so I don’t know how long this spirit reigned before that — is the pervasive attitude that if only we could be nice enough and loving enough people would flock to Christ in droves. Granted, lots of us could stand to be more patient, more caring, more generous, etc., (to each other as well as to the world) but ultimately that guarantees nothing. Our niceness is not the issue. Niceness is just one more technique we’re hoping will lead to guaranteed success because we think there has to be one sure-fire way to maximize conversions. We find it unthinkable that there are people for whom Christ is undesirable. And I think it’s this belief in the triumph of niceness that causes us to get tied up in knots trying to find the perfect way to navigate the intricacies of modern life. We think there has to be a perfect way to keep everyone happy and it’s our job to find it. But there is no perfect way. Someone will always find someone else’s convictions, no matter how sweetly expressed, simply intolerable.

      • David L says:

        We find it unthinkable that there are people for whom Christ is undesirable.

        And yet many in the Gospels rejected Jesus. I think the number is something like only 1 in 4 followed him.

  5. Sheep among wolves. Speaking as one who knows the carnal nature of sex in too many ways and having done too many things to list wrong with all kinds of people I have no right to judgement. Maybe if Jesus was writing in the dirt I would be first to walk away. Maybe I wouldn’t have been there at all. Heck I might of been the stupid man that got her in trouble. I don’t have the answer to the question of the carnal nature that I see in myself as well as man but I do know who does. My council would always be look to the one who loves you if He convicts you of something it is out of love not guilt or condemnation.

    Wish I knew then what I know now. How do you explain that one. Some people get it from young it took me too long. The way that I see sex now and what I would wish for the younger me would be exactly what God had in mind. I find my carnal nature always at odds to the spiritual even now. We have gay men in our church. Don’t ask me how I know and no I didn’t know them before or have any relations. They look for me and they go out of their way to hug me and smile at me. I’m in a judgement free zone. I know Jesus died for us all on the cross and He is the answer in love. I always speak of love and the way He loves us. It’s just not up to me. The light I want to shine must lead back to Him and will be Him who takes others as far as they are able. I want to go farther this is what I continually ask for. I’m going to wear Him out on that one.

    Just to be clear I am not ordained and if I was I would never marry anyone without clear conscience and much time spent in prayer that goes for straight marriages. I would never want to be in a position that I was being held responsible for the things I was doing without much prayer. Maybe many ordained will do gay marriages but it is them that must look to God at the end of it all.

    Again how do we get young people interested in Love…….Love….Sounds simple doesn’t it. Doing it through His eyes is where the difficult part becomes. I have a saying if it was that easy I wouldn’t do it there would be no challenge to it. Now that it not the same thing as saying I (emphasis I) challenge you which I think is just plain wrong. Challenges arise within us that is why I like lifting weights. It isn’t me against the world, just me trying to be a better me.

  6. Mike H says:

    Hi Mike,

    I think you want your Facebook statements to read as questions rather than statements right?

    “Is it possible” rather than “it is possible”?

    Feel free to delete this.

  7. Michael Z says:

    “What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world. They were comfortably, happily attuned to this world.”

    For years, evangelicals thought that everyone is walking around feeling like they’re a horrible person and afraid of death and hell, and that the main thing we can offer them is rescue them that. We built our whole gospel framework around that idea. But few people today are living with the sort of guilt and shame that makes them want what evangelicalism is offering.

    But I think Jesus also came to bring justice to this world. And to gather lonely people together in deep and genuine community. And to bring healing to the wounded. And to give us a way to encounter the mystery and transcendence of God. And to give us a calling and purpose. And those are all things that people in today’s world want and care about – but we lose their interest because what we offer them instead is release from a guilt that they do not feel and do not want to feel.

    When Jesus called his disciples, he just said “follow me.” Their conversion experiences generally had little to do with guilt and repentance, at least initially. They encountered Jesus and were fascinated by him and were willing to leave everything behind to learn more. It’s time we gave up the modern revivalist reinterpretation of the Gospel and went back to doing things the way Jesus did.

    • Yes, this is the message the church needs to be living and preaching if it is to survive. This is the message that our young people will respond too. What it means and looks like to be a follower of Jesus, changes the conversation. I am done with religious doctrines and ideologies but the invitation to “follow” gets me every time.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world. They were comfortably, happily attuned to this world.”

      Sounds more in tune with Judaism’s emphasis on Living Your Life.

    • David H says:

      Well stated; great food for thought

  8. StuartB says:

    HUG must be asleep, I control F’d “cage fighter” and no references came up, Driscoll or otherwise…lol

    The funny thing about that God-shaped void is how often we’re told there is one in us, thus creating one in us the more we hear it. Is there one? I don’t know. The fundy in me says it’s an idea not found in the Bible, so it’s false. The poet in me thinks maybe there is.

    What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world. They were comfortably, happily attuned to this world.

    I’m encouraged by this. More earthly minded than heavenly. This seems like a much needed correction, a proper swing of the pendulum. Proverbs/Ecclesiastes are always two books of the bible that don’t get much attention from the “young and restless” crowd, what with their practical wisdom and advice such as “shut up and be quiet and love god and others and work hard”.

    It’s good stuff.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world. They were comfortably, happily attuned to this world.

      And a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation to Fluffy Cloud Heaven (“It’s All Gonna Burn”) not only cannot appeal to that, they can’t even comprehend that. Two plus Two equals Purple.

    • Well, Paul was quoting a Greek poet when he sai “in him we live and move and have our being,” so i think there’s plenty of room for conjecture and metaphor. Jesus didn’t try to give flat definitions of the kjngdom og God, either – “tto what shall i compare it? It is like [add metaphorical, poetic-type imagery in parable to suit].”

      I think there is something i us that longs for that which is beyond ourselves.

    • Christiane says:

      don’t worry about the young who are happily attuned to the pleasures of this world . . . give them time and years and experiences . . . of loss and grief and failure and pain and illness and worry . . . those not-so-pleasant offerings of this world that come in time to us all . . . and bring us to the place where we are given a chance to re-evaluate the purpose of our existence within this amazing Creation around us . . .

      give the young some time . . . then they will know, for themselves, what we could not tell them

  9. StuartB says:

    A friend posted a series of statements on Facebook today. Number 3 was: “It is possible to follow Jesus and demand equality for LGBTQ people.” I responded with the question: “Is it possible to follow Jesus and NOT demand equality for LGBTQ people.”

    If you were my age saying that, you’d be told you were trying to throw out truth, remake God in your image, be a hater of the gospel, soft on sin, loving those homosexuals more than you love righteousness. All things I’ve been told multiple times from multiple people.

    Even here, sometimes.

  10. “I struggle to understand this whole area. I find it hard to reconcile my high view of scripture, my belief system, with the world around me. The more I study, the more I struggle to understand. How are we to understand Scripture that seems so out of place in our society. Are the texts about Homosexuality going to go the same way as the text about stoning a rebellious son? On what basis? How do we decide? As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.”

    Are any rebellious sons actually stoned in scripture? What happens to Jacob? What does Jesus tell us what happens to a rebellious son who demands his inheritance and walks away from the family? Are any adulterers or fornicators ever stoned? Are any men who lie with men as with women ever put to death? How much “lawbreaking” is there in the story of Israel and what does that story tell us of those who “break” the law? It isn’t law versus grace. It’s not a fight. It is a tension, yes, because the story tells us Israel fails to follow the teaching, Israel follows after other gods, and suffers the consequences of defeat, conquest, and exile. But the entire story of Israel is one of grace — of God choosing a sinful and rebellious people, redeeming them, again and again, and not abandoning them in their sinfulness (even as God consigns them to the consequences of their sin) despite their failure to adhere to the teaching. And using those sinners — and their very sins — to make and fulfill promises to Israel, to humanity, to the world.

    It is not about avoiding the consequences of sin. It is about the promise of God to redeem. It is not about death. It is about resurrection, the defeat of death. It is about doing and being the love of God in the world.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Yes, yes and yes.

      (Charles, are you the same CF whom Dreher quotes from time to time? Forgive my intrusiveness. If you are — holy c**p, what a road you’ve traveled…)

      Dana

  11. Admittedly, I am a long-time and hardcore boxing fan (NOT an MMA fan at all), but the idea that anyone would base their enjoyment of sport on the social or political lives/positions of the participants strikes me as particularly confused. In fact, absurd might be a better word. But we’ve talked about boycotts on iMonk before, and I suppose that isn’t really the point of the post.

  12. Yes, in the public sphere, a wonderfully apt metaphor.

    But away from the spotlight, in the trenches, no. I’ve found that people even in the cold-hearted northeast are looking for something good. The postmodern task of making meaning for one’s own life has become exhausting. I’ve found it’s actually quite easy to paint a broad picture of a non-culture-war Christianity.

    “Here’s what Jesus is really like…. here’s what giving God access to your heart could look like…”

    “Wow, I haven’t heard it put like that before.”

    Over and over again. Our job is to put it like people haven’t heard it before.

  13. These sorts of posts frustrate me. When you say, “Is it possible to follow Jesus and NOT demand equality for LGBTQ people,” exactly what do you mean by “equality”? Do you mean we should treat them as created in the image of God, worthy of our love and respect? Or do you mean what the press and the LGBT group means by ‘equality’, which is specifically centered around the right to marry?

    I am always hesitant when a group, any group, co-ops a positive-sounding term that has wide and broad meaning as representative of their cause, which has the side effect of stifling any and all discussion. Because I mean, really, who wants to be be against equality. But, if taken to its logical conclusion, do we mean equality in all marriage circumstances? For instance, a man wants to marry multiple women. A brother wants to marry his sister. A woman wants to marry herself. A man wants to marry a teenage boy. A person wants to marry a horse. (I’m not making any of this up.) If we want to use the word ‘equality’ as a general, representative term, we better be prepared to accept whatever comes next, other wise you’ll be just as narrow-minded as Evangelicals are considered now.

    • greg r says:

      Equally frustrated here. And yes, there are a variety of meanings for “equal” here, perhaps many. What I mean by “equal” is most assuredly not what is popularly understood. We’ve gone round and round with this here at IMONK before, but you cannot get very far in any discussion until there is some agreement (I didn’t say total agreement) with what homosexuality IS. Definitions of “equal” will follow from that , IMO.

    • Equal right and equal treatment under the law.

      Mike Bell could have referred to the fact that Canadians voted “yes” on same-sex marriage almost 10 years ago. I haven’t heard any reports of the demise of Canadian civil society yet… so i think the answer is pretty clear. People would like to have the ability to marry another adult who is not of the “opposite” sex. And gain the same legal rights and priveliges in so doing that straight people do (and it is quite a long list, those legsl,right and priveleges, really).

      I honestly think a lot of people are going to be surprised at what a non-issue this turns out to be – that the sky really isn’t going to come crashing down once the Supreme Court decision is announced and ssame-sex martiage subsequently becomes legal in all 50 states.

    • * But, if taken to its logical conclusion*

      Theists have not really distinguished themselves in recent years by their ability to recognize logical conclusions.

      *… do we mean equality in all marriage circumstances?*

      No. Only certain circumstances like when two adults of the same gender want to marry each other. That’s the issue on the table. That clear things up for you?

      *(I’m not making any of this up.)*

      No, but you are, in fact, actually making it up. None of the things you say are actually happening.

  14. OldProphet says:

    I wonder if Mr.Ed got married?

  15. As an aside, I really like the slogan on Pacuiao’s shirt that he was poitning to before the fight: “Jesus is the name of the Lord”. To me it reinforces the New Testament’s teaching that Jesus is the visible face of God, that if you want to know who God is and what He is like then look at Jesus.

    I don’t think Manny is a homophobe, he is from a traditional Catholic country and just espousing the traditional view, no hatred implied. I’m Filipino and believe me gays are very prominent and popular there. There is no such thing as a “closet”, most never need to hide. The people seem to have a tolerant attitude, though they tend to be trated as somewhat loveable and funny (sorry it sounds awful but it is true).

  16. Dana Ames says:

    Christianity has never been about being “winsome”.

    There were long-term same-sex relationships in the ancient world, especially male/male. This situation was not “marriage”, but – especially if the parties were wealthy – it looked every bit like “marriage” except for the possibility of begetting children. Christians did not have much to say about this, and were certainly in no position of advantage to do anything about it. Christian writers of that day quoted scripture all over the place – mostly in addressing one another. There is no indication that Christians tried to impose any of their ethic on the people around them (except for some episodes of blow-back persecution of pagans in North Africa, all of which were denounced by Christian bishops).

    The earliest Christians were known for their sexual continence, and that’s one of the main things that made some people around them think they were nuts. Did every Christian do everything perfectly then? Of course not. But on balance, it was their sexual continence, their care for others not part of their “tribe” and their belief in the Resurrection of Christ and him as the One True God that were remarkable to the people around them – not their fixation on The Bible™.

    One of the most important things Christians believed came about because of Jesus was the opening of the path toward being a fully flourishing Human – being the creatures God creates each of us to be. As Michael Z wrote above, the “good news” Evangelicalism has offered in the past, and even in the not-so-recent past, now falls on deaf ears, not least because, as Sean wrote above, many people are looking for something good, even transcendent. The “gospel” of “going to Heaven after you die” does not make any transcendent connection between our life now and our life after our death, and devalues our life now.

    The Christian teaching of sexual continence *for Christians* is still going to make us look nuts to the people around us. So, okay, no different than the situation 2000 years ago. Christians simply being kind and respectful toward everyone and decoupling from the culture wars can make a difference, also as Sean wrote above. If persecution should come, continuing to be kind to others is the only response that is truly godly.

    What, indeed, is our message?

    Dana

    • yes, I agree

    • Christiane says:

      Hi DANA,
      about ‘our message’ . . .

      well, once someone said: ‘where there is hatred, let me sow love’

      but you can bet he wasn’t a fundamentalist-evangelical . . . he wasn’t much for killing either, or for saying ‘be afraid, be very, very afraid’, and I don’t think he was unkind to animals or to the lepers of his day, not by any of the stories that have come down about him, and he even befriended the Islamic lord Saladin, not something today’s world would understand either

      some would say ‘well, he must not have been much of a Christian, don’t ya know’ . . .

      Our thoughts today about what Christianity was, is, and will become are so varied that they would stretch from the east to the west and back again . . . and yet we know that the One Christianity is named for ‘was, is, and is to come’
      an unchanging Presence to those who would walk after Him . . . so we have a problem not so much of who He was, but who we are, and what we are trying to convey to the world

      we could use some time to sort this out and try to get it right, if only we didn’t have to deal with all those homosexuals, those transy people, those feminazis, those Muslims, those immigrants, those ‘cathlicks’, those liberals, those labor unions, those poor folks too sick to work, those retards, those addicts, those . . . . just listing the ‘others’ takes forever . . . then there’s that socialist Pope to worry about . . .

      So what is ‘our message’ these days? And why don’t we know what it is? So, who shall we go to THIS week for the words of eternal life . . . so many voices out there to choose from . . . so many choices, we are sure to find someone to follow

  17. Just take the first part of the proposition:
    ““Is it possible to follow Jesus and NOT demand equality for ____?”

    No matter what is in the blank, the question then becomes, is demanding equality (for anyone) a precondition in order to follow Jesus?
    Getting a little closer to context, is political activism an essential part of following Christ?

    • Might depend how you interpret this: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

      • Indeed, Mike.

      • John Timonty says:

        Mike these words just jumped off the page when I read them: “What was meaningful to the young people interviewed was life, family, love, work, relationships and the enjoyment of this world” The last three Evangelical churches in, this is the message. How to solve your life problems., how to have a great family, how to make your money work for you….not a whole lot about Jesus…..just give your money to Jesus and you will get it back 10 fold….they are getting message as delivered..,,,

    • Is demanding equality = political activism?

      What about staying silent in when we see injustice? Do we become enablers of those who perpetuate the injustices?

      These are the questions I struggle with.

      • Mike, I appreciate your struggle. In the original question, when someone “demands” equality, WHO are they demanding it of? Society (polis, politics)? Our do you think they are making the demand to God himself? God sometimes seems to play favorites, but in Romans 2 it makes no difference whether we are genetically sons of Abraham or not. In that sense we are all ALREADY equal, because we’ve all sinned and fallen short of His glory.

        Getting back to the idea that one must demand equality in order to be a Christ-follower: I know there are more than a few people who think that Paul condoned slavery because he did not actively speak against it. (Eph. 6:5) It’s also interesting that when a centurion of the oppressive Roman government is found to have more faith than anyone in Israel (Matt 8:10), Jesus does not demand that he give up his day job (Matt 8:13).
        When a tax collector for the Roman government begins his friendship with Jesus, Jesus does not demand he give up tax collecting. (The 4x refund was Zacchaeus’ own idea; it was not demanded of him.)

        I am not saying the issues of oppression do not get addressed in scripture. I am saying that the the Lord does not make demanding justice from others into a precondition of following Him. In fact, following Jesus’ example, He did not regard his own equality a thing to be “grasped”.

    • I don’t think we are judged on whether we are politically active, which in its most basic form can be very cheap and easy anyhow. I think we are judged on how we handle the situations that we are part of each day, each moment, in a community as local as “those we have direct influence on”. That is a life’s work for any man, and far harder than writing letters or signing petitions.

  18. Have you read a book called, “After modernity…what?” By Thomas Oden? I’m currently reading it myself and I think what you’re getting at in this post is primarily what Oden is addressing in that book. Basically its the collapse of the modernist system which both liberal and conservative sides of the Christian spectrum bought into.

  19. Burro [Mule] says:

    I am a little at edge with the Church’s main purpose being the “establishment of PEACE® and JVSTICE®” That road leads to Rome, and not Pope Francis’ Rome, but Antonius Pius’ Rome. Rome established something of a raw peace and a raw justice in a world that knew little of either. Since then we have seen a cavalcade of ruling elites misusing their privileges, being toppled by the fed-up oppressed, with the most cagey elements among them becoming oppressors in their turn.

    What the Church was established to do was to generate Jesuses. Lots of them. Not Social Justice Warriors, not Ethical Businessmen or Businesswomen, not John Galts, or any other substitute. Jesuses. “As I am, so should ye be in the world.” I can’t think of anything more revolutionary than that. I offer as exhibits Saints Francis and John Maximovich. Even among Protestants (and I can think of nothing that militates against the kind of sainthood we need more than imputed righteousness, taken the wrong way), there have been such as Corrie ten Boom, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Brother Roger of Taize, Basilea Schlink.

    The best part about this job description is that the external circumstances of temporal power and comfort do not matter. Saint Symeon lived in the center of luxurious 11th C. Constantinople in the security of the Christian empire, and Father Damien lived in a leper colony.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Yes.

      D.

    • Yes. Perhaps my favorite Mule post ever.

    • Robert F says:

      You can have Saint Francis and Father Damien. I’ll take George Fox, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. I prefer their social holiness, because it recognizes that honoring the dignity of God’s image in human beings involves working against political and systemic evil. They were not ascetic athletes (well, maybe George Fox was, at least a little bit), but found their path in honoring the image of God in their oppressed neighbors.

      • Robert F says:

        And these Jesuses were generated when they were “crucified” by the powers and principalities for making bold stands against injustice and oppression.

      • Is it necessary to pit these personalities against one another?

        • Robert F says:

          No. But that’s what Mule in his original comment did by pitting social justice against traditional Christian concepts of sanctity, and I replied within the context of his observations.

          I say, Let justice and peace flow like running waters.

      • Robert, I’m not sure Father Damien is an example of asceticism and solitary holiness. He lived in the leper colonh on Molokai in order to try and help the people who were exiled there – and he did. Ended up getting Hansen’s himself, of course, but he was with the others there, not immured in some cell. By all accounts, the leper colony was absolutely horrendous before he and some of the inmates started to work toward stopping rampant (violent) crime, starting to get decent living quarters and sanitation for the folks living there, and much more.

        It all changed the treatment of people with Hansen’s forever. Really a landmark in all kinds of ways.

        • Robert F says:

          Yes, I sort of knew this. But I was pointing to examples of Protestant holiness grounded in social justice theology. I figured Mule would claim Father Damien as part of the Catholic/Orthodox territories. But if we include Father Damien, then I’d also include a host of other capital “S” Saints as well, and people like Blessed Dorothy Day, as examples of peace and justice social sanctity at work, despite Mule’s non-Protestant protestations.

          • Robert, well… certainly Catholicism has very often bern actively engaged in social justice movements ov many kinds.

      • Christiane says:

        take another look at Damien . . . he had to fight the powers of the state and the Church to get help for his flock of lepers . . . he is the inspiration for many of those workers who went into the parts of the world where Ebola hurt thousands of innocent people . . .

        I think we have over-rated politics as the great power mover and shaker of our world, when sometimes it’s the smallest act of kindness that holds within itself a far greater power for change . . . that paradox seems to be something that pleases God more . . .

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZEKSHBJtdc

  20. After reading imonk for several months it has certainly become the Robert F. blog

  21. DennisB says:

    “My religious liberties being threatened are this: I don’t care if gays marry. I don’t care if the government says they can. But I DO care if the government forces me through fines, legislation, and punishment, to marry people that I believe should not be married. This is not “privilege”, in my humble opinion. When Hillary says *my* religious beliefs need to change, exactly how do you think she plans on accomplishing this?”

    From a historical perspective I wonder if anyone knows how modern day laws and constitution evolved from a Judeo-Greco/Roman-Christian foundation, to what it is today ? I’m assuming that the Greco/Roman concept of marriage was subsumed by Christian sacramentalism, as the material concept was quite close to the scriptural definitions. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    So, in various ancient cultures we have marriage defined as 1 man & 1 women together, with focus on family & children (& in the Christian sense – or Israel with God – a reflection of God’s unity with mankind demonstrated in a unique bond of love with His Church – a high standard I know !).

    As European culture traversed the last 2000 odd years, these concepts remained intact. It is only now that we have a modernist philosophy that wants to redefine what marriage was perceived to be, in multiple ancient cultures. It wants to redefine marriage and overturn ancient concepts and apply new concepts to the whole of society. Those definitions are also tied in with the laws and constitutions. The Christian church is able to uphold and agree with many current marital laws in this form. However, if marriage gets redifined, there is no obligation that Christians should agree to it. It’s a case of “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.

    We don’t have a right to tell people they can’t live together as “partners”. However, I think we have a right to protest the redefining of marriage to mean something foreign to what it really is. As the new meaning does not reflect the understanding of traditional cultures and it doesn’t reflect scriptural or patristic thought either. This is important because marriage is a typology of Christ & His Church. The bride & Bridegroom. The “type” of united man & woman in the Biblical context following on from Old Testament concepts and privileges.

    I share the same concern as Jerry above, that “LGBT rights” vs “religious freedom” is ending up in the “boxing arena”. The problem for Christians is that if our concerns aren’t expressed wisely, firmly & lovingly, we will look like hypocritical fascists.

    Another concern is, should Christians spend time assisting one highly political “cashed-up” minority group, concerned with “individual rights”, when there are a lot of other social justice issues where people don’t have a voice, or enough cash ?