If You Want to Turn Me Into a Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Here’s How to Do It

UPDATE:  Apparently I know how to stir up the proverbial hornet’s nest.  This political thing is a rather longstanding sore spot of mine.

The rise of the Moral Majority back in the 80s created a culture within evangelicalism where political involvement is expected as a proof of discipleship–knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt what you believe with regard to the issues of the day and how those beliefs tie in to your faith in God, and being able to articulate this in a certain way.  I regard this as a very unfortunate development because it has diverted us from what ought to be our primary focus, namely to lift up the name of Jesus Christ in our world.

But I may have been a little too over-the-top here, and thus have made myself part of the problem which I wished to denounce.  So in the spirit of advancing the civility of political discourse which I wish to promote, allow me to set the example and apologize to those of you who may have taken offense.

If you really want to see me jump ship and defect over to the liberal side of the fence, here is one sure-fire way to do it:

Bust out the alarmist rhetoric, the talking points from Hannity, Drudge, and whoever else is out there on the radio.  Talk about how the government is taking away our rights.  Talk about how the Americorps is Obama’s answer to Hitler Youth.  Talk about how this AIG thing is just a smokescreen by the liberal media to incite class warfare as a diversion for their real agenda, which is to enshrine Obama as the chief of a neo-fascist state.  Talk about how Obama’s economic policies are nothing more than an attempt to push the country to a crisis point so that he and his big government can step in and institute a new fascist state with himself as the new Fuhrer.  Talk about how people who dare to criticize Obama’s policies in public venues are being carted off to back rooms and beaten senseless by Secret Service thugs.  Talk about how certain states need to just go ahead and secede from the Union and be done with it.

Come on, people.

Surely you know that this sort of rhetoric serves no purpose whatsoever except to convince the already convinced and to drive a wedge between yourselves and the unconvinced.  And you may just succeed in pushing me completely and totally over the edge. Continue reading “If You Want to Turn Me Into a Bleeding-Heart Liberal, Here’s How to Do It”

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Les Miserables 7: The Night After a Day’s Walk

We have spent the first twelve chapters of Les Miserables learning all about the character of Monseigneur Bienvenu.  Victor Hugo did a very thorough job of laying out this character and exploring it from many different angles.  We learned all about how he became bishop of Digne, and we saw how he came to be very much respected and revered by his parishioners.  We saw that compassion for the poor was the top priority in his life, even though it seriously inconvenienced himself and those who lived with him.  We saw numerous examples of this compassion in action, including a visit to far-flung parishioners which required him to pass through bandit-infested mountains, and a visit to a dying pariah which unexpectedly turned out to be a defining moment in his life.

Now we meet a rough-looking stranger traveling on foot who enters the town of Digne about an hour before sunset.  We track with him as he tries to obtain dinner and lodging at a tavern.  At first the owner is obliging, telling him that dinner will be ready soon.  But unbeknownst to him, the owner sends a messenger to the town hall, and apparently obtains some information on who this stranger is, because as soon as he receives the answer, he throws him out.  In the course of this interchange, we learn that the stranger is none other than Jean Valjean.

Next we track with Jean Valjean as he tries, unsuccessfully, to obtain lodging at other taverns.  The word about him has spread all over town, and none of the other innkeepers is willing to receive him.  Even the local jailer will not receive him.  He stops at a likely looking home and knocks on the door, but the family closes it violently in his face.  He even tries to find shelter in an outbuilding in somebody’s yard, but this turns out to be a kennel and the dogs chase him out.  He heads out of town with the idea of sleeping under the stars, but the sky looks so threatening and the landscape so desolate that it scares him.  Finally he heads back into town through a gap in the wall; by this time the gates have closed.  As he passes the church he shakes his fist at it; he settles down for the night on a stone bench in the cathedral square.  An old woman directs him to the bishop’s residence and instructs him to knock on that door. Continue reading “Les Miserables 7: The Night After a Day’s Walk”

Could I Get Some Humility…Please?

UPDATE:  In reviewing this post it becomes clear to me that it could be interpreted as singling out my church for criticism.  That is not my intent.  Rather, my intent is to speak of evangelical Protestant-dom as a whole.  There is nothing in my church that I would criticize that is not also common to evangelical Protestant-dom as a whole–or at least a very large segment thereof.  The issues that I speak of in this post–our dependence on human effort in the form of Christian culture and technological and organizational know-how rather than upon the Holy Spirit, our willingness to sacrifice the Gospel to alternative agendas such as the culture war or church growth–are systemic issues which are prevalent throughout much of evangelical Protestant-dom, not just any one church.

I love my church.  I love the band, the music, the lights, the teaching (most of the time).  I love the community that I get to be a part of, the people that I get to be involved and serve and do life with.  I love being part of a church that is intentionally geared toward reaching people of my age group and season of life.  And I love being part of a growing and vibrant church community that is among the most well-respected names in evangelicalism here in my city.

But there is one thing that I would like to see just a little bit more of.

Humility.

Humility to recognize that much of what we consider important, and even essential, to our ability to grow in, to express, and to sustain the Christian faith…may not be so essential after all.

Humility to recognize that we have lost (and even deliberately thrown away) much that is of great value. Continue reading “Could I Get Some Humility…Please?”

An Interlude: Success and the Gospel–Rethinking Galatians Redux

In the previous Les Miserables post I touched briefly upon the idea of how people idolise success and confuse it with merit.  There was a relevant quote from Victor Hugo that I wanted to include in that post.  I did not include it, because it would have made that post too long, so I will include it here.

In passing, we might say that success is a hideous thing.  Its false similarity to merit deceives men.  To the masses, success has almost the same appearance as supremacy.  Success, that pretender to talent, has a dupe–history.  Juvenal and Tacitus only reject it.  In our day, an almost official philosophy has entered into its service, wears its livery, and waits in its antechamber.  Success:  That is the theory.  Prosperity supposes capacity.  Win in the lottery, and you are an able man.  The victor is venerated.  To be born with a caul is everything.  Have luck alone and you will have the rest; be happy, and you will be thought great.  Beyond the five or six great exceptions, the wonders of their age, contemporary admiration is nothing but shortsightedness.  Gilt is gold.  To be a chance comer is no drawback, provided you have improved your chances.  The common herd is an old Narcissus, who adores himself and applauds the common.  That mighty genius, by which one becomes a Moses, an Aeschylus, a Dante, a Michelangelo, or a Napoleon, the multitude attributes at once and by acclamation to whoever succeeds in his object, whatever it may be.  Let a notary rise to be a deputy; let a sham Corneille write Tiridate; let a eunuch come into the possession of a harem; let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of an era; let a pharmacist invent cardboard soles for army shoes and put aside, by selling this cardboard as leather for the army of the Sambre-et-Meuse, four hundred thousand livres in income; let a peddler marry usury and have her bear seven or eight million, of which he is the father and she the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by talking platitudes; let the steward of a good house become so rich that on leaving service he is made Minister of Finance–men call that Genius, just as they call the face of Mousqueton, Beauty, and the bearing of Claude, Majesty.  They confuse heaven’s radiant stars with a duck’s footprint left in the mud.

Okay, there are a whole lot of names in the above quote that you probably know nothing of, but I think you get the idea.  Society considers that which is successful to be good simply by the mere fact that it is successful, with no question as to whether or not it is actually good.  A man could win a billion dollars in the lottery, and he will be held by society in the exact same esteem as a man who earns a billion dollars by hard work and wise, shrewd investment.  A man who is appointed to a high position simply by virtue of his social connections is held in the exact same esteem as a man who is eminently qualified for the position by virtue of his own merit.  A preacher who builds a church of 300,000 by talking platitudes which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is held in the exact same esteem as one who achieves the same results while remaining faithful to the Gospel, if in fact that is possible.  And a church which draws a crowd by reinventing itself in such a way as to be pleasing to unbelievers is held in greater esteem than a church which proclaims and lives out the Gospel, but does not pull the numbers.

Those last two examples should have hit home really hard with those of us who are deeply emmeshed in the world of evangelical Protestant-dom. Continue reading “An Interlude: Success and the Gospel–Rethinking Galatians Redux”

Les Miserables 6: The Solitude of Monseigneur Bienvenu

Right now we are in the middle of introducing the character of Monseigneur Bienvenu, bishop of Digne.  This is a long, drawn-out process which takes up no less than all of the first 14 chapters of Les Miserables.

We started out by looking at Monseigneur Bienvenu’s personal history prior to becoming bishop of Digne, we looked at how he went about his business as bishop, and then we looked at a couple of telling incidents in his life, one in which he went to visit some parishioners in a far-flung part of his diocese and had to pass through bandit-infested mountains to get there, and one in which he went to visit a dying pariah who was ostracized by the people of Digne because he had served as a revolutionary conventionist during the French Revolution.  This visit with the conventionist G—- was a highly emotional encounter which would prove to be a defining moment in Monseigneur Bienvenu’s life.

This leaves us with four chapters to take us to the end of Book One, and we will attempt to breeze through these in relatively short order.  This should be easy, since the action returns to a leisurely pace for the next four chapters.  Get used to this; this is a pattern which you will see throughout the remainder of Les Miserables–the alternation of highly dramatic passages with less intense, informative passages. Continue reading “Les Miserables 6: The Solitude of Monseigneur Bienvenu”

Michael Spencer: The “Limbaugh-ization” of Evangelicals

If you want to know one of the things that I believe is most desperately wrong with present-day evangelical Protestant-dom, the post which I wish to direct your attention to today will lay it all out for you.

Rush Limbaugh has been one of the leading voices in all of conservative politics for the last two decades.  He is passionate about America, about the need to defeat liberals and to rescue America by returning to conservative values.  Much of what he upholds are values which our distinctively Christian message drives us to uphold as well.  But if you look closely, you will find that there is nothing distinctively Christian in his message.  By his own admission, he believes in the Christian God–as far as that goes.  But the kind of God that you would glean from his message is a God who is for America, opposed to the policies of liberals, and all in favor of capitalism, limited government, freedom, democracy, and the pursuit of what we would call the American Dream.

And yet this is the archetype of the typical Christian disciple in many, many places in evangelical Protestant-dom nowadays.  Michael Spencer refers to this phenomenon as the “Limbaugh-ization” of evangelicals.

The problem is that we in evangelical Protestant-dom have overidentified ourselves with the culture war for the last two to three decades.  The result of all this is that we have produced a generation of believers who can tell you spot on what they believe in regard to abortion and gay marriage primarily, and perhaps on secondary issues such as gun control, capital punishment, immigration, etc.  They can tell you how their positions on all these issues tie in with their belief in God.  They MAY (if you’re lucky) be able to tie their positions on these issues to some sort of Biblical basis.  But when it comes to articulating anything remotely resembling the historic Christian faith in regards to such distinctive Christian doctrines as the creation, the fall, the Gospel, the authority of Scripture, the church, the Kingdom of God and the lordship of Christ–good luck.  Not gonna happen.

I voted for Obama in the previous election cycle.  My vote was largely motivated by protest against the culture war emphasis in evangelical Protestant-dom.  What got me was that so many evangelicals were so fixated upon the issues of abortion and gay marriage, and so dead set against Obama because of his opposition to our position on those issues, that they were willing to completely and totally overlook the fact that their guy had no semblance of a distinctive message whatsoever–except “Don’t vote for Obama because…”.

The Church of Jesus Christ is NOT some voting bloc to be mobilized at will for the sake of the conservative political cause/candidate du jour.  I feel an intense revulsion towards those culture war types who have such a low view of the Church that they think our purpose is nothing more than to support or promote their agenda, whatever it may be.  The mainline Protestant denominations couldn’t get away with this; they are now hemorrhaging members because of their insistence upon being wed to a liberal political agenda.  Evangelical Protestant-dom is only a couple of decades away from a similar fate if it continues to insist upon being wed to a conservative political agenda–or any agenda other than that of the historic Christian faith.

Read The Limbaughization of Evangelicals by Michael Spencer

Les Miserables 5: The Bishop in the Presence of an Unfamiliar Light (cont’d)

In the previous post we looked at Monseigneur Bienvenu and his encounter with the conventionist G—-, a dying pariah who lived all by himself on the outskirts of Digne.  Monseigneur Bienvenu was rather harsh with him during the early part of their meeting, but then G—- lit into him with an explosive diatribe accusing him of living richly in the name of Jesus Christ who walked barefoot.  He ended his harangue with the question “Who are you?”, and that is the point where we left off.

And now that you’ve had a couple of days to wait breathlessly for the continuation of this gripping saga, we will pick up right there.

The bishop responded with the Latin phrase “Vermis sum” (I am a worm).  To my mind, the use of the high church Latin right there, in conversation with a conventionist who has just shown a strong distrust for the church, destroys the earnestness of whatever the bishop was trying to communicate.  But perhaps that was all he could have said in that moment.

The conventionist was not too impressed with this response either, because in response he said, “An earthworm in a carriage!” Continue reading “Les Miserables 5: The Bishop in the Presence of an Unfamiliar Light (cont’d)”