Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Culture Wars 2: Up is Down

One thing I'm realizing is that as I attempt to discuss relevant cultural issues with those of diverse opinions is that the words I use may be the same words they use yet the meanings have changed.

I'm a baby boomer, so for me words meanings go back to at least what they were in a generation past.  Not long past, but past.  But as we saw and heard in President Clinton's term, "is" may not mean "is" anymore to some.

Apparently the same is true with terms that are being hashed out in the cultural debates in 2012.  Here's what I've noticed.  In 2012...

..."Tolerance" means agreement.  If you disagree with me you must be intolerant.  Back in the day "tolerance" meant I may not agree with you.  I may think you are dead wrong.  But I'll respect your right to disagree.

..."Disagreement" means "hate".  If you disagree with me you hate me.  I grew up believing that it was possible for friends and families to love one another yet be on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Today's mantra is "Don't hate", which simply means, don't disagree and please don't verbalize that disagreement.  I still believe it is possible to disagree on major issues politically and morally and not want to kill the person you disagree with.  In fact, I think you can and should love even those you with whom you disagree.

..."Love" means acceptance.  If you love me you'll let me.  If you love me then you'll let me do my thing, whatever it might be, and respect my right to do it, even if you think it's wrong.  Yet my parents often stopped me from making major mistakes while growing up because of their love for me.  Love in my day didn't mean you didn't confront someone.  We believed in something called "tough love" if it was necessary.  Love didn't mean "I'm OK and you're OK".

..."Judge" means disagree.  If you disagree with me you're judging me, and everyone knows Jesus even said not to do that.  If you're judging me it means you think you or your opinion is better than my own.  There was a time in this country when to "judge" meant to use common moral sense about right and wrong.  And so, we made judgments - moral evaluations based on a greater, higher authority than our own.  Some call them "absolutes".  We believed them so deeply we were willing to stand up and protest.  But absolutes have gone the way of Blockbuster Video.  Seen one of those lately?

For example, there was a time when murder was always wrong (an absolute) because life was sacred (another absolute).  But then we began to redefine and water down those absolutes so that even the criminal became acceptable.

Abortion and assisted suicide somehow became acts of love.  Selfish love, perhaps, but we determined culturally that they were no longer wrong.  To speak out against them was judgmental, intolerant and hateful.

So, it becomes increasingly difficult to debate a point when the other person in the debate is essentially speaking a different, redefined language.  Hence the feeling of frustration.  Up is down when I think it is still up.    

I guess we'll have to learn to be bi-lingual if we're ever going to make sense.  And would someone please notify Webster of the changes?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Culture Wars

This whole thing with Dan Cathey, Chic-fil-a and his statement that he believes in the biblical traditional model of marriage has convinced me that we, indeed are in a cultural war in this country.  Two sides are distinctly drawn, it seems.

What has me most concerned is not so much that there are so many who now believe in a different definition of marriage, and that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow a bigot or hater, but that so many who profess allegiance to Christian values see more conservative believers as bigoted.

I confess.  Over the years I have "softened" my understanding of many things I once felt strongly about, mostly because I recognize more and more my own limited knowledge.   At the same time I hold to a very high view of Scripture, treating it as the very Word of God.  I also have a high respect for the two centuries of orthodox faith, meaning that it would be virtually impossible to conceive that the body of faithful Christianity, including it's greatest thinkers, apologists and theologians have "gotten it wrong" all this time.

Really?  Would the Holy Spirit allow that to happen without constant generational correction?  God is patient, as He demonstrated with Israel in the Old Testament.  But God also had limits to His patience, finding ways to bring them back to Him when they strayed.  Certainly He cares no less for the Church in this era of grace.

There are those who point out that Christians indeed, "got it wrong" in this country in the past, using slavery as an example.  And they are right.  But, they did so in defiance of Scripture and by contorting it to agree with their wrong conclusions.

But marriage has been the same since Adam gave Eve her first kiss as his bride, with God officiating the ceremony.  (Yes, I'm using allegory.)  "Male and female" was the Divine design, and that was before the Mosaic writings condemning homosexuality among the Jews BC and the Pauline words AD to the Roman and Corinthian churches that homosexual behavior had no place in the life of a Christian. 

So, what has me perplexed is the seeming growing number of professing Christians - most I will admit are millennials - who see no problem with what has been regarded for two thousand years as not just wrong but really wrong.  Has the church, in an effort to win a generation by failing to teach every part of the Bible, even the hard parts (and there are many) or by dodging the counter-cultural in Scripture, turned a generation who says they love Jesus into one that thinks He's great, but His Word is irrelevant?

I've been pastor of the same church for 21 and a half years, so I've seen an entire generation come and go.  Longer than that, I've been either a pastor or a theological student (hopefully I'm still both) for the better part of four decades.  Longer than that (!) I've been a reborn Christian for close to half a century.  And all that time I've been an observer both of culture and of the church.  Often I'm a critic of both.

My observations are driving me to believe that if the church does not see we are in a war for the souls of our children and grandchildren and realize we must now stand in the gap and "fight back" by grounding the church in "sound doctrine", those generations will have no grasp of the differences, whether subtle or stark in the worldviews that are captivating them.  It will take more than creative tweeting or posting.  It will take a prophetic voice.

And we all know what happened to the prophets.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

God uses every experience

When I was working in construction 25 years ago I wasn’t happy about it.  God had called me to preach and lead in the church, but for a season He had me banging (and bending) nails.  I confess I didn’t do so with the most submissive of attitudes toward the Lord, often asking “Why?” and whining.

But if we understand that our lives are under the lordship of a sovereign God who uses every experience as a tool to mold and shape us, then we can handle the disappointments life brings with grace.  Before those 4 years I call my “wilderness journey” I knew nothing about construction and had no skills with hammer or saw.

It now makes perfect sense to me why God took me down that path for a while.  In 1991 and 1999 I was able to use those skills to remodel and add on to my own house.  A few years ago I got to go to Canada and help build cabins for a Christian conference outreach to native Americans with our missionaries Don and Mary DeHart.  I’ve even applied some of that knowledge and skill to projects around NHC over the years.

Once again God is letting me dust off my tool belt to do some mission work.  Now banging nails is a joy as I see the seeds planted and watered in the hearts of those needing Christ.

We’re talking about seasons and times of life today.  God uses them all for our good and the good of the good of others, even if we don’t at first see it.