Guest Post: In Defense of Organized Religion
Guest Post: In Defense of Organized Religion
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by “Blackiswhite Imperial Consigliere”, a blogger, and a friend of Victory Girls. His rebuttal is in response to this post by Dejah, “The Paradox of Organized Christianity…“.
In Defense of Organized Religion
Before I get started, I would like first to thank my gracious hosts here at Victory Girls. I always enjoy reading the work that is posted here, even on the occasions when I disagree with some or all of the conclusions stated. I didn’t lightly ask for the opportunity to rebut Dejah Thoris’ post here, and in fact, I could have posted this response at several other blogs, but it still wouldn’t have exposed the same audience to an opposing viewpoint.
My own life not included, there is one thing that all religions, especially Christian monotheism seem to have a problem with, and it needs a Reformation to fix it….
I take an exception to this, based on the main thrust of this piece. First, because of the use of the term “Christian monotheism”, prompts me to ask “Is there any other kind?”, and second, because Buddhists largely take a “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine” approach to things, thus invalidating the premise as stated.
Christianity has WAAAAAYYYYY to many people who are worried about what other believers and nonbelievers are doing with each other behind closed doors.
Well, the obvious response is “What you’re talking about doesn’t stay behind closed doors.” But then you knew that…or should have known it.
This is an example of “judge not, lest ye be judged.”
I’m actually glad that you bring the judging thing up, because many Christians allow themselves to be silenced by people who never bothered to read all the verses, or by those who ( often correctly) hope that many Christians haven’t. That said, I agree with your conclusion that it was absolutely the wrong way to handle it, because of Luke 10:6-8 and 1 Timothy 5:18, if for no other reason.
I prefer my Christianity with quite a bit less window peeping from Blanche from the church choir or sermonizing about the evils of drink and fornication. I do believe in some judging, but many times, those of us with a Godly bent have the balance way off on the judging versus not judging scale.[This is actually a quote from another piece I have written] This is where things have gotten out of hand with too much of Christendom today, because of a conscious decision to embrace the ignorance of non-believers. We let those who do not walk in the faith and who are not filled with the Holy Spirit selectively read our scripture, and stop before they reach the part that changes the meaning of the point they want to make. Consequently, when we dare to call sin by its name and mark it for what it is, we often have Matthew 7:1-5 tossed back in our faces.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
But this leaves off the final verse of the passage, verse 6.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
It doesn’t exactly square with the idea that Christians aren’t supposed to judge, does it? But it does imply that there is an expectation of judgment. Still, occasionally I encounter such a person with the presence of mind to avoid this and instead quote Luke 6:37-42.
37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. 41 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
At first blush, it also apparently forbids judging. But, as with the previous verses, the last one is key, as it clearly contemplates judgment…you couldn’t remove the plank from your brother’s eye without it. But, if you read both passages carefully, what is required is that the judge must first look upon themselves with honest reflection, and address their own foibles before looking upon those of others and addressing them. This is borne out in John 7:24.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
This was Christ addressing the Pharisees who were condemning him for being about his Father’s work on the Sabbath. He didn’t tell them not to judge; he told them to judge with a discerning judgment. This either escapes the notice of, or is purposely omitted by those who believe themselves worthy to preach to us. And either out of ignorance, or fear of not being “liked”, we let them. Because of this failure in ourselves, we fail to meet our calling to be salt, which is both an irritant, and a preservative, and we fail in our calling to be light, because our desire to not offend means that we will not speak the truth to those in bondage to sin, instead opting to let them believe that they are not in an immortal peril, allowing their chains to drag them to a second death when they leave this world. [End quote from the Joel’s Prophecy post “Salt Good For Nothing…”]
And as for the window peeping, I certainly agree that there is a line that no one, least of all myself feels comfortable in having crossed, but I also keep two things in mind when I think of such things. The first is that believers have a sense of shame because they should (meaning they don’t have an excuse) believe in concepts such as right and wrong, and this knowledge means that we’re more likely to try to keep our stumbles, failures, and trespasses private. God isn’t blind to these acts, and the Bible is very clear that such actions have consequences. (2 Samuel, Chapter 12 is pretty clear about both of these points.) It is a selfish person who haughtily presumes that their actions will be free of consequences for others…a fact true of both excessive drink and reckless fornication. It is even worse to presume that there are not consequences for the society in which you live, a fact that isn’t always brought into focus unless someone asks whether the license (not liberty) being promoted helps or harms society, which more often than not cannot be addressed honestly because of the fear of offending others, or the outrage that will inevitably be claimed.
The second thing I keep in mind is that a benefit of membership in the body is the fact that you are accountable to others in it for your behavior. This is not a responsibility to be assumed lightly, and it requires the humility and self-examination I spoke of earlier. Sometimes this requires the ability to lend perspective in the way that Nathan did for David in 2 Samuel 12, but the practice of a discerning judgment isn’t just something that is “ok…maybe…under certain circumstances”; it is vital to the health of the church body.
Christianity, and its’ adherents seem to me to spend unbalanced amounts of time focusing inward on the behavior of the followers and not outward on how to help the community and the world at large. We Christians need to spend more time on what we do within our own faith, in helping our community, and giving much less of two poops in a pocket about what anyone is doing in their bedroom or with someone else.
I agree with part of this. However, my contention isn’t with the amount of time spent focusing inward, but with the approach that is often taken. Why? Because I don’t think it is working.
Like it or not, there is a growing number of people in society who want to believe that the concept of sin is silly, and look for us to fail, stumble, and fall, so they can point, call it out, and use it as justification for never bending their own knees or attempting to change how they live and what they live for. In a world filled with a myriad of distractions and obligations, we often fail to devote the time and thought to the things we should know, and to learning of the wisdom in the Bible itself. (Something I freely admit to falling prey to myself.) The result is we generally make it too easy for those watching us to enjoy all the excuse they need to continue living the way that they do. As a result, I’d prefer to see more of our time within the church spent in serious discussions about why what we do and how we live matters, more time working on grounding ourselves in the Word, and more time in prayer for the body collectively, and for those who are most under the scrutiny of the world. It is a very sobering responsibility to be a pastor or church leader in this era, not only because their every action will be scrutinized, but because the pressure gets to too many of them.
Having volunteered with various community groups that are supported by area churches in different parts of the country, I can testify that there is always more that can be done, but at the same time, we as citizens tolerate government action that often seeks to regulate some [effective] outreach right out of existence, both at the local and Federal level.
This kind of window peeping and gossiping about what may or may not be going on is what leads to stupid laws about not having a bar within 1000 feet of a church; like if it was 1200 feet from a church no one from the congregation would make the journey. Or my favorite one, anti-sodomy laws. I have always felt that it is no one’s business what two, three, ten, or a hundred adults do in the privacy of their homes; as long as animals and children are not involved, and it isn’t disturbing the peace, I ain’t calling the cops. What they do is between them, and God and they will have to answer for whatever they do at some point.
Actually, it had less to do with window peeping and gossiping than it did with the idea that some behaviors and activities helped to preserve society, and therefore deserved favor and a degree of insulation from things which might disrupt those beneficial activities. It also had to do with the idea of trying to limit behavior that did not benefit the individual or society in general. If you truly want to get an understanding for that thinking, and why it affected the law, I would suggest reading the first part of the first book of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, which codify much of the common law that was also the basis of our own legal philosophy and law here in this country. As for the rest, the problem is that you talk about what goes on “in the privacy of their homes” as if it stays there; we both know it does not, and increasingly, it isn’t even the “in your face” nature of what is being practiced as much as it is the twin prongs of a government that would force as much of a discussion of religiously based viewpoints out of the public square as it can, based on an erroneous and harmful insertion of a phrase into the Constitution in the dicta of a Supreme Court decision authored by a Justice with a hate-on for religion, and a deliberate movement to declare that any discrimination against this conduct is subject to a higher degree of scrutiny that is typically reserved for immutable conditions or what are supposed to be Constitutionally protected beliefs.
It can be seductively easy to say “It’s between them and God.” and leave it at that. It can be a bit more difficult to square with what you find between the covers of the book you refer to. Certainly, “tolerating” homosexuality, and sexual license in general didn’t work out so well for Sodom and Gomorrah, and the object lesson was repeated in Gibeah in Judges 19, with terrible result in Judges 20. The [unpopular][and unutterable] fact is that sin, evil, and compromise all generally end up leading to more of the same. That doesn’t mean we should be jerks about it, but when we fail to ask serious questions about the motives decisions made and for things being done and the resulting effects on society, it isn’t beneficial either.
But they won’t have to answer to me. The place where conservatives lose this battle in popular culture is when we start trying to dictate what we think everyone’s morals ought to be, according to what we think God thinks that they should be, instead of advocating for why we think it is right, we spend our time trying to condemn others for being wrong.
Human beings arrive at value judgments, lifestyles, sexual behavior and individual morals through nature, nuture, and decisions made all on their own, and, as I have explained to many, I don’t care what Vermont wants to do on gays becoming “unioned” with each other or what Texas wants to do about abortion. I don’t live there, and it will affect my life exactly zero percent. It will not affect my life, my attendance at church, what I think is right or wrong, the way I raise my son or how I impart my values and beliefs on him.
Actually, where conservatives lose this battle in popular culture is by not challenging the commonly accepted notion that because laws are increasingly secularized, that they are somehow being made “value neutral”. As someone who has practiced law for 11 years, and been associated with the practice of law for another 4, I can tell you that with the exception of strict liability statues and a great deal of regulatory law, most law has a moral basis. This leads to the question of what morality it will be based on. And when we say it doesn’t matter what they do in California, or New York, we fail to understand that the law of one jurisdiction today often becomes the law of many tomorrow. When we say it doesn’t make a difference in what we impart to our children, it ignores the fact that our influence is one of many, and no matter how hard we try, our children do not always allow our influences to be their primary guide.
Because we either decide not to fight, out of a fear that we will offend, or we fight without giving thought to how we do so, we not only allow sloppy thinking and/or emotion without reason to prevail, but the result sometimes ends up defying logic, as with the fight in Texas against rules that would at least make abortions safer for the participant who no one intended to kill in the procedure. And sometimes, we end up with a process that not only leads to bad law, but does so in a way that harms processes that were designed to maintain citizen control over legislative processes, like California’s non-defense of Proposition 8, which was the result of a referendum of the citizens, which was legitimately passed by a vote of the citizens of the state. This dereliction of duty by the state governor and attorney general allowed the Supreme Court the twofer of invalidating a direct check on legislative power by the citizens, and a decision that exceeded the legal discussion of the case and directly impugned the motives of anyone voicing religious (i.e. CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED)objections to the actions of the legislature with regard to homosexuality, without offering any objective and logical reason for invalidating a protected perspective while throwing the weight and the legitimacy of the law behind the other, where it had never been before.
As for your belief God has other things to worry about, I’m not convinced that he is “worried” about anything. If you take the Bible at face value, He’s never been less than forthright about where he stands on homosexuality. And I don’t know about you, but when I read Romans 1:18-32, I certainly come away with the impression that his mind is already made up about that. I don’t think He has any worry when it comes to their conduct. When I read Jude, however, I get the impression that he is worried about OURS…and when we say that what goes on around us doesn’t matter, I wonder if we have already failed to heed the warning of Colossians 2:8, especially when we either remain silent, or join in with society in embracing those empty philosophies.
There is an old saying that says “Puritanism is the idea that somewhere, someone is having fun, and it must be stopped.”
I probably won’t be popular for saying so, but the Puritans get a bad rap. One of the more interesting books I ended up reading in college was a biography of John Winthrop. It wasn’t that the Puritans were against drinking; they were against drinking to excess. They weren’t against having sex; many of their families were quite large. When it comes to things that are fun, there is nothing wrong with moderation, especially when it is unlikely that you can point to examples where getting hammered regularly or making yourself (guy or gal) like the town bicycle leads to good results, or has a definite and quantifiable benefit to society.
The problem is that self-restraint is almost as extinct as shame these days, and people don’t know when to quit. When you throw in a healthy dose of confusion between what is liberty and what is license, we should be unsurprised at a constant pursuit of pleasure that becomes less and less satisfying each time it is indulged, and a corresponding disregard for human life and the human condition. People who are slaves to desire are rarely able to see that they are in bondage, or that their bondage doesn’t allow them to make good decisions. Insert a universal franchise into the mix, and they get to enslave the rest of us as well. THAT is why it matters. That is why taxpayer money ends up being used for abortions, making us all a party to the taking of innocent human life, and that is why we end up facing ridiculous arguments about staying out of womens’ ladybits, while being expected to pay for what goes on there. That is why we have a government that collects taxes on addictions, but dictates to you what kind of health insurance you MUST purchase, because you cannot be trusted to know what is best for you. That is why we have people who will shed buckets of tears for convicted criminals, who have had the benefit of due process, and at the same time insist that they have an unconditional right to exterminate a “blob of cells” that has its own distinct DNA, and that will never, ever be anything other than a human being if carried to term, without even having to face the proof of a separate and distinct human life in their bodies.
I think you are correct to criticize how the focus is applied within the church often times, but not the fact that it occurs frequently, or even at all. The frequency is reaction of the fact that the modern world trains us each to have the attention span of an ADHD nine year old on meth; and while the condition has been identified, successfully overcoming it has to start with the individual, not the church. The good news is that if each of us work to change by immersing ourselves in the wisdom of the Bible daily (an area that I am guilty of myself) , and learning self-examination with humility and a heart for people who don’t even know that they are wounded, then we can be wiser in our approach to those outside the church. But success also requires us to stop pretending that the culture war is about morality vs neutrality, and instead recognize that it is about which morality we will live under, and what the consequences will be for us if it isn’t in keeping with judeo-christian morality. When we do this, we will begin to fulfill Jesus’ charge to us in Matthew 5:13-16 to be salt (an irritant, a preservative, and a seasoning) and light to a society that needs what we have to offer.