from “The Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America” by Joseph Bottum
…We live in what can only be called a spiritual age, swayed by its metaphysical fears and hungers, when we imagine that our ordinary political opponents are not merely mistaken, but actually evil. When we assume that past ages, and the people who lived in them, are defined by the systematic crimes of history. When we suppose that some vast ethical miasma, racism, radicalism, cultural self-hatred, selfish blindness, determines the beliefs of classes other than our own. When we can make no rhetorical distinction between absolute wickedness and the people with whom we disagree. The Republican Congress is the Taliban. President Obama is a Communist. Wisconsin’s governor is a Nazi.
We live in a spiritual age when we believe ourselves surrounded by social beings of occult and mystic power, when we live with titanic cultural forces contending across the sky, and our moral sense of ourselves, of whether or not we are good people, of whether or not we are redeemed, takes its cues primarily from our relation to those forces. We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological, when how we vote is how we are saved.
Our world is filled with bastard Christianities, on both the Left and the Right. It is populated by Christian moral ideas set loose from the churches and the theological dogmas that once contained and controlled them. Victimhood, the all-American cult of niceness, the merging of social classes with social politics, they all derive in their way from what the novelist Flannery O’Connor once mocked as the Church of Christ without Christ.
For example, there’s a very interesting debate going on in some French intellectual circles about whether political correctness could possibly occur in any culture that wasn’t formerly Christian. Or perhaps even clearer, think of environmentalism. It is commonplace among conservative commentators to point out the ways in which environmentalism sometimes acts as though it were a religion, rather than a political or social view. But few of those commentators pursue the thought down to the actual worldview, which is almost definitively the Church of Christ without Christ.
This is a Christian story, a supernaturally charged history that would have been familiar to Augustine and Anselm. We have an Eden, a paradise of nature, until the fall, which was the emergence of sentient human beings as polluters, injuring the world as the world was meant to be. We have a long era of progressive damage, all aiming toward the apocalypse – the final injuring of the world beyond repair. Strong environmentalism offers, in essence, St. Augustine’s dark worldview without any grace or redemption for human beings. Environmentalism offers, in essence, Christianity without Christ.
The real question, of course, is how and why this happened. How and why politics became a mode of spiritual redemption for nearly everyone in America, but especially for the college-educated upper-middle class, who are probably best understood not as the elite, but as the elect, people who know themselves as good, as relieved of their spiritual anxieties by their attitudes toward social problems.
For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved. So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7]
Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”
If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them. The only question should be whether your values are right.
It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country. But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.
The same thing is true for Christians. We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them. We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.
But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them. To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.
It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions. But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression. It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it. But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.
In the Church we have a similar problem. In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork. But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime. It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.
In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned. We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person. So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church. At least in some areas.
So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside. We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.
We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc. That is because it is not our Word. It is God’s. To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.
Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”. If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.
- God’s Word Does Everything – Trinity 7 Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Many are offended because of these things. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Two men assaulted for selling pork to kebab shops (testpost.typepad.com)
- No Infidels Allowed: Turkish Red Crescent To Make ‘Halal’ Drugs With Muslim-Only Blood (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Iraq: Muslim Ambulance Driver Refuses To Take Dead Body Of Christian Woman To Church For Funeral (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Christian Suffering Under Jihadi Extremism Muslim Persecution of Christians: April, 2013 (counterjihadreport.com)