Ol’ time religion: It’s good enough for me
“What I find especially demoralizing is that over the past few decades, when resistance was not at all futile, self-described Christians refused to lift a finger and, at the command of brothers Falwell and Robertson, subsidized the Republican Party, supported Israel’s self-destructive policies, sent their children to public schools to be corrupted, and uttered hardly a peep about Islamic immigration. So long as they kept their fat bellies, big screen TV, Monday Night Football, and could rock and roll all night long in their grotesque church-stadiums, they were content.”
So said Dr. Thomas Fleming recently at the Chronicles Magazine blog. While the statement is direct, I largely concur.
I replied on the blog with the following:
“I have little use for the Falwells and Robertsons of this world and their slavish devotion to the GOP and pseudoconservatism, but the average American church goer is, I suspect, less motivated by their bellies, big screen TV, and Monday Night Football than most Americans. I think they are a reflection of the sad state of the culture as a whole. Perhaps that is the nub of the problem. In the past, the minority of devout Christians (the truly devout are always a minority) was able to raise the level of the whole. Now the whole is bringing down the “devout.” Or maybe the standard for “devout” is not what it used to be.”
As I peruse the web and read Christian political sites, I am struck by how often each one has their own pet solution that is touted as the road back to revival. And conversely, the past loss of the solution is invariably blamed as the cause of much of the present apostasy. For the Reformed we must get back to sound doctrine, meaning for them the Doctrines of Grace. For the Fundamentalist we must separate from the World and “compromising” Christians. For the Catholic we must repudiate Vatican II and return to the Latin Mass. For the “brethren” or house church advocate, we must dispense with ecclesiastical hierarchy and return to primitive New Testament style worship. For the patriarch it is a return to Biblical manhood. For the “free”/”unregistered” church member we must forgo tax exemption. Etc. etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is merit in many of these suggestions. My own, perhaps conservative, inclination is to support each particular group getting back to its own roots even when they may be advocating contradictory things. Clearly for example, ridding ourselves of ecclesiastical hierarchy, a view for which I have a great deal of sympathy, is not consistent with reviving the Latin Mass. I am not foolish enough, however, to think that the Catholic Church is going to quickly embrace the New Testament Church pattern, so for believers inside that system, I certainly have more sympathy for those who want to return to the old ways of doing things than I do for those ever eager to embrace the new. I can’t help but think that the reason each particular group is struggling with modernity and none have been particularly successful at combating it is not so much because of each particular departure from their own orthodoxy but a more general acquiescence to and even embrace of modernity and decadent American culture common to all.
As troubled as I am by praise and worship music and seeker sensitive churches, I think a more fundamental problem than the congregation swaying, hands aloft to repetitive, theologically-soft drivel is that they then go home and fight with their spouses, surf the net for porn, vegetate in front of the TV, never bother to spread the gospel or work a soup line, refuse to procreate etc. no different than the heathens who live next door. They stick a “W” sticker on the back of their car and vote Republican and think they have done their Christian duty and then wonder why their teenage daughter is knocked up, their son has a nose-ring and a body full of ink, and neither respects them.
For me, the operative verse here is Jeremiah 6:16. This is the verse that instructs us to seek the “ancient paths.” While it would probably be a misuse of this verse to use it as a club against any deviation from the way Daddy used to do it, it is a general instruction to respect the traditions that we are handed down. To not be too quick to reject the past in favor of the novel.
So is the apostasy of today the result of the new mindless praise and worship choruses, or is it the result of the mindset that allows the old respected hymns to be so quickly discarded for the new? The almost automatic assumption that new is better. That the church must be “relevant.” Some almost seem to think that we must improve on the Gospel. That the Gospel “once delivered to all the saints” is in need of an update. (The use of the term “contemporary service” is illustrative.) I think it is more the latter, and we are paying the price for our insolence. Dad and Mom dismiss and ridicule the old church ways, whatever the tradition, as “fuddy duddy,” and then scratch their heads in dismay when little Sally comes home and says “Why shouldn’t gays be allowed to marry? Who are we to condemn them?”
Well, Sally has a good question. Who are we to condemn them? The church has embraced American style egalitarian democracy as if it were Holy Writ, delivered from Mt. Sinai by Moses along with the Ten Commandments. The Church is as cowed by political correctness, image consciousness, conformity, fear of allegations of “hate” and “insensitivity,” and an unwillingness to rock the boat as are the other elements of the American “conservative” coalition. Can little Sally be faulted for following that reasoning to its logical conclusion? Who needs the Bible to tell us how to live our lives, when we have praise teams and interpretive dance to tell us over and over … and over and over … and over and over again of God’s love but not His holiness? Of God’s sacrifice but not His judgment.
Wake up Christians. God’s Church, whatever your tradition, does not need a Dale Carnegie course on how to “Win Friends and Influence People.” The Church needs to boldly proclaim the Gospel, whatever the cost. The Church needs believers who are living holy lives. (I’m preaching to myself here, too.) If we do that, God will take care of His Church and the membership rolls, don’t you worry. And maybe the Church will start elevating the culture once again, instead of the culture dragging down the Church.
Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”