Authority crisis

Rioters as young as nine are looting shops and burning buildings in cities across Great Britain.  Pundits, of course, are trying to answer the question, “Why?”  The left is predictably blaming social conditions–government cutbacks in particular–and the right is predictably putting responsibility on the individual “hooligans.”

I haven’t seen any interviews of the actual perpetrators (fill me in if you have), but I suspect there is not all that much “rage”–pictures I’ve seen are of the young folks laughing as they run off with vodka and electronic appliances–and minimalistic responses on the order of “whatever” to journalists as to all adults.

My theory is this:  Western nations in general are suffering from a crisis in authority.  Specifically, young people today tend not to perceive the validity of ANY authority over them.  Not their parents.  Also not the police, their teachers, their pastors.  Nor the law or a moral code.  And certainly not their governments.

I would say too that we conservatives, while being strong on the authority of the family, may be contributing to the erosion of authority, especially when it comes to the contempt we tend to express for  government authority of every kind.

Not only the person who holds the office–always subject to political opposition–but the office itself seems to be denigrated.  We oppose not just our local Congressmen but “politicians” and “Congress” in general.  That’s different from how I remember it in the good old days of Goldwater and Reagan conservatism, which tended to be very patriotic, “law and order,” “my country right or wrong,” even to a fault.  I don’t deny that our office holders contributed to this new cynicism towards government.  But I’m saying that the social contract needs a general respect for authority, including the authority of the state–a notion that is explicitly Biblical–otherwise, civilization will come apart, as we are seeing in England.

 

UK RIOTS 2011: Manchester and Midlands burn but London is ‘under control’ | Mail Online.

Compromise

by Jimmy Veith

For many, the word “compromise” has negative connotations.  People who “compromise” are viewed as people who lack moral courage to live up to high ethical standards.  We admire most those individuals who stand up against the system and do the right thing regardless of what others think.  When “Mr. Smith” went toWashington, his filibuster in the Senate was not obstructionism.  It was a heroic act.      John Wayne never compromised.   Our aversion to compromise, is probably a reflection of our individualism, which is a dominate personality trait of Americans.

There are cultures, primarily in the East, that seem to place a greater emphasis on getting along with others.  The middle way or the “golden mean” is a dominant theme in their religions and philosophies, which place a greater emphasis on living in harmony with others.   We are more defined by our Judeo-Christian heritage which places a greater emphasis on absolute truths.

The Bible is full of warning and admonitions against compromise.  Yet, there are passages in the Bible that describe circumstances in which compromise is considered to be a good thing.  Consider Acts 15, which describes what is know as the Jerusalem conference, where Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and the other Apostles to discus whether or not Gentiles who converted to Christianity had to become Jews first, and thus be circumcised according to the Law of Moses.  The view of Paul and Barnabas prevailed and the conference concluded that converts did not have to be circumcised.  (Yea!)  But even then, the Gentiles were instructed to comply with Jewish dietary laws.  (See Acts15: 20)   Was this an example of a compromise?    Are there other or better examples in the Bible where compromise is considered to be a good thing?

The United States Constitution is full of compromises.  The greatest conflict among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention was between the big states and the little states.  The big states wanted proportional representation based on population.  The little states wanted equal representation so they would not be dominated by the big states.  This conflict threatened to tear the convention apart, until they decided on the so-called “Connecticut Compromise” which gave proportional representation to the House of Representatives and equal representation in the Senate.

Today, we are engaged in a national debate over what should be done to address our national debt crises.  The far right refuses to raise taxes.  The far left refuses to reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits.   Isn’t this a situation where a compromise which does some of both, is the moral and ethical thing to do?

What are the moral and ethical dimensions of compromise?   Isn’t the attitude of “My way or the Highway!” repugnant in a Democracy?     Is it possible that in some circumstances, our willingness to compromise is an expression of Christian humility?

Bishop tells gay priests they have to get married

Now that New York state has legalized gay marriage, the Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island in the Episcopalian church, is requiring homosexual priests to either get married or stop living together out of wedlock.  From his official pronouncement:

For the gay and lesbian clergy of this Diocese who are living in domestic partnerships or civil unions, I hereby grant a grace period of nine months from the effective date of the New York State Law permitting same-gender marriages for those relationships to be regularized either by the exchange of vows in marriage or the living apart of said couples.  I deem it to be honest and fair, and I do so direct and require, now that it is legal, that only married couples may live together, either in rectories or elsewhere as a clergy couple living in the midst of our faith community.

via Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

I know this sudden concern for sexual morality is being derided by many conservatives.  But it will be telling to see if homosexuals who now have the right to get married will now take marriage seriously by opposing extra-marital sex.

And now the Marriage Pledge for politicians

Republican presidential candidates keep getting asked to sign pledges–not to raise taxes, to oppose abortion, etc.–in order to get the support of key voters.  The latest is a pledge about marriage that goes on to include stances on various issues of sexual morality.  Signers must promise not only to oppose gay marriage, but also to oppose divorce, extra-marital sex, pornography, women in combat, and to believe that homosexuality is a choice.  Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum have signed it.  Mitt Romney refuses to.  Tim Pawlenty has said he agrees with the substance of the document but refuses to sign it.  (Complicating the pledge was a statement since removed that said African-American families were better off under slavery than they are today.  Again, that statement has been removed and the signers are repudiating that part.)

Are such pledges wise?  While they might seal up some voters, won’t they alienate many more?  Given the cultural climate of today, isn’t a politician who signs a statement like this doomed to defeat?   Might Christian activists who demand this kind of ideological purity be engaging in a counter-productive effort, ensuring that candidates sympathetic to their cause will lose rather than win?

via Pawlenty punts, Romney rips Iowa marriage pledge – latimes.com.

Sexual moralism vs. the gospel?

John at Redeemed Rambling, a Reformed Baptist, maintains that many conservative Christians are talking so much about sexual immorality that they are obscuring the Gospel:

To my brothers, I have this plea: please stop with the sexual moralism. True Christianity finds its all in the gospel – God’s grace to take us in when we are wretched. We all come to God laden with sexual sin. The purest among us is an adulterer, for without the Holy Spirit our hearts burn with lust. This is who we are. The joy is that there is salvation! The joy is that Christ takes our filthy rags and clothes us in his own righteousness. The joy is that God’s own Spirit empowers us to enjoy God’s great gifts – even sexuality – in their proper and most delightful context.

But some have ignored this, and instead spend their energy “fighting” homosexuality in the public square. Do you realize, friend, that no amount of moralizing nor legislation will take away the depravity of the human heart? There is the third use of the law, but that conversation makes no sense without the first two uses of the law! Which is to say that we are sinners all and need the love, grace, and compassion of a savior who gave up everything – even His own life – to rescue a people damned to torment for our own wretchedness.

The problem, brother, is that a few of us are so loudly proclaiming that homosexuality is a sin that we may be guilty of actually preaching a false gospel. You see, some of us have got a beautiful, strong doctrinal position. On paper. But much of the world never sees that. They hear your moralizing. They read your blog. They visit your church website. And the “gospel” they hear is that until they clean up their life, they cannot be acceptable to God. Please hear me; this is a very deep evil. This is not the gospel of Christ! Are you so arrogant that you believe you are God’s own instrument to stem the tide of social depravity? That is God’s business, and he has ordained a means by which this may happen – the conversion of the soul.

Brothers, we must be faithful, and part of being faithful is being clear that we are sinners in need of a savior – and sexual sin is just that. Even homosexuality, today’s hot topic, is a sin against the one true God. So is the rampant lust, pornography use, and divorce that afflicts our “Christian” churches. Our actions do not make us less sinners. We do not need less grace. And the other part about being faithful is being faithful to proclaim our gospel of grace! The other part of being faithful is to actually obey Christ – to love God with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

So my plea to you is to please stop the moralism. I’m sure we mean well, but the gospel you take for granted is the precious water of life that alone can soften the cracked desert of the lost soul. Stop damming it up.

via Redeemed Rambling: Please Stop the Moralism.

Good point?  Or not?  Or good but not complete?

Granted that the enemy of the Gospel is not sin but self-righteousness, isn’t it necessary to teach the sinfulness of sin, so as to puncture self-righteousness?  Isn’t the problem of sexual sin today actually a problem of self-righteousness, insisting for our every sexual sin that “there is nothing wrong with it” and achieving social approval that makes it easier to feel good about the sins we commit?  Whereupon we no longer repent of them and no longer recognize the need for Christ’s grace?

Still, though, the notion is that Christianity is about “being good,” and the implication that if you aren’t good, you just need to try harder–these surely leave Christ and  the Gospel out of consideration.  And yet this is indeed what many people think Christianity is all about.

Atheocracy

Denver bishop James D. Conley offers a potentially useful new word:

In our day, those “decrying the Christian religion” have seized the captain’s seat in America—in the academy, the media, the government and courts. The result is a kind of publicly enforced religious indifferentism, or what recent Popes have called “practical atheism.” The Constitution insists that no religious test shall ever be required for public office. But our society, in effect, now imposes an “irreligious test.” To take part in civic life, Americans must first agree to think and act as if they have no religious convictions or motivations.

America today is becoming what I call an atheocracy—a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious believers.

An atheocracy is a dangerous place, both morally and spiritually. Cut off from the religious moorings expressed in the Declaration, we risk becoming a nation without a soul, a people with no common purpose apart from material pursuits. Worse, as Chesterton well understood, without belief in a Creator, our democracy has no compelling reason for defending human rights:

The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal. . . . There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man. . . . Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion … always vain for the vital purpose of constraining the tyrant.

Our atheocracy has rejected what Chesterton called the dogmatic basis of American identity and liberties. An atheocracy has no ultimate truths to guide it and no inviolable ethical principles by which to direct political activity. Hence, it has no foundation upon which to establish justice, secure true freedom or to constrain tyrants.

We see the consequences of this atheocratic mindset everywhere. We see it most clearly in the case of legalized abortion. Denying the divine origins of the human person, our government has withdrawn the law’s protection from unborn children in the womb—the most absolutely innocent and defenseless members of our human family.

The legal extermination of the unborn is only the most egregious offense against God’s law. In fact, there is apparently no area of life over which our atheocratic government does not feel omni-competent—that government knows best.

This is dramatically clear in the movement to establish homosexual unions as an alternative kind of family. Under pressure from powerful special interests who manipulate the language of “rights” and “freedom” in ways that contradict “the laws of Nature’s God,” our atheocratic government now deems itself competent to rewrite the God-given definitions of marriage and the family.

via America’s Atheocracy | First Things.

 


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