An obituary for a contemptible life

Memento_mori_(3690813647) (1)Obituaries summarize the events of the life of the deceased, a way of honoring the dead by looking back on the life they have lived. They often turn into eulogies, praising the character and good deeds of the person who died.  Lutheran funerals try to keep the focus away from the person’s good works as something to comfort the family, instead emphasizing Christ, the Gospel, and the persons’ faith.  The funerals of non-Christians are trickier.  (I’d be curious how you pastors handle those.)

A woman recently wrote an obituary for her father, who, she said, would “be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.”  He died at age 74, “which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved.”

“At a young age,” the obituary said, he “quickly became a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive.” “Leslie’s life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides [quick-witted] sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days.”  “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.”  And that’s not all.  You can read the entire obituary after the jump.

My first impulse was to laugh, then to appreciate the brutal honesty, then to be disturbed.  Is this breaking the Commandment about honoring your father and your mother?  It certainly breaks the taboo against “speaking ill of the dead.”  A news story confirms that the man abused his family, having been arrested several times, including for pouring boiling water on his wife.

But imagine living a life that inspired your family to write an obituary like this. [Read more…]

The end of the “noble savage”

Archaeologists have discovered the site of a deadly massacre in which 27 people were killed by primitive weapons.  The researchers date the site at some 10,000 years ago and say the people were hunter-gatherers.  This upsets the theory that warfare and organized violence appeared only when early humans settled down into permanent settlements.

This also upsets the perhaps related theory of the “noble savage” of Jacques Rousseau, according to which primitive people in “the state of nature” live lives of peace and virtue, with violence and other evils coming only as a result of “civilization.”  Apparently, human beings have been fallen and sinful as far back as we can see. [Read more…]

“The smartest human being” on sin and grace

More from  David Brooks, two interviews in which he talks about what he learned from St. Augustine, “the smartest human being I’ve ever encountered in any form.”  Specifically, that would his concept of sin as disordered love and the Christian concept of grace.

St. Augustine is, indeed, a brilliant thinker.  You don’t have to agree with him on every point–though he is one of the few theologians claimed both by Catholics and Protestants–but his writings have a magisterial logic, a psychological sensitivity,  and a startling depth of spiritual insight.  Luther, remember, was an Augustinian monk, and Augustine is noted for his emphasis, like that of the Reformers, on the grace of God.  In my view, he is more Platonic and thus ascetic than he should be.  Can any of you address the points on which Lutherans–as well as other traditions–agree and disagree with this church father?

[Read more…]

Freedom vs. slavery

In church last Sunday, Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon dealt with the question St. Paul raises, Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? (Romans 6:12-23).  In doing so, he explored the paradox that much of what the world calls freedom, the Bible calls slavery. [Read more…]

George Herbert on Sin, Love, & the Sacrament

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes discusses one of my favorite poems, The Agony by George Herbert.  It is about how we try to measure everything, neglecting what cannot be measured; namely, sin and love.  But these can be known in their depths as they come together in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  The poem concludes with these lines on the Sacrament:

Love is that liquor sweet and most divine

Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

[Read more…]

Exodus president now doubts cure for being gay

Exodus International has been the preeminent Christian ministry to gays.  A major emphasis of that group has been that homosexuals, through prayer and therapy, can lose their same-sex attraction and become heterosexual.  Now the president of that organization is saying something different:

The ex-gay movement has been convulsed as the leader of Exodus, in a series of public statements and a speech to the group’s annual meeting last week, renounced some of the movement’s core beliefs. Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network. . . .

In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.

He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven. . . .

“I believe that any sexual expression outside of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sinful according tothe Bible,” Mr. Chambers emphasized. “But we’ve been asking people with same-sex attractions to overcome something in a way that we don’t ask of anyone else,” he said, noting that Christians with other sins, whether heterosexual lust, pornography, pride or gluttony, do not receive the same blanket condemnations. . . .

Mr. Chambers said he was simply trying to restore Exodus to its original purpose when it was founded in 1976: providing spiritual support for Christians who are struggling with homosexual attraction.

He said that he was happy in his marriage, with a “love and devotion much deeper than anything I experienced in gay life,” but that he knew this was not feasible for everyone. Many Christians with homosexual urges may have to strive for lives of celibacy.

But those who fail should not be severely judged, he said, adding, “We all struggle or fall in some way.”

 

via Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ Is Renounced – NYTimes.com.

As one might expect, Chambers’ announcement has sparked a huge controversy, which the NY Times article goes into.   Some people who have gone through Exodus International are insisting they have too been changed and no longer struggle with same-sex attraction.   Others, like Chambers himself, are now happily married ( to women), have children and a heterosexual sex life, while also still feeling and battling same sex attractions.  Most gay Christians, though, don’t lose their attraction to the same sex.

Are we perhaps making a mistake by “privileging” homosexuality as a special category of sin?   Theologically, given the “bondage of the will,” can we say that sin is ever just a matter of “choice”?  Aren’t all sins deeply ingrained, even “genetic,” in that we inherit our fallen nature from Adam and Eve?  Don’t we all have to struggle against our own personal besetting sins?  And, certainly, isn’t it precisely sinners who are saved?  Or do you think our salvation rests on being “victorious” over our particular sins?

The problem on the other side, it seems to me, is with those who deny that they are sinners.  That would include both religious legalists and those who insist that when it comes to their particular sin (whether homosexuality, pornography, selfishness, cruelty) “there is nothing wrong with it.”  Such an attitude precludes repentance and denies their need for the gospel.  Not that repentance in itself saves, but that it can drive a person to the Cross, where Jesus bore even those sins in His body, so as to atone for them and win free forgiveness.

We’ve talked about homosexuality a lot on this blog, so could we set that aside for now?  Could we discuss the more general issue of “besetting sins” (the ones each individual is prone to), repentance, failure, and the Christian life?

HT:  Todd