The Church, Hatred, and The Man in the Mirror

I came across a most fascinating, albeit sarcastic comment on FB today, and thought, wow, how telling.

The church should do only that which makes her feel good. Namely, that is to beat the part of the Law that she thinks she keeps into the church’s parishioners. If the church steps outside of those bounds and reminds her that she is also accountable to God for the Law she fails to keep, the church should be punished and silenced.

The thing is, we have lots of theological theories and models that make it pretty easy to have selective vision and do just as the quote suggests. This is not to say the theories and models are in error, but more so, that they are just models and shouldn’t stand in isolation.

Consider the following:

Luther’s two kingdoms model sounds great, and as a way of sorting out theology, its means of satisfying man’s desire for logical reasoning within the scriptures makes it an exceedingly powerful concept to latch on to. One of its dangers is that it can lead to a form of dualism… where in a second god is created that runs the world and dishes out its assorted evils. The two kingdoms model is also appealing to the old adam, being it can absolve individual Christian’s of the need to engage with the mud and muck of worldly issues. It can also lead too an out of site, out of mind mentality… being the heavenly aspect takes up the entire mind space, as there is little need for earthly concern, short of the needs of ones immediate tribe.

And yet, one doesn’t have to be a full blown dualist to fall into this trap. I think of numerous discussions in my younger days, where in some were so hard core about praying and getting Bibles into folks hands, they considered said folks physical needs to be of minimal importance. It almost seemed that said Bibles got printed without the second chapter of James, at least from the theology of the delivery folks.  In a related vein as to the scriptures,  what about the bit about pulling down folks in positions of power and privilege, sending the rich away empty, and filling the poor and elevating the meek and humble. Is such to be dismissed as the social justice rantings of a naive teenage girl?

The law and Gospel model is pretty well tried and true for bringing about life changes… but if dots get left unconnected, it can easily morph into a matter for the mind exclusively, rather than both the heart and mind. I remember a pastor friend who worried he might have gone too far in connecting the dots after loosing a huge chunk of powerful and wealthy parishioners from his congregation after a rather intense sermon.

And while connecting too many dots is a rare thing, its pretty common thing in some sectors to do the reverse and ignore the dots entirely, or barely connect them at all. Consider a few churches known for pounding sexual matters into the ground. Being such is an easy way to engage folks around a common rally point with only a minimal chance of negative financial or membership declines, it’s an easy temptation to proceed in such a direction. In addition, the emotions triggered are likely to make folks feel like such will making a huge difference in society at large when the sexual sins of folks outside the church are brought to light.

And yet, in matters of justice and power, far too often there are crickets rather than a path of dots.  After all, there are no dishonest or greedy folks in ones congregation… And being the  US economy depends upon year over year growth rates, which requires coveting by great masses of people… moving the dots even a bit could well be playing with fire.

I think a similar parallel can be made with respect to racism, xenophobia, or even hatred with respect to being a subject where crickets exist. In general, folks don’t blatantly display such behaviors, thus making a head in the sand approach, a safe one for the pulpit, or at least safe for the pulpit and the powerful within the immediate local fellowship.

After all, who knows who might be convicted / offended if such were to be connected. Sadly, the implications for potential financial as well as membership declines if the dots ring too close to home could be a driving factor… but what does this silence really say to the victims of such? What does it say about the local church, what does it say when visitors enter in and find said crickets?

This is where another model enters in, the priesthood of all believers. Ie, just because a given pastor chooses to play it safe, does this mean the local church, as well as the individual gets a free pass? If one truly ascribes to this model, then all of a sudden, it comes right back to you and me. The Man in the Mirror

Lyrics from Man in the Mirror

I saw Neal Mccoy perform on Saturday night, where in even he brought up what happened at Charlottesville just a few hours beforehand…  (I wish I would have recorded my own video, but found the above from a few years back on youtube ).

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