Thursday, April 14, 2005

 

Stepping Down From the Pedestal

David Wayne has written a fascinating post in a new series called "Forgotten Factors in the Downfall of Nations." In it, he warns evangelicals that by focusing in on a couple pet issues – homosexuality in particular – deeper matters might be missed:
If we load up on one or two issues we may be missing other issues which are just as significant in God's sight… most of the more legislatively-minded evangelicals will admit that their pet issues are not the only issues, just the most important.
But that is where I wonder. It seems the case can be made that the sexual immorality of Sodom grew out of its arrogance and materialism. Or maybe hedonism is a better word… Hedonism can express itself in a craving for sex or in cravings for food, houses, nicer cars and other things. This is why I wonder if the immorality of Sodom wasn't a symptom of a deeper sin for which they were judged.

I think this raises a larger issue, and one in which everyone should take heed. Whether in political debate, theological ruminations, or just everyday life, we should be careful not to put ourselves on a pedestal thinking that we could not possibly sink so low as others. (That's not to say we should not have convictions even if they are not popular, but it is the particular emphasis with which I take issue.)

I can think of many instances where I've heard condemnation of homosexuality from the pulpit, but I don't really recall any that specifically railed against materialism. I'd imagine that one is a particularly tough sell in 21st century American culture. One of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions may be particularly instructive here:
(Be) Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

Tough words to live by. Sometimes the things we least want to hear are the things we most need to hear.

Comments:
Some interesting thoughts, Chad! You're right that materialism is a hard subject to preach. It is also something I am guilty of.

I think another hard subject to preach is divorce. You've probably seen the latest Barna report -- Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-Christians, and sometimes more likely in certain Bible Belt states. Clergy has the second highest rate of divorce of all professionals. Personally, I believe the actions of selfish Christian parents have done more to wreck the lives of other Christians and destroy society's value of and respect for the nuclear family than homosexuality ever has. I try to be compassionate in my attitude and approach, of course, knowing that the subject of divorce is a minefield of emotions. However, I think it would be nice if we Christians would, for once, take the 2x4 out of our own eyes before we go around trying to remove the splinters from everyone else's.
 
It's funny you mentioned divorce because David's second essay in the series I alluded to speaks to that topic. I do find it interesting to hear some say speak of homosexuality as the pending downfall of marriage when they say barely a word about divorce (I'm not saying there are not valid reasons for divorce, but if we are talking of the denegration of marriage, any honest analysis would need to consider the detrimental impact it has had.)

I have seen the Barna report as well as Ron Sider's recent analysis of it - 'Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience'. It's a pretty interesting, if disheartening, read.
 
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