Will Christianity Survive? – The tribe has spoken!

We are huge Survivor fans and have watched every episode over the past 15 years (I have a mix of pride and shame in that truth). With its significant representation of a crosscut of Americana combined with the challenging social experiment of forcing a small group to get food, get sleep, get along or get voted out has kept us cheering great heroes and booing mean villains all along the way.  On the first season Richard Hatch, an openly gay business man, won.  Although considered somewhat a villain because of his underhanded social game, he did outwit, outlast and outplay the rest of the tribe.  Over the years Survivor has been very intentional to introduce both mainstream and fringe characters from our society to keep, inflammatory, sympathetic and edgy social interactions abundant and unpredictable.

One thing we have found is how current the producers of the show have kept with the pulse of societal changes.  We have seen everything from wealth envy and the uneducated to racial tensions and challenges to traditional Christianity.  The finale of this most recent season was last night (our favorite person won), but the clear agenda of the producers, for progressive social purposes, was on a gay “Christian” couple who were committed to taking their message of helping others like them to feel accepted and welcomed into the church with a special emphasis on the bible belt or conservative parts of America.  Another side agenda also focused on one of the contestants expressing that the game had helped her get rid of the shame she felt associated with 3 failed marriages.

For those who do not know my personal story, I was the “token” straight guy in an all gay men’s choir for a few years.  I grew to know and truly love these men and they in return accepted this red neck Texan as part of their “family”.  The whole story of those years is fascinating but not for this blog.  But suffice it to say that I am about as far as one can get from being homophobic while still embracing clear biblical standards.  And in fact it is those very biblical standards which are the subject of this blog.

In the last verses of Romans 1 there is a list of sins for which God allots a judgment of death of which the main focus is homosexuality.  And that is where some Christians get out their microscope in order to singularly focus on that “shameful perversion” all the while ignoring the same death sentence for “lesser” crimes of  greed, gossip, pride, murder, envy …. (you get the point).  The problem is many (moving quickly to most) Christians prefer to redact ever increasing sections of scripture in order to placate our progressive society (as well as their own consciences) and make Christianity simply another “more conservative” club to have membership in while we thump our chest and point to the sky in what has become some ultimately meaningless gesture of “honoring” god (intentional small “g”).

It should be no wonder the main focus of progressives is to blur the lines of scripture (and there are plenty which they feel need blurring) which speak to two of the most sacred institutions of the Judeo/Christian faith.  The mystery surrounding the union of a groom (male) and his bride (female) combined with the covenantal (meaning never broken) relationship associated with that union – marriage.  In Micah, God stopped answering the prayers of Israel because of the high divorce rate.  Entire cities were destroyed because of homosexuality.  And yet divorce and homosexuality are growing by leaps and bounds in acceptance amongst Christians.  And whereas the Church (intentional capital “C”) and those with a relationship with Christ will certainly survive (ultimately), Christianity as an institution is being voted out.  True Christians will be challenged more and more to assimilate, will experience greater and greater persecution and the Church will be forced further and further “underground”.  But don’t be surprised by the troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, but be happy as you experience similar persecution as Christ (1 Peter 4:12,13).  The rest of that chapter is a great read as well as it talks about how your friends will make fun of you for not joining them in their downward spiral.

So whether or not “the tribe has spoken”, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

That’s a different game! AKA Survivor vs. Christianity Pt. 2

In 2010 on season 20 of Survivor “Heroes Vs Villains” a player by the name of Russell Hantz came in 3rd place.  He argued that he should have won the game because of a number of reasons with the main one being that there is a flaw in the game.  Russell complained he lost because of the lack of “America” being able to contribute their popular vote to the game instead of the winner being chosen exclusively by the contestants.  In response the host Jeff Probst said that maybe Russell might win a game as he described, but “that’s a different game” (not Survivor).

I use that illustration as a led in to discuss why so many people still go to church, attend some Christian events, identify with the Christian community and may even verbally indicate they are Christians to others (on occasion) all the while practicing or arguing against the “flaw” in Christianity.

One of the catch phrases of modern America is “being on the wrong side of history”.  This phrase is often used in debates surrounding homosexuality, gay marriage and other “progressive” practices of historical morality.  The point is made by those outside, and some inside, the church that we (the church) need to “mature”, change or progress in lock step with society like other organizations, clubs or religions.  But this is in fact where the rub comes as this request is being made of a religion whose founder (God) never changes and is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The argument Russell Hantz was making of Survivor was that if America chose him “fan favorite” because of the way he played the game then it follows he should win because it was “popular”.  Jeff Probst was unwavering in his response that his rational didn’t follow the rules of the game.  Just because it might have been the popular thing to do he wouldn’t, and in fact couldn’t, do it because then it would “be a different game”.

A very similar challenge is daily being made all across America for the church to fall in line with pop-culture.  Society is “progressing” deeper and deeper into practices that are abominations in the law of God.  Increasing pressure is being placed on church leaders to “progress” with society and change the standards or rules it practices.  Resistance to change is seen as a “flaw” which the un-churched finds with Christians calling them rigid, old fashion and intolerable.  And whereas it is not my place to judge society or try and force them to obey God’s law, I can certainly question as to why so many who don’t agree with God’s laws want to still identify with Christianity.  On the one hand they point to the sky, attend church or Christian universities while at the same time rejecting the “rules” of Christianity as established by God Himself (i.e. playing the game described in Pt. 1, engaging in sex outside marriage, etc.) and still waning to call it Christianity – but what they voice and practice in fact has little resemblance to Biblical Christianity and is in fact a new religion best defined as humanism which is basically self focused instead of God focused.

I would simply encourage these “progressives” to feel free to start a new club or “religion” in order to play and practice what they want and stop trying to re-define or force their popular agenda on Christianity in order to somehow assuage their own conscience.  There is no flaw in the law of God.  The only flaw is in thinking that to try and change God’s law will somehow change God’s judgment for disobeying His standards – because that would be a whole different god.

This has been a fairly serious blog post so I thought I would allow the point to be made one more time with a short, lighter note, clip from the Pirates of the Caribbean showing the way some view codes of conduct and rules which is apparently not too far removed from some who call themselves Christians.

“Our lives ought to make evil things ashamed to show their ugly faces. Christians should be, as it were, the incarnate conscience of a community”. – Alexander MacLaren circa 1826-1910

Apples to Apples – no comparison! AKA Survivor vs. Christianity Pt. 1

For anyone who has played the game Apples to Apples, you will perhaps appreciate this blog more than others.  For those who haven’t played the game, it is basically a game where players submit pre-printed noun “answer” cards in response to a generic adjective cards.  For example I might play a card which says “Zombies” as my answer to the adjective card “misunderstood”.  You accumulate points by your answer cards being picked most often as the best.  The game is fun, clean (although some answers can get mildly suggestive) and a great mixer.

Now imagine the cards taking on vile, sensual and downright nasty connotations and you have the makings for a newly released game called Cards Against Humanity.  The website for this game shamelessly touts itself as a “party game for horrible people” and “as despicable and awkward as you and your friends”.

I happened to have been the equivalent of a fly on the wall at an ORU dorm party this past Saturday where this game was shamelessly being played.  When someone questioned the appropriateness of playing such a game the snarky response was a simple “if you don’t like it you don’t have to play it”.  In church the next morning a worship song undid me which had the line “my anchor holds within the veil”.  Anchor … veil… what do those words have to do with my feeling the broken heart of God?  If we were still able to pull back that veil we would witness what few have witnessed in life on earth – pure holiness.  In fact if as a common “believer” I stole a glance behind that veil, it would be the last thing I would witness as my “common” existence could not bear to behold holiness on that level.  Yet that is where we find our anchor and the strength of our Lord Jesus – in holiness.

For those who do not have the sincere desire to follow God, which brings with it the requirement to a “be holy as He is holy”, feel free read no further.  But as those who have given their lives to Christ I would simply ask what does vile intentional evil of such a nature as this game have in common with the purity of His selflessness to sacrifice on the cross for you and me.  My sense is that to willfully play games like these (as well as engaging in other unrepentant sins) cheapen the name Christian and damage the reputation of Christ to the lost.  Shouldn’t this mean something? Shouldn’t this mean everything – both to us and to the lost?  But here is a situation in which numerous young people enrolled in a Christian university and thereby supposedly bearing the name of Christ are at the same time embracing filth on a level not common even among the un-churched.  Everything in the deepest part of my spirit cries in pain as the purpose and price Jesus paid on the cross is by all appearances mocked, ignored and trampled on.

Although academic I would be remiss not to document just a fraction of the scriptures which apply in this situation.

Ephesians 5:3 & 4 – 3 Don’t let sexual sin, perversion of any kind, or greed even be mentioned among you. This is not appropriate behavior for God’s holy people. 4 It’s not right that dirty stories, foolish talk, or obscene jokes should be mentioned among you either. Instead, give thanks [to God].

Jeremiah 6: 14 & 15 – (speaking about the church leaders and prophets) 14 They treat my people’s wounds as though they were superficial, saying, this is alright and that is alright!’ But it wasn’t alright. 15 Were they ashamed when they did those disgusting things? No they weren’t ashamed. They had even forgotten how to blush. So they will die with those who die. They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD.

Phil 6:8 – 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.

All of this bears the question be asked “what has being a Christian become” – especially for the younger or millennium generation”?  Has it simply become some feel good identity, a gesture at the end of a sports play, some aspect of riding your parent’s coattails or just another social club to be a part of.  Why were there only one or 2 young people in the room who voiced questions about this disgusting game?  Why is someone attending a Christian university who appears to have little appreciation of Godly holiness and in fact mocks those who try?

I am truly at a loss to answer these very tough yet telling questions.   I am personally aware of numerous tragic stories of young people (and some not so young) who have chosen to partner with Satan.  Yes they may still identify with the name Christian (I’m not sure why), but by unrepentantly engaging in practices which clearly violate scripture, they clearly reject Christ.  They engage in vile activity (such as the game I mention here), drunkenness, sex outside marriage, homosexuality, affairs and living together before marriage.  They live to make themselves happy instead of embracing servanthood and considering others as more important as the true key to joy.  They avoid or reject calls to discipleship and answer only to themselves.

The closest I can come to answering these questions is found in my post from Nov. 14 entitled “Land for Peace” which is the idea that if we try to assimilate (look and act like) into the surrounding secular society they will like us better.  This has never worked in all of history without the total loss of purpose and identity of the assimilating group.

Christ did not call us to “get along” or appease the enemies of the cross but rather to embrace the example of Christ’ sacrifice on that cross for the lost.  We are called to carry that cross of servant hood and holiness to all who will hear the message of Good News.  To live is Christ and to die is gain.