Walk The Walk

Rev. Billy GrahamAgain, another blogger more eloquently makes a point I have made here.  S. Michael Craven blog on The Christian Post about the importance of the American Church living out what we call so important.

His example, Rev. Billy Graham and Senator John Ensign (R-NV).  Graham famously told his aids never to leave him alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife.  Ensign, a so called family values conservative,  is in the midst of a scandal involving an extramarital affair.  Craven argues that the difference is that Graham knew his own weakness and humbly asked for help to do what he claims is important, stay faithful to his wife.

The moral high ground the church claims to represent, if really important, would be followed in humility, not loud cries and judgement.  Graham is a great example of that.  He basically admitted that he didn’t trust himself in a room with a woman that isn’t his wife.  He knows he is weak and that it only takes one bad decision to ruin a lifetime of ministry.

The Church, including myself in this, we need to follow Graham’s lead.  Let’s stop pointing out the weaknesses in our society and turn the focus inward and admit our own.  It won’t be easy, but as Craven said:

“The Christian community exists in Christ for the sake of the world, and when this common life together (a corporate life in which we seek the spiritual growth and restoration of the whole community) is not seen, both the church and the world suffer.”

Lets get down to the business of living out our faith.

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A Moral Narrative

Donald Miller, in his blog, wrote about changing the perspective of morality from a natural moral law or a moral law from a text, to a narrative moral law.  What exactly a narrative moral law is he doesn’t expound on much, but I have my theories.

In a society that is becoming increasingly post-religious, post-modern, post-anything, we are also becoming individualistic in our approach to morality.  Nothing is right for everyone anymore, it is right for someone to be sure, and wrong for everyone rarely.

Miller thinks that we should look to a narrative structure to see a new perspective on morality.  What if there were universal truths and morals that we were all working towards in each of our stories?  What if the story of our nation is about working towards those truths together?  What if instead of passively saying, “that is good for you but not for me,” or actively saying, “that is wrong and you are wrong,” we said, “what is good for all of us?” and “how can we together live meaningful lives?”

I have no doubt that is a conversation that would be heated.  Maybe its a conversation that has been had in the past and ended with an agreement to disagree.  But I think it is also a conversation that is worth having again.

I do know, that as the church, we should focus less on trying to get others to see our point of view on morality, and more on living out what we believe to moral and right.

Miller most interesting thought was this:

“Without morality, a character cannot tell a good story, and once the credits roll in his life, he will realize he journeyed without a compass, and took himself precisely nowhere in all his travels.”

Is it possible to have morality that unites rather than divides?  Can we talk about morality in a light that isn’t about making a more comfortable society but that is about giving people meaning in life? I don’t know.  What do you think?

Morality Is Missing The Point…

Frans de Waal goes on a rant about morality in his blog on the huffingtonpost.com.  And it is a deserved one.  If morality is the only defense the church can come up with for God, then we deserve to hear more rants like this.

I mean are there not plenty of moral atheists?  How can that be explained?

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

Romans 2:14-15 NIV

Humans are made to have a sense of morality, whether or not they choose to believe in God, or any deity.  Arguing whether that sense of morality is a result of years of evolution or creative design is like arguing about eye color, or personality traits.  There is never really ground gained on either side.

A point I would like to make though is this: just because someone does not believe in God does not mean they do not have a god that they believe in.  Science can be a god.  If someone is choosing to believe that man can figure out everything, maybe their god isn’t science, maybe its man’s intelligence.  But in the end, everyone has a god, whether they want to admit it or not, it is obvious in what they are willing to call truth.

I think it is bad that the church fights so much for morality, making it almost a god in and of itself.  Other gods in our society are sex, money, music, and the list goes on.

I think that once we are willing to admit what our gods are, morality won’t be the issue anymore, but the issue will be what is truth and where can that be found, which is a much better conversation.

And the questions continue…

Here is a video that expands on the questions I asked in the previous post.

New York Times Bloggingheads:Do WeNeed Religion

The argument about following the law is the most interesting to me in this video. Heather Mac Donald seems to think that people follow the law largely out of fear of the consequences, while Ross Douthat thinks that the fear of God is another explanation for law following, and when we take God out of the equation, there is really no predicting the way things will change.

I think there are some laws where Mac Donald would be right. Speeding is an example. Do I think it is morally wrong to drive 80 on the freeway? Of course not, but I surely don’t want to pay the speeding ticket I will get if I get pulled over going 80 in a 60. So I stay a conservative 5 mph over the speed limit generally when driving. I just don’t want to get caught going faster.

There are other areas of the law where that thinking doesn’t really apply, such as theft. I think stealing is wrong. Taking something that doesn’t belong to you and claiming it as your own is a bad thing to do. Yes, people generally agree on the morality of stealing, and so I would think most people don’t steal because of that, not because they are afraid they will get caught if they do.

Now there are those who deviate from the law. People speed and people steal. People do much worse than that. Do they think they won’t get caught, or do they have no morality? I think it would have to be a mixture of the two. Someone steals because they feel entitled to others things and think that no one will find out about it. I do believe in most cases they fear getting caught more than they fear the moral consequences.

Is religion supposed to be the moral compass of a society? I don’t believe so. Maybe the church acting in this respect is what has made it seem to have worn out its usefulness across much of the west. People think we don’t need God anymore because we don’t need anyone us to tell us what to do, we think we pretty much have that figured out now.

What if God doesn’t want to tell us what to do? What if God is trying to show us the most enjoyable way to live? What if we have a misplaced view of morality? Instead of focusing on what not to do we should be focusing on why doing it differently is better, or why God, according to the Bible, wants us to do certain things and not to do others.

I, for one, don’t want my actions to be motivated by fear, but by seeking out the joy in life. What if that was the way we talked about morality?

How did we get here?

“Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot. Religion is much more needed in the republic they advocate than in the monarchy they attack, and in democratic republics most of all. How could society escape destruction if, when political ties are relaxed, moral ties are not tightened? And what can be done with a people master of itself if it is not subject to God?”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation of America is very interesting. He was saying that since the crown no longer controls peoples lives, that for morality to reign, religion is going to have to step in.

Does this help explain where we are today with regard to religion and politics? For someone to become president, they must say they are a Christian. Does this really mean “oh yes, I am moral,”? Is the American Church’s main goal to keep our country morally centered? If it is, should it be?