You know, I thought that the key moment in last's week's posts was when I said this:
And I ask it for only one reason: Jeff is famous because he wanted to draw the thick black line between Jesus and Religion -- and I find myself in full agreement with that objective. I find myself fighting that fight in my own life on a daily basis.
It is a completely fair question -- and I think the answers are useful to all kinds of people, and not just the young person who found himself or herself filled with something which looks and feels pretty good.Somehow, that morphed in the minds a few people into my condemnation of young people, joy, singing … all the usual ways in which the internet turns into J. Jonah Jameson braying about a menace who must be stopped.
I was notified by many that they have personally witnessed real salvation at Passion events, and to that I say: of course you have. Well, why not? Piper has historically brought out the hammers and tongs at Passion; in spite of his flightiness Francis Chan almost always gets it right when it comes to traditional, TMS-oriented, exposition of the truths of faith (being a TMS guy, after all). Some people are going to get saved or convicted when that happens.
The point of last week's posts was, frankly, to notice that even people who get the name of God right are likely to get the way to love and worship him wrong. Nobody (well, not nobody, but …) gets their noses out of joint when it is pointed out that people who think God comes in manifestations and not persons have a religion and not a faith in Jesus. Nobody certainly gets their noses out of joint when we heap scorn on legalistic types or libertines. But when we find out that the young and hip crowd could possibly have a false religion, suddenly we just don't get it. It's my fault for noticing.
Listen: if you personally can't imagine that you might possibly be the victim of your own personal idol factory, let me suggest that you don't know yourself very well -- and you'd do yourself a favor to review the bits of Scripture we ran past last week to see which of those weeds are creeping up your personal trellis of worship and devotion before it gets big enough to say to you, "feed me, Seymour."
But the other thing which needs to be clarified in the post-script is that the organizers of the Passion event(s) need to make sure they are calling people to the right thing, setting the right expectations. It's one thing to say that some friends are going to get together to discuss the faith and offer the exchange as a way to edify like-minded people; it's the same sort of mundane thing to say that God's word is going to be laid open by men who have been tested and approved. But it's another thing entirely to advertise your event (explicitly, or implicitly) as a place where there's something that happens that doesn't happen (or worse: can't happen) at your local church. There's always something fishy about super-apostles, whether they are chest-kicking charlatans like Todd Bentley, or they happen to bring the light show and their catalog of CDs for sale. The real supply-side problem is not the religion, but the celebrity which creates the religion, and I leave the rest for you to sort out.
That makes a keen segue to my concluding topic today: as I am sure you have heard, Louie Giglio walked away from praying at the inauguration for President Obama's second term because, it was discovered, Giglio preached a sermon against homosexuality once, about 20 years ago, as he puts it.
On one side, it's sign of the times we live in. All religion but the historic Christian faith is welcome in the public square. It's a pretty odd situation we find ourselves in when, 4 years ago, Rick Warren prayed at the inauguration in spite of his stand against sin; today, after 4 years of the post-racial President, Louie Giglio gets the side eye for one 20-year-old sermon, even if he has repositioned the Gospel away from the hard demands of God's Law since then. And the really bothersome part of this is that there wasn't even much of a flap about it. It came up, and Giglio folded -- didn't want to be a distraction, he said.
In that, Matthew Lee Anderson praised him in his premiere piece for CNN by saying, effectively, more Christians ought to just keep it down when they are challenged about the dividing lines of the faith. After all, he reasoned, Jesus just took it until they put Him to death. That's how we should suffer. Somehow the examples of Paul and Stephen got past Matthew's radar, where we are shown that persecution is actually a place where the demands of Christ and the need for the Gospel are make crystal clear by proclamation, not by analogy.
See: what I find most troubling about Giglio's resignation is not that he was, in any way, challenged about his faith or beliefs. Politically, I say open the marketplace of ideas and let's see who has the silver and gold and who has the filthy rags -- even if someone winds up acting like Cain when we find out that he has something unacceptable, either to God or to other people, when it is all laid out in the open. And theologically -- that is to say, as I am instructed in my faith -- while I expect the Gospel to save many, I also expect that it may have to do so as I share in the suffering of Christ. That might mean, on a small scale, that they don't promote me at work because I think there's one holy book which makes the others look like pulp fiction; it might mean, on a larger scale, that when it comes out that I believe this stuff, they hurl insults at me over the internet -- even and especially people who claim to believe in Jesus. Or more spectacularly, it might mean that people who actually identify themselves with their sins will demand I be excluded from the public forum because I am turning the whole world on its head -- and in my own defense, I can therefore proclaim the true fame of Christ.
The problem really isn't that we live in a post-Christian nation. We should accept that we do. We should be convinced of it. The problem is when we are therefore satisfied with that, and we find that Jesus is only our private savior, and our local comfort, and our homestyle god -- one not fit to proclaim or defend when it's His law and His Gospel which are being reproached by those who would rather see the world in tatters and in rags, headed toward a fire who will never go out. The problem is that we think the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel is that it should gain us privilege and not disrepute. When the side-eye comes against us because the Gospel offends, we think we're the ones who have done something wrong.
Last week, I prayed for those at Passion, and for those who organized it and promoted it as something which ought to set us at least on our guard against our own native tendency to deceive ourselves. This week, I pray for our nation which now can brand a man a bigot because he believes that sex is important enough to have inherent governing principles. And I pray for that man, because he doesn't think those principles, and their creator and sustainer, are worth making a public fuss anymore.
Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this week, and pray for all of us. May God have mercy on us all.