The guillotines of fundamentalism tend to make life hard for preachers too…
“A Hasidic proverb says, “We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.” We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are. Knowing, teaching, and learning under the grace of great things will come from teachers who own such a coat and wear it to class every day…
I happened to come to the seminary to teach during some rough years of denominational struggles. Some fundamentalist conservatives were making it hard for every professor to find out how to wear the coats with two pockets. Everything taught had to be scrutinized very closely, and it had to match the thinking of the powers in charge. Any number of professors were fired for being liberal, and within our school it was often the case that a student from a conservative church would smuggle a tape recorder into class to try and catch a professor saying something that might be interpreted as heresy. Then the student might take the heretical tape to a conservative trustee and it was either “ouch” or “off with his head.” The guillotines of fundamentalism always make teaching a nightmare.”
The internet broke for American evangelicals yesterday when a secularist had a secular opinion and posted about it on Twitter. This came as a shock to literally no one who has been paying attention.
In a tweet that sparked a lot of controversy yesterday, Shaun King announced that he believed that “all the statues of a white European that they believe is Jesus should come down.” In another tweet, he says, “All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down.”
He goes on to say that these images of a “white European Jesus” are “a gross form white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.”
Now, typically when someone baits people they’re just exaggerating to get a response. I believe King genuinely believes everything he’s saying so I don’t think he’s baiting in the classical sense of how we might use the term, but I think he was definitely trying to elicit a response. As a matter of fact, I think this was a calculated move on his part to provoke a response from conservatives and evangelicals just so he and/or his secularist friends could then have an excuse to say, “Careful. Your white fragility is showing.”
And guess what? If that was his plan, it worked. Fox News, TheBlaze, and other news sources began reporting on what King said, and the next thing you know people were allowing themselves to be outraged over something said on the internet by someone who doesn’t have any bearing on their lives (unless they’re some weird Shaun King fangirl).
Many evangelicals including Babylon Bee creator Adam Ford took to social media concerning King’s remarks advising Christians to “stop cheering this satanic divisiveness!” and “WAKE UP!”
While I agree with Ford’s sentiments that Christians shouldn’t be supporting King’s ideas to tear down statues of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder how much of our outrage is just a sign that we’re letting our fear be the determining factor in how we respond to things like this.
Sure, there are legitimate things in the news to be concerned over, but sharing news article after news article and talking about it’s “a sign of the end times” and how “persecution is upon us” or something about the “leftist agenda” in all caps might be a sign that you need to talk to your doctor about taking some Valium or a nice blood pressure medicine.
Ford says in his Facebook post, “It will NOT stop here.” What exactly does he mean by that? I imagine that he means that soon they’ll be coming for churches and even personally coming after Christians for their faith. But, really though? All because of a tweet from someone whose name hasn’t been mentioned in pop culture in quite sometime? Did it ever occur to Ford or anyone else that maybe King just wants some attention? If that’s what King wanted, that’s what he got, and we’re all playing into his hand.
However, if Ford is correct, then we were promised that the world would hate us (Matthew 10:22). Persecution for our faith should come as no surprise. However, I don’t think Christians in America are on the verge of being persecuted. At least… not yet. I’m sure we’ll see persecution in America against Christians, but I don’t at this time think we’re even close to that. And no, plain red cups at Starbucks and a cashier saying ‘Happy Holidays’ doesn’t count. (Sorry, Karens and Susans of the world. It doesn’t work like that.)
What really bothers me about how Christians are responding to this Shaun King twitter ordeal is that it’s almost as if they’re just now realizing that Christianity is offensive. It seems like they’re just now realizing that the cross of Christ has always been an offense. The Apostle Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NKJV) Later in verse 23 of the same chapter, Paul describes the message of Christ crucified as a “stumbling block” to the Jews and “foolishness” to the Greeks. Part of Paul’s point is that we have to be offended by the cross before we can be saved by it. We don’t want to hear that we are so sinful that we need Jesus to die in our place for our sin, but once we get past the initial offense, something in us changes and we start to see the cross as good news.
I fear that the fact that many Christians are shocked that someone with a secular worldview would find Jesus offensive means that they themselves have never seen the offense of the cross, and if they’ve never seen the offense of the cross, then it could mean that they’ve never been personally confronted with the reality of the Gospel.
The truth is that the first century Christians were persecuted because the governmental authorities saw the message of Jesus’ Lordship as a threat to their power and rightly so because Jesus doesn’t share His throne with people who thrive off of having power. It would seem that here in the 21st century we’ve lost our edge because the powers that be no longer see our message as a threat, but instead they call it an “essential service.” No doubt the preaching of the Gospel is an essential service to those who believe its message, but it should be radically offensive to someone who brags about grabbing women by the genitals, buys sexual favors from porn stars, and says that they need no forgiveness. The Gospel should also be radically offensive to someone who politically supports such as person.
I have more thoughts on this, and I may post more on this later, but I think this is sufficient for now.
If you’re one of those Truly Reformed™ brothers or sisters or one of my ivory tower theologian friends, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by, but this isn’t for you. This is a conversation between me and my Cumberland Presbyterian peeps. I’ll write a post for you fellas later. Now, bye-bye, and close the door on your way out.
Now that we’re alone, and I can talk to you one-on-one, I would recommend that you look up Herman Murray Jr. from Full Gospel Holy Temple in Dallas, Texas, and listen to him preach… just once.
I can already tell you that you’re probably not going to like that he has “Apostle” in front of his name. You might not like the high energy worship. You’re probably not going to like his loud, in-your-face style. You might call it “unnecessary” and “uncouth.” But if you can just turn off the high-brow, post-modernist goggles for just a few moments you’ll notice something.
Murray doesn’t preach a health, wealth, and prosperity message. He doesn’t use tricks and gimmicks to get his point across. He just opens the Bible and lets the Word speak for itself. You may not always agree with his exposition. He might not have the same views as you on baptism or soteriology, but he just tries his best, with the ability that God gave him, to talk about what the Bible talks about.
He’s not afraid to call out the homosexual agenda, the hyper-sexualization of our culture, or the need for strong and godly family units as evidenced in his sermon, “As Christ Loved the Church.”
So, you might ask, “Aren’t you good ol’ Cumberland Presbyterian boy, why are you trying to get me to watch this?” The answer is simple. We’re missing something that Murray has – boldness. You don’t have to have the same amount of volume, energy, or cadence to be bold. You just have to have a backbone, and that’s something we seem to have lost. We are letting the culture define the standards that we live and operate by. We are letting the culture tell us that we’re not allowed to say anything offensive in our pulpits. We have traded the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a message of sin tolerance, and we are paying a heavy price for it.
What we need to do is decide whether or not, the Bible is God’s Word to us today. We can’t pick and choose which parts are relevant and which ones aren’t. We have to decide whether or not the whole book is God’s word to us today or not. If it’s not, then throw the whole thing away and stop pretending to be a Christian just because you have a degree from a seminary and some presbytery said you could preach.
However, if the Bible is in fact God’s Word to us today, then there’s no reason for you to fear and cower in the pulpit. You should be able to stand up and declare what God says and let His word do the work. People may not like it. Your biggest tithe payers may walk out. The session might want to cut your salary or even fire you, but if what you say comes from the pages of Scripture, then they’ll have to fight God and His word before they can get to you.
Pastor, Sunday is coming, and you’re going to have to give an account to God for what every soul siting in the pews of your church hear from the pulpit. Are you going to preach the headlines? Are you going to preach a weak, watered-down Gospel that can’t save anybody? Are you going to preach about a god that tolerates the very sin his son died for?
Or, are you going to preach what God has said in His Word?
It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice you’ll stand before God and give an account for.
While perusing Jeremy Sarber’s blog as I sometimes do, I noticed that he was doing the #100DaysToOffload challenge. For those who are not in the loop, the challenge basically is to set aside some time to write something on your blog about once every three days or so as a way to relieve stress, get some thoughts off your chest, or just talk about your day, etc. You can learn more about the challenge here.
Basically, for as long as I’m participating in this challenge, I’m not going to have the normal pretty pictures with words on them as our readers are accustomed to, I’m going to write, post, and call it a day.
So, here’s the first one…
I’m beginning to be busy, but in a good way.
I’m working with the Adult Discipleship Ministries of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to write the next two quarters of The Encounter (our Sunday School curriculum), I’ve been asked to speak at a pastor’s conference (something I’ve always wanted to do), and now I’m preaching through Ephesians at my church.
My lessons for The Encounter are due in July, I have to give my talk at the conference at the end of the month (June), and I’m really trying hard to stay ahead on my sermons so I can devote more time to writing my lessons. It just seems like I should be more motivated. It seems like I should be able to just buckle down and get these lessons done, but I can’t. I always find something else to distract me. (For example, I’m writing this blog post now instead of writing my lesson. -.-)
So guys, pray for me that I’ll remain focused and organized that I’ll get everything done that I need to get done in a timely manner. Meanwhile, I’ll try to keep you updated with this whole #100DaysToOffload challenge even if it’s just a paragraph or two.