Saturday, February 09, 2008

Don't Blame The Church First

A couple of days ago I came across a book titled "unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...And Why It Matters". The book was written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Actually, I didn't come across the book itself but a review of it on a blog. I was intrigued by the information about the book that was in the review. Basically, this book is an in depth report on what young people--those 30 and under--think of Christianity. And the news isn't good. How should Christians respond to the negative impression so many in the younger generation have toward the faith? Not by blaming it all on the Church, which is what I fear some Christians will do. Let's take a closer look at the problem areas to see what Christians can do about them.

In "unChristian", the young complained that Christians were judgmental, anti-gay, hypocritical, too political, and sheltered. We might first ask where the young got these views. Of course, there are and always will be Christians who behave in unChristlike ways and it's highly likely that young people got their negative views of Christians partly from them. But I suspect that other, more calculating, sources implanted anti-Christian attitudes into the young's hearts and minds.

We all know that the media is dominated by irreligious people who use their position to voice their anti-Christian prejudices. I can remember '70's sitcoms such as The Jeffersons, All in the Family, and One Day at a Time, portraying Bible-believing Christians as narrow-minded, hypocritical, dumb, and/or bigoted. This has continued to this day. It's acceptable to mock and even to hate Christianity in popular culture. The relentless barrage of anti-Christian messages in popular entertainment can't help but leave a negative impression of Christians in people's minds. Christians who are inclined to blame the Church for it's poor image need to remember that and hold Hollywood accountable for it's anti-Christian bigotry.

Christians must get more involved in the media. No one but Christians are going to portray them and their beliefs accurately and sympathetically on film, in books, and on tv. They need to realize that and stop just criticizing Hollywood and start creating art and entertainment that winsomely conveys the Christian worldview. But what about the specific charges the young levelled against Christians? Well, let's take a closer look at those.


This one really surprised me. Just what do the young mean when they accuse Christians of being "sheltered"? Do they mean that Christians don't share a lot of the values of secular culture? Well, that's true. Christians who take their faith seriously are going to differ from their contemporaries by definition. But it's not because they're sheltered. On the contrary, many Christians became Christian because they saw way too much of what the unChristian world offered and found it wanting. In addition, most Christians live in the same neighborhoods, attend the same schools, and work at the same jobs as non-Christians. They're not holed up in monasteries or communes. So what's this business about them being sheltered? I think it reflects a deeply engrained ignorance of and bigotry against Christians on the part of those who make the accusation. The faithful should not be intimidated by it.


This is the big one. Of all the things it's wrong to be in our modern society, anti-gay is the "wrongest". Many of the younger generation seem to think that anti-gay sentiments among Christians makes them little better than Nazis. But is that fair? Yes, Bible-believing Christians hold that homosexuality is a sin, but they believe that other sexual practices, such as adultery and prostitution, are also sin. Why are they accused of hate and Naziism for disapproving of the former but not the latter? Where's the reasoning in that? And what about diversity and tolerance, the two most touted values of secular culture? Difference and the tolerance of difference are supposed to be great. So why no tolerance for Christians who think differently from non-Christians about homosexuality? Young people who condemn Christians for opposing homosexuality should be asked these questions. They should be made to defend their accusation. In the process they may learn that they've accepted pro-gay arguments unthinkingly and have judged Christians unfairly.


This common accusation against Christians is repeated by the young people in the book. But what do they mean when they accuse Christians of being "judgmental"? Do they mean that Christians make a distinction between right and wrong and stick to it? If so, is that so bad? And if it is, is that practice limited to Christians? Or do they mean that Christians condemn people unfairly, show no compassion for human weakness, and/or impose their morality on others? Well, we can all agree that unfairness and lack of compassion are wrong and Christians are sometimes guilty of this. But non-Christians are guilty of these things, too. Trying to make these faults peculiar to believers in Christ is itself a form of unfairness, lack of compassion, and judgmentalism.

And as for imposing their morality on others, this is really laughable. Yes, Christians have deeply held values. Yes, they often criticize society for violating those values. And they sometimes work for laws that reflect their morals. But every other group in America does the same thing, especially militant secularists. Secularists control the transmitters of culture: the schools, the media, and Hollywood. They use these outlets to proselytize their worldview, to the young especially. In the schools secularists have instituted sex ed classes that deliberately teach children an anti-Biblical sexual ethic. In their movies they routinely portray Christians as ignorant, bigoted, and dangerous. Ditto for their news media. And to ensure that their indoctrination goes unchallenged secularists have invented speech codes, written laws, and employed social stigmatization to stop "hate", i.e. dissent from their anti-Christian propaganda. So we should ask the young accusers, who's imposing their views on whom? Who's being judgmental?


This accusation against Christians is as old as the faith itself. Yes, there's hypocrisy among Christians. No, it's not peculiar to them. If you're going to look down on Christians for sometimes being hypocritical then you'll have to look down on every other religious and secular group. Hypocrisy is a human failing, not a Christian one. The young should remember that before they get too sanctimonious in their condemnation of the faithful.

Too Political

This one surprised me as much as the accusation that Christians were sheltered. Apparently, the young believe that Christians don't have the same civic rights and responsibilites as all other citizens. Gee, I wonder where they got that idea! While I do think that Christians sometimes put too much faith in politics to achieve what the Bible says only Christ can, they are totally within their right as Americans to organize politically. It would appear that the young, like many older people, object to Christian political activism because it's usually on the conservative side of the political aisle. If most Christians were voting for Democrats and their liberal policies their political involvement would be praised by most of those who now hold it in contempt. So the charge of "too political" is an expression of sour grapes not principle.

There you have it. The five big negatives the young have against Christians. And the reasons why those negatives aren't all Christians' fault. Of course, Christians should correct their unChristlike behavior where ever and when ever it arises. But they shouldn't capitulate to "blame the Church first" sentiment out of a misguided notion of love, meekness, or forgiveness. Rather, Christians should challenge their accusers to prove their accusations. They should boldly speak out against anti-Christian bigotry in the media, and they shouldn't hesitate to protect their rights through the courts. Christ told His followers to be not just gentle as doves but also wise as serpents. Fighting anti-Christian stereotypes and propaganda should bring out the serpent in them.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Not Married Priests?

I want it known from the beginning that I'm not anti-Catholic. I believe that Catholics are Christians and I DON'T believe that the Pope is out to take over the world with the Illuminati. However, I was raised Protestant and many things about Catholicism do baffle me. One of those things is the prohibition on married priests.

Growing up Prostestant I saw many married pastors; one was even in my extended family. In fact, virtually every pastor I knew anything about or whose church I attended was married. No, they weren't all paragons of marital virtue but being married and having children didn't hinder the performance of their pastoral duties. If anything, being married seemed to make pastors more approachable, more in tune with real life where most people married and had kids.

If you are having problems in the most intimate part of your life, seeking help from someone who's been there can be far more productive than asking advice from someone who has no personal experience of your situation. Yes, Catholic priests can teach people the Bible's commandments on the duties of husbands, wives, parents, and children. But there's a big difference between reading commandments and applying them in real life. No matter how well versed priests may be in Biblical family doctrine the fact is they have no experience living it. I've never understood why the Catholic Church doesn't realize that's a weakness.

But even more important than the question of personal experience is Biblical authority. The Bible is the only authority on Christian doctrine and practice. It is the only book which God has given to reveal His instructions on how Christians should live. No church, clergyman, or denomination has the right to require of Christians anything that God Himself doesn't. And that's what the Catholic Church is doing by requiring priestly celibacy.

I'll say it without equivocation, there is NO Biblical commandment for clerical celibacy. In both the Old and New Testaments priests, elders, deacons, and bishops weren't just married but were presumed to be so. Both Testaments gave instructions on how clerics were to handle their own families. In the New Testament, for instance, having his own children under control was a key factor in determining a man's fitness to be a leader in the Church. Clearly, such a standard would've been unnecessary if priests were required to be single.

Some Catholics I'm sure will argue that Jesus and Paul are the authority for the Church's celibacy doctrine. Jesus and Paul were not married, ergo priests shouldn't be either. The problems with that argument are obvious. First, Jesus and Paul weren't priests, certainly not in the Catholic understanding of the term. Rather, they were itinerant preachers unattached to any ecclesiastical organization. Further, while we know for sure that Paul was single Jesus' marital status isn't so clear cut.

Most people assume that Jesus was single because no wife is ever mentioned for Him. But that's an argument from silence and it's weak. It's like claiming that Jesus was illiterate because no mention is made of Him going to school. The fact is the Bible is silent on 95% of Jesus' life. His birth and His adolescent encounter with the Pharisees in the Temple are mentioned only briefly. His ministry, which began when He was 30, is the part of Jesus' life that the Bible is truly concerned with. Virtually everything else is ignored as irrelevant. So it shouldn't be surprising that Christ's wife, if she existed, didn't make it into Scripture. The absense of a messianic spouse gives no church the right to demand clerical bachelorhood. So I reiterate, the Catholic Church is stepping beyond its authority by forbidding it's priests to marry.

Why not married priests? God is the reason why not. Christians are to "obey God rather than men". When manmade rules and regulations conflict with those of God, God's prevail. The Bible is God's Word. It reveals His commandments, rules, and requirements for living the Christian life. No church, priest or pastor has the right or the authority to go beyond God's commands. Requiring people to follow rules that have no basis in Scripture is a sin. The Catholic Church is sinning when it demands priestly celibacy. Married men can serve God as priests; the Bible says so. It's time the Church put aside tradition and committed itself to God's way. Let the priests marry! The blessings of obedience will be bountiful.