Monthly Archives: October 2012

Atheism Behind the Veil

The Gospel Coalition graciously posted my article on the growth of atheism within the African American community. The original title was “Atheism Behind the Veil,” of which you might recognize the reference to The Souls of Black Folk. The published title was an editorial choice.

________________________________

ERIC REDMOND|10:00 PM CT

Atheists Behind the Black Church Veil

Statistics on the religious beliefs of African Americans are part of Western cultural literacy. Many are familiar with the findings that reveal African Americans to be among the most religious ethnic group in America, largely holding a particular Christian expression of belief. In 2009, the Barna Group found that “blacks were the group most likely to be born again Christians (59 percent, compared to a national average of 46 percent) and were the ethnic segment most likely to consider themselves to be Christian (92 percent did so, versus 85 percent nationally).”

Mark Hatcher at an anniversary event for African Americans for Humanism in Washington.

Similarly, in 2011, Barna examined 15 years of religious beliefs among Americans and found that African Americans are “the segment that possesses beliefs most likely to align with those taught in the Bible.” Specifically, African Americans were more likely than other segments to say that they believe that God is “the all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today,” and were the most likely to engage in church-centric activities, and to read the Bible other than at church events during a typical week. According to Barna’s research, African Americans are only half as likely as either whites or Hispanics to be unchurched. Therefore, the announcement of the report justifiably noted, “From the earliest days of America’s history, a deep-rooted spirituality has been one of the hallmarks of the black population in the country. . . [and] the passage of time has not diminished the importance of faith in the lives of African Americans.

Growing Atheism

It might seem anomalous to turn from the pages of that report to find that there is a growing atheistic movement within the African American community. Local chapters of organized African American atheistic groups are appearing in major American cities. There are vocal activists for this atheism, including comedians and journalists. Rice University professor of humanities and religious studies Anthony Pinn and Harvard University professor of African and African American studies and of philosophy Tommie Shelby also lend their intellectual muscle to the movement through their writings.

Although equal to its white counterpart in its denial of the possibility of and need for a Divine Being, African American atheism differs in its object of attack from “The New Atheism.” Whereas Richard Dawkins positions science against Christian belief and the late Christopher Hitchens attacked Christians’ claim of God being “good,” African American atheism directs its “no-Creator” tirade at the character of the black church and history of African Americans.

The popular discussion has two primary foci. The first is to suggest that many within the African American community have participated in the Christian faith because “going to church” is a cultural expression of this community. To go against this expression in ages past would have brought the sort of ostracism previously experienced by African American homosexuals. African American atheists tend to employ the “coming out of the closet” language when speaking of sharing their humanist conversion experiences with their family members.

The second focus is the black church itself—or its iniquities. While the church plays a prominent role in the lives of African Americans, the community shows signs of disaster in almost all other social indicators, including education, wealth and poverty, unemployment, marriage, and crime. Thus, the evangelists of African American atheism can point to an apparent absence of divine power among the black church’s ardent followers, and thus an absence of a deity.

In contrast, the academic discussion attacks long-held scholarly and popular consensus concerning the place of the church in the success of the African American community. Accurately, the African American atheists demonstrate that many people of prominence in the African American community (from its inception in antebellum period to the present) gave deference to the church for utilitarian purposes—for the sake of the liberation and empowerment of a people given to religion. The images we have of the civil rights movement anchoring itself in fiery worship services and community gatherings in churches local to the nearest protest march mask the quiet internal compromises many of the non-religious made for the sake of uniting with the massive cause for justice.

Pefect Conditions

Just as many discover this anti-Christian organism, it already has evolved into a fully grown system fighting for its place alongside of the church in the lives of African Americans and American society. Observably, a few factors within the African American community have created the perfect conditions for its appearance. Heterosexual marriage is on the decline; as Joy Jones recognized, some African Americans even view marriage as a white institution.  Single African American women are asking whether the church is contributing to their singleness and loneliness, due to the church’s high standards for sexual purity and low numbers of single African American men. Following the majority culture, homosexuality is accepted as a family member within the African American community, with many church leaders acting as advocates. Finally, the internet gives African American atheism a powerful communication tool for unifying the movement and preaching its platform.

The non-believers behind W. E. B. Du Bois’s veil are correct on one part of their historical analysis: Atheistic tares have grown in the fields home to the Negro spirituals and gospel music, the SCLC, the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., and the founding of many historically black colleges and universities. Yet the inference they draw from this reality is incorrect. The historical presence of atheists of color does not invalidate the black church’s role as the uniting force in the survival of the African American community.

While some sought the resources of the church for political gain or “the greater good” of an oppressed people, this is not true for the majority. Many members of today’s black church attend because their parents, who introduced them to Christ and the church, are believers—believers themselves who are the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren of slaves and freedmen who went to church because they believed in a God who would free them from slavery just as he freed the children of Israel from Egypt. My grandfather, great-grandfathers, and great-great grandfathers, all humble, land-owning (but not well-to-do) farmers, had no ambitions or motives for being churchgoers other than to please Christ, their faithful Lord. The same could be said for the faith of millions of African Americans who preached, prayed, sang, and gave their monies so that their children might follow in the faith as free members in the land of the free.

The African American community, at large, however, still presents a huge mission field ripe for the gospel. The statistics on attendance can be misleading: Attendance should not be equated with conversion, spiritual maturity, biblical literacy, or theological knowledge. Believers should pray for God’s mercy upon unbelievers inside and outside of the black church’s pews. If the Lord is merciful to us, maybe the atheists, too, will be converted.

 

Eric C. Redmond is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men’s Questions About the Church (Crossway). He is executive pastoral assistant and Bible professor in residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

When You Are Wronged – Psalm 26

Today christianity.com posted my, “When You Are Wronged,” a brief look at Psalm 26. I am grateful for their ministry and graciousness toward me.

___________________________________________

Vindication is something we all desire, because injustices are committed toward us in this life. On a lesser scale it could be a simple spat between spouses in which the one accuses the other of moving an item, when the other has evidence of things being very different. On a larger scale it could be that family promises were not kept, or lies and cover-ups had the wrong person thrown out of school, found innocent a criminal who harmed your loved one, or cost you an unwarranted demotion at work.

In Psalm 26, one reads, “Vindicate Me, O Lord.” The word translated as “vindication” has judgmentat its core. David is praying, “Judge me, O Lord. Look at the wicked and me, see that I have lived a life of integrity and depended on you without wavering.” David’s prayer reveals three things:

1.      When you call for vindication, make sure integrity is your foundation (1-3).

The basis by which David cries for vindication makes no reference to the wrongdoing of anyone else. David starts (and he will end) in the mirror. “Lord, I have integrity; I am wholly dependent on you.”

The Hebrew terms behind “heart” and “mind” are words for “kidneys” and “heart.” In the Hebrew mind, the kidneys (or innards) were the organ driving us in the way we would describe the “heart” of emotions and motive, and the “heart” was more what we would describe as the place of thinking and will. David says in effect, “Look at my heart and mind with your all-penetrating eyes and see that I am whole and holy.”

Typically, when we pray for vindication, we act like children on the schoolyard who have been hurt and run to the teacher: “He hit me! Get him!” “She called me a bad name! Take her recess away! Do it in front of me so I can have the satisfaction of seeing her humbled!”

In that cry to the authority we want three things: Judgment that sets the scales right, vengeance against the enemy, and a public display that we are right. David wants a fourth thing: Judgment of the one requesting vindication. To make that call of vindication, you must know that you yourself are a person of integrity before God and not just correct in the current situation.

2.      When you claim your own justification, you should be prepared to meet strict standards of Divine evaluation (4-8).

David offers four areas of life for God to judge. First he offers truth (26:4). Men of falsehood (vanity) are not part of his company. Neither does he keep company with “hypocrites”—people who keep their activities covered so others cannot see what they are doing. David is saying that he keeps the 9th Commandment’s prohibition against false witness.

Second, David offers righteousness (26:5). When evildoers gathered for their form of “worship” (for “assembly” is a cultic term related to worship), David had complete disdain for their dishonoring authority, murdering, adultery, and stealing. He keeps the 5th-8th and 10th Commandments.

Third, David offers purity in worship (26:6). David thinks of integrity in terms of the 1st through 4thCommandments—those that deal with loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. He understands that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God. You cannot be a person of integrity – wholeness before God, and not simply before men – if you treat everyone decently but do not acknowledge God’s standards for coming to God. No idolater or atheist could pray, “Vindicate me” to God and hope for anything short of his wrath for all eternity, for the judgment would reveal wickedness even in the motives of his service toward humanity.

Fourth, David offers himself as a devoted worshipper (26:8). David is a Sabbath-keeper who loves God! It is not the house of the Lord that David loves, but the resident of the house—God and his glory! “Measure me by this,” says David!

This poses a dilemma for all of us: Not one of us perfectly keeps the Commandments. We stand without hope of vindication before our enemies, because we cannot say, “Lord, get them but ignore me,” for this would not be just for a holy God.

What hope is there for we who need both vindication and the righteousness that God requires?

3.      When you cry out for separation, remember that it is the Lord’s grace that brings redemption (9-12).

God will sweep away the souls of sinners, including the bloodthirsty, who can be manipulated by bribes and have evil devices to carry out their schemes. They can threaten your life, but their own lives are at stake before the Almighty Judge and King.

David, even as one claiming to have absolute integrity, still knows that he will be found short and could be swept away into the torrents of eternal damnation. So he makes pleas to avoid the judgment of the wicked: “Redeem me and be gracious to me”

God is not under obligation to rescue David, and he ultimately cannot present his integrity as sufficient to avoid the wrath of a perfect God. So what is David’s hope? God, by your grace, redeem me! This is exactly what God does for us in Christ.

Christ comes in the perfect righteousness of God: Complete in truth, righteousness, purity in worship, and devotion in worship to God. God condemned Christ in place of our condemnation, crucifying him to his death on the Cross.

God offers us eternal life through Christ’s righteousness as the only one righteous enough to beat death, as demonstrated in his resurrection from the dead. God offers to redeem us by grace—a gift to us, not something we earn. We receive this gift by believing in Christ. When, therefore, we are in need of vindication, we keep trusting this same Christ.

Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @EricCRedmond

Two Ads Marylanders Need to Watch and Then Act to Defeat Questions 6 and 7

Maryland voters need to go to the voter’s booth to defeat Questions 6 and 7. As a citizen, I hope to defeat all attempts to redefine marriage, and all attempts to harm Maryland families and the economy by expanding gambling in the state. I am grateful for the ads pushing for the defeat of these two questions.

It saddens me that there are members of the clergy in Maryland who are voicing support for the redefinition of marriage when such redefinition stands in contrast to Scripture. Let’s be clear on what we see in Scripture: Paul and the church push for the welcoming of people of all ethnicities–of all races as the church expands across Asia and Europe (Acts 11:17-18; Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:19; 3:6). These same believers stood against all forms of homosexuality as that same church – that church open to the inclusion of all races – expanded throughout the world (1 Tim. 1:10). To the early church and its leaders, showing preference to a race goes against the work of Christ in the atonement; Christ died so that people of any race could be accepted in him without the need to change their ethnic or racial identity. Thus, race is not an issue of sin. Yet the work of Christ to cleanse his bride demands that one be separated from homosexual activity as those justified and sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Homosexuality is sin, and no member of the clergy who names Christ as Lord should vote in favor of giving rights that affirm such sinfulness.

Ad against Question 6

 

Ad against Question 7

Dangerous Calling

Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry is available (@Amazon). For the sake of your pastor’s health (and your church’s health), I would suggest getting a copy for yourself and your pastor. Crossway graciously invited me to review the book in pre-pub. My endorsement of the book appears below:

“Our wives, children, and the members we serve will have a new husband, father, and pastor by Friday if we follow Tripp’s example and give a humble and honest reading of this book—one with our inner Pharisee and scribe turned off. We will see the need to save our selves from a very dark and destructive force working against pastors: undiagnosed pastoral self-righteousness. With much wisdom and conviction, Tripp’s Dangerous Calling preaches the gospel of grace to the men who are preaching the gospel Sunday after Sunday to everyone but themselves.”

W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election

From the Pure Church blog, with thanks to Thabiti Anyabwile. (I am glad that I am not alone in my decision.)  W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election:

_________________________

W.E.B DuBois Would Not Vote in This Election

I know. I was surprised at the notion myself. A tireless champion of Civil Rights, a participant of the Niagra Movement and one of the founders of the NAACP, one would expect DuBois to argue the moral responsibility of voting–particularly for a people recently disenfranchised.

But in a piece entitled, “Why I Won’t Vote,” delivered on October 20, 1956, DuBois made an eloquent case for not voting at all.  The entire speech really should be read; it’s haunting in its description of themes and tensions in 1956 that could as easily apply to 2012. DuBois begins with a kind of biography of his voting record:

Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.

Then he comes to explain the dilemma of the 1956 election:

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. A.D.A.’s and “Liberals” are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.

For DuBois, democracy must entail genuine choice and the proper exercise of voting rights requires actual alternatives. The “lesser of two evils” was not for him the modus operandibut a terrible exception. He would view the now commonplace strategy of voting for the “lesser evil” as a terrible indictment against the entire system. He insisted that voters ought to have a more compelling reason for casting their lot than “this guy isn’t as bad as the other guy.” He denied that a “helpless vote” could restore or bolster American democracy.

So, he protested and “voted” by not voting. This election a small number of African-American pastors are telling their congregations that there is no “lesser evil” with the two parties. These pastors recommend that their members not vote. For their efforts, a much larger collection of ministers will vilify them and proclaim they betray the long struggle for the franchise. But I wonder what the majority would say to DuBois? I wonder if the majority see with as much clarity, insight, and foresight as DuBois did in 1956? I doubt it because no one seems to see the continuing deterioration of the country. Oh, I know that people on both “sides” decry the other side as the rot weakening America. But that’s just election year rhetoric, partisan prerequisites, senseless soundbites–not real analysis and thinking.

And as DuBois could see in 1956, there’s no real difference between the two parties. Bush bailed out banks; Obama bailed out auto manufacturers. Bush responded to 9/11 by taking us to war; Obama has continued the war. Bush didn’t put an end to abortion; Obama would multiply them. The differences are slight to non-existent. Both parties are destroying America because both parties live, not for America, but for the party.

Is this despair talking? Some might think so. Apparently DuBois faced the same criticism. He answered it head on and eloquently:

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest. Yet if we protest, off the nation goes to Russia and China. Fifty-five American ministers and philanthropists are asking the Soviet Union “to face manfully the doubts and promptings of their conscience.” Can not these do-gooders face their own consciences? Can they not see that American culture is rotting away: our honesty, our human sympathy; our literature, save what we import from abroad? Our only “review” of literature has wisely dropped “literature” from its name. Our manners are gone and the one thing we want is to be rich–to show off. Success is measured by income. University education is for income, not culture, and is partially supported by private industry. We are not training poets or musicians, but atomic engineers. Business is built on successful lying called advertising. We want money in vast amount, no matter how we get it. So we have it, and what then?

Is the answer the election of 1956? We can make a sick man President and set him to a job which would strain a man in robust health. So he dies, and what do we get to lead us? With Stevenson and Nixon, with Eisenhower and Eastland, we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln,and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.

Those last lines are quite remarkable, are they not? Pundits tell us that third parties have no chance, and the vast majority of voters believe them, not stopping to think that they arethe vast majority. Like mindless cattle herded to slaughter, the majority simply shuffle along cooperatively to their own execution. There are two lines that lead to slaughter, one labeled “D” and the other “R”. Would that cattle could read and see the future! Would that cattle would only sell their votes for integrity and principle, not for platform and party politics!I am sometimes asked, “Who are you voting for?” I can hear the questioner’s curiosity, driven by the dissonance of my black skin and my conservative evangelical belief. Will it be “race” or theology that tips his heart at the polls? Which is the truer self? I never answer the question, but I do appreciate the tension that prompts it. It’s a tension that serious African-American Christians feel. But, I’m actually with DuBois. And I’m glad for his article, because it simultaneously demonstrates (a) that it’s no betrayal to either African-American history or an incumbent African-American president to follow one’s individual conscience against the cultural tide and (b) that blind loyalty to either party makes little sense when you can hardly slide a sheet of paper between the two. A vote for the “lesser evil” is still a vote for evil. I can’t make that vote. I know there are no perfect candidates, but I do know there are perfect principles. And neither party or candidate stands for them. I’m not moved by the harangues of a Sharpton or Jackson for not voting. Neither of those men could carry DuBois’ books.

I would never presume to tell others how to exercise their conscience on this matter. I would simply ask, as DuBois did, “Why are you voting the way you are?” Unless something dramatic happens in the following weeks, something far more substantive than tonight’s over-scripted debate, I’m “voting” by not voting. To quote Luther: “My conscience is held captive by the Word of God. And to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.”

Jonathan Edwards on the Types of Injuries with which Love is Patient

When 1 Corinthians 13:4 teaches, “Love is patient” (or “love suffereth long”), it charges believers to endure injurious behavior from others. Jonathan Edwards explored this and considered several possible “injuries” we could encounter, and to which we must respond with the loving behavior of patience. Edwards’ list is below.

______________________________

From Charity and Its Fruits, Sermon 4: “Charity – Meek in Bearing Evil or Injuries” (or “Longsuffering and Kindness” in the recently edited version by Kyle Strobel). Eric C. Redmond edited the enumeration and formatting.

“I would briefly notice some of the various kind of injuries that we may or do receive from others:

  1. Some injure others in their estates by unfairness and dishonesty in their dealings, by being fraudulent and deceitful with them, or at least by leading them to act in the dark, and taking advantage of their ignorance;
  2. or by oppressing them, taking advantage of their necessities;
  3. or by unfaithfulness towards them, not fulfilling their promises and engagements, and being slack and slighting in any business they are employed in by their neighbors, aiming at nothing but just to meet the letter of their engagements, and not being careful to improve their time to the utmost in accomplishing that which they are engaged to do;
  4. or by asking unreasonable prices for what they do;
  5. or by withholding what is due, from their neighbors, unjustly, neglecting to pay their debts, or unnecessarily putting their neighbors to trouble and difficulty to get what is due from them.
  6. And besides these, there are many other methods in which men injure one another in their dealings, by an abundance of crooked and perverse ways, in which they are far from doing to others as they would have them do to themselves, and by which they provoke and irritate and injure one another.
  7. Some injure others in their good name, by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common, and no iniquity more frequent or base, than this. Other ways of injury are abundant, but the amount of injury by evil-speaking of this kind, is beyond account.
  8. Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them, and so cruelly slandering them. Others, without saying that which is directly false, greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors, exaggerating their faults, and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by thus uncharitably judging one another, and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another’s words and actions.
  9. Persons may greatly injure others in their thoughts, by unjustly entertaining mean thoughts, or a low esteem of them. Some are deeply and continually injurious to others, by the contempt they habitually have of them in their hearts, and by their willingness to think the worst about them. And, as the outflowing of the thoughts, a great deal is done to the injury of others by the words; for the tongue is but too ready to be the wicked instrument of expressing the evil thoughts and feelings of the soul, and hence, in the Scriptures (Job 5:21), it is called a scourge, and is compared (Psa. 140:3) to the fangs of some very poisonous kinds of serpents, whose bite is supposed to cause death.
  10. Sometimes men injure others in their treatment and actions towards them, and in the injurious deeds they do them. If clothed with authority, they sometimes carry themselves very injuriously toward those over whom their authority extends, by behaving very assumingly and magisterially and tyrannically toward them.
  11. Sometimes those who are under authority, carry themselves very injuriously toward those who are over them, by denying them that respect and honor which are due to their places, and thus to themselves while they occupy them.
  12.  Some carry themselves very injuriously toward others by the exercise of a very selfish spirit, seeming to be all for themselves, and apparently having no regard to the good or benefit of their neighbor, but all their contrivance is only to better their own interests.
  13. Some carry themselves injuriously in the manifestation of a very haughty and proud spirit, as though they thought they were more excellent than all others, and that nobody was at all to be regarded except themselves alone. This appears in their air and talk and actions, and their greatly assuming behavior in general, all of which are such, that those about them feel, and justly feel, that they are injured by them.
  14. Some carry themselves very injuriously by the exercise of a very willful spirit, being so desperately set on having their own way, that they will, if possible, bend everything to their own will, and never will alter their career, nor yield to the wishes of others. They shut their eyes against the light or motives others may offer, and have no regard to anyone’s inclination but their own, being always perverse and willful in having their own way.
  15. Some carry themselves injuriously in the course they take in public affairs, acting not so much from a regard for the public good, as from the spirit of opposition to some party, or to some particular person, so that the party or person opposed is injured, and oftentimes is greatly provoked and exasperated.
  16. Some injure others by the malicious and wicked spirit they cherish against them, whether with or without cause. It is not an uncommon thing for neighbors to dislike and even hate one another; not cherishing anything like love to each other in their hearts, but whether they acknowledge it or not, in reality hating one another, having no delight in each other’s honor and prosperity, but, on the contrary, being pleased when they are cast down and in adversity, foolishly and wickedly thinking, perhaps, that another’s fall is their own elevation, which it never is.
  17. Some injure others by the spirit of envy they show toward them, cherishing ill-will toward them for no other reason than for the honor and prosperity they enjoy.
  18. Many injure others from a spirit of revenge, deliberately returning evil for evil, for real or imaginary injuries received from them. Some, as long as they live, will keep up a grudge in their hearts against their neighbor, and whenever an opportunity offers, will act it out in injury to him in the spirit of malice.
  19. And in innumerable other particular ways which might be mentioned, do men injure one another; though these may suffice for our present purpose.”

No Compromise or No Standards?

Reposting from the pulpit-pimps.org site:

No Compromise or No Standards?

Twenty years ago, President Clinton was accused of engaging in…uh…not your normal sex acts with a young intern, in the Oval Office.  One of the defenses presented for him was “He’s the president, not a pastor.”  The thought here seemed to be that he shouldn’t be held to the same standard as a pastor or other person who “does” religion for a living.

Fast forward twenty years and the sitting president makes it clear that he endorses legal liaisons (I refuse to call them marriages) between same-sex individuals.  The defense?  He’s the president, not the nation’s pastor.  While I disagree with the sentiment, I can at least see how the supposed differences can be justified.  But you folks are going to have to help me out here.  I obviously don’t understand the idea of holiness and uncompromising service to our Lord and Savior by those who profess to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

We don’t expect the unsaved to live up to our standards.  But apparently we give those who ARE pastors the same pass.  Again, I probably just don’t understand.  After all, I teach in a church that has fewer than twenty families as members. We don’t have a choir to die for, and we rent space from the Lutheran church.  And it must be that I’m just too focused to have realistic expectations.

I would expect Jerry Bruckheimer  to produce, direct, and otherwise create some movies and television shows that are, at times, vulgar and, shall we call it immodest.  And you’d expect Christopher Nolan  to direct movies with a fairly worldly point of view.  But would you expect the same behavior from a man who insists he is the highly anointed But the guy who says he’s the highly anointed pastor of a church and is the “covering” (whatever that is) for hundreds of other churches?

Several weeks ago, I took the wife to see “Sparkle.”  Though going to movies isn’t the easiest thing in the world for us, I figured it would be good for us to get out and see a movie.  She wanted to see “Sparkle” so I worked it out for us.  It was a mistake.

After watching the previews for coming attractions, I settled down into my stadium seating chair with a big bucket of popcorn (no butter), set to watch the movie.  And it opened with that foul-mouthed performer Cee Lo Green.  While he was relatively clean in the movie, I wouldn’t have picked him as the first thing the audience sees.  And I certainly would have looked for a less foul-mouthed performer to put on the pay roll.

The movie has four-lettered expletives sprinkled throughout.  And I’m not just talking about theological terms like “hell.”  I’m talking aboutscatological ones.

The only thing some of the shots of the performers were missing was a little bump-and-grind music (I would direct to some sites that explain that reference, but the sites’ contents were worse than the movie I’m complaining about).

The clothing was way past suggestive.  While I don’t want to be a prude, I did have to look away several times.  Here’s one of the milder wardrobe choices made by the director.  I felt somewhat obliged to do a little editing on this very mild example.

So, any guesses as to who produced the movie?  Bruckheimer?  No.  Nolan?  No.  Or maybe theBroccoli brothers?  Okay, okay! The Broccoli brothers are dead, but you get the idea.

No, “Sparkle” was produced by none other than (drum roll), T. Dexter Jakes.

What’s my point in all of this?  Simple.  Is T. Dexter a Christian and a church leader, or is he an entrepreneur willing to do whatever it takes to make a profit?

I’m becoming more and more certain of the latter, with respect to both theology and economy.

Make no mistake about it:  I think it is outstanding for Christians to be involved in the arts, to mirror creation, and to be creative in giving glory to God.  I don’t have a problem with Christians writing books (heck, I’m trying to sell one right now), with Christians painting,  or with Christians’ involvement in any and all of the arts.  Why leave that area of culture to the unsaved?  All they will generally do with it is corrupt it through the glorification of man or the promotion of rebellion against God.

Does a movie have to have an explicitly Christian theme?  Certainly not.  Should a movie producer, one who professes not just to be a Christian, but a leader, produce a work that glorifies ungodly behavior?  Certainly not.

Of course, I don’t limit this to “Christian Leaders.”  It’s applicable to all Christians.  Paul told us in 1 Cor 10:31 to  do whatever we do to the glory of God.  Granted, he was speaking primarily about the observation of the Law and its strictures on what a person could eat or drink.  But I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to follow this out to the arts.  Do you really think a Hip Hop artist is “giving glory to God” when they receive some award wearing pasties?

When God told the artisans to embroider the hems of the robes with pomegranates (Exodus 28:33, 34) He wanted it to look just any kind of way? No.  It’s a pretty safe bet he wanted them to look like the fruit.   And while I’m sure God had a reason for a pomegranate and not a kumquat, the point is, this artistic representation of the physical world seemed not only alright with God, but it was approved.

Then there’s music.  DO you really think music has to be explicitly tied to God to be acceptable to Him?  I suggest not.  But I would also say the music should not promote ungodliness.  The list of songs that are in rebellion to God are the norm rather than the exception.  Theater and cinema are the same way.  I would even go so far as to say literature is the very same way.  The books need not be explicitly Christian, but they should reflect a Christian world view rather than a secular world view.

T. Dexter failed in all of this in the production of “Sparkle.”  But then, should we expect anything different?  He also produced “Jumping the Broom.”  The actors were quite skilled.  And the story line was substantial, more substantial than most of his movies and most of the modern, less violent and sex soaked Blaand less xploitation movies.  But again we come back to why he would produce a movie with some very questionable scenes (the opening scene for starters).  And why would he include at least one character who seemed to go out of its way to make Christianity look like an exercise in self-righteousness.

T. Dexter not only is too dishonest to openly admit that he is a Oneness proponent, or to stop promoting Word of Faith doctrine even while he preaches it, but he is willing to create and profit from blatantly ungodly movies.  And unfortunately a lot of you professing Christians line up and give him your money to he can put ungodly philosophies and images into your heads.

So, am I missing something here?