Friday, January 9, 2009

The Challenge of Disenthralling Ourselves

In her review of Matt Miller's book, Kathleen Parker in today's Washington Post is bringing forth the great challenge for us in this time: we must disenthrall ourselves, as Abraham Lincoln put it in 1861. What is killing us right now is not the death of precious ideas-- it is our unwillingness to think anew, and act anew. We will not let go of what is gone, so we cannot grasp hold of what is coming.
What is going is traumatically so drastic that to let go of it, we must let go of some essential pieces of what it has meant to be an American in the last half-century. Miller lists six such dead ideas, but the PC(USA) has others to contribute to the list. What I intend to do for a while is to list and describe these dead ideas.
Dead Idea #1: the Church must follow wherever the Culture that gives it status leads.
This idea is the most deadly holdover from the Christendom era. When the Church and its surrounding society cooperated in perpetuating the lie that the entire culture was Christian, the Church received power and status in return for tacit obedience to this central idea. Hence, at the beginning of World War I, every army was blessed by its pastors, priests, and bishops to go out and kill the other armies. Christians were blessed by the Church to go out and kill other Christians, because the cultures were at war.
The PC(USA) has been done in by this same phenomenon from the 1960's, when the culture that gave the PC(USA) status declared war on the rising youth culture of the time; we are now almost 50 years into that war, and it still hasn't ended.
So much of what is happening inside the Church is still being driven by this principle. In an argument over whether the Church should bless gay marriage, the winning trump in my brother's hand was this: "don't you realize that in 20 years, every state in the union will recognize gay marriage?"
My response: "So what?"
All I received was a dumbfounded look.
The Church is not bound to follow this culture-- it is bound to follow the Lord, led by the Word. When the Church follows the Lord, preaches the Word, and obeys, it will lead Culture, not follow it.


  1. If we at OCPC are to follow our mission and be demonstrably different from the world, we all need to say "so what?" much more often! God Bless you, Clay for reminding us!


  2. Clay, I very much agree with you, but I think the mistake we too often make is thinking that NOTHING from culture can ALSO be of God . . . and therein lies the debate. What each person would say "so what?" to is going to be different, I suppose, and can we live with that? We must do not do things solely to appease culture, but if both God's will and cultural realities are in line, I think that is great. Certainly makes us have to engage in discernment more, step out of polarized loyalties and sit in the gray a little bit more togther while we figure this out.