Monday, January 10, 2011

The accommodation of desire...

Sometimes you find a phrase that seems to sum up things that you might take pages of words to say.  Such was the case when reading a First Things post on deciding how to define marriage.  Kevin Staley-Joyce definitely got it in this single phrase.  It describes a whole lot of things -- not simply the debate over how to define marriage and family but the whole nature by which our culture approaches religion and life.  But for a Pastor, this single sentence seems to sum up exactly the descent of Adam and Eve in the Garden and the resulting impact of original sin upon the mind, heart, and nature of humanity ever since.

Now to be sure, there have been times when institutions within the culture -- religious and non -- have attempted to reign in this accommodation of desire.  Duty, virtue, responsibility, self-control, higher allegiance, etc., are all attempts to steer us away from what comes naturally (since the Fall) and move us toward the righteousness that the Law can work -- the civil righteousness that reigns in desire out of fear of exposure, guilt, condemnation, and punishment.  More than this, there is a part of us, distorted and broken to be sure, but still a part of us that knows that desire is not trustworthy, it does not ennoble us, and it can reduce us to what is base, vulgar, and crass.  This gift of God is His voice that speaks through our conscience so that we might know, even in our fallen state, that what we want, what we feel, and what burns within us is not all good.

In the sphere of Christianity, sin has become somewhat less than a hot topic.  Preachers seem to speak more of unrealized desire than of original sin that has crippled our nature and the willful and accidental sin that has kept us from what God had created us to be.  We find ourselves bombarded by worship and preaching that accommodates this desire, honors it, and even glorifies it.  The old Army slogan "be all that you can be" has become the enticement used by more and more Christian preachers and churches to pack them in and make them happy.

But accommodation of or to our desires can only compound the wrong, further alienate us from the God who made us and the place and purpose He meant for us.  It has the ability to steal community from us and isolate us within the confines of those desires so that the good we know and seek is only that which is good for us.  God made us to know community -- to live in fellowship with Him and in fellowship with one another -- but our desires break this fellowship and leave us so terribly lonely that we end up in desperation, on paths of self-destruction. 

What we need is not accommodation of and to desire but the courage to face up to the desires within us, to confront them for what they are, and the grace of God to confess them with repentance and faith.  What we need are voices who will expose these desires and expose the hearts from which they come so that we might embrace the remedy which God has provided through the gift of His own Son as our Savior and Redeemer.

In catechism class, I often tell pre-teens and teens that the least reliable voice they hear is their own voice.  This is the voice of unbridled desire, pumped up by raging hormones, set free by a culture in which few absolutes define right and wrong, and fed by a constant diet of media that cater to what us vulgar, crude, and base in us and our culture.  They need to listen to the voices of parents and Sunday school teachers and Pastors and Christians who have learned from painful experience the deceit that comes from within and can help them follow the external light of the Word and Sacraments.

What I say to those catechumens, I say to adults and to the culture at large.  Do not assume that because the voice comes from within, this voice is trustworthy and it will lead you on the right path.  Test the spirits.  Discern the heart.  Square what is within with what is without -- namely the Word of God.  We have always had this voice calling us.  In the past various means within the religious institutions and the institutions of our society sought to dull this voice and challenge it with the voice of the Law.  Within the Church we have heard the new voice of Christ who transforms the mind and is the source of all within the heart reborn in baptism, by the power of the Spirit.  Christians need to be ever more diligent today lest we turn faith into a mirror of those desires and its voice into an echo of the voice within that got us where we are.  Christians need to be ever more bold in speaking the truth in love, both Law and Gospel, so that the God-given remedy for this affliction may grant healing to our sin-sickened souls and lives.

What a powerful phrase.... the accommodation of desire...

3 comments:

William Weedon said...

When Satan whispers within the sneak uses the first person...

Unknown said...

Don't watch that video when drinking a Coke. You might need a new computer.

Unknown said...

Obviously, I intended this comment for another post.