Sunday, April 26, 2015
The failure of teaching. . .
For most of my own life, the church assumed the culture was friendly to the values of the kingdom. We did not need to teach about the immorality of sexual promiscuity as long as culture frowned upon it (at least the overt expression of sexual license) and so we did not need to frame out why this was evil. We did not need to teach about the lifelong nature of the marriage commitment and why it was essential to the teaching of marriage as long as divorce was seen as bad in the culture. When this changed and states began to pass divorce friendly laws, we still failed to explain why this was wrong; we contented ourselves with saying that good Christian people did not do this and left it at that. We did not need to teach about the value of children as long as our people were having many children and the government was encouraging large families (the need for labor and the hopeful prospect of defeating communism with bodies if not ideology). So we did not teach about children as gift and blessing, we did not address the idea of birth control which the soldiers learned from the US Army when they came home from war with condoms in their pockets. We merely assumed our people knew why it wrong if we said it was wrong. We did not need to teach that homosexual behavior was contrary to God's will as long as it was confined to back alleys and dismissed as effeminate behavior by men "light in their loafers." It was a subject simply not addressed so when culture began to question why it was not okay, we responded less by reasoned, Scriptural argument than by saying "it is just wrong."
If the American culture is headed this way, it may be something we have little influence over and can do little about but if the people in the Church are following their lead, it is due mainly to a lack of catechesis. We were so busy teaching people justification by the gracious act of God in Christ without any human work or merit that we stopped there and failed to actively teach what the shape of Christian life looked like. Worse, we ridiculed those who did spend their time there as if eternity were the only real focus of orthodox Christian teaching. Our people read authors not our own and developed a spirituality that was more than influenced by those who in a crass way believed that your best life was now and God's job was to make it happen. Our people borrowed from so-called pastors who preached good sex, successful business, happy marriages, free thinking children, and the gospel of personal satisfaction with its god of personal preference. Now we are reaping the fruits of poor catechesis. Our people cannot explain why sex is good only within marriage, why marriage is only for man and woman, why homosexual behavior is contrary to God's creative intention, why children should be welcomed and not prevented, why abortion is murder, why the suffering elderly should not be put out of their misery, why the goal of faith is not to reduce suffering in my life, and why this life is not the primary focus of my faith... They do not know because they have not been taught -- teaching requires more than saying something is wrong.
Let's face it. If secular America follows the dead end of Europe, it is because there is no reasoned alternative to confront the tyranny of moment. But if Christian people follow this lead, it is because they have not heard the clear clarion call of truth, not been catechized and nurtured in this truth, and not been taught why wrong is wrong. Some of that blame, perhaps much of it, goes right back upon the churches, pastors, and leaders of the orthodox Christian churches who for too long assumed culture was friendly to the faith and to our values and could be counted upon to partner with us in keeping up the appearances of Biblical morality absent the teaching voice of church and classroom.