Sunday, August 28, 2016

A loss of shame. . .

Perhaps one of the most significant developments of the modern age is our utter lack of shame (except, of course, the enforced shame of political correctness which acts as the voice of conscience that appears to be mute in us as individuals).  Shame once defined us as much as virtue.  We could put it into religious language and call shame sin and virtue righteousness but it was not merely religion.  The common understanding of what shamed us as well as what honored us was key to the assimilation of folks from other cultures and religions.  We were able to mesh together because the common values of right and wrong, virtue and shame, righteousness and sin transcended our differences.

We may not have all practiced it, but we understood fidelity to spouse and infidelity shamed us.  It was not spoken of out loud or in mixed company but in whispers and with care to see who was listening.  Marriage between husband and wife was epitomized by the self-denial of sexual urge apart from this relationship.  Religion encouraged this but so did the state which had a vested interest in shame and virtue as well as faith.  Stable homes, good families, and moral, productive children were the ingredients to the American dream every bit as much as the pursuit of happiness.  Freedom was not license but the encouragement toward good unconstrained by fear.

One of the casualties of our modern era in addition to the common virtue of fidelity in marriage or even marriage itself is the whole idea that certain things can and should and do shame us.  Our conversation has become ever so tolerant of vulgarity.  We are content with a coarseness of language that would not have been tolerated by politeness long ago.  Some call it prudish but it was not naivete -- no, it was not that they did not know the words but the knew enough not to speak them in certain contexts.

In addition to the salty conversations that now delight in saying out loud what was once only whispered is our penchant for leaving nothing to the imagination.  I am not only speaking here of sexual images but the graphic images of violence and horror that were once suggested but left to the imagination and not to the eye.  Now we are accustomed to seeing nudity and graphic violence on TV and in the movie theater and video games thrive on these images once thought too much to be shown openly or without constraint.

Many were once prodded to become productive citizens by less than virtuous motive.  Boys became men because of their desire for love and sex.  Girls became women for some of the same reasons.  Now it seems that more and more boys are choosing a prolonged adolescence with the virtual reality of the video game and pornography over work, wife, children, family, and community.  Almost as many 18-30 year old boys who have not completed college live at home as they do with spouse or significant other.  That is a statistic few of us saw coming.  There seems to be little shame in failing to board the engine of work and responsibility and find it no big deal to be taken care of (when a generation or so ago independence and self-sufficiency were driving forces to move out).

My point in saying this is not to condemn everyone who is not old.  I will have plenty of time to do that in a few years when I retire.  It is great sport.  At this point my concern is more about the Gospel and how to speak to a people who seem to have no shame -- about anything!  The Gospel of Christ crucified presumes shame -- the shame of sin and the awareness of its death that chains down hope of the future to its terrible anchor of death.  The Gospel speaks to people who know shame, who lament their sin, and who seek not only forgiveness but new life.  What does it have to say to people who have no shame?

Sure, someone will say that this is why we preach the Law but preaching the Law to a people who have no shame sounds simply like prudes complaining that they are not free enough to indulge themselves like the people they condemn.  It only feeds the notion that the church is basically a bunch of naysayers who do not want people to be happy, to have fun, to fulfill their wants and desires, and to enjoy themselves doing so.

My point is this.  How do we speak the Gospel outside the framework of sin and shame?  I wish I had the answer.  My fear is that we in the Church are proceeding like people in the dark trying to find their way by feeling along the wall.  I am not at all suggesting that we need a strategy or program but how do we preach to people who have learned not to feel shame?  How do we speak the faith to folks who use their feelings to define everything from gender to happiness, right and wrong?  I know that the Spirit will work through the Word even when we speak awkwardly or hesitantly but I also know that we can learn to speak it better so that our speaking itself is not an impediment.

These are the kinds of things I ruminate on day and restless night.  Perhaps I need to trust God more.  I am sure I do.  But as someone who regularly preaches to the products of our modern world and who weekly teaches them, I want to be a more effective spokesman of the Gospel to those who hear it -- all ages for sure but especially to those who will replace me and my generation as we age.

I am not at all convinced that mirroring the culture or trying to duplicate the ambiance of their technological and entertainment oriented lives will do anything but render the church an orphan in the next generation.  Such is the future for those who marry the spirit of the age.  So I am not talking about redefining the church or re-imagining what it means to worship.  I want to be a more faithful and effective preacher and teacher for the sake of Christ and His cross.  In this, I expect many are in the same place I am.  So, you tell me what you think?


ErnestO said...

The world is a better place because you are in it. Thanks for the good read. My effort to reply with maybe some wisdom I pray is in the following. I think that all should know and confess the doctrinal truth of election. Once one firmly lives by this doctrine it becomes far easier to explain ones "Gospel Focus" etc..........

Anonymous said...

"Now it seems that more and more boys are choosing a prolonged adolescence with the virtual reality of the video game and pornography over work, wife, children, family, and community."
You have regurgitated the typical feminist propaganda. This is completely untrue. Most men are not living with mom and dad and watching porn. Maybe it is that way in Tennessee? Most men I know are busy working overtime and pursuing some trade.
It is the women not the men who are corrupt. Consider Michelle Langley's assessment of female hypergamy:

Women’s relationships today follow a very
predictable pattern:

They push men for commitment

They get what they want

They lose interest in sex

They become attracted to someone else

They start cheating

They begin telling their partners that they need time apart

They blame their partners for their behavior…and eventually, after a long time of vacillating back and forth, and several failed attempts to give up their affairs, they end their relationships or marriages.

The churches actively sanction this behavior. Consider a review of the movie Fireproof:
This movie was presented in church as a great movie for helping your marriage. The plain lesson? "Your wife starting an affair because she's unhappy? Bow like a dog and buy her affection back like a hooker. This is the Bible way."
"Did this strike no one as anti-male? And the Church LOVED these movies! They slander husbands and fathers and are completely against men!"

Almost all American churches are apostate.

Anonymous said...

"If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts."

Camille Paglia

Anonymous said...

The churches should be ashamed of their endless pandering to divorce and remarriage. All throughout the 90's the "Christian" churches had positions on posting the ten commandments in public buildings and court houses. Prayer in public school. Gays in the military. Public nativity scenes. One thing the Moral Majority never talked about was divorce. That is because it was so widespread amongst church members. If anyone has no sense of shame, then it is the American churches. You guys are the laughing stock of the world.

Anonymous said...

Why don't men show up to church on Father's Day? Oh yeah... because they are lazy porn watchers who need to lead the family in devotions.

Why do women show up to church on Mother's Day? Because they are are so nurturing and caring like Mother Church who gives birth at the font.

Women are always right (just ask them) and the preachers know it.

Anonymous said...

From Glen Sacks blog:

"This Sunday we will extol the value and benefit of motherhood, which is great. But in some churches, this will be done by degrading Christian husbands, which is not great. 'Our pastor makes us husbands get on our knees on Mother's Day and beg for forgiveness. '"
Men don't show up in Church at all because the true object of worship is American women, not Jesus Christ! As pastor Todd Wilken lamented, church is for girls.