Monday, August 15, 2016

No honor without shame. . .

Just as there is no honor without shame, neither is there virtue without sin.  These live in tension and without the other, the definition of what is good and what is evil is blurred, corrupted, and rendered unintelligible.  This is what Christians are saying to the culture which has become comfortable with abortion, which expects birth control, sex, and love to be separate, and which judges freedom also to allow the decision for life to end when the life is no longer worthy.  This is what Christians witness to those who suggest all marriages are really equal, that it matters not who may marry, and that family may flourish without a mother or a father or with two of the same or the fruit of love within a covenanted life together or from a test tube.  The great risk we face is that without anything being evil (except opposition to the prevailing winds of culture and science), there is also nothing that is good.

Anthony Esolen, always a good read, put it this way:
Disgust, literally the repugnance we experience when we taste something foul, is to fleshly sins what shame is to dishonor. We should not underestimate the protective power of either. We are not disembodied spirits, or calculating machines. We are souls embodied: we blush, or ought to. What keeps the soldier at his station, when he might run to save his skin while exposing his comrades to enemy fire? His training, no doubt, but training that has instilled in him a strong sense of honor, and of shame should he expose himself to dishonor. What keeps the unchurched man from signing a false income tax return? Not much, these days; fear, perhaps; but if he knows that he can get away with the false return but refuses to cheat anyway, you can depend upon it, he has a strong sense of honor. It would be low, base, beneath him, unworthy of him, to lie. His brand of honesty may not be the best, but honorable pagans are not the worst people in the world, either.
What is most concerning about the direction of culture is not that evil is named good but nothing is named evil.  There is no shame or embarrassment.  There is no disgust.  Absent a common value on what is wrong, shameful, and worthy of our contempt, the only thing left is to heap this upon those who have the nerve to disagree.  So it is that we have so quickly gone from toleration and acceptance of GLBTQ folks to the point where question or opposition of the GLBTQ agenda is homophobia, racism, and injustice worse than every other wrong -- indeed, the only real evil!

What has been a gradual movement away from the categories of sin and virtue, evil and good, honor and shame/disgust seems like it has crept up on us overnight.  In reality it has been coming for about three generations but the pace is become ever more rapid until for many folks (Christian and not) the world is spinning dangerously out of control.  There is no common sense or a common sense of what is right and wrong, good and evil.  Marriage was truly undone and the family in peril long before the SCOTUS condemned opposition to gay marriage.  This is most certainly true.  But the pace of the changes and the speed with which we have left behind the old values that once normed our lives has left us dangerously and vulnerably adrift upon the uncharted waters of trend and fad.  Who can predict what will come next?

Again, Esolen:

It is incumbent upon theologians and philosophers and statesmen to spell out the reasons why such behavior is wrong. But it is not incumbent upon the common person to do so. You do not say to someone who has brought himself to dine upon feces, so that it is to him an evil second nature, “You know, you should really check a dietician about that.” Nor do you say anything similar to your children. You rely upon their natural sense of disgust: you corroborate it and you direct it. Everything genuinely natural is your ally.

No apologies about this. Persons must be loved; that includes all manner of sinners, and it also includes the children we are raising, whom we wish to arm fully against the madness of our time. Sins must be rejected—and here all the armory of our psychological and physiological makeup should be polished and ready, for self-defense. Intellect without heart is a man with a sword, but no shield and no breastplate. Disgust is a good thick shield. It is not sufficient for the battle. It is necessary.

 As a Lutheran it my fear that we may have contributed to the pace of this change.  We sound like naysayers who have nothing to contribute but "no" and the antiquated voices of a past long ago gone and many wish forgotten.  We speak rightfully of sin and forgiveness, of unrighteousness and Christ's clothing of righteousness, but we do not speak for the cause of virtue.  We have not voiced as urgently or as passionately the need to raise up the good and to herald the cause of virtue that we might seek what is good, right, true, holy, pure, and beautiful.  We offer people a place for their shame to be cleansed but do we offer them a vision of a holier life?  We call people to a repentance that admits and confesses sin but do we call people to the other part of repentance which involves a change of life?

Just as we must be involved in the sin, evil, shame, disgust side of the equation, so also must we be involved in speaking for virtue, what is right, what is good, and what ennobles us as the people of God born anew in our baptism to live as the new people God has declared us to be.  It is my conviction that the world knows something is wrong when everything is good and nothing is evil, when there is no shame, disgust, or outrage left (except that which disagrees with naming evil as good).  They long not only for a refuge for sinners (which the Church is) but also a vision of goodness, holiness, and righteousness to be cast before us all even though our striving will surely fall short.  They long for those whose voices will not only condemn what is wrong but herald what is the eternal good.  Christ came not only to die for sinners but to live in holiness and righteousness.  He covers us with His righteousness so that we may strive to become what we surely are in Him.  That is too often what is missing from Lutheran preaching and teaching (mea culpa).  We cannot blame the most outrageous for that which has become normal if we have not held forth the cause of virtue and have only condemned the wrong.


Carl Vehse said...

Romanist Anthony Esolen stated: "It is incumbent upon theologians and philosophers and statesmen to spell out the reasons why such behavior is wrong. But it is not incumbent upon the common person to do so."

Contrary to such an elitist view, what Christian citizens have a responsibility to recognize is that the attempts and actions by Demonicrat and RINOcrat politicians and political groups to tolerate, promote, and support sexual perversions end up giving aid and comfort to an enemy seeking the destruction of the United States. The U.S. Constitution has a word for that, and Christian citizens should use that word in their demand that those leftwing politicians and political groups, including the fifth-column media, be brought to account in our justice system to receive the just punishment for such actions.

Janis Williams said...

Pagans, Republicans, Libertarians, and even Democrats can be (sometimes) right on moral issues. May all Christians be strong to stand for right as they live in their vocations. Statesmen, philosophers and theologians we commoners all may be in some measure, but there is an hierarchy, and those in leadership and pastoral care have a heavier responsibility. This is why we pray for those in authority. It is why we pray for those over us whom we cannot change or escape. The past is past. We cannot revive what is gone, but we can actively work toward a future in which our witness is not only to morality, but also to Jesus Christ and His Substitutionary Atonement for all.

"What is most concerning about the direction of culture is not that evil is named good but nothing is named evil. " This is where those in authority and the bourgeoisie have the same task.

Carl Vehse said...

"... even Democrats can be (sometimes) right on moral issues"

And given enough monkeys with typewriters, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel could be written.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your excellent article.

I grew up in a family that attended a Lutheran church (ALC). There we were mostly taught there are two certainties. One, you are going to sin. The second, you have grace in Christ. Church was not a place to find encouragement to live right; to live according to a godly standard. We were told (in sundry ways) that one who aspires to live a holy life may in fact be attempting to steal some glory. We would be sort of a thief of God's glory, taking a part of it for one's self. Thoughts of being 'good' was really, in a cynical way, one of the reasons we were bad. Who are you to think that you can be virtuous, impious one?

So, here is what we did. Weekly we confessed that we were sinners, sinful and unclean and that we had sinned against God in thought, word and deed. Wherefore we fled to his infant grace, seeking and imploring his grace.

All true. I agree and confess that still today.

However we were given no incentive to live right in that church liturgy which told us we were living wrong.

But, where the church did not step up to encourage us to live to higher values based on real right and wrong, the culture did.

We were taught that we were imperfect but that we should still love integrity, truth and honesty. We knew there was virtue. We learned that from watching 'Leave It To Beaver' reruns after school at 4:00 p.m.

Who disciples the youth now that our culture has jettisoned common sense morality from entertainment?

Lutheran Churches... is there not more than the sacraments and liturgical 'confessions'? No matter how often we miss the mark, isn't there satisfaction in aiming to live God-honoring lives? To walk in the light as he is in the light?

I learned many good things in the church of my youth. But I wonder... what about challenges to virtuous living? Wasn't there supposed to be a discipleship in virtue as well as doctrine? Couldn't Lutherans do that without compromising the Gospel?

(sung to the tune of Jesus Loves the Little Children):

Jesus loves the little children
so pour on each infant head
water with the Word and say
‘You will confess faith someday.’
Quietly newborns believe. They’re born again.

Sinful in thought and word and deed,
Sunday, back in church to say,
"when dead, I, in white, will dress.
Thanks, Jesus, for righteousness,
while on earth, oh, please accept my sinful way."


Anonymous said...

In old testament times, homosexuality was considered as serious a sin as child sacrifice and practicing witchcraft. Death and damnation would be the consequences. In my LCMS congregation, I was taught that homosexuals will go to hell unless they repent and change. This prevented me from ever considering experimenting with that lifestyle. That was a couple of decades ago. How many LCMS congregations teach the same thing today?

In the 21st century, we cannot call GLBT people "perverts" without someone getting offended. Ever notice that the most diehard members of Christian denominations that condemn homosexuality are suddenly "ok" with homosexuality as soon as a close friend or relative announces he or she is gay or bisexual. Many LCMS pastors refuse to counter such appeals to tolerance. Whatever happened to teaching about the importance of forming and raising a traditional family?

Anonymous said...

No shame indeed: