Wednesday, September 6, 2023

God or Baal?

The battles before us are, sadly, not quite as clearly defined as they were when Elijah put the question to the people.  It is not because the dividing lines are hidden but because the sides are muddy.  That was not the case when Elijah insisted it was time for a choice.

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him. (1 Kings 18:21).

Even then, with sides clearly delineated, the people were loathe to answer.  If the choices were not muddied, the minds of the people were.  They did not want to choose.  They did not believe they had to choose.  They thought that they could have it all -- a perfunctory bow to God while pursuing in their hearts or for convenience and expediency Baal.

Our problem today is that many are not even sure who God is or who Baal is.  The true Christian faith has been confused and distorted not by the people outside but by those who claim to be the ultimate insiders -- from clergy to scholars to pope.  It is no wonder that the people do not know what is of the faith and what is not.  The cause of orthodox Christianity has been undermined by the very churches whose history and confession has insisted upon truth every bit as much as by those churches which have minimized truth over experience.  This is compounded by the fact that the hearts of the people are caught in the crosshairs of plausible lies, culture wars, sexual desire unleashed, gender fluidity, and a political correctness that makes you pay the price for violating the accepted truth of the moment.  Those who hold to and proclaim the faith of our fathers are routinely labeled haters, bigots, and intolerant.  While those who claim creed and confession in defense of a Scriptural faith struggle to remain steadfast in an age of accommodation, the people in the pews and in the world are not so sure if it is worth it or credible to hold to the faith once deposited.  We have all lost a Biblical worldview, the vocabulary of Scripture, and deference to God before self.  In the best of us, this is a fight.  In the world it is an massacre.  

It is not simply that we have confusion on the side of the churches as to what the faith is, the whole idea of faith has been co-opted by a world in which feelings pass for facts, preference parades as truth, and desires define us.  Around us is the constant onslaught of this view in social media, the news media, the entertainment media, and the political media.  Even art and music have become pawns of this fight against the past, against the Scriptures, and against the faith of our fathers.  Worse that simply offering a choice, the world today has defined the faith of our fathers as patriarchal, oppressive, misogynistic, homophobic, and prudish.  Liberation is no longer defined as freedom before the law and written into the law but the casting off of yesterday's constraints, beliefs, doctrines, ideas, and institutions.

Though the reality is that the lines are starkly and clearly drawn, we as a nation and culture and even Christians are not quite ready to hear it.   To the courage of conviction we prefer the pleasant moderation of self-indulgence within certain bounds.  We do not want to formally banish religion but insist that any bridges to religion must first acknowledge the truth du jour or else the faith will no longer be mainstream or protected.  Silence is often the way we deal with choices we do not wish to make and silence is the punishment placed upon those we banish those who offend the majority opinion.  We sort of enjoy the fence even though the fence sitting is often uncomfortable.  This is true for society but it is equally true for churches who do not want to risk the ire of those in charge even to be faithful to God.  Perhaps instead of God or Baal, Elijah would ask us today who owns the fence? The painful answer is that the devil owns the fence.  He does not need to make us enemies of God to win.  Only to create in us fear of the truth that leads us to silence the truth and try to own the muddy middle above all things.  This has certainly been truth in politics for a long time.  It is now equally truth of religion, which it certainly has in the past but now the voices who challenge such fence straddling are growing more and more faint.  If you do not believe me, listen to Francis and his ilk in Rome.  On the other hand, Jesus is pretty clear.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Much of the worst persecution of Christians throughout history seems to have come from those who think they are fighting for God’s side. Last Sunday’s Bible class concerning Saul of Tarsus and his persecution of the church is a prime example. the DIE crowd would like for us all to just get along; “You do you, I’ll do me.” That can work when we aren’t all trying to live under one tent. Baal’s people can and will follow him, but they cannot be allowed to do so in the Church. The difficulty of standing up to someone claiming to be a brother or sister that practices unorthodox beliefs seems to have been lost. We must toughen ourselves to speaking the truth in love, and if someone doesn’t react well, so be it. Sounds harsh, but when the martyrs were sentenced to death for not putting a pinch on incense on the flame to Caesar, it’s not nearly so dangerous to have people around who simply don’t like us. It may come to be more, but we still bear the name of Christ.