Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Trouble with Morals


This picture well illustrates how I feel when I tell many evangelicals that I am a non/post-evangelical Christian or that I am part of the Emerging Church movement. Here's something interesting I found that an evangelical pastor asked about the Emerging Church movement:
"(Is there) a total lack of Holiness in the lingo and the
lifestyle of those who are leading the reformation (as I have noticed) a low level of personal integrity when it comes to issues like drinking, swearing...and other things that in other generations would be considered taboo?" Italics mine to denote added words for context.
It's these kinds of moralistic presuppositions that really, really bother me. This is said in the context of "What do these actions say to the world about Jesus?" Well, why don't you tell me? While many Evangelicals sit on their nice deck in the backyard of their suburban home on a Sunday afternoon, having paid their money in the offering plate earlier that morning (those of the poorer end of the Evangelical movement, hang with me on this point, because you know there are people like this in your church and their money is driving the decisions of the leadership in the church), sipping ice tea (definitely never the "Long Island" variety) and not swearing or talking about certain things that are social taboo, it is the "Emergents" who are at the bar having a beer with they unbeliever whose wife/girlfriend recently left him or who recently lost their mom or dad. It's the Emergent who is under the bridge downtown handing out watermelon to the street kids and prostitutes on that hot afternoon to build bridges of trust and relationship with them. It is the Emergent who knows his next door neighbor well enough to know he has no real friends and is over visiting with him, talking about things with genuine motivation that he personally finds little interest in so that this person can feel like they have a person in their life that makes their existence feel significant.

I don't say this to knock on Evangelicals or to say that the Evangelical way is a bad way. What I'm saying is that the morals that the modern Evangelical church has embraced are not the morals that Jesus taught...especially not by His actions. He touched lepers, ate with tax collectors and sinners and expressed care and compassion for the poor and oppressed. People need to start asking when the last time they did one of those things, not the last time they drank or swore. Alcoholism, addiction and being given to fits of anger are not the same. Where I grew up, "crap" and "damn" were quite common use and weren't really considered bad. If you go to England, "bloody" is considered a swear word. In Australia, it is just part of the social lingo and not considered "bad" at all. Drinking is not alcoholism and enjoying a fine cigar every once in a while is not an addiction. There are boundaries and morals for good conduct in the Emerging Church, but they just don't look like what a lot of Evangelical leaders want them to.

I just ask you to consider this word picture as a final thought: As the man who lost his mother sits in the bar with his Emergent friend, they share a long sad silence. The man just doesn't know what to say, or how to say it. They both nurse their beers down about halfway over the next ten minutes. The Emergent friend finally opens him up with, "Damn, man, I know it must be tough. You know I'm here for you. Do you want to talk?" The friend puts his arm around the man, and he starts to cry. When he finally collects himself enough, he mutters, "You know, you're the first person to touch me without wanting anything in return since the last time my mom touched me before she died." I think it is time for new moral priorities in the Church as a whole. Don't you?

18 comments:

MugwumpMom said...

Interesting post. It has been my understanding that the exception many evangelicals take to the emergent church isn't so much the assumed lack of morals as it is the perceived relativism that has crept into SOME of the teachings of SOME of the leaders. On the flip side, SOME evangelicals are legalistic and SOME are not...and we are all ONE body. What is key for ALL the Body of Christ to remember is that whatever we do, we do (or respond to what others are doing) in love. To bad it's easer said than done!

As usual, much to chew on here.
Enjoy your day.

clumsy ox said...

This opens up a huge realm for discussion. In fact, the blogosphere might be fundamentally unsuited for the discussions to follow. We really need to talk this one out over a few bottles of Maudite.

I remember Francis Schaeffer once wrote that the saddest time in America was when the hippies settled down and got jobs: they had realized as young people that their parents' generation had no real answers; but their search proved to be fruitless, and they essentially just settled for the very things they had rebelled against.

I see the Emergent movement as strikingly similar to the hippy movement. It is largely the result of genuine Christians realizing the Church as we know it in North America is devoid of reality. But from where I sit, the Emergent movement has failed to come up with the reality they're looking for. Or to put it another way, they're looking for the answers, but I am concerned they're not finding them.

I think the whole Emergent thing is fundamentally a good thing. I think the sooner we get rid of the accumulated cruft of generations of layers of eisegesis and cultural reading, the better. But I'm concerned that the Emergents are cutting their own throats. Doctrinal ignorance, for example, is hardly the cure for intellectualism.

So I'm a little ambivalent about the Emergent thing.

Now, I'm 100% post-evangelical. I don't like the term Neo-Orthodox, because it's been taken already by godless liberals who are "wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction"; but taken literally, I think it's a good description for what I want.

Just sort of ranting here.

KingJaymz said...

You're totally right, Rena, that is the top issue. But I hashed that one out for two weeks about a month ago, and I'm looking into other territories.

My point, as always, is never to indict someone personally. I take issue with ideas. As someone who's left the Evangelical side of Christianity recently, I've been under attack from those who see me as walking away from the Truth. I'm trying not to be resentful, but I've gotten to a point where I'm really concerned that too many people in the Evangelical movement think that they have absolutely no plank in their own eye.

I actually see you and I as much the same. I don't view you as "Evangelical" or "Emergent." I really don't want to be identified fully with either, myself, but the Emergents are the only ones who'd have me (though sometimes I even wonder about that). I just want to be me. But, I categorize for an easier understanding. However, as you have obviously pointed out, labels always have casualties.

KingJaymz said...

Ox, I totally see where you're coming from, but doctrinal ignorance is just an excuse for laziness by people who are quick to run to the Emergent movement.

I'd encourage you to do some reading of books by people in the Emergent movement before you come to a decision on whether or not they have the answers they are looking for. They have some great answers that are finally making my faith make sense. The book I always recommend is A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren to start off with. It is an easy read and gives a little perspective from the Post-Modern and Post-Evangelical point of view. I'm working on its sequel right now (The Story We Find Ourselves In). I finally feel like I have some hope in my faith because of this reading.

Speaking of a couple of bottles of Maudite, are you and Mrs. Ox ever going to come visit. It is beautiful this time of year... Not to mention I saw Rogue Amber Ale on sale at Costco $24.99/24pack last Sunday. I know where I'm going when I run out of beer.

KingJaymz said...

However, from this point on forward, can we redirect the discussion back to the main point? I'm certainly open to disagreement, but please try to aim for the topic of the post.

clumsy ox said...

"What I'm saying is that the morals that the modern Evangelical church has embraced are not the morals that Jesus taught...especially not by His actions."

A couple of years ago, I finally asked myself the question: is it more important to walk out what Christianity teaches? or what everyone thinks it should teach?

While the answer should be obvious, it apparently isn't.

The Family Jewels said...

Jesus touched others. He didn't go by what was "culturally appropriate." He shared of himself by example in the way that he was living out fis faith in his Holy Father.

Our church is mostly made up of older people and because of their unwillingness to expand and grow the church is at a critical point that we may not be able to recover from. They are set in their ways and because they are the force behind the majority of the tithes things are not changing quick enough to make an impact on the future.

I find that I have led more people to Christ when they see it in my daily actions...I will go out of my way to help anybody in need. They can feel it in the words that come out of my mouth and if it means that I can share with one person by going into a bar I will. I am not a mainstage act, but I work along the fringes and that had transformed several lives.

As far as the church goes I have been told that I need to sit down and shut up. This was by the person who asked me specifically to be on his committee. I refuse to conform to anybody telling me how to share my faith with others. You as an individual need to figure out what works best for you and just do it...that is what we are all called to do. If you drinking a beer upsets one, but saves another drink the beer. My church is in my heart and I do not need the church building or it's people to build my personal redemptive relationship with Christ. I do not need them to fill any of my needs as I rely fully on God for that.

Dapoppins said...

You all know much bigger words than I do.

Niki said...

Hear Hear Dapoppins! ;)

Excellent post Jared! I saw myself in the examples of the emergents, but I guess I've never thought of calling myself one. I agree with Clumsy Ox. I especially liked the hippie example. I think the emergent movement is heading in the right direction, but yes - it has failed to provide some of the answers people are looking for. I worry about doctrinal ignorance as well. We need to know scripture - not to beat people over the head with it, but to see the character of God and how He would have His people live. I'm not talking a laundry list of rules, but a from the heart, loving the least of these, serving others from a place of grace and not judgement kind of way.

Loved the bar story Jared. As a matter of fact, I've been there.

Like you all need another blog to read, but my friend Mark posted about this same thing recently. I love his perspective. Jared, he's part of the House2House movement and you should definitely check him out. www.godgrown.net. Click on the blog link when you get there.

KingJaymz said...

Thanks a lot, Niki! Like I needed another blog to get addicted to!

Ox - I think we're runnin' on the same wavelength there.

Dapoppins - But I used such small words in my post..? Don't get overwhelmed by the veritable seminary of geniuses who comment here (you can consider youself at least an adjunct faculty member, can't you?).

tfj - You rock. As a matter of fact, your comment said much better what I was trying to say in my post.

The Family Jewels said...

Thanks Jared! You rock too! I love coming to your blogs...especially when there is something for me to say on your thought provoking posts! I must say that you are good at making people (and me) think and look at things from another perspective. Have a great day!
-Tonia

Chelf said...

Hey, J... I think you make a good point. But. I have to disagree about using foul language. I really don't think the Emergent dude needed to say Damn at the beginning of that sentence. I wouldn't have said that.

James 3:10 ~ From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

Matthew 15:11 ~ Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.

I believe that God DOES pay attention to EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of man, and each man will be required to reconcile each word with God in the judgment. Becoming "all things to all men, to by some means save a few" does NOT mean falling into sin to push others out of it.

KingJaymz said...

Chelf, if you check the context of both of those references, you'll see that neither contextually deals with the use of language that some people take offense at. Does that make everyone in Australia a sinner for making "bloody" common usage? If the answer is no, then swear words are culturally/contextually defined. To a guy who has never set foot in a church and just lost his mother, and most the people in the bar around them, it won't even register as "offensive" in their ears. It is common to them. Just like the beer. Now, when I'm around Christians who are sensative to such things, I avoid their usage (beer and words both), but they are a part of a different culture. That doesn't make them "wrong" or a "sin." It's just not considered wrong or taboo, much like the small town I grew up in. By whose standards are we judging sin here? That is the real question. It certainly isn't Scripture.

Besides, this is all missing the main point. While the rich guy relaxes on his nice deck, the missional Christian is being Jesus to somebody. The language is not offensive for the situation. That is a complete side note. If I have to ask it in that light, let me ask again, who's doing God's will here? The man doing nothing for no one but himself, but certainly not drinking or using non-offensive language, or the guy with the heathen whose mom just died?

Looney Mom said...

I have to agree with Chelf on the foul language thing. I'm trying to get what you're saying but do you think Jesus would have said that? Though I won't act like I don't let words slip sometimes - especially in anger, but I would not make it a point to use a "curse" word just to use it.

My brain hurts.

Niki said...

Well, I agree with Jared on this one. Neither of those verses are talking about swearing. The "cursing" in the James verse is talking about cursing a man, not swearing. Back up a verse. Verse 9 says, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness". Not swearing at them, bringing down condemnation or worse on them.

The Matthew verse was Jesus chastising the Pharisees for honoring God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. He was also declaring all foods "clean" by saying that what goes into a man does not make him unclean, it's what comes from a man's heart: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly...All of these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'. Nice run-on sentence there, huh? ;) I don't see "cussing" in that list.

Our words change with culture, time, and usage. It's not the word in itself that's bad-it's the intent and the heart behind it. I can say a word that is not offensive to you, but if my heart behind it is malicious, it's wrong. For example: In the movie "Hook", Rufio says to Peter: "You man...you stupid, stupid man!" We all know "man" is not a bad word, but Rufio's intention was to wound Peter...the word doesn't change that fact that his intentions were bad.

We get so caught up in "bad words" and it makes me crazy - not that I cuss like a sailor or anything. Swearing is not the point - and if it was, that's following the letter of the law and missing the heart of the law - sort of like what Jesus was frustrated with the Pharisees about.

Not everyone who cusses "makes it a point to do so". I didn't see Mr. Emergent trying to cuss to make his friend feel comfortable. You got caught up in the word and missed the touch.

Love you both anyway!

Looney Mom said...

ZIP!

Chelf said...

I don't think I missed the point. I just disagreed with it.

I think that Christians SHOULD give an airborne rodential derrière (should I just say what I mean here?) about the injustices in the world. But... one person cannot fix everything. I have to bear the burdens I see next to me, and try to encourage others to gather with me to fix the rest.

The Christian has to be cleaner than the world around him to be noticed for his cleanliness. The words we say are NOT trivial, and I still say that becoming all things to all people does not mean lowering our own personal standards. Jesus ministered to and healed the lowest of the low, yet he did not sin.

Because "bloody" is now more than a description of being covered in the ink of one's body, it is foul in the context of exclamation. Many Americans don't know the history of their own language, and things that were once abhorrent are now commonplace. As a society, we are ignorant of our past. This applies to clothing, words, and many daily practices.

I am not saying that the Emergent dude should not have tried to talk to the hurting soul. The pat on the back, whatever hug was given, and the sympathy shown could have been shown without the smallness of one foul word, and would have had the same meaningful impact on the pain. You say that the hurting soul would not have noticed the swear in the sentence. Would he have noticed its absence?

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

I think that if there was a true "Emergent" movement, I could probably identify and join the movement. It seems to have those same ideals that I identify.