American Christians are Silent: Silence in the Face of Evil is Itself Evil

ImageI ran across this quote on Facebook, and I wanted to share it here. I happen to agree with his assessment about the silence of American Christians in the face of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of such organizations like the Voice of the Martyrs that does keep up with such things. But for the large part there is silence is there not?

If I can hear and see opposition to A&E’s debacle with Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty then there’s no excuse why the same level of outrage isn’t being expressed over this:

Christians in Iran are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Iraq are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in India are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Syria are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Libya are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Egypt are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in China are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Sudan are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Turkey are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Nigeria are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Ethiopia are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Pakistan are murdered, American Christians are silent.
Christians in Saudi Arabia are murdered, American Christians are silent.

Phil Robertson is suspended by A&E for voicing his opinion on gays, [and] American Christians go ape until he is reinstated!

American Christians have no sense, whatsoever, of priorities. Christians murdered, no problem. Churches burned, no problem. Nuns and priests kidnapped, no problem. I won’t defend their lives or their property or their rights. But by God, you mess with my entertainment, and that is crossing the line!!! Now I am worried about constitutional rights.”-Theophilus Riley Floyd

I know there have been some Christians in the U.S. who have been outspoken, mainly Catholics and Orthodox because that is in large who is being persecuted in the Middle East right now. For those who have spoken out then ignore this. Continue to speak. For those ignorant of what our government is doing to help this persecution then please research it and start writing your Senators and Reps! There are a few things you can do:

  1. You can start with your vote! The men running this country, men like Obama and John McCain, have blood on their hands. Innocent blood!
  2. Write your Senators and Representatives.
  3. Talk to your friends, teachers, families!
  4. Speak with your pastor, youth minister, or preacher to have this mentioned, taught on, and preached about!
  5. Use social media: blog, Facebook, Twitter, whatever you got or can use! It was in part responsible for overthrowing regimes in the Arab Spring. It is useful here! If you got to post over and over on Facebook then do it!
  6. Command attention!
  7. Be their voice!
  8. Pray! Pray! Pray!

May the Lord God remember those persecuted in His Kingdom!

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Questions and Issues with the Homosexual Marriage Debate

downloadI recently befriended the fellow young man who wrote this piece on Facebook where he shared this link with me. I really enjoyed reading his piece over at The Christian Watershed, so I attained his permission to post the blog here on my own blog. Definitely go give the site a look! Some great thoughts there! Hope you find these stimulating to your own thinking and convictions on the issue no matter if you agree or not.

Questions and Issues with the Homosexual Marriage Debate

By Joel Borofsky

The issue of homosexual marriage is one of the more polarizing issues in our modern society, that almost goes without saying. Yet, it seems that whenever a state decides to take it upon themselves to define marriage as between “one man and one woman,” an overwhelming majority of people support such restrictions.

To me, however, the issue boils down to “What is the role of the government?” Let us simply accept that most laws are enacting some form of morality, especially major laws concerning marriage. Thus, the whole, “The government can’t legislate morality” argument doesn’t hold up; while they can’t make people act a certain way, they can declare that moral x and moral y will be codified, thus to act out against x and y comes with consequences. That being said, what is the role of the government in this morality?

I would contend that the role of the government is to prevent our freedoms from coming into conflict with each other, that is, to prevent us from harming each other. Thus, we have laws against murder because such an act harms an individual (or individuals). We have laws against rape for the same reason, against pedophilia, and monopolies, and the list goes on. Laws created that have nothing to do with protecting us from one another – such as seatbelt laws – tend to be viewed as arbitrary and almost tyrannical. Even some laws that prevent us from harming one another can sometimes be tyrannical if taken too far (simply look at TSA procedures).

The purpose of the government, then, isn’t to enact a theocratic form of government where the government follows God’s laws. Rather, the purpose of the government is to keep us from harming each other and to prevent outside forces from harming us. It eradicates exploitation (e.g. slavery, insurance companies taking advantage of the poor, etc), but doesn’t become a tyranny.

If I am correct on the purpose of the government, then there are a few questions concerning homosexual marriage:

  1. Why is the government involved in marriage in the first place? While I can understand civil unions for tax purposes and other legal rights, if we are trying to protect the “sanctity of marriage” then it seems absurd to bring the government into the mix. Few Christians would argue that the government is sanctified or holy, so how can the government protect what is ultimately a holy institution?
  2. We should respect religious liberty, meaning that if a state does allow for homosexual marriage a priest/pastor should not be forced to perform the ceremony. Likewise, religious institutions should be allowed to not hire people due to sexual preference (this even includes people who are living together in a heterosexual relationship). At the same time, if we respect religious liberty, what if a church wants to wed two men or two women? While some would argue that such a church has abandoned their Christian principles, it’s not up to the government to decide when that has occurred. By banning homosexual marriage, aren’t we also banning the right of some churches to practice what they believe? Again, this is why the government should probably move towards purely civil unions rather than marriage licenses.
  3. Is homosexuality inherently abusive or bad, that is, is it any worse than people engaged in open relationships or Hollywood marriages? While people try to bring up statistics showing the homosexual lifestyle is destructive, such statistics typically aren’t good arguments against homosexual marriage, even if one is arguing the morality of the issue. For instance, even if 95% of homosexual males had 50 partners or more (I’m making up a statistic to show a point), this wouldn’t show that homosexual actions are inherently destructive; it could simply be explained that by an action being taboo, the risk involvement increases. Besides, their heterosexual counterparts are catching up quite quickly. Furthermore, while it was true in the 80s and even 90s that homosexual activity tended to come with a higher risk, anymore when it has been normalized it’s almost no different than heterosexual couples. Many homosexuals are able to find stable relationships. Now, I must stress that this has nothing to do with the morality of the issue, but everything to do with the legality of the issue. Unless it can be shown that homosexual behavior is inherently destructive (and this can be disproven by finding multiple stable homosexual relationships, which has been done already…), one is left without an easy argument against banning homosexual unions.
  4. Even if we did show that homosexual behavior is inherently destructive, this still would provide great difficulty in “outlawing” it.The main reason is because of something I alluded to above; what do we do with open heterosexual relationships? In an open relationship, there is a tendency for one partner to get hurt. In addition, do we outlaw adultery? Do we outlaw divorce? What punishments do we place on those caught in such abusive situations? Do we really want to live in a nation where the government is in charge of instilling values into our families? Perhaps we should ban all marriages in Hollywood, or among celebrities. Since the divorce rate is higher for celebrity couples, why haven’t we passed a constitutional ban on Hollywood marriages, which are seemingly inherently destructive? There is just a lot of inconsistency here.
  5. Shall we ban fornication (sex before marriage) as well? If we’re following Biblical morality and want to protect the “sanctity of marriage” via legislation, then shouldn’t we also ban fornication? This situation is far more analogous to homosexual marriage than even adultery or divorce (where someone is harmed). The statistics behind sex before marriage are also staggering, showing that when both partners have engaged in premarital sex, especially with other people, the chances for divorce or adultery increase dramatically. In other words, the argument that by allowing homosexual marriage we will somehow destroy the fabric of our society may be true, but it’s no more true than the argument that fornication among heterosexual couples does the exact same thing. Thus, if we outlaw one, why aren’t we outlawing the others?
  6.  Perhaps one could argue that while homosexual activity isn’t harmful to others, it is harmful to the participants and therefore the government must stop it, but even this argument is full of inconsistencies and problems. For one, why not ban all homosexual activity, not just marriage if this is the case? But more importantly, how is this any more dangerous than couples who engage in open relationships, any more dangerous than adultery, any more dangerous than heterosexual promiscuity? I ask again, shall we enact laws against all of those actions as well? Should we pass a law saying that you can only get married once (as multiple marriages can ruin the institution of marriage)?

Ultimately, I’ve yet to discover a good argument from Natural Law on why homosexual marriage should be forbidden, other than “It’s not the job of the government to issue marriage licenses.” On this point I agree and think the government should only be involved in civil unions. But even if we reduce the government to civil unions, I’ve yet to see a reason to prevent homosexuals from engaging in those unions that isn’t simply arbitrary or inconsistent.

I understand that Christians want to protect the sanctity of marriage. But it’s not up to the government to protect what is holy; in fact, using the government to protect what is holy ultimately makes something unholy (as history has shown us). It makes sense to use the government to stop abortion as abortion creates a victim. It makes sense for the government to prevent certain types of drug use as the drug use is so harmful to the individual and the community that it simply can’t be regulated for positive use. But it doesn’t make sense for the government to try to protect the institution of marriage.

I would argue that traditional marriage is the foundation of a society and that as a society loses that traditional marriage, the society begins to collapse. At the same time, this stands far more true for divorce rates, abuse within marriages, and adultery than it does for homosexual unions. What is more important, however, is that since the traditional family stands as the foundation for a society, the government, by its very nature, can’t protect it; the walls can’t protect the foundation of a building. Only individuals through grassroots movement can protect the family.

Now, I must stress that I’ve made absolutely no comment on the morality of the issue. I would argue that while all legislation is the act of legislating morality, the two must still function on different codes. What is moral is dependent upon what aligns with our telos, or our function with God. God created us for a certain end and to go against that end is to be immoral. The law, however, must function on the code of preventing us from harming each other. The old maxim, “So long as it doesn’t harm you, what do you care” doesn’t work for determining what is moral, but it does work when attempting to legislate morality. For instance, it is immoral to blaspheme God because He has created us to love Him; but very few Christians would want to outlaw blasphemy against God. Likewise, even if homosexual actions are immoral, it makes little sense to outlaw them (or marriage).

In fact, since I’ve basically alienated myself from my conservative Christian friends, let me further my alienation from my liberal Christian friends by stating that I do believe homosexual actions to be a sin. God created humans for a certain economy (or telos) and when we violate this telos, we are committing a sin. Homosexual activity simply doesn’t fit within God’s design for humanity. The whole argument of, “Well I’m born this way” doesn’t fly in a world full of sin; while I accept and argue that homosexual attraction is, for many, an at-birth disposition, I don’t think this justified homosexual activity anymore than an at-birth disposition towards alcoholism justifies drinking.

However, I don’t view the sin of homosexuality (the actions, not the attraction; being attracted to the same-sex is no more a sin than a married man finding a woman other than his wife attractive) as any worse than other “sexual sins.” All sexual sins – with exclusion to ones where a victim is created, such as in rape or pedophilia – fall in the same category as going against humanity’s telos, specifically for sex. Thus, if we are willing to accept that one engaged in premarital sex can be a Christian, we should be able to accept homosexuals as Christians. That is to say, how we react towards those in sexual sin (such as pornography) should paint how we act towards homosexuals; we shouldn’t alienate homosexuals, but instead should love those in that sin as Christ loves us in our sins. If we can befriend someone engaged in some type of sexual sin, then certainly we can befriend homosexuals. If we can say a guy who is addicted to pornography is a Christian and will go to Heaven, certainly we can say the same thing of those engaged in homosexual activity.

All of the above considered, it should be understood that I’m simply asking questions and pointing out problems with the arguments I’ve seen against homosexual marriage. I would say that one negative repercussion I see coming with homosexual marriage is that it could inhibit religious liberty. Just as I argued for religious liberty in questioning the outlawing of homosexual marriage, I too will argue for religious liberty should homosexual marriage be allowed. This means that private charities, adoption centers, churches, or religious organizations should be allowed to practice their beliefs regardless of whether a government recognizes a marriage or not. If a Christian adoption agency doesn’t want to adopt out to homosexual couples (or even non-Catholic, or non-Christian, or non-Religious couples) then it should be their right not to do that.

In other words, the issue of homosexual marriage is far more complicated than, “God said it’s wrong.” There are a myriad of issues that must be tackled, specifically concerning the sanctity of marriage. It just seems to me that if we’re going to protect the sanctity of marriage via legislation, we must first (1) eradicate the First Amendment and (2) outlaw all other instances that challenge the sanctity of marriage (should we allow atheists to marry since nothing is sanctified to them?). To say that homosexual activity is “just different” from adultery, fornication, pornography, or the like just seems arbitrary.

In the end, perhaps there is an argument against homosexual marriage that isn’t tied into heterosexual activity. Perhaps there is an answer to my questions/issues. But thus far, the arguments I’ve seen against homosexual marriage have simply been problematic. Thus, for those that oppose homosexual marriage, one must find better arguments or realize that even if such an activity is impalpable to you, there isn’t a reason to outlaw it.

N.T. Wright Extends Debate with John Piper by Releasing Apostle Paul Tome

wrightN.T. Wright Extends Debate with John Piper by Releasing Apostle Paul Tome

By Jonathan Merritt

N.T. Wright is one of the top five theologians alive according to Christianity Todayand given his accomplishments, it’s a difficult claim to dispute. Wright is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at University of St. Andrews, and before that, he served as Bishop of Durham for The Church of England and taught New Testament studies for 20 years at Cambridge, McGill, and Oxford Universities. He has written a stack of widely-acclaimed and bestselling books, both academic and popular, and has a cult following among young Christian thinkers in the United States and Europe.

But Wright has also become a controversial figure in recent years, igniting a heated debate among American theologians with his so-called “New Perspective on Paul.” Many prominent Christian leaders wrote rebuttals of Wright’s perspective–most notably pastor John Piper, who devoted an entire book to the matter (The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright).

How does one respond to such controversy? If you’re N.T. Wright, by penning a 1700-page tome on the life and theology of the Apostle Paul–the most comprehensive published work on Paul in the history of Christianity. It’s called Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and it promises to extend the debate he sparked years ago. Here, we discuss the book’s thesis, how it may inform gender and political debates, and what he thinks will make John Piper most upset.

JM: And how do you anticipate that this historical and theological study of Paul will reframe Christian theologies of salvation, justification, and law?

NTW: The main point is that most second-temple Jews weren’t discussing “salvation” and “justification” in anything like the way later Christians did. They were anxious about how Israel’s God was going to unveil his long-awaited covenant purposes, returning in person to deliver Israel from subservience to pagans and to launch “the age to come”. That, for them, was “salvation”; and “justification”, not that they discussed it much, was about how you could tell in the present who God would vindicate in the future. Their debates focused on how all that would happen, and what they should be doing in the meantime.

I have shown how Paul’s teaching on justification, the law, etc. is best understood as the radical reworking of these debates around the new fixed point: that Israel’s God had returned in the person of Israel’s Messiah and that, in his crucifixion and resurrection, he had not only launched but had also redefined the “age to come”–right in the middle of ongoing and contested history. For Paul, this sovereign, saving act of the creator and covenant God was then being implemented through the work of the Spirit and in the announcement of the “gospel” in the pagan world. We only “get” what he means by “justification” and “salvation” when we put it all in this larger context. Nothing of value is lost thereby from older traditions (though some cherished formulations, themselves unbiblical, will need to be revised in the light of what Paul actually said); but much, much is gained, particularly the large and utterly coherent vision of his whole thought and work.

 

CONTINUE READING HERE! 

10 Rules for Dealing with Police

10rules-mediumI know this post is way off topic for me, but I felt it to be a very important piece of vital information for us as American citizens. I came across this wonderful video over at The Libertarian Republic tonight, and I thought I’d share it with everyone here. Have you ever been pulled over and had your rights violated? Or do you know what your rights are in this country for such a case? If not then give this a watch and share it: 

DO YOU KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IF YOU’RE STOPPED BY POLICE?

Flex Your Rights is a non-profit institution that educates citizens about their constitutional rights and how to exercise them. We the The Libertarian Republic spend a lot of time informing the public about abuses of authority by police. Now we’d like you to spend a half hour of your time learning how to defend yourself by understanding and asserting your civil rights.

Watch the video to learn more about how to protect yourself. (Hyperlink to video)

From a Syrian Voice

ImageI wanted to share this deeply moving email that Father Stephen sent us at St. Annes containing the thoughts of a man from Syria. If you have not yet contacted your senators and representatives then please do so! We do not need to intervene in Syria. America’s intervention means the terrorists will win and take over just like they did in Egypt!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I cannot remember a time in my priesthood when I have written a letter on a political subject – however, my conscience is deeply troubled by the military actions against the government in Syria being contemplated by our government. Today, I received an email from Rawad Massouh, M.D. (husband of Shannah, father of Edmund and Noah). He is a native of Syria and still has family living there. His voice seems to be the sound of the one voice of the Christians living in Syria, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or otherwise. They have been living in constant danger from the rebel forces and face possible extinction from those groups should they come into power. Christian leaders across the world – Orthodox bishops, Catholic bishops (the Pope included), have asked the U.S. to refrain from military action.

I am asking you to read Massouh’s letter and to look at the link I’ve provided to the posting of the Antiochian Archdiocese (America’s third largest Orthodox jurisdiction). Antioch is under the Patriarch of Antioch, who lives in Damascus.

There are links in that article provided for contacting congressional leaders. I have sent letters to our Senators and Congressman. Please pray for the people of Syria, both Christian, Muslim and others. Pray for peace. Pray for the protection of the Christian minorities who have dwelt there since the time of the New Testament. If your conscience moves you as it has me, then you will contact your representatives and ask them to oppose military action.

Thank you for letting me speak so boldly. Pray for Massouh and his family and the family of the Church!

In Christ,

Fr. Stephen

Massouh’s Letter

Fr. Stephen,I hope you are doing well.

I think you have been following the debate about our intervention in Syria, this is truly a disastrous situation, and our government has never done anything this criminal, even including the wars on Serbia, Iraq, and Lybia.

We are supporting Al-Qaida and Al-Qaida like fighters against every free thinking individual in Syria.

Can you please send this email to the parishioners in our church. And I ask all of them to send an urgent message to the Senators Alexander and Corker asking them to vote no on Monday.

They have killed enough Christians and moderate Muslims in the Middle East but our administration wants to finish them all.

Here is the email I sent them to let everybody know my view on the situation:

Massouh’s Letter to Congressmen and Senators
Dear senatorI’m writing you today to ask you to vote NO to any military action by the United States in Syria.

As Syrian American, it brings me grief and frustration to see that our leaders are even considering military action against Syria.

Why are we supporting the extremists in Syria?Why is this administration trying to distort the truth?. Mr. Kerry and Sen. McCain are trying to show the rebels as moderate fighters. I’m from syria, my family is still there, and I can tell you with great confidence that over 90% of the rebels are foreigner and local extremists with ties to Al- Qaida and Al-Qaida like organizations.

They claim that chemical weapons represent danger to our national security, but we have no problem overthrowing a government and placing chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists. This is something I can’t totally comprehend. Common sense says our military strike is causing danger to our national security.

They are trying to sell the congress and the American people that the Syrian regimen has used chemical weapons without a single convincing proof. Why would the Syrian army do it when it is winning the war and the rebels are asking every day for support stating that they can’t survive anymore?.

Why are we ignoring the crimes of the rebels? Few days prior to the alleged ” chemical attack” the rebels attacked twelve villages and killed and beheaded over 500 women and children and elderly, all documented with videos and reports to the United Nations human rights committees. They have already kidnapped and killed thousands of civilians, mainly Christians and other minorities just because of their religion. These ” moderate rebels” have no problem videotaping them beheading priests and putting the Vedio on YouTube?!! These “moderate rebels” killed and destroyed all minority communities in the areas under their control. Can Mr. Kerry explain why there is no minorities left in the areas under rebels control?.
Two days ago they attacked Christian town of Maloola, bombing historic churches, terrorizing and killing people in a town with no military bases or government military presence, they had the atrocity to do that while we are deciding to help them and of course our media ignored it.

In a country with over 35% of its population considered ethnic minorities, there is no minority fighters amongst the rebels, why is that? Have we seen that in terrorist groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen?
What will these fighters do to people who don’t agree with them if they gain upper hand? This is Taliban government all over again.
Do Mr. Kerry and McCain have an answer to that?.
I urge you to think about the millions of civilians and innocent people who will be killed by the extremist. Rebels if we overthrow the government in syria. We all will stand in front of god one day and be judged on participating in this crime.

I’m not saying that the government in Syria is perfect or democratic. We need change, but the real solution in Syria is by promoting love and tolerance and peaceful dialogue, not by bombing and sending military aid to extremists.

The majority of our nation is against this war, and our democracy guarantees that our politicians respond to their people, and I’m confident that you will make the right decision

I apologize for the long email, but I hope it will give you the true prospective of what is going on.

Thank you.

Link to letter on the Antiochian Archdiocese

Syria: Why We Should Not Support Heart-eating Rebels

ImageFor the mislead among us who wants us to go to war with Syria and help the Rebels,

I want to make it known I do not condone Glenn Beck….period! In fact, I find him to be a hack. Nonetheless, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The President, Republicans, and Democrats want the United States to intervene and HELP, by the aid of weapons and military might, the man you see eat the heart of his enemy here.

If Vladimir Putin is making more sense than the American government then I think it is time we evaluate our goals and such.

We do not need to be involved in Syria’s civil war! Please call, write, or email your Representative and Senators!

America use to be the moral voice of the world, but if we support these rebels then we lose all credibility we had left.

If we support the rebels that means we would be actively fighting along side of the group who flew planes into our buildings 12 years ago!

We need to adopt a non-intervention foreign policy and stay out of Syria!

“From the June 17, 2013 edition of “Glenn Beck” on TheBlaze TV: WARNING- This video contains DISTURBING images. The Obama administration, along with PROGRESSIVE Republicans AND Democrats are OK providing assistance to the Syrian ‘rebels’…the same ‘rebels’ who have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and who cut the heart and liver out of their enemies and eat it.WE MUST NOT GET INVOLVED IN THIS WAR!”

 

Sojourners and Exiles or (Two Kingdoms: Christians in Society)

image

As many following the blog may know, I have been contemplating our place in society lately. What is our place as Christians within our 21st century American context? What view of politics should we adopt? If any? What is the relationship between Christians and the government, the Church and government? Many propose answers to this questions that are trite, weak, black and white, and that fail to deal with the seriousness of both the question and of our context.

In my wrestling with this issue, I have posted my own little thoughts here and there, but mainly I have shared what others have brought to the table as they too wrestle with these issues. Today I want to share the piece “Sojourners and Exiles or (Two Kingdoms: Christians in Society)” written by my good friend Josh Ratliff. He had the article published, and I wanted to publish it here.

Josh makes a good point of how we as Christians are suppose to exist as exiles in a strange land, and anyone living in America knows first hand that this is a strange land. I believe Josh offers some key insights as to how we are to conduct ourselves. He points out that our faith communities are to exist as havens of peace as I like to think of it. He suggests that our place is to exist within our culture as a community of alternative values, kingdom values. I believe Josh is on to something. Despite whether one fully agrees with his assessment, what he has to say is of great value for any Christian who is being sincere and honest in their wrestling with this issue. Enjoy the blog:

Sojourners and Exiles or (Two Kingdoms: Christians in Society)

Is it the task of a Christian to shape the ethics of their society?  Should the community of the faithful work tirelessly toward aligning the culture’s moral vision with their own?  If you have observed any of the consumer activism on the part evangelicals in recent months and years, you would have to say that a large majority of us would answer in the affirmative.  What comes to mind are the many boycotts enacted against certain companies who may have supported a “gay agenda” or simply hired a gay spokesperson.  The fact is that, as North American Christians, these are questions we have to ask ourselves as we move very quickly into what many have described as a post-Christian culture.

I love it when God uses a seminary exegesis class as a transformative experience.  God’s Word is unrelenting in its assault on our prejudices, misconceptions and downright stubbornness, and it recently got me again in my exegesis of 1 Peter.  It was here that God began to teach me about living as a sojourner and exile in a strange land.

1 Peter and Sojourning Exiles

To establish the identity of his readers, Peter addressed them as “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), and their conduct was to line up accordingly (1:17).  But from what we can gather about his reader’s historical context, it is not likely that civil persecution had come to his original audience yet, and we certainly have no evidence that they had been scattered.  So why is Peter describing his readers as exiles?  It all goes back to establishing identity.  Clearly, Peter is basing it in the story of Israel.  This narrative is the story of God’s people, and it describes well our contemporary context.

Like Peter’s original audience, we’re not scattered or facing heavy civil persecution in North America, but there was still a reason why Peter wants them, and us, to make Israel’s story of exile our story.  One reason for this seems to be the surprise that his readers experienced when they began to face rejection from their society.  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (4:12).  The reason for their rejection by society, seems to be their refusal to join in the same “sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” as the “Gentiles” (4:3).  When these early Christians refused to do these things, they were renouncing their former cultural identity.  All of these vices were interwoven within the society’s unity and identity, centered in their cultic, emperor worship.

So, Peter’s readers found themselves, for the first time, on the margins of society.  For this reason, Peter is intentional in grounding their identity in the story of Scripture.  In 4:12-19, Peter re-images their resultant suffering as “shar[ing] Christ’s suffering” (v. 13).  As they are insulted for his name, they are blessed “because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon [them]” (v. 14).  This language, in particular, is heavily coated with messianic undertones (cf. Isaiah 11:2).  Mark Dubis argues in his book, Messianic Woes in First Peter, that Peter envisions this community as one that suffers innocently along with the Messiah, but also necessarily as a community who experiences the foretaste of God’s judgment that must act as a precursor to the final judgment (cf. 1 Peter 4:17-18).  Now, their rejection by society was seen as a part of a larger narrative that re-imaged their reality.

Humble Exiles or Aggressive Activists?

I think many living in the United States can see quite easily how we fit into Peter’s narrative.  It can hardly be said that there is a monolithic society that shares any one set of values at all.  So should our mission be to seek to align our society’s ethics with our own?  The message of 1 Peter advises us to take a humble approach even among those we find morally reprehensible and even if their non-desirable behavior is aimed directly at us.  He admonishes slaves to respect the masters who are unjust (2:18) and wives to respect their unbelieving husbands (3:1-2) citing the conduct of Christ who refused to return a slanderous accusation when he had them hurled at him by his persecutors (2:23).  When questioned on our faith, Peter expects us to provide an answer to our society with “gentleness and respect” (3:15).  In the community that he envisions, we are not seeking to drive cultural conversations about our own specific ethics but to exist alongside the society we are located in as an alternative society reflecting a distinct set of values.  Our attractiveness will have less to do with endless cultural warfare and more to do with our pure conduct winning the hearts of those with whom we reside.

So what are we communicating when we demand that businesses line up with our sexual ethics by seeking to hurt them financially until they do?  We’re essentially living in a way that is opposite of Peter’s admonition.  We’re no longer seeing ourselves as exiles who exist as an alternative society.  Rather, we are now very much intertwined with society and, in a sense, feel that the protection of our values is dependent upon our ability to convince the rest of society to comply with them.  This will actually have a much more devastating effect on our ethics than we might realize.  For if we see our government, culture, or anything other than the Church as the protector of morality, what happens when these entities refuse to protect it?  Do we follow suit?  One need only look at “no-fault” divorce laws to see that the Church often follows the way of the culture when we suffer from the confusion that our ethics must be society’s ethics.  Today, one could find a precious few denominations and local churches that are serious about enforcing Christ’s marriage ethic of one man with one womanfor life.

Secondly, let’s say we were successful in forcing society to line up with our ethics through boycotts, legislation, etc.  What will we have accomplished?  In these cases, we are guilty of moralizing apart from any meaningful presentation of the gospel.  Coercing people into lining up with our morality has no transformative power in a person’s heart and life.  We’re simply left with dead men’s bones inside of a nicely painted tomb.  Sure, with enough power and money, we can make society line up exactly with our moral vision—on the outside.  But with regard to our true mission in making disciples, we’ve done nothing.

So how do I reconcile this with my own Wesleyan Holiness tradition that has a rich history of social activism standing against slavery and fighting for the equal rights of women?  I would note that standing up for oppressed people is categorically different from forced ethical compliance. With the former, the only way to help the oppressed person is to stop the oppressor’s behavior.  But with behavior that only affects individuals by their own choice, we can only see true change in them by the power of the gospel, not coercion.  In both cases, the behavior is unacceptable to God’s standards of ethics, but the church’s response to them must be different.

My hope and prayer is that we can re-image ourselves in society as sojourners and exiles.  Let’s change our culture, not by fighting ethical battles through legislation, but through our contagious ethic of love that we display among ourselves and for our neighbor.  Transformation in our surrounding culture will come when they encounter the presence of a living Christ, not our boycotts.

CLARIFICATION FROM THE AUTHOR:

I wanted to clear up a few things that might be confusing about some of the terminology in the article, especially the phrase “alternative society.” First, I didn’t choose the title “Two Kingdoms,” but the editor did, so I could see how that might throw someone off if they think I am equating two kingdom theology with the alternative society I believe 1Peter argues for. Second, by alternative society, I do not mean a fringe group of Jesus Camp Christians with their own movies, record labels, etc. In fact that’s more a part of the Evangelical culture of trying to push their ethical viewpoint on the rest of society. In other words, the Christians more likely to lobby congress to legislate Christian sexual ethics also happen to be the ones that will only watch really bad Christian B movies. Living as an exile means you can freely engage the culture surrounding you, yet you maintain your specific and separate identity. You can work for the good of your king, but, like Daniel, you’re still identifiable as a follower of the one true God. The primary point of the article is that, to maintain this identity, we don’t have to force our ethics on the rest of society. We do exist as an alternative society in that we don’t mirror or allow our surrounding culture to change us. We carry the ethical banner of love of neighbor more than love of self. Hope that helps clear some confusion.

 

 

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