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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Problem with Culture Wars

for reference

I heard about the sports announcer (Craig James) losing his job at Fox Sport for "socially conservative " comments he made while running for Texas' Senate. Most articles are saying the same thing. The justification seems to be that the HR Department would not allow someone to say such things... Nothing implies he was fired for his performance. This raises the question, for those of us who do not believe in same sex marriage, is this part of a trajectory toward criminalization of our view point? [In fairness it wasn't that long ago that the same man, if homosexual, would have lost his job for that reason. People hid their sexual identity for that reason. Now traditional beliefs are under fire. People grousing about 'persecution' need to see it cuts both ways. That is the problem with culture wars: winners win and losers lose.]

With that in mind, reading 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8 this morning was a real interesting meditation. Paul's words are a reminder, for a Christian, of a wider swath of offenses for which we are to "be guilty." Paul begins by reviewing a statement he had made earlier. (I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons. The Greek word is pornos (where we get "pornography") and according to Strongs' refers to male prostitution of any illicit sexual activity, i.e. fornication. So Paul said to exclude such folks from your circle.)

The obvious problem with this statement required that Paul explain further in this follow up letter. Obviously, he says, I do not mean 'anyone' who does such things because to do that you would "need to go outside the world." No, what Paul meant was anyone who claims to be a Christian (literally "adelphos onomazomenos" or "those being called brothers"). He says do not associate, do not even eat with them. Many Christians, who generally share Mr. James perspective, would say that 1 Corinthians 5 is a reason to break communion over the issue of gay marriage.

Now comes the ironic twist. While I do not support the idea of gay marriage and while I support the traditional understanding of marriage, I do not advocate not associating with them. Here is why, Paul does not make his statement in isolation. It is, rather, part of a series. Look what else is included:

  • Greedy (pleonektes--those who want more) Actually, in the Bible this is a much more grave sin and it receives far harsher consideration. That most Americans (including American Christians) have a disordered appetite for wealth and  "stuff" is easily overlooked. If churches exiled every greedy member we would see a dramatic decline in attendance. 
  • Intoxicated (methos--drunkard). While some churches disdain alcohol, others are more comfortable with it. My guess is those who abuse alcohol are challenged about this.
  • robbers (harpax--rapacious, ravenous, swindler) is probably more tricky. It is really about ripping people off rather than a strong arm robbery. This is a huge issue in the Bible. Many upstanding citizens are actually doing this regularly. How much ruckus is kicked up in "traditional values" circles on this one?
  • Reviler (loidoros-- railer)  To revile is to use abusive language but I had to look up 'railer.' It is a person who expresses objection s or criticism in bitter, harsh or abusive language. Think about that for a moment. Think of the language used in discussions of gay marriage, for example.
  • idolator. This one is less tricky. We do not worship idols (literally) although technically we probably do create 'idols' of a sort of all manner of things (including family, job and favorite sports &/or team).
The dilemma is how to be consistent and fair. My guess is Mr. James was not gravely concerned about the over-focus on sports, in particular football. My guess is lots of well-to-do people with whom he associates use their position and power to advantage themselves in dealing with others. I also bet that there is plenty of greed in sports. Excessive drinking at football games???? People speaking harshly toward others (like opposing teams or referees)?

That is the problem of getting holy. It is the challenge of taking a stand. We can get pulled into "teams" on a debate and cherry pick our favorite sin on the list to rail about (and ignore others). Oops, railing would be on the list. See I am doing it too.

I am greatly concerned with the injustices against traditional beliefs. I have spoken about this many times before. I also see the past unfairness done in the name of traditional beliefs. Even so, if I want to speak out I need to be consistent myself. I think Paul's words are very hard indeed. It shows how seriously the early church took holiness. But Paul did not advocate focusing on just one sin on the list. That is something which the culture warriors love to do. If we shift the focus from argumentation to sincerely seeking the Lord then perhaps we will receive the wisdom to understand the words of Paul and implement them in a loving, just and faithful way. 

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