Saturday, March 1, 2008

Intolerant of Ungodly Tolerance

In conversation with a pastor friend last night, this question came up:
"is it blasphemous to include the name of Jesus or any of the apostles in harmless jokes?"

I thought that was a very good question. Would I consider it blasphemous? To blaspheme is to verbally pull down what is holy and make common, coupled with vulgarity and/or obcenity. So, in a "harmless" joke where Jesus might be mentioned I wouldn't call that blasphemy. I would however, call it into question. I mean, with the countless billions/trillions of things one could use in a joke, why even use His name to begin with?

Several years ago another pastor friend of mine said something about this that has stuck with me ever since. Some folks online were cracking these kinds of "jokes" about religious things and he was outraged that Christians were taking what is holy and turning it into fodder for light-hearted comedy. He asked (and I'll paraphrase) why someone who enjoyed the eternal benefits of Christ's broken body on the cross, would then turn and make Him the catalyst for a laugh, in a joke. He chastised the group of folks that were doing this and stated that when we speak of Christ it should only be done with fear, and with the utmost sobriety and gratitude.

To be completely honest, at first I thought he was over-reacting. I didn't think anyone was trying to be irreverent, and I didn't think anyone was crossing a line. But... something about the way he said it, stuck with me. I was convicted about it and I wasn't sure why. What was it about doing something like, that should trouble me as much as it did? Was there any merit to what he was saying? Was he over-reacting, or was it me that had bought into the mindset of it being "okay" to do such things? Because the conviction was there and unmistakable, I really had to wrestle with this for quite some time. I still do.

Deep down (even though I reacted with resistance at first) I knew that what this pastor was saying, was right (even though I've probably been guilty of doing this very thing, since that conversation). It's interesting that while we live in a culture that still (for the most part) believes in the common courtesy of "don't speak ill of the dead" will have no issue with speaking in a light hearted way about our Lord and Redeemer. Somehow, in some sort of twisted way, we give more honor to mere men who have passed on, than we give to our Saviour who died for us, and rose again.

All of this came up as a result of the current state of evangelicism, and what Christians in this age find acceptable. Yesterday, Steve at Camp on This posted a video clip of Mark Driscoll promoting an upcoming fall conference on the Song of Solomon, where Driscoll uses his typical vulgar humor to mock a particular interpretation of the text (that he disagrees with). You can watch the clip if you like (all classic Driscoll Disclaimers apply, and no I'm not joking), but if you'd rather not, I'll simply say here what I said there in the combox:
"In describing a certain portion of the text, Driscoll mocks a particular interpretation as if it were to imply that he is gay, and Jesus wants to be intimate with him. He's being funny, of course, in his mind. This is Driscoll's humor, and he uses the Lord as a part of his "joking" style. In case it's been a while since anyone looked up the word blasphemous, it means to speak in an overtly irreverent way (with or without cussing or profanity) of things that are to be held as holy and/or sacred. When a pastor of a church of 6,000+ people, and an influential leader of countless thousands more via the internet, and the leader of a church planting ministry can stand there and "jokingly" say that he is gay and Jesus wants to be intimate with him, that is more of an indictment on this generation of Christians than anything else. Shame on us for
tolerating this
. That someone actually had to point out 1.) that it is blasphemy and 2.) why it's blasphemy, speaks for itself. That someone else will no doubt come along and argue in Driscoll's defense, also speaks volumes toward where our loyalties lie in these matters. God help us to care more about giving Him the honor He is due."

I know that there will be many who watch that clip and completely disagree that what is said is blasphemy. (I told Kevin what was said, and why, and without telling him who said it, and his first response was "what absolute blasphemy"). There will be many who excuse away what was said in defense of the reason it was said - to make a point. The thing is, the same point could have very well and very easily been made without the overtly vulgar references. For me, THAT is the point.

We've arrived at a place in evangelical Christianity where we actually have to have these discussions. No, it is not okay to cuss. No, it is not okay to blaspheme the name of the Lord. No, it is not okay to cheat on your taxes, beat your wife, live a homosexual lifestyle, rob a bank or smoke dope or drink ourselves into a stupor. If you think I'm exaggerating (and I am, in part) then you might want to reconsider the fact that we are having to have these discussions with other believers about what holy living is really all about. We've become so desensitized to sin, that we don't even recognize it when we see it or hear it. We don't consider it blasphemous to use our Lord's name in a crude way, and we'll spend hours debating what "cussing" really is, just so we can still do it and feel justified doing it. We really like arguing about it, and we can point to our favorite pastors/authors/speakers in the evangelical camp that back up our positions on it, and say "see, they think it's okay so who are YOU to argue against these well studied men!?" (And for the record, there are two camps there - men professing Christ as Lord that would never even consider using or excusing away sinful conduct and speech, and men professing Christ as Lord that do it all the time and have a bucketload of excuses for it - you be the judge on that one.)

There was a time in Christendom, not that long ago, where more mature believers would look at you like you had 11 heads if you even asked such a preposterously ridiculous question about these things. There was no more question about those things than there was about shooting people you didn't like. It was clearly preached, clearly taught, and common knowledge among the household of faith, what sinful conduct and speech was, and why we are to avoid it at all costs.

I'm convinced part of the reason we are where we are is because holy living is no longer commonly taught, or commonly preached in Christian churches. An entire generation of people have arrived at where they are in Christian thought, because they've been cheated out of hearing the full counsel of God and bought into the babbling philosophies of "spiritually enlightened" naval-gazing men. If ever there were a Pulpit Crime, that surely must be one of them.

In writing about this I already know that there will be some that read it and think I'm the one over-reacting. The question I would ask then would be simply, is there any merit to what I'm saying? When we make excuses to live and act like the world, if there is any offense in what we say and do, who is that offense against? It's certainly not against me (although it does indeed offend me to see Christians acting like the unsaved), and in the interest of full disclosure, I'd have to admit that I'm just as guilty of doing this very thing as anyone else might be. I'm not sitting over here wearing my SuperPious t-shirt & cape looking down my self-righteous nose at anyone, trust me on that one. No question at all that I still have areas in my own life that need major amounts of sanctifying work. I still get angry and have sinful thoughts, I still say things I shouldn't say, and I still battle pride and an overly critical spirit. What I can't do, is find any justification for these things in my own life, or in anyone else's. Scripture is so incredibly clear on what holy living is, why it should be our joy and desire and goal, and that this is the example we're to pattern our own lives after - the very example Christ set for us.

What I need, is a pastor that preaches the truth about these things and does it with conviction. I have that, and I'm profoundly grateful. I need to read authors, and hear speakers, and discuss with fellow believers just how important this is, and what holy living really looks like, feels like, and sounds like. I have that too and I'm also desperately thankful that I do.

We live in a time when we excuse away ungodly conduct in the name of tolerance, and berate those that are intolerant of the same. How grieviously backwards we have become.