Friday, March 14, 2008

No Shame

In conversation with my pastor today about a most destructive trend in evangelicism, the word "shame" came up. As in, "it's such a shame" that this trend even exists. Later on I got to thinking about that word, and if it really even means anything anymore.

In Scripture, there's a particular warning to those who reject the truth once they've heard it, and the text says they "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame". (Hebrews 6:6) I'm no Greek language scholar, but in looking up that word shame in the Greek, it has so many different meanings, depending on the context it's used. In this particular context it means to publicly disgrace. In looking up all the other uses of the word in the NT there's a range of definitions for it that include despise, dishonor, disgrace, dishonesty and unseemly.

Looking at the list of definitions for this word at dictionary.com you'll see these same descriptive words along with improper and ignominy. Now there's a word you don't see every day. I'm not sure I've ever seen it, or heard it used so I looked that one up too:

1. disgrace; dishonor; public contempt.
2. shameful or dishonorable quality or conduct or an instance of this.

I grew up hearing the word used in a more common way as well, as in "have you no shame?" or "he has no shame", and the most common "shame on you!"- all meaning a chastisement for being insensitive to the idea that dishonorable, disgraceful conduct or character brings shame with it.

As I considered the definition of this word and the impression that it at least appears this word really doesn't mean anything anymore, I had to wonder "how did we get here?" How did the Christian church ever get to a place where shameful conduct becomes redefined, re-imagined, unpacked, revised and tossed out the back window as an anything goes mentality is welcomed in the front door?

Enter: postmodernistic, vain philosophic loads of useless, empty, self-centered and self-seeking books, ideas, movements, and defenders. A marriage of Christian thought with postmodernistic thought equals the fruit we all see today. Shameful conduct is no longer shameful conduct because we've redefined it you see, and we have a wagon-load of excuses and cultural contexts to categorize such things and pat them on the head and send them along their merry way.

That word really doesn't mean anything to a lot of people anymore. Unless of course you say or do something that infringes on their shameful conduct, and it it's a shame we all just can't get along and see the good in our fellow man. To me, the real shame there is that we've bought into this line of thinking in the first place. I shudder to think what Christianity will look like when my kids are grown. The only encouragement I have is Christ's promise that even the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church. The disturbing thing is, that the worst influences in His church, are IN His church, and calling themselves by His name.

I certainly don't say such things with the deluded idea that I am somehow above all that. I'm definitely not. Yesterday in a moment of anger and frustration I said something in a private conversation with a friend, that I honestly should not have said, or even thought to begin with. the moment I said it I regretted it, and it has bothered me since then. I immediately apologized for the comment and immediately admitted I was wrong to say that, but it still bothered me that I said it in the first place. I was ashamed of my own comment, and wished to pull it back as if it never happened.

What I notice more and more, is people that aren't ashamed of anything. They're not ashamed of profane language (their own or anyone else's), they're not ashamed of dirty jokes or raunchy movies or immoral messages in songs. They're not ashamed of treating our Lord with less than holy fear, and they're definitely not ashamed to tell you, they're not ashamed. In fact, more and more often I notice that if you are ashamed of such things, you end up becoming the punch line for jokes, the receiving end of mockery and humiliation. The unashamed will stand around and yuck it up at your expense. This, will never make sense to me, if I live to be 1,000 years old.

The only way I know of to combat this, is to continue speaking about it (as much as it annoys some people, who like to email me anonymously and tell me to shut up - and yes - they use those words). To encourage others, to thank my pastor (which I did today) for his dedication to equipping a flock that does take a high view of God and our duty to Him, to teach my children what is honorable and what is not, according to Scripture, and to remain in prayer about it for myself, every day. Included in that is prayer for others that find no shame in shameful things. Surely they've been deceived by the empty philosophies of men, to arrive at such a sad state, and taken evangelical Christianity with them.

It's discouraging, no question about it. But, there is hope. God's Holy Spirit was worked an amazing work in me in the last 14 years, and I know He can do the same in others who are His. Sometimes it's just hard remembering that He's not through with any of us yet, when I see a Christianity I don't even recognize.