Monday, December 10, 2012

Peace: A Matter of Understanding How Everything Fits Together

This past Sunday night, my wife and I went to a gay friend’s “Christmas” party. It’s always an opportunity to enter into the Midianite camp as Gideon had been directed to do to overhear what the Midianites were saying about Israel. It’s also been a wonderful opportunity to share our faith and to shake loose some stereotypes about Christians.

One lovely woman – a spiritual healer - refused to believe that I was an Evangelical Christians:

  • You can’t be! Evangelicals are sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and mindless creationists. I gotta catch my breath here!
Our secular society has done so much to inoculate its citizens against the Christian faith, and so I wasn’t surprised by her outburst. I encounter this type of reaction all the time. However, I wanted to build a bridge between myself and the healer (I’ll call her “Orietta”). Although Christ doesn’t give me liberty to affirm her ideas, at least I could affirm her feelings:

  • While you’re catching your breath, let me just assure you that I can understand your how you feel. I too have encountered many teachings in Scripture that have troubled me, but I now accept this dissonance. Why should I expect that all of God’s teachings are going to sit-right with me? He is the Creator and Sustainer of this incredible universe. Who am I to insist that His thoughts must conform to my own very limited thinking? In fact, I have found great peace, when I put His thoughts and His ways above my own.
The hubris of modernity cannot understand this. Not only does it put its thoughts above the possible censure of any god or power, modernity also puts its thinking above the thinking of any prior age or society or even the Bible. Orietta therefore responded,

  • You talk about the Bible as if it comes from God, but everyone knows that these documents are human. And they’ve been changed many times.
I didn’t want to go head-to-head with her on a technical point. I didn’t want to loose sight of the centrality of the Gospel, but I thought I needed to address this very important challenge:

  • I am very familiar with these claims and the evidence cited in support of them. However, I’m convinced that they are insubstantial.
I followed this up with a recitation of evidence against her challenge. However, I knew that I was trying to resist of tsunami of secularism and its pervasive message. The universities do all they can to undermine the integrity of the Bible. Herbert London writes about the bias of the university:

  • Intimidation in the form of chastisement became a ploy practiced by campus radicals who maintained that their browbeating was necessary to promote a “higher good” or “transcendent belief”…Faculties are now largely controlled by the left…Hence, the classroom in most institutions of higher learning is a propagandistic nirvana serving up doctrinal bromides that cannot be challenged. (Salvo, Issue 23, 64)
This is secularism’s quest, and they have been aiming their guns almost exclusively at Christianity. For instance, many Islamic studies departments have sprung up across the USA and have been bought and paid for by oil money. Never have I seen any of their faculty take a critical look at the Koran, and never have I seen any of the host universities challenge their biased product. Meanwhile, criticizing the Bible is always in season.

I knew that I couldn’t stand against this tidal wave of secular opinion, which Orietta had so obviously imbibed, and therefore was relieved when she moved the topic onto more familiar ground. She explained that her success in healing is based upon her commitment to love and her god. I asked her if she prayed.

  • Yes, I do. I’ve found prayer essential to the healing process.
I asked her about the god to whom she was praying. She couldn’t tell me with any clarity about his/her/its identity. However, she tended to believe that her god is an impersonal energy field. Her goal is to harness her healing art to the power of this force

Secularism hasn’t been able to stamp out our yearnings for a higher spiritual reality. Consequently, even in the university community, many call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” What do they mean by this and why do they reject a personal, moral and all-intelligent God? I think that if we can understand this, we can also understand the present-day disdain for Christianity.

Anthropologist Karen Brown, who wrote about her full-body dive into the embrace of Voodoo, provides us with some insight:

  • No Haitian—certainly not Alourdes [the Voodoo priestess] —has ever asked me if I “believe” in Voodoo or if I have set aside the religious commitments and understandings that come from my childhood and culture. Alourdes’s approach is, instead, pragmatic: “You just got to try. See if it works for you.” The choice of relinquishing my worldview or adopting another in its entirety has therefore never been at issue.” (“Mama Lola: A Voodoo Priestess in Brooklyn!”)
The God of the Bible places strong demands upon our lives – what we do and even what we think. Brown, even as she took the dive into Voodoo, was intent on remaining in control and not “relinquishing [her] worldview.” The priestess had made her an offer that coincided with her secular religion - “You just got to try. See if it works for you.” Brown was therefore free from any pressure to adopt any ideas or values that would violate her own worldview. In this way, Voodoo disguised itself as just one of many self-help programs. Brown would not have to surrender anything. If it worked for her, fine; if it don’t, well, “adios.”

Although the costs of spiritism are prohibitively high, this wasn’t apparent to Brown or many others who are following the spiritistic path. The promise is that you can remain in control. You’re in charge and can back away whenever you want. At least, that’s how it seems.

However, I think that even the most committed unbeliever senses that mixing with the God of the Bible doesn’t play-out this way. My dear cousin told me a story that illustrates this point. She had locked her keys in her car with the motor running. While she was running for help, she saw a key on the ground and knew that God had placed it there for her and that this key would open her car, which it did. However, her elation suddenly turned into fear, and, for years, she has pondered why.

I offered my interpretation:

  • You knew at that point that God loved you. You probably also knew that you would have to reciprocate that love and this meant surrendering the reigns of your life to another driver. And this was something you were unwilling to do.
She agreed and changed the subject. If God is a mere energy force, then this god can’t make any demands on us. He’s just there for our use, like a pet.

It is an interesting parallel that as we reject the supreme relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, we of the West are also experiencing greater relational problems with our spouses and children, so much so that both are becoming endangered species. While our Western worldview commitments are opposed to the Christian God, they are also opposed to our own welfare and most important relationships. Consequently, the pet industry is thriving, while the diaper industry is relatively dry.

I could see Orietta struggling to put it all together – her intuitions, healing art, and even her understanding of how it might all fit together into a coherent whole. When we can do this, we find peace, clarity and a foundation upon which to make the critical decisions of our lives. I always hope to demonstrate that it is the Bible that offers that critical grid or framework by which the puzzle of life all comes together.

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