Often however, I get the impression that the desire is to be entertained rather than edified. The desire is to get a cheap thrill and a token God-shot to tick the criteria of being a moral person.
It reminds me of Paul’s warning to Timothy,
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)
Reading those words is sobering. It suggests there has to be a desire towards seeking to hear and be built by what stands for sound doctrine. It makes my life following Christ not like the consumer-culture at all. I cannot afford to just digest the stuff that pleases me. I cannot just pick and choose what I want to take on, because it is pleasing to me. That also implies my desire of encounters with God, His Word and His People, is not primarily for the purpose of being entertained.
One note that should help us to think through this. Edification. in the New Testament is a mutual act, something we all do for all of us. It is not a top down, expert-centric, professionalized series of information lectures but brothers encouraging each other to stir one another up for the work of ministry. I also think that depending on your background it is easy to see what other Christians do as people-pleasing entertainment and what I do as edification. I enjoy a deep sermon on theology. It certainly edifies me to an extent, although I rarely remember what was said weeks later, but it also entertains me. Likewise some people sneer at contemporary Christian music as being mere entertainment while getting the same entertainment from classic hymns. This is something we all need to be aware of.
I saw this yesterday (HT: Robert Martin), Resolved: Quitting the Progressive Christian Internet in 2014. It looks like the increaingly over the top rhetoric that marks the conservative/liberal divide is growing wearisome for my brothers on the left as well as for those of us on the right. I am not familiar with the blogger, Zach Hoag, but I do appreciate what he says:
This is not a call-out post, so I won’t be naming names or linking links. That’s not the point. The point is that the Progressive Christian conversation has lost its way, primarily because of the third word in the label: the Internet. The Internet has fostered a disconnect between the Progressive Christian Internetter and rooted, relational church realities, such that the ideology expressed online has become an end in itself rather than a means tethered to the end of ecclesia. The conversation is increasingly non-incarnational. Whereas evangelical church-planting culture is often plagued by shallow pragmatism, the Progressive Christian Internet goes to the other extreme, philosophizing its way out of any substantial, practical ecclesial application.
And in the attempt to be ideologically Progressive, it often fails to be substantially Christian.
You can replace some of the words and get the same problem among conservatives. It is worth your read. I don't think Zach is calling for complete disengagement, nor am I obviously, but a change in the tone and the method is warranted. The internet is wonderful for many things but it is pretty poor at developing the sort of relational conversations that actually get to the heart of these issues. Instead we get warring factions that snipe at one another and circle the doctrinal wagons to have conversations among people who mostly agree with each other.
A post from Eric Carpenter today makes the list, No Longer Could I Serve in the Military. Like Eric I have come to this same conclusion and it is largely based on this:
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How could I possibly serve in the military when I might be ordered to kill someone in the name of the USA? Killing and loving do not mix.
It is simply impossible to simultaneously love someone and kill them. I have seen all sorts of tortured explanations for why it is OK but they simply make no sense.
A quick political link on Rand Paul & the Christian Right. I like Rand Paul quite a lot, knowing full well that he is a politician with all that entails, but I see him as a refreshing new voice against a lot of the sacred cows of the perverse marriage of neo-Con interventionists and Christian culture warriors. I have been encouraged to see a groundswell of changing attitudes as a war weary nation, and especially Christians, grow disillusioned with the constant wars that always seem to do more harm than good. Especially heartening are posts like Eric's above that show a move away from supporting war, something that the church in America has been to eager to do as our leaders embrace the hawks on the political Right as the cost for support for the moral issues that culture warriors care about. A few years ago someone like Rand Paul would be relegated to sitting in the same corner that the GOP establishment put his father Ron in. Today? We are seeing something very different happening and it is a positive development. As the church gets out of the culture wars business and stops providing a steady supply of soldiers from our families for the American war machine perhaps we can get back to our actual calling as ambassadors of the Prince of Peace.
One last one I thought was funny/disturbing: 2013 is the year that proved your ‘paranoid’ friend right. It seems like it happened overnight but a lot of people are pretty spooked at the surveillance state, the abuse of power in law enforcement, the encroaching of government into our most basic liberties. Hopefully more people will wake up and smell the proverbial coffee!