Edit–Goodness, I changed the title so that it reflected the fact that I am quoting without comment. And with that, I’m starting my weekend.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve come across a number of pieces that have lingered with me in various ways. I hope to offer more substantive reflections on many of them at some point in the distant future, but for now, I simply commend them to you as worthy of your attention and time.
My unborn son’s story began, five years before he died, on my parents’ screened-in porch on a cool September evening. The reception for my sister’s wedding was going on around us, but my aunt was distressed. She justified her job at the abortion clinic by claiming she was a caring presence to those who needed it most. But months on the job were wearing down her resolve. She saw things her determination to help could not cancel out. Her conscience was protesting.
We have been brought to the point where we both can and must get our life’s priorities straight. From current Christian publications you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that -ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you. But our line of study makes the present day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection. Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place. But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, and is, and always will be, the true priority for every human being. That is, learning to know God in Christ.
We are an age where every Christian with a keyboard and an Internet connection fancies himself a prophet. We cast doom casually, but forget that few are called to issue jeremiads and the few that are called will weep like Jeremiah wept for the people he loved. Too many times we should endure and love our enemies, but instead we hurl the easy truth at them and leave. Duty sometimes demands such a prophetic role, but most often our duty is like Daniel’s: we must be patient and persistent.
Pornography is not just about lust. It is also about the power of images to connect to the deepest parts of person’s soul through the intensity of story. My suggestion is not to merely try harder to avoid lust, but to think about how you can avoid connecting to the stories of naked women and instead reconnect your life story – both the pain and the triumph – to the Gospel, the story of God working in the world to save his creation through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That story alone has the power to heal.
Sociologists and historians have been making the same mistake ever since. Christianity does not promote “secularity” in the modern sense. Where Christianity has become dominant, Christians have always sought to reshape public life, law, social order, custom, and economic life, in accord with the demands of the gospel. They have not considered public life a safe-zone, free from the influence of the gospel. But the gospel does challenge and overthrow the institutions and patterns of the old world. Wherever the gospel arrives, sacred sites lose their sacredness, the gods go silent, the religious ceremonies that encrust daily life go by the wayside, blood and sacrifice cease. When the good news gets to the scattered tribes of the Amazon, or unevangelized peoples of Africa or Asia, it comes as an announcement of a new exodus, a baptism that leads out of Egypt into a new world, guided by the pillar of the Spirit.
The American right has begun to mimic the left in adopting a perverse form of political syncretism. A decade ago we’d mock well-intentioned, but misguided, liberals for being so intent on advancing their cause that they’d gloss over the views of their nutcase, extremist radical allies. Now, we do the same thing without giving it a second thought. Indeed, if you point out that there may be something wrong with embracing the loony ideas of fringe cultists—directly as with Ayn Rand, or indirectly, as with W. Cleon Skousen—you’ll be accused of being, depending on how polite your accuser, everything from an elitist to a socialist dhimmi.