In the current surging flood of true tragedy, unrivaled injustice, unbridled outrage, and enthusiastic surfers of that great wave known as El Internet (which is Spanish for The Internet), it is frequently hard to tell the difference between true tragedy and CNN doing its best impression of the dogs on Pixar’s Up: Squirrel!
And this is because when a culture detaches from any real moral mooring or anchor, there is no such thing as reason, no such thing as things making sense — those outmoded expressions, in so far as they are still used, come to mean whatever happens to feel right at the moment. And whatever happens to feel right tends to be whatever most of your friends think is right. And whatever your friends tend to think is right is probably heavily influenced by whatever Jon Stewart, Rolling Stone, and the editors at the Huffington Post think at the moment. In other words, when you destroy the ground of truth, that there is real truth here in the world for anyone and everyone to find and demonstrate, you simultaneously destroy the ability for individuals to actually think for themselves. You actually garauntee that people won’t think for themselves. How could they? What tool will you provide them after you have run truth through the garbage disposal?
Another way of getting at this is to recognize the truth of what many of our fathers taught which is that what separates man from beasts is his intelligence, his rational soul. This is not all that separates man from beast, and I would argue that the image of God includes our bodies and creativity and emotion and senses (cf. Ps. 115). But it certainly includes our intelligence, our capacity for reasoning. And thus, when you drive the image of God down the highway at 90 and it gets wrapped around a telephone pole, it is hardly surprising that what emerges from the wreck is less intellegent. Paul says that when men worship the creation rather than the Creator, their foolish hearts are darkened, and believing themselves wise, they become fools (Rom. 1:21-22). But the image of God is still there, even if it is mangled and in shreds. But this is why you can have millions of people still trying to be moral, still exercising moral outrage sometimes over truly horrific things and sometimes over ridiculous things. But it’s like a downed power line convulsing and spitting sparks intermittently, randomly. It isn’t plugged into a coherent, rational worldview. It’s just energy, beastly instincts surging and reacting, at best tamed only slightly by the gravity of the herd. As Chesterton said, the modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. At least the Muslims are predictable. They have a creed, and their creed is evil. But the postmodern progressives have only one creed which is to have no creed, and thereby we are left at the mercy of their whims. This always descends into cruelty.
One of those hard-to-kill, image of God instincts is the need to feel moral outrage. God hates evil and hates the way evil mangles human beings and their communities. Christians have God’s fixed standard (the Bible) to compare themselves to. But when you have no fixed standard, you’re like a weathervane spinning in a storm. Of course “hate” is a bad word these days, but it’s hard to keep track of all these feelings and words when you don’t believe there is any inherent value or meaning to them at all. It’s all the rage (pun intended) to refer to things as “hate crimes” which we may as well call “really super bad, naughty as sin, dirty-yuck crimes” since we are trying to get all Victorian up in this pious boyscout club. I’m about ready to see some white bonnets and hear a few knuckles getting smacked. But the point is that we have labeled racist crimes (which really are wicked) as uber-bad and certain sex crimes (also truly wicked) as super-duper-bad, and meanwhile we’ve just commanded the States to recognize the inherent value and dignity of one man shoving his penis into the anus of another man (everbody bow to the statue when the music plays and we wave our rainbow flags). This is how it looks when you’re in freefall. The things that are usually down below your feet float right over your head. And at the moment, scanning your various feeds, you may find hashtags such as #f—racists or homo-activists posting pictures of themselves visiting the whitehouse and giving a picture of former president Ronald Reagan the New York salute with the caption “f— Reagan.” Each in their own cute way trying to conjure up a good hate, what we in the Bible-believing, Christian world would call a “righteous anger,” a godly hatred.
The difference though is that we have a standard and they don’t. We have a coherent worldview and they don’t. But while they work up their gee-gollly consternation at whatever they decide the latest outrage ought to be, they are trying to stand on a little box that they adamantly deny exists. That box is called truth. But as it happens, next week they will be mad about something else and when you point that out you’re only likely to get another ear full of hate, er, I mean, moral outrage. But one of the things you should notice is that if you do any reading up on abusive relationships, one of the patterns that regularly emerges is the erratic behavior of abusers. While it may not be completely conscious, the angry outbursts are timed and intended to keep victims in constant states of terror, fear, uncertainty. And this is a powerplay, intended to manipulate the victim to live in complete submission to the whims of the abuser. One strategy against this kind of behavior is to flee. And sometimes in the history of nations, that is precisely what Christians have done. We don’t have to play these games if we don’t want to. But the other option is to stay put and refuse to be afraid.
“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously; Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:19-24)
This strategy is not apathy; it is the strategy of fierce Christian resistance. It is a strategy of glory. It refuses to dignify hate with hatred in return. It refuses to dignify abuse with scorn. But it most certainly will inspire anger and hatred anyway. And the more consistent Christians are, the more faithful we are to Jesus, the more we will be hated because a fixed standard feels like oppression when you’ve come to believe that freedom is freefall in a hurricane. But this is acceptable with God. And to this we are called because Christ left us an example. But this is no Hallmark moment. If He saved us when He was betrayed, spat on, lied about, falsely accused, and nailed to a cross for our sins, then we must be absolutely certain that when they mistreat us and slander us and disinvite us to their parties, that we are finally getting somewhere — that now, the One who judges justly will see and rise up and save and heal.
Tom Brainerd says
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you, Pastor Sumpter.
The Scriptures, at various junctures, tell us what we must do to stand. Just stand. And that just standing, if I can conflate a little bit, is a sign of perdition and a sign of salvation (and that from God), the stench of death and the aroma of life…to the City of Man and the City of God, respectively.
It is, among other things, a time to shore up within the City of God those things that enable us to stand. It is not the only thing we need to be doing, but it is *a thing* we need to be doing.
Christ’s blessings on you, family and flock.
Thanks for a wonderful encouraging read. I’m suffering with such misery…detached from everything….though being able to read such posts keeps reminder of One who judges justly. Such a good post. Going to reread .