This is Why We Cannot Have Nice Things
By: Andy Goode
Opposing viewpoints will reveal many things about ourselves, if we will allow the process to develop. If we can see the other person’s point of view and understand their perspective we can experience an evaluation of our own biases and learn just how much our own fames of reference influence what we believe to be acceptable, or what we as individuals call normal.
As a pastor, I often have to stop, pray for wisdom, and then try to stand in another person’s shoes so that I can see things from their perspective. In doing this I try to get a grasp on how my words or actions might have affected them, that I may have been oblivious to, in my own little world. In maintaining relationships this is important which brings to light, how important healthy communication is to all relationships. Listening to the other person and being sure of what they are saying and why, helps one develop an intelligent response.
For the Christian, we must add at least two more aspects to this idea of considering opposing viewpoints. The Christian must add the hermeneutical examination of scripture which serves as the irrefutable standard of interpreting the validity of opposing viewpoints. The Christian must also allow the Holy Spirit powered discernment to be a factor which would drive the Christian back to examination of scripture.
Three paragraphs of preface have now set me a little more at ease to deal with the matter at hand. I read a sad and heart-breaking article written by a retired United Methodist minister: Rev. James McCormick, entitled: “Commentary: ‘Be careful using the Bible’ (UMNS Feb. 5, 2019)
Rev. McCormick’s article provides an excellent medium for highlighting what is wrong with our church going culture. I am going to use excerpts here to highlight the various reasons we cannot agree with the church going culture, in short to explain why we cannot have nice things, if you will.
McCormick’s opening line reads:
“One must be careful in using the Bible as a source of moral standards.”
That is an attention getting opening for both liberals and conservatives. Before the end of the first paragraph we have another interesting statement:
“The Bible continues to be used to oppose women’s work outside the home and female ordination.”
Would one consider me cynical to say that the statement on female ordination was my first clue as to where this article is going? As an M. Div. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary over 20 years ago I was on a debate team that argued against female ordination. To make a long story short it is hard to get past the language of the Bible that reads; “…husband of one wife…”, You can strain it, stretch it and bend it but the only way around that phrase is to ignore it, or say something really clever like McCormick says in the same article:
“In studying the Bible, it is necessary to realize that often God is cited as supporting whatever values are normative at that time in history. Those are “timely” standards — standards valued for a time — but not necessarily “timeless” standards that are applicable for all time and all circumstances.”
This is where church goers are led astray because it sounds good to them because it is what they want to hear. Church goers like an inclusive, everything is going to be OK, play nice, love, love, love, message that promotes and adheres to a man-centered theology. Man-centered theology is directing people to live under a false view of God, in an artificial state of bliss, where there is no healing, no guilt, no shame, no repentance and no reconciliation with one another or, even more importantly, no reconciliation with a loving, all powerful, completely magnificent God who demonstrated His own love toward us while were yet sinners.
So, is McCormick credible as a Bible scholar, as a theologian? Let’s consider some more excerpts from McCormick’s article:
“Remember that the Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael.”
This is not true, the Bible chronicles this but clearly shows the lack of obedience to God on the part of Abraham and Sarah. Here is another excerpt from McCormick:
“Remember King Solomon’s legendary 1,000 wives and concubines. Today we would call Abraham’s and Solomon’s sexual actions adultery, and not condone such actions for the behavior of others. Remember that, in ancient Israel, eating shellfish and wearing clothing of two different fabrics at the same time were called “abominations.” Walking too many paces on the Sabbath was considered sinful. And, it was permissible to make slaves of captured enemies. So much of what was considered sinful or acceptable was simply the norms or standards that were practiced by the majority of the people, but condemned today.”
What is this guy thinking? It was condemned then and remains condemned today, God is an immutable God. Is there a bubble this guy lives in, where people think biblical characters were affirmed, or considered not to be in sin when they sinned against God? Just because customs of the time were the accepted customs, does not mean that these customs were approved by God.
So, let’s get to the rub and the bias and see if we can see what the real problem is here with McCormick.
“Sadly, that practice has not changed. As a child, I was not allowed to have playing cards in our house. Dancing and even going to the movies were frowned upon, and drinking alcoholic beverages was not allowed. I was told that Jesus and his disciples drank only grape juice!
Today, all of those things are permissible even by religious people, showing that moral standards do evolve. I remember the insightful words of James Russell Lowell: “New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth. They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.”
So, McCormick had a sad childhood, devoid of playing cards while his parents lied to him about Jesus turning water into wine, really good wine, at that. This now empowers McCormick and others like him, to craft the theology of church goers based on his frame of reference and his personal bias rather than basing theology on the infallible and sufficient, inspired and authoritative word of God in the Holy Bible.
“…religious people” is the phrase McCormick uses and I use the phrase: “church-goers” and I believe McCormick and I are talking about the same group of people, which is not the same group of people I describe as born-again, fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
As I read further in McCormick’s article, I find he reminds me of a well-intentioned, not well-informed person trying to explain Bible times to a 4-year-old, which must have been where McCormick’s theological development must have stalled in his own life, somewhere around the age of 4. I base this on the following statements from McCormick:
“Think about this: The writers of the Bible did not know about germs.”
“The writers of the Bible also did not know about genetics, but we do.”
Yes, I have had enough but it gets worse. Consider this next excerpt and in case you do not realize what is wrong with that statement, I will chime in, once again.
“Second only to God, humans are the most important entities in existence. Therefore, what is moral in a timeless sense is whatever is helpful to human beings, and what is immoral is whatever is hurtful to human beings. That is a timeless value. It cuts across all times and circumstances. It helps us separate temporary customs from values that are lasting.”
McCormick and I really do not agree, at all, on the importance of scripture as a standard for morality. In this case, as you may read from McCormick below, the only things that immoral are the things that hurt others.
Why oppose slavery and segregation? Because they are hurtful. Why do the Ten Commandments forbid murder, stealing, lying, adultery and coveting? Because they are hurtful. On the other hand, what is hurtful about playing cards, dancing or having a glass of wine with a meal?
McCormick is now going to work from a false premise he holds to be true, because scripture has never been the standard for his worldview. When we understand God and the principles of God from a biblically based worldview, we would not entertain the notion that someone is born with same gender attraction.
If a person is born with a same-gender orientation, why must they be prohibited from having an intimate relationship with another person, forced into isolation and loneliness, just because many people unfairly oppose that? The fact that some Christians do not approve does not make such a relationship hurtful.
Almost everyone affirms close, caring relationships between men and between women. We become concerned only when the sexual component is added. Why? All close relationships are much more than sexual. Even heterosexual marriage is about friendship, mutuality and caring. We should wrestle with the reality that close, same-sex friendships are applauded; it is only when the sexual component is added that we become concerned. Again, why? Why not have the same moral standards for same-gender relationships as for heterosexual relationships: no promiscuity, no coercion, no insensitivity. Instead, seek commitment, faithfulness, mutual sensitivity, caring and support. Who does that hurt? Instead, it treats all people as persons of equal worth, as children of God, and encouraged to enjoy mutually affirming, intimate, helpful relationships with others.
To “love your neighbor” is to do the helpful thing and to avoid doing the hurtful thing, even when cultural conditioning makes that uncomfortable. Helping, not hurting, looks and sounds like Jesus to me.”
This is what happens when we try to conform an image of Jesus to our own image of what we want Jesus to be in our minds. When Jesus spoke on loving your neighbor, the first thing Jesus mentioned is loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with your soul and with all your mind and then to love your neighbor as yourself.
When we love God with all our heart, soul and mind we will not seek to bend His rules or violate His principles in order to create a religion out of loving our neighbor. We have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This relationship should be better and stronger than any religion as such a relationship puts Christ at the center of all things and Christ at the highest priority as our purpose and goal is to glorify God.
What sounds like Jesus to me, is honoring God the Father, doing the will of the Father, and seeking to glorify the Father. Church goers are trying to glorify man and the sins of men and make for themselves their own religion regardless of God’s immutable standards. Then these church goers working against the things of God label themselves: “Christians” causing confusion and deception. This is why we can’t have nice things, because church goers refuse to…be biblical!