A friend and dear brother whom I respect, David Bryant, challenged me with a number of questions in response to last week's article on Rep. Mark Foley. David is, as you may know, the former president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America's National Prayer Committee. If you know anything about David then you know he is a man who earnestly yearns for a God-given awakening among God's people. His wonderful book, Christ is All! issues a powerful call to the Church to recover the supremacy of Christ and the implications of this for the renewal and mission of God's people. For those of you who long to see the Son glorified in and through His Church; his book will have you shouting amen!
In response to last week's article David asks, "Why has society at large, and the Catholic Church in particular (and even the Evangelical church to significant degree), not become as 'obsessed' and 'outraged' with the hundreds and thousands of pedophiles among Catholic clergy -- and their thousands of young victims -- as everybody seems to be over one politician from Florida?"
David continues in saying, "It almost seems -- unless I've missed something somewhere -- that apart from some of the landmark lawsuits against the Catholic Church (such as in Boston), this whole horrific phenomenon has been swept under the rug, even by the secular, liberal media (as some like to call it). Why has there not been outrage and, even more important, deeply repentant, thoroughly biblical self-examination by the Christian movement in our land about how it is possible for such a huge number of clergy whose whole lives are lived 'in the Gospel' and as 'servants of Christ' to be so spiritually schizophrenic? Why have not even Evangelicals asked what all of this might say about what is missing in how the faith is being developed in our churches and, even more to the point, raise critical questions about the spiritual climate in our churches, and even more about the source of the spiritual 'dysfunctionality' that has allowed these seeds of lust and deceit to grow into such a wide-spread harvest of shame? After all, according to some studies as many as 60% of evangelical pastors are actually addicted to pornography."
To be clear, David is not singling out the Catholic Church; he is raising an important question applicable to the whole Church of Jesus Christ. Which is, "why are we no longer outraged by gross moral compromise and blatant disobedience in the Church?"
While the Catholic Church crisis may be centered on the issue of pedophilic
priests; the evangelical church is awash in its own issues of moral compromise.
Christianity Today reports that, "According to pastors, the 8
top sexual issues damaging to their congregation are: 57% pornography addiction,
34% sexually active never-married adults, 30% adultery of married adults,
28% sexually active teenagers, 16% sexual dissatisfaction, 14% unwed pregnancy,
13% sexually active previously married adults, and 9% sexual abuse."
A Focus on the Family poll indicates that pornography is a problem
in 47.78 percent of families and another survey indicates that at least 50
percent of men in church are "struggling with pornography." Numerous
studies demonstrate that the American Church is a morally compromised Church.
This begs the question, why? What is happening (or not happening) in our churches to accommodate such moral compromise? While there are numerous conditions and causes, both cultural and theological, that have contributed to this deplorable condition; I think it could be summed up in what may be called the "domestication of Christianity."
By domestication, I mean the accommodation of Christianity to contemporary culture and in the process; the dethroning of Christ. Where Christ reigns supreme in the heart and life of His followers they will naturally appear in stark contrast to the surrounding culture, most especially today's culture. As has been the case throughout the last two millennia Christ's followers have often found themselves at odds with the prevailing culture both ideologically and in practice. This position is often uncomfortable and discomfort is anathema to our flesh. But to the spirit-led believer discomfort and suffering are recognized as the means by which God often brings glory to Himself.
But if we, ignoring the admonition to "give thanks in all things," seek only comfort from God and refuse to submit to His loving use for His purposes; we limit His Lordship in our lives. We, in effect, say that He is Lord over these areas of our lives but if the Lord demands more than we are willing to give; we will, at that point, assume the "throne" once again. I would suggest that the modern way is to very carefully avoid any kind of commitment to Christ which requires us to surrender control.
The result is that Christ is not supreme in the life of the professing Christian and thus we live "double-minded," wanting to be both in and to some extent of the world. We falsely believe that we exist only for ourselves; that we are autonomous beings carrying out "our" life plan and our desire is for the Lord to come alongside and "bless" our plans and our goals. The truth is that our lives are not our own having been bought with the precious blood of Christ. We have been raised from the dead for His purposes through which He may receive glory.
David calls this a "crisis of Christology," meaning that we simply no longer comprehend and all too often fail to teach a proper understanding of who Christ is. David describes this wonderfully as an "insufficient vision of the glory and supremacy of Christ to sustain passions for HIM that puts the fear of God in our hearts, brings sin into judgment and gives a full supply of His risen life to bring forth all kinds of victories in righteousness for His sake."
Domesticated Christianity cannot sustain much less produce "passions for Him" because our passions remain fixed upon ourselves and not the risen King. As to the question, "Why are we no longer outraged by gross moral compromise and blatant disobedience in the Church?" Perhaps it is because our own moral compromise is safely veiled under the blanket of "domesticated" faith - a faith that is safe and sure not to provoke the world's condemnation or interest.
For more on David Bryant's ministry, Proclaim Hope!, visit his website here.
Copyright S. Michael Craven 2006
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S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.