Thursday, August 31, 2017

Reflections on Reflections on the Nashville Statement

On Tuesday, some conservative Christian leaders released a statement on sexuality. My Facebook feed was soon filled with progressives decrying the document as an expression of bigotry against homosexuals and transgender people.

Ironically, on the exact same day the Nashville Statement was released, a group of professors from Yale, Harvard, and Princeton released a joint letter with the following advice for incoming students:
At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them.
Since no one wants to be, or be thought of as, a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies.
Don’t do that. Think for yourself.
... Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry.
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.
At a later date I might post my reflections on the actual content of the Nashville Statement (which, by the way, I did not sign). For now, however, I would simply urge my friends to avoid the "lazy" accusation of bigotry.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jesus is NOT watching you

Today I happened to hear a political commentator reference a scene in the popular TV series Game of Thrones. Curious, I found a synopsis of the scene online. I was shocked and disgusted by what I read, and grieved that so many Christians find this violence entertaining.  

A few hours later, while flipping through a collection of early Christian literature, I stumbled across this passage by Salvian (5th century):
Let us suppose that our Lord is willing to watch over us, even though we do not deserve it. Let us see if He can. See the countless thousands of Christians daily tarrying at the games where base performances are enacted. Can God watch over people like this? Can he watch over those who revel in the circuses and who commit adultery in the theaters [Matt 5:28]? Or, perhaps, do we wish and think it becoming that, when God sees us in the circuses and theaters, He also looks at those performances at which we look and at that wickedness on which we gaze? That He gazes at them with us, one or the other of the following must happen. If He designs to see us, it follows that He must see those things where we are, or, if He averts His eyes from them, which is doubtless what happens, so He must likewise avert them even from us who are there. Nevertheless, we unceasingly do these things.
In the small New Mexico town where I grew up, the Catholic church erected a billboard outside of a porn shop with the words, "Jesus is watching you." Of course, this message is perfectly true. God is omniscient and omnipresent. He knows what you do, and he will hold you accountable.

Salvian, however, has struck upon a deeper truth. In a very real sense, Jesus is NOT watching you. When you sit down to be entertained by Game of Thrones, you have left Jesus behind. You are alone.