Reflecting on Morality and Religious Pressure

07May09
Why do my fellow Christians fight me on the elements of my personality which Christ cultivated? Within me there are countless, large imperfections about which they could warn me, but they concentrate their efforts to destroy those parts in me which express Love to the poor and marginalized; the parts of me which seek to deny myself to lift up the powerless. It seems like they seek to make me the Pharisees against whom Jesus spoke throughout the Gospels–the hypocrites who appear to have cleansed themselves of external sins while taking great care to nurture and grow their internal ones. My soul cries out to my brothers, “get behind me Satan! I’m doing my Father’s work!” and it shouts this not out of anger but out of love. Are we so blind that we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that our evil desires (though cloaked in religion and twisted to look like truth) are in fact pleasing to God? It didn’t work for the religious elite then, so what makes us think that God will favor the religious elite now?

The Spirit in me and the scriptures both testify that God will always, ALWAYS favor the poor and the broken and the powerless over those who appear to be “correct” and “powerful”. Even if my brain can’t find an adequate answer to their twisted logic, God’s truth appeals to my heart–telling me that I may not understand exactly why, but their ways are dark. So it is and will be: I follow God even when the people who’ve taken claim to his name take a different path. I will follow God into the dark places to rescue his precious people even if it means that many of the Christians call me a glutton and a drunk and kick me out of their churches. After all, Jesus endured that first.

On the subject of morality, it seems that there are people who see two kinds of people in the world: those who seek to uphold morality and those who are trying to “lower the moral bar” so to speak. The problem I see is that people with this viewpoint tend to define moral behavior as behavior exclusive of external sins, but the term doesn’t speak to the presence of internal sins. Internal sins (conditions of the heart: jealousy, self-righteousness, judgmentality, etc) get downplayed for the sake of lifting ourselves over those who suffer from external sins (sins identifiable by actions: sexual sins, drunkeness, etc). In this way, we trick ourselves into thinking that we are justified in denouncing the evils of liberalism and homosexuality and alcohol consumption and partying when we have darker sins clouding our vision. We seek to remove sawdust from our neighbor’s eye without first removing the boards from our own. We take great care to wash the outside of our cups, but the insides are filthy. We love to call people out on their mistakes, because it feeds the lie that we’re better than we are–that we do, in fact, deserve love (which stares right in the face of the Cross and the Gospel of Grace). This self-righteousness seems to plague the church, so if someone is truly concerned about upholding morality in our culture, perhaps we should look first at ourselves and then at everyone else. Furthermore, when we stop viewing the world this way, we realize that if our “morality” is only a product of social pressure, then it is empty and worthless. In this way, we are locked in a pointless battle of who’s definition of morality is correct, ours or theirs? When we are freed from this, we realize the only universal morality isn’t measured by actions, but by the motivations which drive our actions (namely the presence of Love or lackthereof). The issue isn’t where the moral bar should be set or whose moral bar should be used; the issue revolves directly around our own loving and hateful desires. The battle isn’t between us and them, the battle is within each of us, cliché though that may sound. We are our own enemies. We are the primary opposition to the cross–not the muslims or the liberals or the homosexuals. Let’s stop scapegoating and own up to our own failures. Let’s really die to ourselves.

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