Thursday, October 18, 2018

Subliminal Assimilation–Influencing our culture obtusely…

I’ve frequently expressed my hope that churches would more directly promote Biblical truths that impact the moral lapses in our culture.  A recent blog HERE listed all the things that sermons scrupulously avoid.  Repeated below is a list of what most churches avoid discussing to avoid offending…

Don’t discuss homosexuality.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss gay marriage.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss abortion.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss out of wedlock pregnancies.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss the government’s incentive sapping welfare system. It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss excessive reliance on government entitlements.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss the evils of Islam.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss the overblown role of government that displaces personal and church responsibilities.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss rampant illegal immigration.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss patriotism and building a strong nation.  It might offend someone.
Don’t discuss the Christian foundations of our nation.  It might offend someone.

It is not unusual for churches to take several weeks – virtually hours worth of sermons - to elaborate on a few verses of Scripture.  I’ll use  the first  9 verses of Philippians, potentially the subject of 2 or 3 sermons, as an example:

Philippians  (NIV)

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Show me one word, phrase or verse in those 9 verses that noticeably or specifically addresses ANY of the cultural or governance issues facing our nation today.  “Good works”, sure.  “Pray with joy”, good.  “Love may abound”, right.  “Pure and blameless”, absolutely.

Some will suggest that these noble but vague admonitions are enough to get us on the right track toward addressing the moral problems facing our culture.  I will suggest that such noble, but vague, admonitions constitute nothing more than hoping for subliminal assimilation and eventual application to our cultural lapses.   We are expecting people to use their imaginations to somehow apply these ideals to specifics amidst the hundreds of hours of explicit contradictory media we are exposed to every day. 

Stated another way, we are asking people who listen to a half hour sermon comprised of highly generalized admonitions to overcome much larger quantities of explicit exposure to liberal and immoral media and entertainment.  

I suggest that the Christian thing to do – not the Democrat or Republican thing to do – is for the Church to relate these fine admonitions, in unmistakable terms and examples, to the the things the Church today seems hell-bent on avoiding (see my list, above).   Every one of the moral lapses in our nation that I list above are addressed in Scripture in some form or another.  Sometimes those clear Biblical positions are discounted with the excuse that the Bible has conflicting sections or is subject to various interpretations.  True.  Truth can be distorted or misapplied.  Sure, many people believe the Bible is just fables.  But it is the responsibility of the Church to apply these sound Biblical principles to our lives and our culture in ways that minimize the need for subliminal assimilation – vague impressions without explicit guidance.

Here are excerpts from earlier blogs that elaborate on this point:

These are all components of what many Church leaders define as “politics”, discussion of which is to be avoided at all costs.  Off limits.  Don’t cause dissension.  Don’t offend.  Let’s avoid these topics so we can attract more members – more potential “converts” or more revenue.  This “big tent” priority sounds more like the aspiration of a political party than a legitimate priority of the Church.

The whole Bible, from beginning to end, discusses the relationships between God, governments, and mankind.  It begins with the first interactions between Adam and Eve and God, with Satan as the  foreshadow of government:  The antagonist; the interloper.  The relationship between God, the people, the Laws, the Judges and the Kings continues throughout the Old Testament.  The New Testament brings about a cleansing from oppressive Laws through Jesus Christ.  It renews the spirit of the personal relationship between God and the individual which was  intended from the beginning.  Throughout, it continues to demonstrate the tug of war between our innate evil tendencies and what God desires of us as a “higher law”, superior to all the laws created by either secular or religious laws.

But the modern Church appears to prefer to ignore these themes.  It prefers justifying our surrender to the culture and government overreach, declaring its overly broad definition of “politics” as taboo; off limits.

Instead, the Church finds a comfortable corner of Scripture concerning faith, personal salvation, and how much better we will all feel.  Sin?  What’s that?  Can it even be defined anymore since such a large part of the Church not merely excuses but embraces what was formerly universally understood to be sin.  Without acknowledgement of “sin”, how can there be forgiveness and reconciliation?  Then who needs Christ?  Wow, we are now free from the constraints of religion.  Imagine, as John Lennon did.

And now, whether a misquote or a revelation from an apostate, an official of the Catholic Church has proclaimed “there is no hell” after earlier excusing himself from criticism of rampant pedophilia in the Church with “who am I to judge.”

Without a “hell” there is no constraint.  Both individuals and governments can do whatever they please.  Wipe away all sense of right and wrong, don’t judge, and we have the ultimate clean slate for us to be made in the image of government instead of in the image of God.  Who needs God if there is no sin and no hell?  This is the ultimate path to Communism, the “ideal” that has led to more dictatorships, more death, and more loss of freedom than any other ideology with the exception of Islam.

The Church is allowing the culture to destroy it by its silence.

HERE is a companion piece on the same topic, titled “Is the Church’s Focus Too Narrow?”.

And from one of my 50 favorite websites, American Vision, here is a worthwhile article titled “Should Preachers Address Politics from the Pulpit.”  It touches on something about preaching “the whole counsel of God.”  Modern churches should try it some time.


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