Faith: October 2006 Archives

A quote and a few thoughts about this article by Michael Spencer, on "Christian Community, Friendship, and the Quest for Accountability":

It is certainly true that most of us avoid accountability relationships because there is no one we would trust with our secrets, failures and struggles. Contemporary evangelical spirituality values outward demonstrations of piety, not interpersonal honesty where we confess our sins and ask for advice in our struggles. We are supposed to confess our victories over sin, not our struggles with sin. Holiness, for most evangelical Christians, is a state of arrival, not a journey of response to the Gospel. We want triumph, not lessons. Abiding in Christ is supposed to result in “victory.” The “fruit” of the Christian life is suppose to come in lives where all the major problems have been resolved, and we gather to pray for further victory, for strugglers and for what Joel Osteen calls “God’s Favor.”

The focus of evangelical spirituality in America works against accountability relationships, and even when those relationships occur, it works against true honesty, repentance and the pursuit of humility.

There's much more to Spencer's article, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. In addition, consider the impact of modern city life on accountability. In a small town, accountability is unavoidable, as the people you see at church on Sunday are the same people you deal with at work, at school, in civic groups, and in your neighborhood. In a city, we worship with one group of people, work with another, and are neighbors to yet another, with very little overlap between communities. It's easy to go an entire week and not see someone from church. Even if one is involved in a small prayer group or Bible study with friends from church, that disconnect still exists.

Spencer writes of accountability relationships, "Such relationships can’t be easily constructed. They can’t simply be scheduled or assigned. In a very real sense, they must be born of the Holy Spirit and the providence of God." Trust is something that takes a long time to develop. At least, it should take a long time to develop. There are lots of reasons why it's easier to build accountability relationships in the context of a campus ministry than in the context of a congregation, but one reason is that college students are less wary, quicker to trust, because they haven't been burned enough times or badly enough.

When a small group of adults does gel, when the members feel comfortable enough to trust each other, the group ought to be left alone, but often it's broken up by church leaders. The usual reasons are that the group is becoming "ingrown" or cliquish, that more successful groups can be created if the group members are spread out to different groups, that group members need to be challenged afresh to build new relationships. There may even be an unspoken fear that a cohesive group of laypeople is a challenge to the authority of the leadership. The result of breaking up and reassigning the members of such a group is that new friendships and trust have to be developed from scratch, and the friendships nurtured in the old group fade without that weekly scheduled time to spend together.

On Evangelical Outpost, Joe Carter looks at seven votes in the U. S. House of special concern to social conservatives, then compares the voting records of the current Republican House committee chairmen with those who would replace them if the Democrats win a majority of seats in November. While not all the Republican chairmen have stellar records on this set of votes, all but two are over 50% (Jim Leach of Iowa and Howard Coble of N. C. only voted the right way on 3 of 7), and 8 of the 13 chairmen voted the right way on at least six of the seven votes. Meanwhile, most of their Democratic counterparts scored a big fat zero. (Three exceptions: One chairman voted the right way once, another voted the right way twice, and Ike Skelton of Missouri, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who scored a 71.)

I've heard politically-active evangelicals around here say that "the lesser of two evils is still evil." Carter leads off with a quote from Thomas à Kempis book The Imitation of Christ: "Of two evils, the less is always to be chosen." To choose otherwise is to let the greater evil prevail. Refusing to choose, waiting instead for some ideal to fall from the heavens, is to make a choice for the greater evil.

Overall, under Republican leadership in the House, the desired result for social conservatives was attained in five of these seven measures. (A sixth, regarding embryonic stem cell research, was stopped by President Bush's veto.) Looking at the scores of these current and potential committee chairmen, I have no doubt that under Democratic leadership, legislation that protects the sanctity of human life and the traditional definition of marriage would never make it out of committee.

We've seen exactly that situation here in Oklahoma, where, despite a professed pro-life majority in both houses, a Democratic Senate committee chairman, supported by the Democratic Senate majority leadership, blocked pro-life bills from being debated on the Senate floor. The lead story October 2006 issue of the Oklahomans for Life newsletter (PDF) tells how this year's landmark pro-life legislation nearly didn't make it to the Governor's desk:

Senate Democrats were determined to prevent any pro-life legislation from being enacted this year. Senate Democrats facilitated the killing of seven (7) prolife bills that had passed the House this session. The bills were killed by a Democrat committee chairman, serving at the pleasure of the Democrat Senate Leader, who, in turn, serves at the pleasure of the Senate’s Democrat members.

When the Republican House of Representatives reinserted five of those bills in another piece of legislation which had already passed the Senate (and, therefore, did not have to go through committee in the Senate again), the Senate Democrats resisted as forcefully and as long as they possibly could. They were fully prepared to ignore the rules of the Senate by refusing to allow the Republican author of SB 1742 to present the bill for a Senate vote.

The Democrat Leader of the Senate told the bill’s author as late as May 17, the day before the bill ultimately passed, that the bill would not be granted a vote on the Senate floor. It was only when Republicans made it clear that they would attempt to force the issue through a procedural
motion (which would have been voted on in public) that the Democrats relented and agreed to let the vote occur.

With great reluctance, the Democrat Leadership of the Senate allowed the bill to be voted on when the political pressure had built to such an extent that they could no longer contain it.

Once the bill was allowed to come to a vote, SB 1742 passed the Oklahoma Senate 38-8.

At the state level and at the federal level, which party will have control of the chamber is as important as which individual will represent your district.

Here's the conclusion Joe Carter draws:

Social conservatives have reason to be disappointed in the Republicans in Congress. As these scores indicate, though, we will be even more disappointed should the Democrats gain majority control. The GOP doesn't deserve to win; but if the Democrats regain power, it will be society that loses.

RELATED: Paul Weyrich points to the Bush Administration's solid record on judicial appointments and says you can expect strict-constructionist nominees like Samuel Alito never to get a hearing in a Democrat-controlled Senate. "I understand, and am sympathetic to, the reasons not to retain the current crowd in office. But there are two very big reasons why they should be re-elected. If they do not improve their performance in the 110th Congress, recruit primary candidates and replace them."

AND THIS: Are social conservative voters budding theocrats? Bill Rusher hits the nail on the head:

What has happened is that, in the past thirty years, a large number of Americans whose deepest beliefs and concerns are not political but religious have concluded that they have no choice but to gird themselves for participation in the nation's political wars. There are quite enough such people to influence the election returns, and they have been doing so.

But -- and this distinction is crucial -- their posture is essentially defensive. They are not seeking to turn America into a theocracy. They are simply trying to preserve, and where necessary restore, the politico-religious balance that has been traditional in this country. It is the intellectuals, with the critical support of the courts, and above all the Supreme Court, that have successfully eroded that balance, seeking to marginalize religion and convert the entire civic framework of the nation into a purely secular arena, on the pretense that this is required by the First Amendment's supposed erection of a high "wall" between church and state.

Those who imagine that it is religion's defenders who are the aggressors here are simply not paying attention to the increasingly sharp attacks on religious faith that can be found today in such influential places as The New York Times.

In May 1963, six months before his death, C. S. Lewis was interviewed by Sherwood E. Wirt at Magdalen College, Oxford. The first part of that interview is now online. In it, Lewis answers questions about the craft of writing, and contemporary authors that he found helpful. Lewis makes an interesting comment on Chesterton's statement that he joined the Church to get rid of his sins. Asked about his conversion, and whether he felt he had made a decision, he replied:

I would not put it that way. What I wrote in Surprised by Joy was that ‘before God closed in on me, I was offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice.' But I feel my decision was not so important. I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon. I was glad afterward at the way it came out, but at the moment what I heard was God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we'll talk.' promises to post part 2 of the interview next week.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from October 2006.

Faith: September 2006 is the previous archive.

Faith: November 2006 is the next archive.

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