Honesty is the Best Medicine
Back in the early 2000’s, one of my best friend’s sister-in-law rejected the Christianity of her youth publicly on the internet. Her sister, my friend’s wife, told her in response, “That’s very brave. I wish more people had your courage.”
I was shocked. I had (and have) incredible respect for the faith and life of this family, and hearing her say that she wished *more* people had the courage to publicly reject the faith of their youth was horrifying. Rarely at a loss for words, I actually had no idea how to respond. Why did she want more people to leave the faith? I was troubled by the idea for years.
Years later, I began to understand. There are many people who have abandoned the faith of their youth. Some, like a few of my current FB friends, have been public about it. Others, like a few of my FB friends, are not public about it, but privately they admit it. And yet others, like many more of my FB friends, do not even cognitively admit to themselves that they don’t really believe all of the basics of Christianity (the most commonly discounted are the virgin birth, Jesus’ bodily resurrection, eternal judgment, and the reliability of the Bible).
The courage of the lady wasn’t her rejection of her faith – it was her potentially emotionally and relationally painful honesty with herself and others. That is a courageous step, even in an increasingly post-Christian age. I, also, wish more people had her courage.
This courage isn’t just helpful for real relationships – we want to know each other for who we are, not for who we pretend to be. It’s helpful for honest discourse. If I’m discussing the Bible and its application on a subject with someone, and they secretly don’t actually believe the Bible is reliable or authoritative, we are both wasting our time. Their objections will be couched in a false framework, and we will both be frustrated, and maybe not even know why.
But, this need for honestly in relationships and in intelligent conversation isn’t limited to issues about Christianity.
On November 24th, the New York Times printed an opinion article by a transgendered person, Andrea Long Chu, who is about to have a surgery to make that person look more physically female. But, “Ms. Chu” admits what statistics already tell us – that so-called “sex reassignment surgery” will likely not make her any happier. The message of the article is simple – Chu should be able to have the surgery, not because it will likely improve her health in any way, but simply because of desire. She wants it, so she should receive it.
I applaud her courage. I wish others were so honest.
The abortion debate also has so much dishonesty. “Safe, legal, and rare.” Why rare? If it is not a moral problem, why should it be rare? What else is morally good that we wish we had less of? Answer – nothing. “It’s between a woman and her doctor”. How many abortion providers are refusing to provide abortions to women who want them? Answer – none.
The truth is, while few politicians and advocates are willing to say they are supporters of “unrestricted abortion”, that is their real positon. A woman wants an abortion, so she should be able to get it. It doesn’t matter what the biological father thinks, it doesn’t matter how old the baby is, it doesn’t matter if she can pay. She wants it, so she should receive it.
Once again, there is no limitation to this philosophy in progressive ideology to “secular” thought. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a prominent progressive Lutheran leader, is planning to make a vagina sculpture out of “purity rings”. Never mind the other obvious issues with this plan from an allegedly Christian leader - her sexual ethic is the mirror of Andrea Long Chu’s. “This part of me is mine and I get to determine what is good for it and if it’s beautiful and how I use it in the world.” She wants it, so she should receive it.
For anyone familiar with historic, orthodox Christianity, grounded in humility and gratitude, it would be harder to get farther from the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” than this perspective on human life.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to think that this self-centered worldview is a problem of secularists or progressives. Yet, if we are truly honest with ourselves, even conservative evangelical Christians suffer from this same current cultural ethic. We, who claim to follow an unchanging God, disregard the commands for marital fidelity and abandon our families to lifelong trauma. And, we don’t stop with the sexual ethic - we take this attitude right into the sanctuary.
How do you worship God? “I want to do it this way, so my church should do it that way.” So we search for church that does it the way I like, that “best fits me and my family.”
How do you interpret the Bible? “I want it to mean this, so I my church should teach it that way.” So we search for another church that does it the way I like and “best fits me and my family”.
How do you understand the mission of the church? “I want these elements to be important, so I should receive support for those priorities.” So we search for another church that does it the way I like, and “best fits me and my family.”
Yet, we claim to follow Jesus, who when faced with a far greater burden than any of us will ever face, prayed, “not my will, but thine be done.” We pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, but we actually believe, “my kingdom come, my will be done, on earth, and in heaven.”
Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.