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March 27, 2013



So here's a parallel that occurred to me after reading this post, and I'm not sure yet if it means something or if it's just the Skyy talking. You've written before (as have probably tens of thousands of other people) about how an institution destroys its reason for existing when its practices instantiate self-preservation and power-seeking rather than the principles that led to its founding. Is there a counterpart in individual approaches to life (including faith, but possibly including secular practices)? I.e., if Belief System X teaches that the single most important thing a person can do in life is be an adherent of Belief System X, is it even possible for there to be other core principles in that system?

People in that situation will often behave according to different (and better) principles, of course, because humans are mercifully inconsistent about such things. But it seems like this would explain why the most egregious empathy gaps seem to be located among the firmest believers (not just Christians).


I was going to go on an extended tangent about the Great Awakenings as naked psychological power grabs, but my friend the vodka glass said nope.


AS in the revolutionary who believes in building a better world for The People who turns a blind eye to the slaughter of the people (small case) to create that world? Reformers can be a bloodthirsty lot.


I think you're on to something Leighton but that is probably a more general principle. It's not just belief systems that have this undermining effect but what I would call tribes, i.e. intentional groups of people who share an identity qua membership in the group. Not all belonging has this negative result, but like you say, when belonging is made explicitly or implicitly to be the highest good, then the implications of belonging become sacrosanct. I think that is precisely what goes on in the heads of otherwise decent (or at least average) people who worry about the consequences of an athlete's evil behavior for the team rather than for the victims of that behavior. I think that in calmer moments, almost all such people would claim that they value the safety of children in there community over than the success of that team, but their tribalism doesn't allow them to make good on that when the tribe is threatened.


this. <3

Matt Mikalatos

Greg, I agree with you that many Christians live their lives this way (i.e. "Jesus saved me and there's nothing more I need to do but believe"), but it's a gross misunderstanding of Jesus's teachings. He spoke rarely about right belief and often about right action. A lot of Western Christians prefer Paul, who largely does the opposite (though he makes the assumption of action it can be more easily ignored).

All that to say... I had a student come up to me in North Carolina a few weeks ago and ask me if he could follow Jesus. I told him yes. Then he showed me his rainbow wristband and asked if I still thought so and I told him yes again. He had never heard this before. I explained that even if you read the Bible to be saying that homosexual sex is a sin, that doesn't mean that active homosexuals can't come to Jesus. I pointed out that there are plenty of prideful, gluttonous pastors out there. He admitted he knew an obese pastor. So why can that guy be a "Christian" and even a "professional Christian" when he's clearly in the grips of habitual sin? And why would it be any different for someone who is gay (again, assuming you read the Bible to say it's a sin)? I don't see how it possibly could be.

Also... Greg, as always, your compassion for others is a reminder of what an excellent pastor you must have been and, now, as a secular pastor of sorts, continue to be. I'm glad there are college kids getting to interact with you regularly.


The best of "Jesus" speaking on a correct view of sin was Keller in this video.

I desire to emulate Jesus and no I don't do it well. My heart is still corrupt and in need of his grace. That's what I confess, sin and the need for release from it.



Debbi McCullock

Hi Greg,

I check in on your blog every now and then just to see what you are up to. I wanted to let you know that I appreciate the way you have articulated the tension of faith. I think many Christians share this tension and ask difficult questions because it is a struggle to understand a suffering world. This struggle is not exclusive to pastors, this is part of the everyday life of the believer... the lay believer.

Lay believers are not surrounded by believers all day, we are out and about trying to understand the Gospel among seriously hurting and broken lives... including the brokenness and complete imperfection of our own lives. It is tough, and doesn't always make sense, and it is really, really hard work most of the time. I agree with you that many of us do not do it excellently all the time, me included.

Also, I want to say that I am sorry the church hurt you. You know it is made up of lots of people... that are just people, mostly trying to figure all this out for themselves. I know that probably does not help at this late date, but it is true.

Do you know that you are welcome to sit in my pew if you ever what to visit a church for any reason?


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