Thinking Out Loud

October 8, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith II

Discussion about the political scene in the United States for the past (almost) two years since the election brings out the worst in all of us.

I promised myself I wouldn’t wade into discussions of that nature. This blog is intended to be consistently faith-focused and therefore apolitical. But a few times I have made exceptions.

One of those was Friday.

In my comments about Franklin Graham, I incurred some well-warranted criticism from two people I greatly respect and have known for a long time. That stung. In fact, I did something I never do, and that is I basically took the weekend off from blogging; posting only an infographic late Saturday. (That post did however earn a Twitter like from someone who I greatly respect and is greatly respected internationally. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.) However…

I committed three very serious blogging sins.

First — and this is unusual for a blog which tries to put the cookies on the lower shelf — I did not provide any background as to what had provoked the post in the first place. In this case, the thing that really got me — my personal last straw — was when Franklin pulled all the Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child advertising from Relevant magazine when all they had done was quote him. I did not do enough to document his descent from emissary of the gospel to political commentator.

Second, I allowed my writing to become more emotional toward the end. To use the semantic argument that a person who has “lost the plot” of Christianity might never have been a Christian in the first place is not an argument unique to me by any means. But it reeked of judgement. The last three paragraphs have since been edited.

Finally, I think in my mind I was partially conflating Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. who we will look at briefly today. Both are the second generation of a top-tier Evangelical brand and both have wandered down the rabbit trail of leveraging or brokering their base to cozy up to the current U.S. political administration. I should have dealt with both, instead of saving one for now.

So with Jerry Falwell, Jr., let’s be specific.

I made the mistake of assuming that the same people who read my blog posts actually are tracking developments on the weekly link feed. I found it grievous that the Liberty University film students who returned from holidays last January discovered they would not get to complete the two projects they had planned, but were assigned to work on The Trump Prophecy film. I (and they) felt it totally diminished the value of the program’s reputation and the diploma they would receive related to it.

Also, there was the more recent incident where students were bused to Washington, D.C. to show support for Judge Kavanaugh. Again, I feel this is diminishing the university’s reputation and the degrees those students paid top dollar to receive. If the students are Political Science majors, then yes, the confirmation process is important, but this particular story also spoke to the issue of sexual assault in a case where it was difficult to tell which side was telling the truth. I’m not sure how many of those students really wanted to take a position on this issue; though some may have simply gone for the bus ride or because their friends were going, or for the tour of the Capitol building which followed.

And there are many more stories like this.

But Falwell didn’t simply put his film students and protesters (or counter-protesters, I’m not sure) in the middle of his pro-Trump, pro-Kavanaugh agenda; he dragged Evangelicals in the United States and (in my case) beyond into a moral and ethical quagmire of reasoning, where the glaring bad fruit of a person’s life is set aside if it is believed their ascent to political power fits or is in keeping with some higher purpose.

One reader simply suggested people Google “Franklin Graham controversy” for more, and I would add that “Jerry Falwell, Jr. controversy” yields some rather bizarre stories, like this one. But I really don’t want to spend more ink on that, especially where so many minds are already made up.

Another thing I need to reiterate — for my good as well as yours — is Paul’s advice to Timothy that a soldier does not entangle himself in civilian affairs. We belong to a different kingdom and our main energies should be spent on advancing and building that kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.

In the end however, simply changing the name, I find I must simply repeat what I said on Friday:

In the last several years, many of us have watched Jerry Falwell, Jr. make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith.

and its conclusion:

If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

Yes. I get the irony. It’s possible that in its original form on Friday I would have failed that same litmus test.

Point taken. Such are the times in which we find ourselves.

 

Advertisements

October 5, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith

In the last several years, many of us have watched Franklin Graham make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith. At least three decades ago, someone pointed out to me in my much younger days how they had observed people in the Christian publishing industry who were second generation owners, CEOs and managers. He noted that they lacked the fervor of their parents; they simply didn’t breathe the industry the same way; they didn’t have the same love for books.

As someone who grew up in a Christian home I certainly get this. Receiving it all second-hand isn’t the same as crashing and burning and having nothing to do but look up. I’ve often remarked that the people who find faith in Christ after their adolescent years seem to have a much greater appreciation for the grace offered to them. Like the woman at the feet of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee, those who have been forgiven much will love much. Or more.  

It also stands in contrast with the stories of Christian refugees who have come to North America escaping persecution. They are head-over-heels in love with Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that everyone needs a “before and after” story. I can stand with everyone else giving a testimony; and while they testify to what they were saved out of, I can testify to what I was saved from doing. Furthermore, your testimony is what Jesus is doing in your life today. If your salvation story is entirely about something that happened 30 years ago, I’m not sure you have a story.

I would argue that if a person’s life doesn’t reflect the fruit of the Spirit, then we have to ask if they are a Christian. Simple as that.

I’m not exempting myself from that.

The things we post online — or if we have such a platform, say to the media — represent the fruit, or if you prefer the abundance of our hearts. If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

I’m saying that perhaps some of Ruth Graham’s and Billy Graham’s faith didn’t stick.

In other words, he needs to get reacquainted with the One he claims to serve.

April 9, 2011

Billy Graham: The Generation after the Next Generation

Oh yeah! People come up and say, “The years of mass evangelism are dead,” and I say, “I don’t believe in mass evangelism,” and they’re like, “That’s what you guys have always done.” I say, “No, we don’t. We do personal evangelism, but we do it on a massive scale.”

~Will Graham, son of Franklin Graham

Christianity Today sits down Will Graham, an associate evangelist with his grandfather’s BGEA and assistant director of The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.

It’s worth a look.  For example, here’s a change from everything you’ve been reading lately on hell:

I can’t speak for what Rob Bell talks about, but most people I come across still believe in hell. Now the idea of what hell is, that’s changing, but there are a few things we do know that the Bible says. One, that there is a place called hell. Just as heaven is real, so is hell. The whole reason God came to search out man was to save us from hell. The Bible says hell was never created for man. It was created for Satan and his angels that rebelled against God. Since man has decided to rebel against God, they were going to spend eternity in hell totally separate from God.

He also talks about other aspects to crusade evangelism, some new initiatives the organization has started, and comparisons to both is father and grandfather.

Read the whole piece at CT Online.

December 2, 2009

Best of this Week’s Links

Before we get into this week’s lynx links, I want to refer back to something on this blog a few days ago.

When I wrote a post a few days ago questioning some aspects of the Samaritans Purse Christmas shoebox project, I was simply giving voice to some things that were rumbling in the back of my mind.   I was hesitant to formulate much more than a few random thoughts because I really thought I was alone in criticizing a program that is so widely subscribed to by local churches.

I was wrong.   When Sarah’s comment came, I realized I had only begun to scratch the surface of issues raised by the program.   Here’s a reprint of her comment, but I want to strongly recommend you visit the link, which documents why in one Canadian province, a large denomination isn’t encouraging support of the program.   It takes you to a 16-page (.pdf file) report of which pages 4 to 11 are most important and will only take you a couple of minutes.

Thanks for this article–I think all your questions and concerns are excellent. If you’re interested in more, with a powerful eyewitness story about shoebox problems, see http://ucskco.sasktelwebhosting.com/TheGiftMattersSchoolkit.pdf

It shouldn’t be about followup for the giver at all; that’s a form of strings-attached giving.

Additional questions:

Does this encourage children to value Western cultures more than their own?

Do “shoebox” gifts become better than something simpler made lovingly by a family member?

Are they introducing commercial gift-giving into a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in that way?

Do they respect people of other faiths who don’t celebrate Christmas at all?

Do they portray one race/culture as being better or more successful than others?

Most importantly, how do they work to bring about real change, in places where the needs are for justice, peace, and access to the necessities of life?

~ Comment by Sarah Shepherd

Your responses to this can go here or in the comment section of the original post.    If anyone has seen other good pieces online where the program has been critiqued, feel free to put the link in a comment as well.

Other links this week:

  • Bill Kinnon looks at youth culture ministry and points out that, “What we win them with, is what we win them to. Win them with entertainment, and you’ve created customers – who expect to be continually entertained.”
  • Here’s a book that’s got me curious.   Trevin Wax reviews Chris Armstrong’s book Patron Saints for Postmoderns. “Chris focuses on ten ‘saints’ from Christian history and offers insights from their lives that can be learned and applied today.”
  • Some of the Christian cartoons I use here are a lot of fun.  This one digs a little deeper, and could only be written by someone with an intimate understanding of life in the Charismatic or Pentecostal environment.  So some of you are going to really, really connect with this, and others maybe not so much.   But if you’ve been in those circles, you won’t want to miss this.   Check out World of Dod’s blog.
  • Speaking of all things Charismatic, over a week ago Christianity Today did a really good article on that community’s voice of reason, Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady.   I also recommend subscribing to Lee’s weekly e-mail, although it’s bundled with other things from Strang Communications, so it’s an all or nothing subscription.
  • Our iKettle still needs the support of our Canadian readers.   Money given to the Salvation Army stays in the donor’s community.   Click here.
  • Jessica at the general-interest blog, Indexed accurately sums up why people feel the way they do about their wealth.    It’s all relative.    Ain’t that the truth!
  • Paul Stoecklein, author of the general market humor book You Had Me At Idiot, has a very irreverent post about surviving the Thanksgiving holiday in a ‘religious’ family.  Sample:  “Protestants are different. With them, saying grace is like really bad performance art. I swear, I think these people believe that saying grace should have been one of the categories on Star Search… Read — if you dare — the whole piece here. [HT: Shallow Frozen Water blog]

  • Christian apologist Josh McDowell and coauthor David Sterrett discuss why they wrote a book, titled ‘O’ God, about Oprah Winfrey and why they don’t think Christians are equipped to respond to Oprah’s ‘teaching.’  This link takes you a four minute video on YouTube.
  • Speaking of Christian Apologists, New York Magazine profiles Timothy Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the Big Apple.  “Although relatively few secular New Yorkers know about it—Keller prefers to keep Redeemer mostly under the media radar… —an Evangelical Christian megachurch is growing in the heart of Manhattan.”
  • Carlos Whitaker invites readers at his blog, Ragamuffin Soul, to leave their favorite quotation.   So far, over 80 responses, but plenty of room for you to add yours.

Blog at WordPress.com.