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Thursday, April 22, 2010
Stories like this one of a Christian wife and mother leaving her husband and child for another man and so many like it (it would take more than my twenty fingers and toes to count all of the Christians I've personally known who have had their spouse leave them - and in some cases, a number of children - for another person) make me wonder what the foundational problem is in so many Christian marriages. If this were merely a problem among unsaved men and women, no big surprise. But it's an epidemic among Christians (or professed Christians, at least). And in my personal experience, it's primarily a case of a wife leaving the husband for another man (or woman). I wonder if there is a root cause (besides individual sinfulness) behind it. Is there a systemic problem in American churches that this is somehow a reasonable thing to consider? I cannot fathom what kind of mindset would lead someone to do this. I certainly understand the sinful propensity to be unfaithful... but for the grace of God there go us all. But what makes someone take the additional step of not only cheating on your spouse but utterly deserting him (and your children) as well? I'm at a loss at how one allows this evil thinking to creep in.

I wonder if there is a systemic problem in the American church, and if so, is it this: the idea that God is primarily focused on making His followers happy and content in this life, and He's fine with whatever means we use to attain that happiness and damn the consequences. We see this most obviously in the so-called Prosperity Gospel churches, but I am certain it has subtly crept into most traditional, Gospel-centered churches as well. Now, in many cases, the churches where these unfaithful deserters attended have probably not taught anything like this type of specious self-centeredness. But maybe they haven't done much of a job teaching AGAINST it either; that's more likely the problem. After all, the culture is teaching it. I don't think you could go a day without seeing an example of the secular culture promoting individual "freedom" and self-expression as moral virtues. But what is the Church doing to actively counteract that? We need pulpits grabbing people by the collar and screaming "HEY DOOFUS, GOD DOESN'T REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR FLEETING HAPPINESS, HE CARES ABOUT YOUR HOLINESS!!!!!!" Okay, in some cases maybe without the screaming or name-calling.

This message needs to be particularly focused on Christian women, who, more so than today's men, get constantly fed the self-centered, emotionally-based drivel about personal happiness, self-esteem, and fulfillment. "Be happy," "find your purpose," and so on ad nauseam. Your "purpose" is to honor God, not yourself! Our culture at least still has some vestiges left of responsibility when it comes to men (if it had been the husband who left in the aforementioned story, the law would have required that he at least pay child support), but for women, society pretty much eschews any idea of personal responsibility. If a woman doesn't "feel" her "needs" being "met," she's perfectly justified to meet them somewhere else. I wonder if the Church has just become an outpost of this same mentality. If so, couching it in spiritual terms and (weakly) supporting it up with Scripture merely serves to make people twice a child of Hell than they would have been if left to their own devices and the societal forces around them. People need a counter-cultural Christianity rather than a sub-cultural one.


Steve Martin said...

Nice going, Darius!

Chasing after the thin soup of temporal happiness and self-fullfilment has messed up more lives and driven more people away from God than we could ever imagine.

It happened to me, too.

Thankfully, the Lord dragged my sorry behind back into the fold.

Chris A said...

I believe that we can absolutely establish that God intends His children to live happy, fulfilled lives. This particular problem finds itself in how one defines happiness and fulfillment. There is an American happiness that is really just the result of propaganda enabling carnality, the constant bombardment of messages promising that some pleasure, product, invention, or drug will improve our lives. It is really a manipulation of peoples' hopes as a marketing ploy. It is leveraging the "American dream." Our culture is full of this stuff. It is an appeal to the basest of animal impulses (reptilian brain) in order sell you products or simply propaganda. When you program someone to yield their members over to uncleanness, it becomes natural for them; in fact, it already is anyway.

Contrast this example of biblical happiness with the American happiness:

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified." (1 Peter 4:14)

The same thing can be said of prosperity. The question is not whether it is a biblical concept, that question is settled. All you have to do is read the Bible. The question is how you define prosperity. If you define it in terms of how much you can consume because of lust, that isn't anywhere close to the biblical concept. If you define prosperity in terms of how many Federal Reserve notes you can amass, that isn't it either. In fact, that's just plain stupid anyway because the currency will probably be drastically debased within the next 5-10 years anyway.

So really because of the redefinition of these terms by culture and by the interpretation of Scripture to conform to cultural concepts, we are in a linguistic crisis because people equate temporal pleasure with happiness and it isn't anything of the sort really.

Darius said...

I agree Chris, and I knew you'd probably have something to say about God wanting His people to be happy. I was ranting against the idea that happiness is the ultimate goal, as opposed to a side benefit of loving Christ. We don't pursue God because He's going to make us happy or prosperous. We love Him because He's glorious and is the Being that is most worthy of love. A by-product is that by loving God, we are also very happy and content. The culture and many Christians flip that script and say instead that happiness is the ultimate aim in life. "If you're not happy, then you need to do something about it, even if that something is completely immoral." The sub-cultural Church/believer adds "and God supports that because He wants you to be happy."

This narcissism has bred many of the societal problems we see today. Homosexuality/sexual perversion - check. Abortion - check. Materialism - check. Divorce rates - check. Gender misidentiy - check. Skyrocketing domestic abuse/murder - check.

Nathanael said...

I think that a subpoint of this is that church leaders often fail to explain the nature of marriage to their flocks (and many probably do not understand it themselves). When our culture is not degrading marriage, it tends to present it as the end and fulfillment of human life. How many chick flicks end at the engagement or wedding with an implied "happily ever after" and how many churches challenge this view? How many buy into the idea of a "soulmate" and all the relational laziness that comes with it?

Darius said...

Good point, Nathanael.

Much of this needs to start early, in youth groups and young adults classes (as well as in the pulpit). Instead, many churches merely react to the carnage with marriage counseling and conferences. Those are great, but only part of the solution.

Darius said...

Another reason for the epidemic that just occurred to me is the prevalent mindset (even among Christians) that you don't really have to grow up until you're nearly 30. Go to college, goof off for five or six years, eventually get a degree, go home and live with your parents, get a job to pay for a trip abroad, and so on. Finally about age 27, settle down and start looking for a permanent job and wife. Relationally, people follow the same idea. Date a bunch of people, don't be terribly committed to any of them, and just have fun while you're young (Christians just add "but don't have sex").

What this sets people up for is a mid-life crisis where nostalgic dreaming makes them wish for those years of independence and youth, and the excitement of fleeting love. And really, one can hardly blame them if their young adult years were so vacuously fun.

Putting off adulthood is rarely a good idea, and it can reap some pretty dreadful rewards in the long run.

Chris A said...

"How many chick flicks end at the engagement or wedding with an implied "happily ever after" and how many churches challenge this view? How many buy into the idea of a 'soulmate' and all the relational laziness that comes with it?"

I never thought about that, but I completely agree. You can scarcely overestimate the power of the arts to influence a culture.

Movies and television are perhaps the greatest influential forms of media that will ever be invented. Your rational mind goes to sleep as you are manipulated via the messages that slip through during the semi-hypnotic, emotional state.

Over the past year I have become very selective about what I allow myself to watch, and I watch television like once a month if that. I can tell you that its like waking up after being asleep your whole life. You realize the power of these messages and its hold over people and the hold it has lost on you - its ability to make you who someone wants you to be without your even knowing it. It also makes you a bit of a loner, but its so worth it to be free.

If you want to understand how modern day propaganda placement works, you have to acquire a basic understanding of Pavlovian conditioning - the psychology of manipulating animals (or humanoids) in such a way as to predict the outcome of behavior by the introduction of specific stimuli aimed at creating the desired effect. When people finally get past the stigma of being a "conspiracy theorist", which is really just a term used to discredit people who understand that things actually do happen on purpose and when they do not the powers that be use them as an opportunity to propagandize, then you understand that the state of our culture and the decline of our society is not a product of happenstance. Like the eugenicists who started Planned Parenthood, the social engineers and ideologues in key positions of influence in foundations and government entities really do have an end game. All that means is that there is a philosophy that guides their actions and they have a clear goal in mind. Is the world chaotic? Of course. Not everything is controlled in the way some suppose, but events are used to steer things in the direction that the philosophy naturally takes us.

So if the Church has been marginalized, there are definite reasons why, a few of the external ones I will state here. First, 501c3 tax exempt status. This is a means of governmental control that threatens to limit free speech. The bark is bigger than the bite, but it is a means of intimidation. Second, the liberalization of seminaries heavily funded by foundation money, namely the Rockefellers. When you intend to build a "New World Order" the last thing you need is an exclusive Christ-centered theology. In its place you need an inclusive liberal relativistic theology leaning toward anything but that - humanism, humanitarianism, universalism, whatever-ism. I could go on.

Man, that was a long rant even for me. I don't intend to do that, but I get carried away. Didn't mean to overshadow your point, Nathanael.

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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