Saturday, April 25, 2009

What do you expect of me?

I was cruising the various right-wing blogs and saw a discussion of Miss California who happens to believe the same thing about gay marriage as President Obama, and for that distinction alone she has been nominated for sainthood by the right. She is an attractive woman who has been photographed as you can see here (scroll down to the last picture).

The photograph shows this young lady holding up a wall and looking backwards. From the look on her face she seems to be inviting the cameraman or someone to assist her in the holding up that wall. Presumably, someone beset by less pure thoughts might think her come-hither look inconsistent with her professed Christianity.

And that's what I'm on about right now. I'm a Christian. What do you expect of me? Should I go around in a white sheet and lynch folks who aren't like me after the fashion of the antagonist in The Foreigner? Should I engage in all manner of sexual misdeeds whilst preaching whatever Reverend Dimsdale preached in The Scarlet Letter? Do you expect me to wag my finger at Ms. Carrie Prejean and insist that she should dress more like Ms. Susan Boyle?

Ms. Prejean is a single lass. And anyone who's read their fair share of Jane Austen novels knows that the raison d'ĂȘtre of every single girl is to attract a rich Colonel Brandon, Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley, and marry him. Nothing wrong with that.

(Why yes, there is a tongue in my cheek. I hoped you'd notice.)

This whole matter suffers from a misapprehension of what Christianity is. It isn't a set of legalisms designed to trip up those less holy than oneself--a sort of moralistic king of the hill where the more righteous knock down the less righteous with a lot of blamestorming. Primarily Christianity is a mechanism for getting rid of one's sin. The role of Law in Christianity is to convince ourselves of our own failings. The role of Christ in Christianity isn't to provide quotes from the Sermon on the Mount, but to die on the Cross providing a mechanism for granting mercy to some.

If you don't understand this, and you've felt the sting of a guilty conscience, then I think you may be inclined to play your game of king of the moral hill. Every time you push a Christian down, you can call him or her a hypocrite and explain away your stinging conscience with something like, "I'm not perfect, but I'm better than that." Or suppose you lose the game of king of the moral hill. Then you can say, "well, at least I'm not a stick-in-the-mud like him."

Christianity really isn't about that kind of game. It's one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. Everyone gets justice or mercy. I happen to need mercy, and I seek it in Christ. It isn't just that I want a "get out of hell free" card, because if I'm going to be saved from my sins, I'm going to have to be saved from doing more sins. And I'm counting on Christ to make that happen in my life. What you can expect from me is a halting, imperfect transition from what I'm doing now to what God expects from me.

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