“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Christian Life - Part V - The Cult of Rights

As I stated previously, some of these posts are related -- here you will find that the Cult of Individualism feeds this practice. I know that both the title and the subject matter presented here may be contentious, but I see this going on not only in my church but in several I am associated with.

Here in the US we are obssessed with OUR rights! Now, that may seem wonderful on the face of it, but when I say this, I mean OUR rights to the exclusion of others rights -- in other words, individual 'rights' trump the rights of the many. Our country will continue to wrestle with this, but where it impacts the Body of Christ it needs to be addressed.

This issue stems from the fact that the Christian community has adopted and adapted the world view of the society around it, rather than impacting society with their worldview. So we see that, ofttimes, Christians are some of the more self-centered, and self-absorbed groups around -- now, when I say this I also realize that there are many groups who do not fall into this category, but overall, the Western Church, especially as found in the US struggles mightily with this.

How does it manifest itself? First, and foremost -- in rebellion against God and His Word. I have often heard this -- "I know what it says in the Bible, but I have the right to live my life as I see fit" or "I know that the Bible says I am living in sin, but you just don't understand". More and more Christians look like the world -- in their divorce rate, in their racial discrimination, in their outlook, etc.

The Cult of Rights has been propagated by those who have built large churches around the teaching of self-esteem, and self-love; now some may say that those are hard words, but I have read the books of these pastors, and have heard them speak. They are all about feel-good messages that have no substance, nor impact in the believers life. The Cult of Rights is perpetuated because it is the way to get a large congregation -- but it is in direct conflict with the Word of God.

How do we know that we are affected by the Cult of Rights? Here are a few indicators:

You may be struggling with this if you are living in direct rebellion to God's Word, and rationalize it with the fact that it is 'your right' to do so. (an example would be this -- getting a divorce because you are unhappy, rather than working through it in a Biblical manner -- it is your 'right' in our society to do so, but it is against God's Word. Another example -- obtaining an abortion, because it is a woman's right 'to chose', rather than working through it in a Biblical fashion.)

You may be struggling with this if you, or your church, spends all of its money and time on things that are not advancing the Kingdom of God -- such as the millions spent on increasing the comfort of the edifice that some call the church, while the neighborhood around it crumbles. It is 'your right' to spend the money the way you see fit, however it is not Biblical -- James says that pure and undefiled religion is visiting widows and orphans in their affliction and staying unstained from worldly ways! I live within spitting distance of several of the largest churches around, yet some of them are in neighborhoods where many struggle at subsistence level.

You may be struggling through this if you put yourself before the Body of Christ -- this is a major one -- church has become all about us (see Cult of Individualism), and this has a by-product, the Cult of Rights. In Acts we see the church selling the things they owned to take care of the Body -- in the Modern Church it is uncommon, if not downright extinct, to find people willing to give above their 'ten percent' to help out someone else in the Body. Why? Because, they 'earned' their money, and by golly it is their 'right' to spend it in a way that they see fit!

You may be struggling with this if you are about as ecologically minded as Exxon. This is a contentious one, and that is fine, but we are not called to be squanderers of God's world, but stewards. I am always amazed at how few Christians recycle, or buy recycled, by how many people in the Church think that anyone who eats and lives generally green, are pagans and tree-worshippers. It is as if anyone who actually is trying to live a life that allows for a future (should the Lord tarry), for their children has adopted a pagan outlook, when it reality it is the Christian community which should set the bar for stewarding God's creation! So many Christians that I have talked with, when they find out that I generally shop for green type products, have rolled their eyes and said "And you are a pastor?!" as if somehow doing so put me outside the pale of orthodoxy!

You may be struggling with this if you are all about tax-reform, and welfare-reform. Now, before you go crazy on me, and rant and rave about government waste etc., understand what I am saying -- I am not against either one of those things, but (IMHO) this is what we should be pushing for:

Tax-Reform: Absolutely, but rather than constantly trying to get more money back, what if Christians rallied around the fact that we would gladly pay our taxes if they were used properly, for the care and education of the people. Yes, the government is corrupt, it is a man-centered environment, but we should do our level best to influence it for good. We look like Ebenezer Scrooge when the 'Christian Coalition' goes on TV and never once mentions Christ and His redeeming work, but focuses on how much money the government wastes, and how we want it back. We should absolutely focus on government waste, but then present ways to use it more wisely, and for the benefit of the people who need it. Tragically, the 'Christian Coalition' is less Christian, and more coalition -- basically it has become a hack for the Republican party.

Welfare-Reform: This goes hand-in-hand with the tax reform issue. We want people off the welfare rolls, and I am right there with those who say that; but let me ask you, what is your church doing to actively assist? This area used to be the bailiwick of the Church, but when she stopped performing this task, the government took over, and like all governmental things, they did a mediocre job. Stop blaming the government, and adopt a family -- help them by not only providing for them physically, but spiritually -- we have done that in a few cases and the results have been remarkable! Again, the church rallies behind a political party and rants about 'their money' and how it is being wasted on Godless things/people, but can we honestly say that we are spending our money more Godly than the government?

What if the government took the position of saying that the church can keep its tax-exempt status only if it contributes to the good of the society by taking in a family, or families (you could base this on the size of the church), and helping them to get off the welfare system? Or if they had a sliding scale that enabled the church to be tax-exempt to a certain percentage, based upon their work with the local 'widows and orphans', or to the degree to which they maintained a sustainable system of recycle etc.? I know that these are simply rough ideas thrown out for consideration, so please don't comment on how impractical they are -- they should be considered starting points, not finished thoughts.

We need to get over ourselves, and our newfound political power/rights, and do something that doesn't involve us strengthening our position as the guardians of the world system -- it is corrupt, and we, who are in the Kingdom of God, need to pursuing God's agenda rather than furthering our own, and our favorite political party's ends!

Let me add this caveat as I inevitably get a comment when this is discussed: I am not saying that we divorce ourselves from the political process, rather I am saying that we work within the system to do God's work, and stop building ourselves up.

So how can we start? Well how about this:

Romans 12:1-3;13-21

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned....
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Brothers and sisters -- this passage and many others like it tell us to do the exact opposite of the Cult of Rights propogated by the modern churches and para-church organizations. We are to be self-sacrificing, humble, and peaceable; not rights-minded, rude, wasteful and arrogant!

Every time the church has gotten obssessed with its 'rights' throughout history, corruption was not far behind! Let us begin to work for the advancement of God's Kingdom, and spend less time fortifying our position, and screaming about 'our rights'.

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