Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sanctification II: The Work We Are Called To Do

Fr. Dale Matson

As both a Psychologist and an Anglican Priest, I ask myself questions about what constitutes the attributes of a Christian, how are Christians different than those who are not Christians and are new Christians different from older Christians? Is there some kind of emotional patina evident to others as we age?  From the perspective of Science, does Christianity offer a method or treatment with observable outcomes? Does regular church attendance, Scripture reading, service to others makes a difference? Do we become what we practice? Is there a change of personality sometimes referred to as conversion of manners? Is what we call the fruits of the Spirit evident in Christian lives?  Do Christians respond differently to the events in their world? Are they more resilient than others?

The United States has traditionally been considered to be a Judeo Christian Culture but there is an observable process of erasure occurring. We no longer have blue laws. There is no longer prayer or Christian music allowed in public schools. The Ten Commandments and Christian symbols like crosses have been banned or removed from public settings. Reference to God on coins and the pledge of allegiance have been challenged. President Obama stated in 2008 that we were no longer a Christian nation. We can no longer expect our culture to favor or foster our Christianity. Christmas break is now winter break and Easter Break is now spring break in schools. In fact we may be eventually again persecuted for our Christian faith. Here is my question. “Is our faith, imbedded in our culture since the beginning of our nation, dependent on our culture for its survival?”

England recently experienced several nights of rioting and mayhem, the government of David Cameron responded by saying that it would have to build programs to address the years of moral collapse. The Bishop of Manchester the Rt. Revd. Nigel McCulloch stated, “I suspect there may be little recognition of the relentless erosion of Christian values in this country that has taken place during the lifetime of successive governments. The result has been a moral deficit in private and public life that has spawned acquisitiveness and dishonesty. It is evident among all levels of our society. Over the past few decades, we have nurtured confusion among people of all ages and backgrounds over what is right and what is wrong. This week we had an unpleasant glimpse of the default position to which society inevitably returns when its moral imperatives have been sidelined.” My question again, “Is a faith embedded in English culture and an established religion dependent on those institutions?”

In light of this, as an ordinary Christian, I would like to make a case for what it means to be a Christian in a culture that is increasingly pagan and sometimes openly hostile to Christians. What is the ordinary path the Christian is intended to walk as he or she matures in the faith? A man in Norway who self-identified as a fundamentalist Christian recently murdered over seventy innocent civilians. He was identified by the press and police as a Christian terrorist. I do not believe the words Christian and terrorist would have been connected thirty years ago but today Christianity has been purposely uncoupled from culture and recoupled to extremism. Where is our memory of genuine Christian behavior demonstrated by Marian Fisher the Amish girl who offered her life to save her friends from a gunman?

We cannot depend on our culture to be the good soil for the growth of the Kingdom of God nor should we. I believe it is our Lord’s charge to His church to feed His sheep and equip His saints for service. As Anglicans, I believe we must not allow ourselves to be coopted by the culture. As a church, we must not allow our work to be outsourced to our governments.  We must do what we have traditionally done and that is to prepare our sheep in this life as citizens for God’s Kingdom now and in eternity. The growth medium of the Christian is the body of Christ and it is time for the Church to awaken to her responsibility to her sheep. Amen     



St. Nikao said...

Which has come first, the culture sliding into immorality and confusion or the church? Or did the slide into theological liberalism and Spongianism (sexual libertinism) of the Western Church open the door to the rise of atheism, apathy and amorality, first in academia and in Western culture?

There is an old saying, 'As the Church goes, so goes the nation.'
Some say 'as the family goes, so goes the nation'. Rampant divorce, and now same-sex unions both depart from God's intent and design and have diminished the stability and security and humanity of children. Others say 'as the pulpit goes, so goes the nation'.

The Western Church and governments have rebelled, ignored, compromised and exempted certain people from God's law, so now the nations have laws that allow us to break all of God's laws and some that force us to do so.

Repentance and returning to God and His holy law is the only answer...and the beginning of wisdom, sanity and sanctification.

Dale Matson said...

When Bishop McCulloch states,"we have nurtured confusion among people of all ages and backgrounds over what is right and what is wrong.", I hope he is including the church in his indictment.