Monday, December 15, 2008

The Love Caboose

Yesterday, I preached a sermon entitled "The Love Caboose." I got the idea for the title partly from thinking about the O'Jays' song "Love Train" and partly from a column I read this week about Bob Jones University's apology for its racist past. The author of the column asks why evangelical Christianity has so often been at the caboose of Christianity rather than the engine driving cultural change for inclusion and equality. He focuses upon the issue of women in ministry but the same question could be asked of the church's response to homosexuals and a host of other issues. For the cause of God's justice, prophetic foresight is always better than repentant hindsight.

Grace and Peace,



Andrew said...

I think "The Love Caboose" would be a great title for a song from Outkast.

lneely said...

"The Love Caboose" as a title does seem on par with the likes of, "Baby Got Back," or "Back Dat Azz Up."

Anyway, to start off, this isn't intended to degrade Christianity as a personal belief, and I have nothing against moderate and liberal churches like First Christian. It must be made aware, however, that universities like BJU, and churches that support the so-called "traditional" values that are apparently outlined in a literal interpretation of the Bible, are not only at the back end of social progress, they are working actively to undermine it.

The NAACP accepted the BJU apology, and that's fine. If the apology itself is good enough for the NAACP, it's good enough for me. However, I think we need to read deeper, and realize that the statement reflects the bigger picture, and hence, the real problem. It shows us the general BJU mindset: one of self-righteousness, ignorance, insincerity, and most of all, absurdity. N.B., their racist policies continued well into the 1980s, and only ended when the courts forced them to do so, citing the prohibition on racial discrimination as a governmental interest which overrides the university's right to exercise so-called "religious liberty."

Don't get me wrong. Of course it's good that the university has finally caught up with the morality of the 1960s. Certainly, I can respect the fact that they've copped up to their racist past, but to belittle humanism as "superficial" in the same breath? That's utterly ridiculous. To me, that in itself only reinforces the fact that they are continuing, and will continue, to make the exact same mistakes, and continue to justify them with scripture and verse. Though, perhaps in another eighty years, we'll see an apology for their continued, more offensively obvious refusal to admit homosexuals, but I wouldn't hold my breath...

Fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity, same with the fringe sects of all religions, is anti-human at the very core -- people are bad and evil and our only hope of being good people is through, not just a belief in god, but OUR god -- and we can see evidence of that attitude in the BJU statement. They conveniently distort the fact that it is in fact the secular, humanist philosophies that are ultimately responsible for the values we hold in modern civilization: democracy, civil rights, individual freedoms (including that of religion or lack thereof), women's suffrage, condemnation of slavery, equal treatment for all people, the list goes on. They also hide the fact that it is those values that forced them to admit blacks, with no strings attached, in the 1980s.

Modern values are always considered radical, morally objectionable, and even threatening to the establishment, and institutions such as BJU represent that very establishment. Modern values stem mostly from advances in the human mindset: advances away from the literal interpretations, away from recognizing the absolute authority of high priests and monarchs, and toward a demand for evidence and proof, toward a more common sense, rational, humanist approach.

It seems like such a shame that a university, an institution designed to cultivate and nurture independent thought and create good citizens, is instead cultivating ignorance and bigotry... It must be recognized that so long as fundamentalism is tolerated in our society, and so long as mainstream religion subscribes to such ideals, so long as rational thought and "evil" modern values like equality for homosexuals and heathens are condemned by evangelicals, they will always be the "caboose" in this metaphorical train for social progress, and one that derails often.

lneely said...

By the way...

"For the cause of God's justice, prophetic foresight is always better than repentant hindsight."

Well stated, couldn't agree more.