Monday, May 29, 2017

When The Salt Has Lost Its Savor

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
                                                                                             Matthew 5:13 (King James Bible)

These are Jesus' words to his disciples.  He is using the concept of salf as a preservative (which it was in the Roman world) to stress the need for his followers to stand strong in the values of their faith in God. Without that willingness, they are literally good for nothing in His eyes.

Of course, one doesn't have to look in the Bible to find Christian values.  One can find them easily enough elsewhere in literature, especially classic literature such as Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre." Jane's lover, Edward Rochester, attempts to deceive Jane into marriage while he is still married to another woman no longer sane enough to be a wife.  He is, ultimately, effectively punished for this when his wife burns down his home and he, in the process of trying to save her, loses his sight and one of his hands.  Jane ultimately forgives and marries him, and subsequently, he not only regains sight in one eye but is allowed to see his eyes as they used to be in the child he and Jane have.  His reflection on this is that God has tempered judgment with mercy.

Judgment and mercy.  Sin and redemption.  High standards to live up to, but forgiveness for those who acknowledge their shortcomings.  These, in effect, are the positive and negative poles of Christianity, as learned by me in church, and as re-learned during my adult years in a former life as a born-again Christian.

I say "former life" because, over the course of about 12 years, I witnessed too much hypocrisy when it comes to the dispensation of judgment and mercy in the evangelical world, especially when it came to politics and politicians.  The very born-again Jimmy Carter was deemed insufficiantly Christian (translation:  insufficiently conservative) by believers of a Republican persuasion, who where led by their power-hungry pastors to support the not-so-very-church-going Ronald Reagan. That was nearly 40 years ago.  From the vantage point of the Gospels, and otherwise, it's all been downhill from there.

In fact, it has gotten to the point at which a man can brag about adultery in the crudest, most denigrating terms when it comes to describing women, and not only be elected to the White House, but, in doing so, to have the support of the entire evangelical political leadership of this country, who preferred the aforesaid man to a woman who had forgiven her own husband for multiple, similar offenses.

That is what evangelical Christianity in America has become in the past four decades.  Judgment against those who extend mercy when requested, while extending mercy to those who do not even stop to ask for it.  And why not?  If that's what it takes to grip America by the--well, by the whatever--then so be it.  As for what G-d thinks about all of this?  Best not to ask.  You may find yourself to be former salt, ready to be trampled under foot.

How bad is it?  Consider the case of this young woman, who made a mistake in a relationship and is now expecting a child.  She has been honest about her mistake.  She has affirmed her desire to carry her unborn child to term.  She has dealt, in short, with a very painful situation with tremendous integrity and candor--and for that, she is being punished by her school by not being allowed to be part of its graduation procession.

Let me be as clear about this as possible;  the school in question is, theoretically, a Christian school. And, to use Mr. Rochester's formulation, they have chosen judgment over mercy. And these folks seriously wonder why many women in similar situations seek abortions? One is forced to wonder how the thus-far anonymous father would be treated if he were in the position of Maddi Runkles.  If one is a student of social history, sadly, one doesn't have to wonder for long.

It is painfully clear that, for the most part, at the leadership level, the "salt" of evangelical Christianity has lost any claim to savor.  It should rightly be trampled under foot by those it would claim to lead. Thankfully, there are some signs that this is happening.  Take a look.  Take another.

How long, O Lord, before your mercy has reached its limits and your judgment against those who have sold their souls will no longer tarry?  Not long, I pray.  Not long.

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