Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moral Relativism in the Postmodern Church

I had an interesting experience recently to attend a diversity conference in Salem.  While diversity is not a term with which I am always at ease--primarily on account of its most vociferous supporters' proclivity for using it as a weapon with which to pound conservatives--my feelings on the topic have somewhat softened of late.  Someday I'll tell the whole account, but suffice to say that I have had a realization that sometimes it's important to lend support to a movement when it helps brings about the greater good.  While there may be elements of the diversity movement which strike me as unhealthy and cliche-ridden, the bottom line is that it draws attention to what many of us Christians either are doing already or should have been be doing all along: engaging our fellow man with respect and courtesy.  (The fact that many of its supporters exclude conservatives from all the other differences they are quick to praise is unfortunate.)

As I commented in another blog post recently concerning "Lost in Translation," I think I recognize now more than in the past that racism sometimes takes a more subtle and insidious grasp than we may realize.  So, even if some dimensions of the movement are troubling, I support it insofar as it helps bring respect and courtesy to communications with those of different ethnic or social backgrounds.  That's the Christian thing to do, after all.

Dr. Delman Coates
Returning to the previously mentioned conference, I was excited to have the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Dr. Delmar Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Maryland.  This is described as a "mega Church" with thousands of members.  I quickly realized in the session Dr. Coates was giving that he seemed more comfortable with the world than the relatively conservative positions with which the Baptist denomination is usually associated.  He began, for instance, in suggesting that the Golden Rule needed to be updated to the Platinum Rule where we do unto others as they want to be treated.  While this kind of thing wouldn't bother me so much from a "regular Joe," I find it troubling when a pastor explains in a secular setting how a section of Gospel could be updated.  Teachers, after all, are held to a higher standard.  When the good pastor began to praise the benefits of gay marriage, I lost hope in him entirely.  If a Christian minister can turn a blind eye to the sanctity of marriage, what will come next?

It raises the larger question, though, of why so many Christian denominations seem to be losing their way and surrendering to the siren call of moral relativism and confirming the spiritual law--if you will--of moral entropy.  We're used to hearing the old materialistic arguments from the secular world, but now pastors are rallying against important teachings of the Bible, seeking to undermine the very nature and meaning of marriage itself. Having been baptized in the Baptist Church as a child, I am keenly aware of how far some of its churches are now drifting away from the straight and narrow way of Christ--from Pastor Coates to Pastor Terry Jones.  While it's no secret that we have since made the journey home to the Catholic Church, the states of the Baptist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian denominations at present seem particularly saddening--especially when we recall Christ's call for unity.  Pastor Coates would apparently dismiss a good deal of the New Testament--especially perhaps the stern warnings of Saint Paul-- in his quest for peace with the world.  They would exchange it all for a peace with a passing age instead of embracing the timeless message of the Gospel.

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