Opinions on faith and life

The Road to Hell

2010-08-18

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It means that the good one intends to do is worthless if it’s never put into action. As it says in 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” It can be extended to include starting some good thing but not finishing it (Acts 20:24, 2 Cor. 9:4-5).

But I’d propose that it can be extended as well to the human capacity for either denying or being ignorant of the consequences or logical conclusions of one’s beliefs, or to join groups that champion a good cause as a cover for an evil cause.

For example, a person can have a genuine heart for animals and sincerely oppose cruelty to them, and they may join a group such as PETA. But they may not be aware, or choose to ignore, PETA’s hypocrisy and ultimate agenda. I’ve seen reports of PETA members being caught abusing animals, and quotes of their goal of destroying western civilization and ultimately wipe the “cancer” of humanity from the earth. Can those who join this group claim they do not condone what the group does? Can they continue to support it without sharing the guilt of its crimes? Or take Islam for another example. The “moderates” claim they don’t condone what the radicals do, but they have to deny or invent novel interpretations of their holy books to condemn what the radicals practice.

In the same way, there are groups, systems, and teachings under the very vague and broad umbrella called “Christianity” that blend good with evil or law with grace (Mt. 13:24-30, Luke 5:36-39, Gal. 5:9). Many who are involved in these will try to distance themselves from the “extremists” or “fringe” and claim only the good parts as their own. Yet how is this possible, without denying the whole thing in principle? They may claim to only be “separating wheat from chaff”, but then again, they may really be “eating at the table of idols”.

The key difference between those two things is whether the part can logically be separated from the whole. If the whole brings us to a certain conclusion, can anyone just say “I don’t agree with that” and still keep the arguments or principles that lead there? I don’t think they can. Granted they may not have thought through the implications of what they believe, but neither can they cry foul when someone points it out to them.

A specific example would be the common claim that the many pastors who are humble servants cannot be guilty of pride or “lording over”, even though the very teaching of hierarchy in the Body of Christ necessarily leads to that conclusion. If someone is convinced that they exercise God-given authority over other believers, how can this ever be reconciled with “not so among you”? How can it not be called “pride”, regardless of the sincere desire of the one holding this power to wield it benevolently? Can they read the scriptures against hierarchy and also believe that God would turn completely around and establish it? These are two mutually-exclusive principles! To have convinced oneself that the impossible is true is not humility but self-delusion.

Likewise for male supremacy. The same God who said “not so among you”, “no lording over” (NOT “benevolent lording over”), “submit to one another”, and “in Christ there is no male and female”, could never contradict Himself and say “This does not apply between male and female”. And since even the mildest form of male supremacy preserves the arguments and proof-texts of the most extreme, we cannot separate one from the other. It would be like taking a trip to a certain city but stopping at the outskirts because you don’t like that city and don’t agree with what goes on there. You tell other people to take the route you took, but that they too should never actually go into the city. They are only fooling themselves.

So the next time I hear someone defend any sort of hierarchy in the Body of Christ, I will ask them to explain how they can deliberately take the route that leads to that “bad place” but claim not to have wanted to go there. I will ask them how they can recommend a famous steak house but tell everyone the steak is terrible. And I will ask them how they can believe all the teachings of hierarchy but claim they don’t condone practicing it.

Is your pastor “just another servant”? Then why single them out among all the spiritual gifts? Are the husband and wife equal in being? Then why is the man the designated leader of the woman, in spite of all other qualities and abilities? And what exactly is the point of giving lip service to either hierarchy if it is not to be practiced (e.g. “soft comp”)? Or how can monetary giving be voluntary and coerced at the same time (and be honest: guilting someone into giving “cheerfully” is coercion!)? Or how can God force someone to sin and then punish them for sinning, without first giving them a chance to turn from it?

We need to grow up now; we need to face the consequences and implications of our beliefs; we need to “own” what we support or promote. We must stop beliving contradictory things or making excuses for tacit support of those who teach such contradictions.

3 Comments

Hannah Thomas

I remember once upon a time I would question items you have mentioned, and compared bits of scripture to another. People would tell me it didn’t apply, and when I would ask why not? They were always evasive to me. When I was really small? BECAUSE IT DOESN’T they would tell me. Almost like an ’I told you so that’s why’ type of tone.

I remember feeling completely stupid. WHY was it everyone else got it, and I didn’t? I figured they approached me this way, because it was completely clear to everyone else. Just like the question, "What color is that?" "Blue." AHHH! It went completely over my head, and made me feel so small. I couldn’t see the blue that everyone else saw.

It was such a relief when I became an adult, and found out that there were others besides me that didn’t grasp their points they claim they represent. It was nice for others to help me fill in the holes, and build up the wreckage.

When people use diversion or get defensive they normally aren’t standing on stable ground. They just think they are, because everyone around them said so. At times, I think they act like that because unlike me they refuse to ask questions. Someone might make them feel smaller.

It’s so strange.

Sonnet

"And since even the mildest form of male supremacy preserves the arguments and proof-texts of the most extreme, we cannot separate one from the other."

So very true! And from the mildest to the most extreme, it still leads to the conclusion that women are spiritually inferior to men no matter how often the hierarchalists claim that it doesn’t.

Paula Fether

@Hannah: There’s also the guilt factor. I remember how shame was used in our family to suppress any questioning of the way things had always been. It just wasn’t done. So you get in the habit of keeping your "indiscretions" to yourself, and by the time you grow up, you have been conditioned to keep the "oath of silence". And so the traditions, right or wrong, are perpetuated. Those who have likewise been conditioned can’t allow others to escape, and see anyone who does as a threat. It’s lifelong mind control.

@Sonnet: If only we could get people to think rationally about where their beliefs take them.