In today’s Christian community, it is nearly impossible to provoke outrage. Whether this is a result of the pacifism ensconced in the heart of many of America’s most influential churches, or whether we’ve lost our righteous indignation by overcompensating from what has been perceived as the Puritanical prohibition of our preceding generations, it isn’t clear and ultimately it does not matter. What
does should matter is that the Christian community seems to save all of its outrage and scorn for one target: anyone who dares to criticize the Christian community from within.
If you want to spark a bare-knuckle cage match, mention an unbiblical stance taken by a prominent Christian leader in this country. And then duck. All of the outrage and vitriol which should have been directed at those who are undermining the credibility of the Gospel and taking the Lord’s name in vain, will be mortared in your direction. I have seen it happen time and again in a bizarre, cannibalistic charade of self-righteousness and intellectual confusion. Instead of standing for God’s righteousness and speaking against evil, these woebegone milksops stand for evil and speak against God’s righteousness.
This phenomenon manifests itself in a number of ways. It includes apologists for the naked greed and plutocracy of Prosperity Pimps like Creflo Dollar, Eddie Money, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers, and others. The tolerance and adoring acceptance shown to cross-over artists like Joel Osteen, who has managed to marry the health-and-wealth gospel with Eastern mysticism.
We see a benevolent indulgence of overt enemies to the cross of Christ when they pay lip-service to their “Christian beliefs”; politicians like Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden practically raise a hand to swear they follow the path of the Lord Jesus while with their other hand they sign bills and orders which finance the wholesale slaughter of innocent fetuses in our country and others.
Most recently, we’ve seen defenders of Jim Daly as he absconds from the mission statement of Focus on the Family to pursue “the Gospel”, as if spreading the Gospel and edifying American families were mutually exclusive activities. Many believers give intellectual approbation and theological cover for “pastors” such as Rob Bell and Jim Wallis, despite the fact that they repudiate basic Scriptural foundations with their words, books, and actions.
One would hope that the righteous anger of the Lord’s disciples would be heaped on these charlatans who use the name and blood of Messiah like a letterman’s jacket because it helps them get into all the right parties. But if this was so, how would this crowd be able to achieve the level of prosperity and renown which they have attained? If Joel Osteen was properly recognized as the snake-oil salesman that he is, he wouldn’t be the pastor of the largest church in America. He wouldn’t be leering at us from the racks of the New York Times Bestseller list at the front of the book store. He would be preaching out of the trunk of an El Camino, getting run out of one town after another once folks got wind of his spineless Buddhist-Christianity.
The sad fact is that most of Christendom would rather bite the tongue and look the other way than confront sin in someone who claims to speak for their Lord. And when a brave soul does stand and speak against the evil masquerading as good, they are pilloried for their efforts. The troubling thing is that much of the fragging comes from within the Christian community. Like one of the Old Testament prophets, these brave souls are verbally stoned and left for dead outside the city gates, all because they dared to question the validity of a ministry or organization which bears the mantle of our Lord.
Is this Biblical? Is this the proper response to those who would speak out against prominent leaders in the church? Paul tells Timothy in his first letter, “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest may fear.” Paul himself rebukes the entire Galatian church for their errant embrace of legalism. When the big dog himself, Peter, was in error, Paul confronted him with it. First Paul took him aside to try and deal with it privately and when that didn’t work, Paul confronted him in front of the entire assembly. He tells the Romans to “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” We’ve changed this to “Abhor what is critical. Cling to what sounds good. ”
The bottom line is that not only are we permitted to question the motives and actions of the leaders of our churches when they stray into unbiblical territory, we have an obligation to do so. The Bible offers a crystal-clear method of doing so. Christ says to first remove the beam from your own eye, but He doesn’t stop there, does He? Remove our beam . . . so that we can help our brother remove the splinter from his. The Lord is telling us not to be hypocritical, He’s not forbidding criticism. If I love Joel Osteen as myself, how can I NOT warn him about the dangers of adding and subtracting from the Word of God?
Christians need to take a step back and refocus. The Apostle Paul has ceased to be our guide, instead we’ve settled for Ned Flanders. Western society is decaying more quickly as each year passes and we are too busy running popularity contests to be the salt and light which we’re called to be. Let us stop shooting the messenger and re-train our sights on those who use our Lord’s name like a debit card.