Monday, June 23, 2008

Letting them down...the other ED

A recent article in the Washington Post reports on the work of Douglas LaBier, PhD - a clinical psychologist with the Center for Adult Development. He, along with a growing number of clinicians, are noting that modernists are increasingly unable to empathize with others. This is even true of people whom we would expect to have a high degree of empathy (like physicians).

Anybody that knows me would never call me the touchy-feely type. My psychological profile showed that I have a high ability to understand where people are coming from, contextualize their responses, help them articulate it and map out a plan of action for dealing with it, etc. But I don't normally "feel" their hurt with them. I leave it to others to determine if that's an impediment to ministry.

But I will say this - it's just a prelude. We've been teaching people that they have no intrinsic worth as creatures in God's own image. We abort our future (setting us up for a collapse of our entitlement system). We export the care of our elderly.

Jesus said that in the end times the love of many would "wax cold" (AV - though I prefer the ESV). It would be recognized by:
1) A great falling away from the faith. This is apostasy, as well as run-of-the-mill indifference.
2) Loyalty will disappear. (Hey BHO - how's it going with your mentors and staff?)
3) Indifference would give way to hatred. (Think Ann Coulter and Huffington Posters)
4) False prophets. I think I've blogged plenty about the false prophets on the left, but the right is full of them, too.
5) Lawlessness, iniquity, whatever.... We make ourselves the standard by which all else is measured, and thus can do as we please. Covenants and laws mean nothing except as temporary cease fires before yet another salvo of self-will.
It seems like every morning, we wake up to a world where violence and perversion and callousness had done it's best to double overnight. Americans (British, too) have a sense that morality is on the decline.

Is the picture grim? Yes. The horizon of western civilization seems to promise increasing irrelevance as our narcissistic entertainment culture becomes so self-absorbed that it can't see beyond its own glandular discharges.

Is it something we're to despair about? Not really - after all, Christians have faced as much in the past. In fact, we found it a fertile ground for growth. The recent atmosphere of carelessness and apathy provide a genuine open space for Christians to live out our vocation. It won't be done by large movements, protests, position papers, or any other means. What will make the difference is individual Christians (and Christian communities) living out their faith towards others.

Here's a secret that evangelicalism and emergentism have forgotten. When Christians stick out because of their counter-cultural values, the world takes notice.

For instance, consider the love and sacrifice Christians displayed in Roman times when devastating plagues arrived. At the onset of a plague, the wealthy patricians fled to their country estates. But Christians - convinced that each human being was made in the image of God - stayed behind to minister among plague victims. Tending to the sick increased the survival rate of plague victims by as much as two-thirds, and this witness attracted many new converts (it more than replaced the loss of Christians to the plague). By acting on the teachings of Christ, without regard to their own welfare, these Christians progressed from being a small sect to the dominant cultural group.

The teachings of Christianity give people a reason to care for the sick, the desperate, and destitute. Only Jesus taught that His followers could find Him in their neighbor. Our witness in the midst of adversity, pain, and sacrifice can be the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to break through the hardened heart of a stubborn unbeliever.

Let's get to work.

1 comment:

backwoodspresbyterian said...

Quality Stuff Chris.

While the Brothels and Sewers of Ancient Rome (and Caesarea, Ephesus, etc...) were full of the bones of fetuses and infants Christians would go down and rescue the tossed out newborns. May we do the same during this time of infanticide when all that separates life from death is 1/8 in of skin. May God forgive us for our acquiescence and apathy.