I am now immoral when once I wasn’t, and I didn’t do nothin’. These are my thoughts concerning my recent, rather unpleasant, self-discovery.
Christians are more or less used to being given a hard time for their morality. Even though I have no idea where the old phrase “goody-two-shoes” came from, I’ve heard it enough to roughly know what it means. Never mind. My curiosity just got the better of me, and Google is handy, so if Wikipedia is right, and it was once, here’s the deal behind goody-two-shoes.
Non-Christians, naturally, love a good Christian hypocrite; in fact, they’re almost jubilant about finding one, like they discovered the pearl of great price, and they want to show all their friends. It’s the same feeling I used to get when I was five and the cashier included a Canadian penny in my change, like I’d won the lottery. Hang on to that discovery mate, you may never find another!
An honest-to-goodness hypocrite signals that Christianity is all bark and no bite; living like an angel in public and like a devil in private, as opposed to those poor wretches who just live like the devil all the time, except they have the moral advantage of not being a hypocrite because they kept their ideals nice and reachable.
So we’ve dealt with that sort of struggle for a long time, and gotten relatively proficient at it too.
Christians have long held the moral high ground in America. Some of us were really high up there too, and could look down on just about anybody. The best of us might even look askance at the wine-making Jesus, but that’s another story for another day. In any case, we were more or less been the conscience of the nation. And most folks didn’t really care for it, and told us to lay off and not get so up and huffy about their peccadilloes, or they wouldn’t be our friends anymore, and that hurt mighty badly, because we really are a friendly lot, it’s kind of our job. So we laid off a bit and talked a little extra about love and how Jesus likes kittens and sinners about the same and for about the same reasons, and then we cut back a bit on the stuff about holiness and how Jesus and the angels were standing around an opening into hell watching the bad guys burn and seeming to enjoy the aroma of smoldering rebel that was wafting up into heaven.
I know, you probably think I’m making that last part up. Okay, here it is:
“If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night…” Rev. 14:9-11a
Funny thing happened when we all sang kum-bay-ya and agreed there weren’t any more bad guys to be looking down on, save of course child molesters and long-dead slaveholders. All the non-Christian people suddenly found themselves standing on top of Mount Morality just as high up as all the Christians, and they were all enjoying the view together with us and we were all shaking hands and congratulating each other for how lovely we all were in God’s eyes.
But bad stuff happens when you play king of the moral mountain with people that don’t care much about the Bible’s unchangeable rules, because eventually they start wanting to have the the mountain to themselves without giving up some good old fashioned sin they’d become kinda fond of, so they set to making up their own rules. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened, and the non-Christians started changing the rules of morality and suddenly they became the lovey-dovey goody-two-shoes and holier-than-thou’s, and the rest of us got thrown to the bottom of the mountain as bigoted miscreants and reprobates.
The New Book of Holiness for 21st Century [something] (The original title was “Man,” the feminists said make it “Woman,” the trans community said it should be “They,” the biologists said it should be “Human,” but then this guy came along and said he was a dog and threw the whole thing into disarray, so who knows what’s gonna happen) isn’t quite finished yet, but it’s in committee meetings on Twitter 24/7 and being sketched out in Hollywood productions, so progress is being made. It promises to be every bit as restrictive and judgmental as the Bible and probably even more, according to sources speaking on condition of magnanimity. Once in a while someone will take a tumble off a cliff when a new stone tablet gets handed down, but mostly when they break the rules they made, they just pretend nothing’s the matter, having finally come to understand the value of the hypocrisy they despised so much in Christians.
I expect Christians are owed a thank-you card on that account, because since the dawn of time nobody can stand too far up on Mount Morality too long without doing some first-class hypocritizing. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy pitching a few rocks at the new moral hypocrites about as much as they enjoyed doing it to us, and for approximately the same reasons. Besides, it seems the high faluting members of the Neo-Holiness Club up there on that mountain are just about as grouchy and joy-hating as the worst caricature of the Puritans they would despise, if they actually knew who the Puritans were. So that’s kind of interesting. Speaking of Puritans (especially the ones getting a bit too pure), you can bet a redux of the Salem Witch Trials isn’t too far around the bend, but I’m wandering into prophecy there, and I really don’t take too much stock in prophets since the Blood Moons let me down. But I carelessly digress.
What I was trying to say, before I saw something shiny, is that as a Christian it’s really a weird feeling to have the people we used to think of as sinners occupying the moral high ground, while they’ve cast us down like Satan and all his angels into the troughs of transgression. Our Book of Morality tells slaves to obey their masters, and doesn’t tell masters to immediately release their slaves, nor does it tell them what lousy wretches they are for having slaves in the first place. That kind of quasi-holiness won’t cut it anymore. Philemon is in desperate need of a chapter 2, and no mistake. Exodus 21 – yikes. What was God thinking? I’m afraid that if the Bible don’t get with the times, it’s gonna end up on the wrong side of history, because nobody knows what side of history is right quite like the people who don’t give a flying rat about history or how to tell if a thing is on the right side or not.
It’s so weird for a Christian to be the immoral guy in the room, and everybody looking down their nose at him like he deserves the fires of hell to fall on him for his outdated and long-surpassed morality. And my, how Christians are a fearful people! I always thought they had this sense of fearlessness, what with being fed to lions and burnt at the stake and stretched on the rack and their brains blown out and heads hacked off for nigh on two millennia, but danged if it don’t turn out we’re universally phobic. Transphobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic; we’re just plain multiphobic. And of course it’s highly immoral to be so phobic, particularly God-fearing, but that’s a non-issue. We made sure to eradicate Theophobia in the Seeker craze of the ‘90’s, so at least we don’t have that to worry about. We can find the beginning of wisdom elsewhere, like maybe the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Who would have ever thought that in our day a kind of holiness would emerge that is holier than God himself? I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t see it coming. Maybe the aforementioned Blood Moons ushered it in, and I just misread what they were all about. But whatever the case, God better get caught up to the enlightenment of the times, because He’s been pitched off the mountain. To be fair, Paul did talk about celebrating immorality (“those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” Rom 1:32), but again, this is the Paul that didn’t eradicate slavery and was down on homosexuality and step-mother loving, so it’s hard to take him seriously. He was, after all, way meaner than Jesus, which is probably why his words are black, and Jesus’ are red.
I mean really, whoever guessed a day would come when we would have to explain how God’s morality is not immoral? Sure, people have always looked at God’s law and said, “Oh man, that’s way too holy for me.” But to open it and say, “Wow, that’s really wicked and I’m way holier than that!” That’s just weird.
And, to chase another little shiny thing, who’d have ever guessed a day would come when Christians, of all people, would appeal to science and get called immoral for it? Boys are boys, and they aren’t and can’t become girls, and they shouldn’t try either, and it’s better that way for all of us, especially for the girls. Chromosome check, aisle 3. It’s science, and here we Christians have been called stupid and beat over the head with a club named science since the days of Darwin, and we been protesting saying how they been using it wrong, but still we kept getting smote. In a wild turn of events, the non-Christians laid the science cudgel down, so we get to pick it up and smack them around a bit with it, and they’re saying we’re using it wrong. It’s just so weird, I never seen anything quite like it. And I know, I’ll be branded a hater by some for saying it. Whether I actually am a hater or not is irrelevant. I broke the hating rule as written out on Twitter by someone with a blue check-mark, so I must be a hating wretch. No sense in protesting. Only thing to do now is apologize to Oprah and hope she forgives me. Repent and receive forgiveness. Hmmmm… that’s what immoral people do.
So anyway, here we are, thrown off the mountain and like poor Rudolph, they never let us join in any morality games.
I suppose I ought to mention that a number of no doubt well-intentioned folks are trying really hard to get God back up the mountain, reworking and reconfiguring him, giving the Ancient of Days what they might describe as a much-needed makeover, or to use a computer metaphor, a system update. Mrs. Hatmaker, Miss Held-Evans, and their friends are standing up there pretty close to the peak with all the cool people, doing their dead-level best to dress God in a new outfit so they can reintroduce him to their friends and get him back up into high society again, and no doubt God is hoping against hope they’ll succeed so he can get back to being a respectable moral authority again, instead of being looked down on by such important people.
A little further downhill, but not much, there’s Re-conferences and Voice-books laboring to haul the Bible up the mountain so they can both impress their friends at the bottom of the hill but still be closer to the cool kids at the top, and they’re straining at it harder than CNN explaining the economic genius of the Green New Deal (which is entirely about morality, not economics anyway). I gotta say, these guys are doing a pretty remarkable job hauling up, and only a few little pieces of the Good Book have been chipped off, but those were really tough spots they had to drag it through, so it’s a miracle they managed to keep so much. Most of the important parts seem to be staying anyway, and besides, they’re not trying to haul it all the way to the top anyway.
Also, a tip of the hat to the backyard theological surgeon Andy Charles, Jr. who really did reinvent the metaphorical and Marcionite wheel when he figured maybe we could keep the more tolerable half of God up on the mountain and just whack off the immoral part and let it go a-tumbling down into the sepulcher like Bunyan’s burden. Who knows, maybe his Old Testamentotomy will do the trick and help divorce God from his own immorality. God is, no doubt, much obliged to ye, Andy.
Have you ever seen so much discussion of morality and strict enforcement of it? It’s getting close to stoning a guy for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Which makes me think that if secular humanism destroys morality, secular humanism must be dead, because it’s suddenly really fashionable to be a moral authority, and to appeal to morality as the reasoning behind everything, which is all well and good, except now it’s all, to borrow lingo from my construction days, bass-ackwards. The most immoral people seem to be making all the moral rules. Abortion is a moral issue – but opposing it is immoral because it’s so oppressive to women, de-brained babies notwithstanding, and besides, in this age of high demand, it’s so much easier to keep a good stock of very gently used (if rather harshly abused) tiny arms and legs and kidneys and such.
Sexuality is a moral issue – opposing almost any expression of sexuality is immoral (except harassment, but we don’t quite know exactly what that is just yet, so stay tuned. So far we know Garrison Keillor is out, the Lt. Gov. of Virginia stays in, Judge Kavanaugh and his red solo cup would have been out, and on the hugsy, handsy, sniffy Joe Biden, the jury is out) because of course love (read “sex”) knows no marital, gendered, or numerical bounds. And soon one of the sexually relevant numbers to be eradicated will be age, count on it.
Race is a moral issue – but not so much prejudice against certain people for their skin color as just being generally against one particular skin color that’s inherently bad and too stupid to realize it; but that’s okay, with enough unquestioning listening they’ll be effectively enlightened and de-whitened, kinda the opposite effect of a good toothpaste. Besides, reparations are fast becoming a gospel-moral-issue (pro-tip: use “gospel-” with anything and it goes to the front of the line) so once we all get to writing and cashing checks, the world will be back in perfect harmony again like it used to be. Good thing too, because the power of the cross has been coming up a bit short.
And oh yeah, climate change is a moral issue too; when the movie star leaves his mansion in a Hummer stretch limo and flies into your town on his private jet to tell you to buy a hybrid and live in a tiny house, better pay attention or you’ll be guilty of the extermination of humanity – the immoral kind of extermination, not like the very commendable abortion/euthanasia kind of extermination, that’s different. So, you immoral wretch, make green, recyclable sacrifices to Mother Earth (not the burnt offerings though, they’re too polluting), lest ye be held responsible for her death. Maybe don’t have children, that’s wise. Maybe keep your cows from passing gas, that’ll help. All the young cool people know that, and they’ve never steered us wrong. And while I’m grouching like an old geezer, you kids stay off my lawn.
Anyway… here I stand, down here at the bottom of the mountain, standing in a cesspool of cultural iniquity, covered by the guilt of the new immorality, and still a bit dazed about how I got here. I’m not entirely alone of course, I stand surrounded by the saints of the ages and what I consider to be the most faithful men of our day. Even though it’s highly immoral, I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to imputed holiness, and that He died for sins, even the sins that are now considered virtues, which might be awkward for the Incarnate Lord if he suddenly gets woke.
The only holiness that counts is God’s holiness, and if anyone tries to attain it in any other way save through faith in Jesus alone, in the end they’ll fall flat on their face and beg for mercy and won’t find it, which once sounded really harsh and cruel, until the Priests of the New Morality began imposing the same punishments on, say, Paula Deen (there’s an ancient and obscure reference!); now they see how important violations of holiness really are. Even if one gains cultural holiness via virtue-signaling his/her wokeness and love of all things equality, sunshine, lollipops, and lots and lots of rainbows, in the end, it’s going to fail. The only equality to be found will be at the foot of the cross, where we all prove to be wretched sinners before the only unchangeable standard of perfect holiness.
It’s awkward right now to have a God who makes some men more talented than others, who makes some handicapped, who gives some into poverty and some into riches, because the beneficent and magnanimous Karl said that kind of diversity is of the bourgeoisie devil, but still, that’s God’s prerogative, and He does all things well. I for my part have made my peace with the fact I will never find perfect equality with my wife, who possesses a beauty I can hardly achieve and a nurturing spirit I’ll never have, while she has to live with the oppression that I’ll always have to open the pickle jar, repair the toilet, and see what just went bump in the night.
I love that on the Lord’s Day I get to sit around Christ’s table and share the same meal with my spiritual siblings – rich and poor, slave and master, Jew and Greek, the simple and the brilliant – united with each other, and with Him. True unity; true diversity.
I’m still struggling to figure out how to live now that I’m culturally immoral, I won’t lie, because it’s rather new for me, and I suspect it is for most Christians. It’s a pressure we’ve not really had to deal with, but since the national Jiminy Cricket apostatized, we either have to adjust and make him happy or steel ourselves for a good conscience, tongue, and maybe soon back lashing. That’s just weird; we used to be the ones giving the moral lashings, and it felt mighty good too. I guess when we dropped that particular cat-o-nine-tails to grab the feather duster of moral ambiguity someone else picked it up. Ah well, as Tommy says about his soul in O Brother Where Art Thou, “I wasn’t usin’ it.”
Welcome to the foot of the mountain. No doubt we’ll get neo-Sinaitic rocks pitched on us from above, because we’re the new immorals. But whatever Gehenna we find ourselves relegated to for our moral transgressions, the message we bring remains the same: God is holy, we’re not, he makes the rules, we all have broken them, and our only hope of genuine holiness comes to us through the life and death of Jesus, so we plead to our friends and to our world, leave the unstable moral mountain, and join us at the cross of Jesus. We get to be the cultural rebels for a change, yay. How does that make you feel? Take a walk on the immoral side; the water’s just heating up.
top picture is my lovely daughter Violet Isabella, who Alice would affectionately call “Vye-o-let Wizabella,” so in Alice’s honor I call her “Wizzy.” If you try hard enough, you could imagine she has a look of confusion, which is sort of what I was looking for to accompany these thoughts. But mostly, I just wanted to post a picture of my kid.