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Friday, August 13, 2010

Spiritual Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a feared disease in the western world, with the potential to lead to heart disease or even death. It can occur over several years. As fat deposits of plaque adhere to the walls of the blood vessels, the artery gradually narrows and hardens over time. When it becomes plugged, a heart attack and / or death is usually the result. In many cases, as the disease progresses, the only solution available to extend one’s life may be a heart transplant.

In many ways the society in which we live is plagued by relationship atherosclerosis as the fragmentation of our society into various interest groups accelerates. We can easily be characterized by alienation; blacks against whites, Democrats against Republicans, rich versus poor, citizens against illegal aliens, and liberals versus conservatives. Despite all attempts to build a cohesive society, we seem to be more fragmented than ever. We have a tendency to blame others for our misfortunes, never wanting to accept responsibility for our own actions. Where does such fragmentation come from? We see its beginning in the falling out between Adam and Eve with God. Their relationship with God was destroyed when they ate of the forbidden fruit. Their relationship with each other was destroyed when Adam blamed Eve for his sin. In his blame we see a nascent hardening of positions. Their estrangement from God is consummated in their willful defiance of his command to refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, coupled with their refusal to accept culpability for their actions. In the Garden we see the beginnings of spiritual atherosclerosis, resulting in death.

We can observe its effects upon us in our selfishness, our callous attitude towards others, and our hardened attitude towards those who are different from us. This disease, which has affected our spiritual DNA, has continued down to the present time, requiring a heart transplant.
Scripture speaks of spiritual hardening of the arteries as a process of hardening one’s heart, as in the account of the plagues against Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Pharaoh continually hardens his heart against God, ignoring the request to let the people go. We see it in our own lives when we begin to ignore the ways and commands of God, beginning a process which leads us further and further away from a relationship with Him. What begins as a choice, over time with repetition, hardens into a willful defiance of God, resulting in full blown spiritual atherosclerosis. The plaque of sin covers the walls of our spiritual sensitivity, darkening our hearts until they are barely functioning. The solution requires the intervention of the Great Physician, whose spiritual knife is sharper than any two edged sword, to perform a heart transplant.

Just as living a healthy lifestyle deters physical atherosclerosis so does living a healthy spiritual life deter spiritual atherosclerosis. A daily quiet time, prayer, confession of sin, growing more Christ like, and love for others goes a long way in lowering our spiritual cholesterol. These disciplines attack the spiritual plaque deposits that have built up over time. As the layers are stripped away, we become more attuned to the voice of God in our lives. It’s worth having a spiritual checkup from time to time. Are you closer or farther away from God than you were a year ago? Are you living a disciplined Christian life, regularly spending time in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship? How are your spiritual arteries? Does a spiritual checkup suggest you are suffering from spiritual atherosclerosis?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Fallacy of Political Correctness

In the world in which we live, political correctness has almost become a mantra. It is felt that if the politically correct word or thought is repeated often enough in the right circumstances, the repetition will somehow transform people to accept the idea being espoused. It is often tied to diversity, with the idea that if we are politically correct we will be more accepting of cultural diversity. It is sometimes used to embarrass people for being intolerant of others. To avoid feeling embarrassed, many people will avoid stating their true feelings or will go along with the crowd.

But political correctness has a more sinister side lurking in its background. It is often a cover up for immoral, unethical and bad behavior. Tying behavior to political correctness provides it with a false sense of legitimacy. It can then become an excuse for intolerance, discrimination, bigotry and immorality. Being considered politically correct, these behaviors are never examined and judged for what they truly are. Under the guise of political correctness abortion and homosexuality are fashionable, intolerance towards Christians is acceptable, freedom of speech is discouraged, and discrimination against anyone disagreeing with political correctness is encouraged. Anyone not accepting the current politically correct positions is ironically heavily discriminated against, as several Christian students attending various universities have recently discovered when they went against the accepted social norms of the day.

The burden of political correctness seems to affect the Christian community the most, for many of the false ideologies that hide behind political correctness run counter to biblical ethics. They foster oppression against the church, even targeting individual Christians. As society becomes more pagan in nature, this trend will only continue. The physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual oppression we now feel will only intensify. Will the church be prepared to stand against the malevolent storm building against it?

In many ways the issue facing Christianity in the Western world today is similar to the situation faced by the people of God in the book of Judges. Several times they were oppressed for many years before God would step in. But he would only act when they cried out to him. The Hebrew word for “cry” in these passages implies a cry of desperation. It comes from a confession that they cannot control the situation. After trying everything else on their own, they finally cry out to God as their only hope and savior. They have to first acknowledge that they are totally dependent upon him. Only then does he act.

I wonder if the church today is going through similar times. For many years we have acted self sufficiently. We have attempted to do it on our own under the guise of success and power. We have sought to be successful by imitating successful church models, though experiencing the disquieting notion that all may not be well. We have inaugurated coalitions and joined political parties, but the various coalitions we have put together, such as Moral Majority, Focus on the Family, and the joined political parties, etc. have proved to be illusionary, unable to fully deliver the desired goals they have sought. We may wonder why God seems to be so inactive, not realizing that he is waiting for us to cry out to him for his help. He desires that we place our total trust and dependence upon him; only then will we experience his miraculous intervention on our behalf. And so he waits, waiting for us to cry out for deliverance. Have you reached the point of crying yet? May it be soon!