In-Sight: Shady and Holy?

Sadly, we are living in a time when some Christians appear to believe you can be shady and still be holy.  It is an odd combination which almost always occurs when religion and politics are conjoned in situations where “winning” something has become a defining value.

On the national stage, we are seeing the combo playing out in spades as certain religious leaders align themselves with dubious politicians in order to be favored by them.  Public alliances and subrosa activities are used to create the (false) impression that the country’s “national values” and their “religious values” are the same.  Being patriotic and being Christian are wedded, of course in the union as they have defined it.  Agree and you are both patriotic and Christian–disagree and you are neither patriotic nor Christian.

On the ecclesial stage, we see the same mindset and method at work within institutional/denominational contexts.  Public associations and subrosa activities are used (as in the fallen-world ethos) to create the (false) impression that the group’s values are synonymous with Christian values, i.e. being biblical, orthodox, etc.  Being Christian means being in their group.  Agree and you’re “in”; disagree and you’re “out.”

On both stages it is the subrosa dimensions which must be called out.  There will always be bravado and politics, differences and debates–but when “winning” becomes the end, and the use of gift giving, back-room meetings, hallway caucusing, and coaching conferences become justified means in order to “win,” what’s going on ceases to be Christian, no matter how long or loud subrosa performers allege that what they are doing is in keeping with their desire to follow Jesus.

One of the people who formed me early in my Christian life was Paul Rees.  He emphasized righteousness as a hallmark ethic in the Christian life, writing that when actions include “dishonesty, shadiness, immorality, vindictiveness, or snobbishness,” they are no longer Christian, but rather reveal a marrying of Christian and non-Christian attitudes and actions. [1]

Shady…and holy?   Nope.

[1] Donald Demaray, ed. ‘Things Unshakable: Spiritual Formation Readings from the Pen of Paul S. Rees (Emeth Press, 2011), 2.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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