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Posts Tagged ‘security’


Image result for pandemic gameA few years ago at a game night in my house we played Pandemic. We successfully squashed the pandemic. Today we have a pandemic ravaging parts of the U.S. and Europe. There are still cases in Asia but the hot zones are currently in the “Western world”.

Earlier in the year my greatest fear was the political season. A group of pastors gathered to talk about ministry in a season of great political division. It was very helpful in understanding why people are so polarized.

I think this helps understand the different perspective on the “data” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Imagine a graph (because I lack the skills to put one together. On the horizontal axis we see the tension between Left <=> Right. Down the center of that on the vertical axis we see the tension between Modern and Postmodern (top to bottom).

Image result for political graph

It is like this, but not this one I’m using for illustrative purposes.

Upper Left Quadrant (Left & Institutional/Modern): Progressives. They represent a creational mandate concern for improvement or change. Change can be an idol when you pursue it at the expense of the other 3 aspects of the creation mandate. The poster child for political progressives are the Clintons.

Upper Right Quadrant (Right & Modern): This focuses on personal responsibility and freedom. Liberty is a biblical good. When isolated it can be idolatrous. These calls people to put themselves up by their bootstraps (forgetting that some people don’t have bootstraps to pull). The poster children are Ronald Reagan and Captain America.

Lower Left Quadrant (Liberal & Postmodern/individualists): This is the focus on equality reflecting the fact we are all made in the image of God. The farther you get from center the farther you likely get from biblical equality with a focus on equal outcomes rather than opportunity, and equality for various non-traditional minority groups. The poster child is AOC with the Berne lurking around there somewhere.

Lower Right Quadrant (Right & Postmodern/individualists): They prize security. Part of the creation mandate was to subdue and rule, keeping the Garden. Again, this is a good thing but the more you pull away from the other biblical values the more dangerous it can become and more ideological. This seems to be what MAGA is about with Iron Man and Steve Bannon as recognizable representatives.

Personally, I’m not sure if the ones on the right should be swamped. Reagan was not about institutional power but the security people need institutional power to have … security.

You can probably see some of your idolatry as a reflection of your voting patterns. I value liberty. I am a Reagan and Captain America guy. Freedom comes with risk.

Into these polarizing ideologies and idolatries comes Covid-19. Responses to this crisis reflect your idols.

Progressives see this as an opportunity for change. This change is instituted by the government. Greater government power seems to be the solution to this and we see the Progressives in Congress pushing for plenty of change in the economic stimulus package.

The representatives of equality are largely critical of those who differ. They see this as an opportunity to being Green New Deal stuff.

Image result for captain america fighting iron manThose are more political and not really the person on the street at the moment. Most people are torn between liberty and security, and unlike Captain America and Iron Man, this fight is taking place largely in social media instead of an airport in Europe or Siberia.

Some, valuing liberty see the economic destruction our response is causing as worse than the disease we are fighting due to the length of recovery, the increase in income inequality, long term changes to the standard of living, and equally shared by the whole nation instead of just in hot zones.

Others, valuing security want the world to shut down because people will die. Stopping the spread of the virus is most important.

Own your idolatry! Admit that you are not balancing out change, liberty, equality and security but that you are putting one above the others. It’s okay, the vast majority of us are doing it.

In other words, get the log out of your eye before you deal with their speck. The reality of the matter is that no one knows what the right course of action is at this point. None of us have time machines or perfect predicatability. Honest scientists will admit that computer models aren’t perfect, and can’t account for unforeseen factors. There is that struggle between personal responsibility and government responsibility, between liberty and security.

You love one of those more than the other. You are willing to sacrifice on at the expense of the other. We’ve been here before. We were here after 9/11. The Patriot Act sacrifices liberty on the altar of security. At the time I was “okay, I’ve got nothing to hide.” I was wrong in that opinion. Whether I have anything to hide is irrelevant. It is also about how the government uses it, manipulates it or sees it in line with its own bias.

We have these differences about how best to address the pandemic because we have different idols. It is not because the other person is stupid, they just value things differently than you do. And the sooner we all see that the sooner we’ll stop throttling each other on the internet.

 

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In preparing for my sermon on Sunday I re-read Jonathan Edwards’ discourse “Men are Naturally God’s Enemy”. Nestled in there was the following:

“All the sin that men commit, is what they do in the service of their idols: there is no one act of sin, but what is an act of service to some false god. And therefore wherein soever God opposes sin in them, his is opposite to their worship of idols: on which account they are his enemies. God opposes them in their service of their idols.”

Idols are our functional saviors, what we use to supplement (or replace) the living and true God. We use them to “save” us from the realities of life in a fallen world. They offer pleasure, distraction, hope and other benefits. Not that they can deliver. But we rely on them, and their false promises, anyway.

As Tim Keller notes, these idols are often good things. We aren’t talking about little statues we bow down to each morning. But they function as gods in our lives. They have our allegiance. We rest our sense of security on them. This we do because, as John Calvin noted, our hearts are factories of idols. Not that we create idols, but turn good things into idols. The problem is not “out there”, but “in here”.

As I lay in bed, wishing I was asleep, I was struck by the fact that our most common idols are found in the first few chapters of Genesis. Sure, there are modern ones like fancy sports cars (or luxury sedans or…), all things Apple, and other inventions. Or science, many bow down there accepting whatever science says (this week) without recognizing that scientists are finite, sinners with (often ungodly) presuppositions instead of purely objective thinkers and observers. But most of our idols have been there from the beginning. As a result, they go unnoticed by most people.

In one of the books I’ve read (it’s been a few years and my aging mind can’t remember which one and I don’t have the free time to chase it down), the author tells of a person from India coming to the States. Now, when people from the States go to India they are struck by the sheer number of little idols, statues to gods, that are seemingly everywhere. Yet, this person arrived on our shores aghast at all of our idols! It is always easier to see other people’s idols. Just like it is easier to see their splinter while not noticing the log in your eye.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1 (ESV)

We see here a number of idols, or functional saviors, that enslave people. I guess I could start with religion. I’m not talking faith in the God of the Bible, but that tendency toward ritual and legalism that provide us with a false sense of assurance. But I won’t.

Marriage is a frequent idol for people. They think it a refuge from loneliness, economic insecurity and hopelessness. Many single people think life would be tolerable if only they were married. Many married people live in fear of their marriage ending and don’t take the necessary steps to make that relationship healthier and godly. They so need the approval of their spouse they never say ‘no’ and live in misery because they fear a greater misery.

Connected to marriage by God, but disconnected by humanity, is sex. We live in a society of sex addicts, or idolators. Sex offers them, they think, enough pleasure to overcome the pain and boredom of life that they become enslaved. They think it offers intimacy, but forsake its intended intimacy through objectification of various kinds. It often destroys the relationships we so desperately want.

Also connect to marriage by God, and increasingly disconnected by people, is children. Many seek love from (rather than giving love to) children. They seek immortality through their children. They seek to fulfill their own failed goals through their children. Many people place intolerable burdens on their children, destroying them as a result.

We also find control. We are to subdue and rule creation- under God’s authority. But we try to play God and make everything bend to our authority. We crave control, fearing we are not sufficient to meet the challenges of unexpected events or circumstances. It destroys relationships like acid (then we wonder why the person left even as we try to manipulate them back into the relationship).

We also make a god of creation. Our idol factory hearts twist stewardship of creation into environmentalism so that the environment and/or animals become more important than people made in God’s image. People begin to sacrifice real and potential relationships on the altar of being green. They look to their pets to fill the black hole in their hearts that crave unconditional love. We should care for the environment and animals, including pets, but many give them ultimate status in their universe.

Work is another functional savior for people. (For others the avoidance of work is their idol). They seek to be utterly independent, secure and safe thru their work. It provides an ultimate meaning for them that only God is intended to have. They turn the image of God in on itself. God works, and calls us to work. It is the ordinary means of providing our needs. But in God’s providence, at times we endure hardship that we might be humble and experience grace and compassion so we will be ready to extend grace and compassion.

“A true hope looks forward to the obtaining of happiness in no other way but the way of the gospel, which is by a holy Savior, and in a way of cleaving to and following him.” Jonathan Edwards in Charity and Its Fruits

All of these things, as God gave them to us, is good! But we ceaselessly give them more importance than intended. We use them in the place of God to provide us with satisfaction, security, pleasure and even salvation. All that we have turned into functional saviors can only be returned to their rightful place as we seek all our significance, meaning, security and satisfaction from Christ. This only happens as we see the the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as Creator and Redeemer. As Jonathan Edwards argues, only when we see Christ as sufficient to bestow all the happiness we need, will we forsake other means to secure earthly happiness.

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The struggle between faith and doubt takes place in every Christian’s heart.  Our circumstances can foster doubts.  These doubts will either drive the roots of faith deeper, or expose that our faith is misplaced such we “lose our faith.”

Dan Allender addresses this in The Wager of Faith, part of The Healing Path.  Here are some things I need to remember, and perhaps you need to remember as faith and doubt do war in your soul.

“Faith involves placing our well-being into the hands of others who we hope are committed to do us good.”

God is committed to my well-being.  Ruthlessly committed to my well-being.  This does not mean that my circumstances will be good, but that God is conforming me to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-9).  Not everyone is so committed to my well-being, and sometimes we are betrayed.

“Our past may blind us or distort what we consider good or bad, but our conscience continues to warn, chide, and rejoice in truthful loving. … Faith is trust in the goodness of God.”

Our own sinfulness, our particular sins and how we’ve been sinned against color our perspective.  This creates some of the doubt we experience.  We struggle to believe that God is good when life is particularly difficult.  I know I do. 

(more…)

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