11 July 2010

The Good Old Days

I am so grieved when I see so many people come to Christ and get caught up in legalisms which in time they make into the Gospel.

I think of people that have been delivered from great sin….wicked lifestyles and then to fall in with American Fundamentalist legalism and now rather than worship God and learn His Word and how to apply it…….it's hem lengths, whether you should wear jeans or not, whether or not we should go to the mall because you might see an improperly dressed woman.

Where do they get this stuff?

It's the Sacral Stop Point. Bear with me and I'll explain....

It's interesting, we have these little sub-sacral groups that latch onto a historical moment and stop. For Fundamental Baptists they see the post-war period as the zenith of Christo-Americanism. The Sixties was the apostasy in the social religion. So for them history stopped the day before Elvis appeared on Ed Sullivan. What's the Christian look? For men, John Wayne….For women, June Cleaver.
History stops at their little golden age. It's interesting how that generation just loathed women having long and what they call unkempt hair…men having facial hair. Women should have styled hair, jewelry, tasteful makeup. Men can get away with a moustache at most. Levis…..probably not. Slacks or Dickies.

For women, not ankle length…just below the knee.

And so they copy this and in those churches it becomes the Christian standard. You don't look saved if you didn't shave, if you wear shirt untucked. Believe me I was told. For a women with waist-length hair....nope. That's not Christian.

Then you have the Holiness groups, some of the Wesleyans, Free Methodists, and Salvation Army types.

For them, the Sacral era ended with the roaring twenties. That's when things turned bad. If we could just roll back the clock to that time…..

So what's their Christian look? Well, I call it the Anne of Green Gables look. It's the early 1900's. The poofy bun…prairie dress…checkered pattern type stuff…well, that might be a little worldly.

A woman wearing her hair down is sensual. You need to go kind of plain in your look. Jewelry and make-up are out.

Of course that they spend long periods of time doing up their hair and then strut about scowling at everyone kind of shows where their hearts are at. We often laugh in the store or the mall, because they'll see one of my daughters in a denim jumper or something and I see their faces light up. Oh, what a nice family. Then they see me or my wife…well, we don't meet their code. My wife doesn't wear the right kind of skirts. Hers are made in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. And with me….well, I have facial hair, and my hair's a little too folk singer-ish…I'm obviously lost.
These are Sacral views of Culture. People can respond one of two ways when they sacralize culture.

They either believe they have to conquer and transform it because it's supposed to be holy…….

Or they believe that since culture is holy and ours ceased to be at some point, we have to enclave and preserve 'when it was good.'

The problem is both of them view culture in the wrong category. It's not part of the holy kingdom of God. We live in the City of Man as pilgrims from the City of God and that does affect a bit how we dress and things like that….but it's not 'standards'…..it's things like modesty, masculinity, and femininity.

'Standards' arguments are rooted in what I call the Sacral stop point. The problem is…it's arbitrary.

So the June Cleaver types think everything was fine until the 1950's. Glenn Miller music, pearl necklaces…those are the good old days.

The Anne of Green Gables types are horrified at Glenn Miller and swing music, and ostentatious pearl necklaces. Things were good until women started cutting their hair and the flappers showed up. So we like old Americana type things back when days were simpler. Nice bright colors reminding you of the farm, and kind of a put together country look….those are the good old days.

Bu then the Amish come along and say bright colors! Exposed hair! A life of ease with appliances! Being dependent on technology! No, no.

Pre-industrial, horse and buggy, no buttons on your clothes, the 19th century….now those were the good old days.

Sorry, Carly Simon was right….These are the good old days. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our place and purpose in culture and how we are to interact with it.

It is bondage….straight from the Pharisee handbook. It's too bad. But that's what Sacralism does…it binds and blinds the mind.

Here's the famous excerpt from the Epistle to Diognetus…indeed the good old days.

5:1 For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. 5:2 For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life. 5:3 Nor again do they possess any invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are. 5:4 But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. 5:5 They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign. 5:6 They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. 5:7 They have their meals in common, but not their wives. 5:8 They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. 5:9 Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. 5:10 They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. 5:11 They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. 5:12 They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. 5:13 They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things. 5:14 They are dishonoured, and yet they are glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. 5:15 They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. 5:16 Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life. 5:17 War is waged against them as aliens by the Jews, and persecution is carried on against them by the Greeks, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility.


Anonymous said...

really good thoughts and post.

It's all about a heart changed by God.
The letter kills but the Spirit gives life!

I was part of a counter culture church for many years. It can have it's own problem with a type of legalism, but nothing as lethal as what a typical Bible Church or Baptist can do to kill the joy of the Lord in a newbie. Been there, seen it. Survived it.

Protoprotestant said...

I remember being a new Christian and attending an Independent Fundamental Shoot em up Baptist Church. I walked in one Wednesday night with my shirt un-tucked and a two day stubble.

I was rebuked and told...I need to look like I'm saved, not like the world.

Wonder what they would think of Paul or Jesus?

Very sad, Thanks for the comment.

Survived it indeed!

Eliyahu BenYsrael said...

Another great post. The sacralist time capsule extends beyond clothing (as you write about regularly) extending into actions, values and cultural outlooks and practices of their period; which can have dire consequences, should such acolytes come into any political/economic/social control or power, whether governmentally on a nationwide scale, or locally in a school or zoning board, or economically in a business and it's HR department. These peoples' fossilized values direct how they judge and interact with others, and when they are in control, they can do real damage.

"Don't want to hire/promote/elect the hippie/slut/foreigner/Muslim/commie-socialist/ etc.. name any group that was a target of these religious groups during their good old days. In fact their good old days were always when their group was in it's maximum political, social, cultural power, authority and control; and apostasy began when the society they once dominated began to not follow their rules as much.

This is why I'm not a conservative, despite agreeing with much of their "values"; I don't want them in power to re-enforce the "bad old days" again.

Protoprotestant said...

It's funny how it's kind of cliché to say I'm not a liberal or conservative and yet as Biblical Christians we really and truly are neither.

In some ways we're quite liberal, enough to be anathematized by the Right.

And yet of course to many on the Left since we hold on to the Scriptures, we're stodgy Conservatives and can never be accepted by the Left.

We're neither...something totally different.

But because we reject the Conservative paradigm...as Christians we MUST REJECT all nationalism and militarism. We're NOT conservatives. So that in 'some' ways makes us more akin to Liberals.

We're really outside the box altogether.

But you're right on...the legalism is even related to memories of power. That's what made the days so 'good' for them.