When Your Values Are Threatened
I read an article on the BBC's website this morning about the recent Vatican document prohibiting active homosexuals from entering seminary or the priesthood. There was a page for reader comments, and the list of [primarily hostile] remarks grew extraordinarily quickly.
The prevailing sentiments were that the Catholic Church is "medieval," "outdated," "narrow minded" in publishing such an "utterly dishonest and morally outrageous" document. Every thinking man and his grandmother commented on how the Catholic Church ought not to believe and practice the things she believes and practices.
It's interesting that so many people who are uneducated in Catholic tradition and teaching are so quick to pronounce what the Church ought to do in any circumstance. It seems that those who feel their values condemned by God-through-the-Church would, in their search to justify themselves, rush to condemn God-through-the-Church, rather than simpy ignoring an authority they try not to acknowledge anyway (which is what you might expect in today's Western society).
So what's happening here? Most of the commenters are people that, if you asked them any other day, they would give you some cool answer, laugh about the supposed authority of the Church, and pretend to ignore the Church's influence in their lives. Why are their responses so heated? Why are they so quick to proclaim moral judgment on the Catholic Church (which, strangely, they condemn for being judgmental)?
It all boils down to the desire to be gods for ourselves, to justify ourselves, to rebel against any authority that would seem to place itself over us (especially religious authority). When someone wants to believe that something is permissible, right, or good, and someone comes along telling him that God, the Bible, or the Church is in direct opposition to that view, he becomes much more sensitive to the fact that his autonomous self-authority is being called into question. He's faced with the idea that maybe he's not okay just because he says so. God, the Bible, or the Church says otherwise, which he instinctively perceives as a threat, and becomes vocal in his rebellious self-justification, questioning the appropriateness of the authority that challenges him. The fellow who normally feels pretty solid in his worldview that has himself as god has to scratch and claw for a bit to retain his position in his false reality.
Please don't take me for gay-bashing when I say that I'm glad the Catholic Church has made some sort of official statement like this. Obviously the Scriptures are clear about the kind of man who ought to be ordained, and though the Catholic Church has many corrupt views concerning their priesthood, this could be a step in the right direction. But if I am to be accused of bashing anyone in this post, it would be a more general rebel-bashing, as the problem I'm highlighting exists within each one of usâ€”not just those who are upset because it looks like the Church is inappropriately discriminating against homosexuals.
Actually, I'd rather not leave it there at rebel-bashing, either. It's not the goal of the Christian simply to point out faults and say "that's bad." We need to introduce the Gospel into the situation in order to heal the brokenness of our rebellion.
In this case, the Gospel is thisâ€”sure, your authority is challenged. Sure, your autonomy is stripped away, your false reality exposed for a sham, and your warped values undermined. Sure, you ought to submit yourself totally to God in Christ rather than rebelling like a fool for the rest of your short life. But you don't have to worry, because God's rule in your life isn't meant to destroy youâ€”it's meant to build you up to be the person you were meant to be. It's meant to bring you wholeness and fruitfulness and fellowship with the eternal God himself. God's ruleâ€”at the expense of your autonomous self-ruleâ€”is severe in that his Law is clear, and your pitiful excuse for laws and values are crushed under the weight of it. But his rule is gentle, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light, because he loves his children. All who cease in their efforts to justify themselves, to be okay because they say so, and who come with open and empty hands to receive the justification that God provides through Jesus Christ our Saviorâ€”that you're okay because God says so, seeing you in his Sonâ€”all these will know his good rule, have their values transformed, and delight in him forever.