Incredibly random and disjointed thoughts on moral awareness and responsibility
One thing I really dislike is when a preacher walks up to the pulpit, assembles his notes and Bible in a forlorn fashion, and says something like: “I’m here to deliver a warning.” From my experience attending Independent Baptist churches my whole life, more often than not the preacher really means to say: “I’m here to condemn all of you, exalt myself, and use any excuse to raise my voice as I speak.” Because people (like me) do not like to hear that they are lacking in certain areas and need to better themselves. Whatever proceeds from that preachers mouth will be met with a disconcerting sigh (whether justified or not), since the thing that disturbs a comfortable and careless existence most is a feeling that we are in some way inadequate to qualify as a good person.
The maxim that everybody would rather be indifferent to self-improvement and cold to the thought of moral inadequacy in themselves is shown in many aspects of personal life and the overarching cultural society. I will attempt to outline a few now:
In every country there is a set of black and white moral structures, indicating to the citizens of the country what is right and what is wrong (not just in the law, but commonly accepted cultural practices etc.). When enough individual’s morality conflicts with the states, a reactionary social movement will be formed. This social movement is made up of people who are doing what is considered immoral/wrong/strange by the state and society, and in an effort to change both public perceptions and institutional law they will lobby the government. There are plenty of contemporary examples of such movements, such as the Gay Rights movement, radical feminism, gun rights, pro-abortion, and religious extremism. Now, in all of these movements, you have people who would prefer to make what they believe in as accepted (such as that homosexuals deserve equal rights), as opposed to conforming their own belief and practice to external authorities.
It should be noted that I am not affirming either moral relativism or objectivity, or saying that any of these movements are right or wrong. The point is that inherent in the human condition is an averseness towards moral responsibility, accountability, and compromise.
In terms of practical living, this is seen in the practice of blame-shifting. Everybody does this a lot, whether people are conscious of it or not. Politicians in Australia blame the public service when they are accused of making an incompetent decision, businessman blame other factors for poor performance, when we wrong somebody making excuses will be our natural reaction, and in law criminal acts are exponentially being explained in terms of antecedent psychological factors as opposed to the depravity of their moral decisions. People aren’t willing to take responsibility in affirming their actions and following them through, rather we attempt to smother unrighteousness and show a stark disinclination towards finding fault in our self.
Perhaps an even greater example for Protestant Christians is the contemporary concept of “salvation” and “eternal security”, supposedly the centerpieces of our Christian faith. In them we find almost zero moral accountability once an individual becomes “born again” and is initiated into the fold. Since forgiveness is abundant in this saved realm of living, and the church does little to stop our apathy from exploiting forgiveness, Christians often have little motivation towards ever listening to the warnings that Jesus gave and the directives he expected his followers to keep. A Christian living under this theology could legitimately say: "Well I don’t live up to Christ’s standard, but I am most likely better than the unbeliever down the street that is going to hell. And since I am saved; when I continually fall short I can ask God for forgiveness and it'll be fine."
Christ’s words are turned from being a mirror and showing our humane weaknesses (and thereby improving on them), to becoming an excuse, and thereby the Christian successfully avoids all moral responsibility, accountability, and self-improvement.
Now that I have (hopefully) convincingly demonstrated the ways in which indifference and fear trumps a desire for moral righteousness, I will try and remind the church on something quite important. Christianity cures a sickness (the sickness of sin, which I attempted to describe in a few of my past posts), and if we did not have this sickness Christianity (and religion as a whole) would become irrelevant. If my self had no spiritual sickness, I would not need Jesus, and I would not need God. As erroneous as the doctrine of “depravity” is, it has a small merit in that it gives people an awareness of their unrighteousness.