Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moral police

Are Christians the moral police of the world?

Ok, I'll admit I was going to simply post that sentence and let anyone answer in whatever way they wanted. I still want anyone to answer it, if anyone wants to, but I'm going to go ahead and add my own thoughts here.

My question comes from a place of frustration. Well, perhaps not frustration. I guess I've seen so much of the Christian moral police brigade in my lifetime that it doesn't surprise me or frustrate me anymore.

If a Christian thinks his or her duty is to reward those who do good and to boycott all those who do evil in this world, then I think they've missed the point, just a little, perhaps?

In the past I've already shared my thoughts about how the last half of Romans chapter 1 is not meant as a "list of sins Christians should avoid." Indeed, they're all sins and we don't want to participate in any of them, but that's not the reason Paul listed them! He listed them in the midst of making an overall point that the whole world, apart from Christ, is guilty of sin. If a self-righteous person were to think they were righteous before God because of their own works, they could take a look at the list and hopefully be humbled to the point of realizing they were guilty just like everyone else. Paul builds up to a very telling "therefore" at the beginning of chapter 2:
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself..."
Anyway, even though Romans 1 isn't meant (according to how I understand it) as a list of sins for Christians to look at and be convicted of sin, if a Christian does indeed go around with a mindset that they need to police the world, or judge the sin of others, or boycott and avoid people and companies because of their sinful practices or because of the sinful things they support, then according to their own mindset I'd like them to take a look at Romans 1 and see where THEY stand, if they're really going to begin pointing fingers at the actions of others!

Do we really take care of the problems of the world by boycotting or avoiding people who sin?


  1. Sir, do you have any idea how fast you were sinnin'? I'm gonna need your license, registration and a urine sample. Thats a $200 contribution to greasy roots ministries for pullin' stunts like that!

  2. Hey there Reverend J Slick Breeze...leaning in support with my brother Daelon in the Choir

    You better cut off all association with walkingchurch, me - cause I sin.

    Seriously, here is the real question:

    If Christ who is your real life, living in you as you - ask Him for His discernment in every situation. Ask His Spirit to bring to mind those times you need to be and I bet most of the time you will be free.

    Father's rain falls upon the righteous and the unrighteous. Maybe He is in the process of redeeming a 'heathen' and you might be brought along side to aid in this graceful work.

    Just as a final thrust - I find we tend to use/go to the manual (Bible) more than Emmanuel (Christ who is our Life).

  3. I am against passive-aggressive measures against someone (even a corporation) whose religious beliefs do not align with mine. I wouldn't think of boycotting the Salvation Army (in fact, I donate to them occasionally).

    On the other hand, I understand someone not wanting to feel that he is taking part in something that he thinks is wrong, and I think it's OK. For example, I think "factory farms" treat animals cruelly so I avoid eating it. I eat small-farmed meats instead. In no way do I expect or intend that my behavior will punish the factory farms, I just don't like to feel that I'm taking part of in the cruelty.

    Rather than taking passive-aggressive measures, I suggest that the mature way to resolve differences is through open dialog. If someone feels like taking action, I recommend he confront the company directly, or if the company is unwilling to talk, then have a public conversation (through blogs, books, news media, etc.).

  4. Brutha Mad Dog,

    $200? That's all? Whatever people sow, that's what I reap, and I think this kind of infraction deserves much more of a, um, reward for ma ministray of makin' sure I police the world better than anyone else!

    Brutha Alvin,

    I have also sinnnnned once or twice in ma life. You may remember that I made a public confession the last time I sinned, a few months back, and boy oh boy does confessin' your sins and making people feel sorry for you get people to be a little more generous!

  5. No, in fact I think the Bible is pretty clear on the fact that we are not to be the worlds police (God's Job) and not to judge others (Again God's Job).

    Pat O

  6. Alvin,

    I think that is absolutely true. A moment by moment walk with the One who indwells us and Who is our life. The main gist of my post here was that it seems the default stance that I see in my brothers and sisters in Christ (which is a stance I myself used to stand in) is more focused on calling out people's sins, and taking a stand against their sins, rather than looking into their hearts and, as you say, allowing Christ-in-us to do His work and bring us alongside if He wishes, as He brings redemption and not judgment.


    I do like the whole idea of open dialog as an overall better option than taking a passive-aggressive stand, and I suppose it always depends upon the circumstances.

    However, that's not really where I was coming from here. I first brought up the idea of "moral police" in my post from last Friday, "What would you say..." Perhaps that post, along with many of the comments, will give a little better background of where I'm coming from.

    As a Christian, I used to think it was my job - my responsibility - to point out all the sin in the world and to take a stand against it. As one example of many, in the 90's got rid of AT&T as my long distance provider because I'd heard they supported various causes that I was against, and I signed up with a "Christian" phone company! I thought I was doing the right thing.

    But since that time I've discovered that the way that I viewed and dealt with the sins of others does not appear to be the way Jesus handled the sin of others.

    I've slowly been changing the way I approach other people, and I guess the bottom line with this post is that I simply do not see it as the job of Christians to go around pointing out sins and avoiding the people who do them!

  7. Pat,

    Indeed I think it's very true that we're not the world's police nor the judge of others. Romans 2 says to the person who judges others that they're only condemning themselves.

    In fact the Law's purpose was to charge everyone in the world with sin, and it did its job. Jesus then came along and took the guilt and sin of the world upon Himself, redeeming the world. The more I look into the life of Jesus and into the purpose of this glorious New Covenant of which we're the beneficiaries, not the agents, the more I see that our "job" as Christians is all based upon the ministry of reconciliation

  8. Hmm... I think mostly, it makes the church look ridiculous...

  9. Joel,

    If you asked for a yes or no answer, I would say no. Unfortunately answers to those kind of questions aren't always black and white. I remember a few years back when Christian’s were calling for a boycott of Proctor and Gamble because some were convinced that their logo was a demonic symbol. I have no idea if it was or it wasn't, but this was clearly a case, in my view, of Christians trying wrongly to be moral police.

    On the other hand, did the Apostles have some special right to carry a badge that we don't have? I am thinking about Paul speaking out about the man having sex with his father's wife or those making pigs of themselves at the Lord's Supper or ... Well you get the idea?

    Do we have that same right or responsibility? What do you think? Should a Christian ignore injustice or not confront a brother with his sins? I think the Bible says you should. Does that constitute the type of judgment that it's talking when the Bible says, "Judge not lest ye be judged?" Where does grace fit into all that? Should I feel bad because I came here asking more questions than I answered? :)

    In Christ,

  10. Katherine,

    I agree. And I think it misses the whole point of the gospel (the good news). I'm planning a post on that soon to elaborate more on what I mean.


    Great points. I'll point out a distinction, though, that I realized I didn't make all that clear. (And as I mentioned to Katherine, I'll try to elaborate more in another post). I was referring to Christians being the police of what goes on in the "world," meaning the world in general and not the church.

    Politically speaking, morally speaking... are we to go around pointing out the sins of the world and boycotting/avoiding those people? In other words, are we to make an issue (big or small) about the sins sinners commit?

    In regards to how we treat one another (within the church), I think there is plenty of room for discernment about each other's actions, such as with the man who was having sex with his father's wife. How to handle each situation is, as Alvin reminded us, up to asking the Lord to help us discern according to each given situation. Paul said this man should be delivered over to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." In another case, speaking in general, Paul said, "if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness..."

    And I think each individual case deserves its own following of the Spirit.

    But again, my point here in this post came more out of a place of being tired of Christians being shocked and awed by the sin of sinners, and acting as if their boycotts and avoidance is really furthering the gospel and/or helping the Kingdom in some way. I really, honestly, don't think it is. I welcome any further thoughts from anyone.

  11. If we are, then I'm gonna resign! Don't want it!!

  12. i second that, free spirit.

    thanks for the comment, im so glad i am meeting fellow believers through my tiny little blog :)

  13. Free Spirit & Ginger,

    I'm right there with you!


    I've found blogging to be a great way to meet other believers, and it's a great way to encourage one another in the good news. I'm glad I found your blog and I look forward to more interaction in the future!

  14. Joel,

    I agree with you on both accounts.

    Non-Christians shouldn't boycott a company or group based on some "calling" to police the morals of others.

    I also agree that we should be led by the Spirit in all that you do, including confronting a brother caught up in sin. It should always be done with an attitude of caring correction and not self-righteous judgment.

    Does that mean that we should never speak out on moral issues like abortion, drug addiction, etc? What do you think? I am kind of prone to never say never. I am pretty sure I can't picture myself carrying a picket sign in front of Planned Parenthood, but if I found out someone is planning to have an abortion, should I remain silent. Telling her that if she does so “God is going to get her,” is obviously wrong! Is it wrong to go to her and encourage her to reconsider and maybe present alternatives? I don’t think so.

    What about those brothers that feel like the 10 commandments should be posted in public places like schools and courthouses? Do they do it under some misguided assumption that doing so will somehow make people straighten up and act right? It seems that their time would be better spent telling others about the Gospel that saves.

    In Christ,

  15. Correction:

    Non-Christians in the second paragraph should be Christians...slip of the finger

  16. Gary,

    I'm with you on all of this. I think my main point is based upon what I see as my bros and sisters in Christ having a bad obsession with the sins of the world.

    My personal thought is that the law's ministry was to point out sin and to convict the world of sin, and it did it's job just as God intended. Jesus then came and took the sin of the world upon Himself, and the ministry of the church isn't based upon trying to fix all the morals of the world, but to bring the world the message of reconciliation.

    But I think you're right... it's not as if we never speak about sin or confront it. We do see Paul saying things such as "how shall we who died to sin live any longer therein," and I think we can encourage and exhort one another in righteous living.

    What saddens me is that what I see in the church today is people making a big fuss about sin, as if that's going to help anything (!) and not really doing anything to spread the message of grace.

    Protesting the sins people commit in the world, as far as what I can see, might or might not help to curb some of the actions of people, but what it doesn't do is to make people into new creations. Conforming the behavior of people doesn't build the kingdom.

    I think in our personal relationships with people - both within the church and without - we can definitely encourage people, through God's love and grace, into making better life decisions.

  17. I have subscribed to AFA's mailing list and I did boycott Ford, Target etc various reasons (Promotion of homosexuality, not selling Christmas trees). Later I realized it's foolishness and stopped boycotting.

  18. Bino,

    I've done things like that, too. At the urging of my friends several years ago, I dropped AT&T as my long distance phone company because of their supposed support of various things that we were "against." I signed up with a "Christian" phone company. I think the Christian phone company was a good thing... they gave 10% of your payment to various charities, and their service wasn't lacking at all... but the point is that if I were to boycott products, stores, companies, etc, based upon what they support or don't support, I'd have to boycott almost everyone... including my hypocritical self some of the time!

    Sure there are big causes we can support and there are causes we can be "against," but what I've seen too much of in the church is nothing more than a bunch of people raising a fuss over the sin of sinners, and it seems to do no one any good, and if anything it keeps people from hearing the actual gospel.