Since the beginning of Lent, our family’s reflected upon the tension between sin and a pure heart as found in Psalm 51. One morning, we walked through the Gospel message and explored the question of whether sin makes sense to our friends at school. In Lancaster County, PA, there remains a significant cultural memory of sin. But most campuses lack the memory/framework to discuss sin.
On Wednesday, I heard concerns regarding spiritual dullness shared by representatives from three campuses in the Mid-Atlantic. Part of this dullness comes from the lack of acknowledgment of sin, even among followers of Christ. Rod Dreher shares in a USA Today Opinion piece:
It is what the late Philip Rieff, a non-believer, called “the triumph of the therapeutic” in his famous 1966 book of the same name. Rieff said our civilization has done away with its “thou shalt nots,” which were intended to tell us how to be good, and instead substituted a psychological pseudo-religion meant to help us feel better about the way we live.
It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that a narcissistic middle-class culture that has produced schools where the children have to all be above average would embrace a religion whose purpose seems to be to reassure its practitioners that they’re all A-plus students, rather than to lead them to the hard work of repentance and authentic renewal.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, of course, but when educated middle-class people do so, they typically have the resources to ameliorate the damage that can result. Not so the poor, whose attraction to more fundamentalist forms of religion tends to mystify and even appall the middle classes. — by Rod Dreher, from Tough love and faith, USA Today, posted March 9, 2009. HT to Dwight.
Along similar lines, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton term the religion of our youth (received from their parents and their faith communities): moralistic therapeutic deism. What’s that?
the combination of the Divine Butler and the Cosmic Therapist, a parasitic faith feeding on the doctrines and sensibilities of established religious traditions and expanding by mutating their theological substance to resemble its own distinctive image. Each one of us, but particularly parents and those in positions of teaching authority w/in the Body of Christ, carry responsibility for debunking Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and indwelling, articulating, and teaching the Biblical narrative in our home, community, school, etc. … Such a mission, directed by the Father and fueled by the Word and the Spirit, involves a critique, filtering, and alternative cultural framework to the media driven consumeristic society of our day from cradle to grave. — by Christian Smith & Melinda Lundquist Denton, from Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, (Oxford University Press, 1995, read pp.161-72).
During this Lent, join me in turning against the spiritual dullness caused by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism AND step into resurrection, Word driven, and spirit-filled living with the people of God throughout the year. … More on this coming.
Note: A few additional texts which I’ve been meditating upon: Psalm 32, Matthew 26:28, James 5:16, I John 1:9. As for prayers of confession, I commend to you this page from Third Millennium Ministries. As for today, I’m going to set aside some time to become more familiar with St Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon of Repentance.
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!