In 1973, Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book with a very provocative title that was intended to create a discussion regarding behavior that society once rejected, but now tolerated. In the 40 + years since “Whatever Happened to Sin?” was published, much has changed.
This morning I read that over half of the US population lives in a state where Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is now legal. Even my home state of Arkansas has seen its legislative decisions overturned by judicial fiat. Soon, the liberal establishment and political elites will snuff out the last vestiges of moral dissent on this matter. Same Sex Marriage is the new normal.
A cultural revolution has take place in this country right under the noses of the vast majority of people who believe that this behavior is sinful. Ten years ago, the vast majority (90% +) of the population did not support the legalization of SSM. Now those who are not in favor of SSM are in the minority, living in states where it is legal. This cultural revolution has seized upon this issue and in a few short years, it has now declared that what was once considered wrong, is now considered right. What was once considered right (traditional marriage) is now considered wrong. Failure to accept the new world moral order will result in the loss of your job, and perhaps, time spent in a re-education camp. Just ask the Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins where he was the past week.
So, whatever happened to sin? In the case of homosexuality, it has been reclassified. Prior to 1972, the American Psychological Association classified homosexuality as a sexual disorder. In 1973, it was taken off the list of such disorders. It was reclassified by the media as an “Alternative Lifestyle.” Now, it is not even considered an alternative lifestyle, but rather normal. Those who do not accept the new normal are subject to sanction. Freedom of conscience and diversity of opinion must give way to the new politically correct Warlords.
In this reclassification of homosexuality, many in the church have also reclassified it from sinful behavior or non-sinful. It is now looked upon by many, including Evangelicals, as an acceptable norm. Only ultra conservative “Fundies” would consider it sinful now. Failure to accept the new branding is met with accusations of hate speech. While we seek to speak truth, there are those who hate the truth. To them, truth-speaking sounds an awful lot like hate speech.
Which behavior or attitude that the Bible consideres sinful is yet to be reclassified by the church? In the often quoted passage of Romans wherein homosexuality was relegated to the darker side of human sexual expression, the Apostle Paul also provides us a list of other “sins” that God finds unacceptable. Among the litany of sins are envy, murder, strife, adultery, deceit, malice, greed, gossip, slander, arrogance, and disobedient to parents. In this passage, Paul places not only homosexuality in the sin category, but all of these others. So if the church has been wrong about homosexuality, then it stands to reason that these other vices need to be reclassified for the sake of consistency. Are we in society ready to sanction murder? Oh, wait, we already do that. Abortion has been legal since 1973. What about adultery? Television scripts would be mostly blank and music would be mostly instrumental without adultery. What about arrogance? While not technically illegal, it has become acceptable in the church, especially when the pastor earns his PhD. What about greed? Too late. The health and wealth crowd has already beat us to the punch. What about gossip? We call those prayer requests thank you very much! What about disobedience to parents? As someone who moved out of my parents home when I was 16, I am taking the 5th!
Because Christians have tolerated much more than we should in the past, and have allowed theological corruption to stand in our churches today, we have lost moral authority. Nature abhors a vacuum. When the church was unable or unwilling to provide moral direction, the state in the form of appointed judges has stepped in and given us the new normal.
The implications for the new normal will be significant to the church. The possibility of law suits arising form failure to recognize, condone, and accommodate the new normal is there. The resulting loss of tax exempt status because of our moral convictions is becoming a real possibility. Many churches (even Evangelicals) will cave in to the pressure to recognize the legitimacy of the new norm. Congregations that refuse to go along will be increasingly looked upon as out-of-step with the community much the same way that churches today are where women are not allowed to wear pants or make up and must have a bun in their hair.
The church is at a cross road. Do we seek cultural accommodation or scriptural integrity. I have friends who are graduates of Southern Baptist Seminaries who are already embracing their new politically correct masters. I have other friends who keep their heads in the sand and just want to “love people” into the kingdom. While this is well and good, I believe that our light is dimming and our salt is loosing its flavor.