Rev. Kleyn is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Blame it on the…
Perhaps, with me, you took note of NASA’s response to the recent sex and attempted murder scandal among its elite astronauts (“NASA Reviews Mental Health Testing,” Grand Rapids Press, February 8, 2007). The morning after I read of NASA’s disappointing response, “a breath of fresh air” came across my e-mail under the title “The Booze Didn’t Make You Do It.” Here is the article in full (Breakpoint Commentaries, February 9, 2007,www.breakpoint.com).
If you ever doubted the complete triumph of the therapeutic culture in America, look no further than this week’s news. Take NASA for example. How did it respond to the sad and bizarre story involving a love triangle and an astronaut charged with attempted murder? It wants to tighten psychological screening procedures for astronauts! Now, I find it hard to imagine more rigorous screenings than those already given to naval aviators and astronauts.
How about sin? It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what happens when you crowd attractive men and women into a space capsule.
Or take the recent case of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Following his election in 2003, Newsom was considered a rising political star. Times have changed: Now, he’s the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes, and his political future is, at best, uncertain.
A few weeks ago, Newsom confirmed reports that he was involved in an affair with his campaign manager’s wife. He claimed that he was “deeply sorry about that,” but then announced that he was “seeking counseling for alcohol abuse.”
“Upon reflection” he told reporters, “I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life.”
Newsom is hardly alone in his approach to moral failure. If a politician or celebrity is caught up in a scandal, you can pretty much count on their entering rehab soon afterwards. (And these “rehab centers,” by the way, are like little Ritz-Carltons.) This is true even if the behavior that caused the scandal has little, if anything, to do with alcohol or drugs, as in Newsom’s case.
Thus, after being caught on tape spewing anti-Semitic nonsense, Mel Gibson checked into rehab. After his behavior toward underage congressional pages became known, Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla.)—what else?—entered rehab.
In all these instances, the message is the same: The booze made me do it. Even when some personal fault is acknowledged, the unstated assumption is that once the drinking or drug use is dealt with, everything will be okay.
This is a prime example of what sociologist Philip Rieff called “the triumph of the therapeutic.” In his book by that name, Rieff described the emergence of what he called “psychological man.”
“Psychological man,” who was only possible because of Christianity’s declining cultural influence, is the product of a Freudian worldview. It isn’t interested in the good life, but “living well”—that is, with a minimum of emotional and psychological distress. Anything that causes this distress becomes the enemy, including a sense of responsibility and respect for authority.
But what happens when you do something bad, like having an affair with your friend’s wife? Or trying to kill a rival for your lover’s affections? Well, now, you don’t talk about sin because that has been dispensed with in our culture. So you look for an external cause of the behavior like alcohol or mental illness. You do not punish; you provide “treatment” that deals with these external causes.
Nonsense! What we need instead is to recover what therapy replaced: sin and individual responsibility, knowledge of right and wrong and the sense of shame that reinforces it. This might be decidedly politically incorrect, but it’s the only thing that will make “better persons” of us all.
We can say “Amen” to this.
Since that date Britney Spears has also checked into “rehab.”
There are two things here. First, the cause of scandal is not simply external. The cause, and so also the blame, is within. Jesus says it very clearly in Matthew 15:19: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” The problem is a sin problem.
The second thing is this: let us who read be careful to make the applications personally. Sin is not simply something that someone else, outside of us, commits, but sin is within our hearts. Given the right circumstances, the appropriate temptations, the escape from the shame of sin, any one of us could be guilty of scandalous sin. It behooves us to look inward. And not like NASA, to inward policies and practices regarding psychological evaluation, but like the apostle in Romans 7, “Oh wretched man that I am….” We need a sense of self-depravity that humbles us in relation to others. Isn’t that what was missing in the female astronaut who now awaits trial?
The Media and Homosexuality
We know the power of the mass media. Governments, such as the Nazi regime of Hitler’s Germany, have used it very effectively to spread propaganda and brainwash the masses. In our country, Hollywood has infiltrated and taken it over to promote godless and materialistic living. Somehow, the power to communicate to the masses will also be a part of the Antichrist’s influence. This power to communicate was weakened at Babel, but is the wound of the beast that will be healed close to the end of time (Rev. 13:3).
Because of this, we are wary of what we read in the papers and see on the television, but at the same time we are interested in seeing how this instrument for promoting the rise of Antichrist develops. The Bible’s instruction to us is to stay on watch for the signs of the times.
Recently, this came very close to home for our churches. This is not to dramatize, or seek some kind of pity. We rejoice in tribulation, and count it a privilege to bear reproach for the name of Christ. And we are not alone in receiving this kind of reproach.
Here is a story of what the media in the Republic of Ireland is doing against Rev. Stewart and the biblical teaching he is promoting and maintaining in his mission endeavors. This was on the front page of theLimerick Leader (March 16, 2007) one week before Rev. Stewart was scheduled to speak in that city.
Headline—Fury Over Gay Hate Preacher
Limerick’s gay community has called on a hard-line pastor to cancel a public lecture depicting homosexuality as a sin and gay marriage as an abomination. Presbyterian-style preacher Reverend Angus Stewart will travel from Ballymena to deliver the talk in Limerick next Friday.
But gay rights activists in the city want the lecture called off, saying views like Mr. Stewart’s fuel a climate of fear where gay and lesbian youngsters are too scared to come out, which eventually leads many to suicide.
Vanessa Buswell, coordinator of the Rainbow Support Service, which provides counseling to gay young people and operates a phone helpline, said: “Gay and lesbian people should have the freedom not to be required to live by someone else’s view of morality. Some lesbians and gays are still rejected by their families, some are still very badly bullied at school, some feel they will never be able to come out and some take their own lives because they cannot bear living in a world where they still receive rejection.”
Ms Buswell added the city’s gay community was considering holding a protest outside the lecture at the Limerick Youth Service Center on Glentworth St. She has tried to make contact with the youth service to make the Rainbow Service’s dissatisfaction with the lecture known. “I don’t think the youth service should be hosting it,” she said. Rainbow tries to work with the city’s youth clubs so that gay teens can access its support services but the lecture was sending out all the wrong messages. At the very least, Ms Buswell said, the city’s gay community wants to see a public boycott of the talk.
Reverend Stewart meanwhile said the Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. Speaking of gay people he said: “They need to confess these sins of homosexuality and then God can give them the strength to fight against it.” Speaking of the gay community he continued: “It’s natural in so far as someone does it. Some people murder children, for some people it’s natural to punch, for others it’s natural to spit on people.”
Ms Buswell said that studies show that 10% of the population is gay. “That’s a higher proportion than the Traveller Community,” she added.
Meanwhile statistics show, said Ms Buswell, that two out of three male suicides in the 18 to 35-age category are by gay men. The talk is due to go ahead at the Youth Service at 7 P.M.
Besides misrepresenting what Rev. Stewart had said, there is obvious bias and even hatred in this piece. When Rev. Stewart was interviewed, his point was that one cannot argue that homosexuality is natural just because someone practices it. If we could, then we would have to condone all sorts of things just because people are doing them (murder, punching, spitting, etc.). In response to the article, the Youth Service called off the meeting by not allowing Rev. Stewart to speak in their facility, and another venue had to be found.
The same bias and hatred is here in our country too. Not yet in the realm of the right to free speech, so that such speech is silenced, but certainly in the realm of politics and public office. The same week as the piece above, there was a massive media hype in the USA over the comments of a high-ranking U.S. official. Under the heading, “The Crime of Conviction: General Pace and Morality,” Chuck Colson of Breakpoint.com gave this balance to the media’s bias (March 15, 2007).
Our nation’s top military officer, a veteran decorated with no less than forty-eight military awards and a very distinguished career, made a startling revelation this week: He has moral conviction. The world gasps, hurls insults, and demands an apology. How dare one of the top leaders of our land have a moral belief and share it when questioned!
But that’s exactly what happened this week when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff— the first Marine general ever to hold that position—General Peter Pace, commented in a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune, “My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct, that are immoral. I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that.”
But then Pace went on to tell the Tribune, “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” Well, stop the presses.
Of course, all that the radio, news, and television outlets have focused on since General Pace’s comments are his remarks on homosexuality. Never mind that he puts immorality of all kinds on equal footing. General Pace went on to say in the interview, “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”
While the world should be applauding a man who proposes that one of the most important institutions in our country should have moral integrity, instead we hammer him for having a conviction.
But I believe this goes far beyond the whole question of homosexuals in the military and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. This cuts to the core of the question of whether anyone in public office is free to speak his deepest religious or moral convictions. The Constitution says there will be no religious test for office, and yet we are applying one. We are basically saying that if you are the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you are not allowed to express your moral or religious views—especially on matters of sexual preference and behavior.
This is another sign that we live in an age that no longer believes in objective truth or a moral order. Moral relativism is the rule, and personal preference trumps all. And government is there to ensure that no one place any restraint on the pursuit of our own desires.
I have long said that C. S. Lewis was prophetic when in 1943 he wrote about the irony of our education system, saying, “Such is the tragicomedy of our situation— we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible …. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
Ironic that today, the head of our Joint Chiefs of Staff argues that the military should have consistent policies of moral integrity, and the world demands an apology. Maybe it is time to lock him up: General Pace is guilty. He has committed the intolerable crime of our day: He has stated his conviction in a value-free society that respects only so-called “tolerance.”
As for me, well, General Pace makes me proud that I am a former Marine.
Again, the crime is “intolerance” for immoral/criminal conduct. The target is the Scripture’s teaching. The goal is to silence those who speak up for truth in society. The result is a generation that tolerates every immoral behavior, and the “bad-guy” is the believer who dares to care about God and His honor.
To Rev. Stewart, and others who dare to speak on these issues, because they love Christ and what Scripture teaches, Jesus is still saying today, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
In this column in the past I have tried to address some of the dangers of technology and the computer age, especially their threat to our homes and young people. So when I saw the title “YOUTUBE MADNESS” suddenly displayed on the right of my screen, I had to click on it.
Now, I have to admit, I myself have been drawn into the world of “youtube” from time to time—after receiving a link to a humorous clip, or reading a press report on a particularly captivating clip of the presidential funeral flyover here in Grand Rapids. But after listening to the brief audio warning to which the “YOUTUBE MADNESS” link led, I am certainly reconsidering.
Perhaps, especially for our young people, these words will serve as a warning, and for our parents, as helpful direction. They are from Dr. Alan Cairns of the “Let the Bible Speak” radio program, aired over stations around the world, but also archived online atwww.sermonaudio.com. Below is a transcription of the “hot topic” section of the February 21, 2007 program.
Many of you will never have heard of youtube. The brave new world of high-tech gadgets has left you behind, and you may not be able to tell an iPod from a peapod. I don’t blame you. And yet we do well to stop and take note of what is actually happening to the current generation of Americans, and not just Americans, but people almost everywhere.
Youtube is an internet site where people place their pictures and videos, especially those that are shocking, provocative, pornographic or violent. Rick Warren’s infamous report from Syria showed up on youtube. So have explicit celebrity pictures.
But, more and more, ordinary people are demanding their moment in the lime-light of internet stardom. So, they post pictures or videos of themselves doing things. There have been videos of gangs of pre-teen and teenage boys viciously beating up some hapless victim, and it seems that those who can get themselves noticed on the internet doing such things gain extra points with their peers.
Now the girls have joined the violence. A gang of young girls shot a video of themselves setting on a lone girl and giving her a savage beating, repeatedly kicking her in the back of the head, and for no other reason than to gain a fleeting notoriety on youtube.
We may be tempted to dismiss this as typical teenage folly. It’s much more than that. What we are seeing is the inevitable results of the takeover of the social and educational system by people whose agenda is the destruction of every vestige of Christianity in society. These are the people who have pumped rebellion and the denial of all absolute truth into millions of young people, questioning even the validity of speaking of right and wrong, and who have assured them that evolution is true—”We are not created in the image of God, but are just a step removed from brute beasts.” You sow that kind of moral corruption in young minds and you will certainly reap a harvest of unrestrained degeneracy. This is precisely what we’re witnessing today.
What is the answer?
The awful truth is that there is no ready made answer. Clearly, parents must get back into the lives of their children. They must make sure that they govern their education and not give them up without supervision to the revolutionary indoctrination that masquerades as education in many schools today. They need to get a handle on what their children are watching. The steady diet of TV, porn and violence—to say nothing of the crazy video games that most kids play—is bound to derange young minds and desensitize them to the sufferings they inflict on others. Most of all, parents need to realize that they cannot live godless, self-centered, hedonistic lives and expect to have any moral authority with their children. If kids grow up seeing their parents cheating on their spouses and binging out on booze and drugs, or selling their souls for money, they will interpret it as license to do anything they want. Until the homes of America once again become places where God’s Word is honored and obeyed, and where families actually worship together in a bond of true Christian love, we will never break the downward spiral of our youth into the pit of corruption.
Youtube is just one symptom of the problem. The tragedy is that many Americans would prefer to endure the loss of their children than to embrace the remedy.
My hope is that this serves as a warning to our parents, as Dr. Cairns puts it, to “get back into the lives of their children,” for the sake of God’s covenant and the church of tomorrow.