Yesterday’s post about extremism and the ensuing comments got me to thinking again about the culture wars. I remembered how my family used to make it a point to watch “Star Trek: the Next Generation” when there were still new episodes. We loved the characters and the writing, the imagination and the mostly discrete sexuality of the show. It also had a very edifying vision of human virtue and potential.
The only problem I had with the program was that this vision of human potential was based on the Secular Humanist views of its creator, Gene Roddenberry. Yes, we would all like to live in a world where everyone demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as the characters in ST:TNG did. Roddenberry, however, saw this occurring through self-directed human evolution while I, as a Christian recognize these traits as fruit of the spirit imparted by God and developed through a personal commitment to renew my mind as I transform myself in order to be more like Jesus.
It may appear that the Christians and Humanists have a similar vision. There is a difference in how we go about fulfilling that vision, however.
As a Christian, I use God’s word as a standard to strive for and measure myself against. It’s not based on feelings, polls or my own thoughts about what is right and what is wrong. Today’s culture may hold out a vision of ennobling evolution — while at the same time saying that any type of standard (except for their own) is merely a prejudice. Maybe that’s why I as Christians can hope to see a change in myself within my lifetime, while Roddenberry’s super-humans don’t get it until the 25th century.
I see the human soul as being made up of our mind, will and emotions — and as being something that needs to be disciplined in order to exalt God. It seems to me that Humanists see the soul as the thing to be exalted – and that excellence can be achieved by indulgence. My focus is to improve the individual so the individual can effect society; Humanists try to change society so that it can affect the individual. They label as intolerant, unprogressive and “out of the mainstream” any discussion of morality when it comes to personal behavior and responsibility (except when they refer to what you do with your wealth and private property). Meanwhile, you can do whatever you want with your body, or whoever else’s body you can get to along with your program.
Let me, finally, get to the point. Despite my self-indulgent and even extremist rant, the Humanists are really irrelevant to a Christian’s own spiritual growth. Sure, they may pollute the culture with their illogical approach, but even if we “win” the cultural and political war we gain little but breathing room. That’s because Christ’s example is always from the “inside out.” While I would like to see a day when the culture around us is more wholesome, that in and of itself will not release us from our spiritual obligation to become more like Christ and to continually work out our salvation. In fact it may even invite a complacency that could be terminal — to us and ultimately to our culture.
Our individual commitment to tending the fruit of the spirit in our own lives — and to helping these develop in other people’s lives — must be unchanged regardless of what is going on around us, no matter how good or how bad it looks. We cannot look back longingly for “the good old days” or wait expectantly for the wonders of the 25th century because Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. “What would Jesus do?” is the wrong question. Better for me to ask, “What is Jesus doing?” and make sure I’m a part of it.
Filings is an ongoing section of this blog where the posts focus specifically on issues of Christian life. The name comes about because “filings” are the natural by-product of Proverbs 27:17: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”