Friday, June 05, 2015

Christian snitches

I will comment on a part of this:

On the positive side, pastor Pruitt makes some excellent points. I also appreciate the fact that unlike the ostrich posture of a Darryl Hart, Pruitt understands the importance of the culture wars.

However, I think the analysis goes a bit haywire under point #3, when he says:

The church and Christian families must never tolerate or in any way seek to cover up sexual abuse. Among Christians, sexual sin which does not violate the law can and should be dealt with through the means of church discipline (Matt 18; 1 Cor. 5). Illegal sexual activity, however, is never an in-house matter for the church. Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities. That means Christians are accountable to God to report any sexual abuse to those authorities God has entrusted to administer justice (Rom 13:1-7). A failure to do so is a sin both against God and the victim. 

There's some truth to this, but it's overstated. It needs to be more qualified:

i) As evangelicals, it's our duty to avoid the kind of stonewalling that's occurred in the Catholic abuse scandal. That said:

ii) We need to distinguish between genuine sexual abuse and technical infractions. Feminism is redefining sexual harassment in elastic, subjective terms. It becomes a fill-in-the-blank definition. It's all in the eye of the accuser. 

Consider the DOJ guidelines (under Holder's tenure) to universities. That's not about genuine sexual assault, but weaponized ideology. 

iii) Apropos (ii), we need to distinguish between just and unjust laws. The secularization of the political class has led to a proliferation of unjust laws. I don't think it's the duty of Christians to report violations of unjust laws to the authorities. 

iv) Apropos (iii), under our system of gov't, private citizens aren't gov't flunkies. It's not our civic duty to spy on our neighbors or report them to the authorities. We're not the police. We're not gov't informants. We're not agents of the state. 

That's what you get under totalitarian regimes, where everyone spies on everyone else. Where loyal citizens are expected to report "subversive" activity to the authorities. But that's the paradigm of a police state, not a free society. 

There are, of course, situations where it's appropriate to report illegal activity to the authorities. But that's when it serves the public interest. The state works for us, not the other way around. 

v) We should make allowance for the fact that Paul probably had various caveats in the back of his mind, but didn't include these in his letter. I doubt it's coincidental that he said this in a letter addressed to Christians living in the capital of the Roman Empire. He wants Christians to be good citizens, to the extent that's possible under a pagan regime. He wants them to avoid unnecessary provocations.

However, Paul was a firm believer in the OT. So he presumably viewed Rome in much the same way he viewed Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Yet he has to be discreet about what he says in a letter addressed to Roman Christians. What if that was intercepted by the authorities? What if that contained statements deemed seditious by the authorities? The recipients would suffer.  

So we need take into account the fact that Paul is being tactful in what he says about the Roman state. Although he says what he believes, there are other things he's leaving out. He says less than what he thinks. There's certainly more to be said about a pagan state than he lets on in a letter to Roman Christians. In that sensitive context, he's not going to say what OT prophets say about Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon. What he says will be true so far as it goes, but there are implicit qualifications–given his larger frame of reference, which remains in the background. Of necessity, his statement is circumspect. 

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