Monday, February 24, 2020

Sorry, bud, but your loss isn't my loss

Celebrity apostates are the flip side of celebrity converts. Recently there's been a spate of celebrity apostates. From what I can tell, these are fair-weather Christians who lost their faith (such as it was) when Christianity ceased to be hip and cool. As the power elite turns against Christianity, there's a natural winnowing process.

These most recent, publicized case is Rhett & Link, whom I've never heard of before. I don't have anything to say about them. I just don't care. You're just one of 7 billion people, many unreached, who never had the opportunities you squandered. 

I'm simply using it as an occasion to make a general observation: Christianity has some aspects of a team sport as well as an individual sport. The team aspect is the church. The corporate dimension of the Christian faith. The fellowship of believers. Ideally, we drawn strength from one another. Share our joys and sorrows. Pray for each other. Encourage one another. The church is meant to be a spiritual family. 

So that's true up to a point. There is, though, another sense in which Christianity is more like an individual sport. In a team sport, no particular player, even if he's the star player, wins or loses. The team wins or loses. 

That cuts both ways. On the one hand, weaker players lower the ceiling of what stronger players could achieve. On the other hand, stronger players raise the ceiling of what weaker players could achieve. If you have loads of athletic ability, there's a sense in which it takes a certain amount of humility to play a team sport because you could go farther on your own. Less able teammates slow you down. They fumble opportunities. 

In an individual sport, you win or lose on your own. When you lose, that's not a loss for the team.

I suspect many unbelievers are gleeful about celebrity apostates because they think this is demoralizing for Christians. As if the Christian team takes a hit every time a teammate walks away from the Christian faith. Especially a  high-profile figure.

But theologically speaking, that's not how it works. This isn't a competitive team sport. You cross the finish line individually or you drop out of the race individually. The "winners" and "losers" are ultimately independent of each other. 

Salvation and damnation are individual outcomes. Tragic for the individual, and sad for onlookers. The apostate will suffer as an individual. 

A passenger ship is a traditional metaphor for the church. If you jump overboard, the ship won't sink. The ship won't stop. It will keep right on going to its appointed destination. 

Publicly recanting the Christian faith can be exhilarating for celebrity apostates. Temporarily, they get lots of kudos from infidels. 

But as you're splashing around in the water, you watch the stern of the ship recede towards the horizon. You're alone. The sun is edging towards the horizon. Soon it will be night. You will splash around in the silence and darkness and isolation. 

Unbelievers can gloat all they like over celebrity apostates, but Christianity continues to sail full steam ahead. Christians aren't hostage to apostates. We each have our own pilgrimage. 

The ship doesn't wait for you and me. I must be on time or be left behind. 

Christians are there to help each other on the journey. But there's always been an attrition rate. Some travelers begin the journey as unbelievers and finish as believers. Others begin the journey as believers, then end up as unbelievers. Some travelers suffer a crisis of faith during the journey, but return to the faith. 

1 comment:

  1. Or, to use a different image.... if someone decides to jump off the lifeboat into the freezing ocean, and other people also in the freezing ocean start crowing about how this could damage the reputation of the lifeboat, then this 1) isn't the most insightful view about what just happened 2) isn't a reason why anyone else should copy them.