Under Pressure, Like David Bowie and Jesus Said

David Bowie teamed up with Queen on the song Under Pressure. Vanilla Ice later ripped that song off and said he didn’t, but that’s another story. Under Pressure. That is the story of the faith. Around the world, and right here in the U.S. of A.   Here are two opposing poles of cultural pressure squeezing Christians here today. There are more than these, but two’s a start.

1.  The Squeeze of the PC Police (or Thought Police, to be Orwell-y)

To hear the politically correct among us talk these days, you’d almost get the impression that no one could possibly ever do anything evil in the name of religion. You hear this often in reference to Islam. ISIS does represent true Islam, you see. True religion is defined as being loving and gracious and accepting to pretty much everyone no matter who they are or what they do. Anything contrary to this is contrary to the spirit of true religion. The spirit of true religion can be summarized doctrinally as the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; the ethic of true religion is love (vague and nebulous), which can loosely be defined as being tolerant and accepting. Never mind all those annoying difficult issues like…Who is God? What is his (or is it her?) will? How do we know right from wrong? What is the purpose of life? What about Heaven? Hell? Etc. Don’t ask these questions! This distracts from the meaning of true religion.

This is a necessary outgrowth of living in a pluralistic culture. Lots of different folks believe lots of different things and we all have to get along, so let’s just emphasize the stuff we agree on and gloss over the stuff that we don’t. It also grows out of the comparative religions movement. Let’s reduce everyone’s belief down to a common core. Let’s just agree on what we all agree on and ignore the stuff we don’t. Don’t Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus (to name just the most significant world religions) pretty much all believe the same stuff at heart (the true religious core)? Well…no they don’t. Not even close. Subject for another day.

Suffice it to say, this is baloney (other words could be used here). Why? Because, if you are a true Christian in the New Testament sense of the word, you will know that the unforgivable sin is not intolerance, but the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (unbelief, I believe). You will know that Christ doesn’t present an offer to follow him on one of many possible paths to the Father, but says (most politically incorrectly!), “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

2.  The Squeeze of Militant Atheism (or the Self-Righteous Irreligious)

What is truly ironic is that while the PC among us see religion (in the true sense) as being basically positive no matter the creed, denomination, or religion, there is at the same time an opposite pole which views all religions as being inherently evil. Holding to any belief in God, a higher power, or a vague cosmic force is lumped together with a deprecating sneer as ridiculous. God? How about the Tooth Fairy? Leprechauns? Unicorns? God? Seriously? It’s the twenty-first century for goodness sake! We’ve got the internet, nuclear power, nano-technology and all the rest and you are still holding to a belief in your myth of a god (these folks love to mock the “divine” with the use of the lower case)? From this perspective there is no true religion. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that any and all religion is truly evil. It should be rejected, purged, forgotten – anything but believed or practiced (or, in some instances, tolerated).

Not only is the core of religion not good, but the whole notion is bad, evil, wicked. It is truly laughable how lost on those affirming such how intellectually dishonest such a position is. For one thing, it is loaded with absolute language. And whence the grounding for such morally absolutist statements? All religion is bad? Where is the independent ground upon which one stands that enables the absolute knowledge to make such a judgment? Only God can have such an independent vantage point and universal perspective. Certainly no atheist is making a claim to divinity (though, frankly, such a claim is inherently self-deifying). But, in addition to this – on what ethical grounds can anyone who dismisses God characterize anything as “good” or “bad” anyway? You can classify things as useful for a particular purpose, perhaps. But you can’t say anything is “good” unless you are willing to yield the ground of an absolute independent point of ethical standing which is tantamount to affirming the existence of God. It is illogical and self-contradictory to talk about the evil of religion unless you are willing to acknowledge the existence of God. You might as well rail against the squareness of circles – it is nonsensical, incoherent drivel.

Ironically again, it is only we believers who in fact have the independent vantage point from whence it is possible to judge anything, including religion (the false kind) as evil. One of those evils is unbelief.

There are three possible paths for us true believers to pursue in light of these contradictory cultural forces pressing upon us:

Option 1: Allow our faith to be reduced to a vanilla caricature of the real thing thereby not offending the politically correct sensitivities surrounding us. This would violate the Truth and would not satisfy the PC Police anyway, and would certainly not satisfy the militant atheists who exert the opposite pole of pressure. Not an option.

Option 2: Renounce our faith altogether as being an evil, throwing in our lot with the unbelievers. Of course, it would be hard to rest securely in the rectitude of so doing, as we’ll have surrendered any solid basis for ethical evaluation, as well as the Truth. But we’d make peace with a small but increasingly vocal and vitriolic minority of the population. Umm.  Not an option.

Option 3: Forget about trying to satisfy the cultural forces that squeeze us and seek to satisfy the Lord who called us. “Take up your cross every day and follow me.”

Is there really any other option? After all, our Lord promised us that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The term there translated “trouble,” by the way, means “pressure.” We’ll be Under Pressure. Accept it. Expect it. Endure it. Just like Jesus said (and did).