It is not hard to find illustrations to demonstrate the cultural drift of society, A quick glance at the television or the magazine rack at the supermarket checkout line should suffice, and shouldn't be difficult to formulate a Christian response to each new example that comes up, but there comes a point at which your resolve is shaken, and you feel like giving up. This is one of those weeks where I find myself tiring of tilting at windmills.
The July 2013 issue of "Good Housekeeping" magazine contained an article entitled “Why It Feels so Good to Be Just a Little Bit Bad!” by Val Frankel that contains some ideas that might discourage the most die hard religious cultural warrior. Pastor Mark Jeske pulled some choice quotes from the article as follows,
“You’re probably used to worrying about everyone else’s good time. But it’s OK to have your own fun—and not necessarily the decorous kind. Behaving badly, at least once in a while, can ease stress, put a smile on your face, and make your heart beat faster. . . . ‘If you constantly deny yourself pleasure, you’ll feel resentful, and that can increase your risk of getting sick,’ says Jane Greer, Ph.D., author of What About Me? . . . We’ve found ten guilt-free ways to misbehave that will leave you feeling as if you’ve gotten away with something. So go ahead. Be your bad self.”Again, it shouldn't be too difficult to see the problems the Church might have with the new morality of Val Frankel, and there are perhaps two ways of responding to new gospels such as this. One way is to point out the error of these teachings when placed in contrast to traditional Christian teaching, and the other way is to pound the message of the Gospel of Jesus to those who might be tempted to read "Good Housekeeping" as a source of advice for living.
#1 Gossip. “Next time an acquaintance does something selfish or even unethical, spill every gnarly detail.”
#2 Flirt with a man not your husband. “Flirting with others keeps you plugged into your sexual energy and self-confidence.”
#6 Don’t censor yourself. “Sometimes you just have to toss an f-bomb.”
#8 Be Gleefully Grabby. “A little bit of me-first-ism can make you giddy.”
#10 Get mad and stay mad. “If they stayed mad, spouses were more likely to correct their spouses’ bad behavior.” (H/t Pastor Mark Jeske at Time of Grace)
The question is this, who has the most influence in the hearts and minds of the average American? "Good Housekeeping" writers or the author of the Gospels?
The circulation of "Good Housekeeping" is estimated to be 4,630,397. This is far less than television's market, and less than the number of professed Christians in the U.S., but considering the size of our particular denomination, one might be inclined to guess that the cultural influence of Good Housekeeping is greater than that of the Episcopal church despite all the novel ideas the church promotes these days.
I suspect articles such as “Why It Feels so Good to Be Just a Little Bit Bad!” are both a reflection of cultural trends as well as being one of the ways that new norms are reinforced, legitimized, and propagated, which is not unlike what we find in much of the preaching and teaching heard from the Episcopal church.
For example, the following announcement came from our parish last week,
"Sunday, September 15 is Christian Formation Kickoff Sunday: Godly Play, Journey to Adulthood, and Children's Church begin. All classes will be held in the upstairs classrooms. Also, beginning on Sept. 15 is the Adult Christian Formation Fall Speaker Series at 9:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall. Our first guest speaker is Sally McKay who will be giving background information with an update on the Bishop’s Task Force on the Blessing of Same Sex Unions with a time for questions and answers."Oh, the irony of an un-Christian message being passed off as Christian Formation. If reinforcement, legitimization, and propagation of behaviors that are contrary to the Gospel of Christ causes some to change "Good Housekeeping's" name to "Bad Housekeeping," just what does our bishop think people will be calling his church after they learn what his task force is trying to pass off?
(Links to the Task Force 10 to Gomorrah posts)
Perhaps some day both society and the Church will reverse the direction of their drift and return to their roots, but this week finds me feeling rather pessimistic.