Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Idolatry of the bottom line

Brian Lowery considers, with examples, what popular television shows are really teaching us in the United States:
Can you see how easy it is to find yourself justifying the means in light of a glorious end? And can you begin to see how such situational ethics, played out again and again to great ends on our television screens, can subtly creep into our everyday lives—even in the life of the church? The influence of these shows is made all the greater when you consider the chief idol of American culture that's second only to sex: the bottom-line. How often have you been encouraged to do whatever it takes to meet and even exceed that line?
Good questions. Brian has also posted another fine essay on what our thirst for television antiheroes really tells us about ourselves and our view of justice:
As you mull over ideas for preaching a Christological pursuit of justice, keep in mind that you'll also need to preach the "however long" quality of such a pursuit. While we must proclaim the upside-down nature of Christ's ethics of justice, we must also be honest about its timetable. The nature of a Christological pursuit of justice—going a mile more than one, constant concern over the appropriateness of action, doling out grace and mercy, taking up the cross daily—takes time. Things are further complicated when you look at the matter of justice from a big-picture perspective. God's work in Christ is both now and not yet. An incredible-but-mysterious act of justice began at the Cross and will not reach its climax until the new heaven and new earth. Though justice makes cameo appearances, it has not yet entered the stage in all its glory. Because this leads to a seemingly schizophrenic life of both celebration and waiting, weariness is inevitable—and weariness is the root of all evil in matters of justice. More often than not, it leads to resignation, which is a breeding ground for misguided action.

The key responsibility we hold as preachers is a tricky one: we must acknowledge that we live in a constant state of pleading ("How long, O Lord?"), while we also push all believers to adopt a resolute state fueled by hope ("However long, O Lord!"). If we can help our listeners live in the tension of the two, the chances of corruption decrease significantly, while space for a Christological approach increases.
That sounds right.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words, Milton. That's a real encouragement to me as I continue to wrestle with finding the intersection between this fascinating (often troubling) cultural text and Good News.

Let me return a word of encouragement your way. There's a reason we link to your blog from the PT blog - you're a very thoughtful, very helpful writer and thinker. Thanks for adding some rich layers to the preaching conversation. Many blessings as you continue...

8:35 AM, October 01, 2008  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for your kind and encouraging words, Brian. All the best.

7:52 AM, October 02, 2008  

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