held to a higher standard

“Who stands fast?
Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom,
or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible
action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man,
who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Where are these responsible people?”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The notion of being held to a higher standard is a fast and dying concept.

This sad thought came to mind yesterday as I sat on a non-moving interstate with a screaming
3 month old in the back seat.

There were four lanes on this particular stretch of interstate, with a sea of cars and trucks
inching forward here and there by the slightest margins, while drivers kept jockeying for lane
changes.
The jockeying was due to every driver obviously thinking the other lane was actually moving at a
more rapid snail’s pace than their own.

Suddenly a car in the far left lane had the bright idea to cut all the way over,
over the four lanes of jam-packed cars and trucks, making its way to the far-right exit lane
as in right now this very moment…

As in it was suddenly a brilliant idea to stop all four lanes of traffic because this one
selfish bozo was tired of inching.

The tractor-trailer truck behind me was not having it.
He refused to let them in.
And in his defense, this car was being dangerously aggressive in their maneuvering,
giving very little care to anything or anyone around them.

When this car saw that they weren’t going to be allowed to squeeze in, they shot up two spaces
and actually cut off the cars two up from me and proceeded to cut until they flew up the exit ramp…
all the while, an arm was raised out of the open passenger window which was boldly shooting a bird
to each and all.

I use to think we humans were better than this.

Better than this self-centered, defiant, ‘to hell with you’ mentality we have now become so
smugly accustomed to.
A mentality we are readily, happily and eagerly embracing–
not to mention accepting and even expecting.

I was offended and I felt angry.

I could see they were young and of a minority.

And in my having just said that, the PC police out there have just labeled me a bigot, a racist,
probably a homophobic, xenophobic and out an of touch white supremacist right winger.

Shall we talk about labels…?
I digress.

But why should have I felt offended, let alone angry??

Why should I feel mad at someone who was obviously
an obnoxious self-centered thoughtless jerk who gave no-never-mind that they were
putting everyone’s safety in jeopardy just so they could get the hell out of dodge…
not to mention that they were being offensive with the hand gesture.

We use to be better than this right?

And in being better we actually held others up, thinking of one another with a higher
level of esteem and even feeling that we were all being held to a higher standard.

Meaning we should still know better, act better and be better….
but the thing is we aren’t.

Back during a certain day, we were more considerate,
more thoughtful and not so blatantly mean…and heaven’s forbid, blatantly offensive.

We actually use to take things such as politeness, prudence, judiciousness,
expertise, pride in doing one’s best, courtesies and citizenship all for granted.
We were taking all of these characteristics for granted because we simply expected such
from one another.
We were living our lives to those higher standards.

And maybe that’s our problem today.

But why now, why today should any of this be such a problem?
A problem in that we actually once expected more and received more from one another?

Perhaps it’s a problem because our society has become numb and desensitized to what is
offensive, endangering and even uncivil.

It’s as if someone suddenly clicked a switch and all of that changed…we changed.

We use to hold one another to higher standards and we use to hold various professionals to
higher standards.

We use to think of folks like doctors, members of law enforcement, members of the military,
athletes, youth leaders, coaches, members of the clergy, teachers, etc…as exemplary.

These were all folks that should and could always be held to a higher standard.
These folks were to be respected as were their jobs and roles in life.

Be it due to the amount of study or sacrifice that went into their profession…
to the seriousness in which they took their life’s calling…
or maybe simply because theirs was a choice of sacrifice for others.
They gave up their own time and often wellbeing to serve the rest of us.

Whatever the reason, we had a sense of peace with and for these folks.

We respected folks and their positions, their leadership, their expertise, their
learning, their teaching, their care, their giving of self…

But with time, all of that has eroded as scandal upon scandal had chipped away at each
group.

Sexual molestation.
Sexual predation.
Sexual solicitation.
Drug abuse.
Tax evasion.
Embezzling.
Money laundering.
Advantage taking.
Bullying.
Lying.
Cheating.
Abuse.

The sad little list goes on and on.
As we now view these sorts of folks with sideways glances and curious raised eyebrows.

Instead of rising upward or at least expecting to rise upward, we are sinking downward
and we do so with very little thought to it all.

We hear of something scandalous and we are no longer surprised or as outraged
as we once would have been.
We even produce and name television shows over such..as we sickeningly find it all so
entertaining.

And yet movements like all the hashtags, those movements such as #meto,
merely take us from one extreme to another.

And in lies much of our trouble.

We go rabid.

Because it appears as if rationality also left long ago…along with
both its friends esteem and expectation…
leaving us with only reactionary involuntary knee-jerk responses.
And much like wounded animals…we lash out.

We seek to throw scarlet letters on all perceived offenders.
While frantically searching with our spears and pitchforks for any hint of suspicion
in order to toss everyone in the wagon-cart of shame just so we can parade them around
for all to see.

We only thought we left stockades, pillories and public displays of punishment
behind in darker ages.

So is it surprising that we see no real change from the shaming and the shunning?

Instead, we simply become more and more numb.
It’s as if we’ve come to expect the idea of lowliness and rapidly diminishing expectations.
So much so that it is to the point that we are simply full of smugness and apathy.

We assume the worse.
Yet we continue being tolerant and even hungry for more.

However, all is not lost.

I am reminded that our God continues to hold us, his children, to a higher standard.
He’s never wavered in His expectations.

Despite knowing that we will fall…
Knowing that we will fail time and time again…

He continues to point upward rather than downward.
He continues reminding us that so goes the world, we are not to go.

He also expects us to hold those around us upward as well.
‘Sink not into the abyss’ He admonishes us while expecting us to do unto others
as we would wish done to ourselves.

So before we act and react in ways that are lowly, crude, hurtful,
hateful and dare we say evil…
may we remember to keep our standards set higher while never losing sight of
Godly expectations…

“…obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it,
not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor,
but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:22-24

Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

“Sin is the distance between us and God”
Bishop Gavin Ashenden

(this poor cherub or putti’s feet have frozen off / Julie Cook / 2018)

I think I’ve used the above quote before…
However, it doesn’t seem any less important or any less relevant than say, the other day…

The other day when listening to Bishop Ashenden’s rather reflective homily,
as well as the latest installment of Anglican Unscripted,
the good Bishop was reflecting on having been asked in an interview
“what is sin?”
or it may have been more along the lines of “what is your understanding of sin?”

Either way, the Bishop was about to be taken to a very public task, or so thought the
interviewer of all things cultural…

The very secular interviewer, after asking the Bishop the question regarding his take on
what sin actually was, in turn, told the bishop that he did not feel at all “sinful”
and so the notion of what a sin was, was totally irrelevant to him and therefore obviously
anyone else who wasn’t feeling the least bit sinful.

Well, this is where the good Bishop clearly demonstrates that he knows his ‘stuff’…

He tells the interviewer that “coming to God is not something that one can do cerebrally
or rationally”

He then goes on to explain, as I shared in my post the other day, that there are actually
two types of sin—
there is the sin that the Christian recognizes—
that being the distance between himself and God.
And then that of secular sin which is anything that runs counter to the current culture’s
perception of the normative.

Bishop Ashenden goes on to note that all the recent hashtag business, the #metoo etc,
frenzy is, plain and simple, nothing more than secular sin.

The Bishop watched the Golden Globes, I did not.

He has some choice words for those who, draped in black, captured the stage in an attempt
to make a pitch to their “dewy-eyed acolytes.”

Bishop Ashenden explains that as our society has become besotted by sex,
it has become simply our very present focus.
For it surrounds us in almost every aspect of our daily lives—
through advertising, entertainment, books, music…it is an obsession.
An obsession, that many have gotten quite good at ignoring.

Society has created a secular apocalypse with women like Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep
rising to the occasion of rounding up the feminist troops while intimidating and
crushing any questioning, or opposition or competing intentions…
a frenetic feeding frenzy of destructive shaming.
There is no room for remorse, healing, redemption or hope.

Yet oddly there are years of images with both of these women in cozy photos with the likes
of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and Roman Polansky…
women who had chosen to ignore truly bad boy and even illegal behavior.

And so we are now left wondering…
What is it now that makes things different from then…?

Is it now somewhat advantageous?
Has the time of championing feminism come into its own as it is now the popular
cultural bandwagon.
Is #metoo putting the ‘me’ in all of us dangerously closer at the center of our own universe
at the expense of common sense, grace and mercy?

Or is it simply the bravado of self-deception found in a society steeped in the notion of
its own sense of self-righteousness?
Found in its notion of the importance of the ‘we ourselves’…
Never mind answering to an authority greater than ourselves…for there is none…
because we are the demigods who have no need of anything or anyone greater.

The Bishop notes that in this secular societal self-righteousness, there lies a deeper problem.

Pure hypocrisy.

And the thing is…none of the rallying cries or the saber rattling or the
rabble-rousing allows for or has room for the utter forgiveness and redemption
found only in Jesus Christ.
For found in the sinfulness of the secular, there is no way back for the sinner.
No hope for the fallen.
And no hope equates to immediate death.

A stark contrast to the mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and life found only in the hope
of Jesus…

And thus he leaves us not with the damnation found in the current culture’s angst but
rather with the hopeful words of William Blake

“To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.”

William Blake

Talking to LBC (London Radio) about sin, sex and God -(as captured by an Australian website.)

‘Operation Opra’: Secular self-righteousness – a mixture of morality, hypocrisy and revenge.