All I was doing was putting my own, personal thoughts down in writing. I never expected anybody to read them, let alone care what I said.
On Friday morning, after hearing of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the range of emotion I was feeling needed an outlet. I’m a writer. If I was a composer the feelings would have come out in song. If I were an artist, I would have painted or sculpted. But I’m a writer. So naturally, I wrote.
I contacted Third Option Men, a Christian men’s website that I regularly contribute to, and they desired to publish what I wrote. I put my thoughts down, posted them to Third Option Men, and went about my day.
And then things got a little wild. My article garnered more attention than I expected, both positive and negative. In my experience of writing online, I’ve noticed a pretty common pattern: when someone agrees with what I write, they share it through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. When they disagree with it, they comment. This posting almost immediately starting seeing both of these responses on a greater level than ever expected.
But nothing prepared me for the phone call I received about two hours after the post went live. A journalist for ChristianPost.com, Alex Murashko, called requesting to interview me regarding what I wrote. He specifically wanted to know what I meant when I said that “The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.”
Again, I wasn’t trying to make a statement. This was as much about me getting my thoughts out of my head as anything. And frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the negative reaction that so many have had to that statement.
But I stand behind every word I wrote.
Still I understand that for many, there needs to be a greater development of this claim. To state that the Church could possibly have any culpability in a tragedy such as this shooting is not something that is easy to accept. But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Let’s clear up something right away: I never claimed that the shooter, James Holmes, is NOT responsible. As a single incident, James Holmes is solely responsible for this heinous act. He should be punished for what he’s done. He will have to answer both to an earthly, and a Heavenly, court for his crime.
But as far as this crime reflects the society we live in, the Church IS responsible for this tragedy. Let me explain.
James Holmes was acting out – in reality – the fictional world of the movie playing at the time: The Dark Knight Rises. He was moving the story from fiction to fact. He became a real-world manifestation of the villains present in the story.
This isn’t much different than what happened thirteen years earlier at Columbine High School. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold mimicked scenes from The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix. They took fantasy, and made it reality.
These shootings were life imitating art.
But as I said in the original article, the problem isn’t Hollywood, or video games; it isn’t the fact that the world is acting as should be expected. The problem is the Church being less than it is called to be.
In His seminal message to His disciples, Jesus charges us with the following:
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the word. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
Salt and Light.
That’s our calling as followers of Jesus. There’s nothing new to this statement. We all know that we are called to this. But knowing something and doing something are very different.
And this isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a command. We must understand that along with the call to be salt and light, comes a warning to those who are not. Salt that fails to be useful is worthless and cast out. Light can be hidden, and if it is, it fails to give light to those who need it.
After charging His disciples with this important mission, Jesus then continues to give examples of what the life of salt and light looks like.
Don’t hate; it’s the same thing as murder. (Matthew 5:21-26)
Don’t lust; it’s the same thing as adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30)
Don’t use oaths to manipulate situations. Just stand by your word. (Matthew 5:33-37)
Don’t retaliate; instead, give more than what’s being demanded of you. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Give to those in need, not because you have to or because it makes you look good, but because you love those in need and it glorifies your Father in Heaven.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. You get the point.
Jesus closes this sermon with a series of disturbing warnings:
Don’t look at the tree, but at the fruit. If the tree isn’t bearing fruit, it’s diseased and should be thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:15-20)
Don’t think that everyone who says the right things, or even claims to have done amazing things in my Name, really knows me. Many who make that claim won’t enter the Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Build your “house” on the right foundation, if you don’t, it will be washed away with the storm. (Matthew 7:24-27)
So if Jesus gave us these benchmarks and warnings, is it wrong if we use them to measure the health of the Church today?
What is the fruit of the Church in America? We’ve got a lot of amazing programs and buildings and ministries. Dozens of books and videos are released daily that teach us how to become better people. But what real, lasting, tangible impact are we having on American society?
At the turn of the 21st Century, Dr. Michael L. Brown produced a document entitled, The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution. In it he shared these startling statistics:
The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world, with more than 36% of Americans – meaning more than 90 million people – classified as born-again. Yet America has:
- The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
- The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
- The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
- The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
- The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world
Honestly, can you tell me that this is the fruit of a Church that is living out its calling to be salt and light?
Brown goes on to say:
Our society is deteriorating all around us and even non-believers sense that something is wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this age. As a result, we have not changed this generation. This generation has changed us!
Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, many of us are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, many of us are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their values.
Here are a couple of examples of this taking place. A few weeks ago social media was buzzing due to the premiere of the movie, Magic Mike. This movie is about a male stripper and his lifestyle. This is a movie that glorifies lust and sex. And many Christian women not only attended this movie, but bragged about it on Facebook and Twitter as they attended with other ladies from their individual churches!
Another is the overwhelming popularity among Christian women of the book 50 Shades of Grey. This book is commonly referred to as “mommy porn”. It is disgusting filth that NO Christian should ever put before their eyes. Yet there are “Christian women” who read this and celebrate it on social media sites!
Now, I hesitate even mentioning these two as examples, in fear that some will infer that I believe this problem is one that is isolated to women. That is not the case. If men were leading in the Church – being the men that God called them to be – we wouldn’t be seeing this spiritual degradation among Christian women. The reality is, if this corruption has reached this level, it is because men have ceased to be men, and we are truly in serious trouble.
And one look at pastors in America today shows us how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20 percent of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. (To see the stat, CLICK HERE)
And the examples could go on and on. Our nation is becoming darker and darker, and we in the Church are doing very little to change that. Earlier in The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, Dr. Brown describes Satan’s scheme for the Church in America:
Satan’s strategy is to institutionalize the Church, to turn the Body of Christ into a powerless religious system. If that tactic fails, he tries to desensitize us and lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of outrage is gone. And he is always seeking to seduce us into sin until we become just like the world, enslaved by its passions and lusts. And when he thinks he has succeeded, when he no longer feels threatened by the people of God, then he gets aggressive and brazenly puts forth his agenda. He’s doing it today. We need a revolution!
I believe that Satan no longer fears the Church in America, but rather laughs at it.
Some have made the comment that the Church is doing fine, and that to suggest that the Church is at all responsible for the deterioration of American society, which has manifested itself in horrific acts such as Columbine and the “Batman Shooting” is not only incorrect, but heretical. Some have suggested that such criticism of the Church is tantamount to being the mouthpiece of Satan – the Accuser of the Brethren. To that charge I respond with these two passages:
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house “Beelzebul”, how much more will they malign those of his household. Matthew 10:24-25 ESV
Making the accusation that someone who is pointing out sin within the Church, and calling it to repentance, revival, and awakening, is doing the work of Satan is not a reasonable justification for that person to cease what they are saying; especially when we see that Jesus, Himself, has called His Church to repentance and revival. Consider Jesus’ own words to the Church of Laodicea:
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3: 15-22 ESV
This passage by Jesus has been referred to so often over the past 50 years, that it has lost much of its power. Stop and think about it. It is a description of a church that thinks it has it all together, while Jesus isn’t even invited in! This is the Church in America, TODAY!
And we wonder why we see evil prevailing in society. We wonder why young men can so easily plan to murder people in cold blood. We wonder why homosexuality is celebrated, while Biblical marriage and those that support it are labeled “bigots”. We wonder why life isn’t valued on any level, while ten times more children have been murdered in this nation since 1972, than were Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust!
I blame myself. I have been passive and silent too long. I have allowed this culture of darkness to grow and take over. I have not lived as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5 through 7. So if the world around me has become darker, IT IS MY FAULT.
And I’m not alone. We are all responsible. I’m not blaming Jesus and His power. I’m blaming those of us – which constitutes the vast majority of Christians in the United States – who have sat back and pretended that things are not so bad, or that things are getting worse because “that’s just where society is heading and there’s nothing we can do about it”. I’m blaming His Church for not being what we are called to be. I can do this, because I’ve seen the fruit.
The Church of Acts was one that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17). The Church of America is one that has allowed the world to turn IT upside down. This has to change. Now.
And if you’re sitting here reading this saying, “Not me!” than maybe you should go back, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth to you, and read this again.
The “Batman Shooting” is our fault.
Please return over the next several days, as I will begin to unpack SOLUTIONS to this spiritual crisis.