I am sitting in the duck blind I call an office, watching the feathers fly over the recent comments (and reactions to the comments) of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson. For those of you who are not savvy to this show, the Robertson clan (from Louisiana) are rednecks who believe in Jesus (no, that’s not redundant, at least not totally so) and who have made a fortune selling calls for duck hunting. They wear camo and hunt and fish and have Southern accents and look almost as uneducated and unrefined as it is possible to be.

 musician-phil_robertson

Phil, the patriarch, worships at a very conservative Christian church, and recently expressed in an interview with GQ that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. His language was somewhat graphic (somewhat, since I have heard worse in some restaurants and most construction sites and every middle school playground I have ever been around), and it was offensive to a wide range of people in our society, and applauded (more or less) by a somewhat less wide range of people.

 

Pro-gay supporters are apparently out in force to advocate for lynching Phil Robertson for (what they see as) his tasteless intolerance. Some conservative Christians are advocating for sainthood. And a gaggle of folks in-between are “ducking:” and running for cover as the latest barrage is fired in the culture wars.

 

All of this brings me to ask a question of the Church, what I believe is the deeper question that underlies this whole controversy.

 

But, first, the back story to my question: John Wesley summarized Methodism’s purpose as “To reform the nation and, in particular, the Church; to spread scriptural holiness over the land.”

 

For many Christians, even if they might not use that exact wording, the concept would be both familiar and acceptable. And, it makes me wonder (here comes my question), what does scriptural holiness look like in 21st-Century, pluralistic America?

 

Once upon a time (probably back when Middle Earth was still around) drinking was unholy, but smoking was not. (Today, it is the other way around…well, depending on what you are smoking, of course.) There was a time when divorce was out and homosexuals were not. It used to be that blue laws were in, and “going green” was not yet even heard of. 

 

What is the standard of holiness today? Can we find it in scripture? Or, is it determined by our society? Are we called to be people-pleasers or God-chasers? Would most Christians even recognize the phrase “holy unto the Lord?” How many would even care? Would the phrase even make it onto the plate on the turban of a priest today (Exodus 28:36), or would the marching orders be something like “grace for all – regardless?”

 

Let me ask this another way: is anything wrong anymore? Or, differently yet: does sin still exist? Who decides?

 

If the call on what is, and is not, sin is not mine to make, but God’s, how do I love my neighbor, while at the same time upholding the holiness of God? How do those who choose to follow Jesus embody both grace and truth? How can I care deeply about family and friends while standing firm in the muck that is the moral swamp of the 21st-Century? If we are a culture which has forgotten how to blush, would we know holiness from sin, right from wrong?

 

Angry people on both sides of the culture wars will take aim at those whose opinions they oppose, and whose guts they hate. But, the Church of Jesus Christ must grapple with issues we have long ago set aside, issues like holiness and righteousness.

 

I hope this question keeps you up at night: If God were to actually call the Church to reform, would we know scriptural holiness if we somehow, somewhere, were to actually stumble upon it?

 

Matthew 6:33

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