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Friday, May 1, 2015

Moore's Article On Baltimore Shows Christian Narcissism

Russell Moore, a key figure in the Southern Baptist Church, just wrote an article in the Christian Post about what the city of Baltimore needs (click here for the article). Unfortunately, the article might say more about us Christians and our collective self-image than it says about Baltimore and its problems. I write this because for all of the complex problem that city is facing, Moore says the following:
But I would argue that the primary need Baltimore has is for the church.

And it isn't that Moore isn't aware of some of Baltimore's problems and their underlying causes. And Moore recognizes that the Church cannot solve the city's problems by itself. But he believes that the solution to the city revolves around the Church. To some, that might sound a bit narcissistic.

It isn't Moore's take on Baltimore alone that tells us American Conservative Christianity might be having serious problems with narcissism, we could look at the same-sex marriage issue as well. For all one has to do is to read what many of these same Christians have to say about the same-sex marriage issue and the theme is the same: it is all about the Church. For many of us are saying either what will happen to us if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land or we are saying what will happen to both marriage and the nation if our sexual morals are not followed. So whether we are talking about Baltimore or same-sex marriage, the conversation eventually revolves around Christians and the Church.

So Moore's take on Baltimore is this. What we are witnessing there is sin and its effects. So what we see there is normal because sin is normal. The Church has the only antidote for sin because it is the place where Jesus reigns. And a result of Jesus reigning in the Church is that 'carnal divisions' between people caused by sin are torn down. Those in the Church are now united with their fellow believers and are serving each other. And so if the Baltimore looks to the Church, it will see what it can become.

There is a problem with Moore's analysis here in that it is too simplistic. Even when Moore gives a more detailed list of Baltimore's problems, he leaves out an important problem. The problem he leaves out is the continual problem with police abuse-- he only lists the Freddy Gray incident of police violence. It doesn't take much internet searching to discover that the police treatment of Gray was merely a tipping point, not the sole incident. Ta-Nehisi Coates reports that over 100 cases of police abuse have been found to be true by the courts since 2011 (click here). Another source has reported that almost $6 millions has been awarded to the victims of this violence. And yet, Moore can only hope that justice can be found in the Freddy Gray case. Thus, Moore only asks the protesters to be peaceful, he does not include the police.

In addition, Moore speaks of Christ's reign in the Church and subsequent justice there in absolute terms as if peace and justice were an already accomplished fact. He also speaks of the Church as if it is untainted and above being corrupted by culture. Is that what we find to be true in real life? And isn't the Church already divided by both denomination and race?

Another problem that exists here is that a basic requirement to be found in solving Baltimore's problems is that the solution(s) must meet the needs  of a heterogeneous population. When we look at how we Conservative Christians have been reacting to the move to legalize same-sex marriages and the animosity of some of us to those in the LGBT community, can we say that we are providing a good example of how to live together in a heterogeneous population? In other words, do we work and play well with others?

We should note that the charge of narcissism should be carefully made. And it should not be made by amateurs. However, when we look at the signs of narcissism, and we realize that at least 5 of these signs must be met for someone to actually qualify as being a narcissist, don't the reactions of us Conservative Christians to the rioting in Baltimore and our reactions to others, such as those in the LGBT community, give people reason to be concerned about us? The signs of narcissism are listed below (click here for source) :

  • exaggerated sense of one's own importance
  • absorbed with fantasies of power, success, beauty, and so on
  • one believes that they are above others and can only be understood by those who are also better than others
  • demands lavish acclaim
  • unrealistic expectations regarding how others should favor them and their views
  • exploitive
  • has a hard time understanding how others feel
  • is jealous of others
  • arrogant
Are we Conservative Christians exhibiting at least 5 of the above signs of narcissism in how we are responding to the world and its problems? I am afraid that too many people would answer with a resounding 'YES'! And they would answer that way because of what they see in us.

Here, we must make a distinction between how the world needs God and how it needs the Church. We must make that distinction because we so often misrepresent God in how we live and treat others. All of us do. We could all be justly charged with hypocrisy if hypocrisy is preaching one thing but doing another. And how much hypocrisy is in our lives depends on how much we are compromising God's Word in order to get what we want.

Baltimore does need God and His Word in order to be at least partially restored. But some of the truths of His Word can come to Baltimore without the Church. God's Word can come to Baltimore through His common grace, which can speak through consciences of all sorts of people. And whether God's grace comes to Baltimore through the Church depends on how faithful His Church is being.  So the question continues to be for us conservative Christians and whether we can help others, are we being faithful to God or are we merely looking for more attention when we say that the world needs us?





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