In the past, those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely. The stress has been increasingly on individuals and their rights, interests, and needs, and not on the community and its rights, interests, and needs.
The second perspective is an observation, not an ideological declaration, about the Church made from the Left in Russia prior to its October, 1917 Revolution--we should note that Russia also underwent a February, 1917 Revolution. This perspective was written by Vlad (a.k.a., Vladimir Lenin) and it went like this (click here for the source):
Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.
The reason for reviewing Christian writings from these two perspectives is to determine whether today's writings show that the Church has changed since the times in which those observations were made. And for the record, I just want to say that I am not a fan of Lenin regardless of how I refer to him.
This week, the focus is on R.C. Sproul (click here for a bio) and his blogpost on the value of human life and abortion (click here for the article). This blogpost will also cite some other articles from the Ligonier list of articles with some by Sproul while one or two are from his son. The reason for this will become apparent.
In talking about abortion, Sproul brings up two biblical passages. One talks about lust and adultery (Matthew 5:27-28) and the other talks about anger and murder (Matthew 5:21-22). He does not bring up both of the these passages talk about abortion primarily; rather, he does so to talk about how we should read the laws given in the Bible. For with passages, the prohibition cited applies more than to just the literal acts. The prohibition against adultery, for example, applies to more than just refraining from the physical act of adultery, it applies both desire and allowing the conditions that would lead to the potential of breaking God's law. The same applies to anger and murder.
Thus, the commands of God have negative implications far beyond what meets the naked eye when reading the commandments. Likewise, Sproul notes that there are positive implications to the commandments on adultery and murder that would foster conditions the preserve both purity and life. He places all of this in the context of the sanctity of human life which he discusses when he quotes from Genesis 1:26-27 as well as other passages.
With regard to abortion, he tells us that we are prohibited from killing life and from participating in the potential killing of life. Thus, we should allow for abortion because it is the taking of actual or potential living person. That refraining from participating in the actual killing or the potential taking of life comes from those negative and positive implications from reading God's law on murder.
So far, everything that Sproul has said is sound and valuable in terms of how we should read and apply the Scriptures. It is well worth reading. So why does it sound like there is going to be the mention of a problem or two? It is because how Sproul applies the Scriptures that prohibit murder to the case of abortion is not also immediately applied to the case of war and economics as far as can be detected in other articles. For those on war, please access the following links: War And The Christians, When War, What's The Most Important Economic Lesson Americans Need To Learn, and Tough Economic Times.
Before going on, some disclaimers must be made. The list of articles cited is very brief and so we can't conclude that Sproul never associates the subject of murder or the potential killing of others with war and economics. So we must qualify what our complaint says to saying that the prohibition against murder and the potential for participating in murder was not as foremost in the minds of those who wrote those articles as we would want. In addition, the articles on economics was not written by R.C. Sproul, they were written by his son and his son writes from a very conservative political and economic viewpoint. But the articles by his son is still coming from R.C. Sproul's Ligonier Ministry's website.
So when we read these other articles, what we find is no association of the prohibition against murder or the potential of killing with war or with economics. Now some would question why do we need to associate the command against murder to economics? It is simply because exploitive economic systems provide for the potential of hurting or even killing others in multiple ways.
Now what does all of this have to do with what Vlad and The Crisis Of Democracy have said about the co-opting of the Church by those who maintain the status quo? With regard to abortion, we should note that it has become a moot issue because we are in the process of wrecking the world by waging war and destroying the environment. How can we talk to nonconservatives about the sanctity of human life for the unborn when we don't talk about the sanctity of human life when discussing war and the environment?
In addition, the abortion issue is an individual, personal decision--this statement does not justify elective abortions. And even though Sproul goes on to associate the prohibition against murder as a reason to protect the vulnerable as well as the unborn, the decisions to do so are made by Christians as individuals, not the Church as an institution. And there is no mention of protesting the conditions forced on the vulnerable by the Church as an institution. Thus, when talking about war and economics, there was no mention of the Church as an institution preaching repentance to those who call for war and/or maintain exploitive economic systems.
Thus, what Vlad observed in his day carries over to today regarding the Church not challenging those with wealth and power. So when those same people provide assistance for the victims of the pursuits they support, they are working what Vlad rightfully called a 'cheap' grace angle. As for what was said in The Crisis Of Democracy, the Church as an institution still serves as an institution of indoctrination in silent complicity. Yes, it might encourage some of its adherents to resist the call to some wars in accordance with what those individuals believe; but the Church as an institution will never speak out against the authority figures of either the public or private sectors.
And what was just said about war goes more than double for the economy. For as we see in Sproul's son's views, the government can only inhibit the business sector with its actions. Thus, according to Sproul's son, the government cannot represent the people in prohibiting those with wealth and other business owners from legally exploiting others or benefiting from an exploitive system. And here again, we want to note the very conservative politica/economic beliefs of Sproul's son.
The close ties between political/economc conservatism and theological conservatism in this nation has only ensured that at least much of the Conservative Church in America will follow the examples provided by the predominant branches of the Church that existed in the pre revolutionary times of French, Russian, and Spanish Revolutions. During those times, the predominant branch of the Church sided with wealth and thus it ended up siding with tyranny. When the revolutions came, quite a bit of dishonor was brought to the Gospel by those allegiances. The same could be said of the predominant churches prior to coups that existed in Guatemala (1954) and Chile (1973). The predominant churches then sided with wealth so that when the respective coups came, those churches ended up siding with tyranny. This is what Vlad objected to while fitting in to the system of the wealthy which is what The Crisis Of Democracy said was the purpose of the Church.