Alright, I’m getting yelled at to blog again so here we go. 🙂

A couple of years ago, I was hanging out with Josh one night and we were watching ‘Fear Factor’. Now I personally am not a big fan of reality shows, particularly the “dating” ones. I think that most of them are very degrading. (Obviously ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘American Idol’ aren’t quite so bad but this isn’t what this blog is about.) The producers specifically try to find personalities that they know will clash, put them into stressful situations together, and then sit back and watch the cat fights ensue. I know that this can be entertaining but, peacemaker that I tend to be, it rubs me the wrong way. These types of shows also not only allow but encourage cheating, lying, backstabbing, etc. So Josh and I are sitting watching ‘Fear Factor’ and the host (I don’t remember his name) is encouraging one of the contestants to basically sabotage a fellow contestant. This prompted me to comment, “This isn’t the show to watch if you want to see good morals.” Josh thought about that for a moment, then said, “I don’t know that morality is really the point.”

All my life I have been told to “do the right thing”. Don’t cheat on my tests. Drive the speed limit. Don’t stab your friends in the back. If the cashier accidentally gives you too much change, give the excess back. There are many things that have been taught to me which have been made to sound as though they are a part of the Bible. There have been times when I couldn’t remember if the phrase I was quoting was an actual Bible verse or just “good advice”.

I never really sat down to think about all this but his comment has stuck with me and has made me more aware of things over the years. Last Spring semester, when I was on my big Harry Potter kick, I borrowed a book from the library entitled ‘Harry Potter and the Bible: the Menace Behind the Magick’. I was curious what the author, Richard Abanes, had to say about Harry since I knew the books weren’t, ah, well received in the Christian community. Abanes’ conclusions were pretty much what I expected. At one point, he takes a quote from author R.K. Rowling and makes it appear as though she has no concern about the age of the child reading her books. Rowling has been quoted as saying that she wrote the books intending for the child reading them to be around the age of Harry and his friends. For the first book, that would make them 11. The fact that she reads them to her child who is younger is her decision, which is what I believe her point to be. It’s up to the parents and the child to decide if they can handle the books.

The part that really struck me (and is actually on topic 🙂 ) was Abanes’ discussion of the first book. In ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’, Harry is forced to make a quick decision. He must either disobey the instructions that his teacher just gave him or help his friend. Of course, Harry chooses to help his friend. Then, instead of getting into trouble, he is more or less rewarded for this choice. (Sorry if I’m being confusing but I don’t want to mess up anyone who is trying to read the book.) Abanes takes great issue with this, saying that Harry should have been punished for standing up to the school bully and helping his friend. Because he didn’t follow the rules, his act of friendship is completely disregarded in Abanes’ analysis. I don’t remember the exact quote but Abanes basically made a case similar to my comment about ‘Fear Factor’. This isn’t the book to teach your child morality.

No, it may not be. But morality isn’t the point. The point is the ultimate battle between good and evil. The point is not allowing your friends to be trampled over by bullies. The point is standing up for what you believe in and teaching others how to do the same. We see this very thing in the Bible. What is the 9th commandment? Don’t bear false witness. Who do we later see lying to save 2 men? Rahab. What is the “reward” she receives for this? She is the only woman named in the ‘Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews. “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11:31) Rahab was not a woman of “good morals”. In fact, none of the people named in Hebrews 11 are. Abraham, the liar and coward. David, the adulterer. Jacob, the liar. Moses, the coward and murderer. Noah, the drunk. Even the people who aren’t “known” for their sins still sinned. Because they are human. And God still used them, in their sin, for His glory.

Even though I don’t see the strong morals American Christians are expecting, we still try to find the moral in the Bible stories we tell children. “….moralism resembles a do-goodism that neglects a more biblical understanding of Christian ethics as it grows out of the redemptive work of Christ. The moralistic teacher tends to find “the moral” in Bible stories and in the lives of biblical heroes. There is a tendency to emphasize how “doing good” and “being responsible” always pay off in the end.” (‘Ancient-Future Faith’ by Robert Webber)

This is not to say that morals are bad. You should be kind to others. You should be helpful. You should share what you have. However, being a good, moral person is not the point. That’s not to say that you should be a bad, immoral person. Webber says it better than I do though.

“The problem with this kind of teaching is not with the behavior suggested by moralism, but with the misinterpretation of what Scripture actually says. Moralism fails to emphasize the redemptive nature of the Word. The stories of Scripture are often explained as isolated incidents, and not as examples of the way God is working to accomplish redemption. Thus the picture of Christianity as a superficial do-goodism is unconsciously presented……..True morality is not based on this or that particular story, but on the story of Israel and Jesus and the calling to be a new person within the community of God’s people on earth.” (Pg. 156)

Moralism is what the pharisees fell into and Jesus called them a brood of vipers. They believed that once everyone was sinless and living a moral life, then the Messiah would return. This is why they wanted nothing to do with the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the adulteress woman. They believed that these people were a hindrance to the coming of the Messiah when in fact, it was these people whom the Messiah came to save. Jesus certainly was no moral do-gooder. The pharisees were always after him for breaking the rules. His entire life was an affront to the very ideas they had been fighting to protect for years. This is why they wanted him dead. To them, Jesus and the people He hung out with were the ones keeping the Messiah away. Oh, if only they had had eyes to see. They had, in trying to worship God, placed morality before Him. “Subtle, these things we place as other gods before Him.” – John Fischer

The pharisees (and Christians today) like morality because it makes them feel good about themselves. “Look at what a good person I am. Surely God must love me.” How often do we do moral things not simply because it is the right thing to do but because it will make us look good? Morality is fine as long as it is in the proper context and as long as it is done with the heart of “I am doing the best I can for the glory of God”. We want God to be about morality but that is us trying to fit God into our box. Rod Dreher said “A god that is no bigger than our own desires is not God at all, but a divinized rationalization for self-worship.” If morality was the point, we could become like gods. But it’s not. The point is the story of redemption. God’s redemptive work, started in Jesus and continued through the Holy Spirit in us, His children.