Outside the Camp
Mr. Paul deParrie, a fellow contributor to Covenant News, has written an outstanding critique of modern Churchianity called Jesus Against the Church, which I have been reading. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 12:
The first Christians were persecuted by pagan Rome only after extended tribulation from the Jews. In Church history there have been as many persecutions within the Church as without. Often it is the very alienation of a group of believers that makes them prime targets for worldly persecution. Two good modern examples are the homeschool and pro-life movements. Much of the legal difficulty they face can be traced to the unwillingness of the churches to back them early on because they were distrusted.
These and others have been willing to take firm stands for their faith – even if it meant standing outside the camp.
Christian leader, you have a big problem. (I would never say this if I were not your brother in this situation.) The tendency is for you to go along with the crowd and never take an unpopular stand. Pastors and other Christian leaders can easily fall into the trap of going with the flow and trying to maintain the “sacred” status quo. But the bottom line of discipling (Matt. 28:19-20) is obedience to Christ, and churches are God’s perfect laboratory for working out that obedience in terms of our everyday decisions. For myself, I’ve picked a handful of areas in which I have decided that compromise would simply be unacceptable. (If you have been reading my website, you know what these are.)
Today many of our so-called “Christian” leaders scoffingly reject biblical ethics as unequal to the task of providing leadership, but instead revert to pragmatism and compromise in order to solve our society’s ills, albeit in the name of “compassion.” Like a scene from a fairy tale, they treat the Scripture like an ogre treats the beautiful wife he refuses to talk to or sleep with, and keeps her locked up in a tower to prevent anyone else from doing so. This is why they so often fail to recognize naked, intolerant evil for what it is.
When Peter and John stood up to the religious authorities of their day, they were willing to go “outside the camp.” They knew what rejection was like, they knew what opposition was like, they even knew what jail was like, yet they kept on going back there for the sake of the Word of God. They refused to bow, in any way, shape, or form, to the secular-religious power of their day. The term “acquiescence” was simply not a part of their vocabulary.
We Christians have become our own worst enemies through compromise and tolerance. As long as we refuse to go outside the camp and bear the reproach of Christ, we will deserve nothing but the kind of stinging criticism Mr. deParrie describes in his book.
Now is the time, not for more hand-wringing, but for an acknowledgment that we are cowards. Now is the time to go forward! And going “forward” means going “outside” – outside the established religiosity of our day. Standing outside the camp with Christ will take constant vigilance and care. Church elders must lead the way by praying, teaching, serving – and by encouraging a spirit of radical obedience in their churches. How important for leaders not just to talk but to do!
Dear pastor friend, let us abandon the spirit of compromise once and for all!
September 17, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.