JUDGING LANCE: THE POLITICS OF TOUCHING A THIRD RAIL
In a recent column, I had the gall to touch a �third rail� of social discourse. I criticized a canonized �hero� � Lance Armstrong. (See: Lance Armstrong Loses Tour de Life)
My criticism was primarily aimed at Christians who are willing to idolize a man whose priorities are completely upside-down and whose character is questionable at best. In making this point, it was necessary for me to demonstrate Lance�s failings from the fruits of his own life and words.
My, my, my, what a squeal we do evoke when we touch the hallowed name of a bona fide sports hero. (I see the same result when the light is placed on other sacred cows among Christians. Just try criticizing Israel, or Bush.)
I have never received such sustained response � both agreeing with and condemning me. Most of it came from people who appeared to be claiming to be believers.
As with the worldly, the critics howled, �Judge not!� purporting to reference Matthew 7: 1-4.
Then they proceeded to �judge� Armstrong as a good man helping cancer patients and who is not a Christian only because of people like me. (Not to mention that they are judging me when they tell me not to judge.) Naturally, it never occurs to these folks that in deciding that Armstrong is a good person, they are also �judging.� If you think this is a petty point, consider that Jesus did not say, �Judge not negatively.� In Scripture, judgment is used to bring justice whether negative or positive � thus, such admonitions as, �Judge the poor and the widow.� (Isaiah 11: 4) In fact, the Scripture also tells us not to favor someone because they are poor. (Exodus 23: 3)
Further, the passage in Matthew so often given in partial quote is an injunction against hypocritical judgment, not judgment itself.
The remainder of the chapter even gives some instructions on how to judge properly, i.e., by their fruits. In John 7: 24 we are told to judge righteous judgment.
The problem comes in when believers are educated in the Nicer-Than-Jesus Theological Seminary. Somehow �niceness� becomes the greatest fruit of the Spirit and �love� means never having to tell anyone that they are wrong.
One of the worst outfallings of this kind of teaching is that the graduates of this school proceed to spread this God-Is-Always-Nice teaching to the world�s sinners to the point where they become impervious to the bad news of the Gospel � the part where they have to be told and to acknowledge that they are truly sinners before God and are on their way to Hell. Only in such an atmosphere can someone see the need for the good news of the Gospel � that, upon repentance, God will forgive them and remake them into obedient saints.
Another corruption brought by this false doctrine is that we cannot even correct people who are within the Church. We are required to silently �love� people who bring sin into the camp. We are demurely silent about all sorts of evil: covetousness, adultery, idolatry, fornication, divorce � but we will scream to the rafters if someone (God help them) smokes a cigarette.
Our tolerance has led to the point where the Church has a higher rate of divorce than the general, worldly populace. (See Barna polls) So, when we idolize sports accomplishment while ignoring divorce, it only reflects what is already deep-rooted sin in the camp.
When someone points that out, the choir suddenly remembers a select, closely-parsed Bible verse to shield them (and Lance) from the criticism. They start throwing the word �hypocrite� around as though it�s meaning was �one who criticizes� rather than �one who is doing what he criticizes others for.� (This false definition has become part of the world�s repertoire of defense retorts, as well.)
However, to me, the worst part of the negative reactions to my article was that they missed the point entirely � thereby confirming my premise. They are so blinded by the PR image of Lance as a �hero� (that word alone being a worthy subject of another missive) and a philanthropic giant, that all they see is the criticism of Armstrong and they miss the staggering incongruity of Christians beholding the holiness of God and offering acclaim to a man who thinks riding a children�s toy is more important than caring for his own children.
Our worship of sport and �heroes� apparently trumps righteous judgment.
I do not repent for pointing this out.
� 2004 Paul deParrie - All Rights Reserved
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Paul deParrie is a 17-year veteran of anti-abortion street activism, a preacher, and a social critic. He is the author of "Dark Cures: Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics" (Huntington House) available at NewsWithViews Online Store Front. deParrie may be reached at: [email protected].
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