When I first saw Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA’s, my first reaction was utter contempt and gleeful ridicule. I didn’t bother watching the whole thing because it was so dang awkward and, frankly, lame, and it seems like even most celebrities agreed (my favorite reaction was Drake looking down and looking mighty uncomfortable). It smacked of what the kids these days call “try-hard,” as Cyrus tried desperately to shed her Disney image and embrace what the world considers adulthood. Add to the fact that she performed Blurred Lines with Robin Thicke, a catchy but sexually objectifying song that partially inspired my satirical post on sexual lyrics, and I saw her with nothing but scorn. I even slammed her as a “degenerate piece of sewage” on Facebook while also making fun of the fact that Thicke had the audacity to claim that his song contained “a feminist movement.” The song is so blatantly womanizing that it remains fascinating how girls are okay with it.
Make no mistake about it, there is plenty to ridicule here. It’s low-hanging fruit, and a sarcastic guy like me has a hard time not making snide remarks about such things. However, after thinking about it, I had to repent of my contempt. Not because we shouldn’t condemn and sometimes even ridicule such behavior (we obviously should), but because I remembered that Cyrus is a 20 year old girl… the age of girls that I teach in my college ministry. I realized that if I saw any of our girls go down that path, I would be worried and angry (good anger), and I would try to talk sense to her, protect her, and show her that the attention she is getting with her “sexual liberation” is nothing but bondage to the moral decay of the world. If she were my daughter, I would imagine those feelings would be multiplied by about five trillion.
Recently, our college group formulated a servant-leadership covenant in order to clearly set the expectations of the college leaders as well as clarify accountability. As far as such covenants go, it was fairly standard, emphasizing salvation, discipleship, church authority, and upright behavior. However, church covenants, either membership or leadership covenants, are not uncontroversial, and many Christians do not understand the point of them. At best, critics think they are superfluous documents that merely restate the obvious; at worst, they are viewed as legalistic ways of control that are actually contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.
I will attempt to explain the nature of a covenant, why it’s biblically justified, and then answer common objections to it.
What is a covenant?
In simple terms, it is a solemn agreement that sets obligations or standards. Generally speaking, theologians often differentiate covenants with contracts in that contracts are typically business agreements that are about performing duties for material benefits while covenants are about relationships and based upon commitment. Even if one wants to just call covenants and contracts the same thing, however, the intent and nature of church covenants doesn’t change; it isn’t about business transactions but about commitment to community and ethics.
I wrote recently about how Christians need to critically evaluate the songs they listen to in the culture, and I’m going to put that into practice now.
I first heard of Macklemore several months ago due to the song called Thrift Shop, where he more or less makes fun of excessive materialism in a goofy beat. The song isn’t exactly wholesome, but the lyrics are sometimes amusing, if not really stupid. Macklemore’s new song, however, aims to be serious and preachy as he defends homosexuality and homosexual marriage. He certainly has every right to write a song in a way that he wishes, but of course, others have every right to critique what he and his co-artists say. His lyrics, on the surface, may sound convincing, and he actually makes a few good points. Overall, though, the argument in the song is flimsy and built upon a great many misconceptions about God, the Bible, and why religious people like Christians affirm traditional marriage as the norm.
The song is called Same Love with Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, and I first heard it on the radio and listened carefully to it all the way through. It’s definitely a song that is in-step with how the culture is going, but that, of course, does not mean that it is right. Thus, I think it will be helpful to dissect the song. I’ll put the lyrics in bold and respond below them.
I’m sure most people are now aware of the utterly horrific crimes of Ariel Castro, who abducted three young woman and raped, abused, and threatened them for a period of eleven years. The extent of his evil is so great that it is difficult to put into words, and his actions are so vile that they would shake even the most optimistic humanist who believes that human beings are basically good. Castro is a moral monster of epic proportions.
Castro, however, doesn’t think he’s a monster. He claimed in court that he was “sick,” that his wife made him become abusive, and that he himself was the victim of sexual abuse as a child. He even went so far as to blame the FBI for not investigating the kidnappings more thoroughly (he actually might have a point that they should have seen the connections between the women, but that’s neither here nor there when it comes to his guilt). The judge incredulously told him that he was trying to paint himself as the victim when he was assuredly the criminal.
While what Castro did was so blatantly evil that I doubt even the most naive moral relativist would be brave (and stupid) enough to deny that it is objectively evil, Castro’s attitude is unfortunately similar to what many people have these days about their wrongdoing. They want to deflect responsibility, so they claim they’re “sick,” that they were born that way, that rough factors in their life made them do something that was wrong, etc. One time, I heard a psychiatrist try to argue that we shouldn’t criticize people who have road rage because they are sick. Road rage is a “disease,” he said. In our society where we don’t like it when people call out our actions as evil and wrong, we deflect blame and claim that it’s not our fault. Twentieth century lawyer (and materialist) Clarence Darrow was famous for trying to argue that his clients weren’t guilty because they had no free choice; they were determined by outside causal factors to do what they did, so why hold them responsible?