I Mix It Up With a Hero…

Well, yes, of course I’m addicted to Facebook.   Duh..

The Pharisee Prays..
When we discuss public wrongdoing in the church are we giving the Pharisee’s Prayer

If you could have immediate access to the 40 or 50 most interesting people you know, and read the edited, best-self, versions of their lives, tease them while they’re at work, work out thorny problems of theology, culture and politics more or less all day long, who wouldn’t be addicted?

This is just glorious capitalism at work — Facebook, the current heir apparent to campfires, taverns, drug store counters, telephone party lines,  CompuServe, America On Line, MySpace.

This morning I had to get up early for a cross country conference call, and there at 5:30 AM, my Facebook friend Megan Zerfas is wishing the world a glorious morning at 8:30 AM, eastern time.  I am barely conscious, waiting for the Kreuger coffee to brew, in the dark, wearing my bathrobe,  completely unpresentable,  and there is Megan  saying hello to everyone.  I punch “like” on my Iphone, take my coffee upstairs, and thank God for another day of life.

So when a theologian I deeply admire, R.C. Sproul Jr., lamented the Facebook trend of taking errant mega-ministry types to task, discussing their public sins, and calling all of us in our bathrobes “Christian Paul Reveres,” I guess I felt belittled, small, tedious, inconsequential –a Pharisee with an Iphone and a cup of coffee and maybe even my underwear showing.

So naturally I got on Facebook and confronted the man directly.

What really bothered me is that he apparently thought even Rev. Fred Phelps and Bill Gothard couldn’t be publicly critiqued without risking the reproach of saying the Pharisee’s prayer.   (“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.” Luke 18:11)  Ouch.  That hurt.  Were my Facebook and blog lamentations the sign of a stinking self-righteous Pharisee??

I don’t think so.  I believe I’m very much in touch with my own depravity, and I’m on record here:  more believers should fess up, confess their sins, and be honest with the body of Christ.

No. Sproul is wrong on this one. Our platforms may be small but those of us who are Christian internet Paul Reveres have our place:

Dear Rev. Sproul,

I guess what I’m about to write is tempered by your willingness, in subsequent posts, to speak publicly to the World Vision fiasco. Rev. Phelps, quite simply, is an odious reproach to the body of Christ, and I can say so, because I don’t have a spec or a plank in my eye on this: I don’t take my merry band of hatemongers to the graves of dead soldiers and tyrannize their grieving families with misplaced, and ill-timed messages of Baptist woe. I don’t know if Phelps is a Christian. I know that he was an idiot. More people in the church should say so — often — on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on every public street corner with space for a soap box. And, as for Gothard and Phillips, a lot of people are hurting at that portion of their otherwise good advice that represented hideous neo-pietism. The only way we can heal is to admit there is a wound. I’m a great admirer of yours, but I disagree on this front mightily.

 To his credit, the man responded.  He still thinks I”m in danger of saying the Pharisee’s prayer, and he’s still wrong, and I reminded him why:  God ordained that some heresies would be revealed.  (“No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”  1 Cor. 11:19)  We’re only human.  Pastors are going to get it wrong, sometimes — in the case of Phelps and Gothard — hideously wrong.  But they have huge platforms and expensive bandwidth to express their ugly ideas.

We’re not talking about the sin of pride before God, in prayer, as Jesus taught in the story of the arrogant Pharisee and the humble publican.   We’re talking about hireling pastors who abuse their sheep.  We’re talking about POINTING OUT the arrogant Pharisee, who abuses his pulpit.

Those types will never admit their own error.  They are a danger to the flock.

It’s up to those of us in bathrobes to say so.