It takes a moment to sink in. “They were everywhere.” Everywhere. Everybody knew. In one of the most enlightened, intellectually accomplished, progressive societies in the world, you had widespread cultural corruption on a level that staggers the mind. Either by direct involvement or culpable acquiescence, they all knew. Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” doesn’t quite capture it—the “ubiquity of evil” seems more appropriate.
Our culture has trouble knowing what to do with this. One of the remarkable things about the American spirit is that even after two world wars, Vietnam, the 1970s, global terrorism, and three Transformers movies, optimism and progressive ideologies still shape our basic outlook on human nature. Faith in the fundamental goodness of humanity is still our basic credo—with enough time, money, energy, and education, the future is bright. For this reason we are, for the most part, utterly incapable of coping with the reality of human evil. Unless we’re stuck in some dark, hipster cynicism about life, most Americans upon reading this will scramble to find an explanation—and by “explanation,” I mean a way of explaining it away.
Bi-vocational ministry is a strategic and challenging call. Danny Ovalle, a bi-vocational pastor in New England, recently joined us to talk about the rationale and practice of serving as a pastor while supporting his family with an additional job.
I often have to answer the strangest question anyone could ask a preaching professor: “Do you think preaching can be taught?” I always want to respond, “No, I’m just going through the motions for the money.” Of course I never do, not only because it’s best not to say the smart aleck things I sometimes think, but because I know what they mean when they ask. It’s not really an unfair question.
My dad was fifty-two years old when I was born. When I was thirteen, he asked me if I was embarrassed that he was so much older than my friends’ dads. I told him I wasn’t embarrassed but that I respected him and learned more from him because he was older. He was born a few years after the end of World War I and fought in World War II. He had a newspaper route during the Great Depression, and he told me stories about real cowboys, bank robbers, and his father, who grew up at the turn of the twentieth century in the old West in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. My dad wasn’t just older than my friends’ dads, he was from a different era, an era when young men respected old men and when old men raised young men to be men and not just guys. It was a time when older men and older women took seriously the biblical charge to teach and train younger men and women in old values such as integrity, service, loyalty, sacrifice, honor, wisdom, hard work, and humility.
OK, that’s a big claim. So let me limit it a bit. “The most disobeyed commandment in the church in the last four months.”
Now, let’s see, what happened four months ago?
Oh, yes, President Obama won re-election.
But what’s that got to do with any commandment?
Well, try the fifth for size.