Eating Media Lunch, by incorrigible “bad boy” Newsboy (Jeremy Wells), is the most blatant, shameless attack on Christian values that I have seen in the NZ news media. Last week his piece on “Political Correctness” was a withering, sarcastic (and strangely entertaining) attack on any and all opponents to the march of the new morality. This week he focused his scornful mockery on Destiny Church and Brian Tamaki.
I am certainly not the biggest fan of Mr. (Bishop?) Tamaki, but Newsboy’s attacks on his church and the everyday folk at their latest Queen St. march were simple mockery and an attempt to humiliate people on national television. Newsboy’s style of surprise attacks on unsuspecting marchers was unfair and unbalanced. He certainly exposed the fact that Newsboy is more intelligent than the average Destiny church marcher, most of whom could not provide witty rejoinders to his offensive remarks. But informative TV? Nope. Balanced debate? Nope. An original, constructive use of TVNZ (and taxpayer) resources? Nope.
I fail to see anything useful in TVNZ’s airing of Newsboy and his uni-student level sarcasm, his deeply cynical and arrogant attitude, and his loutish antics (not to mention, his disheveled-looking Parnell haircut). If he is the future of young intellectuals, new media and debate in New Zealand, then television has plumbed new depths of misinformation. I thought that all the funky technologies of modern times were intended to make our lives better and to bring us into the golden age. But the quality of a society is much more than its material wealth, it’s mainly the character of its citizens. Mr. Newsboy Wells reflects an unpleasant trend: despairing existentialism, hedonism driven by hopeless atheism, and a flinty determination to oppose God and any who claim to serve Him.
ChristianityToday recently featured two articles germane to this trend of arrogant atheists:
Former atheist Antony Flew’s admission of the existence of God shocked believers and skeptics alike, but such a turnaround is far from unique. In the 19th century, many leading intellectuals who had once lost their faith ended up reconverting.
The existing scholarship repeats endlessly a narrative of the “Victorian crisis of faith” and “loss of faith.” Such an account is populated with figures who were devout Christians in their youth, but whose reading and intellectual honesty forced them to admit that Christianity was no longer credible. Leslie Stephen is an oft-cited example. Although he had received Anglican ordination, Stephen eventually concluded that Christianity had been disproved by modern learning and lost his faith. The move from … resolute evangelicalism … [to atheism], is often portrayed as the inevitable by-product of the advance of human knowledge.
There is a whole alternative set of life stories that do not get told, however, which show earnest skeptics and atheists eventually being overwhelmed by the intellectual cogency of Christian orthodoxy. Ironically, many of these people continue to be well known in Victorian studies as typifying the “crisis” and “loss of faith” by their skepticism, while scholars quietly ignore their later conversions as aberrations that signify nothing.
The famous Russian author shows us what’s to fear in a world without God.
The dogma of progress may never recover from the 20th century. Entire continents razed by war, whole peoples wiped from Earth, generations decimated for no good reason—such an optimistic view of human capacity didn’t have a chance. What could possibly cause such catastrophic anguish? How could we fail to adapt, evolve, or learn from our earlier mistakes?
Before the killing started, Europe’s brightest intellectuals gathered in fashionable salons to debate Marxism, eugenics, and utopia—ideas that would unleash this destruction. Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky chaired many such meetings during the mid-19th century. By the time he completed The Brothers Karamazov in 1879, Dostoyevsky had established himself as a foremost opponent of secularism and revolutionary Marxism.
The theory had gained wide hearing in Dostoyevsky’s day. Friedrich Nietzsche further legitimized the idea of a “superman” unrestrained by Christian values. A superman refuses “antiquated” notions of right and wrong, recognizing only those values that help him get ahead.
Even if you don’t recognize these theories, you recognize their effect. Dostoyevsky’s beloved Russia eventually succumbed to revolutionary fervor in 1917, and “supermen” Lenin and Stalin justified their murderous barbarism by appealing to visions of communist utopia. Competing forms of superman ideology clashed during World War II, pitting Hitler’s genocidal eugenics against Soviet aspirations. Today Osama bin Laden, while not secular, excuses his murder of innocents by claiming a superior morality.
Hope to Overcome
Dostoyevsky’s great contribution to Christianity is that he shows us how to combat the destructive theories he so effectively explains. Christians must undermine the attractiveness of such ideas by bringing rebellious humans into a loving relationship with Christ. Sonia, a young woman forced into prostitution to support her step-siblings, models for Dostoyevsky how God uses unlikely vessels to communicate his truth. She accepts Raskolnikov’s confession and forgives him, despite her friendship with one of his victims. She further coaxes him to realize his idea’s failings and spurs him toward repentance with her unconditional love.
There is obviously a clash of cultures underway, a sea change of cultural norms. The challenge to the church in New Zealand is to respond in a way that honours Jesus Christ. Not attempting to impose pharasaical legalism on the nation, but to serve the people, following Christ’s example. This is not to excuse sin, but to redeem the sinful. (We Christians are certainly numbered among them, I have been one of the worst).
UPDATE: I have just responded to DPF’s post ‘Barking Mad’, where he struggles to comprehend Tamaki’s explosive rhetoric. I believe that Tamaki has some of the truth, but his general worldview is unbalanced and unhealthy. My response was thus:
Jesus Christ came to serve and redeem sinners. Not to impose law. That was why he opposed the Pharisees so vigorously. The mission of the Church should never have been to rule – that was its major error in the time of Constantine.
Certainly we are to speak the truth, but only as a part of the great commission : to know God and make him known.
Changing New Zealand into a Christian nation cannot happen by enforcing rules from above: it can only occur by a grassroots change in the hearts and minds of each individual Kiwi.
I would like it if people were all nice and kind and lived good lives etc. But people were not built to live in a little box, like obedient automatons. This world with all its messy failures and glorious freedoms is a place where humans have free will – given by God – to make their own choices, for good or ill.
I would like people to choose good, but you can’t force them to. Even God allows fallen, sinful humans to continue in evil for a time. We live in a time of grace. Judgement will come all too quickly: Christians are not called to pass judgement on their fellow man, this is God’s jurisdiction.
Jesus said: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; give to God what is God’s”. I don’t recall him saying “overthrow Caesar”.
I would also add, the Christian faith is relational, spiritual, and redemptive. Not legalistic, power-seeking, or greedy. The secular culture idolises money, sex, and power; the Christian counterculture ought to reflect the ancient virtues of poverty, chastity, and humility.