We should change the hymn to that. I recently watched Kirk Cameron’s documentary “Monumental” on netflix. Looking at people reviewing it on youtube I saw mostly nonbelievers criticizing what they felt was a poor grasp of history and believers praising the film, feeling it was ‘enlightening’. A brief summation is that the film presents the idea of tracing the pilgrim/puritan roots of America and suggests that the National Pilgrim Monument is a ‘Matrix of Liberty” that demonstrates how a country should be founded and remain established on a basis of biblical values in order to be a good and well functioning society.
I wondered what Kirk Cameron and his friend, the historian Marshal Foster, really understand about the Bible. While there are themes of establishment of strong community upon faith in God in the Bible, there are also stories of martyrs and wanderers, outcasts and of the importance of faith in the face of despair. We are told in the Bible that the body may die, the soul endures.
Recently I’ve been teaching on the last chapter of the book of Ephesians. I find it at times depressing that Ephesians, which like most Epistles is not very long, is so hard to teach to people. I found it difficult to learn but I find it sad that it is socontroversial among supposed Christians. The most poorly maintained of the items listed in the full armour of God is the Word, in my opinion. Christian people seem to love testimonies, movies, concerts, huge celebratory gatherings, seminars, but time spent in the Word of God is so lacking.
In the documentary, there is a lack of mention of how many generations of suffering and struggle went before the Puritan movement in the British Isles and the Reformation in mainland Europe. There’s not even a mention of the constant striving towards having the ordinary person be able to study the Bible for themsevles, and the reasons why it was considered dangerous–the danger of false interpretation, of civil strife in society and so on. Like so many approaches in modern Christianity, there’s this expression of a desire for a ‘fix’ that will make things better. There is little mention of the idea that evil beyond mere kings and parliaments are in the world opposing the faith.
While in the documentary Kirk Cameron says he isn’t setting out to blame, his words outside this documentary contradict that. He blames things like the Gay Agenda, for instance, and that the government doesn’t allow prayer in schools for a degradation of Christian values. However to me this is not really the fault of people who don’t believe in the Bible. I look at how few Christians I know really read it, really know what it contains, focus on it, prefer to let pastors or other ministry leaders do the studying for them, prefer to enjoy the praise and worship and easier mental stuff, and think “well, that figures. We dropped the ball.”
Without the sword–the Word–what good is all that armour we supposedly have but to crouch in a defensive position? How do we know what is morally true and right? If we do not discuss it and challenge one another on it, how is it proven and tested so that it is true in the face of a real battle?
Having done kendo myself, I know that sword work requires real work. Leave it, and you get soft, your reflexes get slow, you do not have the right instincts. In human beings, instincts need to be trained, because our basic instinct of the flesh is selfish, cowardly and lazy for the most part. What the Bible teaches us in the parables Jesus told using seeds as an analogy for faith is that faith is developed carefully over time with care and effort. The challenges to it–distractions, offenses and direct evil–are serious, and can stop its growth or kill it. The shield in ancient combat, which Paul the Apostle uses to describe faith, is paired with the sword. They are stronger together.
Paul emphasizes the whole armour of God for a reason. Salvation as a helmet makes sense–a sense to the very core of our thinking that it is salvation that is at the core of our thinking. A breastplate of righteousness–the very sense of our life itself wrapped in righteousness, because as Christ taught us virtue is better than bread. But do most Christians really live by that?
Shod in the Gospel of Peace–what moves us forward, what gives us purpose is the absolute belief in Christ’s message of peace for the spirit, freedom from sin, unity with God.
When I hear about things like the divorce rate, the lack of moral compass of our society, I can’t help but look at how the Church is really little different from society. I know this has been said before, but I felt after seeing this film it needs to be said again. I need to remind myself of this too.