Narcissus Revises Christianity, Makes It Liberal
In Book III of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Narcissus pines away, looking at his own reflection, until he dies and turns into a flower. Many misread Ovid's character as someone conceited and self-absorbed. In the Latin tale, he does not know that the beautiful boy he sees is himself until he has already descended into madness.
Narcissus cannot love anyone, but he suddenly falls in love with an unreachable beauty – a face in a pool – who causes him to experience the rejection and inconsolable yearning his own coldness has inflicted on others. His unattainable object of desire is actually, as he gradually realizes, himself: "Oh, I am he! Oh, now I know for sure the image is my own; it's for myself I burn with love; I fan the flames I feel...my riches beggar me."
Narcissism is a self-deceiving act producing affection only for things that unwittingly reflect one's self. The narcissist fails to know Christ, for example, because he can love Christ only when Christ resembles a man just like him. The narcissist does not realize he worships himself, but he does.
I have noted an "uptick" in the number of articles about Christianity in liberal circles. Most have focused on supposedly new spiritualities that flatter a progressive, pro-choice, and pro-gay worldview. The New Republic, New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, and other left-leaning papers ran stories about religion in close succession. Consider this subtle title from the New York Times: "Religious Liberals Sat Out of Politics for 40 Years; Now They Want in the Game."
Pro-gay groups decided to "surround" the Southern Baptist Convention's yearly meeting in Phoenix, demanding that the staunchly conservative congregation reverse its biblical view on homosexuality, supposedly for the sake of youths who might kill themselves.
Since "winsome" and "charitable" are the orders of the day, I will behave generously and not assume that such liberals are heretics, Satanic, or agents of evil. I will assume they are simply narcissists, falling into the same trap that ensnared Ovid's youth. They are projecting onto Christ their own minds and then imagining that what they see is not really, in the end, a vain reflection of themselves.
Below are eight of the most common narcissistic lines we hear again and again:
- "Jesus cared about the poor a lot more than he did about sin."
Democrats have created a paradox for themselves by splicing greed from lust, reading financial selfishness as cruel but sexual selfishness as benign. Few eras have imagined that "concupiscence" or "earthly desire" could be transformed from an evil into an objective good, if only transferred from money to carnality.
Jesus emphasized that people who care about earthly pleasures will lose eternal life. In John 17, Jesus says He is not of this world, and neither are those who believe in Him. Democrats understand this in part, correctly seeing that people who care most about getting rich tend to trample holiness. But sin includes more than money. In John 8:34, Jesus states, "[E]veryone who commits sin is a slave of sin," and the only way to be free of slavery is to follow His truth.
Eternal damnation is the punishment for failing to help those in need (Matthew 25), but nowhere does Jesus say people must eradicate poverty entirely or focus on poverty relief to the exclusion of other forms of holiness. In Mark 12:43, Jesus praises the widow who gave all she owned to the temple, leaving herself destitute. He did not state that the temple should give her money back to her so she would not be poor. Most importantly, in Matthew 26:11, Jesus says, "You always have the poor with you." The text presents Judas Iscariot, the great traitor, as the one disciple who griped so much about Jesus's refusal to make charity for the poor the sole focus of ministry.
- "You have no right to tell people who's a real Christian."
Jesus repeatedly warns against false prophets (Mark 13:22), blind fools leading other blind people into pits (Matthew 15:14), and hypocrites who say long prayers only for show (Mark 12:40). Those who have authority and mislead others "will receive harsher punishment." In John 8:31, He states, "if you continue in My word, you really are My disciples," followed by the harsh point, "[b]ecause you cannot listen to my Word, you are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires." The gospels demand corrective responses to falsehood. Jesus is firm when he rebukes Peter for being so misdirected, saying "Get behind me, Satan, because you think not of God's concerns, but man's!" (Mark 8:33).
- "Out of love and kindness, you should respect my view of Christianity."
Jesus said it was crucial to love others as we expect to be loved. But He also reminded people of the highest Mosaic law: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength" (Mark 12:30). Turning the other cheek is not the same thing as sitting quietly while someone defiles God's Name with false teachings. While Jesus was gentle – as we should be, too – toward people who sin for lack of self-command, Jesus was not gentle with the scribes, Pharisees, and false teachers. Those who lead and teach others are not given the clemency shown to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:7) or the promiscuous Samaritan at the well (John 4:17).
The entire chapter of Matthew 23 involves a screed by Jesus Christ against the "brood of vipers," the hypocrites like "whitewashed tombs" who have rotten hearts and spread their rot while claiming to be holy. In Mark 9:42, Jesus says those who lead the young to stumble would be better off with millstones around their necks, cast into the sea. And Jesus states that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the one sin that can never be pardoned (Matthew 12:32). Christians can be tender and amicable toward a man who has engaged in lustful contact with men due to his insuppressible urges, but not to Rachel Held Evans when she tells her myriad Twitter followers that it's okay to "be LGBT-affirming."
- "Christ was a rebel."
As the L.A. Times reports, LGBTs rallied against Trump. Churches sent pro-gay contingents, including one lesbian who proclaimed, "Jesus resisted." Citing Jesus, she takes to the streets and shouts for violent confrontation with the people who supported Trump.
It is important to note that Barabbas was a rebel who fits the description of angry street forces – and it was Barabbas who was chosen by the doomed crowd that demanded that Jesus Christ be sacrificed in Barabbas's stead. Christ was a powerful presence, certainly, daring to overturn the money tables in the temple, but He conspicuously avoided behaving like the leader of a rebel movement. He gathered a small number of disciples and sent them out to win souls with the Truth, then submitted to His execution willingly. He was not Barabbas, and the crowd's inability to differentiate between them was no small crime.
- "Christ said nothing about homosexuality, so we must endorse it as good."
Jesus Christ gave us more than enough material so that we do not even need to consult Paul or the Old Testament to understand the problem with homosexuality. Jesus states in John 8:31 that His disciples are those who "continue in" His "word." The Christian cannot skate by, when feeling urges, by scanning Jesus's words to see if anything He said forbade such action (though there is much reason to discern that Jesus did forbid all unchaste behavior). Rather, we can't do anything that Jesus and scripture did not explicitly command us to do. In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, "to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."
Nowhere in the entire Bible is there any positive reference to same-sex activity, yet there are numerous vilifications of same-sex activity. Jesus does tell us to engage in sex – with the opposite sex. Jesus laid down a specific model for marriage in Matthew 19:4-12, referring back to Genesis and the fact that male and female were created for permanent unity as one flesh. To those raising caveats, Jesus makes clear that if people cannot respect that model, they must live as a "eunuch" (Matthew 19:12) and have no marriage or sexual relations at all. In addition, Jesus describes two sexual sins (adultery and sexual impurity) as "defilement" even if only spoken (Matthew 15:19). The other defilements are evil thoughts, murder, theft, slander, and blasphemy. Given the myriad references outside the four gospels labeling homosexuality defilement, abomination, unnatural, etc. – would you, if you felt same-sex desires, be willing to gamble your salvation on the pro-gay interpretation of Jesus?
- I speak "prophetically" to the world.
The idea of prophetic witness has surfaced in a number of places recently. I saw, for instance, that some from the Princeton Theological Seminary justified their barring of Tim Keller from receiving an award by saying the seminary chooses to speak "prophetically" against homophobia. Keller's adherence to a scriptural view on homosexuality was a deal-breaker.
There were quite a few prophets in the Old Testament. None of them sought to use the prestige of an established institution to chastise another child of God for championing chastity. In the eyes of some liberal Christians, to speak "prophetically" seems to mean trumpeting fashionable ideas that go against what is actually written in the Bible. The prophet is the voice in the wilderness, not the tenured professor in Princeton.
- We should "engage the culture."
Often liberal Christians accuse conservatives of losing the culture by refusing to engage it. This charge contradicts itself, since liberals invariably level this accusation at the conservative Christians attacked for sounding mean, sexist, or homophobic. In truth, Christians who hang out at gay film festivals or enjoy pleasant lunches with Planned Parenthood executives are not engaging the culture. They are kissing up to the ungodly powers of this world – quite the opposite of Jesus, who went to the outcasts and downtrodden, all the while telling them to repent, turn away from their sins, and live for God.
- Jesus listened to women, so Christians today should listen to women and respect their pro-choice position.
Jesus gathered twelve disciples and did not include a single female. Nowhere does Jesus sit quietly and declare that a woman's experience has inspired Him to reverse a godly principle so that women can be spared difficulty. Of the many miracles of healing and demon-busting performed by Jesus, no abortion occurs. The notion that women must abort so that they can avoid difficulty, ostracism, or a slowing of their career goes utterly against Jesus's instructions to accept hardship and find strength in God and His Word. Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow, to avoid stressing about clothing or money or a place to live, and to hedge against the error of gaining the world while losing our souls. That He would suspend such philosophies upon hearing a pregnant woman say she can't deal with the trials of giving birth and raising a child makes no sense, given His ministry and many statements about humility and putting others before ourselves.
There are so many more statements to debunk, but these eight are quite a lot to digest in one sitting. The common thread in all these fallacies is the narcissistic trap of cooing over a Jesus who isn't really Jesus, but rather a person just like the liberal looking for a God to mirror his own political agenda. It is a timeless error with a timely urgency.