Let It Go

I wasn’t expecting to come right back to Frozen, but apparently I have more to say that’s connected to it. Here, then, is my commentary on Frozen, part two:

It shouldn’t really have surprised me that the song Let It Go has grabbed everyone so thoroughly. It’s the theme song of an incredibly popular film, it’s singable, it’s enjoyable to listen to for at least the first 27 or so times. But more than that, it plugs right into the mindset of these times in which we live.

Let It Go is a tuneful expression of the present age’s “gotta be me”-ism and defiant insistence on doing whatever you personally feel is good. It could be an anthem for any and all rejections of “restrictive” Christian morality. Take the gloves off, ditch the traditionally modest dress for something slinky and sexy, reject all boundaries. Be your bad self.

But we don’t have to take it that way. Or more precisely, rejection of Christian culture and rejection of Christ are not the same thing.

There’s a lot of half-truth, comfortable mythology and outright baggage in our American expression of Christianity. All of our shibboleths by which we judge the sincerity and purity of one another’s faith. These have become for us what righteousness looks like, not necessarily the character of Christ: Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t smoke. Pay your tithe. Don’t use any expletive stronger than “dang it”. Oppose homosexuality. Oppose abortion. Be a good capitalist. Vote Republican.

Personally, I can’t see how very much of this has any bearing on our commitment to Christ. Yes, a lot of these are important issues. Some of them are even issues that the Bible itself addresses. But none of them are the be-all and end-all we seem to be intent on making them.

Taking the last one purely as an example, as a dedicated centrist and moderate, I’m still amazed at how much Christian righteousness seems to have become synonymous in our minds with the stances of the Republican Party. I’ve yet to see a US election in which the Republican candidate failed to win the endorsement of Focus on the Family and other “faith-based” conservative political activist groups. When Franklin Graham unequivocally endorses Mitt Romney, a Mormon (a religion which, despite what it would like you to believe, has very little doctrinally in common with Biblical Christianity), we can see how political conservatism is deemed more important than sound Scriptural doctrine. When Focus on the Family time and again endorse Republicans despite the party doing nothing at all about their pet issues even when given the opportunity, we begin to wonder why.

I personally think it’s ridiculous that faith-based organisations like this are allowed to endorse (ie tell you who they think you should vote for) candidates as organisations, but I grew up in the UK, where it would result in the loss of their charitable status. One of the many ways the US political system is radically different.

However, be that as it may, the Republican Party appear to more or less automatically have the vote of a disturbing number of people claiming the name of Christ, and all without doing a lot to earn it. Woe betide you if you try to be a political progressive or liberal because your faith leads you to want to do something about some of the excesses of the political Right. You have left the path of true righteousness. Apparently when Jesus said all that stuff about the poor and the peacemakers being blessed, He meant gun-toting redneck capitalist good ole boys, not the sort of poor people we have today who are only looking for handouts.

If your personal political convictions lead you to vote for Right-leaning political parties, good for you. I have nothing against whoever you choose to vote for. That’s the wonderful thing about democracy. What I have a problem with is the absolute equation of political conservatism with Christianity.

The Bible actually doesn’t say anything directly about smoking. Smoking’s pretty stupid, when it comes right down to it, for health reasons, but all Bible teaching on the subject is indirect, “we know that God says to look after your body, and smoking isn’t doing that” sort of thing.

Alcohol is something the American church seems to frown on a lot more consistently than the British church. Perhaps our historic drinking culture is different, but in America, at least around here in Texas, the perception among a lot of those who are actually serious about the faith they claim is that alcohol is a strict no-no for believers.

I know some alcoholics, and I don’t want to weaken their faith or their determination to stay dry, but the Bible never says never to drink wine or strong drink. In Hebrew culture, wine was associated with celebration and the good things of life; in the instructions for how to handle the Old Testament tithe if you lived at a distance, the Scripture instructs the Israelites to see their tithe, bring the money, and when they get to Jerusalem to buy whatever they wished in order to celebrate before the Lord, including, specifically, “wine or other strong drink”.

The Bible does give plenty of warnings not to get drunk, and if you’re of a sort that one drink comes in several glasses, it’s certainly better to not drink at all. But our perception of what constitutes good Christian morality is somewhat at odds with what the Scripture actually says in this regard.

I’ve talked about tithing before, much more extensively than I want to here. All I want to do is point out that the New Testament only mentions it when Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for tithing their herbs while neglecting justice and mercy. It’s not nearly as central to the faith as we have made it.

Sometimes I wonder whether we understand Romans 14 at all. The cultural issues have changed a bit from the matters of idol meat, circumcision and the observance of New Moon festivals, but the idea is the same.

Maybe we should be hearing Let It Go as a call to abandon all the extras we add on to following Jesus. All the cultural matters we make central to the faith. All the silly things we judge each other or are judged for. Here I stand and here I stay. Let the storm rage on; the frosty stares never bothered me anyway.

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