Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guilt, God, and the Green Police

The above commercial is from the ad campaign for Audi's new clean diesel car line. The premise is that the "Green Police" are out scouring the land for environmental infractions. Of course, the Green Police have nothing on the driver of Audi's cleaner running diesel. While the commercial is a humorous look at what environmental consciousness has become, people at Audi want us to believe that we need to buy this car to make all the environmentalists happy.

Believe it or not, this post is not about environmentalism. I have blogged here before about how environmentalism is a slippery slope because when we begin to do one thing to help protect one aspect of the environment, we often create more problems in another area of the environment. For example, the chemicals required to run the batteries in hybrid cars are a rare strain of elements and compounds that are only found in certain areas of China. But the point I think this ad makes goes far deeper than caring for the earth. I've said before, if someone can make you feel guilty, they can have control over you. That is essentially what has happened with the environmental movement. Propoganda in our society has made us feel guilty for using plastic bags at the grocery store, and for driving our V8 pick-ups and SUVs to work and back. We should feel guilty about taking a slightly longer shower, even though we really felt like we needed it, and we didn't unplug that cell phone charger because it was in an outlet that was just a little bit harder to get to. I'm not saying we shouldn't be conscientious of the environment (as an outdoorsman and a part-time farmer, I consider myself to be quite an environmentalist), but I think some people want to take the guilt factor to a whole new level.

Over the years, I have noticed a thread of thought in Christianity that we as Christians are called to live in guilt. We are supposed to constantly beat ourselves up because we are not there yet and we have so far to go. This plays into the idea that we should serve God because it's our "obligation" to serve him because of what he did for us on the cross. But I think rather, we should serve God knowing that following God is the best possible way we can live our lives, regardless of how it turns out for our careers, our pocketbooks, and our social goals.

The first century church at Galatia had received the message of the gospel, but there was a group of legalistic Jewish Christians called the Judaizers who were teaching what Paul called a false gospel that basically said that in order to be a good Christian, you had to keep the rites and laws of the Jewish faith. Paul tells them in Chapter 5 that they were set free for the sake of freedom. That passage applies to us, too. We have been set free!

So does guilt have no place in Christianity? The Holy Spirit, and those who are speaking in its power, are called to bring conviction that we may be made more into the likeness of Christ. So guilt is a necessary part of becoming more like Christ. And we should never lose sight of that idea that we are imperfect sinners in need of work. But a faith that is lived out in a spirit of guilt is no faith at all. We will tiptoe through this world in the fear that we are going to offend the spiritual equivalent of the Green Police. "How can I lead a Bible study after all I've done?" "How can I host a home group? I can't even be a good husband and father." "There's no way I can lead that ministry. I still struggle daily with a lot of junk." Living in guilt prevents us from being the people God has called us to be. So let us deal with the conviction from God, then move beyond our guilt-driven obligatory faith and let us rather, live in a spirit of freedom and victory.

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