Deep Thoughts by Br. Boltoph: Tennessee Christian Values

by Fr Richard Heilman | February 14, 2020 10:10 PM

Tennessee Christian Values

By Brother Boltoph OSB

Addressing abortion rights, Taylor Swift had this to say:

“It’s really basic human rights, and it’s right and wrong at this point, and I can’t see another commercial and see Marsha Blackburn disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values,’” she said in the Netflix special. “Those aren’t Tennessee Christian values. I live in Tennessee. I’m a Christian. That’s not what we stand for.”

My feelings about Taylor Swift as a musician aside, I think this needs to be addressed. Ms. Swift, for all her success, seems to have been absent in catechism class, if she even had one.

I will grant that there are differences in Christian values throughout this country. When I was Baptist I remember visiting a church in the south where part of their prayers were that the tobacco crop would be good that year. The congregation was full of tobacco farmers. Their livelihood depended upon that crop. That prayer would be unthinkable in the north. There is a very distinct difference in values and beliefs, but they are not essential to salvation. In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, freedom. Now I know the various and sundry arguments for and against tobacco use. I’ve heard them forever and there is no need to visit them here. I am one who happens to enjoy a cigar now and then and as hard as I try, I cannot find a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not smoke a cigar”. In essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom.

The sanctity of life is not a non-essential. It is not regional. Christianity does not afford the freedom to discard the value of human life based upon the state of one’s residence.

Christianity is loosely defined as the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, or its beliefs and practices. Let’s look at what Jesus taught about basic human rights.

– Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

– Love your neighbor as yourself.

– do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence. If that isn’t an accurate description of the pro-abortion movement I don’t know what is. Abortion is nothing more than a permanent solution to avoid the consequences of self-indulgence and it denies the HUMAN in the womb, the human afforded basic human rights by its creator, the very rights those who support abortion claim to protect. In a world full of people who would willingly adopt a baby unwanted by its mother, the human rights excuse rings hollow. This seems to have escaped Ms. Swift as it has every person who views abortion as a human right. Worse yet, they ascribe those rights given only to humans to animals. Killing an animal, whether in or out of the womb is a violation of the rights of that unborn animal, but the senseless murder of a baby, a human, a life with rights, becomes a choice based on the rights and convenience of the mother. Those values are not Christian whether you live in Tennessee or Upper Slobovia.

Ms. Swift misses more than just the irony put forth here. John Newton, in his well known hymn wrote:

T’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relieved.

There are many aspects to be considered when speaking of the fear of God. His wrath is just. J.I Packer summarizes it perfectly:

J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil”

God’s wrath is to be feared because we are justly condemned apart from Christ. He is powerful enough to do what he promises

God’s wrath is consistent.

God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ. The words of a great hymn written by Charles Wesley come to mind here:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain!
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

But the fear of God is not just a fear of his wrath. It is about respect. It is a realization that He is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. It connotes honor and reverence. The word “fear” is derived from Hebrew words such as yir’ah. Other Hebrew words that portray softer meanings, such as kabad (Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother…” Proverbs 3:9.

The fear of God is the beginning of understanding. Ms. Swift fails to understand the fear of God in both contexts. If she did understand them, she would understand that God is merciful and just whether you are in Tennessee or California. She would understand that the human rights afforded to the born and unborn are not restricted by state boundaries. And she would understand and posses that grace that that both strikes fear and reverence into the heart of those who truly know Christ and hold unfettered and boundary- free Christian values.

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