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November 28, 2004

Peculiar Peoples: Christians, Conservatives, Scholars

The sermon today at ECC mentioned 1 Peter 2:9:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
I realize I am a member of three "peculiar peoples": Christians, conservatives, and scholars.

1 Peter 2:9 is about Christians, the continuation of the Jews, who consider themselves special and chosen by God, and are considered, when they are serious, "peculiar" by the other peoples of the world. Christians are like the freed prisoners of Plato's Cave, who see the reality that casts the shadows seen by the prisoners as their only reality, but who cannot be understood well by the prisoners. Christians constantly face the temptation to pretend to still be prisoners, seeing the same things as everyone else. It is an insidious temptation, because the main thing it requires is silence, which comes easily to us anyway.

Conservatives are another peculiar people, at least nowadays. The Left has largely won the Culture War. The preacher today said bravely that he was going to do something unusual and make a political statement in church: that he was against the state lottery. But that is not a political statement; it is a moral statement. He may be wrong, but the morality of gambling, and whether the state should promote it, is definitely a subject for discussion in the churches. But it is now framed as merely a political issue. On a number of topics, the conservative position, even if perhaps a majority position, has become marginalized, without outspoken support in the media or from politicians. But we wait, and remember the similar position of economic conservatives in 1960.

And then there are the scholars. Even in universities, not everyone thinks that the life of the mind is important, or even is really conscious of it as a possibility. In business schools, CEO's are as admired as professors, and it is my impression that in the liberal arts TV anchormen are seen as people worthy of admiration. Are the sciences different? I hope so. The way to progress is to see the 1st-year graduate student as a being superior to the corporate lawyer and the cardiac surgeon, and infinitely superior to the sports hero.

This is pride, of a sort, and hence for a Christian is dangerous ground, but I don't think it is pride of a bad sort. Anyone can, with God's grace, be a Christian, if he is willing to be despised by the world. Anyone can, even without God's grace, be a conservative. To be a successful scholar does require special talents, but mostly it requires an attitude, and even the aspirant is treated as more important than those who achieve success in mundane fields. So the pride is mostly that of being on the right side, a matter of personal choice, and not a choice you made for material gain or social acceptance.

Posted by erasmuse at November 28, 2004 09:06 PM

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