American Christians, and probably Western Christians in general, have one of two misunderstandings of the law given in the Old Testament. The first is to imagine that we are still bound to the law. This error is uncommon, but the temptation to be bound to a law is not, as we will soon see. The other error is to imagine that the law was destroyed by Christ, a situation contradicted explicitly in the New Testament, where we are told that Christ fulfilled the law and did not come to abolish it.
The law does many things, but among those things is to bring us to Christ by showing us our inability to fulfill it. The law itself is from God; the law is good. But the law brings death because we can’t follow it, not because the law is intrinsically evil. This misunderstanding leads many to believe that the law does not apply to us at all today. In reality, the law is still binding, but we are no longer under it, because through Christ, we are under grace instead.
This is all well and good, but it seems to dodge an important question. We still live in a world with sin, and we still have laws. We have laws against murder and heroin, and we used to have laws against sodomy and marijuana. We at one time had laws against alcohol. We have lots of laws telling the government what it can’t do which are rarely observed. So how does God’s law apply?
And, what of the other error; the error of wanting to be bound to a law?
America has had the wonderful benefit of being a former British colony. Where much of Europe has been strongly influenced by the old Roman laws, England long ago moved on to common law. The rights of Englishmen were seen as so important by the founders of the United States that they appealed to their violation as cassus belli against Britain. The entire independence movement can be seen as a move against the innovation; a “conservative” revolution back to common law.
I am no expert on common law, though I plan to read up on the subject this year, but even with my limited knowledge, I know many of our most treasured rights, especially in the legal realm, flow from this tradition. The need for multiple witnesses, the presumption of innocence, and others are all gifts from it.
It would be an error to see these rights as being invented by early medieval England. What these really descend from is the Old Testament law. As it turns out, while we are under grace, the law of God has been the better part of the foundation of our civil laws for a millennium. And this is to say nothing of the ten commandments or other parts of the law that are worked out as well.
None of this is to suggest that the government ought to revive every rule given to Israel. We need no sacrifices. We should avoid giving the government too much power because men are sinful and will inevitably abuse power. Better to limit it and thus the abuse. But even here, God’s revelation informs the process.
Christians should learn to love God’s law as recipients of God’s grace, but the more dangerous error today might be to adopt a completely different law instead. I’ve decided to call this the “Law of Disney” because much of our thinking, like it or not, has come from the company through their overwhelming influence and the sorts of things pushed by Disney sum up this new, false law.
There seem to be three pillars in the Law of Disney. I’m sure I could think of more if I tried, but this sums it up well enough:
- Be nice and family-friendly.
- Do what makes you happy.
- Reality submits to your will.
Americans have taken in this law because it seems benign. It’s colorful and nice and everything ends well. But you may notice a few important things here.
First, there is no moral law-giver explicitly declared, but you can very quickly find the deity in this scheme. The deity is self. This is a law of existence-precedes-essence will-to-power. This is a law of self-worship.
Second, there is sin. If you aren’t “nice” and “family-friendly”, you are an enemy of the law. Villains might be mean, but they can blame their meanness on someone else. Just see the increasing list of Disney titles dedicated to explaining away villains and turning them into heroes.
Third, there is no redemption. If you can’t blame your meanness or disagreeableness on someone else, you are without hope. Good luck working out your salvation without any mechanism to grant it.
Fourth, this is completely incompatible with the law of God.
So how does this work out in practice?
Imagine something God calls evil. Lets say homosexuality, for example. The traditional view is that evil acts ought to be discouraged, they ought never be rewarded, and Christians ought to see them as slavery. Through Christ, we overcome these things by His giving us a new nature.
The Law of Disney, however, changes things up. Homosexuality is sanitized; the evil acts and thoughts at the heart of it are cleaned up as best they can be and made presentable. Satan is incredibly skilled at making evil look good, so there is, unfortunately, some expert assistance here.
Next, homosexuality is presented not as slavery, but as a means to happiness and self-fulfillment. And last, reality itself is forced, through manipulation of language, to pretend that homosexuality is just like regular sexual attraction.
You’ve got “nice”, sanitized, “family-friendly” homosexuals being presented as happy by their ability to openly pursue their desires, and you’ve got language rules in place to avoid dealing with the issue (e.g. you are forbidden from mentioning the acts or the intrinsic disgust).
If you dare to violate the language rules, if you dare to condemn the acts, if you dare to suggest the acts are evil or destructive, you are condemned. I see this in churches and in ministries far too often. You are more likely to receive discipline for calling homosexual acts “disgusting” than you are to receive discipline for openly and proudly participating in those acts. This gets back to the fact that we are really dealing with a different law here; a law treated higher than God’s law (which, as expounded upon in Romans, sees homosexual behavior as so intrinsically evil and debasing that it may as well be its own form of punishment).
Because so many Christians have adopted the Law of Disney, they revile God’s law. God’s law is mean, and unwelcoming. It isn’t nice. It’s not family-friendly. It doesn’t let people pursue whatever they want. And it doesn’t allow people to live in a dream world when reality becomes too inconvenient.
The result is, as stated above, an American church where extreme violations of God’s law are completely tolerated because those doing the violations are presented as “nice”, while any firm condemnation of the acts is forbidden.
There can be only one outcome of this. By hiding our violations of God’s law and preventing any reflection on what’s going on, we actively remove any awareness that we need the Gospel.
By doing that, we send people directly to hell.