Do you have a chart on the wall for your children? Often, parents will put up chore charts to show the kid what they need to do in order to receive their allowance for the week.
Some kids react very positively to these visual reminders. It’s a giant to-do list that happens over and over again every week. It can create a sense of security knowing that the expectations aren’t going to be modified over and over again.
There is a certain security adults appreciate about the predictable. For example, I like the predictability that my van starts every morning. I like the fact that I can drive on safe highways to get to work. In some countries, this is not the case. We take these things for granted, but others would truly appreciate these ‘little things’.
Predictability and order are necessary in church, too. Some have a lot of order, where others are more ‘free’. Yet, even in the free church, service times are regular. As a church attender, you can look up the Facebook page of your favorite church and find the service times, when communion is offered and which staff members will be leading.
Often, those very staff members have an expectation of you, too. I’m not simply speaking about punctuality and neatness, but deeper expectations. The pastor wants you to behave. It’s as if you are a child in an adult’s body who must be ethically re-trained. Sometimes, pastors treat attenders as if they have no ethics or morals at all, and must be taught like preschoolers.
This can be especially true for men. Although most men seems to behave well in society, Christian men are supposed to be examples of a higher standard. They must be ‘above reproach’, ‘accountable’ and ‘examples of good behavior’. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that some churches are trying to domesticate sinners.
And they may be able to do just that! Let’s face it; moral improvement is not impossible. If a man can stop smoking or cursing, then he is able to be domesticated. The funny thing is that you don’t need to be a Christian to improve morally. There are plenty of books, Youtube videos and audio resources to learn how to overcome bad habits. One doesn’t need Christianity to become domesticated.
Your pastor may not feel the same way. In fact, they have a moral improvement program that is relatively cheap, doesn’t take much time and is proven by the pastor, himself. It’s based on a foundation called ‘Rationalism’.
Rationalism works this way: When you read a passage from any book of the Bible, you ask yourself, “What am I supposed to do?” or, “What am I supposed to avoid doing?” You’ll find that there are a lot of passages that have moral requirements. Even if you are not reading the requirements, you can read the passage about Nicodemus having Jesus over at his home and find some principle that you can then apply.
Soon, you will build a large library of expectations that will guide your moral behavior. Apply yourself to these principles and watch your ethics and morals improve.
Pastors can then witness their congregations ‘falling in line’ with ‘biblical principles’. The church is in order according to God’s will.
The German reformers of the 16th century called this Civil Righteousness. This is an outward obedience necessary for a civil society. People could be civilly righteous with a little effort and awareness.
More insidiously, a church attender who is domesticated might also be evil. In fact, they may be completely blameless outwardly but inwardly are scoundrels and hypocrites. That is because the pastor and the principles are unconcerned with the work of God. They only evaluate the outside. The inner life is insignificant.
That is just what some of the Pharisees thought, too. If they could just get the people into line, maybe they wouldn’t be oppressed by the Romans. If the Jewish people would simply follow the Talmud, the nation would be blessed again. All they have to do is get with the program!
Just follow the Pharisees’ example! After all, they got it together! Yet, Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They had become practitioners of the law to become perfect sinners. They expected others to tow the line, too.
The civil domestication of church goers according to ‘biblical principles’ refines the sinner’s skill at sin and hypocrisy. Instead of making the person ‘good’, the person has become a white-washed tomb.
When the church is full of whitewashed tombs, the broken sinner finds no rest. And they find no rest because rest is not offered. Works and principles are offered. Death is the diet given to the hungry. Hope is crucified. Life is condemned. Christ is thrown out of the temple.