October 15, 2014

In a parable from Vietnam, the Americans are confronted with the prospect of the Vietcong occupying a rural village. They are deeply entrenched. How will they be dislodged? By house to house fighting that could inflict many casualties on both sides?

The decision is made to burn down the village. In this way the enemy will be dislodged with a minimum of casualties to the attacking side and the village will be saved.

But friends – if you have to burn down the village to save the village, you didn’t save the village. In fact, you achieved the enemy’s result for him.

The village is more than the houses and buildings that compose it. It is the families that reside in those houses. It is the relationships between the families in the village. It is the businesses and commerce associated with those families. The village is a complex social structure.

When you destroy the village you do not just burn down buildings, you destroy the fabric of society as well.

The decision is made to burn down the village anyway – and the enemy retreats back into the countryside – but the earth is scorched and life is disrupted and scarred just as effectively as if the enemy itself had burned the village – and the Americans are blamed, not the communists.

In the Church today there are those who look with dismay at the decline of Christianity in the West. They reason that in order to attract members they should become more contemporary; more relevant; more like the surrounding culture. If we do not, they muse, the church will die. Humanism and atheism have become deeply entrenched. In order to combat worldliness we must dispense with the teachings and the disciplines of the spiritual life that the contemporary social model finds offensive. Sexual purity and personal holiness must be dispensed with. In this way the Church will survive.

And so the decision is made that in order to save the Church the Church must become more like the world.

But friends – if you have to become like the world in order to save the Church, you didn’t save the Church – you become the world – and achieve the enemy’s objective – and the leaders of the Church are to blame, not the devil.