The Preacher Says....  
  Past Imperfect  
  ". . .the God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; His wrath towards you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; He is of purer eyes than to have you bear to have you in His sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours." Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the hands of an angry God,. 1741.

This American Puritan revivalist, Jonathan Edwards also said that mothers should remember that their children were young vipers in the sight of God. Until recently the Puritans have been regarded as heroes, a persecuted lot who arrived on the Mayflower, brave new settlers. They were considered altogether worthy, except for a few aberrations, like witch burning. Now they are considered anti heroes. The Puritan ethic now has bad connotations; the phrase raises scorn in the intellectual world, religious world, as well as the radical left. A review of Puritan history is probably in order here.

Various sects developed in England when the Puritans, who thought the Reformation had not gone far enough in separating from the Roman Catholic church. The moderates, wanted to stay in the church and the radicals wanted to withdraw; with both in favor of liturgical reform. The radicals wanted the removal of the bishops who took authority from the king. During these early days the Puritans were known for their strict, regulated habits, and many went into exile. In the early 1500's in the reign of Mary I (Bloody Mary), daughter of Henry VIII, the Roman Catholic church was re-established. The Puritans fled England for the continent; many to Switzerland, including John Knox, who there came under the influence of Calvin, author of the doctrine of predestination. Calvin did much to shape the thoughts of these Puritans in exile.

John Calvin was a Swiss reformer, and there is much similarity between his conversion and that of Martin Luther. Both guilt ridden and laden with real and imagined sin Luther found relief when after assiduous study he was struck by a sentence in the first chapter of Romans - the just shall live by faith. Calvinís relief came from Romans 9 where it says, ďHe will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He HardensĒ. Calvin believed in the supreme authority of God and what was to him a necessary corollary, election and predestination; man is either damned or saved from the cradle. The paradox lies in the fact that Calvinism was no relief from medieval popery. He believed in a religious state and accomplished that end in the independent city of Geneva. He ruled as an autocrat. Dancing and playing cards were punished, not wrong in themselves, but he thought they might lead to excess. A child could be beheaded for striking his mother. Testimony could be obtained by torture. Heretics were burned at the stake. Servetus (1511 - 53), a Spanish theologian, made the mistake of coming to Switzerland after writing Errors of Trinity.

In 1620 more radicals came to America, to Plymouth and they brought Calvinism with them. You can see it in their Blue Laws: suspicion of adultery brought death, judges determined controversies without juries, married persons who lived apart were imprisoned. You couldnít kiss a child on the Sabbath, nor could you travel, cook, make beds, sweep, cut hair or shave. Itís not difficult to see why Puritanism waned. But Jonathan Edwards, among others, attempted to revive it, but superficially at least, it gave way to the humanism of Rousseau, Voltaire, Paine (Rights of Man), Jefferson and Franklin.

We jump a few centuries to 1960's America to see the results of humanism coupled with affluence: thereís Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, New Yorkís East Greenwich Village, church and underground theaters in New York and even in capitols below the Mason Dixon line. What a restless age: rebellion against the establishment, searching and seeking. And man trying to find himself in a world without religion. The Hippies, the great unwashed, are not easy to categorize. The young to the not so young range from dropouts from life what is it? Tune in, turn on and drop out. He is passive, a drug taker, seeking relief in "mind expansion" through drugs. In politics they are called Yippies. Their political inclinations run to putting up a pig for president. Somebody in the group had read Orwellís Animal Farm. Conformity rose among non-conformists, divided into quasi-religious sects. The violent ones, the Panthers, were beneath contempt. Some came to my office once seeking help. Let me take one from this sect and call him a flower child. To try to define this person whom Iím describing (not dumb), I made up a little recipe for his creation so you can better understand who Iím talking about:

* Take a dash of Darwin

* Add a cup of Karl Marx

* One pound of existentialism

* Two pounds of affluence

* A teaspoonful of earnest soul searching

* A large measure of rebellion

* Season according to taste to taste with self deception or fraud (spelled Freud)

* and remove from the oven half baked.

Now this young person has noble aspirations: he wants to be free, at liberty, enjoy peace and universal love. He wants to expose hypocrisy in the establishment. Heís a modern day Sinclair Lewis exposing Babbitt. But how often do these aspirations come out as: free love, street blocking of ambulances, excuse for not working, in complete lack of restraint in music and literature, child neglect from unholy alliances, drug addictions.

The point of all this is to say the Puritan and the Flower Child would hate each other, indeed they would. But they have an outstanding characteristic in common: hypocrisy. Puritan ideas of honesty, industry, restraint, regular habits, are to be commended. Problems arise when one imposes his own ideas on another about how the Christian life should be lived. The Puritan is austere, emotion frowned upon. There is no emotional release in the form of joy, gaiety, exuberance, even sadness. All must be repressed. When one is made to think that he ought to act and feel a certain way, and he shows that face to the public, but privately knows that his acts and feelings are different, then he is a hypocrite. The sensitive hypocrite becomes full of guilt with an overpowering sense of sin and virtually powerless to act. Life becomes negativism personified. Hypocrisy in the Hippie is selfishness disguised as selflessness. Free love, a guise for promiscuity with disastrous effects on the jilted. In contemplation of his navel he finds excuses for not working. For a spiritual experience he looks to drugs. The hypocritical Hippie is the personification of license raised to the Nth power.

What has this got to do with Christians like us? Simply this: we are largely the product of our heritage and environment. What great rule makers we are. We would prescribe dress, prayer, recreation, reading, cost of home, hair length, lipstick, etc. We would subvert the law of liberty, just as the Pilgrims did, and put ourselves in bondage again. Christians can rationalize to convince ourselves of what we can and canít do. We rationalize right reason for conduct. Puritans and Hippies and Christians often have a common characteristic: egocentricity.

We can function better in life, however, if we consider ourselves merely imperfect. After all, we are here on this earth through no fault of our own, but as imperfect creatures, making mistakes Be sorry, repent, but donít be morbid about it and develop a sour outlook on life. More importantly, judge not let you be judged. Remember, God does not hate mankind. It is His creation; He loves it; He wants to save it all. If you require more of yourself than you do of others, you will be on the right path. Thatís what Jesus did.