A Christian Tightrope Walker?


Record-breaking daredevil Nik Wallenda completed Sunday what he called his most challenging feat to date: a tightrope walk between two skyscrapers 600 feet above downtown Chicago, partly blindfolded. (CNN)

The Skyscraper Live walk was broadcast on The Discovery Channel and follows previous live broadcasts of his tightrope walks across the Grand Canyon and the Niagara Falls. As usual, Wallenda frequently prayed to God and spoke of Christ’s help before, during, and after the walk. Many Christians rejoiced to hear God being praised in such a spectacular way before a watching TV and Internet audience of millions of people.  

Which raises huge questions. Can you be a “Christian Tightrope Walker.” Is tightrope-walking a legitimate Christian vocation? Does repeatedly mentioning God sanctify whatever job we do? Or are there certain vocations that Christians should not pursue? If so, are there biblical guidelines for helping us to decide which jobs are legitimate for a Christian? I believe there are four such guidelines, and I’d like to measure Wallenda’s chosen vocation against them.

Can I glorify God in this job? To glorify God is to make Him more famous; it’s to advance His reputation, and to lift up His Name. Conversely, my vocation should not do anything to obscure God’s beauty or reputation.

Although Wallenda mentioned God lots of times, and many Christians said that this was a great witness, I’m sure many non-Christians thought, “What kind of God thinks this is a good idea?” Did their view of God really improve?

Also, is saying God’s name a lot really the same as glorifying God? We can be doing that while all the time actually be trying to glorify ourselves. Interestingly, for all of Wallenda’s praising of God, he did let slip in a previous interview: “I don’t know what people will say about me 100 years from now, but it’s got to be pretty impressive.”

Remember the Devil once took Christ to a high building and tempted him by suggesting that He could publicly prove God’s care for Him by throwing himself off the pinnacle and surviving. Remember Christ’s response?

Can I do good to others in this job? Our vocation should be helpful to our society and contribute something worthwhile to our community. That also means that we should not do anything that might unnecessarily harm others.

Wallenda estimates that these kinds of tightrope walks generate millions in TV and tourism revenue. He also entertained multitudes. So, does money + entertainment = good to others? While there’s nothing wrong with making money and entertaining people, neither of these are enough to qualify a job as “loving our neighbor” by contributing something worthwhile to our community. Money and entertainment may be the by-products of a legitimate Christian vocation, but they hardly constitute one.

Also, what about the power of example? Do we really want to inspire others, perhaps kids, to try tightrope walking in their backyards or across ravines?

Did God give me the talent for this job? God does not call us to a vocation without supplying us with the necessary gifts.

Some have therefore argued, “Well, if God gave Wallenda the gifts, he would be wrong not to use them.” But did God give Wallenda the gift of tightrope walking?

He certainly gave him amazing gifts of courage, emotional control, agility, hand-eye coordination, perseverance, etc. But it was Wallenda who turned these gifts towards tightrope walking. Just because we have the gifts for something does not mean we are obliged to do it. I mean, if God has gifted you (certainly not me) with a beautiful body and a sense of rhythm, does that mean you’re called to be a stripper?

There are many men with similar gifts to Wallenda, who are sacrificially dedicating them to the service of their country in special operations in faraway lands.

Can I obey God in this job? Even if we think that our job glorifies God, helps others, and uses our talents, if it is against God’s Word, then it is illegitimate for a Christian.

“But where in the Bible does it forbid Christian tightrope walkers?” (I can hardly believe I just wrote that sentence!) Well, the sixth commandment, “You shall not kill,” covers far more than murdering. It simply selects the worst manifestation of this category of evil for prohibition. It also includes lesser evils such as rejecting or neglecting lawful means to preserve our lives and the lives of others.*

Wallenda may be a Christian, and he may be a tightrope walker, but he’s not a “Christian tightrope walker.” There’s no such thing.

*See summary expositions of the Bible teaching together with Scripture proof verses in Westminster Shorter Catechism 68 & 69, and Larger Catechism 135 & 136.

Homosexuality and Journalistic Integrity

When Karl Rove or David Axelrod write an article for any newspaper or website, there’s almost always a line or two at the beginning or end that describes their previous roles in President Bush’s or President Obama’s administration. It’s only fair that people know what they are reading is not objective journalism. The articles may still be helpful and informative, but the “disclaimer” helps us to adjust our mental filters to the left or to the right while reading their pieces.

A Right to Know

There are many more articles that could do with similar disclaimers. For example, if a journalist has had an abortion (or has supported his wife or partner in having one), I’d like to know that fact when she or he is “reporting” on the subject. Similarly, if someone is writing about homosexuality, I think readers have a right to know if the journalist is a homosexual.

I say that because over the years I’ve noticed many professedly “objective” journalists have used their position and profession to campaign for abortion rights or homosexual rights, only much later to reveal a history of abortion, or that they are a homosexual, or that a close family member is. Same goes for politicians and judges.

Christian Journalism

But I’m also increasingly noticing this in Christian journalism, and even in pastors. At least three times in the past year or so, I’ve seen “Christian” journalists and pastors writing and speaking favorably of homosexuality (and often speaking pejoratively of any Christians who stand for biblical marriage). They portray themselves as “thoughtful” and “objective.” They’ve “read and consulted widely.” They’ve studied and reviewed the biblical evidence. And they’ve come to a carefully crafted and considered conclusion. It’s all so reasonable, fair, neutral, scholarly, and so on.

But, sooner or later it’s revealed that they have some history of homosexual/lesbian activity or same-sex attraction, or someone in their family does. In other words, there’s much more personal feeling, biased subjectivity, and pained conscience in this than they want to admit.

You mark the “Christian” journalists, bloggers, and pastors who are prominent in the so-called “Gay Christian” movement or are sympathetic to it. Sooner or later you’ll discover that their views are much more influenced by their own sexual preferences or activity, or by a family member’s, than by biblical exegesis.

Honest Disclaimer

All I’m asking is that in the interests of journalistic integrity and pastoral honesty, their articles (and speeches) should carry a “disclaimer,” some admission of personal interest, agenda, or gain in the subject that help us make the necessary adjustments when reading them. Their articles (or speeches) may still be informative and helpful, but we’ll read and hear them more as opinion pieces, than as “fair and balanced” reporting.

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The Politics of Optimism

Over at RealClearPolitics.com Frank Donatelli analyzes why the Republicans are doing so well in swing states and how the GOP can build on this to win the White House in 2016. One of his points is the power of optimism:

Stay positive. The country faces problems at all levels, but candidates who project an optimistic attitude usually prevail. Democrats are hunkered down, ignoring Obama and seeking to deflect attention from him. In the swing states, they are spending massive amounts of money running negative ads against their opponents. The GOP must answer the charges, but not be dissuaded from their determination to offer hopeful solutions in contrast to those who now run Washington.

In The Optimistic Republican Story Everybody is Missing, Larry Kudlow anticipates the first 100 days of the expected new Republican Congress and suggests two Big Think thoughts.

First is optimism: We know what the problems are, we know what the solutions should be, and we can make these changes quickly. Second is a re-energized evangelism by the Republican party for pro-growth, market-oriented, consumer-driven, pro-family policies.

Later in the same article Kudlow again calls for an optimistic attitude and agenda:

But the key here is that the GOP regains its footing as the party of optimism and growth. A new Republican Congress should message that they’re tired of obsessing about Obama’s mistakes. Everybody knows about those. The trick now is to focus on solutions. On change. On saying, “We can do this. We can fix this.”

Fatalistic Pessimism

President Obama used optimism to great effect in his 2008 Presidential campaign. “Hope and Change” anyone? It didn’t take long, though, for him to slump into a deep fatalistic pessimism about himself, Congress, the country, and even the American people. His hope seems to have turned into despair, and most of the change has turned out for the worse.

His grim, negative, angry, and depressing demeanor has spread throughout the Democratic party, leaving a big open goal for Republicans, if they have the wit and savvy to take advantage of it. The American people are in desperate need of an injection of confident, upbeat, can-do, let’s roll leadership and policies.

Optimistic Evangelism

But optimism isn’t only a winning political strategy; it’s also compelling and persuasive evangelism. In such a negative and discouraging culture, surely the Christian church should be standing out as a beacon of real hope and lasting change. But is it?

Too often we are simply reflecting the culture rather than renewing it. Our spirits (and sermons) soar and sink with political success or failure. Our prayers seem to be driven by opinion polls more than the Holy Spirit. We hunker down in defensive mode, expecting little from God and getting even less.

I’m not for everyone buying Joel Osteen masks and teeth tomorrow, but surely the Gospel gives us far greater grounds for optimism than any political party or movement. The question is, are we projecting that? Are we communicating our solid and joyful hope in our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities.

God-Centered Optimism

Our hope is not in people, in ourselves, in the church, or in the world. Our hope is in God. He is able to change the worst person, the worst situation, and the worst nation. And even when he doesn’t change what’s going on around us, He can change us so that we are not dragged down like everyone else, but rather stand out as counter-cultural evangelists. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said:

The first thing the Bible tells us is that happiness is possible. And I emphasise that because this is the most staggering, the most surprising thing of all in a world like this; but it is the great message of the Bible. It comes to us as we are, and it says, ‘Happiness, blessedness is possible (True Happiness: An Exposition of Psalm 1).