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Is Holiness a Thing? Slumming Culture with Karen Swallow Prior

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But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving…Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. – St.Paul, to the church in Ephesus

The above concept is called holiness. Turns out, it’s a thing. Yeah, for realsies.

The concept comes easier to some than others, although actually putting it into practice proves difficult for everyone. Still, while our souls struggle for holiness while imprisoned in this suit of sinful flesh, it would be nice if Christianity could agree on the concept of holiness. Like, you know, acknowledge it’s a teaching of Scripture. But in a day when evangelical professors speak at LGBT fundraisers and galavant on the gay red carpet, holiness might be an endangered spiritual species.

The word is ἅγιος in Greek, and means “different” or “set apart” (Strongs G40) and occurs 235 times in the New Testament. The concept is pretty simple – be set apart, different or ἅγιος because God is set apart, different and ἅγιος. We see both the indicative and imperative of holiness tied intrinsically to the nature of God Himself in places like 1 Peter 1. 

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 ESV)

An intrinsic part of holiness is keeping oneself separate from ungodliness and the sinfully sick aspects of the culture around us.

Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. (Isaiah 52:11 ESV)

Well, that’s Old Testament legalese mumbo-jumbo. Bunch’a legalists, they were. Of course, this is repeated in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, and he does so to explain why Christians maybe shouldn’t be taking selfies on the big gay red carpet shouldn’t be taking part in pagan things or exposing yourself to cultural ungodliness…

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (2 Corinthians 6:14-17 ESV)

Fast-forward a few millennia and we find Karen Swallow Prior (click here for previous articles about her), evangelical feminist and rising star (kinda) among the Evangelical Intelligentsia (well…Tim Challies gave her a passing reference, so that’s something) and Research Fellow for the ERLC. Prior was promoting a former student (who seems to be her stylish gay bestie, who mutually speak glowingly of one another – repetitively, like over and over and over again to the point it’s beginning to get weird) and his recent article in Time Magazine. Prior’s former student and homosexual sidekick, Brandon Ambrosino, is one of several “gay Christians” that seem to have easily found a journalism career as of late.

After seeing Prior tweet to and re-tweeting Ambrosino in what I can best describe as an obviously platonic version of cyber-footsie today, I noticed the reference to his article and checked it out for myself.

Ambrosino, the homosexual author, used his ink in Time Magazine to address the supposed “fragile sensibilities” of a Duke University freshman for not reading a graphic novel, Fun Home (authored by the same gal who wrote the ground breaking Lesbian comic, Dykes to Watch Out For), that takes the reader through the slum of American culture including topics related to a pro-gay portrayal sexual orientation, fluid gender roles and so forth. The freshman rejected the book on grounds that it violated the Bible and Jesus’ commands that we not “expose ourselves to anything pornographic” and that we should “flee from sexual immorality.”

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Well, if you want an example of what Prior is so eager to read and encourage Christians take part in, I’m including this hyperlink of an example  instead of putting it within the post, so that you can make the informed decision as to whether or not you want to be exposed to this nonsense (it’s blurred, so less graphic, but still gives you an idea of what Prior doesn’t think we should be separated from). And please, don’t feel obligated to click it. The point is, this woman delights in filth, and enjoys making Christians feel uncomfortable in her embrace of it.

Ambrosino, of course, treated the young man as foolish or naive and made light of the immorality portrayed in the book, laughing it off as “an award winning novel” and authored by a “MacArthur Genius Award Recipient” (the Intelligentsia loves that junk) and treats the notion of the comic possibly causing people to “commit adultery with it” as absurd. Of course, that was Jesus’ assertion, but still…

Prior’s gay protege then went on to explain why – even though he grew up in a conservative Christian home (don’t they all?), his views and acceptance of such literary filth have come to be so much more enlightened than this poor fundie at Duke University. Why are his views so much more enlightened and accepting? Why, his mentor, of course – Karen Swallow Prior.

But my fragile sensibilities were challenged when I got to—of all places—a conservative Christian college.

I was shocked when I learned that our English classes required us to read literature that depicted scenes of sexuality and violence, and I went to my professor, Karen Swallow Prior, about it. “As a Christian, aren’t we supposed to separate ourselves from the world, and the world’s art?”

No, she said. Not at all.

Nah. Surely not. We’re not supposed to separate ourselves from the world. What’s the holiness thing all about, again?

Well, as you would imagine, every dumb thing in evangelicalism can be done in the name of evangelism. You know, “reaching people for Jesus” and stuff. Ambrosino continues…

Prior read me a story from the Bible that has become the standard Christian defense for full participation in secular pop culture. Paul, on his missionary travels, stopped in Athens, a city full of idols. In perhaps the most rousing speech attributed him, he addressed his philosophical audience:

Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’

He then gave this unknown God a name—for him, it was Jesus—before going on to quote Epimenides and Aratus. This proves that Paul not only read Pagan poetry, but memorized it!

This passage, of course, has been used to defend every shameless slumming of the Gospel through the gutters of cultural filth imaginable in the last decade or so. Paul knew a few lines of Greek poetry – therefore, what’s wrong with reading Playboy? Paul knew a few lines of Greek poetry – therefore, what’s wrong with watching Breaking Bad? Paul knew a few lines of Greek poetry – therefore, what’s wrong with taking selfies on the big gay red carpet and speaking at LGBT fundraisers? Paul knew a few lines of Greek poetry – he totally wouldn’t tell the Christian church not to even touch unclean things, would he?

…beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (Paul, in 2 Corinthians 7)

I think we have a tad more insight into why Karen Swallow Prior behaves the way she does. She has sacrificed any elementary understanding of the concept of holiness on the altar of “outreach.” Of course, what she’s reaching them with, I’m afraid to ask.

But beyond the immediate denial of Christian Separation, Ambrosino’s article is a superb illustration of the recurring trend we’ve seen in Prior’s interactions in social media. Here’s an unrepentant homosexual, chastising an individual trying to err on the side of holiness, coalescing with Karen Swallow Prior and crediting her influence to do so. Which, of course, reminds me of another teaching of Jesus…

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully taught will be like their teacher. – Jesus, Luke 6:40