We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Biblically Ashamed

In our culture, shame is rarely thought of as a desirable feeling or quality. Even in the church, the word is associated primarily with sin and guilt. Author Neil Postman, however, uses the much-maligned term in a very different way. In his eyes, shame plays a vital role in preserving the innocence of childhood and the civility of our society.

In his book The Disappearance of Childhood, Postman teaches that shame derives its power “from the mystery and awe that surround various acts.” In other words, human impulses such as sexuality or violence must be treated with the highest caution and respect. Just as we shelter our children from these harsh realities, so we must be careful to control them in ourselves. Postman further argues, “Civilization cannot exist without the control of impulses; particularly, the impulse toward aggression and immediate gratification. We are in constant danger of being possessed by barbarism, of being overrun by violence, promiscuity, self gratification and pleasure centered self-centeredness. Shame is the mechanism by which barbarism is held at bay.”

As Christians, we have special insight into the problems Postman observed in our culture. Proverbs 25 teaches us, “It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own glory. Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Postman knew the dangers; the Bible knows the solution. Only by cultivating an appropriate attitude of shame towards the sin of human nature and controlling our own impulses can we reform the excesses of our modern culture.

As children of God, we have responsibilities. One of them is to study the Word to show ourselves approved unto God. Another is to read books like Disappearance of Childhood. Though written in the 1960’s, you will think it was written today.

Published in: on May 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment