“As soon as we begin to look at ourselves walking on water, we find that we are looking at ourselves not walking on water” (From To You and Your Children, p. 194).
“To do so is not natural, it is to be an actor; and acting, however skilful and however much admired, is in the pulpit a crime, — and, as the diplomatists say, not only a crime, but worse, a blunder” (Broadus, Preparation and Delivery, p. 418).
The following represents the gist of the remarks I made at NSA’s weekly Disputatio last Friday, September 19, 2014.
What does it mean when NSA makes a point of emphasizing guy things? What is the point of that? I am referring to the presence of rugby and dirt on the NSA web page, the martial language used in the NSA promotional video, and so on. What’s going on?
I want to explain what is going on, not with the assumption that you would necessarily agree with all of it (although of course you should), but rather so that you might know that what we are doing is the result of a thought-through strategy by the board, and not simply the result of some haphazard and unexamined bigotries we found lying around in the basement.
In the late 1970’s, the number of women on college campuses passed the number of men. Today, in private institutions of higher learning, the women outnumber the men by a factor of 3 to 2. You don’t need a doctorate in punditry to see that some demographic trouble is brewing.
The Masculine Emphasis
First, let me tell you what the vision of NSA actually is on this topic. I will then move on to an explanation of why this emphasis on things masculine is not anti-feminine, not even close, and what it entails. But mostly I want to focus on what it does not entail.
The central problem that Ray Rice had was that he is a football player and not a rapper. The central problem that Adrian Peterson had was that he is a father and not a rolling stone. The central problem that white liberal America has is that of being white liberal America, which is sadly showing no signs of getting any better.
This latter problem is a profound intellectual schizophrenia. We lionize and honor certain behaviors when there is a strong bass line and red carpet swagger, but then are shocked and horrified when someone actually does what we have been busy honoring. If Ray Rice had been more musical, and had treated his bitch like they all sing about, and stayed away from elevator cameras, he could making his reservations for a glitzy Hollywood awards banquet now. He could be a major Democratic donor.
C.S. Lewis was being a prophet, not simply a pundit, when in The Abolition of Man he said:
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Lecrae was pointing to this same central screaming hypocrisy — for that is what it is — when in the middle of the Ferguson tumult, he tweeted this: “Dear Hip Hop, we can’t scream “murder, misogyny, lawlessness” in our music & then turn around and ask for equality & justice.” That is a prophetic word, and it has the additional advantage of being self-evidently true. It is the voice of righteousness and reason.
But a large part of the entertainment industry is dedicated to honoring the dishonorable, praising the despicable, and glorifying the inglorious. And then, when their tragicomic inversions have all gotten to a quivering pitch, ready to sproing, somebody comes along and actually does what they have all been giving awards to. The reason everybody was so furious with Ray Rice was not because he struck Janay, but rather because he cold-cocked their hypocrisy, which is still lying there on the elevator floor in a puddle of insufferable whiteness.
And Adrian Peterson switched his boy on the back of his legs and left some nasty welts. As a result of this, the sports establishment went nuts. Now the point here is not that Peterson is the wisest father ever, but I would like to point out that he was actually being a father. Just curious. How many African-American boys, biologically fathered by professional athletes, are growing up without any father at all? And how many news conferences have you seen addressing that crisis? I am talking about a news conference with the head of whichever sports league it was solemnly denouncing fatherlessness as the real crisis, the real disaster, the real abuse. Because it is.
But don’t hold your breath, because they are all kind of cool with that sort of thing. If you are a small black boy, white liberal America will continue to approve and subsidize the kind of welts — the welts of fatherlessness — that never stop bleeding. But if you ever get a switching, they will descend upon the man who did it in a self-righteous fury
But here is Lewis again:
“A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional…values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.”
This is why white liberal America is standing on the verge of an epic reality drubbing. They have wrapped themselves in the soft cotton batting of their own ephemeral core values, believing it to be heavy armor for some reason. And the gods of the copybook headings are walking toward them, all armed with baseball bats, and with stern looks on their faces.
Important post script for those critics who don’t know how to read: if you read any of the above as a defense of punching a woman, or of abusing a child, please read over it again.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to be considering three chains that the enemy of our souls wants to use in order to keep us in bondage. But in Christ, we have been set free, and set free means set free from each of these chains, and from all of them. The three chains are fear, guilt, and shame. All three are common to the human frame, but different cultures can develop different emphases. The Western world is concerned with righteousness, and is therefore afflicted with guilt. The Eastern world is very concerned about honor, and is therefore afflicted with shame. The Southern world is concerned about survival and safety, and is afflicted with fear. The North generally does okay because it is cold and no one lives up there.
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt.10:28).
Summary of the Text:
In this part of Matthew, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. We need to be shrewd therefore (Matt. 10:16). We need to beware of men, because they will in fact persecute (Matt. 10:17-18). Even when we are delivered up, we need to trust God for the words we must use (Matt. 10:19). The persecutions will be both intensive and extensive, and if they treated Jesus this way, we cannot be surprised when they treat us in the same way (Matt. 10:20-25). Do not fear them, the Lord says, because everything is going to be revealed (Matt. 10:26). The entire story will eventually be told. Be bold (Matt. 10:27). Do not fear men, who can only kill the body and not the soul. Rather, fear the one who can wreck both body and soul in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). We are told not to fear for two reasons. The first is that God will tell the whole story one day, and the second is that they can only kill the body, which means that all they can do is help you escape from them.
There is a striking similarity between the bread we see here and the body of Jesus Christ. There is also a striking similarity between the wine in the cup and the blood of Jesus. If there were no similarity it could not work as a sacrament—it could not even work as a metaphor.
But there are dissimilarities as well, and we do well to keep them in mind. The bread we break here is bread on a table, on a tray, with a white cloth beneath. The body that was broken was laid out on a cross and nailed there. The wine we drink is wine in a cup. The blood that was shed was blood that was spilled.
The sacramental meal we observe is a ritual, a religious ceremony. It is obviously civilized. It is contained, bounded, focused. The reality that it represents was brutal, and despite the efforts of the Sanhedrin to keep their minutes in order, lawless.
James tells us that if we sin at just one point of the law, we are guilty of offending against all of it. This is because the law is simply a description of what the triune personal God is like, and so an offense against Him at this point or at that point is still, at the end of the day, an offense against Him. If a man were to strike another man, whether the blow falls on his right cheek or his left, the blow has still fallen on the man.
Now the point of our sanctification is to become like God. That is where we are going. If we forget this, as professing Christians, what happens is that we find ourselves keeping a bunch of detached rules, and forgetting what the person behind all the rules is actually like. What He is like is love, kindness, overflow, and everlasting generosity. The detached rules may be fine in themselves, but when we do this they are radically out of context. By keeping just some of the rules we got from God, we do it in such a way as to sin against God.
When we seek to accumulate enough money to build the sanctuary we are pursuing, we need to accumulate it through generosity, not through hoarding. A church is a conduit for ministry, and it is—in line with the character of God—a replicating ministry. This means that we must be constantly putting seed in the ground. “Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11). That is what we are after.