“The rationalism that we inherited from the Enlightenment has trained us all to think that everything that we really ‘know’ is that which can be objectively measured and doled out in credit hours. We have created a great illusory mechanism for making ourselves think that we know how people actually know things. And we identify what they know in terms of what we can measure” (From To You and Your Children, p. 201).
I remember a commercial from many years ago that featured a football coach in the locker room at half time, and he was chewing out his team in a royal way. They had missed that tackle, they had screwed this up, they had failed to do something else, and so on. Finally, after a good bit of this, one of the players looked up and said something like, “But, coach, we’re ahead by 21 points.”
One of the temptations that reformers face is that of seeing all the negatives. And it is appropriate to say that the rising tide of secularism is directly related to the impotence of the church. There are many things in the church that need to be reformed — our worship is inane, our preaching anemic, our eschatology is defeatist, our complicity with the state is worrisome, and this list could be quite a bit longer. That’s all true. That’s all true, as far as it goes, but it is not the only truth.
A few weeks ago, we had our county fair here. And after going through the hall where a number of our local ministries had their booths set up, Luke and Rachel commented to the rest of the family about something they had noticed there. From the Hope Center, to CareNet, to Logos School, they noted that if all these ministries just disappeared one day our small town would be a completely different place. It would be colder, and more cruel, and much more contemptuous of the lowly.
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Pet. 2:15, ESV).
We Christians do need to do more than we are currently doing, because God calls us to it. But we do not need to do more because secularist critics like to taunt the church with our shortcomings. They, as it turns out, do not know what they are talking about. They are like a bed-ridden hypochondriac who has developed quite a critical eye concerning the free nursing care that his volunteer neighbors are providing.
Paul tells the new Christians at Thessalonica that they already love all the brothers throughout Macedonia (1 Thess. 4:1,9). Well done, he says. But then he says that he wants them to do the same thing more and more (1 Thess. 4:10). And so for us — from mercy work to political activism — we need to do so more and more. God summons us to it.
But for those who think we are not currently doing anything worthwhile to speak of, the only way that could be refuted is if it were all made to disappear. And that is what the secularist agenda currently is driving at — to replace their forms of statist and coercive compassion for ours, the kind that is freely given, to replace our Savior with their savior. As I have already noted, I do not believe this attempt will be successful.
But if it were, there would be a point to made from it. The forces of unbelief were successful in driving the Huguenots from France. The thing can be done. The problem is that France never recovered.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).
“You don’t know whether any of your ancestors prayed for you, but wouldn’t it have been glorious if they had? So apply the golden rule, and pray for your descendants” (From To You and Your Children, p. 200).
One of the reasons why libertarianism is starting to commend itself to a certain kind of Christian — in ways that it never does in all those manifold areas where libertarianism is correct, e.g. regarding the manufacture, sale, and distribution of all widgets — is that it provides a convenient way of collapsing in the face of homosexual activism, without having seemed to have so collapsed.
Now we can just shrug our shoulders and say that government should not really be in charge of the definition of marriage. This has a major side benefit, in the minds of some, which is that now we don’t really have to stand up to anybody.
The problem is that a government that doesn’t know what marriage is and what marriage is for is also a government that doesn’t know what a government is and what a government is for.
The central engine of prosperity in society is the family, as God designed it, which means that at the center of the family is a man and a woman. This is the central fruitfulness from which all other forms of fruitfulness must come. Such fruitfulness, such prosperity generates property, and the government’s central job is to protect the pursuit of happiness, which, as we have discussed before, is the pursuit of property.
The government’s job is not to confiscate property, but rather to provide a stable environment in which which property can be acquired by the citizenry. A government which does its appropriate job will not lack for funding, but a government of the covetous, for the covetous, and by the covetous, will most certainly perish from the earth. A government which grasps at everything is in the process of losing everything.
I do understand there has been some debate over whether America was once a Christian nation. But whether it was or no — and I believe it was — there should be no debate among Christians over whether it was a normal one. Defenders and revolutionaries alike insist that those norms be defended, or smashed, as it suits them, but everybody agrees that the norms were actually there. Twenty years ago, same sex mirage was unthinkable. Now you are an enemy of all mankind if you call the mirage for what it is — a shimmer in the air over the desert sands — instead of what everyone is demanding you call it, which is something that rhymes with carriage. But it also rhymes with disparage, which brings me to my theme.
Now there is obviously room for discussion among believing Christians (I use this locution to distinguish them from their counterparts, known to the astute as unbelieving Christians) as to how much these erstwhile societal norms came from the explicit influence of Christianity and how much from a mash up of common grace and natural law. I myself think that a great deal more of it came from gospel preaching than is usually recognized, but we should be able to agree that it was some kind of mix.
But whatever the mix was in helping to establish what used to be normal, I want to insist cannot be reattained apart from a reformation and revival, the kind which impels us to call on the name of Jesus Christ. Not only do I believe this must happen, or we are all lost, but I also believe that we will not be lost. This will happen. It is happening now.
In the meantime we have to deal with the secularist overreach. The fact that they must overreach is to be expected because their entire worldview is based on an inability to say no to their lusts — and this libido dominandi is no different on this score than the other kind of lust.
So, for the present, now that we are no longer in the grip of H8, water is commanded to flow uphill, by order of the Supreme Court, and triangles must have four corners, by order of Congress. On top of that, the president has recently signed an executive order determining that ham and cheese sandwiches may no longer contain ham, or cheese for that matter, and that anyone who, from the date of the issuance of this executive order, makes a ham and cheese sandwich with any ham or cheese in it will be fined five thousand dollars, and remanded to sensitivity training, where trained bureaucrats will pull out his toenails as a way to teach him not to be so hurtful.
In other words, ordinary norms of the sort that would get you yawned at in the Eisenhower years are now officially transgressive. This is why I am thought to be such a bad boy. I continue to maintain that the sky is an azure blue, and that grass is emerald green in the springtime, and so it has happened that reading this blog is something of a guilty pleasure among establishment conservatives. They are not in a real position to say that the sky is blue — bad career move — but they do enjoy watching someone else be naughty.
The most outrageous thing someone can do in our Bosch exhibit version of Night at the Museum is part his hair on the left side, comb it carefully, and smile for the camera — with a cute little blonde wife by his side, and four well-scrubbed and well-loved children, also with their hair combed properly. If those children have also had their noses wiped, this is a clear indication that we need to work even harder to teach our people that hate is not a family value, and that the patriarchy could clearly use a little more smashing.
It is now avant garde jazz played with the fists, but America used to play its songs in C Major. And for those of you who think this is some sort of racist dog whistle for referring to the good old days when it was “all white keys,” we might as well get to that issue now.
“How would our loving father not answer such a prayer? But too often the reason we don’t ask is that we don’t really want to know. We belong to that shortsighted school of car maintenance and repair — don’t lift the hood if you don’t want to know” (From To You and Your Children, p. 199).
So then, the city of Houston, a true renegade in Texas politics, has started acting like a city in California, the kind of city in CA that has Buddhist wind chimes hanging from the front of city hall. Of course, to say the “front” of city hall is privileging the front over the back, and is an unparalleled example of frontism, the worst I have seen in fact, and so I repent in ashes and dust, not want to privilege dust over ashes, and remind myself yet again of my many failings. But I did not intend to write about frontism. I got distracted. There’s another of my many failings.
Anyhow, here is the Houston back story. The city had passed a non-discrimination ordinance, one which allows men to use the ladies’ restroom and vice versa. A petition to put that little bit of nonsense on the ballot was thrown out over alleged irregularities, despite the petition having over 50,000 signatures, and needing only 17,269. In response to that some folks filed suit against the city, and in response to that, the city issued subpoenas to a group of pastors who had opposed the ordinance, but who were not part of the lawsuit. With me so far? The city wanted copies of any sermons that these men had preached “dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor.”
Now I do get that most of my readers understand that most of the time my descriptions of the lunatic parade that we call contemporary politics is characterized by an admirable and commendable restraint. I try to practice what I call “holding back.” But there are times when holding back is not really what is called for. Holding back is not necessarily safe for the republic, for our cherished liberties, or for the veins in my neck.
Not really. The veins in my neck are fine. But the republic isn’t. The republic is in the middle of an apoplectic attack, and is currently drumming its heels on the floor.
Let me just briefly say what I think about this, using words and images from sages and prophets who have gone before us. Submitting petitions to people like this is like talking to a forty foot wall of cotton. Trying to reform Houston politics with those same people still on the premises is like washing a goat’s head — a complete waste of soap. Houston politics is currently under the control of 40-watt intellectuals, but incandescent heat-lamp despots. The Houston city council is a sebaceous strata in American politics, getting their dirty oil all over everything. The brains behind this naked grab, wanting to avoid the perils of student debt, years ago decided to skip going to college, and so instead they all had their heads blown up with a bicycle pump.
Really? Subpoenas? Sermons? Let the reality of what just happened settle on you. A city council subpoenaed sermons that they thought might be reflecting a little poorly on the king’s majesty. And so let this be a deep lesson to all you seminarians. Whenever you are preaching through Romans do not on any account mention the wart on the king’s nose. He takes it ill. And whatever you do, say nothing whatever about about Herodias wearing her hello-sailor-heels into the men’s room. You might have a promising ministry cut short. In fact, you yourself might be cut short.
My only hope is that if a sermon of mine ever gets subpoenaed I get some kind of advance warning so that I can put some extra zippy adjectives into it.
I have been pointing out the totalitarian impulse of progressives for some time, but they are not totalitarian because they want to impose morality. They are totalitarian because they want to impose an immoral morality. They are not totalitarian because they want to suppress something. All laws suppress something. The problem is what they want to suppress. They want to suppress decency and glorify kink, when they ought to be doing the opposite.
There are only two options — public virtue or public vice. There is no neutral third zone that enables our ruling elites to privatize all virtue and vice, thus enabling them as moderators of our public discourse to make their Olympian decisions in accord with some trans-moral system.
All law is imposed morality, and the only question concerns which morality will be imposed. Either you will impose virtue on the creeper who wants into the ladies room, or you will impose your system of vice on pastors who object to creepers being allowed in the ladies room. You will either punish vice or you will punish virtue. Houston is currently doing the latter.
So I hope that this situation — which, in its legal probity looks for all the world like a disheveled fried egg — provides the requisite levels of inspiration that Texans need. I trust I need say no more.