There are a number of reasons why Christians are reluctant to bring their ideas down out of the realm of ethereal abstractions. One of those reasons is that to do so requires us to take responsibilty. Another reason is that taking responsibility brings us into conflict.
In short, we can’t come down from the heights in order to find our decisions all ready-made for us. When we come down from the heights, we discover that we must make decisions. When we climb down from Gnosticburg, when we descend from Euclidville, we discover that we have landed either in Connecticut or Arkansas. And when we land, we will discover that all knowledge is situated knowledge. If we land in Connecticut, this turns us into pomo relativists with a hankering for carnal knowledge of the same sex variety. If we land in Arkansas, it turns us into fighters because those other guys over there, with that confused sort of situated knowledge, are obviously wrong. And here’s the problem, at least for most of those Christians who like to talk about these sorts of things, by which I mean the “contours of these tensions” — the guys from Arkansas are right.
A brief history lesson first. Fundamentalist and evangelical Christians in America have always known that the body matters. The body mattered in public and in private. The public nature of the Christian faith expressed itself through an informal establishment, which was overthrown in the early part of the twentieth century when the liberals captured the mainlines. Conservative believers retreated to their ghettoes, in which the body still mattered, in private behavior, and public expressions of the faith still mattered also, but mostly in theory. As long as the secularists did not get too aggressive in the public square, an uneasy truce prevailed. But in the sixties and seventies, when the monkeys of revolution were all let out of the cages of inertia, the Christians all said crikey, or something very much like it, and push-back in the form of the Religious Right began. This push-back was energized by men like Francis Schaeffer and Jerry Falwell, but in the deep background were the reconstructionists, providing books, arguments, and so forth. The epithet right wing did not really apply to them, but if you had to talk in those categories, they would have been described as hard right.
After they got shouted down by the Reformed establishment, their arguments (no neutrality, Jesus is Lord over all, etc.) were deftly shanghaied by leftists, and made to apply to a bunch of things that the leftists already wanted to do. It turns out the Old Testament is grand when you want to justify forgiveness of Third World debts by an appeal to the Jubilee, but verses that said “you shall not suffer a witch to live” were serenely ignored. To their credit, the original reconstructionists were trying to make coherent sense of the whole Bible, and they would talk about all the verses. That is part of what got them in trouble, and why they were shouted down. But the soft leftists (Sider, Wallis, et al.) had the kind of worldview that allowed to simply apply the happy face verses to what they were sure Jesus would want — call it rubber stamp reconstructionism. It turns out that Jesus used the Old Testament in creative ways that simply confirmed the general outlook that you might hear in an average NPR broadcast. And who could be upset with that? Well, nobody who landed in Connecticut. But we can’t just assume that our landing pod from Euclidville has to land in Connecticut.
Now here I have to become somewhat autobiographical in a critical way, but only in the nicest fashion, and trust that it won’t be taken wrong. I really like Ken Myers, and have learned an awful lot from him. I listen to his Mars Hill Audio programs regularly, and have done so for many years. It is one of my best sources for book recommendations — a big portion of my library is there on my shelves because of Mars Hill. But . . . there is a tendency to interview folks who feel way more at home in Connecticut than I ever could. This comes through even when they are saying things that I agree with, which I usually do. To make up an example, some sociologist at a Christian college (that employs homosexual instructors) has done a study over ten years that shows that when children have to do the latch-key thing for years, without parental oversight and attention, it screws them up. Well, yeah. I agree with him, but why is he feeling the need to prove that?
I am as anti-Gnostic as the next guy, but if bodies matter — and they do — here are some decisions that might go in a direction that surprises the anti-Gnostics from Connecticut. Fight Gnosticism by buying a .357 Magnum, and getting a concealed carry permit. Learn to think of gun control as using both hands. Fight Gnosticism by encouraging your son to go out for the football team. Three-a-day practices will remind him that he has a body, as does puking in the bushes by the side of the field. Fight Gnosticism by going to the rodeo, especially the bull riding. Fight Gnosticism by refusing to give any respect whatever for those denominations that allow for women’s ordination. Fight Gnosticism by picketing an abortion clinc — bodies are being chopped up in there. Fight Gnosticism by laughing at the idea of homosexual marriage. Bodies matter, and those bodies don’t fit, man. Fight Gnosticism by shopping at CostCo, and make a point of topping off your visit with one of those cinnamon-covered churros. Now, what kind of anti-Gnosticism is this? I don’t know the name for it, but if you wanted to mail it something, the address would be in Little Rock somewhere. There is no name for it, so let us call it red state incarnationalism.
But notice what happens. As soon as you do this, as soon as you land in order to make decisions, those decisions will bring you into conflict with others. Right? How dare I say that Jesus supports the 2nd Amendment? But are they not saying this because it is self-evident to them that Jesus supports gun-control legislation? Where do they get off saying that?