Blowing Bubbles From the Bottom

If you think you are up to it, and if you have a cast iron stomach, and if you have not ingested your recommended weekly allowance of piffle over the last few days, you may go here and fix everything.

The short form is that Rosaria Champagne Butterfield — whose book was fantastic, by the way — was invited to speak at Wheaton College. This, all by itself, was sufficient to set off a small protest festival of marginalization and hurt.

I would draw your attention to the last several paragraphs, where the crucial task of telling the gospel story is transformed into a bizarre form of narratival masturbation. The central human predicament, what Luther called incurvatus in se, is transformed into a narcissistic virtue, resulting in a self-righteous circle jerk, only without the sex.

As for the response of Wheaton as an institution, I believe that someone should tell the authorities there that blowing bubbles from the bottom of the pool is not the same thing as breathing.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or semi-Pelagian.

68 thoughts on “Blowing Bubbles From the Bottom

  1. “Massey said that he feared that students would be isolated or marginalized by Butterfield’s story of transformation from “radical, lesbian, leftist professor to this morally good Christian,” which could make LGBTQ or feminist students feel that those two identities were “oppositional” or mutually exclusive.”//And wouldn’t that actually have been a good thing?//Isaiah 5:20

  2. “Conquer evil men by your gentle kindness, and make zealous men wonder at your goodness. Put the lover of legality to shame by your compassion. With the afflicted be afflicted in mind. Love all men, but keep distant from all men.”
    —St. Isaac of Syria


    Just pointing out that there’s a way to be right that makes you wrong.  Must you be so disgusting and uncivil in your method of communication?  I thought surely a scholar like yourself could go about discussion with common courtesies and respectful language.

  3. I’m really  not seeing your problem.  She got to speak; they got to speak.  Is it that you don’t trust the strength of your side’s argument in the market place of ideas?

  4. At some point our sense of compassion for sinners becomes foolishness on our part.  I agree with Doug that the guys running the show at Wheaton seem to have gotten both feet beyond that line.

  5. Sylvan, when somebody wraps a turd in pretty paper, the right thing to do is unwrap it. The turd on Doug’s lips is a taste of the reality these people are trying to hide. If you don’t like what he says with his lips, I guess you don’t know what they do with theirs behind closed doors.

  6. The heart of this matter is that Rosaria’s story is really about the authority of Jesus, not about “her experience.” Just like Moses and Aaron transforming a serpent was really about the authority of God. So, this demonstration is Jannes and Jambres sitting on the steps and saying, “We have serpents, too.” We all know how that ended.

  7. Rosaria has a particular knack for going after the refugees from the world. She does it well.                                                                                                                                                     
    Doug has a particular knack for going after the apostles from the world. He does it well.                                                                                                                                                     
    These are different tasks. They require different gifts and different vocabulary. Our trouble is that we’ve seen few even attempt to do the latter, much less with any skill, so it shocks us. And that betrays how little we know the Bible, because the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus were fluent in such language.

  8. @Sylvan.
    There are plenty of good examples from Scripture of the appropriate use of strong language spoken by Apostles, Prophets and Jesus.  Take your sanctimony and stuff it.
     
     

  9. delurking, the problem is that it is a shame and a disgrace that such argument as those made by the demonstrating students gained any currency at a CHRISTIAN institution. Had she been speaking at a different institution, it would have been a natural expectation that the depraved side and the godly side both got their airing in the marketplace of ideas. At Wheaton, it is a terrible thing that such a depraved argument as that being made was upheld by a significant number of the students.

  10. Considering Sylvan’s and Valerie’s comments, it would be very helpful, Pastor Wilson, if at some point you would post something to teach those of us who have been brought up or encouraged to think that Christians and especially leaders should never use the type of language you obviously feel comfortable with in certain situations.  When is it appropriate and who is authorised to speak in this way?

  11. Hmm.  I was pretty sure Colossions 3:8 said “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” but suppose I don’t know my Bible well enough to say…  Also, if one actually reads the lives of early Christian saints, one will find that there are loving ways to confront those who are wrong.   

    Again, Colossians is helpful… “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

    Christians telling other people to stuff it?  Really?  It’s a bit sad and pathetic that you must resort to the kind of speaking Douglas Wilson has to resort to to get his point across.  To quote the Dowager from Downton Abbey… “Profanity is no substitute for wit.”
     

  12. I must say though, I’m noticing that you, Douglas, have a fan base so deeply devoted to you that they want you to teach them that it’s okay to speak like you do, and are willing to actually disregard portions of the Bible to exonerate you.  It’s quite incredible, really.

  13. Here is a quote from John Chrysostom that is instructive.
    “For if you speak chastely you shall not be able to bear hard upon the hearer. But if you are minded to touch him to the quick, you are forced to lay the naked facts before him in plain terms.” – Chrysostom 

  14. There is a group of people very active in shaping our national and collective identity who have turned the virtues of tolerance, compassion, gentleness, and kindness into vices.  They use these good things as weapons against weightier disciplines, like biblical sexuality.  In doing so, they turn the word against itself. The average Christian who does these things might need gentle instruction at first, but persistence will call for stronger measures.
    The leaders who do this need a firm slap in the face.

  15. @Sylvan.
     

    Stuff it.

    Your milquetoast, lukewarm pap from the Wheaton branch of Laodicia does not cut it with me. Pastor Wilson is too kind in my estimation. The devastation your falling away has done to the Body of Christ in our country is a severe error.
     
    The admonitions to be kind gentle etc are directed at the church for intra-church relations. When apostasy, and sin are evident, the apostle Paul was quite severe–remember his admonition to the church to deliver the incestuous son to Satan that his flesh may be killed?  His admonitions to not suffer evil amongst themselves? To expel the evil doers and troublemakers? Probably not. Too busy laying the groundwork for interfaith dialogue with Baal and laying the architectural plans for a pagan altar.
     
     
    Here’s an idea, expel the evil doers from Wheaton. Until then,. stuff it.
     

  16. I’m a recent Wheaton grad and I’m pretty sure that most students on campus are embarrassed by this and wish those students would chill out a bit.   College students want to feel like they’re making a difference while they’re stuck in the ivory tower, and they love  to protest.  Protests are easy and get media coverage.   Conservatives shouldn’t make the same mistake of the ruling-class media of putting a camera on every protest.   That’s not to say this doesn’t matter, but not as much as we think.

  17. Elizabeth,                                                                                                                                                    
    Pastor Wilson wrote a whole book on the use of strong rhetoric. It’s called A Serrated Edge, and you can pick it up from canonpress.com or from Amazon. If you’d like the Cliff’s Notes version, you can sort of find that starting about a third of the way down this page: http://dougwils.com/tag/chrestomathy/page/138. Actually, you can sort of find it ending there and work your way backward to the beginning of the collection of excerpts.                                                                                                                                                    
    It says something about the judiciousness of Doug’s employment of this sort of rhetoric that on the rare occasions when it happens, there’s a new crop of Mablog readers here to have a Self-Righteous Freak-Out over it. But this blog is coming up on its tenth anniversary (should we make a cake come April?), and those of us who’ve stuck around for a while have heard the rhetoric, the questions, and the answers often enough over the past decade that we have actually comprehended where Doug’s coming from. Shame on us!                                                                                                                                                   
    But the really, really horrid ones among us are those who have paid close enough attention to know how to fake paragraph breaks. Watch out for that lot.

  18. Valerie, Could you instruct us again on the “fake” paragraph breaks? (They look real enough to me on your post!) I confess that I wasn’t one of the ones who paid close enough attention when it was being discussed before, but the other day when I actually decided to post, I wished I had.

  19. Sylvan, we don’t want to set portions of Scripture against one another. They all harmonize. But since you brought up portions of Scripture, here is one, the force of which I was attempting to imitate — Ezek. 23:20

  20. Ree,
                                                                                                                                                       
    Katecho is the one who figured out the magic formula: Insert 150 or more non-breaking spaces. And he kindly left us this comment, from which one might copy and paste them: http://dougwils.com/personal/ashes-ashes-we-all-fall-down.html#comment-38290.

  21. Brett, well said: “College students want to feel like they’re making a difference while they’re stuck in the ivory tower, and they love  to protest.”  So true.  And this has been the case since the 60′s with all the protests coming out of colleges like Berkeley and other temporary shelters from the real world.  For most of these college protesters, once they get out in the real world and have to be responsible for themselves, some of the things they protested won’t be as important, since they’ll have to earn a living, support a family, etc.  I’ve often felt that for most college protesters, the actual act of protesting is less about the issue and more about their own need for acceptance and wanting to get attention.  This is a common sign of immaturity really, since once these people get out in the real world and are no longer being supported by mommy and daddy, their employer will not care a wit about their inconsequential, self-absorbed demonstrations during their college days.

  22. Hmmmm
                                                                                                                                                       
    Like this?

  23. Yay!
                                                                                                                                                       
    Thanks, Valerie, and thanks, Katecho!

  24. Sylvan, you said: “I must say though, I’m noticing that you, Douglas, have a fan base so deeply devoted to you that they want you to teach them that it’s okay to speak like you do, and are willing to actually disregard portions of the Bible to exonerate you.”  Okay, so if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re much more outraged at the way Doug calls out sinful behavior than you are about the sinful behavior?  Do I have that right?  Do you not recall Jesus’ anger in the temple courts?  Also, what if we acknowledge for the moment that perhaps Doug can come across pretty strongly at times in order to make his point?  Why does this offend you so much?  Does the downward spiral of our culture into aggressive secularism and moral debasement warrant any of your outrage?  Or do you save your outrage for those pastors who are actually calling attention to it?  Do you think that “common courtesies” by pastors is the only way to protect the sheep from the wolves?  If someone was attempting to harm your child or someone in your family, would “common courtesies” be your first response to them?  As I’ve had to state a few times to other commenters on this blog, you need to toughen up a bit.  This a spiritual battle – a spiritual war – that we are fighting, and the Devil and his minions take no prisoners.  The Devil is seeking to destroy our culture, our families, and our very souls.  Mere pieties and niceties will not win this battle, but they will certainly weaken and soften the church against this battle.  The job of pastors (just like fathers) is to protect their sheep from the wolves.

  25. @Valerie and @Katecho
     
                                                                                                                                                       
    thanks!
                                                                                                                                                       
    Thanks!
                                                                                                                                                       
    Thanks!
                                                                                                                                                       
    (:

  26. Has Ezek. 23:20 been sanitized by translation?
                                                                                                                                                       
    Would we all blush at he unsanitized version?
     
                                                                                                                                                     
    I ask because the charge of impropriety comes up often enough that we (I) need a good foundation on the uses of stern language in the Bible. I do not enjoy being so forceful and I do not want to slip into error. Paul is a good model . Ezek makes me blush. I will pray about this and turn a cold-eye at ole Zeke’s when my Bible study gets up to him..
     

  27. I wish there was a way to go back and count how many times Mr. Wilson falls back on the ol’ Ezek verse. If I had to guess it would be right there on the kitchen wall next to “home is where the heart is” plaque. 

  28. I would venture to say that there is a distinct difference between laying out the evils clearly, as St. Chrysostom said, and indulging in intentionally provocative and unnecessarily disgusting turns of phrase as “narratival masturbation.”  It’s like a kid gleefully throwing as much potty language into the conversation as they can.  It’s immature.  

  29. Its an effective tool for cutting to the heart of an issue when dealing with reprobates.
                                                                                                                                                      
     
    Where the Apostle Paul turned the incestous son over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his soul could live, Wheaton would refer him to a supportive student group and protest the appearance of the Apostle Paul when he came to set your sorry butts right.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
    I am thankful that  Pastor Wilson saw your foolishness and evil called you out on it.
                                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                                      
    What’s next Wheaton? Jailing Wilson for defending the faith? I give it a year and you will be doing just that.                                                                                       
     
     

  30. It might be the case that someone could fall back on the Ezekiel verse too often when it would not be appropriate to do so. However, if the situation at Wheaton, (where students are protesting the testimony of a woman who is providing herself as an example of repentance from sexual rebellion, on the grounds that there are ways to be godly without repenting of blatant sexual rebellion) does not provide a valid case of use of Ezekiel-like rhetoric, my imagination does not stretch far enough to conjure up a case that would. Either the Ezekiel example has no application outside Ezekiel, or it fits here.

  31. Timothy, I am not associated with, have never been associated with, and will never be associated with Wheaton University and have no desire to be.  I do not support the actions taken by the students, and I’m sorry that you think I need to have a vested interest in this dispute in order to think decency is in order.  Your comments rather speak for themselves, though.  Have a nice day!

  32. Valerie, you don’t need to put non-breaking spaces, or to copy and paste anything.
                                                                                                                                                                              Just type regular spaces to push the text to the next paragraph.

  33. Sylvan,
     
    My mistake. I apologize for my error. I thought you where defending Wheaton and where from there. I was wrong. I apologize for misdirecting my “stuff it” at you.

  34. Quicker, eh? Tidier, eh?
                                                                                                                                                                              Not that it bothers me at all, Valerie, but I’ll go and practice on how fast I can type all these regular spaces, and then I’ll get back to you, OK?
                                                                                                                                                                              As for tidy, I do it very tidy.
                                                                                                                                                                              And for your information, Valerie, the fact that you have a way of doing fake paragraph breaks that is valid doesn’t mean my way isn’t valid. This is not a protest. And we’re all loved by God, OK?

  35. Dear Gianni,                                                                                                                                                    
    Stuff it.                                                                                                                                                      
    ;^)                                                                                                                                                     
    XOXO                                                                                                                                                     ‘
     ~Valerie

  36. Jane, Valerie has her story, which is valid, but my story is valid too, and since God loves us all, you may want to consider my approach.
                                                                                                                                                                              When you want a paragraph break, press “enter” normally. Then write this new paragraph normally. So far so good, right? But when you are done writing this new paragraph, go back to the beginning of it, before the first character of this new paragraph, and start pressing “space” normally. Forget non-breaking spaces. Just “space”. The text of the paragraph will move toward the right of the screen. Keep hitting space until the whole paragraph has been “pushed” completely to the next line. In order to do this tidily, I keep hitting space until I have reached the right margin. In this way I have covered the whole first line from left to right with spaces. Then post the comment, and you’ll see that it works.
                                                                                                                                                                              This sounds complicated but it’s not. And when you understand how to do it, you can do it quite fast.

  37. I’d also just like to point out that your St. Chrysostom quote, CLeavell, was rather taken out of context, since the point of that passage is praising St. Paul for keeping what he said chaste… let’s look at more of that passage… “For if you speak chastely you shall not be able to bear hard upon the hearer. But if you are minded to touch him to the quick, you are forced to lay the naked facts before him in plain terms. But his discreet and holy soul was able to do both with exactness, and by naming nature has at once given additional force to his accusation, and also used this as a sort of veil, to keep the chasteness of his description.”  Let’s keep the context.  =)

  38. Apparently I phrased the question wrong. I should have asked, “What on earth is a non-breaking space and how does one create it?” It’s probably in that Wikipedia article somewhere, but lacking the typography-geek gene, the going is too heavy for me to dig it out.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           
    Gianni, with all due respect and much love, I’ve read your account before and have no objection to it. I’m just curious to see whether I might find Valerie’s method handier, since what one finds most convenient appears to be person-relative, in this case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          
    {mutter}Of course if the site owner’s tech guy could just grace us with making the enter key do what we expect it to do, this would all be moot. {/mutter}

  39. Ah…so you just want me to wade through the Wikipedia article. I see…                                                                                                                                                      
    It appears to be ALT+255.

  40. For the record, I use something like Gianni’s method to start out, and then I cut/paste from there (since it appears that this blog’s comment builder turns consecutive normal spaces into the special non-blocking spaces).  I agree with Jane Dunsworth that we shouldn’t need to use bizarre workarounds for something so mundane that every other website handles correctly.  It leaves a poor impression.  We may not be able to help on the technical side, but I’ve offered to at least take a look.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for whether obscenities are ever appropriate, I’m still refining my principles, but I don’t think I ever want to become an expert on their delivery.
                                                                                                                                                                                                         1.  Scripture defies the sanctimonious prig.  Appropriateness must be informed and bounded by Scripture.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           
    2.  Obscenities are a shock-and-awe weapon.  The goal appears to be to accomplish maximum emphasis, focus, and attention.  There should be gulping and gasping.  Imagine someone like Billy Graham laying down an obscenity on the President at a dinner party.  I think everyone would immediately stop short to hear what is about to happen next.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            3.  It appears that obscenities are reserved as a weapon for shepherds, i.e. those who represent the vulnerable for their protection and defense, such as pastors, rulers, generals, husbands, fathers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            4.  Obscenities may be used only in this context of confrontation with or against actual wolves, serpents, and dragons.  (Not on mom or little brother, as Doug has pointed out elsewhere.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                           5.  This means there must be real moral danger involved, not simply disagreement.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           6.  If used, obscenity must be deliberately aimed at an intended, guilty target, not vaguely tossed in the air over a mixed crowd like a grenade.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           7.  This means the intended target of obscenity must be within range.  In this case, if the administration of Wheaton is unlikely to ever notice this blog post, they should probably be sent their own copy, on principle.  There is reduced value in swapping obscene stories about wolves in the safety and isolation of our own choir bench.  The primarily goal shouldn’t be to shock the sheep.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           8.  The obscene exposes, humiliates, and shames the target because it brings into the light a filth that was previously “off scene”.  If the intent is not to humiliate and expose, then obscenities probably aren’t appropriate to the situation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          9.  Obscenities are exclamation points, not commas.  But if they are over-used, people build up a tolerance to the use of them, and they have no potency when needed.  Use sparingly, like expensive ammo.  People should gasp and be hushed because you “never talk like that“.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            10.  [This is a new bonus principle.  I just added it to my list because of what J said above, and I think it needs more refining.]  If obscenity is actually appropriate, it should be served raw, or at least rare (“naked facts in plain terms”).  If it needs to be buried behind too much clever innuendo, then perhaps it isn’t really called for in the first place.  If most of the audience has to go research the meaning of the reference, it probably didn’t have the shock effect it was supposed to have.
                                                                                                                                                                                                           Now I’ve said more than I wanted to on the subject.

  41. @katecho
    Thank you for the list of principles. I have added your work to my reference notes as well. I have prayed that God reminds me to file the scriptural examples into the appropriate principle as I run across them in my reading.
     
     
                                                                                                                                                                                                          
     

  42. I read it.  Much ado about nothing.  Looks like everyone got along in the end and the problem was resolved.  They wanted other stories told, and Butterfield actually suggested that they be able to.  What are we supposed to be angry about here?

  43. Katcheco,
    I wonder if in light of your principle #8, you might need to modify principle #7 slightly. 
                                                                                                                                                                                      The aim is indeed to expose the true nature of the problem to the cold light of day, but the perpetrator is often not the only person that needs to see it.  If the perpetrator does not happen to be within my reach, but I am pastorally responsible for others who are seeing this mess and need to see it for what it is, the ‘problematic’ language might be justified even if the perpetrators will never hear it.  Galatians 5:12 comes to mind as a potential example, as does 3 John’s pointed discussion of Diotrephes in a letter written to someone else.

  44. Thanks, Tim.  I want to be open to improvement, although I actually did have Gal 5:12 in mind with #7.  My understanding is that the Judaizers were able to trouble the Galatians because Gentile converts would have felt they were novices, and that they had an obligation to do as they were told regarding Jewish customs.  Gentile converts wouldn’t have been in a position to challenge what they were hearing, even if they were already troubled by it.  So I believe Paul wanted to weigh in as an Apostle so that the Galatians could stand and appeal to his authority and push back against the Judaizers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    In other words, I don’t think that Paul was using obscenities primarily as an instructional aid to the Galatians to convince them or emphasize how bad Judaizers were.  That could have been a side-effect but it doesn’t seem that obscenity is the tool for this sole purpose, among the sheep.  Teachers have other tools for emphasis when simple emphasis is needed, among the sheep.  I believe the justification for Paul’s use of obscenity at that point was more practical than didactic (although it’s also recorded for us as a lesson on appropriate use of obscenity).  I think Paul wanted to give the Galatians an official letter that they could point to, and appeal to directly, when confronted face-to-face by Judaizers.  It seems to be written so they could aim it, and stick it to the Judaizers.  I believe the obscenity in that case served as a weapon (defensive and offensive) to be swung in turn by the Galatians, rather than just as an in-house teaching aid.  It seems very likely that a few Judaizers faced a Galatian Christian asking, “have you read what the Apostle Paul says you can do with your knife?”  It just strikes me that Paul intended for it to be used that way even though it was addressed to the Galatians.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   As far as Diotrephes, I could be mistaken, but it doesn’t appear that John intended to use obscenities (references to “off scene” shameful activities) to confront and expose Diotrephes’ behavior in the letter.  So it seems to serve as an example of a serious matter where obscenity was unwarranted.

  45. This reminds me of a quote from N. D.’s book, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: “There are times when my word choice may seem odd for a ‘religious’ book hoping to reach a ‘religious’ audience. But rest easy–I never reach the level of shock and surprise achieved by such writers as the prophet Ezekiel.”

  46. It’s a shame that it’s absolutely unsurprising to see Douglas use this sort of language.  As others have pointed out, the Ezekiel reference is like a broken record, a constant appeal to one place in the Bible that according to him, “lets” him be disgusting under the masquerade of pastorship.  Alas, “you never talk like that!” is not what anyone who has read any of Douglas Wilsons’s blog will be saying.  I know being obscene and revolting is valuable for shock.   I know it probably brings the readership of the blog up, just like tabloids, for some reason, get widely read.  People love sludge.  And my my, you sure do provide.     

    (Also, I find it amusing that your way of approaching this resembles that of the currently popular book “Pastrix,” which is described as a “messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith.” )        Prayer and profanity.  How beautiful.    

  47. Sylvan seems to have forgotten 2Kings, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Nahum, etc, which confirm the pattern of Ezekiel’s obscenity.  Regardless, I’ve found Wilson’s use of obscenity to be about as rare as its use in Scripture, and well aimed.  It’s certainly not Wilson’s habit to use it casually or sensationally.  He delivers a gut punch when real moral danger is threatening down and needs exposed.  However, in many such cases what Wilson uses is veiled innuendo (which one might argue is a gray area, since, if obscenity is really called for, veiling it again behind innuendo is actually pulling the punch, inappropriately).  It seems that direct obscenity is appropriate for certain cases of open condemnation (a hammer), as opposed to cases where we just want to be clever, witty, and satirical (sword play).  Perhaps some amount of sexual innuendo is appropriate in the realm of artful satire, but I think this may be a distinct question, Scripturally, from the direct examples of filthy obscenity used as a hammer.  In any case, I’ll have Scripture be the model, not Sylvan.

  48. The way I generally determine whether language, even if in response to an issue that should rightly rile a Christian, is acceptable is to put it into the mouth of my young daughter.  “Daddy, what does circle jerk mean?”  Yeah…no.  

  49. A young daughter (hopefully) isn’t a shepherd defending sheep from wolves though.  Similarly, soldiers carry certain weapons so our young daughters don’t have to.

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