On Receipt of the 17th Arrow

I noticed this post on “paper-cut martyrs” the other day, and wanted to say something about it. Go take a look; I’ll wait. Make sure you come back though — this is important.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci argues that, “almost without exception,” conservative North American Christians who point out any mistreatment that is happening to them have a perspective that needs some adjustment. He says that what is usually happening is that “Christians have lost a place of privilege in our culture” (that they perhaps ought not to have had in the first place), but “are responding to it as though they are being put to the rack.” The ACLU makes the county courthouse take down their Christmas tree and we act like St. Sebastian on receipt of the 17th arrow.

This is the one place where I have some sympathy with his observations. Everything else about his piece is radically cattywampus, which is to say, askew, 165 degrees at a minimum. He is absolutely right that Christians ought not to be whiners about this sort of thing — it drives me up a wall too. But he argues that we ought not to complain about it because it is really nothing, and besides, we have it coming to us.

I want to argue that we ought not to complain because we are told not to complain about anything, because it does absolutely no good to complain, and last, because complaining is actually a white surrender flag in the face of what actually is genuine persecution. He says it is “paper-cut martyrdom,” i.e. not martyrdom at all. I say it is the real deal, but a harbinger of more radical mistreatment to come, and we need to treat this kind of thing as a time of training for when things get really hot.

But he says “we must be careful not to over-inflate our struggles as though they are persecution when they clearly are not.” He notes that “to claim that we are persecuted and suffering for such things as no prayer in schools or marriage equality” is to make a false claim. “Let us not dishonour God or those who truly suffer in any attempt to boost our own spiritual status.”

Given how he is defining things, it is really surprising to me that he would cite Matthew 5:10-12:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus pronounces a book-ended blessing here. He mentions those persecuted for righteousness’ sake at the beginning, and those persecuted the same way the prophets were at the end. In the middle, He mentions three things — blessed are you when people insult you, when they persecute you, and when they falsely say evil things about you. Two out of the three here do not involve any loss of blood. They are instances of name-calling and slander — and Jesus defines it as persecution. When a junior high girl is called a virgin nerd by cruel classmates, and she handles it with grace, the Lord pronounced a blessing for her. Arpin-Ricci calls it a paper cut.

In short, we have to turn to the Bible for our definitions of such things, and not, for example, to someone who is clearly in the process of going over to the other side.

“If we make mistakes or treat people poorly in the name of God, it is not persecution when they attack us or Christianity as a result. It is shameful, for example, to claim that we are ‘under siege’ by some ambiguous ‘gay agenda’, citing how many LGBTQ people openly criticize and attack the church. The fact is that Western Christians have little idea what it has been like for the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to live with such universal hatred and abuse, often at the hands of the church and in the name of Christ. That Christians have largely mistreated these people for centuries is not even debatable. While hatred is never justified, it is not difficult to understand why we have been cast as the enemy. We have earned every bit of the distrust and anger directed towards us.”

In short, he is reading the story with the protagonists and antagonists switched. He is identifying with the wrong group. Let me pull that last sentence out so you can read it again.

“We have earned every bit of the distrust and anger directed towards us.”

To provide us with some contrast, let’s look at how the Bible describes this kind of thing.

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (1 Pet. 4:3-4, ESV).

The Gentiles give themselves over to a flood of debauchery, and when they get over their surprise that certain Christians don’t want to join them in it, they turn to the next thing, which is to malign them. In this effort, they are joined by the ever-helpful Arpin-Ricci.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet. 4:12–16, ESV).

As noted above, the one place where I can acknowledge a legitimate point is the place where he says that we ought not to exaggerate our claims — if you are being eaten by a lion, don’t claim that it is a bigger lion than it actually is. Maybe that’s not a good example. If people call you names, don’t act like it is the end of the world. Note how Peter treats it here.

Peter says that when we experience “fiery trials,” we must not react as though “something strange” were happening to us (v. 12). This is how it goes in this world. But take in something else as well. He says that we ought not to be surprised at the fiery trial, and he also intimates that we must not be surprised at the run-up to the fiery trials. What might that run-up be? That’s right, insults (v. 14). If you are the one guy in the office that isn’t wearing a little rainbow ribbon on Gay Pride day, and your supervisor is irate, and you need the job, and your co-workers call you a series of names that I will not record here, and your wife is worried sick about it, and you stand firm anyway, Arpin-Ricci thinks you got an owie. The apostle Peter thinks — and this is a stark contrast — that the Spirit of glory is resting upon you.

But wait — Peter is not done. He says it is fine to suffer this way, enduring insults, for the sake of righteousness. Take it in stride. But make sure that you are not suffering because you are breaking the moral law of God. If you are on the hot seat at work because you are an evildoer, then that is something to worry about. The word for evildoer here refers to doing things that are base and low. No bottom-feeder stuff. If you are in trouble for being a liar, or effeminate, or because you steal things, then you may not claim “persecution.”

And here is where we may note that Arpin-Ricci has tried to pull a complete reversal on us. He wants us to feel bad for those who have had things go poorly for them because they were LGBTQ, and this is precisely one kind of group that Peter says should not get this privilege. And he says that when members of this group dish it out to those Christians who still read their Bibles, and who therefore know that grotesque sins are not cleansed by having one letter of the alphabet attached to them, he joins right in with those who malign such faithful believers.

One last thing, in order to strengthen a point I made in the previous post on this subject. I was answering someone who asked why I wasn’t going after sins being committed by “my tribe.” And here is the answer, I hope a bit clearer this time. This is exactly what I am doing. My tribe is guilty of cowardice, confusion, side-switching, turn-coating, be-that-as-it-maying, indistinct trumpet blowing, and refusal to confront brothers who are being clearly and inexorably seduced by the spirit of the age. And that is what I am confronting.

I do not write about sodomy because I expect that Mablog is the go-to blog for the editorial staff of The Advocate. I write about sex and culture the way I do because I know I have many readers throughout the evangelical subculture, many of them in churches, places, or institutions that do not want to engage the way we must engage. I thank these individuals for their faithfulness where they are, and want to strengthen their hand for that tense board meeting they are going to be attending someday.

The current battle is not between homosexuals and evangelical heterosexuals. The current battle — for some reason — is between homosexuals and evangelical eunuchs. This helps explain, incidentally, why it is going the way it is.

We have a whole lot of apostasy going on. A lot of men — men who should know better — are clearly adrift in their inner tubes, spinning ever more rapidly as they get closer and closer to the falls. As they disappear around that last bend — we can even see the mist rising and cannot talk because of the roar — they give us one last missional wave.

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34 comments on “On Receipt of the 17th Arrow

  1. And a hearty Amen!

  2. Excellent!!

  3. It has gotten to the point where many of my Evangelical friends will cause me a great deal more difficulty than anyone at my workplace (a place where the little rainbows are on all the big announcement screens). It is encouraging to see this article (I’ve seen too many like it) dissected and exposed for what it is.

  4. Stockholm Syndrome is hardly the mark of a hero.

  5. Sex before marriage, Adultery & homosexuality- all are wicked sins. However, Wilson shines his flashlight on homosexuality so much because that is where the current battle is. We already lost the sex before marriage and Adultery fight a generation ago. And we are losing and will lose the homosexual fight. But if Postmillennial eschatology is right, these three sins will be rare in the future.

  6. It’s awfully amusing to see the article’s author claim that homosexuals have been persecuted for centuries, especially when you remember that sodomy has (for millennia!) been the favorite sexual perversion of rich, powerful, wealthy, ruling-class men ~all over the world~.

    And that it always has been a fundamentally misogynist pass-time (“Only men can truly understand men! The only way for a man to have a truly equal relationship is with one who is his spiritual, intellectual and physical equal, i.e. another man! Women? What about them? They’re all right for continuing your family line, but it’s not like you can ~talk~ to them or anything…”)

    If anyone ought to be excoriated for paper-cut persecution, it is these people.

  7. I often pray: Lord, give me eyes to see where your Spirit is leading, and courage to follow. Thanks, Doug, for showing us what that can look like.

  8. It seems that our ‘evangelical’ friends like Jamie are not even willing to suffer so much as a “paper-cut” themselves for the sake of the gospel,. If any Biblical suggestion is offensive to the world, Jamie will bow to the world casting what the Bible says aside, and distributing “paper-cuts” on his own to the true Church. Those voices that accuse Christians of being ‘hateful’ are much louder within the church than without.

  9. I am troubled both by the blatant misrepresentation of Arpin-Ricci’s words and the needless, shallow and ungrounded tone of the comments towards him. I expected more from this blog & its regular readers. Very disappointing.

  10. Wow, I’m a seeker. Not sure where I’m going to stand in regards to religion. I’ve been looking into christianity alot recently, but if this is how you treat another Christian (Jamie) than I definatly don’t want what you’re offering. I ended up reading the article this one was about and as someone who was raped repeatedly and then laughed at and not heard and having a childhood friend take their life because they were bullied at a church for being gay-I do think the comparison between martyr, destruction etc… and having someone be mad at you for your beliefs are two totally different things. When I read Jamies I saw someone who is actually connected to humanity and trying to figure out how to love them. One thing I will never really understand about Christianity is why do christians and the church seem to be so void of love and so bent on keeping everyone in line? I’ve read the Bible and Jesus seemed like a cool dude. He seemed to care more about caring for me, no matter what they did, and hoping that the love and who he was would show them a better way to live their life.

  11. Here is something I wonder about the mysterious blogosphere. Did you send this to Arpin-Ricci before publishing it? Or did you post any comments to his blog site to continue the conversation or to seek clarity? Or is it possible that this post is a continuation of the disturbing trend in the Christian blogosphere to electronically gossip?

    If you were on vacation and visited Arpin-Ricci’s church and heard him preach a sermon akin to this post, then you went back to your own church and preached this response, would that seem responsible to you?

    I ask this as an occasional-at-best blogger and someone who is deeply concerned about the unashamed adopting of cultural norms in Christian blogging. I am also a pastor who responds to theological traditions with which I have disagreement, but not persons. I would hope that the elders in my church would confront me if I sarcastically referred to another pastor as “ever-helpful” in my sermonizing.

  12. “It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and incompromising realism. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.” -Dorothy Sayers

  13. Erica: You call yourself a seeker but it seems that what you are seeking is an opportunity to slam Christians who dare to affirm Biblical teaching with regard to homosexual behavior. Your style of “Gee whiz, I can’t make up my mind about Christians, because they don’t bow to homosexuality and that’s just not loving” is disingenuous at best and quite transparent. Jamie is the one who has maligned other Christians calling them ‘hateful’. He did not bother to name anyone specifically but made it quite clear that any Christian who would disagree with him is “hateful”. Neither do you name anyone but claim to know from personal experience that “… christians and the church seem to be so void of love and so bent on keeping everyone in line?” Your first claim as a ‘seeker’ is nulllified by your second claim to have read the Bible and to have a thorough knowledge of who Jesus is. Smells pretty phony to me.
    :

  14. Pastor Occasional Reader,

    As a general thought, is not a blog a venue whereby one is publicizing their personal opinions and positions with a commensurate removal of any reasonable expectation of privacy? If I decide to create my own blog or internet site (or write in Pastor Wilson’s), I am doing so with an understanding that I am now in the largest amphitheater, and my very presence and actions in that venue create an invitation to both listen to and respond to my words. I think it is unrealistic to expect to be able to (given the type of forum in question in the instant case) speak a series of “shoulds and should nots” and not receive comment, rebuttal and/or criticism.

  15. I said something with which you disagreed. You posted back a response. Now I have a chance to respond. This is dialogue, albeit public dialogue. You could have gone to Twitter and said “You should have read what this ‘Occasional Reader’ said. He was such a jerk…” But you didn’t. I think. Maybe you did. But that’s beside the point. You did exactly what I would expect. What this blog did, however, is not. It isn’t an issue of privacy, it’s an issue of Christian love. Do we as followers of Jesus want to have dialogue, or make our own points on our own platforms and hold tightly to our own turf, even if that turf is electronic? I simply think there is a better way to engage.

  16. Erica: You are right, Christians can be too judgmental…we all are human and as the Bible says we “have all fallen short of the glory of God”. Jamie is someone who has been called to love and challenge others but those that judge his words don’t hear his heart…I’m glad you did. Jesus hates sin but He loves us, even though we are all sinners. My encouragement to you is to keep seeking a relationship with Jesus, not religion…and remember that while Christians are called to exemplify Christ, we often fail…don’t allow our failures keep you from knowing Him. Bless you.

  17. Pastor Ocassional Reader,

    You are making an assetion that “dialogue” is both a “should”, and also that it is the only format. So, when Jesus addressed His own followers and spoke to them about what the Saduceess, Pharisees and Lawyers said and did, and pungently criticized their positions, was He wrong about holding on to His own “turf” and not “engaging” properly?

  18. [...] On Receipt of the 17th Arrow – Wilson: “We have a whole lot of apostasy going on. A lot of men — men who should know better — are clearly adrift in their inner tubes, spinning ever more rapidly as they get closer and closer to the falls. As they disappear around that last bend — we can even see the mist rising and cannot talk because of the roar — they give us one last missional wave.” [...]

  19. “However, Wilson shines his flashlight on homosexuality so much because that is where the current battle is. We already lost the sex before marriage and Adultery fight a generation ago. ”

    That’s very interesting, because I think I’ve heard Wilson make the opposite point – that he focuses on homosexuality so much because it is in the process of being celebrated MORE than sex before marriage and adultery are celebrated.

    It goes to show that you can create a scapegoat, and then create whatever reasoning you can find to keep the focus “over there”. Is it the sin that people have accepted the most or the sin that people haven’t quite accepted yet? Either way, it gives a good opportunity to focus on “their” sin, and that does seem to be the focus of this blog far more often than not.

  20. Yes, I assume that people within the Church should communicate their grievances with one another before launching onto their own platform to purport their own views. Sure, Jesus warned His disciples about the Pharisees… but… Arpin-Ricci is a disciple, not a Pharisee. When Peter complained about another disciple, Jesus rebuked him. Jesus also had the benefit of knowing the Pharisees completely. That’s not a benefit we have. If the author thought he was unfairly characterized and that Arpin-Ricci bore false witness about him, he should have followed Matthew 18 and at least put the statement out there to Arpin-Ricci to respond. I could be wrong. Jesus walked the earth in a different time than social media and the blogosphere, and maybe this is what He intended for us to do. It just doesn’t seem that way.

  21. Pastor Ocassional Reader,

    I do not think that Pastor Wilson has a grievance about Arpin-Ricci, I think that he is publicly critiquing what Arpin-Ricci wrote in a public forum.

    I also do not think that Jesus was critical of the position of Pharisee because “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do…” Their performance as such, not their existence, was what was in question; it was not what they were, it was what they were not: faithful.

    I also take exception to a seemingly tacit “should” that we are somehow supposed to “love” as Jesus loved, but not live out any other action. The oft given reason given you repeated somewhat bt saying “Jesus also had the benefit of knowing the Pharisees completely. That’s not a benefit we have.” Well, if we do not have that benefit, that dearth extends all the way to the ground for every other thing including love.

    I think that the error that you are making is conflating a “book review” format with a personal interface/interpersonal grievance, and even that has some qualifying: “Alexander the coppersmith has done me much harm” was announced and recorded in the most widely read work in the history of man, as well as the acknowledgment that his day was coming. Someone might be tempted to think that to be unloving.

  22. @Melody. I am a seeker. I have no idea where i stand. I’ve looking into numerous religions and have literally spent hundreds of hours pondering and studying etc… I grew up with christianity so I do know the basics. I was turned off by the people in the church (kinda like you and your personal blast towards me). So many in consistencies from the words spoken from the stage and the action and words of the people listening. I think its really interesting that you claimed I’m just wanting to slam christians, when i honestly loved hearing jamies article. one of the few who were really focused on taking ownership and focusing on loving people. I think thats what christianity should be about. I dont know enough to say what is moral or christian in regards to homosexuality, but I do know that from what I know about jesus that it seemed he would rather hang out talking with them than most of the pastors i’ve met and the many of the “christians” ive seen in my life.

    @Rj I truly appreciate your words and your humility. You’re a good person and a Christian I presume. Great stuff.

  23. Erica/Seeker – Have you looked into Reform/Conservative Judaism?

  24. Someone above said that “if Postmillennial eschatology is right, these three sins will be rare in the future.” Does believing that your great-great-great grandchild (plus say three or so generations thereafter) will enjoy a sinful but muted sinful environment, give great comfort?

    “The earth has received gallons of blood from martyrs for millenia. But praise God it will be only drops somewhere down the line for awhile.” That’s our future hope?

  25. @Erica–all the best to you in finding some group and some leaders that both Jesus and you are happy with. (Pray the same for my in-laws, and even for me and my family.). You grew up in church (me too), so “Christ died for my sins”–”God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us”–you know this. Other leaders just died, but he died for us. Seek Him, because His love cannot be topped. And He “rose again the 3rd day.” Other leaders died and stayed dead. They may have noticed things many Christians haven’t noticed, and we can learn from them, but they don’t match Jesus for love or power. So far so good.

    And none of Jesus’s followers quite lives up to Him–you’ve heard that too, and you and I and everyone on this blog know it’s true. (I once put it to a theology student: “God is perfect, the Bible is perfect, salvation in Christ Jesus is perfect, and church sucks.”) The Bible from one end to the other is God telling His people what’s wrong with them and how to shape up. God’s glory is infinite, so how can we not have room to grow? But God never gives up on groups of his people, so neither can we. Christ is King (President, Governor, Mayor) not just of umpteen individuals but of a Kingdom, a Gathering. Yeah, there’s a radicalness to His love: he touched lepers, he partied with whores and IRS agents. But it’s a love that changes people, not leaving us in our sins, not even our favorite sins. (Repent of all that reading, Andrew; an alcoholic you are not, but a logoholic you are.) Doug may lean one way and his target lean the other, and they may both be making points that need made, and preferably combined. A doctor who never diagnoses or prescribes anything nasty is probably killing his patients; a doctor whose diagnoses and prescriptions are more accurate may do some good, even if he harshly prescribes harsh treatments. With a better bedside manner do more good; but the Bible from end to end does demand that we Repent. Change. “Go and sin no more.”

  26. RFB-

    That’s fine. You don’t have to agree. I simply wanted to raise the issue that is seems weird to me that the blogosphere is more concerned with reaching its own audience than actually having a conversation with someone. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing in Scripture akin to the blogosphere, we have to make do the best we can. Your argument is that this a purely intellectual conversation. My argument is that this is not a conversation because the other party is excluded. I think the Internet is a fascinating “place” where people can get away with behavior unacceptable outside of the Internet. And the trend I have noticed (present here) may not be unacceptable in the long run. But what if it is? Don’t our online behaviors and methods deserve to be considered carefully?

    That’s pretty much the extent of what I have to say on the matter. I am afraid I have not been convinced that Arpin-Ricci didn’t deserve a direct response or at least a comment on his blog site before this post was made. Nor do I believe extrapolations on Jesus’ method or Paul’s justify this behavior when looks beyond a cursory glance at the Scriptures.

  27. Doug, you’re pompous self-righteousness is showing. Better cover that up it’s looking pretty ugly.

  28. I once watched Penn Jillette essentially accuse Mother Teresa of being pompous and self-righteous, I can only imagine how often Doug gets accused of it…

    Doug, have you ever considered writing in a more gentle, less entertaining, and ultimately less influential way? You’d probably engender less criticism that way. Just a thought.

  29. Mr. Brian C,

    Fascinating, as in Balaam fascinating, and so you have confirmed Pastor Wilson’s premise: “Blessed are you when people insult you…”

  30. Brian,

    Your sure about that?

    [Sorry. Couldn't resist.]

  31. Guilt is the engine that makes the world go around, and Christians are among the easiest to lay a guilt trip on. We are ripe for it, because, even as modern individualists, we still have the remnant of an instinct about covenantal historic shared responsibility. Using a notion of Western guilt, even a terrorist blowing up a market full of innocent people can proclaim that it was deserved, and therefore excused. However, we have enough actual sins on our plate to feel guilty for (as if guilt were the answer to anything). We don’t need to be manipulated by false guilt and sentimentalism. We need to repent of what is actually our sin, making us free of guilt, and making us able to speak the truth more boldly in love.

    It is as if the Christian has lost belief in forgiveness itself. We retreat back into collective guilt at the mere suggestion that we should be guilty of something. If Christ can’t really address our sins, and if we are never free of guilt for our past, then what has Christ saved us from and what good news do we preach?

  32. Hi Doug, I am a Christian and new to your blog. (Though I found a great respect for you by watching the documentary filmed on your tour with Chris Hitchens some time ago.) I agree with most of what you are saying here, but if you have time, could really use some clarity on a few points. Please understand that I am not here to argue, but sincerely curious about your intentions in a few paragraphs, and more importantly what you think is a biblical stance on the issue of homosexuality, especially in our culture. You said:

    “And here is where we may note that Arpin-Ricci has tried to pull a complete reversal on us. He wants us to feel bad for those who have had things go poorly for them because they were LGBTQ, and this is precisely one kind of group that Peter says should not get this privilege.”

    Are you speaking there specifically about the fight to legalize gay marriage? Just to be clear, you are not saying that the LGBTQ population doesn’t have a right to complain or speak up when they are being mistreated or bullied, right?? I assume that as a Christian you don’t, but your comment sure does make it seem that way. I have read it ten times over and it seems as if you are saying that because the LGBTQ group is breaking the moral law of God, they have no right to claim mistreatment, and that we should not be sympathetic with them. Please clarify!

    Also, earlier you stated: ” But wait — Peter is not done. He says it is fine to suffer this way, enduring insults, for the sake of righteousness. Take it in stride. But make sure that you are not suffering because you are breaking the moral law of God. If you are on the hot seat at work because you are an evildoer, then that is something to worry about. The word for evildoer here refers to doing things that are base and low. No bottom-feeder stuff. If you are in trouble for being a liar, or effeminate, or because you steal things, then you may not claim ‘persecution.’”

    Why here did you include “effeminate” in a list of sins that you classify as “bottom-feeder” stuff? Or perhaps I should ask you to clarify what you mean by “effeminate.” Do you really believe it is a sin for a man to have more feminine mannerisms (perhaps because they were raised without a father, or are struggling sexually, or were molested)? Do you think of effeminate men as “bottom-feeders?”

    Again, I am coming sincerely from a place of curiosity, and from trying to understand how you approach this issue. Thank you.

  33. I see after reading your latest blog post that you probably used “effeminate” to mean a young boy in a sexual relationship with a man. I’ve never seen it used in that context, but I see what you meant now.

  34. Pastor, you are very kind, measured in approach and reserved in tone.
    God bless.
     
     
     

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