Let us abandon for a moment the idea of culture war, and shift the image over to a game or a sport. Many conservative believers think we are in a straightforward contest of strength, something like sumo wrestling, when we are actually in a chess game with a master who is consistently five moves ahead of us.
I bring this up because of this piece by Michael Hannon over at First Things, warning us off the false ideal of heterosexuality. And if you read that, I would then recommend this response over at Mere Orthodoxy. In this response of mine, I would want to go even farther than Matt Anderson did in registering concern. By “registering concern” I refer of course to the fact that I will be dancing in place, with my hair on fire, and waving my hands over the top of my head.
There are three problems that have each contributed to setting my head ablaze. Let me outline them for you, although concentration might be a problem.
I believe I understand what Russell Moore and Andrew Walker were seeking to do with this piece, and I wish them well and applaud their efforts. There is much that is valuable about what they are saying, particularly in their recognition of the distinction between sins and crimes. However, comma . . .
The problem, as I see it, is embodied in a sentence near the end of their post. The context that makes it problematic is cultural climate in the West today. I do not say any of this to applaud the Ugandan legislation, about which I know nothing, but rather to point out how the forces of Progress in our nation use such things to maneuver us into a position that is much more to their liking.
“The jailing and execution of people for consensual sexual immorality, in contexts like we see in many places around the world, isn’t Christian, either.”
This sentiment rests on a particular understanding of the old order, the order of Christendom, at the very time that this order is under a full scale assault, by the very people this sentiment is designed to protect.
I have perhaps said it before, but my pastoral philosophy of ministry is summed up by this: “What would I do here if I were the devil?” and then try to counter that. And if I were the devil, I would take this sentence, and then take two steps beyond it.
Comes now the NFL, on the cusp of bringing in their first openly gay player, and they are also contemplating banning the n-word and the other eff-word at the same time.
The Left is currently attempting quite a hat trick — they are unleashing, simultaneously, their inner wowser, their inner totalitarian, and their inner lust monkey. The results are not pretty — it is a kind of warp spasm of irrational overreach.
This is classic overreach. It was just a matter of weeks ago that we were being told that an abandonment of the Defense of Marriage Act would leave states free to make their own decisions on the matter, yay federalism, and so what happened? Since lo, these many weeks ago, federal judges have now been striking down state laws, one after the other.
Some people might have thought — not me, incidentally — that homosexual activists were going to pursue their agenda with a modicum of judicial restraint, ascending the bench of public opinion in a black robe in order to issue carefully reasoned arguments that would cause thoughtful people everywhere to consider what they had to say. But ten minutes after their initial victories, all the restraint evaporated, by which I mean to say that it all went away. They are now pursuing their agenda by means of a metaphorical parade through the Castro District, wearing nothing but a thong and a sombrero with mangoes and grapes all over it.
As we argue, urge, mobilize, vote, write and so forth, we need to remember that all these things, however righteous they are in themselves — and they are — cannot supply an essential element of cultural reformation. In order to turn our culture back from the brink, we need to pray for the arrival of widespread fear.
In the book of Acts, it is striking how often this comes up. The things that provoke it vary — from signs and miracles, to the sudden death of a pair of liars, to a beatdown performed by a demoniac on the sons of Sceva.
“And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).
“And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
“And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them” (Acts 5:13).
“And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19:17).
This is quite a challenge, because at the end of the day believers are a flock of sheep, and not a pride of lions. The fear that comes upon the outsiders has to come because God, in some fashion, has made manifest to them that He is with us. If they mess with us, they are messing with Him.
In just a moment I would like to interact with a post by Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt, which you can read here if you haven’t already. In one sense, I wish they hadn’t written that thing together, because I have some respect for Kirsten Powers. She has done some very fine against-the-tide work on things like international persecution of Christians, and on the Gosnell horrors. I don’t know as much about Merritt, but what I have seen seems to indicate someone who is being wafted along by the breezes emanating from the Zeitgeist Wind Farm, which is a bad metaphor because that’s not how wind farms work. To change metaphors, it is as though they happened to be at the same place on the road because she was walking into a great city while he was walking out of it. Anyhow, however they came to say it, what they said needs a response.
But before saying anything about their argument, I want to say something else about a necessary scriptural backdrop to all such discussions.
As conservative Christians, we are accustomed to discuss homosexual issues in the light of Romans 1. There Paul tells us that our gay pride parades are the result of refusing to honor God as God, and refusing to give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21). Nothing is plainer to exegetes — who are not selling out, or who don’t have a gun to their head — than the fact that an apostle of Jesus Christ taught us that for a man to burn with lust for another man was unnatural, and that for a woman to burn with lust for another woman was even more unnatural. But that is not the point I would like to make, although the point I need to make assumes this. We need to go on to see that this chapter teaches us something else quite important about our current controversies.
The wrath of God is described in this chapter (Rom. 1:18), and it is described as God giving people over to their desires (Rom. 1:24). The mercy of God is found in the restraints He places on us, and His wrath is revealed from heaven whenever He lets us run headlong, which is what is happening to us now. This wrath is described this same way again a couple verses later. God gave them up to dishonorable passions (Rom. 1:26). It is repeated a third time just a moment later. God gave them up to a debased mind (Rom. 1:28). When God lets go, that is His wrath. As Lewis says somewhere, Heaven is when we say to God “thy will be done.” Hell is when He says that to us.
So what consequences follow when He lets go? What does this wrath look like when it is visited on a culture?
When a culture spirals out of control, at some point it will begin to dawn on the remaining faithful Levites (who are waiting for Moses to come down off the mountain) that the point of no return has been passed by those caught up in the moment. These things can be stopped, but only in the same way that a free fall is stopped by something called “the rocky crags below.”
Sin has a certain internal logic to it, and that logic usually results in getting naked in public (Ex. 32:25). And lest we think that this phenomenon is an old covenant thing, the apostle Paul expressly tells Christians that the golden calf incident was recorded as a cautionary tale for us (1 Cor. 10:6). This means that we are warned away from lust and idolatry. The reason the idols are popular is that they always make room for the lust — and that lust was accompanied, according to Exodus 32, by music, dancing, singing, eating, drinking, playing, and public nudity. In other words, the camp of Israel turned into a Miley Cyrus concert.
What do I mean when I say that the point of no return has been passed? I mean that for all those caught up in the sin, all their internal gears have been stripped. There is no way for Hollywood to catch itself. There is no way for our entertainment gurus to walk back their commitment to same sex mirage. There is nothing to do when the damnation train becomes a runaway train — except to be grateful that you are not on it. That gratitude, incidentally, is not a stand-alone thing. There are duties that come with it, but Moses will make that clear.
So the problem will be addressed, but it will be convulsive and will leave a crater. It will come from outside the fogged logic of the partiers — who simply rose up to play. In Exodus 32, that external force was faithful Levites with swords. What will it be in our circumstance? We have no way of knowing, but it will certainly be sudden and unpleasant.
This last week a federal judge struck down Virginia’s ban on same sex mirages, and just a few days before that, the same indignity was performed for Kentucky. It should be apparent by now, at least, that these elites don’t care what the people believe, or how they vote. They are going to impose their worldview regardless.
On top of that, they use the people’s conservatism in order to accomplish this. This is how it works. The conservative impulse to not mess around with marriage is an impulse that applies to more institutions than just marriage. It also applies to the desire to not mess around with federal judges, with the “way things are.” So the oxymoron of same sex mirage is stuffed down our throats, and so this is why our eyes look like those of an overreaching ostrich trying to swallow a basketball.
But we are well past the point where principled disobedience became necessary. Following Calvin’s doctrine of the lesser magistrate, this is how it should work. The legislature of Kentucky, or Virginia, or any other state that this is being done to, should pass a measure requiring the governor to just say no. The governor should sign it, and then inform the feds that he has instructed the clerks of every country court house in the state to refuse to issue any mirage licenses. It doesn’t matter what the federal judge says — we the people of the great state of “whichever one it is” need to become insufficiently docile and compliant.
No. It has a wonderful ring to it.
Since I blogged a couple times over the last week or so about the Wheaton situation, I thought I needed to highlight this statement by Phil Ryken. I thought it was a good statement, and I was glad to see it. However, there are some additional caveats about the whole situation that I would like to add, and maybe I will to get to it soon.