Houston, We Have a Problem

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.

Jitney Messiahs

As the same-sex mirage juggernaut continues to roll through our pathetic little festival, crushing both devotees and opponents alike, a number of conservative Christians have begun to prepare themselves for life in a post-Christian America. Not only so, but they have been encouraging others to do the same. But this is radically unhelpful and unbecoming — nobody much likes seeing the team manager giving up in the fourth inning, and especially when the score is just 10 to 8. And particularly when we are the ones who have 10.

The reason all this is happening is that we are so distracted by the effrontery of the last lie that we are not able to see the current lie being told. We were being told — oh, about ten minutes ago — that there was no reason why individual states could not keep their restrictions on same-sex mirage, and that it was not necessary to have one monolithic approach to marriage within the republic. Anybody remember all that? Ah, good times. And then federal judges started striking down the laws of multiple states as unconstitutional, and you know the rest of the drill.

But that was the last lie. And as exasperating as it is, perhaps making you want to dance in place a little bit, we really need to focus on what lies we are being told now. Our problem then was that we believed them then. Our problem now is that we are believing them now. The current lie is that all of this is inevitable, inexorable, remorseless, relentless, and hell bent. And except for that last one, none of it is even remotely true.

This is a lie that under-girds all progressive thought, all the time, but it has now come to the forefront again, and some out-maneuvered Christians are helping to propagate it. Progressives are the ones that progressives have been waiting for, but really, nobody else has been. Whenever their jitney messiah arrives — and they find a new one every generation or so — I really see no reason for bowing down.

Chesterton once said that the one taste of paradise on earth was to fight in a losing cause . . . and not to lose it.

So let me give three quick reasons, in ascending order of importance, why this myth of inevitability needs to be rejected, along with the horse it rode in on.

First, they really want me to believe it, and so I refuse to. Should I as the batter swing simply because I hear voices emanating from their dugout, telling me that I need to? Try explaining that to your coach. “But they said I had to . . . they seemed so urgent . . .”

Second, sodomy is fruitless, along with all the pale heterosexual imitations of sodomy. Denial of fruitfulness will result — follow me closely here — in lack of fruit. Sodomy can crash a civilization into a wall, but sodomy and its cousins can never build or maintain a civilization. In the long run, in other words, stupidity never works. You run out of money, you run out of children, you run out of ideas, and you run out of gas. You run out.

And third, the Lord Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. All of this is His doing, not theirs. He has brought our nation to this point in time for His good and perfect purposes. They think they are in control, and a number of us even think so. But if American history were that little joggity car outside the supermarkets that they used to have, where you put quarters in it so that your two-year-old could bounce for five minutes, grinning maniacally, turning the steering wheel back and forth, then all our circuit courts are that two-year-old.

The Lord Jesus rules all of history. This means that our folly is His righteous judgment on us, and not our successful revolt against Him. And His righteous judgment of us is being exercised so that His name would be glorified in the earth. Given the circumstances, His name will be glorified in one of two ways. Either our culture will go out in a flash fire of stupidity, and He will be glorified in that event, or we will go down to our knees in repentance, calling on Him by name, and He will be glorified in our cleansing and forgiveness. And just between us, the latter is what I believe is going to happen.

And when God grants reformation and revival, I have no doubt that more than one federal judge will declare it to be unconstitutional. But we won’t get the word because of all the singing.

To Join the Orgy Porgy

A couple of stories came to my attention today. One was the decision of California to require a verbal yes at every stage of sexual activity on their college campuses. And if that doesn’t work, they will toughen the law, requiring a “yes, oh yes!” at every stage of the proceedings.

Certain tropes are like indestructible viruses. What will it take to get a super-vaccine that will knock out the notion that liberals have even the slightest concern for personal liberty? They have said ad nauseam they want the government out of our bedrooms — all while regulating every detail of that bedroom’s set up, from the spacing of the sheetrock screws down to the unremovable mattress tag — and people have nonetheless come to believe that they want the government out of our bedrooms. Comes now Jerry Brown, sending his minions to fan out with clipboards, so that they may stand around dorm room beds to exhort the participants to speak up. They have a checklist to maintain.

They justify this foolishness because, they say, there is rape epidemic on campus. They say, also ad nauseam, that one in five women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her time at college. Now if that were even remotely true, how would it not be an argument for parents not to send their daughters to college? How would it not be an argument for daughters to refuse to go? Why has there not been a dramatic upsurge of enrollment in all-women colleges? The answer is that some people use statistics that rhyme with mogus, dogus, and pogus.

Liberals are coercion monkeys. But we have this trope that says they believe in personal freedom. Yeah, well. Anybody who believes that they actually do care about liberty has been a victim of the old trope-a-dope ploy.

The other story was about how an administrative judge (note we are dealing with an executive martinet, not a regular judge) determined that a Kentucky printer was not allowed to refuse business that was promoting gay pride.

Now look at what is happening here. Evangelical printers, cake bakers, florists, and photographers (and other professions to come) are being singled out and targeted because of convictions they have about sexual matters. They are being pressured, hectored, fined, put out of business, so that they will drop their sexual convictions and join the orgy porgy. Liberals don’t exhibit the slightest concern for this kind of thing at all because for them dropping your convictions is the necessary prelude to dropping your shorts.

They are consumed with lust and they are consumed with coercion. We have a name for that.

But in order to keep up the pretense that they actually care about things like sexual consent, they rally to the cause of some sorority girl who had four tequilas too many at a frat party and wound up in the wrong bed. That, my friends, is supposed to be part of the rape epidemic and so we now have a law in California that requires an amorous couple on campus to obtain and grant a verbal green light after the third wink and before the first leer.

We have played this out long enough. Liberals now have enough trope to hang themselves with.

Smash the Complementarity

Before smashing the patriarchy becomes mandatory, may we take a few moments to ask what it is? The current push is to get reasonable Christians to back away from it because they reject what is done in the name of it by the outliers. But however carefully reasonable Christians distance or distinguish themselves from the doings down at the patriarchy compound, it will not work. We have to learn how to distinguish tools and targets. Elijah One-Tooth and his admiring females are the tool. The target is the husband who loves his wife like Christ loved the church. Reasonable Christians (the ones who are most frequently gulled) cannot escape the fact that when feminists say they want to smash the patriarchy, their nuanced complementarianism is most certainly included.  Smash Patriarchy

Patriarchy means father rule, not stupid father rule, or ignorant father rule, or evil father rule. Now in a false and corrupting world, it is obvious that father rule — with attendant verses, to be referred to in a moment — can be applied badly. Not only can it be applied badly, it will be. This is a sinful world, and even when you seek to do something right, someone is going to do it wrong.

Something can be a good thing to do and still turn out badly. Some forms of feminism began as an understandable protest against the misbehavior of men, but because it was just understandable and not biblical, the whole thing rapidly became blank check permission for the misbehavior of women. And just as the misbehavior of men could not be effectively rebuked in its time of strength, so also misbehavior of women is off limits now. If you rebuke bad behavior in feminists, an easy target, this is immediately translated into an attack on all women.

But this shaping of men and women into political parties is one of the most destructive things we could do, not to mention one of the dumbest. Wisdom and folly deliver their respective invitations to men and women alike, and men and women both head off in opposite directions.

With Arms Quivering

Over at First Things, Peter Leithart interacts with a 2010 article by natural law theorist Jean Porter. At issue was the question of whether or not natural law provides a basis for rejecting same-sex relationships or marriages. Porter thinks not, and Peter finds her reasoning compelling — as far as the natural law limitation goes — but concludes that this is why we need Scripture.

Here is Peter’s conclusion. “Other natural law theorists, of course, think otherwise. But Porter’s reasoning is pretty compelling, and leaves me wondering whether we can say certain sexual acts are ‘contrary to nature’ without having some insight that comes from outside nature. Say, from revelation.”

Now there is no problem acknowledging that nature does not tell us everything, and that there are certain truths that cannot be obtained from nature that are taught in Scripture. Take, for example, the doctrine of the Second Coming, or the need to baptize in the triune name.

But there are still difficulties. Aren’t there always? We really need to pursue this issue out to the end of the road, because a lot rides on it.

We ought not conclude anything about the clarity of the lesson from the obtuseness of the students. If Scripture tells us plainly that nature teaches us all about the sovereignty and majesty of God, and Scripture also teaches us that man in his perverse and sinful ways refuses to acknowledge that this is what in fact nature is saying about God, one of the fundamental things we learn about book of nature from the book of Scripture is that sinful men have a vested interest in refusing to read it rightly. In short, given Scripture, we ought not to trust men when it comes to what nature does or does not tell us.

When you say that our behavior is unnatural, we do not find your arguments compelling.

When you say that our behavior is unnatural, we do not find your arguments compelling.

Scripture tells us that nature is a book, and Scripture also tells us that men are culpably ignorant in their refusal to read it rightly.

And this brings us to the next issue. When Scripture tells us that something is contrary to nature, as it does with regard to the homosexual lusts described in Romans 1, we are being told much more than that the behavior is morally wrong. We are being told that we already knew something about this subject before Scripture taught it to us.

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (Rom. 1:26–27).

If Scripture tells us that woman-to-woman sexual behavior is “against nature,” and that man-to-man sex is the same, and that this perverted turning toward a member of the same sex is simultaneously an abandonment of the “natural use” of a member of the opposite sex, and that those who give way to this kind of lust are given up to vile and unseemly affections, paying the price for that unnatural bent “in themselves,” we are being given a lot of information here. We are being told in Scripture what these actions are like in themselves, what they were like before the book of Romans was written.

A Gracious Gift of the Creeps

I recently read Peter Leithart’s piece on nature at the Trinity House page here, and my initial reaction was to pose a test case scenario for him. It looked like this. I wrote Peter and asked him to write an article that assumes his “un-metaphysic” about nature, and use it to demonstrate the sinfulness of getting, for example, a sex change operation. This has to do with his point about the nature of limits, and I really want to see how his approach protects “natural” ​limits from the perversions of men.

So I asked him to write an article on this for the excellent reason that I wanted to read it. But turnabout is fair play, and while Peter said he would give it some thought, he also asked me to answer my own question. So okay, we both need to write something. Here is my shot at it.

What I was looking for is some kind of anchor found in the world that is capable of saying “thus far and no farther.” I think that nature provides us with an ancient boundary stone that we are not supposed to mess with, and I was trying to come up with an example that is not expressly prohibited in Scripture.

Paul says that certain activities are “contrary to nature,” but I am genuinely interested in how it is possible to deny that nature has a nature, and still do the casuistry in drawing a distinction between getting braces for your kid’s teeth, for example, which overcome a limit in nature, and getting him hormone shots, which do the same thing. Both involve procedures, both require medical training, both are altering “what is,” and so on.Clock Cogs

I suspect the key difference between Peter’s approach and mine on this topic is found in his first paragraph. But before proceeding to discuss that, I need to point out that there are many observations that Peter makes in this post that I agree with, the central one being that if we lay nature spread out on a dissecting table and cut it up, and act like we are disinterested observers focused on “just the facts,” we will simply prove the truth of Wordsworth’s dictum, “we murder to dissect.” I don’t want anything to do with an impersonal nature, grinding away in obedience to impersonal natural laws, observed, if at all, by a bored and distant Deity.

Here are the sentences from Peter’s first paragraph that perhaps highlight our different approaches.

“Here and there, the Bible uses this word and something like the concept of nature, but it’s not fundamental. The Bible doesn’t picture the world as a collection of created natures, but as a collection of creation things and processes and patterns of behavior.”

The way this is posed reminds me of the problem of the one and the many. Are we getting to the giant lego nature by means of stacking up all these little legos, such that nature is the sum of all these smaller natures? Or are we doing something else?

Created Nature

In any discussion of nature, one of the things we must always be on guard against is this. We are a sinful race and when we sin intellectually, it is always with the materials that are ready at hand. We fail, when we fail, because we have not resisted our own temptations. We also failed because we tend to spend a lot of time and energy manfully resisting the temptation of another era. As Lewis puts it somewhere, confronted with a flood, we break out the fire extinguishers.

For example, in the time of the Deists, some thought of nature as something that had quasi-independence from God. And from that idea, it was the easiest thing in the world for a rising tide of atheism to dispense with the clockmaker and keep the clock. In this older view, nature runs the way it does because that is just what it does . . . things fall down when dropped because — Gravity. It’s not just a good idea. It’s the law.

So when you’ve gotten to the point where you think something called gravity makes things fall down, then you really have compromised with some form of autonomy. But gravity doesn’t make anything fall down. Gravity is the name we have for the phenomenon of things falling down – which is quite a different thing altogether.

If I had a hypothesis that said whenever I let go of a pencil over a table, the nearest pencil fairy grabs it and offers it as tribute to the fairy of the table, and it is part of their custom to always have the lesser fairy approach the more important fairy at a pace of 9.8 m/s squared, could I then establish my hypothesis by dropping pencils? No?