Let’s step back a few paces and try to take in the year 2020 in one worldview summary take. I am not promising you anything, but let’s give it a go.
Joel McDurmon recently asked what conservatives would have done if Obama had ordered the deployment of federal agents to scoop protesting citizens into vans during the night. They would have gone nuts, that’s what.
Now as edifying as such thought experiments might be, and I think McDurmon does have a (limited) point, it also betrays a lack of awareness about the precarious position our country is actually in. The thought experiment betrays the limits of such whataboutism. And what do I mean by that? The limits of whataboutism can be defined as the edge of the cliff we are about to go over.
Now before getting into it, let me first hasten to say what I do not mean. I do not intend to say that any impending crisis justifies ungodly defensive measures. I am not about to defend anything indefensible. I do not believe that Christians should resort to the arm of the flesh for anything just because we are in a “precarious position.” I am talking about what we are going to get, not what we should have been striving for instead
I am simply here to point out to the architects of the indefensible, and to the agitators who are trying to provoke it, the dicey nature of what they are actually doing. I am going to be describing how little they are going to like it when the building they are working on so industriously is finally unveiled. I am trying to advise any who will listen that poking an irate grizzly with an eight-inch stick is not a forward-thinking strategy. For the Evergreen State College sophomore, taking a weekend excursion down to Portland to throw rocks at the pigs, it is all fun and games until all of a sudden communists are getting tossed out of helicopters.
No Common Set of Assumptions
But let us backtrack for a minute, to a point prior to any such appalling culmination.
Whataboutism is a debating technique, to be used in a society that is still trying to resolve differences through relatively peaceful means. You present such arguments in an attempt to shame or persuade somebody. You either want them to pipe down or come along, and so you point out that if George W. Bush “had done” what Bill Clinton “had done,” then the talking heads on the teevee would have set their hair on fire. But the fact that there are talking heads on television means that you are still talking. You make this whatabout point in the (generally vain) hope that someone will notice the inconsistency that you are pointing to. But in the game of ordinary politics, the tendency is for nobody to play fair, and their argument in reply would be that nobody is paying them to notice any inconsistencies in their own position.
But this kind of argument, the kind that appeals to exasperatingly unnoticed double standards, is an indication that both sides are still functioning within the same system. They are still trying to win elections, and they still (more or less) accept the results when they lose elections. They can always try for the pennant next season.
However, when the divisions get so sharp and so deep that everybody is on the verge of going home to get their gun, few things are so tragically lame and thunderingly irrelevant as a whataboutist argument. “Your army is shooting mortar rounds at our army. How would you feel if we did that to you? Hmmm?” One senses that a person arguing this way is failing to grasp what is actually going on. For the uneducated kids on the Left, it is a failure to understand the nature of the chaos they are creating. They are pulling deep heaven down upon their own heads.
And here is where I think that Joel McDurmon is misreading the situation we are actually in. He asked how conservatives would have felt if Obama had dispatched agents to arrest any of us in the peaceful Obama years. Well, what if they weren’t peaceful? Suppose it was more like now? What if one of our pro-life marches spiraled out of control and we had just burned down three or four cities, and were laying siege to a federal building in order to burn that down also? I would have to say that there would be great surprise among us rioting conservatives if every federal agency known to man didn’t show up, including whatever SWAT teams the Department of Agriculture has.
When Beauregard fired on Ft. Sumter, nobody was expecting Lincoln to retaliate with a couple of vans filled with trauma counselors.
The Nature of Blowback
So what happens when trust has broken down completely? What happens when the shared rules are entirely gone? Clausewitz once proposed his famous definition of war as the “continuation of politics by other means.” Yes, quite, but we need to italicize that word other. Other means.
What “other means” means is that all the previous rules disappear, including the rules that our pampered and yet radicalized young people naively assume will somehow continue to protect them. They are trying to get us back to a state of nature–red in tooth and claw–with no real awareness that the rules they so despise place far more restraints on their natural adversaries than they realized. They have failed to grasp that in a world in which the police have been defunded, there is no practical reason not to drop sophomoric communists out of helicopters. And if you start sputtering how wrong that would be, I would quite agree with you. I would agree entirely. But then again, my conception of the “rule of law” is what you previously trashed as a racist and hegemonic concept, and the courthouse in which that rule of law was to be applied on your behalf was the courthouse you all burned down in your youthful exuberance.
It is an article of faith on the Left that the Establishment is a complicated engine of oppression–for do they not have grievances?–when the Establishment, imperfections and all, is actually a bulwark that protects them from all kinds of mayhem. When the rule of law prevails, then society expects to be protected from the criminal element. But when the rule of law collapses, it will be the criminal element that requires protection, and there won’t be any, and all the niceties of due process (excuse me, racist due process) will be gone with the whistling wind.
Those demanding the abolition of the rules, insisting that we all play by “new rules,” will discover that they don’t like it at all when they successfully get us to the point where both sides are playing by the new rules/no rules playbook. It turns out that this kind of maneuver only works when the anarchist Left is playing by the new rules and the Right is still trying to play by the old rules. But when everybody gets ushered into the new rules scenario, bones start getting broken, and it occurs to somebody to start warming up the helicopters.
And don’t play the game of trying to accuse me of defending right wing atrocities before the fact. I am defending no such thing. I have been defending the institutions of impartial and objective justice for decades now, and have been called a misogynist racist for my pains. I have not been working to bring in this state of nature you people apparently want so much. I have been fighting it nail and tooth, as they say. But if you are eager to find those Christians who actually have been hastening the day when everybody is at everyone else’s throats, and devil take then hindmost, then look for those Christian institutions that have been capitulating to mobs of whatever stripe. Whenever someone associated with you, preferably a white male heterosexual, is accused of xyz, and the anti-xyz mob is outside your windows yelling about it, and you reluctantly agree with them that due process is a time-consuming and bothersome sort of deal, and you act in such a way as to make the mob pipe down, then you are actually the one who has been hastening the mess we are now in. But enough about what you all did to C.J. Mahaney.
A Justice Primer
A basic introduction to the principles of biblical justice, desperately needed in our time.
Suicide of the Elites
So we have been talking about the institutions that are under overt attack, but we also have to give an account of the institutions that are collapsing all by themselves. For this sort of thing, take the example of hundreds of colleges and universities. Washington State University, just across the border from us here, is not going to have any in-person classes in the fall. Everything will be online, and moreover, all these online classes will still cost the same as the old in-person classes! On top of that, nothing will go wrong, because everything will go as planned! My friend Dale Courtney wrote a fine piece about what the University of Idaho needs to do to avert disaster. However, it does have to be acknowledged that averting disaster is not all that popular these days. More on this in just a few minutes.
In the book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom says this:
“But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: All they that hate me love death.”
Proverbs 8:36 (KJV)
Wisdom says that to hate her is to love death. Rejection of wisdom is fundamentally suicidal. Sometimes it is a simple gunshot, and the thing is done right away, and other times the instrument is time-release poison, and there is a lot of struggle and drama. But hatred of wisdom–which has our generation by the throat–is a love affair with death.
A strange form of greasy gray insanity has descended, all at once and for no apparent reason, on major league baseball, the NFL, the Center for Disease Control, mayors of rioting cities, the governors of crippled economies, and university presidents. It is as though our rulers have all decided to ritually disembowel themselves, and to do so in a fashion that would convince us all that this was somehow a scientific solution. And, you know, in some quadrants, it well might be. In some arenas, it is just part of the general frenzy, but in other places, there could well be a method to the madness.
Higher education was already in deep trouble prior to COVID. That was a bubble that was absolutely unsustainable, and the thing was going to do the Hindenburg at some point in the near future anyhow. And the problem was, when that inevitable reckoning happened, there would be nobody to blame except those people who were in charge of it and who pumped up the bubble. But now! Now if a university goes under, or has to undergo a radical restructuring, then it was COVID. What can you do, ya know? It was a act of God, really. The asteroid landed on the administration building, and nothing was the same afterward. Like the owner of a failing business who sets it on fire for the insurance money, or even if he didn’t set the fire and wasn’t guilty of overt fraud, but was a little slow in calling the fire department when the BLM protesters started it, the result is the same. The inevitable happened, like it was going to, and nobody who caused the underlying problems needs to answer for it. I am seeing how some folks might well be looking at this COVID mess as though it was the cavalry arriving.
Get Woke, Go Broke
But lots of other entities, enterprises that had the capacity to continue to generate some revenue, decided to go woke instead. Take the Washington Football Team, for example–excuse me, make that the Slaveowner Football Team–who on God’s green earth thought that dropping the name Redskins would satisfy anyone who lives among the perpetually aggrieved? All they know how to do over there is pick at scabs. The editorials at the Slaveowner Post will just write themselves.
By the way, has Yale changed its name yet? At this point, doesn’t everybody in the world know that Elihu Yale was a slave trader? Oh, the perfidy! And it gets worse. John Harvard, it is reliably reported, married a woman named Ann in a ceremony that was apparently conducted in white heterosexual abandon.
Back to sports. We will empty out the stadiums because of COVID, and then, just in case a few loyal customers might still be hanging on, we will have a bunch of pampered athletes walking out, kneeling, black antheming, and whatnot, We will then go try to count our gate receipts, which will be in the neighborhood of $12 to $15, and we will scratch our heads over the grand mystery.
Everything Is Connected
There are all kinds of conspiracies running right now, but none of them have a seat in the master control room. Some of them are not near any controls whatever. Others have partial control of this piece or that one.
But everything is still connected. Everything is still part of a larger sustained narrative. God is doing something really important to the United States right now, and the devil is trying to do something important. There are any number of bit players, sideshow clowns, juggling unicyclists, and bearded ladies, but if you back up far enough you will see that it is all just one circus.
This is all of a piece. Masking orders trying to turn small town America into a place where nobody smiles. Lock down orders that have obliterated over 100 thousand small businesses. Churches being ordered not to meet, and if they meet, not to sing. George Will voting for Joe Biden, and what the heck? Speaking of Biden, has anyone listened to Biden speaking? Mayors describing rioting arsonists as peaceful protesters. The highest echelons of our intelligence agencies railroading innocent citizens, and nobody in jail yet. A squad of FBI agents dispatched to investigate the presence of a garage door pull on a garage door. Years of investigating the kind of Russian collusion that turned out to be no Russians and no collusion. City councils telling police department not to use riot control techniques on the riots.
So the ardent secularism of our current idolatrous system has insisted that it can reject God’s wisdom and embrace the path of death without anything actually dying. Good luck with that.
We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Christ is the Wisdom of our Creator (1 Cor. 1:24), and so we cannot have a Christless republic without at some point finding ourselves in a very stupid republic.
Christ Is Lord of Ben-Hadad and the Syrians
So why is all of this the prelude to what may be very good news?
Considered from one angle, everything is dire. And it really is. But considered from another angle, it appears to me that the people of God ought not to be consternated when the unbelievers are struck with a panic (2 Kings 7:6). When the Syrians were overcome with panic, it was actually the deliverance of Samaria.
And mark it well, Samaria didn’t deserve to be delivered. But that is not the point really. Deliverance by grace never is deserved.
But we won’t be able to receive it as good news unless we connect it to the ultimate good news — the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unless we connect it, openly and avowedly, to the gospel of Christ we will be as muddled as the Syrian army. We will be as panicked as they are, and we will take to our heels right behind them.
No need to do that. The year 2020 is not the year when everything erupted into chaos. No, it is actually the year that God picked up and played like a violin.