I think we need Augustine’s help to get us out of a frightful muddle that our partisan rancor has gotten us into. I am not talking about the enmity between the orcs and elves, between the commies and the regular people, but rather about the downstream tumult among professing Christians. There is a great deal of confusion in our ranks about how we are to structure and order our affections, and so we need to talk about it more, and yell about it less.
“St Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.”
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Put another way, a virtuous Christian man can love Christ, his wife, his children, his nation, his region, his house, his dog, and his favorite coffee cup. What he cannot do (while remaining virtuous) is to get anything in this list out of place or out of order. If he loves his wife more than Christ, he cannot be Christ’s disciple (Luke 14:26,33). If he loves his coffee cup more than Christ, then his more serious problems need not detain us here.
So Then . . .
I am writing this in response to some questions generated by this post. I bring all this up because I had concluded that post with this statement.
“I have far more in common with Nigerian Anglican women who love Christ than I do with white conservative American men who don’t. The line is vertical, always vertical. We are Christians.”Straight from the Pit
And here are a cluster of questions from a gent on Twitter that this generated:
If a professing Christian is shooting at you, and an unbeliever is shooting back, where do you point your own rifle?
You point your rifle in accordance with your duties, and please see below.
And another one:
Am I wrong for believing myself, a white Christian man, to have more in common with Donald Trump or Tucker Carlson than I do with Russell Moore or Tim Keller?
You have more in common with those who are in Christ than you do with those who are not. But you could easily share correct political sentiments with people who are unregenerate, just as a regenerate man and an unregenerate woman could both be red-heads.
And yet again:
If a Nigerian Anglican woman came here and started advocating I have my home taken from me and given to a member of a preferred victim class because I am white, all the while professing to love Jesus, do I have more in common with her or a non-believer that opposes her?
She must be resisted to the utmost. If her profession of love for Christ is false, we need not worry about it. If it is true, then we must order our affections rightly.
Also, given that true Christians are who we have the most in common with, aren’t clear distinctions on what a true Christian is severely lacking in our day? Biden has a trinitarian baptism. Do I have more in common with him than a non-Christian conservative politician?
I have more in common with an unbeliever who affirms true things about the world than I do with a baptized unbeliever who lies about the world. But I don’t have any ultimate things in common with either one.
Let’s Disambiguate, As Wikipedia Instructs
The first thing to do is dispense with those who claim to be Jews, but are of the synagogue of Satan. Counterfeit Christians create a practical problem, but not a theological one. False brothers who creep in to spy out our liberty must be dealt with, but they are neither here nor there when it comes to the question of rightly ordered affections.
The problem is created by genuine Christian people who are on the other side of a real time conflict, up to and including shooting wars. Say we have a truly regenerate Russian Christian soldier, who believes Putin’s lies, and a truly regenerate Ukrainian Christian soldier, who has an accurate understanding of the situation. Suppose further that the Ukrainian Christian is fighting alongside a fellow Ukrainian, who is unregenerate, and who is in the grip of somebody else’s lies. He has a rainbow decal on the stock of his rifle and is fighting for the West and for sodomy.
Who does the believing Ukrainian soldier have the most in common with? The answer is that he has the most in common with the believing Russian soldier, with whom he will spend eternity in glory—even if through an accident of war, they both wind sending one another into that glory. C.S. Lewis comments somewhere on what would have happened if he and a young German soldier had simultaneously sent one another to Heaven—he didn’t think they “would have felt resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.”
The only reason this strikes us as really odd is because materialistic and Darwinian assumptions about the ultimacy of physical life have crept into our thinking. If I and an unbeliever are trying to shoot my fellow believer across the way, what kind of sense does that make? Well, none, if the calculus being used is made up of carnal values only. It makes no sense if there is no such thing as rightly ordered loves.
If this kind of thing is the case in times of open war, then a fortiori how much more would it apply to a fellow Christian, truly regenerate, who wants to bring in the hellscape of socialism, and an unregenerate libertarian, who wants to leave me and my stuff alone? Or an unregenerate MAGA hat guy who wants to clean out the swamp? I have far more in common ultimately with the Christian socialist. I have far more in common economically with the libertarian. And which outranks the other? Right. Ultimate concerns are, well, ultimate. But those ultimate concerns dictate how I love, and how I rank my loves. They do not dictate how I vote. I vote with the libertarian. I vote with the MAGA hat guy.
Do I have more in common with David, who murdered Uriah, or with your New Agey aunt, who sells superstitious crystals and wind chimes out of her shop, and who never killed anybody? Well, as far as criminal activity goes, I have more in common with your aunt. As far as imputed righteousness goes, I have more in common with David. And imputed righteousness is more important than an absence of a threat to the neighbors.
So if the nice Nigerian Anglican lady wants to introduce socialism into my life, in the realm of politics, I oppose her. And if the rot of economic nonsense advances to the degree that it brings about civil war, I may be on the opposite side from her, and I may wind up shooting and killing her husband. So? The Scriptures tell me that I am to love the brethren and also to love my enemies, and they happen to be both. That means they get a double portion.
But to love someone means to treat them lawfully, from the heart. And fighting someone in a just cause is lawful, whether or not that person shares something of ultimate value with me. My duties are not defined by the spiritual condition of others, whether or not they are following their duties, or disregarding their duties.
Idolatry and Slander
In the heat of partisan controversy, it is astonishingly easy to misrepresent your opponent by claiming that he makes no distinctions between the different layers of his loyalties, which is slander, and it is also correspondingly easy to start to blur those distinctions yourself, which is idolatry.
In the heat of partisan controversy, it is the easiest thing in the world to attribute (falsely) a flattening of loves to anyone who happens to be your adversary. And when you find adversaries who do in fact flatten everything, so much the better. You can use them as a weapon on those foes of yours who have not done any such thing. It turns out that a person can be a Seahawks fan without elevating that to the level of basic Christian discipleship—even if somebody else, an idolater, does elevate it to that level.
This is relatively easy to see if we are talking about sports clubs, or hobbies, or affection for certain kinds of weather, but it becomes much more difficult when the differences between groups rise to the level of conflict or war. When feelings run really high, it is perilously easy for Christians to get swept up in the excitement, and basic Christian ethics require that we refuse to get swept up in any such carnal excitements.
To put the question bluntly, again, would it be possible for two Christian men to serve in two opposing armies, and for both of them to have rightly ordered affections, and for both of them to do their duty, and for each of them to shoot and kill the other one in plain battle? The answer to this one is yes, and it certainly does require more thoughtful consideration than we have given it up to this point.
Four Kinds of Church
By faith Rahab betrayed her homeland (Jas. 2:25). By faith David evaded arrest (1 Sam. 23:26). By faith Jeremiah resisted Judah’s war effort (Jer. 28:7). By faith Abner switched sides in a civil war (2 Sam. 3:12). By faith Moses walked away from his upbringing (Heb 11:24). By faith the Philippian jailer joined a subversive religious movement (Acts 16: 33-34). By faith we study our Bibles, seeking to learn how to structure our jumbled affections correctly.
Right now in North America, we have four kinds of church. We have the compromised church, which is doing whatever it can to accommodate the woke commies. We have the bewildered church, which is largely a red state phenomenon—sheep scattered on the mountainside, and all the shepherds awol. Then we have the reactionary church, which correctly identifies the presenting source of the problem—the woke commies—but without identifying the underlying source of the problem, which is the sinfulness of the human heart, their own included.
And last is the confessing church. This is the portion of the church that has not surrendered its birthright—which is all of Christ for all of life. I will mention in the last paragraph what you need to do if you want to become part of that confessing church.
But in the meantime, here is a word for the red-pilled. A lot of the anger that I see floating around the Internet is simply ungodly. This ungodly anger is directed from the left to the right, and from the right to the left. And it is just as carnal, just as ungodly, when it is aimed at Nancy Pelosi as when it is aimed at Tucker Carlson. When it comes to how we must all stand before God, it doesn’t matter who started it. The fact that I see and understand why the reactionary church feels the way it does is not the same thing as endorsing any of it. I can understand why a wife—horribly abused for twenty years—might one day snap and shoot her husband. But understanding who started it is no justification for the one who ended it. In the same way, the commies have been wicked and awful and duplicitous and all the rest of it. And so then one day somebody snaps, and breathlessly announces to the Internet that the Jews ate his homework. But that is not the way.
Do you want to be part of the confessing church? Love Christ. Bless your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Read your Bible. Confess your sins. Act, and do not react. Gather your wife and children close. Find a church that stayed open. Learn to sing psalms. Vote the bums out. Get your kids out of the government schools. Stop making excuses. Love your enemies. And here’s a hot one. Pray for Russell Moore.