Baptizing Koalas

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“They see their objects always near, never in the horizon.”—Hazlitt

Here is the presenting problem. How is it possible for corporate entities (colleges, seminaries, denominations, publishing houses, etc.) to go bad when they have so many good people in them throughout the entire process of going bad? When the liberals captured the mainline Presbyterian church, about 80% of their ministers were still conservative and evangelical. How did it come about that so many of those good guys continued to stay individually faithful, but as a group were so thoroughly out-maneuvered? They stayed on and on. They repeatedly thought they could marshal their forces for the “next round,” and so here we are, several generations later, with their great-grandchildren lamenting the fact that the lesbian priestess just baptized an endangered koala bear, which was almost the final straw. But baptizing endangered representatives of our dumb chums is what Turretin would have called “a tell.”

So here is the principle. Individual men are much more capable of logical inconsistency than are groups of men. Take an extreme example, that of atheism. Suppose you had an atheist next-door-neighbor, a guy you got along with well enough. You would have no problem asking him to watch your house during your vacation, feeding the dog, taking in the mail and whatnot. You would know that, as your car was pulling out of town, he would not be running over to burn down your house and shoot your dog because “if there is no God, what does it matter?” There are all sorts of reasons why you wouldn’t think this of him, and many factors you could point to. But that does not mean that there is no force in the statement “if there is no God, what does it matter?” There is a great deal of force in it. For while there have always been atheist next-door neighbors who treated you better than some guys at your church do, it remains a fact that atheistic societies have always been hellholes.

Individual men have a much greater capacity for inconsistency than do groups of men. Man in the collective is a logical animal, and the implications of the shared premises will work themselves out—of necessity—in any society that has taken those premises on board.

Americans did not want abortion-on-demand in all fifty states. Americans did not want same-sex mirage imposed on them in all fifty states. But they did want the hidden premises that made these moves necessary and inevitable. They didn’t want the bloodbath that secularism necessarily produces, but they did want the secularism.

The same kind of thing happens to churches and denominations. A bunch of stalwart anti-feminists can make the decisions, adopt the policies, approve the reports, and hire the people that will ensure—given sufficient time—the baptism of koala bears.

In such groups, there are some who do see what is going on—let us call them “troublemakers”—and who try to articulate the dangers. They prophesy, Cassandra-like, and they are dismissed as alarmists. They acquire nicknames like Koala.

Because the devil is not stupid, the position of a true troublemaker is compromised by the presence of other agitators, just as critical, whose heads are full of bees, but whose alarms are shrill, false, incoherent, and stupid. This enables an individual conservative guy, at ease in Zion, who does not want to consider the implications of what is going on, to lump it all together.

But when you read men who tried to warn their generation of their fatal compromises, warnings that were ignored by men who were individually on their way to Heaven, the whole thing takes on an eerie prophetic quality. For example, in the nineteenth century, the public school system was overwhelmingly dominated by evangelical and Protestant Christianity. Catholic immigrants felt impelled to create their parochial school system, not because of the godlessness of the common schools, but because of their Protestantism. The schools used the Protestant Bible, Protestant catechisms, etc. in ways that were unacceptable to devout Catholics. So it was back then, prior to the twentieth century, that R.L. Dabney said this:

“But nearly all public men and divines declare that the State schools are the glory of America, that they are a finality, and in no event to be surrendered. We have seen that their complete secularization is logically inevitable. Christians must prepare themselves then, for the following results: All prayer, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools.”

At the time, people looked at such dire warnings and said something along the lines of ho ho ho. Today we look at them and say, “There were catechisms in the schools?”

I am old enough to remember the prayers. But those prayers were at the tail end of the long tail demise of something that had been predicted in the previous century. And on what basis had the prediction been made? The consequences were logically inevitable, but were visible only to troublemakers.

A few years ago my son propounded a theorem that I believe should be hammered into an aphorism, and given a more formal name. It needs to be circulated more widely because it helps to explain a lot of things. It runs along these lines—“in any meeting that runs over twenty minutes, someone will propose something which, if implemented, will ruin everything.”

Satan, as Chesterton observed, fell by the force of gravity. Water runs downhill. Weeds grow in the garden. For those who think biblically, none of this should surprise us. In this world, you don’t have do anything to make things start going wrong. Things start going wrong all by themselves. Nobody had to pass any motions or resolutions in order for the new wineskins to turn into old wineskins.Nobody had to pass any motions or resolutions in order for the new wineskins to turn into old wineskins.

So while eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’s house, and complacency is a dry rot in the floor joists of liberty, and a cynical and thoughtless suspicion of everything burns the house down, we may conclude that things are tough all over.

The whole thing reminds me of that guy’s epitaph, where it was inscribed, “I said I was sick, but would anybody listen?”