Christendom and Christendumber

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In recent years, one of the issues that has come to the fore has been the tactical issue of NETTR—”no enemies to the right.” This has been the photo negative of the evangelical cool kids’ reflex, who never miss an opportunity to punch right.

The true principle should actually be this one—and, I know, I am ever the one to bring in the nuance—NETTRJBLDI. This stands for, naturally, no enemies to the right just because the left demands it.

This is a topic that requires—nay, demands—a series of disparate observations, punctuated here and there by pungent and incisive commentary. And I don’t know if I am up to it, but I am willing to try.

Let me frame the question another way. Does God have any enemies to my right? If no, then I am reading the world all wrong. If yes, then why shouldn’t I?

Yes. Yes, He Does

In times of political upheaval, such as what we have now, all the puppies and kittens come out to play. The political discourse soars to new levels. You post something online about feminine glory and you are refuted thus: “Try reading your Bible, you moron.”

What kind of puppies and kittens do I mean? You know. The geocentrists. The chelation therapists. The antisemites. The trolls. The FBI bots.

When it became obvious that our culture was obviously disintegrating, all the people who believed in weird things saw in this an opportunity to start selling their wares. This is because people who are in a desperate way have low sales resistance, and the point will come when they will try anything. The racial vibe put out by The Cosby Show has gone the way of the whistling wind, and clearly the time has come for you to find and rally around the people whose AncestryDNA score is within 5 points of yours, and/or you are within three or four tabs on that Sherwin Williams color swatch wheel. That will save the Republic!

As a prophet, one of your own, has said . . . “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” The fact that there are clowns to the left of me (and there are, indeed, a lot of them) does not mean that it is impossible for there to be jokers to the right. And if God thinks that there are jokers to my right, then so should I. But I am not doing this because I am in any way responding to the shrill demands of the clowns. They are clowns, after all, and I don’t react even a little whenever the clowns go reeeeeee. After a while you don’t hear it anymore. It is like living by the train station.

But there are people (jokers to my right) who say that because I am a boomercon this means that the clown establishment still has some emotional purchase deep in my head somewhere. Not a bit of it. I was at war with those guys halfway through the pre Cambrian.

Last summer, speaking at ACCS, I noted that our task was a bit different from the one Athanasius had. He was contra mundum, against the world. In contrast, we are called to stand contra mundum nugosum—against clown world. But this is not actually a new thing. My colleague at NSA, Tim Griffith, pointed out to me that Cicero, in his fight with Epicurean atomism, was forced to a similar phrase—res nugatoria (Natura Deorum 1.108)—and under similar circumstances. So . . . ut ait Cicero.

Incidentally, the Latin for joker is scurra.

Policing Your Own

The question I often ask, and which most Christians need to be asking a lot more than they do, is “by what standard?” Whenever you praise or blame anything, the question of what standard you are assuming needs to be in the forefront of your mind. What is the standard, and what is the ground of that standard? In other words, what makes it the standard?

So I have no problem with conservative Christians policing our own ranks. We must police our own ranks. What we must not do is surreptitiously borrow the “ethical” standards of the progressives as the rule book we use in order to do that policing. We do need to call our own fouls. But we must not call our own fouls with their definition of fouls.

Suppose someone on our side posts a wedding video in which the bride promises to “obey” her husband. It was a slow news day and so the story got blown all to twittereens. Little pieces of controversy were floating down out of the sky for days, like cardboard after a fireworks display. The concerned brethren, who are all about us policing our own with the bad guys’ rule book, express their furrowed brow concern over the sexism, the misogyny, and the implicit threat of violence against women. The pastor who officiated the wedding didn’t help when he issued a statement that said, “What do you mean violence against women? I didn’t mention Medusa once in the entire homily.”

Wives obeying their husbands is straight out of the Bible, but according to the feminist bible, which appears to be a ganglion of nerve endings, that is sexism, straight up. It is misogyny. It is not to be tolerated. This means that the Bible is a sexist book, and fails to meet wymynkynd’s standards of purity, and we believers should all try to be better. But Scripture returns the favor. According to the Bible, feminism is an impudent and rebellious ideology. She is loud and stubborn, and her feet do not abide in her house (Proverbs 7:11). Why should the biblical standard need to submit to some egalitarian standard? Why should Christians act sheepish when a feminist thinks they are sexist? That’s what feminists do.

This means that we should police our own, but never because the left is yelling about it. And never because we anticipate that the left might start yelling about it sometime. We should police our own when we believe that people who claim to be on our side have offended God. There is such a thing as real misogyny, and the fact that we are in a pitched cultural battle with feminism, as we are, does not require me to pretend that real misogyny has somehow evaporated. The fact that feminist movement is teaching women to despise men as men does not eliminate the reactionary possibility that somebody else is teaching men to despise women as women. Pastors should be trained to recognize the acrid smell of sulfurous hate, and whether it wafts over them when a feminist opens her mouth or when an incel does . . . doesn’t really matter. Christ died under the condemnation of that sort of bitterness, and we have no business making peace with any of it. Sin is sin.

But none of this alters the fact that we must be at war with the left, and all it represents. The liberal disposition (not to be confused with liberal convictions) is reflexively ready to see it from the other fellow’s point of view, like Moore and French. A liberal is a person who doesn’t want to take up his own side in an argument. In contrast to this, the grounded person is not constantly flinching over what somebody else might say or think. “They say! What say they? Let them say.” The dogs can bark all they want, but the freight train has places to be.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare: But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”

Proverbs 29:25 (KJV)

The Square of Opposition

When grade school kids get into a quarrel on the playground, and a fourth grader says that “all third graders are stupid” (A, in the upper left), the temptation for the third grader in question is to reply to the taunt by trying to come up with a riposte that is as strong as possible. Unfortunately, he frequently comes up with a contrary (E), instead of a true contradiction. And so it is that he responds to the jibe with the retort that no third graders are stupid. The two statements are inconsistent, true enough, but both are really hard to defend. The actual pointed refutation is found in O, some third graders are not stupid.

The application should be obvious. When the left attacks us with a broad brush, that being the only brush they have, we are all of us white supremacists. Thus goaded, we reply like that exasperated third grader, saying, “Nuh uh. None of us are white supremacists!” And then somebody else helpfully adds, “And what would be so bad if some of us were?” NETTR. The problem is that some of us are. But we should police them because God hates that kind of thing, and not because the left uses raaaacccissm as their all-purpose slur.

When you distance yourself from others because of what the left accuses them of, you are playing right into their hands. You are putting the whole matter into their hands. Their tactic works. They are able to take out Murphy because you have agreed beforehand to jump when they command it. You won’t like it nearly so much when they set their sights on you, and all your evangelical friends who know better pull their skirts away anyhow. What this cowardice does is grant the left’s definition of truth—the coherence view of truth, what’s true for you. This is what enables people to speak of “my truth,” and all they need is a enough memory to keep their story internally consistent.

I caused a stir one time (one time?) by saying that a man should never apologize to his wife unless God thinks he wronged her. You might be amazed that this caused a stir, but it did. This is because abandonment of the correspondence view of truth is already widespread among evangelicals. The correspondence view of truth says that a statement is true when it lines up with, corresponds to, the actual state of affairs out in the world.

And so, in this spirit, responsible conservative Christians should only deal with enemies to the right if those enemies are in fact God’s enemies. And anyone who believes that it is not possible for God’s enemies to regroup on the right has a very tenuous grasp of history, and this brings us to the next observation.

Depravity and Politics

The fundamental tenet of Christian doctrine that is directly applicable to the realm of culture and politics is the doctrine of man’s fall into sin, man’s depravity. The Christian view of man is that sin gets into everything. The reason we believe in limited government is because we don’t trust men, any men, with lots and lots of power.

As C.S. Lewis points out, there are two ways to be supportive of democracy. One is because you have faith in Mankind, and you think that everybody’s opinion is so valuable that you don’t want to take any course of action without consulting everybody first. That is the humanist approach. The Christian approach argues that man is so far corrupted that we cannot entrust too much power to any human entity or person, which means that we have to spread the political power as thinly as possible. That is the Christian view, and it rests on our doctrine of sin. The other is the Pelagian view, whether it is the tabula rasa of Locke, or the lust-governed view of de Sade. Right wing Enlightenment thinking can keep it together for a bit before collapsing, and left wing Enlightenment thinking has kind of turned into an orgy. But our response needs to be Christian all the way through.

Limited government is a doctrinal necessity. It is foundational to every form of consistent Christian political engagement. Jesus is Lord, and it follows from this that Caesar is not. Jesus is Lord, and He is the one who directs where we must lay down our fire. NETTR has an entirely inadequate view of human sin.

The Dividing Line, With Apologies to James

Navigating a well-thought out Christian life means that we have to understand the nature of layered loyalties. So put it this way. There are people out there who are going to vote the way that I am going to vote this coming November—and not only that, they are also people who hate God, cheat on their wives, rip off their customers, and lie all the time. Is that going to slow me down? Not even a little bit. Am I going to feel bad? Not even a little bit.

Moreover there are people out there who are going to vote for the Menshevik who don’t cheat on their wives, don’t rip off their customers, and don’t lie all the time. They do hate God though. Anyone who says he loves God and votes for the Menshevik lies, and the truth is not in him. But with that acknowledgment in place, he is still a lot easier to do business with than the guy whose bumper stickers match yours.

So when someone does something appalling, and his politics align with yours, you should be willing to say, “well, that was appalling.” But you must never say anything like that simply because a drumbeat chorus started up on Twitter demanding that you do so. The left believes in those drum circles. They rely on them. It is one of their standard moves, and they have lots of them in reserve.

The real dividing line is between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. That is the true antithesis (Gen. 3:15). It is lawful for me to labor in this horizontal world of politics, and I do, but I must never forget where I am from.

We are engaged in the important task of rebuilding mere Christendom. But we should want no help from those who would make it Christendumber.