So the Revoice conference continues to be a thing that Christians differ about. But before everyone rushes to the “agree to disagree” mode that we all know and love so well, let me sketch the nature of this basic disagreement. Some Christians think that obvious things are obvious, while other Christians think that obvious things are not so obvious. That is the nub of our disagreement right there.
Whether or not this is the self-conscious intention of all the participants in the conference, or of those on the sidelines who are helping them to deny the obvious, one thing at least is . . . what is the word I am looking for? . . . obvious. Witting or unwitting, the Revoice conference is the advance team doing the prep work for future and far more glaring compromises. Read the following collation of quotes from Revoice speakers, in their own words, and try to tell me there isn’t a whole world of compromise nestled in some of those words and phrases. If this isn’t the thin edge of the wedge, then I’m a Hottentot.
There is absolutely no way that this is the whole program. New developments in intersectional theology are on their way. They have actually been delivered, even if the boxes are not yet unpacked. To change the image, the PCA is pregnant with some bastard children, and is only three months along, barely starting to pooch out a bit, and is busy arguing that her confessional standards don’t say anything about pooching out a bit. So we’re all good.
The True Kindness of Shame
One thing you should notice in these quotes is the hatred and rejection of shame. And whether or not you abstain from unlawful sexual acts, this rejection of shame, this war on shame, is what this prep work is all about. Once the sense of shame is gone, any number of additional developments may occur.
Now the speakers for this conference state plainly that they believe abstention from same sex sexual acts is morally obligatory for them. This is good so far as it goes, and nothing I say here should take away from that.
But in the world of professing Christians today, there are a number of individuals who do not believe that such celibacy is a moral requirement. They are, in a word, sexually active. In the parlance currently being used, Side A folks say that it is not a sin to be gay and not a sin to express it sexually. Side B folks (e.g. Revoice) say that it is not a sin to have a gay identity but that it is a “sin” to express that identity through sexual acts.
Now my question for the Revoice speakers is this. Are these sexual acts—that the Side A folks are not refraining from—acts that are shameful, degrading, detestable, and abominable? I am not asking if they fall short of God’s design for human flourishing. I am not asking if they are sub-optimal in a sense to be defined later. I am not even asking if whether, at the end of the day, taking one thing with another, and considering all the factors involved, they are not fully consistent with the plan God has for insinuating all such seekers into a deeper, more robust, deeply textured, and richly nuanced form of intersectionality. Not even that.
No. I am asking if degrading passions actually degrade (Rom. 1:26)? Are the shameful things that are done in secret things that should result in shame (Eph. 5:12)? When people foam out their shame . . . should they be ashamed (Jude 13)?
And incidentally—by the way—I am not asserting that biblical Christians should limit their ministry to homosexuals by waving a boney finger under their noses while saying, “Shame, shame.” I am asking an exegetical question about the nature of these acts. Are they objectively shameful?
Now if God teaches that shame is built right into the very nature of these acts, when they are committed (or when they are desired), shouldn’t we refrain from calling the heteronormative world to repentance? The heteronormative world didn’t create this shame—God did. This shame is not the result of peer pressure from straights. The heteronormative world is responding to the way God made the world, just as those afflicted with same sex temptations are responding to it.
But notice that calls to repentance are inescapable. Not whether but which. It is not whether we summon sinners to repentance, but rather which persons will be categorized as the sinners, and what actions of theirs will be defined as requiring repudiation and repentance. Look through those quotations again. Who is told simply to repent, simply to stop being that way?
And in the self-justifying hokey pokey dance that the PCA is doing on all of this, notice that the one person who is being urged to forsake his wicked ways is Andrew Dionne, a member of the PCA Committee of Commissioners for Covenant Seminary—the hothouse in which a bunch of these seedlings were nurtured. He is the guy who objected to this manifest abandonment of confessional orthodoxy. That hurts people’s feelings, which in these sensitive days of ours, is the true unnatural act. But if you want to know how far off the PCA has gotten on this gay identity business, let George Grant lay the axe at the root of the tree.
Back to shame. If we had not been given the physical gift of sensitive nerve endings, we would all rapidly destroy ourselves. In a world that contains sharp objects, scalding water, stairs to fall down, and so on, nerve endings are a real gift. They make you pull back. They encourage you to think something like “better not risk it.” We do that because it hurts.
In the same way, guilt, shame, dishonor—that whole cluster—are gifts from a gracious God. They are the nerve endings for the conscience. When a man engages in a homosexual act, and loathes himself for it, that is not white bread America from the fifties talking to him. That is his conscience talking to him. That is not a set of schoolmarmish Sunday School lectures chasing him—it is his own heart. He knows himself. He accuses himself. And in a frenzy, he sometimes tries to redirect everything—somebody else must be making me feel this way.
And so there are different ways to get your conscience to shut the hell up. Drunkenness and drug use is one way. Another way is through a frenetic doubling and tripling down—promiscuity. Another is to catechize yourself in the nostrums of the sexual revolution. “This is normal, this is healthy, this is ancient, this is cosmopolitan. Even the PCA agrees that I can want to do detestable things without being detestable.” Unfortunately, in this case, there is little difference between catechize and cauterize. “Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron . . .” (1 Tim. 4:2). The conscience can in fact be shouted down. But the voice being drowned out is not the voice of middle America. It is the voice of your heart, the voice from under your sternum, the voice from your own middle.
If you want to read more on the grace of shame, start here.
B’rer Moore, He Lay Low
At the recent Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore was asked about the Revoice conference, and he said that he “didn’t know” about it. Well, no doubt he has had time to read up on it since then. What does he think about it now?
Someone might ask why I think that I get to ask him questions. He is not going to answer a random question from some blog originating in the chimney of Idaho. Why, Wilson, the world wants to know, are you always trying to be a big pot?
Just think of me as taking up the cause of marginalized voices.
Gender Expression and Cultural Illiteracy
The problems with all of this start early. They start small. The confusion is not just in the harvest, when the church is gathering great bales of nonsense into her barns. The confusions often start, as should be expected, in the seeds that are sown. The epic compromises that Revoice represent were once the size of microscopic seeds.
I just sent you to the Warhorn book entitled The Grace of Shame. A few weeks back, Tim Bayly, one of the authors, posted the picture that accompanies this post, and he said a few obvious things about it. There’s that word obvious again. This got pushback from a couple of quarters that are way more conservative than the standard fare, not like the Covenant Seminary cartel. One was from Mark Jones and the other from Joel McDurmon. Mark Jones has done some outstanding stuff—Nancy and I are currently reading his Knowing Christ together—and he is not in the wrong crowd at all. But he kicked against Bayly’s dismissal of the picture. And Joel McDurmon wrote this as his protest against the bluster of superficial masculinity.
Joel said this:
“There is nothing particularly effeminate about this man or his clothing. It is sad that touch of style and grooming is enough to elicit a reflex among outspoken would-be patriarchs. A suit? A hairstyle? A dance?”
So I am driven to conclude that a would-be patriarch is someone who has eyes in his head.
As any thoughtful observer should be able to tell you, gestures, clothing, facial expressions, and mannerisms are all forms of communication. Because they are forms of communication, there are three basic elements involved: the “speaker,” the “receiver,” and the “medium.” As with all forms of human communication, the boundaries can be pretty fluid sometimes, but at the same time the basic point of it is to communicate something with someone else.
When the receiver does not know the language, or for reasons of his own wants to act as though he does not know it, the communication cannot be said to be successful. The situation is complicated further through the fact that many Christians would rather not understand what is being said, because to understand what is being said would require them to say or do something that would earn them some general opprobrium. Opprobrium is a fancy fifty cent word for stink eye.
I once saw a shrewd cartoon that touched the thing with a needle. A mother with small children watched someone in outlandish gear strut by, and the mother quickly corrected the children. “Don’t stare.” And one of the children replied, “But isn’t that what he wants?”
Indiana University just added a new prohibition to their non-discrimination CODE, thus demonstrating further that our descent into cultural madness is proceeding apace. They have banned any form of discrimination against any form of gender expression. What that means is that if some joker at Indiana University, some sophomore let’s say, saw the guy in our picture walking across campus and yelled out, “Hey, fancy boy,” said sophomore would find himself in front of the Tribunal. And what would be the charge? He violated that man’s rights by discriminating against, not sartorial panache, but rather against gender expression. That sophomore would then be sent to the dungeons to have his heteronormative fingernails pulled out.
Give the pros who took and published that picture some credit, wouldja? They knew what they were trying to say and they said it. They were not trying to say “style.” They were not trying to emphasize the importance of parting your hair neatly. That is not the effect they were trying to produce when they selected that picture, frozen in that moment.
Mark what I am not saying. It is quite possible for a man to be dressed that way, and to have his hair done that way, have that color tie, and still carry himself in a masculine way. And he may have jumped to avoid a snake, and the camera just happened to catch him in that awkward pose, and it looks nothing like the way he comes across in real time. Sure. Great. We all have had to deal with photos like that—there are times when the camera does lie. But the photo was examined. It was pondered. It was selected. It was debated. It was chosen. And it was decided upon because it would vamp and advance the viva-la-femmy-vibe.
So when Christians ignore the obvious in a thing like this, I can only think of three possible reasons for it, although there may be some others. First, they are illiterate when it comes to reading cultural signals. They can’t read them properly. Second, they are unwilling for the hassle that would come their way if they pronounced on a sin like ambisexual vanity. So they won’t read it properly. And third, they can’t abide the thought of being in agreement with someone like Tim Bayly.
Is there no room for legitimate disagreement on a photo like that? Of course there is. Manners, gestures, clothing, etc., while a means of true communication, are not as precise as other forms of communication. A necktie has no accusative case. So one person could legitimately say that the publishers of the photo were going for a look of “ironic androgyny.” Another could say, “no, uptown hipster.” Yet another could say “fancy boy cruising the bars,” and one more could say “metrosexual.” These are all reasonable takes, and could be defended.
Nobody gets to say “lumberjack,” or “long haul trucker.’
Could they say Gospel Coalition speaker? PCA pastor? Revoice defender? Well, okay. Maybe so.