Like a Tabloid Tarantula

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“Let heads of those who hem me in
Be overwhelmed by their own lies . . .”

Psalm 140, Cantus Christi

An adage is a phrase that contains words you can live by. And there is an old saw that admonishes us never to get down in the sty to wrestle in the mud with a pig. It really is a waste of your time, and the pig likes it.

As many of you know, last week Vice magazine published a hit piece aimed at our church and church community. The thing had legs—hairy ones like some kind of a tabloid tarantula—and so as a result a lot of people had comments that covered the spectrum. Lots of people took notice that really shouldn’t have. The secularists were vitriolic, the “all-you-need-is-love” Christians were venomous, quite a few people were bewildered, and those for whom this was not Rodeo the First were quick to encourage us in their comments and prayers.

Responses and Then There Are Responses

To this point we have not seen a need to get into the details in order to answer these scurrilous charges point by point. As I have said in a few other contexts, this would be like trying to chase the crows away from the road kill. One of the things we want to avoid is that of providing the reaction that these people were trying to provoke.

Obviously there is a sense in which I am responding now, but I am doing this because if you read on you will see that it will not be the kind of reaction that our adversaries are trying to elicit. They are driven by a devilish spirit, which means they thrive on accusation (Rev. 12:10), and they have a deep need for us to act as though we somehow deserve their accusations. They demand that we answer their accusations so that they can use our answers as a platform to multiply that answer into more accusations.

But we are going to live like Christians, which means that we do not play that accusation game. I am going to bring all of this back around to the good news, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which in turn is a priceless gift, the foundation of a new way of being human.

That gift was wrapped in plain brown paper, which means it did not seem all that impressive at first, but the words no condemnation are stamped on every side of it (Rom. 8:1). So if they thought that it would be a good idea for their agenda to make these charges, and then to hand me a big microphone with a demand that I speak to the audience that they have assembled for me, I will speak to them. But I am going to speak the words of the gospel of free grace. That will be in the final section, so if you want to skip the gunk and go straight ahead to that, I sure wouldn’t blame you.

This is not to say that we would never answer charges like this specifically, but right now there really is no need for anything like that. In fact, there is actually a need not to. It might become more necessary later if a reputable publication were to pick it up, like The Atlantic or Hustler.

Before the article came out, I received an email from Sarah Stankorb, the author of the piece in question, presenting me with a small array of gotcha questions. Nancy got a batch of questions with the same sour aroma wafting off of them. Here’s a sample: “If a woman refused to have sex with her husband, would she be excommunicated?” Inquiring minds want to know.

Perhaps she could have consulted, and I merely suggest this as a possibility, things that I have published on this subject.

Must my wife have sex with me whenever I want it?

Don’t be a fathead.

It was a serious question.

Yes, she must have sex whenever you want it. And you must refrain whenever she wants to refrain. You have authority over her body, but never forget that she also has authority over your body.”

Fidelity, pp. 109-110

So I replied to Stankorb’s email, and you can read that response below.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your questions, but I am going to have to decline. At the same time, I would like to thank you for making your agenda so obvious in your framing of the questions. That was considerate, and I really appreciate the heads up. In the article, if you would like to maintain the semblance of objectivity, one of the things you might want to do is check out this resource.

And if you ever want to take a stroll down Woke Avenue, here are some of the other articles that Stankorb has written, and for publications renowned for their modesty and decorum, like Cosmopolitan and Jezebel. I can hardly wait until respected voices in the evangelical world seize on the exposé of our ministries here, as revealed in excruciating and tawdry detail by the Bourbon Street Gazette.

Because if there is anything guaranteed to get me into a state of the wheezes, it will be the spectacle of Christians, who are consumed with respectability, relying on Vice magazine to make their case against other Christians who don’t give a rip about respectability, and who are for that very reason lauded by The American Conservative. One good thing about earthquakes is that they reveal where the fault lines are.

Calvinball Courtrooms

These people want a world in which the accused have to answer questions from a thousand surly and intractable questioners online, and the accusers don’t ever have to answer any questions. And to suggest that they perhaps should be cross-examined as well, in the interests of justice, is to be guilty of an outrage. They want a world in which disgruntled parishioners can launch an attack against pastors that can only be answered if the pastor is willing to reveal the content of private counseling sessions with others. They want a world in which Wilson is guilty of covering up because Ravi Zacharias was guilty of covering up. Never again, they say. They want a world in which accusation alone should settle a matter. They want a world that dispenses with fair and just trials—yet another vestige of white supremacy. They want a world in which fifteen different people can tell fifteen different lies about somebody, and that is treated as being the equivalent to fifteen witnesses to the same incident telling the truth about somebody. Note to future law students: The two and three witnesses required by Scripture are not supposed to be witnesses of completely different things.

One of the reasons I raise so much ire in so many places is that I refuse to go along with this kind of squalid charade. All of this is transparently wicked. Last week I gave a strong pitch for A Justice Primer, and hundreds of you answered the call. But I am putting a link in at the bottom of this post yet again because it was apparently not sufficient. The country is still going crazy, and evangelical thought leaders are still right there alongside them. They apparently think that a true gospel alternative is best accomplished in a monkey-see-monkey-do fashion.

By DQ, I Am Not Referring to Dairy Queen

As The American Conservative magazine noted last week—it was quite a week for us in the world of magazines—what we are going through is a changing of the guard. The old guard doesn’t like it very much, and some of them are even willing to fight dirty . . . or quietly support those who will fight dirty on their behalf.

Let me cite a couple of verses, and then make a pointed application to all such.

“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, It is folly and shame unto him.”

Proverbs 18:13 (KJV)

“The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.”

Proverbs 18:17 (NKJV)

“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”

1 Timothy 5:19–21 (KJV)

Every Christian leader, pastor, board member, writer, thought-influencer, or teacher who read that Vice article and then publicly voiced their solidarity or sympathy with it—in any way, shape, or form—has disqualified themselves. They are DQed, flat out. They need to step down. Not only are they DQed on moral grounds, but they might as well step down now before the methods and procedures they have internalized and endorsed come back around when it is time to devour them. As Churchill once put it, appeasers are those who throw others to the alligators, hoping to be the last one eaten. But alligators keep on getting hungry, even after all the strident conservatives are gone.

Vice magazine! Perhaps the name they have chosen for themselves should have told everybody something. Babylon, that great harlot, had her name emblazoned on her forehead also (Rev. 17:5). Or if that were perhaps too great a subtlety to master in such a short time, perhaps the other articles they publish might have been informative. “A Beginner’s Guide to Watching Feminist Porn,” “How the Bay Area’s Polyamorous Relationships Shifted During the Pandemic,” “Inside the Subreddit for People Who Stick Things Down Their Pee Hole,” and, of course, “How to Give a Better Handjob.”

I mean, crikey. Even the Sanhedrin, as eager as they were to murder Jesus, had enough sense to recognize when their witnesses were subpar (Mark 14:56). So a magazine like Vice, dedicated as they are to the sexual revolution, created a murky splash of dank water so that people could then seriously allege that I am a defender of marital rape? Seriously? And a bunch of respectable Christians nodded their retweeting heads in a way that indicated they thought these allegations were (at the very least) worrisome. At least they didn’t accuse me of wanting to stick things down my pee hole. But of course they probably held back on that one because that could have been interpreted as putting me on their side.

Carking Envy

Before getting to the good word that can get us all out of this, I need to say one other thing. I want to say a brief word to those evangelicals who didn’t know the first thing about all the situations described in that article, but who had a deep visceral reaction to it, wanting those allegations to be true, or at least to have a strong element of truth in them. I need to say this because you, my friend, are in grave spiritual danger. That danger is spelled out painstakingly by C. S. Lewis.

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I just read one person online who urged me, in this response, to clearly and unambiguously denounce the abuse of wives, stating plainly, once and for all, that marital rape is wrong. He also urged me not to rely on my caustic and verbose wit. But how am I supposed to avoid caustic wit when dealing with deranged insinuations like this?

And how on earth am I supposed to do this “once and for all?” If I put all the published quotations on this very topic out of numerous books that I have written, it would make up a small book in its own right. Not only would I have another book in print, it would be yet one more publication of mine that critics of mine could blithely ignore. So it wouldn’t be once and for all, and I have better things to do than to chase my own tail.

Others want me to crawl in some way. Show some contrition, in other words. According to them, I must submit to being attacked by their words, and then I must agree to reply to them using words and phrases that they have pre-approved. What if I say no? How about I make it a firm no? If I didn’t have scruples about cussing, it would be hell, no. I know that I am a sinner, and I regularly confess my sins to God. This is what all believers are called to do (1 John 1:9; Prov. 28:13). But if I were to confess these manufactured-in-a-Wuhan-lab sins, I wouldn’t be taking away any sins, but rather would be adding to them. It is a sin to lie, and a sin to be complicit in a lie. Humble sounding lies are just as sinful as the other kind of lies.

And it is not a sin to stand up to nonsense. And here in Moscow, we have been standing up to nonsense for a long time. We were standing up to nonsense before it was cool. And because the dam that was holding back a lot of nonsense apparently burst, over the last year and a half, we have all been inundated. And so all of a sudden there are many more Christians who are willing to give us a second look, and they are doing so. In doing this, they are turning away from leaders who have not been standing up to nonsense, and that is why these slanders are heating up again.

We were standing up to nonsense before it was cool.

Listen. It is not my fault that certain ambitious evangelical climbers went woke for all the wrong reasons, and at just the wrong time, and are just now starting to realize that they bet on the wrong horse.

A Gospel Rejoinder

I do not want to present this gospel in any kind of an abstract way. This needs to be particular and specific. For example, I would like Sarah Stankorb to read it, and I would like it to speak to her. I want to state the gospel in terms of this particular controversy. I want everyone who read that Vice article to read this also, and for those who bought into any of it, to listen to these words. These words are for you. These words come to you from the mountains of God, fresh off the lake, and as you love your soul, you must be willing to hear them.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; That saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth!”

Isaiah 52:7 (KJV)

We are being attacked precisely because we oppose the sexual revolution. And the necessary response to that degeneration is not applause, but rather repentance. This is the first thing.

Moreover, we are opposing it effectively. We believe that every form of woke sex is demented and twaddlesome. We believe that there is no such thing as an LGBTQ+ community. Real communities are built as the result of a husband and wife having normal sexual intercourse, and not excluding the missionary position. This in its turn results in the fruitfulness of covenant children, who come to us in the standard and glorious form of boys and girls.

We do not think this about boys and girls because we are “stuck-in-the-mud traditionalists.” We think it because we are normal people. These boys and girls in turn will grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and then they too will marry. Sons will leave their fathers and mothers in order to marry, and daughters will be given in marriage. They in their turn will be given the glory of fruitfulness, and faithful Christians will see their children’s children.

In the meantime, the only additions to the LGBTQ+ “community” will be additional letters of the alphabet, as other perversions get normalized and mainstreamed. Yeah, you guys oppose pedophilia and marital rape now, but what are you going to do when your dark authorities above you decide that your cowardly plus sign needs to be more specific, and include P and MR?

Now all these things that I mention are not aspects of our political views. I mention them because they are an incarnated and very concrete call for repentance—aimed at the central rebellion of our age. There will be no deliverance for our culture unless and until we repent of our strange idea that the nature of sex is malleable, something that we have the ability to alter or change. We do not. We must therefore repent, which means repudiating all the presuppositions we apparently took on while attending all those sex ed classes that we glibly assumed we were being salt and light in.

We can’t change our sex, but we are called upon to change our hearts, which is what repentance is. And because we can’t change our hearts either, we must ask God to do it for us, which is what the new birth is. You must be born again.

So America must repent of our sexual autonomy, our sexual compromises, our sexual insanity, our sexual deviance and kink, our sexual addiction to porn, our sexual egalitarianism, and anything else that would untether our sexual desires from the natural world, or from the holy standards of the Word of God. John the Baptist is down by the Jordan, waiting for you. All of Judea needs to get down there in the worst way.

Some will want to say that I get attacked, not because I stand for the gospel of free grace, but rather because I use words like twaddlesome. If I didn’t do that kind of thing, their soothing reassurance runs, things would calm down considerably. And that means, they say, that I have no right to appeal to those verses that promise blessings for those who are vilified by the ungodly (Matt. 5: 11-13). I see. Has Jack Phillips been repeatedly prosecuted because of that satiric newsletter he puts out? Was Baronelle Stutzman prosecuted because of the snarky comments about gays that she would put on her sign out front? Was that Sweet Cakes shop in Oregon penalized because they wouldn’t stop spelling out taunts against transfolk on their birthday cakes? No? So maybe all of this has nothing to do with “tone.”

I say “nothing to do with,” but here is a little something that might make my tone a factor in all this. I write in opposition to the sexual revolution, down to the rancid root, and I think I know how to make clear and sharp distinctions. Like the edge of a sword it cuts, and then the citrus juice that I put on my adjectives makes it all sting a little bit more, and so people get mad.

I see what is going on, and I explain it, and that upsets those who would sneak their five year plans and new deals into the back door of evangelicalism. When I then make a point of explaining it plainly, with a measure of winsome and astringent tartness thrown in, their reactions are sometimes overreactions. I say sometimes, but let’s make that most times.

So back to the gospel. Stop squirming.

We must start with such repentance, but whenever the gospel is presented in Scripture, there are two steps involved. We must repent and believe.

All right then. Repent and believe. But believe what?

You must believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh in order to be crucified, buried, and raised again from the dead. You must believe that He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that He is willing to bestow His Spirit on every repentant heart. And when He does so, it turns out the Spirit is already there, having given the gift of true and real repentance.

It is possible to repent of your lusts, for example, only because Christ suffered and died so that everyone who believes in Him might be cleansed of their lusts.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (KJV)

The unrighteous, while steeped in that unrighteousness, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. And Paul is quite specific here—he defines what he means by unrighteousness. They may have read an article in Vile magazine that instructed them in the ways of polyamorous fornication, but it is still unrighteousness. They might be idolaters, who seek to gain their ultimate satisfaction from finite things, a satisfaction that only the infinite can provide. They might be stone cold liars, cheating on their marriage vows. They could be catamites, or effeminate evangelical men wanting the right to walk around like a catamite. Or perhaps they are homosexual in their sexual practices, something the Scriptures describe as a very grave sin—in Romans 1, Paul talks about it as the end of the line. Thieves won’t make it, and neither will extortioners, or drunkards and potheads, and neither will the grasping and covetous. Those who live in this kind of unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God, and when spelled out plainly, what that means is everlasting damnation. The outer darkness. Fire.

I left “revilers” for last. Revilers, just like all the others, are invited to come to Jesus Christ. Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ. Notice the words I italicized in the quote—and such were some of you. The Corinthian church contained people who had been adulterers, and fornicators, and extortioners, and homosexuals, and all the rest.

And revilers. God calls you to repent of the kind of venom that you spew at ministers of the gospel of free grace who stand against the sexual corruptions of this evil generation. You need to repent of all the venomous comments you made over the last week, directed at us, and there were quite a few of them. If you don’t repent, you are lost forever. Revilers will not enter the kingdom of heaven. If you do repent, you will be welcomed into the fellowship of the saints. We will welcome you as a brother or sister. But those are the only two options, incidentally—brother or sister.

This is the glory of real gospel. This is the power of a potent gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation, for anyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). Take the worst comment thread out there, one in which my character is lied about, stoned, dragged down the street, and then left for dead. Then take the worst reviler on that worst thread, and if the blood of Christ is applied to him and his lies, then he and I can be brought into sweet fellowship. And we would be too.

We have been accused of filthy atrocities, and it is unfortunate that more than a few well-placed evangelical leaders are hoping that they turn out to be true. But alas for them, they will not. Vice magazine thinks we have a tarantula farm in the church basement. That claim also will turn out to have been overstated. There is no reconciliation possible here unless it is a blood-bought reconciliation.

Restoration cannot happen if we just agree to disagree. This cannot happen if we try to split the difference. It will not happen if we just try to let everything blow over. It happens because of true forgiveness, and forgiveness only can occur because of the death, burial, and resurrection of the true victim, the only ultimate victim.

In one of my threads this last week, one of my adversaries tried to throw this taunt back in my teeth. “Did Jesus go to bat for anyone like Steve Sitler?” But it is far more scandalous than that. Jesus went to the cross for people like Steven Sitler.

And for people just like you. Just like me.