Prolegomena to the Introduction
Admittedly, this post is going to start out somewhat mildly. But I am simply setting the table, and boiling the water. What I am serving today is Kraft Mac and Cheese, and it is a meal that has a very unassuming look. But by the end of the post you will realize that I chopped up five or six Carolina Reapers that were sprinkled liberally over the top as a garnish. I did this so that an appreciative readership could finish out November in the bathroom splashing water in their faces, and bleeding from the ears.
Do I over-promise? It is perhaps so. That may be the case. But to find out, and to repurpose a misquotation from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, read on, Macduff.
I began last Monday’s blog post by noting that to date we have had two different responses to Stephen Wolfe’s book. The first has been the response of engaging with the arguments, whether to agree or not. The idea here was to engage without losing your temper—in which category I would put Bahnsen, Mattson, Sandlin, DeYoung, and now Shenvi. If I have missed other thoughtful critics, this being November, it was probably their fault. Now this does not mean that I think the critics are right and Wolfe wrong on any particular point, but rather that I think an exchange of views could be fruitful, and perhaps an exchange of blows could be even more fruitful—provided it was about the thesis of the book.
But the other approach is kind of tawdry and wants to sidestep that kind of fruitful engagement, and is willing to take hostages toward the end of getting Canon to pull the book. Whenever the politics of personal destruction commence, sometimes the victims were apparently asking for it, as happened in this instance, and at other times innocent people get creamed. The only bright spot in this whole sorry business is that the controversy caused sales of our book to shoot up by about 300%—and sales were already brisk. If you have a conspiratorial turn of mind, you might begin to think this was a dark and diabolical move on the part of our marketing team.
So we welcome thoughtful critics. And if we were only about the sales, we would welcome the cancel critics too. If we were stone-cold cynics, we would tell them to “keep it up, boys. Lay it on.” But we are not stone-cold cynics, but rather sweet Christians, seeking the good of the nation. Just watch.
An Irenic Enough Start
Now one example of a thoughtful engagement with Wolfe’s book (or rather, the beginning of a thoughtful engagement) would Neil Shenvi’s review found here. I say “beginning” because this is Part 1 of a 4-part series.
There was something in the review that caught my eye, and made me want to do more than just agree with it. For I do agree with it, and actually agreed with all of Part 1. I thought Shenvi was being judicious, fair-minded, and was promising to provide the kind of review we are looking for. It is something to get your teeth into. So I am not attacking Shenvi here because I agree with what he has said thus far. But I do want to attack the ecosystem he is operating in. I do not attack him, but rather his audience.
The thing that caught my eye was, as I said, something I agreed with, but it still made me want to say “yeah, but . . .”
“The willingness [of conservative evangelicals] to overlook heterodoxy and even outright heresy on the basis of a shared political enemy is exactly the pit into which many ‘woke’ evangelicals have fallen.”Neil Shenvi, in aforesaid linked post
This is not to differ with Shenvi. I agree with what he said thus far and it is even possible he would agree with what I am about to say. This part of it might even turn into a love fest.
But there is an actual target here. I do know that a bunch of evangelical wokesters will froth over at what I am about to say, and it will surely do them some spiritual good. Should get their blood circulating. Perhaps it will even get their blood boiling, which might help boil off some of the toxins.
If Double Standards Were a Mobile Home
Over the course of the controversy of the last week, various glaring inconsistencies have come to light. Rod Dreher has tried to act as though he is not a player in this controversy, waving his hands over it like it was some kind of “intra-Protestant” scuffle. But at the same time, he wants to know what Wolfe knew about Achord and when he knew it. He does this while having had his kids in the school that Thomas Achord was running, and while his wife (ex-wife?) was teaching there. So what did Dreher know, and when did he know it? If we ask such questions, then let’s ask everybody. If we don’t ask the questions, then let’s don’t.
And Alistair Roberts, who did the spadework that revealed that Thomas Achord was not telling the truth, appears to have had his own Twitter account under a pseudonym, an account which has just been deleted. That account has gone bye bye. Now let’s not compare Roberts to Achord here, but rather Roberts to Wolfe. What would happen if Wolfe had an account like that which nobody knew about, and he just now deleted it? Would anybody have questions? Would inquiring minds want to know if he was hiding something? So if we have such questions, then let’s ask everybody. If we don’t ask the questions, then let’s don’t.
Then we have an example of hypocrisy about “adjacent” problems that is truly breathtaking. A woman named Tara Isabella Burton writes for Mere Orthodoxy, and posted in her bio at Mere O is the fact that she wrote a book called Social Creature, which contains a goodish bit of lesbian erotica. But a number of Wolfe’s critics also write for Mere O—e.g. Brad Littlejohn and Alistair Roberts. I would like to take this opportunity to invite all the pearl-clutchers who were aghast at my book, Ride, Sally, Ride, to limber up their meme machines and show us how outrage is supposed to work.
Now, honest question. Seriously, honest question. What are the rules?
I will tell you. Rules are what conservatives must obey, and which anyone who is drifting left may disregard with impunity. If you want to know what the rules are, watch what happens now.
When it is revealed that someone adjacent to Wolfe said some vile things, action must be taken now. And I have no objection to that. Reasonable rule. But when someone adjacent to Roberts says or does some vile things . . . what? If it is said that Social Creature was written before she was a Christian, then two questions. Why is it still posted in her bio at Mere O? And if she can do that, then why can’t Thomas Achord tell us that he said what he said during a spiritually dark time?
So I repeat the question. What are the rules? And are we all going to abide by them?
The Tu Quoque Fallacy and the New Rules
The tu quoque fallacy is the “but you do it too” fallacy. Suppose someone charges you with some fault or other and your response is “but you do that too.” This is a fallacy of distraction. The fact that your accuser may be guilty of the same thing does not mean that you get off with a free pass. Sin is defined by God, and not by the personal inconsistencies of whatever person who pointed out your problem. Thus far the logic lesson.
But being at war with double standards is not the tu quoque fallacy. And in situations like this, if double standards were a mobile home, we are debating with people who live in a double-wide. Scripture is at war with the double standard, and teaches us to be at war with the double standard. And so we are.
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Matthew 7:2 (KJV)
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
Galatians 6:1 (KJV)
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”
Romans 2:1–3 (KJV)
There, I Fixed It
“The willingness Mere Orthodoxy and those adjacent to Mere O to overlook lesbian erotica on the basis of a shared participation in the zeitgeist is exactly the pit. That’s all. Exactly the pit.”Me, riffing off Shenvi’s formulation
Because of that shared participation in the zeitgeist, the double standards are underwritten. This is not simply hypocrisy; this is financed hypocrisy. This hypocrisy on stilts and steroids. This is hypocrisy fully subsidized.
When the rule is applied to us, we accept the fact that people ought not to be writing vile kinist tweets under a pseudonym. We agree that such a person should not be the headmaster of a classical Christian school. If Thomas Achord now has to get a job driving a FedEx truck, we feel bad for him and his family, but we believe that no foundational injustice has been done to him. He set himself up for this, in other words. We are willing to play by the rules, provided they are rules of basic decency, and are evenly applied.
But they are not evenly applied. And the ecosystem to which Neil Shenvi is offering his most reasonable words is the chief culprit, as though that audience were capable of understanding reasonable words. This whole thing is boiling down to a battle of “who is soft on what?” Is the Canon world soft on kinism? We have proven we are not. But those critiquing us want to say that we are. So simple test. Take the rules as they have published them, and apply them in the other direction. Is the Mere O world soft on LGBTQ+? And what are the rules for the directions that these adjacenty-problems can run? Alistair writes for Theopolis too, and so how far do these cooties jump? On Monday, I said of Achord that if you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes. That is a rule that can be tested in more than one way.
If you really want to play this game, then somebody needs to publish the rule book. And we should hire some referees. Honest ones this time.
The world of evangelical respectability isn’t respectable anymore. The realm of honest Christian scholarship is dishonest. The butcher who has a fish in the window also has his thumb on the scale. The evangelical world is a health nut filled with various diseases. Big Eva is in desperate need of becoming Little Eva or, if revival breaks out, No Eva.
The upper management of approved Christian discourse is currently being run, or more accurately, mismanaged, by mountebanks, scoundrels, incompetents, hypocrites, useful idiots, pietists, conference speakers, bloggers, and the occasional congressman. Things are really bad. The Temple of the Lord has become a den of thieving vipers. Somebody should say something.
Last of the NQN Deals
A big part of what we do here in November is that we give stuff away. As in for free. This helps offset the impression that our refusal to qualify assertions during November proceeds from a churlish heart. Rather it comes from a heart brimming over with generosity and open-handedness.
So at the bottom of every NQN post, look for the current offers, whatever they might this week. Please note that these are different from the earlier giveaways.
I want to exhort you to take advantage of these giveaways. We have already busted all previous records for free books going out the door—numbering in the tens of thousands, actually—and it would be really fun to lap ourselves a few more times.
1. This week’s links to free Kindles include THREE free books, not just two. The first is my book Ploductivity, which is my attempt to explain how to get things done. The second is George Grant’s An Experiment in Liberty, a book on the American founding. The third book is Plowing in Hope, which is a study on the theology of culture. Three free books in all. These are all Amazon affiliate links.
2. Also November, anyone can get one free month of Canon+ using the code NQNQ. This only works for new subscribers—sorry, it doesn’t work for existing or annual subscriptions. If you do this, you will be able to watch my new documentary over Thanksgiving, and to do so for free. The name of the doc is “How to Save the World (in Eleven *Simple Steps).” That would be simple steps, not easy steps. Critics should be sure to watch it in order to confirm their suspicions about the apparent megalomania of the title, but which will turn out to be a dud. Since disappointing my critics has become something of a hobby of mine, I do encourage critics to take advantage of this free offer.
3. And this November, current subscribers can give a year’s subscription of Canon+ for just fifty bucks—$49.99 instead of $95.88. That way you can get that pastor, friend, or enemy the Canon+ content they’ve been so wishing for.
4. For the rest of November, e-versions of A Justice Primer are free here in my Mablog store. I think the people who are fighting Wolfe’s thesis through hostage-taking might need a refresher.
A Justice Primer
A basic introduction to the principles of biblical justice, desperately needed in our time.