The trick is to write a headline that gets people to read just the first couple paragraphs. After that, the overall quality of the writing has to hold them. So wish me luck.
So taking the occasion of the Roy Moore story, last weekend The LA Times published an op-ed piece by Kathryn Brightbill that lamented an evangelical predilection for nubile young women. So far so good. But in the course of this drive-by editorial, there was a short segment in there that was dedicated to having a bullet whizz by my ear. So far not so good.
An Exchange of Letters
Thereupon I decided to write the opinion editor of the Times, and I typed on this wise:
Greetings. I am writing you to ask about your policy on allowing people to respond if they are named in one of your editorials. If possible, I want to object to a gross misrepresentation in the piece by Kathryn Brightbill. She said:
“Prominent conservative Reformed theologian Doug Wilson has a documented history of mishandling sexual abuse cases within his congregation. Nevertheless, he continues to be promoted by evangelical leaders such as John Piper, whose Desiring God site still publishes Wilson’s work. When a 13-year-old girl in Wilson’s congregation was sexually abused, Wilson argued that she and her abuser were in a parent-sanctioned courtship, and that this was a mitigating factor.”
Given the context of her piece, this is almost a photo negative of the reality. I look forward to receiving your guidelines.
So that you may see for yourself how far I first thought politeness gets you these days, I received this prompt reply:
Although we don’t run response op-eds, we can and do run letters to the editor in these situations. The address for that is [email protected] and you can let the letters editor know I sent you.
So then I wrote the letters editor, and here is the beginning of the reply I got.
Thank you for your submission to the letters page of the Los Angeles Times. We have received your e-mail and will review it within seven days.
A reminder about our guidelines:
Submissions should be no longer than 150 words and must respond to stories that have appeared in The Times; please include the title of the article, preferably in the subject line . . .
The email continued on with more boilerplate, but I have by this point learned that I have the opportunity to respond to a false allegation about a controversy that spans a decade or more, and that I have 150 words to do it with. That many words is what we writing professionals call the Tweet Premium.
And so I thought to myself, nah. I’ll just blog about it. Way more people will read my response that way, and I can use 200 Tweet Premiums in a row, and more than that if I feel like it and get to going good.
But then, after I had written much of this response, I got another letter from The Times, explaining that I could use 250 words in a print edition letter, or 700 words for an online response. Extra words are an irresistible temptation for me, and so I chose the latter and sent that off last night. I will notify all of you guys somehow when it runs.
But my thanks to The Times for chance to respond.
A Brief Aside
There is one other thing before we get to the good stuff. I do want to say that it is nice to have my ragamuffin theological outlook being dismissed on larger and larger platforms. At this rate I will soon be a nobody on the international stage. My irrelevance as a spokesman for conservative Reformed Christianity is, as they say, burgeoning.
The Central Difficulty
So what was wrong with Brightbill’s lame attempt to work me into her thesis? Well, the main problem is that I am on her side on this one. I hope you see that this presents something of a difficulty for her. What she did was kind of like Robert E. Lee shooting Jeb Stuart.
There are sectors of the conservative homeschooling world that have a big problem with regard to the issue she raises. Now saying that, I want to be careful not to generalize too quickly, or too broadly. Homeschooling is a big city by now, with lots of nice areas. But there are some sketchy neighborhoods still. I know this because I have been in conflict with them, on this issue, for several decades now.
I have fought with those who had an impulse to leave their daughters uneducated or undereducated. I have labored to box out those who taught that homemaking was a low-skills calling. I have two daughters and a son, and my (college-educated) wife and I sacrificed a great deal to ensure that our daughters were educated the same way our son was. Their education was aimed at different ends, but it was every bit as rigorous. I have countered those who had low expectations for their girls by telling them that the level of education they provided for their daughters was going to roughly predict the level of education that their grandsons would receive.
And when it comes to older guys courting younger girls, I have taught that because all men are hungry for respect, some of the lazier ones are tempted to garner this respect on the cheap. They do this by vying for girls who could only compare them to all the fifteen-year-old boys they knew. In fact, I made some fun of this pattern in my novel Evangellyfish.
In sum, when a 25-year-old guy sets his sights on a 15-year-old girl, I think it is safe to say that I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns, more or less, give or take.
And yet, instead of trumpeting my loyalty to this most reasonable cause, Brightbill drags me into the fray, pretending that I think that a parent-approved courtship in a situation like the one in the case she mentions mitigates anything. It mitigates nothing. “Mitigates” would mean that Crime X becomes, as a result of this mitigation, crime x. Rather, my hostility to this kind of thinking meant that I thought that Crime X was actually Crime Y. It means “statutory rape” instead of “lewd and lascivious.”
For the case she mentions was a prime example of the kind of thinking she critiques throughout her article. It was a prime example of it, and it did happen in our church community. But my opposition to that kind of thing is one of the reasons why the courtship was kept a secret—because the climate of our church community was and is decidedly against that kind of thing.
And so here is my lament, too long to be published (in all its fullness) in The LA Times. Why does Kathryn Brightbill complain about evangelical creepiness on this score, and then sideswipe an evangelical leader who takes what amounts to that same stand?
Actually, Here’s Why
That was a rhetorical question. I’ll tell you why. It is because I am willing to say that young women are nubile.
By the way, if my periodic use of that perfectly acceptable word has had you fuming since you read the headline, this is because somewhere down in your secret heart of hearts you have turned over all questions of moral authority concerning gender to the feminists. But here at this blog we don’t care what they think. We care what God thinks, and specifically, we care what God says.
Men and women are different. Foolish men and foolish women are different. Wise men and wise women are different. And both classes of men and women are different from each other, with all of them different in different ways.
Starting with the foolish, they value different things. A certain kind of man values certain traits that are at their peak when a woman is young (I would use the word nubile here again, but I don’t want to tax your patience). A certain kind of woman values certain traits that are at their peak later when a man is older (e.g. wealthy, successful, putting off a most-interesting-man-in-the-world vibe). These two types will often meet at parties (or, in Brightbill’s story, at worldview conferences). It will not be long before they hook up to make a deal.
It is a human thing, not an evangelical thing. Whenever the population of any subculture gets large enough to have successful fools with distinguished-looking beards, and a substantial cohort of nubile young hotties, you will see the carnal coalitions start to form.
This is what has happened in some of the corners of evangelicalism described by Brightbill, and this is also what has been happening in that skanky-fest called Hollywood. Welcome to earth, kid.
And this is where you see the difference between biblical prudence and feminist resentments. Feminists hate the fact that there even are hot bodies. They want socialism applied to sex, surgically-imposed on the one percent if necessary. Wise Christians know to look past the look, but they don’t resent the existence of it at all. They know its place. Sexual attractiveness is a factor, but by no means the most important one.
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30, ESV).
So please note that the idea is not that charm is nonexistent, but rather that it is a liar. And, in particular cases, it is pretty good at lying.
“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol” (Prov. 5:3–5, ESV).
But in the strange new world of feminism, when godly mothers warn their sons about the painted ladies, this is taken as some form of conservative misogyny, an attack on any women anywhere who were working on their own empowerment. This is why our ruling overlords are trying to transform our language. They want to turn hoochie mamas into unionized “sex workers.”
Got it? By rejecting those believers who say that certain women are sexual fools (and that the men who pursue them are another kind of sexual fool), our new establishment wants to create a new rule, one that says a critique of any woman is an attack on all. And by this clever means, they are trying to remove the hope of the gospel from the earth.