Odd Bedfellows

After I posted DeeplyGrieved.com (a few posts down), my wife mentioned to me another important “indicator that something is screwy” that I had missed. Once someone has enlisted in what I call “the fellowship of the grievance” (FOG) all other differences with other members of that fellowship fade into the background. Adversaries become cobelligerents, and then cobelligerents mysteriously become allies. And all because of “the shared grievance,” which almost assumes a quasi-sacramental status. It truly becomes a tie that binds.

I have seen quite a few striking instances of this, but none quite so striking as the worldview drift of Terry Morin. In February of 2004, a number of people in our community took out a full page ad in the paper in order to give themselves adequate scope for denouncing me. The statement to which all the signatures were affixed was filled with a lot of the regular jargon, you know the drill. For example, my take on “homosexuals, and women’s rights are NOT representative of the majority of the people of the Palouse community.” Right at the center of this protest against me was a concern for “women’s rights,” which, as Christians clearly know, includes the non-negotiable right to an abortion. When protest groups array themselves against Samuel Alito, and they say that he does not support “women’s rights,” what do they mean? They mean that they are afraid he will not uphold Roe v. Wade. I was also in trouble, as far as that preamble was concerned, because of my “denial of equality for women.” One of the great “equalizers” is, again, abortion. But there is no need to read between the lines. Everyone who signed the petition told the world exactly why they did so, in plain old black and white. The emphasis that follows is mine. “We want no part of this. Wilson and his ideas do NOT represent our community. Our signatures are hereby affixed in the name of humanity, human rights, and diversity.” What is diversity short for? Usually it refers to the fruit of the month club selection, with all the cherries. Abortion rights, homosexual rights, etc. This ad was signed by all the usual suspects, but it also included Terry Morin, a former elder in our church, the first manager of Canon Press, erstwhile contributor of “neo-Confederate” writing to Credenda, and so on. I put “neo-Confederate” in quotation marks, because Terry was neo-Confederate in the same way that we still are, which is to say, not very. But Terry was, like I still am, a paleo-Confederate. But more on this later. This is the farthest I have seen anyone drift, although a number of others have almost come close.

Called on it, as he should have been, Terry wrote a letter defending his action. His reason was that, in the midst of the controversy, in our second paid newspaper ad, the elders of Christ Church presented the gospel. Terry Morin said: “Then in the eighth paragraph, the Board says, ‘But sin and guilt make people do weird and tragic things. We don’t say these things as personal taunts but rather as a call to repentance. . .’ What followed was a presentation of the gospel. This was the new twist; the debate was now between those who love the gospel, and those who disobey it. The call to support Christian slaveholding in the South was now wrapped up in the call to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But in our first published ad, which Terry knew about, because he cites it also, we had said some of the following things: “Despite our published record and debates against racism and white supremacist hideousness . . .” “It’s ridiculous to have to say the obvious — that slavery has always been an evil needing to be abolished. But that has been our position from the start. Christ Church has a deep hatred of war, and our comments against the butchery of 600,000 persons in the Civil War have been opportunistically twisted into a defense of the hell of slavery. Christianity has long been a leader in ridding slavery from the West, but it prefers nonviolent means (like Wilberforce in England) rather than the savagery of warfare . . . They can side with war. We side with nonviolent abolitionism.” In short, we argued that the biblical position was one of peaceful abolition, rather than abolition through carnage. In the next paid ad, we linked the gospel with this kind of opposition to slavery. Because he claimed he did not like that link, Terry Morin joined forces with the “Team Diversity” and signed the “Not In Our Town” petition. Terry said that we “supported” Christian slaveholding. What we had actually said was that we opposed the institution generally, and the best way to eliminate it peacefully was for Christians to follow the explicit teaching of the New Testament on the subject. But there was no real need to put these arguments before Terry, because he understood them already. He used to make them himself. He was saying what he was saying and signing what he was signing for other reasons, having nothing whatever to do with slavery.

As Terry Morin once memorably put it, “To the credit of Southern Christianity, its aspirations, the ends to which it bent its religion, were for the most part biblical.” Terry Morin once wrote that an appropriate name for the Civil War would be “the Unitarian-Baptist Shoot-Out.” According to Terry, the Baptists were the ones down South. Terry is a Baptist, and is now attending a Southern Baptist church. Terry Morin once wrote (and I still agree with this), that “what distinguished the northern reform movements, abolitionism included, was that the ‘ends’ they had chosen were more obviously unbiblical than those being chosen in the South.” Mark that. Northen abolitionism had chosen unbiblical ends. As a writer for Credenda, Terry Morin once noted, “Whatever Julia Ward Howe saw in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps, it wasn’t the Lord of Hosts.” All the distinctions that we were making in our newspaper ads, and in the other aspects of the controversy, were distinctions that Terry fully knew and knew fully. He was our co-worker, and he used to help us make these same distinctions. But ten or eleven years after he had left our church, he suddenly and publicly aligned himself with the abortion-rights, homosexual-marriage-rights crowd? Because of our position on slavery? And he does this pretending not to recognize basic ethical distinctions that he used to help us write, and that we still hold? That he used to sign his name to? And he does all this because we stated publicly that as Christians we would have preferred to see slavery ended in a peaceful way? I am sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.

If there is such a place, I would like to find where Terry Morin has repudiated his former convictions, and has sought forgiveness for holding them. For his former convictions are our current convictions, and he has attacked us for holding them. This means that he must have repudiated them. Doesn’t it?

All this is written for a two-fold purpose. The first is to illustrate the point — those with a grievance can often be identified by the strange alliances they form. And the second reason is that Terry Morin has just recently advanced all these arguments again in a new forum, and so it is a timely illustration that answers a pretty serious charge.

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