I want to thank you all for your kind invitation to address a recent dust-up in the blogosphere. It is not often that I get to discuss things like this.
Thabiti wrote a good article here, which elicited boatloads of comments, and so he followed it up with more here. Jonathan Merritt thought that the occasion was ripe for him to demonstrate that he doesn’t know what a rant is, which was amply accomplished here. And Denny Burk came in with a good wrap-up here.
But, believe it or not, there are certain things left unsaid. I want to make a few incidental comments, tossing them casually on the coffee table, and then get to the main event.
First, the incidentals. Merritt is quite right that Christians need to learn to stop trying to play the victim, but not for the reason he thinks. The game is rigged, and they will never let us. The Supreme Court of New Mexico could have decided that evangelical wedding photographers needed to have all their houses burned down, and there would still be religion-page shills out there defending the need for such (temporarily) austere measures as we seek to build a more equitable society. So we need to save our breath for cooling our porridge. And besides, watching persecutors feeling tormented by their victims is kind of entertaining.
Second, Merritt needs to learn what Pharisaism is — which is to say, the prideful inculcation of a moralistic standard with a club. And who is it that is having “pride” parades? In his third point, he tried to turn the “gag reflex” issue into one that casts conservative believers as folks who are too fastidious to minister to people who sleep on urine-soaked mattresses. But of course, that is not the issue at all. The issue has to do with those who romanticize such behaviors, and who want to turn character defects into points of personal pride. It has happened before with the ideal of the noble poetic soul using opiates, and it is happening now with sodomy.
Deep opposition to those who want to be the booster club for any particular vice, and deep compassion for those who are trapped by that same vice, are not inconsistent depths. It is one thing for a pastor to help put a family back together, shattered by adultery. It is quite another to deal with someone who has devoured a family, wipes her mouth, and says “that was fun” (Prov. 30:20). The issue here is not the sex, but rather the pride. Pride is the besetting sin of moralistic Pharisees, and their heirs today are the crusading bigots who are tracking down evangelical bakers of wedding cakes in order to make them celebrate and applaud what God requires them to detest.
So, then, what is the main issue? What must we learn from all this? What is not yet being addressed?
The point of sodomy is transgression, and as such it is essentially parasitic. The tang of it comes from the violation of taboos. Without those taboos, the homosexual movement is a tapeworm bereft of an intestinal wall. This is why, incidentally, there is at least some strident opposition to homo-marriage from the advocates of deep queer. When you have normalized everything, where do the queer go? What do the queer do when nothing is queer anymore?
In every form of transgressive sexuality, there must be a boundary to be crossed. Some see the signs posted at that boundary and recoil in horror. Others cross that boundary with one eye on those who recoiled in horror. Among those who cross, some of them share in the horror — the self-loathing homosexual — while others are simply spewing their malice toward the sovereign God, giver of every good gift. They are the ones who in their high rebellion want to say, “evil, be thou my good.”
Anyone who has not seen people getting their essential kicks out of offending white bread suburbanites really needs to get out more. Rap artists do it with what I shall call the enword, and homos do it with the effword, but they are all junior high boys wanting to startle the cute girls into a shocked round of giggling. The rap artist wants to be a bad ass, and the catamite wants an ass that is bad, but it all amounts to the same thing.
Imagine a hipster washed up on a desert island — no scope for irony at all. Imagine Lady Gaga washed up on a desert island — how long do you think those outfits would last? Imagine Miley Cyrus washed up on a desert island — think she would be dancing up and down the beach with that foam finger? No. The whole point is to shock and insult those who don’t know that they are being played. Take that away and the whole game collapses.
You can take that away in two different ways. One is to stop being shocked through a compromised surrender, which is what they are demanding from us. If they succeed in this, they will have their own troubles down the road — what happens every time the parasite kills the host, which we can leave them to figure out.
The other is to keep that sense of shock, but to do it as biblically informed people, and not on the basis of cultural inertia from the Eisenhower era. Treating a man as though he were a woman is not described in Scripture as something that is technically erroneous. Rather, the Israelites were taught to treat it as detestable, as an abomination (Lev. 18:22). God does not simply require us to disapprove. He requires us to loathe. But going back to Merritt’s faux-point about compassion, there is no inconsistency between having compassion for the sinner and detestation for the dungeon filth he is living in.
“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).
So those enslaved by homosexuality don’t have the right to tell us “love me, love my dog.” We can love them and hate their dog. Dogs are excluded from the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:15).
And in the meantime, remember that the “yuck factor” is essentially a shared commitment. It is something that evangelicals and queers can agree on. Is it not?
The attempted ribald remark in this post concerning catamites is unfunny and unbecoming.
I don’t know. I think Pastor Wilson has sufficient experience to know what’s becoming. It might be unfunny to those who want to take sin seriously, but you aren’t one of those people. Sin is fundamentally irrational, and all humour is based on incongruities. I think a joke is appropriate.
On the contrary, Moses, it is catamitism that is neither funny nor becoming. Referring to it as a condition of “wanting an ass that is bad” seems to me a very fitting and illuminating remark on an otherwise dark and tragic subject.
Not sure I want to commit to this or not, but: this may be the best, the BEST thing you have EVER written!
The Catamite is the passive partner whereas the Sodomite is the active partners, so shouldn’t it technically be the Sodomite that wants an ass that is bad?
“Let not these things be named among you.” I agree that the attempt to make jokes about what you visualize gay men to be doing in bed is unbecoming. I think it can also be misinterpreted as a prurient preoccupation that may actually threaten rather than strengthen purity. I finally understand from this last post your conviction that homosexual behavior is abominable in a way that other sins are not. It would be a waste of everyone’s time for me to dispute that. But what I still cannot understand is, given this belief, why the jokes? I can imagine Jonathan… Read more »
No, Jill, but Luther almost certainly would . . .
Humor is a horse to be ridden like any other. It is a devise of debate. I do not think there was necessarily degradation. I also think most homosexuals would have giggled if they too possesed a sense of humor. Albiet theirs would have been in agreement.
Jill, good question. I will try to get to it.
One thing that is helpful in this debate (and uncomfortable to the pro-sodomy side) is to point out exactly what it is we are talking about. I admit this joke was a little zingy, but it did what it was supposed to do.
I’m glad that Doug Wilson was able to put aside his differences with Thabiti regarding God’s delight over human slavery and at least agree over His eternal hatred of fags (who will be forever burning in an oven the size of Texas along with Jews, Mormons, most Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Quakers, Shakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberal Episcopalians, Amway salesmen and anyone whose faith isn’t EXACTLY the same as mine in each and every respect)!
James, you are oozing with intolerance.
Pastor Wilson uses the shock factor all the time, to great effect. It’s the JOB of the saints to redeem and possess the property of the Canaanites, including the shock factor. I love telling people I believe the Bible cover to cover. People should read the prophets more. God uses it too. He never ridicules those who are ignorant. He saves His scorn for those who know better, and our culture is at that point still. This is exactly when the Wilsons are required to throw fiery darts at the devils. I don’t believe this issue will last long. Gay… Read more »
James tends to be intolerant of those who believe his practice of suppressing his gag reflex is a perversion.
The sheer amount of “outrage” Thabiti’s post has caused is a testament to how accurate it was. He hit them where it hurt and now he must be destroyed.
The reaction to Thabiti’s post is also a very good indicator of how invested people are in missing the point of an article, if the article’s underlying assumptions fall under “that which must be destroyed.” No one could honestly read that article and come away with the idea that Thabiti was saying that our gag reflex is the source of a properly formed conscience, full stop. But a fair proportion of the responses rely on a merciless and swift execution of that flimsiest of straw men. I do not know what proportion of the respondents simply cannot see how far… Read more »
Both the issue and the comments are salient. A salient for those of a less martial outlook, is a military term used for a “an outwardly projecting part of a fortification”, and indeed the issue itself retains these attributes. It is often used as a point of departure into attack beyond the forward edge of the battle area, and this also remains true of the subject matter. The fact that Wilsons, Anyabwiles and others have the temerity to challenge this stronghold by aiming at areas of vulnerability is both disconcerting and fearful to them. They have invested into their narrative,… Read more »
But the gag reflex/yuck factor is largely informed by culture. In Northern China, raw monkey brain, scooped out of the still-warm skull of the monkey, is considered delectable; I get nauseous just thinking about it. So whose gag reflex is right, mine or the Chinese? And while video footage of the live monkey having its skull bashed with a hammer and its brain scooped out and put on a dinner plate would have huge shock value here in the United States, in China it would barely generate a yawn. So again, whose yuck factor is right? Doug grew up in… Read more »
This article’s point about pride is extremely important, and in some ways, I almost think Doug could have stopped there (though the rest is also important and poignant).
I have increasingly found that the ground I’m defending is the ground of what might be called “attitude” or “approach”, but is more Biblically called “pride”. As in, what is a/the person’s approach and attitude toward their sinful behavior. As I’ve said here before, I think, I find this simple rubric helpful: law to the proud, grace to the humble.
I don’t think the comment too different than those of Israel playing the prostitute in OT prophets nor very different than Paul’s comment that they “receive in themselves” their penalty for their error. romans 1:27
What I noticed was 1) Merritt was mostly correct about what he said, but none of it seemed relevant to what Thabiti said. 2) Thabiti makes a good point that the status of ‘gay’ has been almost entirely divorced from the reality of gay sex, but his suggestion seems to have the same advantages and disadvantages of the approach of certain anti-abortion groups of showing gross abortion pics, or maybe even of the common reductio arguments you hear with respect to gay marriage involving polygamy, incest, etc. One of the disadvantages is that the gag reflex is partly a product… Read more »
Michael writes: “James tends to be intolerant of those who believe his practice of suppressing his gag reflex is a perversion.” I have a very sensitive gag reflex, actually. Anything that makes Jesus throw up makes me throw up, too. If you would actually READ your Bible, you’d know that it doesn’t take much for that at all. The slightest thing would put a bee in the bonnet of our Loving Lord. For instance, He had Moses stone a man to death for merely gathering wood on the wrong day of the week. He had she-bears maul a bunch of… Read more »
There goes James again, getting his undies all bunched up with hate. It is pretty hard to understand Scripture when you’re dancing up and down with that much bitterness bouncing in your belly.
James, aren’t you a homosexual?
The aspect of playing to a crowd is one that needs more mining. Once the crowd has essentially become the outsider, the queerness disappears and the thrill is gone. This was the case with the wholesale adoption of punk culture by the mainstream and the eventual tattooing of the church. “Got a problem with my soli Deo gloria tat?” Well yeah bro and, besides, your late to the party. Everyone is cool, so no one is. Next stop… The boundary has to be moved to up the intensity. Bestiality, incest, etc. all become the medium for the next shock. Any… Read more »
Doug – You point out the ‘shock factor’ in your article. I agree that, at times, this is important. However, one thing to consider is that we are very typically seen as lambasting LGBT people, for whatever reasons. I know some Christian bloggers where half or more of their articles seem to be about gays. Really, post after post after post. Sometimes I wonder if it’s time just to take a step back and quietly listen. Something akin to Jeremiah’s words to God’s people to go into exile and look to build life within that context. I don’t have all… Read more »
Scott, First to define the term, God says “male and female he created them”, so I am reluctant to use a substitute word set to describe what God calls behavior. When they do X, God does not say that is what they are, but what they are doing, so I try to consistently use His definitions. But, in alternative fashion if we substitute behavior and label it as God does (identifying the person BY the behavior) then we might be able to speak more clearly. There is a reason that calling them sodomites committing indecent acts is so stinging; there… Read more »
And Scott, one more thought. As The Man said: “it is finished”. Our mission is not exile because Christ the King is on His throne and in session. Remember His operation order: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…” The command was to “go”, not to run and hide. The premise of “All authority” is quite weighty, and it is something that sin, wherever it is found, resists. Because sin wants autonomy. I think that another author was kind in titling modern Christianity as jelly like. Jelly has some tactile consistently; I think… Read more »
Spell check arrgh! Not “consistently”; supposed to be “consistency”.
RFB – Thanks for the interaction. As to your first comment, I’m not sure how it related fully to what I was suggesting: that we think about a better way to approach things today. I’m not asking us to not recognise what is truly sin – I believe God created us for male/female marriage & sexual relationships. But may we rethink some things as to approach. I’ll come on to more below. I understand in many respects of what you are getting at with how we approach the drunk or whomever, though I’ve had experience approaching these and it usually… Read more »
Scott, My perspective is along the lines of “Their foot shall slide in due time” as elucidated by Jonathan Edwards. The reason that I eschew using euphemisms and acronyms to identify the behavior is the same reason that I do not use MRRT to describe murderers, robbers, rapists and thugs. It is primarily a tool used to deflect the evil that is being practiced and paraded, which I think, is the point being made by Pastors Wilson and Anyabwile. Making that which is indecent and ugly into something less is not love towards those who will spend eternity in torment.… Read more »