Shambolic and Petty Despotism

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A month or so ago, I wrote about Roy Moore and Russell Moore, and the article got a lot of traction. In addition to the traffic of people reading it, I also got a few people contacting me personally with various objections. What I wanted to do here is give a quick checklist kind of response to some of the feedback I got.

When I first wrote, Chief Justice Moore had ordered the probate judges to ignore the ruling of the federal district judge. Since that time, the entire Alabama Supreme Court has ruled the same thing, in a 7 to 1 decision. For those who want a quick rundown on why the renegade in this situation was the federal judge, and not the state judge, I would refer you to this article.

So then . . .

Objection #1: The defilement of marriage in our country long preceded the latest wave of same sex mirages. The objection here is that if we are going to “clean up” marriage in the United States, we are going to have to do way more than simply prevent gay mirage.

The answer to this revolves around the word mirage, which I use advisedly, and not just in an attempt to be semantically cute. There are all sorts of ways to wind up with deficient and sub-biblical marriages — polygamy being one, and unjustifiable divorce and remarriage being another. But you can find such sinful marriages in the Bible, and the Bible calls them marriages. There is an important distinction to be made between marriages made in a sinful world, which shouldn’t have happened, but they still did, and four-sided triangles, which cannot be found anywhere, not even in constitutional penumbrae. A same sex mirage is not a marriage, not even a sinful one. It does not rise to that height.

Objection #2: Your desire to return to the values of Christian civilization is quixotic. Most of the original framers of the Constitution were Deists.

This is simply false. Out of the 55 men at the Constitutional Convention, 50 of them were orthodox Christians. And those men like Franklin and Jefferson who actually were quasi-Deists had to, for reasons of political prudence, hide their commitments in the background somewhere. Having said this much, I would then turn the charge around. How far we have fallen! At the founding, our Deists had more of a reformational world and life view than does the average Reformed seminary prof today sweating away at the average Accredited Institution of Historical and Doctrinal Etiolation. Also, for those gotcha cadets, I do know that Jefferson wasn’t at the Convention. There are two pluses in this — I know more about history than you thought I did, and we now have one less Deist at the Convention.

Objection #3: Roy Moore isn’t so hot. He was the one who was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court a number of years ago for his showboating attempt to place and keep the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court.

And so what legal developments in the last ten years would lead anybody to think that putting the Ten Commandments in any courthouse would be a bad idea?

Objection #4: If a state judge is paid by the State, then he should not continue to receive his paycheck if he is unwilling to do what his superior says.

For this I would again refer you to the linked article. Russell Moore capitulated way too early, walking off the field in the first quarter. In this instance, the district judge was the one who was receiving a paycheck and not doing what his superior had said.

Objection #5: In my own follow-up to the previous objection, what about if the Supreme Court strikes down all laws limiting marriage to heteros? How can you advise continued resistance? The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means we would then have to submit, right?

Two things. First the Supremacy Clause does not say what is claimed on its behalf. And second, even if it did, this is the sort of issue where a cheerful and robust civil disobedience becomes absolutely necessary.

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding” (6.2)

What does this actually say? It says that the supreme law of the land is: 1. The Constitution itself; 2. Any laws of the United States that are made “in pursuance thereof”; 3. All treaties made under the authority of the United States. That’s it. The Constitution, constitutional laws, and treaties.

A reasonable estimate is that a goodly three quarters of the regulations you live under, mon frere, were not made “in pursuance thereof.” This is because, instead of living under the rule of law, as these folks want to pretend on your behalf, you are actually living under a farrago of shambolic and illegal petty despotisms. Other than that, everything’s okay.

Hey, did you hear that the EPA wants hotels everywhere to start measuring how long you are standing there in the shower? Hey, did you hear that the EPA wants to regulate how much smoke comes off the barbeque in your backyard?

And did you anticipate that the day would come when the Federal government was going to mandate that free access to anal intercourse was essential to human flourishing, and that it would be a hate crime to say in public that it wasn’t? And did you ever anticipate that when that particular judicial clown car arrived, and all the legal reasons tumbled out, that hordes of Christians would exhort you to try to look more solemn?

Wouldn’t want to be a bad testimony.

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Scott
Scott
6 years ago

Here is how Oklahoma is attempting to solve the problem:

Drew
Drew
6 years ago

Doug,

I appreciate that you publicly denounce anal intercourse because so many evangelical leaders either ignore it or seem to think “anything goes in the context of marriage between man and wife.” I know you’re talking about gay mirage, but still, the implication resonates with me. Would you agree that it’s wrong for male/female marriage?

James Stockdale
6 years ago

Drew, Pastor Wilson commented some on that in his series of articles including this one.

http://dougwilson.wpengine.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/some-preliminary-thoughts-on-qreal-marriageq.html

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 years ago

I am struggling with Pastor Wilson’s reply to the first objection. I think he is saying that the most sinful marriage is still a marriage in Biblical terms, while a gay marriage is flat out impossible. Viewed religiously as opposed to secularly, I agree with the second part of the statement. But I can’t see that all other marriages are Biblical, no matter how inferior or sinful. I understand that, for most fundamentalist Christians, marriage is viewed as a lifelong covenant which may be ended only by unrepentant adulterous behavior on the part of one of the spouses. The scriptures… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
6 years ago

Jill, the point isn’t that those other marriages are biblical, it’s that they are marriages. They involve vows of union between a man and a woman. That’s a marriage, no matter how good or bad. Something can be real, and not follow biblical standards, but then other things simply aren’t the things they’re trying to be at all.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
6 years ago

” When two straight people get married, we don’t immediately assume that the entire relationship is about non-stop fervid sex.”

But we do assume that sex is involved. That it might not be in a small minority, doesn’t make that a wrong assumption, and doesn’t invalidate treating the relationship as one generally involving sex.

Matt
Matt
6 years ago

This actually wasn’t bad until you went off into right wing la-la land at the end. “All the laws are unconstitutional! Despots, despots all of them!” The actual dispute between the Alabama SC and federal court should just be taken to the next higher court. Until that is decided it is appropriate to suspend any contested orders given. I don’t think the Baker precedent argument holds up. A precedent applies only to cases argued on the same basis, not every future case that pertains to a given subject. It’s not as if all of these courts have been ignoring the… Read more »

Moor
Moor
6 years ago

Sincere question:

For those who hold that anal sex between consenting Christian husbands and wives is sinful, do you hold that oral sex in that situation is similarly sinful? Or other forms of sex-play that don’t involve even the possibility of procreation? (I don’t have infertile couples in mind here, but situations where no matter what, the possibility of fertilization/conception is precluded by the chosen activity).

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

There is an important distinction to be made between marriages made in a sinful world, which shouldn’t have happened, but they still did, and four-sided triangles, which cannot be found anywhere There seems to be some confusion here about how language works, specifically a failure to distinguish between a word and what the word signifies. Of course there can be no “four-sided triangles” as long as having only three sides is part of the definition of “triangle”. But if the meaning of “triangle” changed over time, and there is no reason it could not, it is entirely possible that it… Read more »

Mark Hanson
Mark Hanson
6 years ago

Matt R,

I think the distinciton to make about something like marriage is that, since it was ordained by God, marriage is what God says it is. We can try to change the definition of the word, but if reality is based in God, marriage under any changed definition will not partake in the same reality as God’s marriage. It will not bring the benefits (even the common grace ones) that God designed into the original.

It may take some time for this to become clear, but we are already seeing the results in the children of homosexual relationships.

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

Mark Hanson, I granted that there may be valid reasons to oppose gay marriage. That it is contrary to the reality God ordained or harms children may be a couple of them. I just wanted to point out that it makes no sense to oppose it based on the meaning of the word, as if there was some sort of contradiction inherent in putting the sounds together. “Marriage is what God says it is” is ambiguous. If you are referring to the reality denoted by the word, and you mean something like “one man and one woman is the reality… Read more »

RFB
RFB
6 years ago

Matt R,

“Thus if someone defines marriage as “a loving relationship between two consenting adults” or something like that, they cannot be wrong.”

can two play here?

“Thus if Someone defines unrighteousness as “men committing shameless acts with men” or something like that, they cannot be wrong.

Matt, you use the word “wrong” as if it has some objective meaning. How quaint.

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Matt R, I have two problems with your narrow point. (1) Your comments seem to miss that Doug is not making a connection between the word and its enunciation (i.e. “putting the sounds together”), but is arguing that it is logically impossible to call these same-sex relationships marriage, because it is not marriage by definition. A triangle cannot be a square and a bachelor cannot be married. These are logical arguments not linguistic. Now, I am fully aware that propositional logic must use language, but to deny his point based on the “Any symbol can mean anything” line of thinking… Read more »

RFB
RFB
6 years ago

Jill Smith, “I wish that every discussion of the wrongness of gay marriage didn’t immediately bring up anal sex as if the desire for that activity is the only thing that homosexuals care about.” Well, first of all, if perverted desire was not self-emblematic of their identity, how would you know them? It kind of like the joke about fighter pilots. “How do you know the guy at the party who is the fighter pilot? Easy; he will tell you.” God created man as a sexual being “Male and Female He created them…But did He not make them one, Having… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

RFB, Anyone can define any symbol however they want. A definition cannot be wrong. A definition is simply an explanation of what someone means by a word. Of course, someone may be mistaken about what someone else means by a word and thus misinterpretation is possible. But if a group of people all agree to use a word to denote something, then that it what it means and it would be meaningless to say they were wrong. (Again, unless they are reading their meaning into a context where the word means something else.) Whether it is kids playing a game… Read more »

RFB
RFB
6 years ago

“A definition cannot be wrong.”

According to what immutable standard that serves to define the word “wrong“, that is authoritative over all humans?

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

On the question of defining marriage, I think everyone can agree that Christians define marriage as being between a man and a woman, just as Muslims define Islam as the religion of peace. The real problem is when Christians talk and act as if everyone else defines words the same way they do. If a tenet of Christian doctrine is that marriage must be defined as being between a man and a woman, fine, but that’s really no different than saying that Catholics have a certain definition for bishop that Protestants don’t share. And many words have multiple meanings in… Read more »

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Matt R, “A definition cannot be wrong” is unadulterated postmodern, pseudo intellectual nonsense that is not taken seriously by professionals in the field. Doug’s illustration of a four sided triangle is a logical argument not a linguistic one. Of course people can twist the definition of a word to suit their whims, but they cannot defy the laws of logic and be considered correct. When Doug says that their use of the word marriage is wrong he is not making a moral claim he is making a logical claim. He has made it abundantly clear that he believes homosexuality is… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

BJ, (1) If you define “marriage” as between one man and one woman, then yes, same-sex relationships are excluded by definition. My point is that anyone is free to define it differently. The same goes for “triangle” and “bachelor”. There is no such thing as the objective meaning of a word. Words, like any other symbols, “mean” whatever the people using them mean. Otherwise, the meaning of words could never change, as they obviously do. (See Studies in Words by C.S. Lewis, who was certainly no postmodern.) (2) “When people talk, they have intended meanings.” Absolutely. And it is important… Read more »

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Eric the Red, When you say that every different group can have their own definition of a thing you deny the reality that such a thing exists, or you are assuming that it’s some type of a social construct that can change based on societys or groups. You would never say that Muslims and Christians or different groups can have two different definitions of a mathematical concept like what the number 2 is or a scientific concept like what water is. they can be accurate or inaccurate but there is a reality to which their language must conform. The argument… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

BJ,

Doug’s argument is “logical” in the sense that the conclusions follow logically from the premises given his definition of “marriage”. Otherwise, his argument has no force.

I could just as “logically” define “marriage” as the union of two people of the same sex and then argue that heterosexual “marriage” is a contradiction.

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Matt R, I completely get your point that games can be played with words and different groups can have different understandings of certain words. Completely agree but that’s not Doug’s argument. His argument is that by linguistically changing the definition of a word you cannot change the reality of its referent behind it. The LGBT community is not trying to switch monkey and banana for funsies or 3 &g to sound cute they’re trying to argue that marriage is not objectively what marriage is but rather than its a social construct which it is factually not. I can’t possibly see… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

BJ, Your reference to the “definition of a thing” in your response to Eric the Red reveals some confusion about how language works. “Things” are not defined. Words are. Perhaps this distinction will help clarify the issue. There is such a thing as a commitment entered into by two people of the same sex. Some people define the word “marriage” in such a way as to include this commitment, such as “a union of two consenting adults” or something like that. My point is that, whatever we believe about divinely ordained reality, there is no contradiction involved in using language… Read more »

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

BJ, triangles, and marriage, are not the same. Triangles would exist (at least in theory) even if there were no humans to notice them because they are an objective mathematical reality. Marriage, on the other hand, is a social construct. In point of fact, marriage has been defined differently at different times and places. The fact that you’re not allowed to sell your daughter for two cows and five goats, even though at one time you could have, is proof that our concept of marriage has already changed. So is the fact that at one time polygamous marriages were considered… Read more »

John Callaghan
John Callaghan
6 years ago

`I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘ `But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected. `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.’ Alice… Read more »

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

John, I disagree with Matt R. I think words do have objective meaning, at least at any given time and place (meanings of words do tend to shift over time). But that is a separate question from whether this particular word is limitd to the definition Doug’s trying to give it. For reasons I’ve already given to BJ, I think the answer to that question is no.

Moor
Moor
6 years ago

The great liars and deceivers of the world would be very much at home in Matt Rs linguistic system…well, and also my 4 year old son, who somehow intuitively knows how to bend and twist the definition of words to fit his rebellious behavior into some semblance of what he’s been told to do.

Lewis Carroll…brilliantly exposing the faulty logic and petty inconsistencies of the 4 year old and postmodern mind since 1865.

Moor
Moor
6 years ago

All words have objective meaning until they mean something other than what I need them to mean in order to make my point or support my perspective. Then they mean something else. Of course, even though I’ve introduced a new meaning for a particular word into my argumentation, you must steadfastly agree to read every other word I use in exactly the way I need you to read them so that my new definition doesn’t devolve into meaninglessness.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask. Oh, and also, you’re a __________phobe.

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

Who or what determines the objective meanings of words? Or are they just there?

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

….county clerks have to serve everyone. No they don’t and they won’t. Of course, you will fulminate and argue that they cannot be county clerks if they do not, but, as God is making clear, it is His way or not and We the People will choose Him. That’s bad news for two dudes who think they can be married, bad news for perverts who see child-sex on the near horizon and really bad news for the moral deviants who have rejected Him. Now, whether or not we will continue as the United States of America as Christians leave your… Read more »

Pat
Pat
6 years ago

So, Matt R, what’s the answer? I agree with Mr. Wilson’s reasoning for using the word ‘mirage’ and am going to follow his example. But I think what you’re saying is that it is a weak argument to stress the ‘traditional’ meaning of a word since word meanings do evolve over time. We all know (if we read the Bible and are willing to submit to it) what God intends marriage to be and how He feels about homosexuality. Are you simply pointing out that there’s a better, more solid and easy-to-understand way to make the point? What is it?… Read more »

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Okay so I leave work and come back and the thread has apparently been bombed with a postmodern ballistic missile. Matt R, First, I apologize for crossing up posts. I think we are still on track, though. Okay, so I am not sure if you are intentionally trying to be all cool, hip postmodern, it-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is- is, when you say things like, “Things are not defined. Words are” or if there is genuine confusion. Whatever the case may be, you have it so twisted up I am not sure where to begin. Things are in fact defined, things are defined by… Read more »

Melody
Melody
6 years ago

Eric the Red says, “Nobody is seriously suggesting that Christ Church has to recognize civil gay marriages as marriages,…” – Give it about 10 minutes and the same judge who says you must and will bake cakes for homosexual weedings will also declare that Christ Church must perform homosexual mirages. I remember when the homosexuals pouted and dropped a tear as they said, “all we want is civil unions so that we can visit our loved one in the hospital…”. That was 10 minutes ago.

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

Matt R, the purpose of words is to be able to communicate. We don’t name things just because it’s our hobby; we do so in order to be able to make conversation in which everyone understands everyone else. That way, when I say “rose”, everyone understands that I mean those red flowers growing on bushes along the side of my house that I tend and care for, and not the yellow flowers growing in my lawn that I cuss at and douse with weed killer. Now, there’s nothing magical about the word “rose” being applied to that flower; it had… Read more »

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

Timothy, nice chatting with you again. I know from previous conversations that you think that Christians own America and the rest of us are here at your suffrance, and, well, that’s just nonsense. And I suspect that what you really find most irritating is that more and more people are recognizing it as nonsense and simply ignoring it. Not putting Christians in jail, not torching churches, not doing anything that could even remotely be fairly called persecution of Christians; just simply ignoring your claims to hegemony. Go ahead; pretend that I’m just a trespasser on your earth if it makes… Read more »

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

BJ, thank you for your kind words. I hope that you and your family are well too. I think there is objectivity to the concept of people pairing off; so far as I can tell, people have been doing that pretty much at all times and places throughout history. And so if you want to say that the concept of people pairing off is part of human nature and is therefore an objective behavior, I would probably agree with you, and “marriage” is the name that has been given to that behavior. The question then is whether there is any… Read more »

John Rabe
John Rabe
6 years ago

For my many postmodern friends playing word games from “Theough the Looking Glass” here, if “marriage” really can mean anything you want (or nothing at all), then why are homosexuals so hell-bent (literally) on everyone granting them that particular term, and attempting to use the courts to force compliance from the rest of us self-definers? If it means whatever they want, why not simply declare their own “marriages” rather than go through all the rigmarole of having others acede to their definition–which turns out is what all this is entirely about?

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
6 years ago

Melody, I found the tone of what you said a little bit chilling. It is a fact that, not too long ago, homosexuals could be banned from the deathbeds of their partners if the patient’s family refused to give consent. (I am speaking here of people of legal age, where it is not a case of parents refusing to give a homosexual access to a minor.) With the AIDS epidemic, there were hundreds of instances where the person who had loved and cared for the patient was denied access once hospitalization became necessary. The frequency of this problem and the… Read more »

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago

Jill Smith, I partly agree with the point you make in your last paragraph – the emotional pain is real enough, and painful to behold – I’ve seen it. Yet also consider this: With the aids epidemic, in those hundreds of instances you mentioned doubtless not a few of the grieving partners were the very source of the dying patients infection. One wonders in how many instances this happened even after it was well understood particular activities were a major mode of infection, and then one wonders why we’re still talking about love in these cases.

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

JohnM, I candidly don’t have a lot of patience with people who practice unprotected sex. Getting AIDS from unprotected sex is probably not the different philosophically than an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy from unprotected sex. In both cases, people’s lives have been turned upside down because they couldn’t be responsible enough to protect themselves. That said, human nature is weak and frail, and most people do more than their share of stupid things. So I can be compassionate toward the chain smoker who is dying of lung cancer, and the obese person who is dying of heart disease, and the… Read more »

Christopher
Christopher
6 years ago

“Once they start pointing out that they are doing something fundamentally different than what the majority of the world means by marriage I will concede their point.” From wikipedia Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws. Most dictionarys add between a man and a woman to this then add gay ‘mirage’ as an afterthought. I’m not sure homosexuals have something fundememtaly diffrent than this in mind when they talk about getting… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

BJ, You say, Things are defined by words. Not according to the normal meaning of “definition“. A quick google search is sufficient to confirm that it is words (or other symbols) that are normally defined by words. Words are in fact symbols of an existing reality. Right. And what they are symbols of is determined by their definition. It starts with a thing (read: objective reality) and humans use symbols (read: words and language) to represent (read: define) that thing. “Define” means “represent”? Now this is an idiosyncrasy worthy of Humpty Dumpty. Seriously though, this is simply not what the… Read more »

Matt R
Matt R
6 years ago

Eric the Red, I’m not sure what you think “my theory” is, but I think I agree with everything you say in your post directed to me. In fact, your last sentence sums up my position nicely. But at any given time and place, a word means what people have come to understand that it means. It just seems odd to me to call such a meaning “objective”, since it depends entirely on what the people using the word think it means. (If that is not subjective, I don’t know what is.) I only meant to deny that meaning is… Read more »

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

Sorry if I come across as uncivil. I’ll lower the volume if you will. There is not need to be civil; we are enemies. The volume will go up. The stakes will become higher, the divide wider, the differences clearer and the Truth evident. It is the pattern of our Lord throughout history. You are living it and are a minor character in a very old play; it does not end well for you. Granting the stupidity of younger voters in tolerating your evil, but notice that in Florida it was a judge, not the people, who imposed your debauchery… Read more »

Eric the Red
Eric the Red
6 years ago

Timothy, you may have chosen to be my enemy, but I have not chosen to be yours. Nobody is instructing you to turn from God; you are simply being told that you can’t use the state to make the rest of us live like Christians. It speaks volumes that you view not getting privileged treatment as a violation of your rights. So perhaps you’re right. Maybe you don’t have a persecution complex so much as an entitlement complex. Neither becomes you.

BJ
BJ
6 years ago

Matt R, Thanks for the engagement on this. I really do appreciate it, but it seems clear at this point that there is no confusion on your part. It seems clear that you are deliberately taking a postmodern definition in your defense of what seems utterly silly to me. Triangles do not have four sides. And bachelors are not married. It is logically impossible, by definition. It does not matter which language is used or whether the specific word used drifts in meaning and another replaces it. (Maiden might be a good example of this, today). The truth behind them… Read more »

Drew
Drew
6 years ago

Doug,

George Washington wouldn’t take communion, John Adams became a Unitarian, and Thomas Jefferson was a full blown secular deist – those were our first 3 presidents…so that says something about the state of Christianity during America’s early years. Just sayin’.

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago

Eric the Red – To begin with, we’re not talking about unprotected sex, we’re talking about unprotected sodomy, which probably magnifies the odds. The question is not how we should think about the dying person, but how we should think about the person who put them in that condition. What we should think is not that they were stupid but they were utterly selfish, and if they knew or suspected their own condition, reckless bordering on homicidal, and lying hypocrites to claim satiation of their desire was motivated by love. In those instances I would have scant regard for any… Read more »

timothy
timothy
6 years ago

It speaks volumes that you view not getting privileged treatment as a violation of your rights.

Take your Zinn and shove it; it holds no power over me. I do not engage my enemy on his terms using his language and his reasoning.