Sometime last week, Kevin DeYoung outraged the already outraged by suggesting that it is time for faithful believers to think about a new culture wars strategy. Given that he upset all the right people, I thought that it might be helpful if I set down a few additional responses to his suggestion here. To cut straight to the chase, I thought he was being pastorally wise, tactically sound, and strategically a mess. He is clearly one of the good guys. He understands the antipathy that the secularists have for our values and our way of life. He understands that there can be no compromise when it comes to the antithesis. What he doesn’t appear to understand is how all the different chess pieces on the board are all part of the same game. And so this means, strategically, that his suggestion to have a lot of babies and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is highly laudable and, by itself, entirely inadequate. And here is why.
More Than Bits and Pieces
Because we are talking about the culture wars, and the response of believers to those culture wars, I am going to lump all of our current hot issues together. For the next little bit, we are therefore going to be talking about Black Lives Matter, the commie-inspired frenzy of statue toppling, the atrocious tranny-decision from the Supreme Court, the DACA decision from that same august body, face masks as our new servility badges, the apparently senseless rioting in the streets, and so on. I am throwing them all together into the same hot dish, so that we may all together cook up our toxic farrago of nonsense before we finally, Lord willing, refuse to eat it. Maybe if we combine all those smells together in one kitchen, we will finally refuse to eat any of it.
What Religious Liberty Is
The choice before us is not whether we shall engage in the public square, on the one hand, or go home and bring up our children in the Lord on the other. The conflict in the public square today is over whether or not there is such a thing as “our children.” If the conflict in the public square goes the wrong way, as it looks like it wants to, and the way it is threatening to go, there will be no space remaining for DeYoung’s strategy, or Dreher’s Benedict option. One of the principles of war is pursuit, and you can be assured that our enemies will not neglect that principle. Do you honestly think these people are going to let us quietly withdraw and regroup so that we will be able to breed in the backwoods and bring up more “haters?”
This is related to the next point. I have written on this many times before, and I will keep on doing so until somebody important pays attention.
Religious liberty is not a secular value. Religious liberty is a Christian value, and you cannot, as C.S. Lewis so wisely observed more than half a century ago, remove the organ and continue to demand the function. You cannot chainsaw the orchard and continue to harvest the apples.
What we are seeing is the end result of a sixty-year experiment in strict secularism. When you insist on keeping the public square naked, this is what eventually fills it up. Rioters. How do you like it so far?
Imagine that we are all standing around in an American boulevard that is the equivalent of Richmond’s Monument Avenue. Those Christians who think they might have a stable refuge in their sound arguments for religious liberty are watching statue after statue toppled by angry mobs. Over on the other side of the street are cops and various other SWAT teams, who are watching the spectacle also. These were the same cops who were required by their bosses to shut down churches and barbershops during the COVID lock downs, but who are required to not intervene when an unruly mob pulls over a statue of George Washington. Visit Mount Rushmore, everybody, while you still can.
Thinking that a religious liberty argument will carve out space for us is like thinking you can beat a safe retreat down to the other end of the boulevard, where the statues of William Penn and Roger Williams are, from which place you will be able to look at the dismay on the rioters’ faces. “Oh, no. We weren’t expecting them to take refuge here! Curses! These are the religious liberty statues, guys!”
Are you kidding? These totalitarian ignoramuses have to date toppled and/or defaced statues of George Washington, Cervantes, Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, Columbus, Francis Scott Key, St. Serra, not to mention a statue of Matthias Badwin, a lifelong abolitionist, and a memorial to black soldiers who fought for the Union. They want it all to burn, and if you don’t think that your precious religious liberty is flammable then you might have some surprises coming.
They don’t value what you value. They don’t care what you care about. They belong to another religion. They worship other gods. This makes a difference, as it turns out.
And this is why Kevin’s question is misplaced.
To marshal our energies as if political victories were more important than strengthening the family is a decidedly un-conservative position. I’m not calling for abandoning politics, but I am asking the question, “What does it profit a man if he gets textualists on the Supreme Court but loses his own children?”Kevin DeYoung
Here’s the problem. What if a man loses his children because of the shenanigans of so-called textualists? What if the people at CPS come and take your children away because it was credibly reported that you were instilling bigotry into them? What do you mean, bigotry? Why that notorious Bostock Bigotry of course. Were you or were you not teaching your children that sodomy is a very grievous sin?
At the same time, I applaud everything DeYoung says about the potency of having children, and bringing them up in the fear of God, and of the relative importance of faithfulness in the family over against “electing conservatives.” I agree with him on all that, and I applaud him for saying it. But — and you knew a but was coming — this is not a row of detached and distinct circles. We are living in a gigantic Venn diagram. These issues all overlap.
So the issue is not whether he is proposing a good thing. The issue is whether the good thing he is proposing is even going to be legal in five years. And if we have had trouble getting Christian parents to pull their kids from government schools when it was perfectly legal and safe to do so, but it would mean selling the lake cabin, how do you think we are going to do persuading them to do it when pulling your kids out of the government “hate-free schools” is a felony?
A Brief Theology of Rioting
We have to stop thinking of these people as misguided reformers. They are not reformers; they are revolutionaries. And what is the difference?
Here is the faith of the revolutionary, a faith which is actually a primal paganism. The pagan believes that order springs from chaos. Read the beginning of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and consider the implications of Darwin’s Origin. If there is no eternal Creator, then matter and energy are eternal. The order we see around us has to come up out of that chaos. And if the order around you is not to your liking, then the way out is to bulldoze all of it, and start over.
So what you are seeing in these riots is not simply blind rage. It is a faith commitment. Fire is their sacrament. They are serving their gods. And if those gods demand the blood of infants — as they most certainly do — then do you think an appeal to the tradition of religious liberty is going to even slow them down? Consider the image here, and reflect on it for more than just a moment.
The ultimate starting point for Christians is the fact that in the beginning God spoke, and it was. We are creatures, and we are creatures with defined limits and particular natures. God made some of us male, and some of us female, and He told all of us to stay put. After He created that world, we plunged it into sin through out disobedience, and so much of the world has gone wrong. We as believers are commissioned to put it right as the gospel works through society, the way yeast works through three measures of flour. Christians are therefore gradualists and reformers, and the pattern toward which we are working is revealed to us in Scripture. Revolutionaries are immediatists and revolutionaries, and the pattern toward which they are working comes out of their fevered imaginations.
A Changing of the Guard
So what the evangelical world actually needs is a changing of the guard. We need new leadership. We need to identify those men who have been warning the evangelical world for decades about what is coming down the pike, and who have now been proven right. The old guard has been fooling around with tepid half-measures, and a little respectable growling here and there, but they have not seen and identified the threat for what it was. They have not been willing to see the threat for what it was all along.
“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.”
Ezekiel 33:6–7 (KJV)
But there is a hitch. Jeremiah spent years warning the inhabitants of Jerusalem that Babylon was going to conquer them, and that this was going to happen because of their unfaithfulness to Jehovah. And so, of course, after his predictions all came true down to the last detail, there were some who wanted to argue that this had all happened because they hadn’t worshiped the Queen of Heaven enough (Jer. 44:18). All this devastation has happened to us because we were not unfaithful enough. There is a certain kind of evangelical thought-leader who, when twenty cities are burned down to embers, will say this all happened because the church was not “woke” soon enough.
As one Puritan once put it, these people sin until they are out of breath.
Can I get an amen on this? Haven’t I been trying to warn you? This is from four years ago:
But if our rule in these matters must be the logic of those demanding that any and all vestiges of the Confederacy come down, we will soon enough discover that this is a knife that can cut in all kinds of directions. In all of this, the issue is not so much what you do as why you are doing it. If you admit a false principle into the settlement of public disputes like this one — and I hate to be the one to bring you the sorrowful tidings — the false principle does not disappear when the dispute does. It remains there, propped up in the corner, cocked and loaded, waiting for the next dispute. And because of the times we live in, there will be a next dispute, probably in about three weeks.This Crimson Carnage
Back in 2005, I said this:
Those evils include abortion-on-demand, radical feminism, and rampant sodomy. In the pursuit of our constitutional rights, we have legally executed over forty million unborn children in this nation, and we are about to be oppressed with sodomite marriage. We have done this under the “protections” of the Constitution. When in our history did we take the wrong turn that allowed the Constitution to he abused in this grotesque fashion?Douglas Wilson. Black & Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America (Kindle Locations 93-95). Kindle Edition.
And I was saying something right along the same lines back in the previous millennium:
In the mid-seventies, American evangelicals began to wake up to the fact that our culture was beginning to tumble down around our ears. In 1973 the Supreme Court had ruled that it was unconstitutional for the various states to outlaw the dismemberment of the unborn. Men like Francis Schaeffer were used by God to rattle the pervasive evangelical complacency and to make us realize the ramifications of what was occurring — and what was coming. So a significant minority of the evangelical church began to mobilize and plunged into a cultural war for which we were woefully unprepared.Southern Slavery As It Was
And we remain woefully unprepared, right down to the present. And why? Because we still won’t take our stand on the Scriptures. Somebody might think we are mean.
Our evangelical leadership has been prissy and fastidious. The word is precious, I believe. And leadership of this sort would much rather appear on a platform with someone who helped burn down Minneapolis than to appear on a platform with George Washington, who was, you know, against that kind of thing.
Appeasement is one of the lousiest strategic moves in the world. As Churchill once put it, an appeaser is someone who throws others to the alligators, hoping to be the last one eaten. It seemed like just yesterday when they pitched John Broadus, slave owner, right out of the good guy club. So good luck explaining to everyone why George Washington, slave owner, gets to remain in their good guy club. Maybe they won’t try. Maybe they will just go along with it when the Washington Monument gets renamed the Pride Phallus. No sense tearing it down. These things can always be repurposed.
But no worries. God will raise up somebody. God will send us a leader who has a clue about the times we are in. But I can assure you that he won’t have the pedigree they want, he won’t have the manners they want, and he won’t have connections on the Big Eva conference circuit. On the up side, however, he will know what is going on.
“And it came to pass in process of time, that the children of Ammon made war against Israel. And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob: And they said unto Jephthah, Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon. And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?”
Judges 11:4-7 (KJV)
And a Word About My Sad Headline
That America really is gone now. But the God of history directs history as He wills, and we can always trust Him with our future. That America, as I have been calling it, was a pleasant place to grow up in, back in the fifties, and I do look back on it with affection. But that America was also a secularist con, and it was never actually sustainable .
At the same time, the kingdom of God is not gone now, and God always has a good purpose for shaking what can be shaken — so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Good things are coming, along with good times. But in order to get to that place, the revolutionaries are in dire need of a beat down, and the great confused middle is in need of a “come to Jesus” tent meeting. This includes the woke evangelicals, a bunch of whom need to get saved.