That Second Paragraph

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Time once again to talk about that zesty tang in my writing. It is not that I have failed to address this before, but rather that the climate of our times is such that repetition is always in order. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” (Phil. 3:1).

Now when I say “zesty tang,” I do know that the modest flare I seek to put into my prose is not to everyone’s palate. For some, they appreciate how I hand them a cup of punch, having done to it everything Martha Stewart could think of, down to little orange-peel-piglet-tails floating in there with the crushed cinnamon ice. But for others, their experience is more like what would happen if I sprayed the tray of crackers with Lemon Pledge. So this reality is granted from the outset.

The key is to evaluate your prose according to the measure of the sanctuary. And a good deal of that has to do with what purpose your qualifications serve. When you qualify what you are about to say, when you engage in a little self-deprecation, what is the purpose? Why qualify anything? There are two basic routes to go, and one of them is disastrous. If you qualify what you are saying because of timidity, if you are offering it up as a little tentative gesture that indicates your willingness to surrender your post, then it is terrible. But if you qualify yourself as a preparation for your counter-punch, then you fighting the way you ought to be fighting.

Say you are going to say something that is potentially a real stinker, as I am going to do in my last paragraph below, then you want to put something in the second paragraph that will enable you come back when the anticipated howls erupt. Now some might think that I am giving away trade secrets here, but given the nature of our societal conflicts, that really doesn’t matter. Jesus told parables that were simultaneously transparent and opaque, depending on the listener. We are living in similar times, and audiences divide in similar ways.

If you want to fight like a Narnian, there are two things you must remember. Tirian laid down the first principle:

“And peace, Eustace. Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl. No warrior scolds. Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language” (The Last Battle, p. 121).

The second principle is that of not caring what others may say about it, not caring even a little bit.

“And instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t. Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life” (The Horse and His Boy, p. 55).

That kind of thing really is profoundly attractive.

This will require some follow-up, but Christians today are crippled in our culture wars because they are guilt-ridden. They are guilt-ridden because they have all the weight of their own “traditional values,” and none of the exhilaration that comes from a real understanding of free grace. Their own lifestyle opinions run free, and the gospel is in shackles. Because mankind cannot live without some form of atonement, so it is they are careful to appease our secular adversaries because appeasement is our form of atonement lite. Whatever the secularists command us to “care about,” we fall all over ourselves to care about. It might be fair trade coffee, or racial reconciliation, or bullying in schools, or #MeToo, or environmentalism, or younameitism. Any refusal to appease these gods is seen as a failure to bow down when you hear the sound of the sackbut, and so the uncooperative Christian is seen by other Christians as the troubler of Israel.