How the Marble Always Rolls

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Years ago, when I was in college, the prof in some class or other had us watch a documentary film recording somebody’s suicide. They didn’t show that part on camera, but the whole thing was a “situation ethics” kind of thing, where the person had been diagnosed with a terminal (and painful) disease that he didn’t want to endure, and so he decided to check out. The film included the farewell party, bunch of friends over, that sort of thing. The premise of everything was “avoidance of pain,” with justification of the suicide built on that assumption.

In the class discussion afterward, I raised the question of presuppositions — not only was pain avoidance considered the highest good in this situation, but entirely unspoken was the invisible assumption that this strategy would, in fact, be effective. In other words, everybody serenely assumed that this approach would in fact be effective in avoiding future pain. But this is only true if the Christian faith is false. Hell is painful, and so why should we discount the possibility that this suicide was the beginning of endless pain — instead of a mere avoidance of temporal pain? Not only was this possibility discounted, but it was discounted with absolutely no discussion or debate.

In other words, why should Christians enter into ethical debates when one of the underlying assumptions of the whole debate is that their worldview is false or of no account? When the floor is slanted, the marble will always roll into the same corner.

The same thing is happening whenever the “hurt” card is played. When someone — the Chick-fil-A guy, or Kirk Cameron — says something judicious and wise, but which registers any level of opposition to homo-marriage, all manner of hurt, outrage, devastation will be noted for the record. “You are being hurtful” is thought to address everything about it. Simply because of your faithfulness to the standards taught in the Word of God, you have driven a knife into their heart. But Hell hurts too. If hurt avoidance is the driving criterion, shouldn’t we be talking about Hell more?


But just try that, and you will find that the possibility of “hurt” is not really the standard. “Hurt by the standards of God’s law” is the new standard. But that can only be the new standard if we assume that the Christian faith is false, or non-authoritative, or pomo-relativized, and there the marble is, by the china hutch again.

This can be seen in another way — all kinds of abuse can be thrown at folks who don’t fit into the new designated victim groups, and it doesn’t matter how much that abuse might hurt. So “hurting” is not the standard. “Thou shalt not hurt” is not the law. “Thou shalt not hurt the disobedient” is the new law.

Those Christians who have gotten the treatment need to make sure they never complain about the double standard — that just gives the bad guys opportunity to take the double standard and double down on it, which they love to do. Being hurt by what they are doing, and showing it, is a bad move. Jesus said to rejoice and be exceeding glad, so you shouldn’t be hurt on that score, and the devil wants you to be hurt, which is why he is doing all this in the first place. That is what he is trying to do. So here is a simple statement of our duty in this regard — make Jesus happy and make the devil sad.

But this is not to say that the double standard cannot be useful to us. Laughing at it is another thing entirely. Suppose for minute that the mayor of Bison Breath, WY declared that he was going to use zoning laws to keep out Starbucks and their insidious gay-friendly drinks. You see, in Bison Breath the way they make coffee is by putting a horseshoe on the bottom of a tin can, covering it with coffee beans that were soaked in creosote, and boiling it over a campfire. When the horseshoe floats, it’s ready. “I mean, pink frappes? Here? Really?” McCarthyism! Idiot McCarthyism! But mayors in . . . oh, never mind. We should have trouble in even describing the whole scenario because of all the wheezing.

Special note to the ideologically blinkered: I am not in favor of outlawing pink frappes. And they don’t really soak the beans in creosote.

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