Learning the Tune

Mark Twain’s wife was a long-suffering woman, and one day she walked up to him and calmly repeated back to him every foul word she had ever heard him use, and he had probably used them all. When she was quite done, he looked at her and said, “My dear, you know the words, but you don’t know the tune.”

The problem that many conservative Christians have when it comes to dealing with public sins and outrages (like the current homo crusades) is that they do the same kind of thing. They know the words but they don’t know the tune. And so Christians generally either capitulate, and use the language that our secular masters assign for us to use (sexual orientation, gay, bi, diversity, and so on), or they retreat to the bunker mentality of frat boy insults. But the fact that some of the frat boy insults can be justified from Scripture does not mean that we know the tune.

In our culture wars, Christians too often carry on like the elder brother who refused to the come to the party when the prodigal son returned. We have divided the world with false antitheses — like gay and straight, for example. But the real antithesis is repentant and unrepentant, and our language and demeanor must reflect that. A repentant homosexual who is spending the rest of his life in prison because he had molested numerous children will be received into glory, and an unrepentant Christian culture warrior whose private grime-fantasies are all exclusively hetero will not be. Mark the antithesis well.

Shepherds and pastors must fight with wolves, not with mangled sheep. Are you a sinner? Are you a deep and grievous sinner? Then come to Christ . . . you qualify. So I don’t believe a Christian leader has any business pontificating about the homo pride parades unless he is the kind of man who has embraced homosexuals who are dear to him, agonized with them over their terrible mimetic conflicts, or visited them in prison. And when a pastor is leaving the jail where he has been visiting Christ, there is no inconsistency if the next moment he finds himself lambasting the homo-bishop and his boy toy twinkie, and doing so with a good will.

When you visit Christ in His afflictions, don’t hold back. And when you fight with the devil, don’t hold back. But don’t assail Christ in His afflictions like you were fighting with the devil. That won’t fly.

I have before made the distinction between apostles of the world and refugees from the world. The latter can be pretty raggety sometimes, and they frequently spout the jargon that they learned in their secularist catechism classes, taught to them by the apostles of the world. What else would they do? That doesn’t keep them from being refugees. And sometimes a leader among the secularist apostles is fighting with might and main against an internal attraction to Christ, one that no one else knows about. When Saul was converted, only Barnabas thought that was even a possibility. This simply means that is sometimes difficult to distinguish apostles and refugees. Nevertheless, the distinction is essential, and should be present in everything we do. Fight the apostles with a clean conscience, and accept the refugees with open arms.

A man should only be trusted with the word abomination (a fine scriptural word) if he has just as high a view of the potency of words like forgiveness and gospel. But I would also want to turn it around. Our pretty boy theologians should not be trusted with words like forgiveness and gospel unless they can use words like sodomite without blushing or apologizing.

So then, balance. And the balances we use must be those assigned to us in Scripture — all of Scripture. Can the goo-theologians find soaring passages in the Bible about inclusion and acceptance? Sure. Can our aspiring Tishbites find thundering denunciations of sin within the camp? Sure. So let’s do both. Make everybody mad.

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