On Being a Responsible Bad Boy

I offer this in the spirit of dispassionate analysis, and not with any sense of complaint. One of the things that conservatives have to quit doing is whining about how the foul deeds perpetrated upon our persons are never publicly identified for what they are. The most recent example was the union thuggery in Lansing over the last few days, and the delicate and mincing way the White House adroitly avoided condemning anybody for it. There is no sense in moping over this, and here is why.

As all faithful Protestants know, justification is a legal and forensic term. But this means, if we follow it out, that it is also a political term. We can learn a great deal about how justification works by watching our political controversies more closely than we do. For every political faction, there is a group for whom there is “no condemnation.” This group has all the righteousness of the cause imputed to it, and so while misdeeds might be technically acknowledged, it doesn’t really matter. The forensic status of the activist is assured.  

This is how it has come about that conservatives are identified as racists, haters, and bomb-throwers by definition, and why people who are driven by actual racial animosity, full of actual hate, and who throw actual bombs, are hailed as the bringers of a youthful and inspiring energy to the political process.

No sense complaining about it — condemnation and justification are basic political tools. The problem with the Left is not that they use them (all social groups necessarily use them), but rather that they have rebelled against God’s standards for using them (Is. 5:20). The problem with conservatives is that they have not yet fully reconciled to the fact that these courts of public opinion are corrupt and utterly rigged. Conservatives still believe (for some reason) that our society is unified, and that we are all still using the same weights and measures.

We recognize some of the problem in phrases like “media bias,” but we somehow keep expecting that they will — some day — start obeying the rules they supposedly agreed to. But the reason we are in conflict with them is that they do not recognize any standard of right other than what they want. And if you get in the way of what they want, good luck to you.

So what do I mean by using the term “bad boy?” A bad boy is someone who laughs at their judgments. When they bring their huffy condemnations — which unsettle those conservatives who do not yet realize how lopsided the whole thing is — the thing to do is laugh at them. I do not mean the laugh of one who sits in the seat of mockers, but rather the laugh of the forgiven — the laugh of one already justified.

When you laugh at them, you let their spurious condemnation whistle right past your head. You have already heard the verdict that there is no condemnation from a much higher court, one that cannot ever be swayed by any of the piffle the talking heads on CNN are saying.

When the great Scottish theologian Samuel Rutherford was summoned to appear before the Council on a charge of treason, he was already on his deathbed. In response to their summons, he said, “Tell them I have got a summons already before a superior judge and judicatory, and I behoove to answer my first summons; and ere your day arrive, I will be where few kings and great folks come.”

Many Christians, bless their tender hearts, still believe that these terms of justification and condemnation are being apportioned out there in the public square with some semblance of order and justice. This is why moderate Christians step in to caution us on any language that might appear to our keepers to be homophobic, racist, misogynistic, jingoistic, and so on. “We must be responsible.” Of course, with each of these things, there is a corresponding sin as God defines it — this is the only reality that makes their counterfeits work. So of course, it is true we must be responsible — but not as the irresponsible define it.

So our goal here needs to be two-fold. We must avoid the sin of detesting homosexuals, as God defines it, as though that were the unforgiveable sin, but we must learn how to do this in a way that incurs the charge of homophobia from them. The same with racism, misogyny, and so on down the line. We must incur those charges so that we will have an opportunity to laugh at them. The devil accuses the brethren day and night, remember, and if you are never accused of anything, then perhaps it is time for a little spiritual inventory. And if you inquire into the reasons why the devil never shoots at you, you might come up with the reasonable answer that you never shoot at him.

And when you learn how to do this, you will be a bad boy . . . but a responsible bad boy. Of course. Very responsible.

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