My MA thesis was on free will and determinism — and when I wrote it, I was an evangelical Arminian. But I lived in the world of those arguments for a time as one convinced of . . . well, I am not sure now what it was that I was convinced of, but whatever it was, it was nailed down on all four corners by my plastic hammer.
But after the nails came loose, I became a Calvinist, not that I had any choice about it, and I noticed something odd. I noticed Arminians demanding that Calvinists solve the problem of evil, but where I had just come from, the non-Christians were demanding that all Christians solve the problem of evil. And the two sets of demands worked along largely the same lines. Huh, goes I.
I see something similar happening with those Christians who have struggled with my use of tartness in polemical situations from time to time. Now I grant the use of tartness has been there, but no more than is seemly. Ah, but not everyone agrees. “People will dismiss you as mean-spirited, and as a bully, and as a provocateur, and all that. And you seem to delight in the work of drawing them into their reactions . . .” This has been going on for some time, and so I have gotten used to it. I’ll mention what I think has actually been going on in a minute, but something else comes first.
Now many of these Christians who have been concerned about this approach of mine have diligently sought to model for me what I ought to have been doing all this time. No need for the horse laugh, or the gut chuckle, or the ribald riff, or hunting for words that rhyme with -oofter.
So they labor manfully over the press release that their organization is putting out, an organization devoted to a defense of traditional marriage. It is a white bread press release. The language went through five committees, and three rewrites. All inflammatory inuendo was given a wide berth, and there are no triggers of any kind. They hold their news conference.
And the crowd roars, all together and on cue, “HATERS!!!”
I feel like the bad kid in high school who got sent off to detention, and I was sitting in there remonstrating with my better half for about ten minutes, when who should join me in that dreary place but the class president, the class treasurer, the homecoming queen, three kids from my church youth group, and the star quarterback of the football team. It turns out that I was not sent to detention for smarting off to the study hall monitor after all. The study hall monitor had actually gone around three bends by this point, and was now pacing up and down the hallway trying to brush little tiny geckos out of his hair. It kind of gives you a different perspective on things. So I was not sent off to detention for any true disrespect! All I had said was “if that’s a gecko, I’m a Hottentot.” The others had tried way harder than I to be diplomatic about it, but they turned out (by the end of the period) to be every bit as HATEFUL, as measured by the teacher out in the hallway.
But why should this kind of thing be measured by the guy in the hallway? He’s the one who thinks he is covered with geckos.
Marriage is not two chicks, sorry. Neither is it two dudes, sorry. Circles don’t have corners, sorry. As Swift would have it, sunbeams cannot be extracted from cucumbers, sorry. And when I say sorry, this is an expression, a figure of speech, indicating I am not really sorry at all.
Orwell once said something important, and it is close to what I am driving at. “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” I would want to modify this slightly. “In a time of universal self-deceit — telling the truth is an act of love.”
Refusal to tell that truth — unvarnished, ungarbled, unfettered, unashamed — is either malice or cowardice. If you know a man to be utterly deceived, and in a way that is lethal to his soul, and you choose to say nothing because he will react violently to it, you either despise him, or you love your own peace and safety more than you love him. You are one of the three remaining students in the classroom who got to remain there doing your precious homework by flattering his beautiful blue geckos.
I have said before that I feel like we are living in a particularly weird chapter of a Walker Percy novel, and that somebody screwed the lid on. I have seen the absurdities coming for years now, long before we arrived here in Absurditown — the absurdities jutted up over the plain like the skyscrapers of Dallas ten miles out. I knew that was where we were headed . . . the road went straight at it. And I knew that when we got there, it would be harder, not easier, to tell anybody what was going on. But how could it be harder? You can just walk up to the skyscraper, and slap its granite side. That’s why — too big to fail.
Say that Cassandra predicted that her band of companions would all wind up lost in the densest fog that ever happened. But when it happens, the one thing she cannot say is “See?”
So this has been a regimen; it has been training. It has been preparation; it has been practice . . . in love. To everything there is a season (Eccl. 3:1-8). The chaos is upon us — what does love look like now?