With the Smell of Burnt Marshwiggle

A real reformer is not a member of a faction. Men have always tended to divide into opposing factions, whether it is Crips and Bloods or Guelphs and Ghibellines. But factional differences (while very real) don’t go down to the deep foundations. An ancient city is debating whether to defend the city with a powerful navy, or with an entrenched army. The conflict between the factions arguing for both options can be very real, but everyone’s goal is to defend the city.

But real reform is not that which argues left at the crossroads instead of right. Reform opposes the revolution, and the revolution is that “faction” (if we must call it that) that is in full-throated opposition to the way God made the world. In contrast to this, we must have our debates, our conflicts, and even our wars, over differences that rest on the back of enormous commonality. When the question before the house is whether to stop on this island and build our city, or proceed to the next one, or if we shall allow the prince over our territory to be a Lutheran, or if our legislature should be bicameral or not — you can imagine the conflict getting hot.

But the question before the house in our day is whether we are going to live in the world God created, or shall we do otherwise. A reformer takes the affirmative view, and the revolutionary insists that we must, we shall, do otherwise. This puts the whole conflict on an entirely different footing. Who shall, at the end of the day, ascend to the sides of the north?

Think for a moment what sorts of “reforms” the revolutionaries are instituting. They want women to be able to marry women, and men to marry men. They are seriously discussing the minting of a trillion dollar coin backed with the requisite amount of balloon juice. And whether they ever mint that particular coin or not, they are doing the same thing in principle now, to the tune of trillions of metric tons of balloon juice. The Federal Reserve is now being run by non-Euclidians who have been a little too free with the bourbon. They want our philosophers to spin a new world for us that will provide full scope for all of our horny little lusts. And sexbots. Don’t forget the sexbots. They will be squaring the circle next.

Back in the old days, when the conflict was between supporters of the king’s dim-witted oldest son and his charismatic younger son, the outcome really was up in the air. With the establishment on one side, and the lean, hungry ambitious young men on the other, we might have real trouble predicting which way it was going to go. But now . . .? The real reformer has a real advantage, but one which he rarely recognizes himself as having. Living in the world that actually exists is an enormous advantage. There are times when it almost seems to me like cheating or something. In the long run, we need not worry. In the long run, blind stupidity never works.

The revolutionary alternates between throwing rocks at the moon and barking at it.

The only thing the revolutionary can have going for him is momentary ascendancy, and the resultant peer pressure that might make an insecure reformer blush and shuffle his feet. Suppose in some dystopic future, they were to put you on the fifty-yard-line at half time in their Super Bowl, in order to ask you a few questions. If you get them right, you will receive 10 million dollars and a retirement villa in the Caribbean, but if you get them wrong, you will be flayed and crucified. What would your feelings be if the first question was “how many oranges do you get if you add two oranges to two other oranges?” Relief, right? But then, when you answer, “Four,” the crowd roars, “NO!” Now the sensation is consternation. Reformers in the past have been martyrs for even crazier reasons, but everything that is happening in such a scenario is a test of courage, and not an intellectual test. And a courageous man defending the way reality actually is may of course be killed — but he is still invincible.

This is why the battle over homosexual marriage is almost ideal for us. Or, rather, it is why it would be an ideal issue for reformers who have been blessed with some measure of courage. We don’t need much courage — just enough to see and say how ludicrous it all is. Just enough to summon up the nerve to fill the room with the smell of burnt marshwiggle.

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