Criticism or Corroboration?

Having once been a regular reader there, I was happy to find that Dr. Gene Edward Veith shared my recent piece on churches’ contempt for men over on his blog.

His last paragraph as he opened it up for discussion particularly caught my eye. The piece obviously attracted a fair amount of criticism, and Dr. Veith’s questions helpfully roll a number of the most common complaints into one place:

And might men deserve to be criticized in this age of absent fathers and callous husbands? After all, if women are initiating most of the divorces, why is that? Shouldn’t a man who is the spiritual head of his family, in whom by virtue of his vocation is hidden Christ in His relationship with the church, prevent that from happening?

But even so, does he still have a point?

Let’s take these questions one by one.

“Might men deserve to be criticized in this age of absent fathers and callous husbands?”

Are we in an age of callous husbands at all? Particularly in comparison to husbands in various cultures throughout recorded history (which, if we’re talking about “ages” is the only applicable standard)? I suspect the answer here is no, in which case men don’t deserve to be criticized for it. Accordingly, I will wait for someone to make a compelling case that contemporary American husbands are particularly callous before I consider adding to that criticism.

Absent fathers, of course, are a different issue; this very much is an age of absent fathers. But before we heap the blame for that on men, we do need to consider why they’re absent. If you look at single-mother households (and exclude widows) there are two main categories:  never married, and divorced/separated.  I can’t find the stats at the moment, but I believe it’s roughly a 50/50 split between these two groups.

Let’s start with fathers absent from a divorced/separated household.  Since a supermajority of divorces are a result of the the wife unilaterally throwing the father out of the house, it’s not as though he is typically choosing to leave.  The more common circumstance is that the father is being forced out by the mother using the power of the state.  Accordingly, it seems a stretch to say that men are broadly to blame for this half of fatherless households.

The other half of fatherless households fall into the “never married” category. Here there is certainly room for blame and criticism towards men. However, the question remains whether this blame should be disproportionate to the blame that is due to women for the same circumstances. At the most basic level, it takes two people to create this kind of situation–a man who sired a child without securing a way to stay in his/her life, and a woman who conceived a child without securing a father for him/her. Men are to blame, but they’re not especially to blame in comparison to women.  If churches are only holding men accountable for fornication, then they’re not doing their jobs properly, and it indeed reveals a problem of contempt for men.

But there are deeper levels as well. Are we to assume that every never married mother actually wants the father in the home? Again, given the divorce situation, that hardly seems like a foregone conclusion. Among the never married single mothers I’ve known (at least the ones for whom I actually know the answer to the question) all but one of them didn’t want the father around. And as for the exception, she only wanted one of the fathers around–the rest she didn’t want around. (And that wanted father was in the household, though he would not get married.)

There’s also the fact that the rampant growth of this category is a result of the sexual revolution, which is largely the fault of feminism.  That’s another odd movement to lay squarely at the feet of men.

So yes, obviously men who voluntarily abandon their children deserve criticism. However, that is not the primary reason we’re in an age of absent fathers. While such men certainly exist, statistics and experience suggest that paternal abandonment is not the norm for fatherless households. The fact that so many people try to present it as the norm actually underscores churches’ contempt for men rather than refuting it.

“After all, if women are initiating most of the divorces, why is that?”

In context with the previous line, the message I’m getting here is a contention that “women initiate most divorces because men are so callous and absent.” I’ll go ahead and answer Dr’ Veith’s question from an article he linked to in one of his earlier blog posts.

“The majority of divorces today occur in marriages not characterized by serious conflict. The most common reasons cited for divorce are problems that affect most marriages, such as ‘growing apart’ and ‘not being able to talk together.'”

This fact challenges the rhetorical question’s presumption in two ways.

First of all, it’s hard to say the man is typically at fault for “growing apart” when the wife is typically the one using the law to enforce a separation, nor for being “unable to talk together” when the wife is typically the one who requires that they speak through lawyers. (You can say that no one is wholly innocent in a divorce–which is accurate corum deo–but that is true of literally every victim of every sin.  Why is divorce the only sin where that fact excuses the perpetrator and dismisses the victim corum mundo in our churches?)

More importantly, however, these majority reasons are by no means Biblical warrants for divorce. Considering what is at stake, that makes these divorces a grievous sin–typically committed against husbands (and their children) by their wives. In what other circumstances is it acceptable to look at the victims of grievous sin and assume that they must have done something to deserve it? If, for example, someone regards a victim of violent rape and assumes she must have been asking for it, it is rightly regarded by most as gross prejudice. I likewise see no reason to categorize the assumption that men usually deserve their divorces as anything other than gross prejudice.

“Shouldn’t a man who is the spiritual head of his family, in whom by virtue of his vocation is hidden Christ in His relationship with the church, prevent that from happening?”

Shouldn’t Christ, who is head of the Church, prevent people from leaving him? And yet, it happens; people make shipwrecks of their faith.  If our omnipotent and omniscient Lord does not always prevent that from happening in the Church, it seems a tall order to uniformly expect it from fallen and sinful mortals in their marriages.

American no-fault divorce is unilateral divorce. It only takes one, and the targeted spouse has no legal recourse to prevent it. You might say he could prevent it by being a better husband, but again that’s a wholly prejudicial assumption. It’s not like Christ could prevent unbelief and heresy by being a better husband to his church, so why should we assume that husbands must always or even typically be able to prevent divorce in like manner?

So do churches harbor contempt for men? At the end of his post, Dr. Veith asks whether I “still” have a point despite the questions he brought up. I would contend that I have a point because of them.

Posted in Feminism, The Modern Church | 2 Comments

Cold Civil War – Exhibit G

If you’ve been on the internet lately, you’ve probably heard about Dan Piepenbring’s absurd piece about Chick-Fil-A in the New Yorker last week.  After all, it’s being very thoroughly lampooned by folks on the right.  And deservedly so.  More than anything else, the piece reminds of a classic episode of NewsRadio where New York radio personality Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman) is stuck in a midwestern airport.  But whereas Hartman expertly hams up the elitist bigotry for comedic effect, Piepenbring seems wholly serious.

But at amusing as it is, the important takeaway isn’t the fact that there’s yet another coastal leftist hipster jumping the shark on snobbery.  Piepenbring is entirely transparent about the reasons he doesn’t want Chick-Fil-A in his town:

The brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism. Its headquarters, in Atlanta, are adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple’s feet. Its stores close on Sundays. Its C.E.O., Dan Cathy, has been accused of bigotry for using the company’s charitable wing to fund anti-gay causes, including groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

He hates Chick-Fil-A because he hates Christians.  It really isn’t any more complicated than that.  And it’s not particularly new or rare, either.  Liberals have been consistently uncomfortable with the fast-food chain for a long time now.

But we already knew all that, so why bring it up?

Because any conservative who still thinks talk of a national divorce is overblown needs to ask themselves a simple question:  If leftist bigots are disgusted even with the idea of Christians selling chicken sandwiches, exactly what place do you think they’ll allow us to occupy in society when they’re in charge?

They do not disagree with us; they want to annihilate us.  That makes this an existential conflict.  We need to treat it like one while we still have the freedom to do something about it.

Posted in Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

Issues Etc. & The Federalist

If you haven’t read it yet, my latest piece at The Federalist is about the growing absence of men from Western churches in light of the contempt that they often find there.

When Christians ponder the ongoing departure of men from the church, we have an unfortunate tendency to sound like Hillary Clinton pondering her failed presidential campaign. It’s understandable that Americans would vote against a candidate who holds them in such thinly veiled contempt. It should be just as understandable that men would avoid organizations that are obliviously contemptuous of males.

You can read the rest here.

And if that’s leaving you wanting more, you are in luck.  I had the opportunity to talk about the article on Issues Etc. this afternoon.  You can listen to the interview here.

Posted in Culture, Feminism, The Modern Church, Theology | 2 Comments

America’s Great Divorce?

I was pleased to see Jesse Kelly’s call for an amicable divorce in the Federalist today. While I’m no fan of divorce for married couples, I must concur that Americans can clearly no longer agree on how we want to be governed or even how we want to live together. Unfortunately, the reality of it is considerably stickier than that.

There was a time when Americans had shared principles but disagreed on how to implement them. That’s clearly no longer the case, but it gets worse. I’m old enough to have caught the tail-end of a time when Americans had different principles, but mostly agreed that we should all argue and vote based on our respective principles in order to determine how to run our nation. Even this is no longer the case. We now find ourselves in a situation where only one side still thinks, argues, and votes based (to some extent) on principles at all. The other side determines its views by means of narrative rather than reason and principle. Our differences have reached the point where neither side can even communicate coherently with the other, and we have no shared sense of ‘fair play’ left.

One way or another, a break-up is inevitable. While an amicable divorce would be ideal, the problem is that we are not ready for one, and the window of opportunity is closing.

I’m among those who believe America is already in a cold civil war. The only thing that will stop it from turning hot is if one side or the other collapses first. The left is already determined to annihilate the right in any way they can get away with. They are bound and determined to exile from civil society anyone who wavers from their current version of goodthink. The right, on the other hand, largely fails to understand their predicament. Most conservatives still try for a coexistence that the left no longer considers an acceptable outcome. It’s a naiveté that we desperately need to get over.

But the fact that we haven’t gotten over it is precisely why we’re not ready for an amicable divorce either. When a couple sees divorce on the horizon, they each have a plan. They have their own bank accounts. They have some idea of where they’re going to live. They have lawyers. Conservatives do not have any plan on how to live apart from liberals.

In the Federalist piece, Kelly divides America up by drawing a red line between the coastal & northern states and the southern & midwest states. But wherever you put the geographical line, too many of our differences aren’t geographical.

The left dominates most of our national institutions and the right has no plan for replacing them. Are the universities in Kelly’s southern territories profoundly less liberal than the ones on the coasts? Do the southern territories watch TV and movies produced anywhere except in the coastal territories? Fox News is the only mainstream national news outlet that is even arguably conservative (and they’re pretty damn globalist when it comes down to it,) and their HQ is squarely in Liberal Land. Even new cultural fixtures like social media are run almost exclusively by SJW’s who are increasingly flexing their muscles when it comes to forcing non-leftists off their platforms. Most conservatives aren’t ready to cut the cord on these institutions, and they have mostly failed to create viable alternatives. So conservatives are not prepared for a divorce.

The social justice left, on the other hand, does not want a divorce. They want only to destroy anyone over whom they cannot reign. There is no boundary at which they would be satisfied to stop and go no further. They want the whole enchilada, and so far, conservatives have done nothing to even suggest to them that they cannot have it in the end.

You can’t win a war if you don’t realize that one is happening. Neither can you achieve a cease-fire or a negotiated peace. If conservatives don’t wake up, their children will be pining for the days when writers were even allowed to posit the idea of an amicable divorce.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Did You Really Think Anything Was Sacred?

Planned Parenthood apparently wants to up the SJW factor in Disney Princesses even further.  Here’s what they tweeted before it was taken down:

planned parenthood's wish list for Disney princesses

LifeNews notes that “nothing is sacred” to Planned Parenthood, but it’s really hard to get outraged over this–as though wanting to corrupt the kids is a bigger deal than wanting to dismember them and sell their body parts for profit.  What’s more, I have little doubt that we’ll see at least a few items from that list in the coming decade or two (if I were a betting man, I’d say illegal alien first followed by a boy who thinks he’s a girl.)

Instead, my fervent hope is that Disney will actually do all 5–with the same princess.

The reality is that Disney has been corrupting the youth for a long time at this point,  and hardly anybody notices.  The insanely popular “Let it Go” from Frozen promotes the same kind of radical self-worship that you’d find in the Church of Satan.  As Vox Day recently pointed out,  “It’s time to see what I can do / To test the limits and break through / No right, no wrong, no rules for me / I’m free!” isn’t appreciably different from Alastair Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  There’s a reason this song is embraced as an LGBT anthem, and yet Christians still willingly feed this stuff to their own kids.

I want Disney to create a pro-choice trans undocumented union worker princess who’s had a dozen abortions because something that radical might at least clue some people in to what they’re watching.

Posted in Abortion, Culture | 2 Comments

Entitlement, Responsibility, and Authority – A Thought Experiment

Entitlement, responsibility, and authority—these three facets of personal relationships must always exist in conjunction with one another. If you try to add or remove one, then you will inevitably add or remove all three. Likewise, if you try to corrupt one, you will ultimately corrupt all three. Trying to have one without the others is a recipe for human misery.

Entitlement and responsibility are inextricably linked. If you are entitled to something from someone else, then it is someone else’s responsibility to provide it to you. If they have no responsibility, then you’re not really entitled. If you’re not really entitled, then they have no real responsibility.

Responsibility and authority are also inextricably linked. In order to be responsible for anything, one must have the authority to properly carry out that responsibility. If that authority is taken away, then the responsibility cannot be properly carried out. If the responsibility is taken away, then there is no longer any reason for the authority to exist—irresponsible authority is inherently corrupted.

The interconnectedness of these three can easily be seen in the natural human lifecycle. When a child is conceived, he is immediately entitled to food, shelter, protection, and so forth from his parents. He cannot even survive without these normal and mundane provisions. The parents likewise have a responsibility to provide these things to the child. When a parent fails to provide, we rightly call him negligent. This is a simple matter of natural law—not an alien principle imposed on us by society or religion, but a moral absolute that we know by virtue of having a normal human mind. When the Apostle Paul spoke of the prospect of someone refusing to provide for his family, he called the person “worse than an unbeliever,” for even unbelievers know that parents are supposed to love and care for their children.

It is no less of a universal insight that because of this responsibility, parents also have authority over their children. The parents call the shots for their children in their household, and the children have both a moral obligation and a practical need to follow and obey. Parents cannot carry out their responsibility without this authority. They cannot keep a child safe who refuses to stop when they say stop. They cannot keep a child nourished who refuses to eat what they say to eat. No child obeys perfectly, of course, any more than any parent is perfectly responsible; but the more disobedience that exists on one side or irresponsibility that exists on the other, the more miserable the relationship will be and the more harm will come to the children whose entitlements are not fulfilled.

Nevertheless, as a child matures, he slowly loses his entitlements. As he becomes more mature and more capable, he needs to pick up his own toys, put on his own clothes, get his own snack, remember his own chores, choose his own courses, get his own job, and eventually provide his own food, shelter, and protection. As this transition occurs, parents likewise reduce their responsibility for all these little things in a controlled manner—allowing their child to suffer consequences appropriate to their success or failure in these tasks. But the consequence of this is that, though parents are to be honored by their children throughout their lives, their authority wanes along with those responsibilities, and the grown child gains authority over his own life. Nothing good comes of corrupting this transition. A child who never loses entitlements becomes a spoiled brat. A parent who never allows his child to suffer consequences is the one who spoils him. And a parent who never eases his authority will foster either rebellion or ineptitude in his child, depending on whether the child continues to submit to that abused authority.

But whether in the human lifecycle or anywhere else, entitlement, responsibility and authority remain intertwined. Decoupling any of these three from the others ultimately results in nothing but misery and relational dysfunction.

Entitlement without a corresponding responsibility produces nothing but resentment and disappointment. Loss, though often tragic, simply happens. But failure to fulfill a perceived entitlement is necessarily seen as an injustice; it demands blame and breeds resentment. And indeed, take look at any of the many people around us who demand more and more absurd entitlements—whether from society or from individuals—you will never find an unhappier group of people.

At the same time, responsibility without a corresponding authority produces nothing but frustration and slavery. Anyone who has had a micromanaging boss understands the frustration angle. Demands for results without empowering the employee to actually achieve those results imposes a Sisyphean burden. But at its worst, taking away authority from the responsible enslaves them to the entitled—for there is no true participation in the product of one’s labors or investment in their achievement, only inviolable and insatiable demands for more without any regard for the cost. The worker is reduced to a consumable resource.

Finally, authority without entitlement and responsibility is without purpose and either disappears or devolves into abuse. If an authority is irresponsible—that is, he does not wield his position according to its intended purpose—then people cease to treat it as an authority. If he does nothing about this disrespect then he becomes a mere figurehead with no real authority at all. On the other hand, if he uses his power to enforce respect regardless of irresponsibility, then he becomes a tyrant tyrant whose power over others serves nothing but his own pleasure and ambition.

And with this, the circle of misery is complete. Entitlement, responsibility and authority are a package deal. We carve them up only at our own peril. But how do these observations help us? What wisdom is offered by recognizing and understanding this relational trinity?

Perhaps their most immediately obvious applicability is in the realm of government, in which it can inform us of the price of entitlements. Every entitlement we demand from government necessarily increases government’s authority over us. If we claim entitlement, then they have responsibility and therefore claim authority to carry it out. For some things, this is a worthwhile trade. For example, we claim entitlement to a fair trial, which means that the government is responsible for conducting fair trials and therefore that government has the authority to maintain courts, pass sentences, and enforce law. We make this deal because the alternative is vigilantism—in which we are each responsible for carrying out justice on our own—and all the chaos that goes along with that. We make the same trade when it comes to national defense. We want entitlement to protection against invasion, therefore the government has the responsibility and authority to maintain a functional army. These are relatively sensible trade-offs.

But the fact that a trade-off must happen is constant no matter what the entitlement is, and some trades are quite destructive. Take, for example, the recent claim of an entitlement to healthcare. If Americans are entitled to their healthcare, then government must be responsible for it, and so government must have authority over healthcare decisions. Even putting the best construction on that authority—that they need the ability to efficiently and effectively administrate healthcare for the nation under the guidance of medical and scientific experts—it still has the horrifying implication of giving government bureaucrats the authority to decide who lives and who dies or who is worthy of treatment and who is not. It is not as though we need to speculate about how government has used that authority. As the father of a child with an expensive disability, I know quite well what government “efficiency” would mean for him, just as I know how scientific experts like Nobel prize winner James D. Watson (discoverer of DNA) would have had my son euthanized at birth because his APGAR score was too low to be worthy of care.

That is what government-run healthcare looks like in practice—and it has to. Human life is priceless, but government healthcare must put a price on it regardless, for its resources are vast, but limited. Whether rich or poor, a private individual can treat life as priceless because they do everything they can to save their family (whether or not everything is enough.) Government cannot do the same. They could pour trillions of dollars into saving one life—provided they abandon all the other lives in their care. To do everything for one means to do nothing for another, and so, unlike an individual, the government has no choice but to choose who lives and who dies. And if they are to do so with any kind of deliberation, then they must create policies that make some lives more worthy of care than others. The only way to avoid this horrific mindset and the atrocities that have always accompanied it is to refrain from authorizing government to entitle us to healthcare in the first place.

The entitlement-responsibility-authority dynamic can also help explain the cause of so many of our current social issues—for example, why feminism is a peerless engine of human misery. Like all the bastard offspring of critical theory, feminism is, at its core, an attack on authority. In the words of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, “Feminism starts out being very simple. It starts out being the instinct of a little child who says it’s not fair and you are not the boss of me…and it ends up being a worldview that questions hierarchy altogether.” Most specifically, feminists target the authority that husbands and fathers have over their wives and daughters—whether directly, or by means of the social standards such men have woven into the civilization they built.

The traditional arrangement between men and women is one that is in harmony with the dynamic. Women have long been the beneficiaries of various kinds of special entitlements from men. This includes things like special protection (e.g. “women and children first”, “never hit a woman,” “exempt women from the draft”), special provision (e.g. bread winning), special courtesy (e.g. chivalry and propriety), and the like. The natural consequence of this is that men took responsibility for these things and held authority over women for the sake of carrying them out. And the arrangement worked relatively well—not that there weren’t abuses of authority against women, but rather that it was consistent enough with both male nature and female nature that it allowed for happy & successful families and therefore civilization.

But while feminism explicitly rejects these traditional forms of authority (which is damaging in its own right), it simultaneously insists that women’s entitlements increase rather than decrease. While Feminists openly disdain things like chivalry per se, they increasingly depend on the same kind of special entitlements that it provided. In terms of special provision from men, feminists now demand free childcare, free contraception, paid maternity leave, alimony, child support, a no-questions-asked raise to close the supposed wage gap, and the like. Feminist demands for special courtesy are likewise growing even more egregious. For example, men are supposed to pretend that a woman’s sexual history doesn’t matter (regardless of how much virginity reduces the risk of divorce) and women are to be uncritically believed whenever they accuse a man of sexual misconduct—due process be damned. Feminists are even demanding a “only an enthusiastic yes means yes” standard for sexual assault, effectively making failure to romantically or sexually satisfy a woman a heinous crime. Entitlements this massive cannot be supported without an equally powerful authority to match—and they won’t be. The only thing they do is promote resentment, both among the women whose now massive appetites cannot be sated and among the men who have actually tried to exhaust themselves providing for them only to be rewarded with nothing more than women’s resentment.

Now, if feminists were swayed by wisdom, they wouldn’t be feminists in the first place. However, the problem is not simply on the feminist end of the issue, but on the social conservative end as well. Conservatives miss chivalry—and understandably so. But as a rule, conservatives are terrified of being labeled misogynists and so they are unwilling to address the feminist rejection of male authority that eroded chivalry in the first place. And while they may hem and haw a bit at the latest novel entitlement, they nevertheless devote the bulk of their energies to impressing responsibility on men. Doing so serves only to increase the crushing burdens that feminism already imposes—simply reiterating responsibility does not create the authority necessary to carry out those responsibilities. They insist that, for the sake of family, men “man up” and marry unchaste women. But at the same time, they consistently look the other way when those women go on to unilaterally divorce those same men and take their children, homes, and future income with them on the way out the door. Conservatives set men up to fail while simultaneously making an extra effort to shame them for failure.

Furthermore, what happens on large social scales is reflected in smaller scales as well. Even small acts of special courtesy such as the man always taking the side closest to the road when going for a walk with a woman are difficult when the woman refuses to follow his lead. (As soon as they get to an intersection there’s a fight about who stepped in front of whom or who ran whom off the sidewalk or onto the curb.) Small gestures like these often fail to be positive experiences because, like romance, they hinge on the submission of the recipient of chivalry. While this may not hold true for older couples whose habits were shaped by a culture that still knew better, among younger men, those who try the hardest to be chivalrous are also among the most miserable. Social conservatives who shame men for failing to be chivalrous in the current social context heap misery on top of misery.

But let’s not end on such a negative note, because this dynamic has positive implications as well—particularly when it comes to Christianity. This past Sunday, our epistle reading was Philippians 2:5-1:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Even here, you may notice some elements of the entitlement-responsibility-authority dynamic at work. Jesus Christ, though himself God, emptied himself of all entitlement, and so there are none who take responsibility for him or hold authority over him. But instead, by submitting himself to death, he took responsibility for the sins of the whole world, and so he possesses absolute authority to match. But that authority is not without purpose, for it entitles every last human being to the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. We receive that entitlement through faith in him—that is to say, by trusting that Christ has taken responsibility for us and recognizing the authority by which he has done so. From end to end, the dynamic is kept intact, and by the grace of God it results in eternal life to all who believe.

So just as attempts to sever entitlement, responsibility and from one another result in misery, embracing the dynamic produces joy. Whether it is the citizen recognizing that recklessly claiming entitlement will result in tyranny or the Christian knowing the blessing that comes with the call to empty ourselves in imitation of Christ (that whoever would be great among you must be your servant), knowing the relationship between these three provides us with a helpful lens through which to view the world around us.

Posted in Culture, Feminism, Gospel, Musings, Natural Law, Politics | 3 Comments

Some of Jesus’ Disciples Were Armed

Given some of the comments, I really wish I had taken the time to point this out in my latest Federalist piece on gun control…

So in Gethsemane, when the soldiers come to take Jesus, Peter takes his sword and cuts of the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus.  Jesus tells him to put it back in its sheath because those who live by the sword will die by the sword. (Matt 26:51-52).

“Ah-HA!” Cry people with a total lack of critical thinking skills.  “Jesus said not to ever use weapons to hurt people!”

So take a deep breath, step back from that tree trunk for a second, look at the forest, and ask yourself:  why was Peter walking around armed?

And Peter wasn’t the only one, according to Luke:  “When those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?'”  (Luke 22:49).   For that matter, earlier in that chapter when Jesus says “let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one,” the disciples had at least two swords that they were immediately able to take out and show him.

What then are we to conclude?  That Jesus categorically forbade owning weapons but completely overlooked the fact that some of his closest disciples were going around armed?  Or should we rather conclude that Jesus was telling Peter that he had more important things to do than die in battle?

One of these conclusions is reasonable.  One is completely idiotic.  Choose wisely.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Then We Can No Longer Refer to You as Christians

It seems that the Episcopal diocese of Washington D.C. has passed a resolution to no longer refer to God with masculine language. Their reasoning is the typical boilerplate for theological liberals:

“Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt,” the drafters of the resolution stated. The drafters said that referring to God using masculine pronouns is to “limit our understanding of God.”

“By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” they stated.

Unfortunately, this expansion of their “image” of God expands it away from the Trinity and therefore away from Christianity. As I’ve written in the past, the Father is not a metaphor. Neither is He an “understanding.” Jesus Christ didn’t laze about in a coffee shop trying to make sense of his God-experience before coming to the conclusion that God is very much like a human father and deciding to use that metaphor to help others understand. No, Christ proclaimed that God IS his Father—the Father. Human fathers are metaphorically like Him. Just as Jesus taught that he himself is God and that the Spirit is God, he also taught that the Father is God. Christ’s Apostles likewise proclaimed God the Father and explicitly referred to him with masculine language—this despite the fact that Greek, unlike English, actually has personal gender-neutral pronouns available for use. Like their Lord, they did not teach that God is understood as a father or is metaphorically like a father, but that God IS the Father and that the Father is God.

In contrast, theological liberals do not teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, but rather that they are metaphors for God. This is why they’re so comfortable replacing them with “mother,” “daughter,” and any number of other metaphors. It’s why they’re comfortable with universalism—because Allah, Vishnu, etc are just additional ways (or modes) of understanding god rather than God Himself. They teach that the true god is behind these temporary masks which are only there to help limited humans get a tiny little grasp on an infinite and unknowable deity. This is straight-up modalism and has been recognized as a heresy for nearly the entire existence of the Church.

When people change their theology to move away from the Father and the Son, they are not simply adjusting their language and understanding, but are changing their object of worship. They are creating an idol.  If their understanding of God prevents them from referring to Him as Christ did, then they cannot be referred to as Christian.

Theological liberals might keep some of the trappings of Christianity—pews, vestments, crosses (sometimes), and so forth—but they are a different religion that worships a false god and teaches a false gospel. Orthodox Christians have a responsibility to look past appearances and call a spade a spade:  These are not Christian denominations, and they are not part of Christ’s Church.  They are pagans who need to hear the Gospel and repent.

Posted in Theological Liberalism | 1 Comment

The Truth about Mansplaining

The feminist attempt to redefine all vice in terms of the male sex has been going on for a long time now. The term “Male Chauvinism” was coined back in the 30’s—appropriating a term for fanatical patriotism and applying it to sex differences. Roughly half a century ago, you’d hear academics talking about “the male gaze” with respect to first film and then society in general. And today, of course, this kind of terminology is proliferating: you have broad ideas of concupiscence like “toxic masculinity” and “male privilege” as well as specific sins like “manspreading” and “mansplaining.”

It’s this latter term that I wanted to write about here. The basic idea behind mansplaining is that it occurs when men explain things to women in a condescending manner—as we are supposedly prone to do. It’s a pretty simple idea that is then taken down the usual feminist avenues of privilege, discrimination, and so forth. But simple or not, there’s clearly more going on here than just the basic idea. After all, mansplaining is one of those interesting cases where there are a whole lot of women who believe they have been subjected to it, but virtually no men who think they’ve ever committed it. Those kinds of discrepancies in perception always indicate that there’s more going on—certainly more than the usual shallow complaints about patriarchy. A patriarchy that hasn’t existed in the West for at least a generation or two doesn’t really explain the ubiquitous male perception that we have not been condescending. On the contrary, it is simply an excuse for dismissing that perception.

As always, good explanations don’t dismiss half of the evidence, and so a better one must be found. Now, this is not a better explanation of condescension in general, but rather the specific experiences that feminists believe require a new category. Accordingly, a better understanding of mansplaining is that it occurs when a woman is unduly embarrassed when a man explains something to her—either because she feels she should have already understood it or because she disagrees but can’t fashion a coherent counter-argument.

Explanations happen. Everybody encounters circumstances when they need something explained to them by someone else. There could be a disparity of position (e.g. teacher to student), a mere disparity of know-how, or simply a disagreement. Generally, it’s not a cause for being disgruntled, even when one doesn’t agree with the explanation—that’s just part of dialogue and learning. But that reflexive feeling of embarrassment that can occur and how we handle it psychologically is what really makes the difference in these situations and turns explaining into something negative like mansplaining.

Sometimes the embarrassment occurs because one holds a position that implies an expertise that simply isn’t there. For example, I once attended a philosophy talk given by a guest professor who needed to have Plato explained to her during the course of the conversation. And I don’t mean she had an unusual take on Plato—I mean that by her own admission, she had somehow managed to achieve a PhD in philosophy without having ever read anything by Plato. That’s really embarrassing. Even my then professor who encouraged the class to attend and really talked up how wonderful it was that more women were getting involved in academic philosophy was noticeably disappointed. This is an extreme example, to be sure. Nevertheless, its not at all uncommon for people to be at least somewhat out of their depth in their professional lives—it’s part of what makes professions interesting and challenging. It’s also cause for the occasional embarrassment.

Other times embarrassment comes from making a stupid mistake. We all do this—it’s why we have terms like “brain fart” or “blonde moment.” Sometimes people just make dumb oversights; and sometimes these oversights get pointed out. For example, I once had to explain to someone how to unlock the back door of the car they regularly drove. She needed to get some stuff out of the back seat but said she couldn’t because it was locked and the key only unlocked the front door (nothing was broken; it was just an older car where you just needed to reach around from the front to unlock the back doors.) It was just a silly mistake borne from the fact that she encountered mild frustration on something she didn’t really want to be doing in the first place. We’ve all done stuff like that, and we’ve all been embarrassed about it.

And, of course, disagreeing with someone without being able to give a good reason why is a naturally embarrassing situation. Everybody wants to come out on top in a conflict, and when we believe we’re right and the other guy is wrong, we expect to come out on top. If the truth didn’t prevail in our hands, its our own fault. What’s more, this natural embarrassment is often compounded by the previous two circumstances—incompetence or stupid mistakes—because it highlights error on our part.

But people react to embarrassment of these sorts in different ways. For the most part, people with a healthy sense of self just shrug it off without drama. Some even take the opportunity to up their game and improve their knowledge or arguments. Other people, however, end up getting defensive when embarrassed. Embarrassment is not a pleasant feeling—particularly if one is already insecure—and so they feel the need to both attack the person who triggered the feeling and shore themselves up emotionally by rationalizing why they shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed in the first place. The path of least resistance when one is embarrassed by an explanation is to accuse the other party of condescension.

Once one makes that accusation, it’s always easy to find supporting evidence for it. After all, every good explanation begins with some common ground before moving into the unknown. Consequently, every good explanation involves stating something that the other person already knows. When being defensive, it’s very easy to leap on that one starting point and cry, “I don’t need you to tell me that! You’re treating me like I’m stupid!” And, of course, there’s always a degree of ambiguity when you’re establishing common ground—we don’t always know exactly what the other persons knows or doesn’t know. So explanations often include the establishment of more common ground than is strictly necessary, which makes it even easier to presume condescension where none occurred.

This is easier still in cases in which the embarrassment stems from having a skill set that is insufficient to one’s role. Consider the philosophy professor who never read Plato: Any time a colleague or a student has to explain to her what Symposium is about, there’s a weirdness to it because she’s basically in the position of a student taking philosophy 101. Explaining something about someone else’s area of expertise is always going to look a little condescending—even when it’s truly necessary. Embarrassment encourages a person to take that appearance and run with it. Add in the natural human inclination towards confirmation bias, and in the end, we only notice what we want to see—what will make us feel better about ourselves.

And so, here we have a very common phenomena that results in one party feeling condescended towards while the other has no such intention or awareness—precisely what we see when it comes to mansplaining. But this explanation is still missing one key piece. Thus far, I’ve described behavior that isn’t particularly unique to either sex. We all make mistakes. Men and women can both get defensive. Confirmation bias is ubiquitous. How, then, would we end up with a sexually charged term like mansplaining? In other words, why would women in particular get defensive when this kind of embarrassment is triggered by men?

The biggest reason is that it’s simply the spirit of our age. We are at peak feminism in the West. Think back to all the anti-male terminology in the first paragraph: manspreading, mansplaining, toxic masculinity, male privilege, male gaze, male chauvinism. Feminism’s raison d’etre is blaming men for social circumstances that women don’t like. It is currently normal for women’s negative experiences to receive a sex-based categorization and for fault to be automatically ascribed to men.

At the same time, misandry is entirely socially acceptable. Even most conservatives are conserving feminism and are therefore unwilling to defend men or call out women for this kind of prejudice. The pushback against feminism in the West is still in its infancy, and its voices are still at the relative fringes of society. But the idea that women are the perpetual victims of evil men is just an everyday part of the cultural narrative.

One must also consider the growing sense of entitlement that is disproportionately cultivated in women by feminism—especially the conviction that women are entitled to particular feelings. You can see this playing out in family law. In the past, a married man was responsible for being a faithful and loving husband. Today, he is responsible for making sure his wife feels happy, because if he doesn’t, she can unilaterally end their marriage and take their children, home, and his future income with her when she leaves—and most people don’t see anything wrong with it.

You can see the same entitlement playing out in criminal law. So much of our talk about rape culture revolves around the idea that women are entitled to engage in risky sexual behavior without ever feeling imperiled or even uncomfortable. Just look at the curious case of Aziz Ansari. His awkward sexual encounter with a woman is being placarded as some kind of sexual assault—another #MeToo story. And yet, this is not because he refused to take no for an answer or forced her into anything against her will; it’s because she was uncomfortable about choosing to strip down with him and not particularly into their subsequent fooling around. In other words, she didn’t feel sufficiently enthusiastic about the encounter. And yes, there are people dedicated to the idea that women are entitled to constant levels of high enthusiasm in every sexual encounter and that anything less is violent rape. Believing oneself to be entitled to never feeling embarrassed is just one more natural extension of this same entitlement mindset—and no less absurd.

Finally, we must not dismiss social circumstances that prime the pump of embarrassment and disproportionately create these situations. Inasmuch as affirmative action makes any difference at all, it does so by employing women over men in situations where skill sets are similar. The inescapable logical consequence is that in any context in which affirmative action is effective, a man needs to be more qualified than a woman in order to occupy the same professional space. This means that situations like the one in which that philosophy professor found herself are going to be skewed so that women are more likely to be on the embarrassing end of them.

I am certainly not claiming that genuine condescension never happens. Nor am I claiming that men are never condescending towards women. What I am claiming is that this phenomenon of mansplaining is less a widespread besetting sin amongst men and more a product of unhealthy mindsets of women that have been warped by feminism. If factors like these are at the root of mansplaining, then they account for the experiences of both the men and the women who are involved instead of ignoring half the story. No doubt, feminists won’t find this explanation terribly flattering. They might even be embarrassed enough to label it mansplaining. But that has no bearing on whether or not it’s a better explanation.

And to those men who have been thus accused: Feel free to consider whether you’ve been condescending, but don’t labor under the false impression that you and all men are guilty of misogyny or that society needs to be “fixed” to correct it. The facts simply don’t warrant it.

Posted in Feminism | 3 Comments

A Missionary’s Positions

We had a guest speaker at my church this past Sunday—a missionary who spoke to us about mission—both the specific program he oversees and the broader task of making disciples of all nations given to the Church. He gave everyone a lot to think about—much good, but some bad. Given how many churches he’s spoken at, I’d wager a lot of other Lutherans have heard him as well, so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on his presentation here.

First, some of his good points:

  • Don’t be normal.  

    Just to clarify, his message here was not that of the modern American cult of Self—to have contempt for “normal” things like marriage, family, responsibility, etc so that you have as much room as possible to gratify your own narcissism by pretending you’re too extraordinary for the rest of humanity. I would never be labeling that as a good point.

    There’s a far better sense in which we shouldn’t be normal, and I believe another way of putting his point is “Don’t be worldly.” It’s worldly to be casual about mission, to keep religion and private life separate, to despise the teaching of God’s word as an annoying obligation rather than a gift, etc. Like the miracle of birth, Christianity is a truly extraordinary thing no matter how much we might be surrounded by it. Merely going through the usual motions and keeping your participation in Christ’s Church as convenient and unobtrusive as possible is inconsistent with what Christ has done and is doing for us, within us, and around us.

    For a long time, America was considered a Christian nation to some extent. Cultural norms reflected religious norms. But the less true that this becomes, the less that faithful Christians are going to look like ordinary Americans. We can no longer simply go with the flow. What remains is coming up with the best ways of going against the tide, and that’s a task we need to start taking personally and seriously.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about politics. 

    Obviously there’s a time and a place for this subject and politics are not the point of Christianity, but Christians are terrified of any assigning any time and place for this–especially in church and Bible studies. But if God’s Word addresses a subject of popular controversy, then any preacher or teacher of that Word should be likewise addressing that subject.

    If you’re too scared of inadvertently causing offense, you’re never going to speak to people in any profound way. People get argumentative and offended about subjects like politics (and religion, for that matter) because those subjects are extremely important to them. If you never allow your message to be offensive, then you’re literally making your message unimportant to your hearers. This is precisely why Jesus, his Apostles, and the Prophets were constantly being put to death for offending everyone around them.

    And he practiced what he preached—he brought up subjects like abortion, gay marriage, the trans movement, etc and faithfully presented what God’s word says about them in Scripture.

There was also one point that was good so long as it is understood properly.

  • Everyone is a missionary. 

    Inasmuch as this means that we should all witness to the people God brings into our lives and not just assume that church staff will take care of it, then this is important. First and foremost, parents should be explicitly raising their children in the faith. That means talking to them about God, praying with them, teaching them what they’re able to understand, bringing them to Christ’s church to receive His Word and Sacraments, etc. There are also adult children and grandchildren who have left the Church. Sometimes, there are friends and neighbors. Anyone with whom you talk about important things is someone with whom you can talk about the Most Important Thing.

    However, we should discard this point inasmuch as it expunges the notion of vocation and creates two tiers of Christians (ones who evangelize and ones who merely do the things God has told them to do like raise their kids and feed their families and whatnot.) One of the great realizations of the Reformers is that the faithful maid or blacksmith isn’t any less spiritual than the monk or the priest (or missionary.) We all have different gifts and callings, and we shouldn’t be in the business of forcing everyone into the same mold or declaring that some gifts put their bearers in a higher tier of godliness.

    And here, I need to give special attention to my fellow introverts. The people who go through the conference circuit, have a billion personal evangelism stories, or visit 1700 churches to give talks about missionary work are usually raging extroverts. They genuinely fail to understand that introverts aren’t constantly talking with our neighbors and coworkers, that we don’t have a huge social circle, and that we don’t strike up conversations with strangers. They ask the congregation when they last invited their neighbors to church, and we’re all sitting there trying to remember the last time we even spoke with our neighbors and what their names are. The natural consequence of this is that the shape of personal evangelism is very very different for us. Super-spiritual extroverts tend to dismiss that difference as shyness, cowardice, laziness, ungodliness, and so forth, but they do so in great ignorance.

    Remember the Widow’s Mite. Though she offered only a small coin, Jesus said that out of her poverty she gave more than anyone else. The same holds true when it comes to the introverted, the autistic, and all those who live in some manner of social poverty. Popular speakers who are socially wealthy may not know what personal evangelism costs you, but God does.

God instructs us to test our teachers, and unfortunately, I have to point out that it was not all great. Along with the good, he did make a number of faulty points as well that deserve to be addressed.

  • We’re shrinking because of our shameful lack of witness. 

    This is an empirical falsehood that still gets thrown around by missional Lutherans. According to recent independent studies commissioned by the LCMS, we are actually pretty good at evangelizing relative to other American denominations. It takes us roughly 44 adult members to get one convert. By comparison, it takes Southern Baptists, who have a very good reputation for evangelism, 47 adult members. That’s pretty comparable. Even the Mormons, with their extremely rigorous efforts at outreach, still need about 40 adult members.

    The actual cause of our decline is simple demographics. The LCMS is growing where the broader population is growing and shrinking where the broader population is shrinking. In other words, there are so few kids in church because we haven’t been having very many kids—something that is affecting most Christian denominations in the West. We’re reaping the consequences of generations of the West’s selfish anti-child mindset that has been adopted by Western Christians. It’s a critical problem that, even if we all repent today, will take generations to fix—should we last that long.

    To be sure, our conversion rate is good only by American standards. In contrast, the missionary pointed out that 1000’s of people are being baptized every day in Ethiopia. But there are a whole lot of other differences going on between America and Ethiopia besides less enthusiastic witness (remember how hard it is for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?) God is to be praised for what He’s doing there, and we are rightly condemned for our own lukewarm disregard for Christ here. We absolutely should embrace and support mission work both at home and abroad. But none of that changes the underlying demographic reality of our decline. Christ has given us enough to do without taking on the additional burden of thinking that conversion is our work rather than the Holy Spirit’s.

  • Lutheranism sucks. 

    No, he didn’t say this explicitly. However, I couldn’t help but notice that his every reference to Lutheranism was derogatory or derisive. And yes, I mean that literally. He consistently treated our denomination, our traditions, and our theology as some kind of shackle from which we need to be released. There was definitely a strong note of that “Oh, if only we were more like Baptists, then an omnipotent and omniscient God could maybe finally find some way to use us to proclaim His Word” nonsense from the previous point.

    It’s not as though I think Lutherans or the Synod are beyond criticism—a quick review of this blog will tell you that. At the same time, our heritage of theology, hymnody, and history is a precious treasure won through hard-fought spiritual warfare against the Devil and this world. There are certainly things we need to change—mainly having to do with our embrace of modern worldliness and rejection of God’s word and our theological heritage—but one should not broadly treat precious things in such a manner, nor encourage others to do the same.

  • Theology sucks. 

    Again, this wasn’t an explicit statement, but he repeatedly mocked people who use theological words like “exegetical” as ineffective at best and Pharisaical at worst. Now, I think that what he was trying to do was encourage people without a strong theological background to take up their tasks as missionaries as well—and so they should.

    But there are two huge problems with this approach. First, elevating one group of people by tearing down another is not only uncreative, it’s downright cruel and discouraging to the second group who have their own work to do in the Church. More importantly, he was maligning the rigorous study of God’s word in a cultural context of Biblical and theological illiteracy where most Christians have very little conscious knowledge of what they believe and why they believe it. It’s really hard to tell people about something you don’t really get yourself.

    We should remember that Christ praised Mary over Martha when the former chose to sit at her Master’s feet and learn from him while the latter busied herself with serving. To be sure, Christianity is not in any way a religion for scholars alone. But everyone should witness according to the knowledge that has been given to them, and learn according to their intellectual aptitude. In other words, be at least as learned and articulate about Christianity as you are about football, Game of Thrones, or whatever your other favorite things happen to be. Theological terminology is there for a reason, and capable people should embrace learning it rather than being made ashamed of it.

  • We need a revival! 

    This one was an explicit statement, and he did mean it in the Baptist sense (in one of his many jabs at Lutheranism, he said in mock horror “Oh no! That’s a Baptist word! We can’t say that!”)

    But we do not need that kind of revival. Why? Because revivalism was and is all about creating motivation through emotional excitement. While there’s nothing wrong with excitement, the Church is not built on a foundation of emotional highs, for they always wear off before too long. If you look revivalism, what you’ll find is a history of charismatic preachers trying to find ever more extreme ways of eliciting those emotional highs and suffering the usual diminishing returns associated with getting their next fix. You get places like the “burned over” districts that spawned people like Joseph Smith—places visited by so many revivalists that everyone was too jaded to be set on fire for the Lord anymore and required heresy just to become interested. The end (I hope) result of all that is preachers doing Sunday-morning bull-riding and other such nonsense just to try to keep the crowds coming in the doors.

    The Church needs better than a storm of manipulated emotions. We need Jesus Christ. We need his teachings handed down through the Apostles. We need the sacraments he instituted. Our job as missionaries is not to artificially create crowds, it’s to take what we have been given in Christ and hand it to the rest of the world. I believe that if we were more faithful in this task, we would see God working through it in profound ways. But even if we saw no such thing, that remains what He has called us to do. A tiny congregation of geriatrics in a dying rural town need Christ no less than the multitudes of Ethiopia. Let Christ save and grow his Church—you do what has been given to you.

Posted in Lutheranism, Theology, Tradition | 4 Comments