Still Too White? Demographics as Measure of Mission

Should church bodies be measuring the effectiveness of our evangelism based on our racial makeup? One pastor made this charge in reaction to my recent post on the subject:

I consider this a confession of sin: “And that’s really where most new Christians come from in established American church bodies like the LCMS–through their relationships with believers in one way or another. Sure, a few people dropped by after attending your bake sale or hearing your radio ad, but not many. God bless those who plant local missionary churches and simply invite the neighborhood, but they are the blessed exception rather than the blessed norm. As a result, there is a demographic gravity to our congregations that is powerful but also benign.”

Our lack of being missional, specifically an “all the nations” missional, truly needs to be addressed and solved if we’re to carry out the Great Commission.

Yes, our church is too white, because we are not effectively missional.

Saying we are so negligent at evangelism that it qualifies as sinful is a hefty charge, and I think it’s worth addressing. I focused more on the charge of racism than I did on evangelism the first time around. And while I responded in the comments, I think a fuller explanation is worth it’s own post.

But before we dive in I want to clarify how I’m using a couple terms here, since the commenter did not.

First, we could argue about exactly what “missional” means and what constitutes being effective at it. After all, it’s a buzz-word in LCMS circles that’s usually attached to a focus on nebulous evangelism programs. But let’s just take it in very broad terms as “deliberate evangelism.”

Second, I’m restricting in the scope of “sin” here to coram mundo. In this context, judging evangelism coram deo is senseless because until the Great Commission is truly over at Christ’s return, there is always more work to be done, and absolutely none of us have made perfectly efficient use of our time. It’s like fathers and mothers wondering whether they could have done more for their children. The answer is always “yes,” and so coram deo we must all lean on the righteousness of Christ. But that doesn’t mean that we should all be calling each other bad parents, for imperfect parents have no business condemning mere imperfection in others. Gross negligence is still a meaningful accusation, but mere imperfection is not. The same is true of imperfect evangelists. As Christ taught, we need to be careful in how we judge one-another.

Third, I’m leaving all consideration of racism out of it. I’m content with how I addressed that aspect of it last time.

So with that cleared up, let’s tackle the main question here: Can we measure a church body’s skill at participating in the Great Commission by looking at the slightly off-white color of its collective skins? Is it reasonable to conclude that any non-negligent evangelism would result in racial diversity?

Absolutely not.

Let’s start with some examples of effective mission–apart from the meaningless question of whether we have “enough” examples like these. The LCMS has planted churches in various places around the globe–and sent missionaries to countless more. Church bodies in places like Ghana, Korea, and Japan are the direct result of our missionaries bringing the Gospel to the very nonwhite peoples there. And those are just a few examples of our international mission work. So we’re ultimately talking about a multitude to whom the Word was sown and alongside whom we shall stand before the Lamb clothed in white.

I think we can all agree that such things are good deliberate evangelism. But there’s a perfectly natural circumstance to all these missions: None of them have made the LCMS any less white because these brothers and sisters are typically not LCMS members.

Most of them belong to different church bodies with whom we are in partnership–in other words, they’re fellow Christians and Lutherans who confess what we confess. That’s a wonderful reality that would in no way be improved by trying to finagle them into the LCMS bureaucracy. Making LCMS members of all nations was never the point of the Great Commission. Effective mission is declaring God’s Word to people and giving them the Sacraments, not giving them membership in an organization so that we can virtue-signal about our racial demographics.

Ah, but you might say that that’s all a matter of international mission. Surely, when it comes to domestic matters, any effective evangelism would be resulting in a larger and broader LCMS membership.

Why should it?

I’ll use myself as an example here. I’m not particularly adept at evangelism. Nevertheless, even I have had opportunities to share the pure Gospel with those who needed it. Sometimes I’ve even been blessed to actually see it received with joy. I’ve also had opportunities to invite people to my congregation to connect them with Word and Sacrament ministry. I’ve invited a few people that I know. I’ve canvassed a few neighborhoods to invite strangers. Yeah; It’s not much. But considering how difficult personal evangelism is for those of us on the spectrum, I’m not ashamed coram mundo. Certainly, I’ve repented coram deo for opportunities I know I’ve missed, but we’re all in that boat.

But I don’t remember ever specifically encouraging someone to join my denomination, and I have no idea if I’ve had any impact on our membership numbers apart from my own children. And you know what? I don’t consider myself guilty of sin for that lack, so I’m certainly not going to judge someone else for it.

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod; I’m grateful for what it’s offered to me; and I’m happy to remain within her. It’s simply that membership is a matter of administration rather than evangelism. It’s not a great metric when it comes to simply sowing the Word.

Then what about connecting people with congregations? Yes; we should do that too. But we’re either going to connect them with established congregations or with new church plants. Those are two very different organs of the same Church, and judging both by demographics is ridiculous.

Established congregations do not, can not, and should not operate like brand new missionary churches. Church plants have the advantages of adaptability, novelty, and enthusiasm. They are very well-suited to bringing the Gospel to unbelievers in a locale and building a new Christian community. Established churches have the advantages of heritage, mature organizational skills & structures, and capital. They are very well-suited to feeding a community of existing Christians and their posterity with Word and Sacrament.

Both of these are wonderful gifts of God that bring people into His kingdom. Accordingly, neither should become the eye telling the ear we have no need of you. Quite frankly, I think a lot of our frustration with ineffective mission is a result of people who are unwilling to embrace the uncertainty of a church plant instead trying to co-opt established congregations and change them into something they’re not.

And we should remember: Every church plant that lasts is going to become an established congregation eventually. After all, we don’t gather people in just so that we can abandon them. That is not failure of mission; that is success.

The LCMS is an established church body. We should be judging it by those standards rather than expecting every Sunday at every congregation to be a local Pentecost that gathers in everyone within a 10-mile radius around the church regardless of demographics. We have our own way of doing things. Some people love that way. Some people are ambivalent about that way. Some people hate that way. The thing is, all of those opinions are totally fine for fellow Christians to hold. We cannot be an organization that all tribes and nations are going to flock to in response to our evangelism, and we should not expect ourselves to be.

What happens when we do judge ourselves by the standard of established church bodies? According to studies commissioned by the Synod a few years back, the LCMS is actually reasonably good at evangelism. It takes us 44 adult members to gain a single convert. That puts us right between the adult-evangelism-focused Southern Baptists at 47 and the  Mormons at 40 who, despite their heresy, are nevertheless famous for their rigorous missionary efforts. For an established church body, I’d consider that “effectively missional.”

But that brings us right back to what I wrote last time. Established churches tend to bring in their own children and the people they naturally encounter in their day-to-day lives. These are not random samples of the community. Rather than 44 adults for one convert, it only takes two fertile Lutherans to catechize their kids and create 1-6 new members. (At least it would if we still had families. If we’re going to accuse the LCMS of sin based on its demographics, we should start with our adoption of the world’s hatred of having children. That is absolutely the biggest coram mundo standard that we fail.)

My point is this: whether by new or established congregations, the wedding feast of the lamb is filled either way–it’s just that the congregations look different. And God never gave us diversity quotas that should make us ashamed of our looks. Accusing our churches of being too white is merely burdening them with meaningless traditions of men.

Again, I’m not saying we can’t be better at evangelism. I would be happy if we started sending missionaries domestically the way we’ve done internationally. Plant a church in a neighborhood that needs the Gospel and adapt its administration to the qualities of that community. But make it a partner church that holds to the Lutheran confessions and with whom we share fellowship instead of trying to shoehorn it into LCMS bureaucracies and customs. Unlike the Gospel, those are not a good fit for every demographic.

Obviously we should evangelize more. That’s a simple truism that anyone can repeat to score piety points. But I’m surely not going to accuse anyone of sin for not doing that because not everyone is called to be a missionary. Neither is everyone obligated to share my opinions on what constitutes good evangelism strategies.

And bringing it back to our original question, neither is any such missionary effort obligated to ethnic diversity. At best, even missionary church plants are only going to look like their communities in the beginning. In the end, they will become established churches that don’t necessarily undergo the same demographic changes as its surrounding neighborhood. That evolution isn’t even failure, let alone sin. It’s different provision for different circumstances.

Criticizing mission is easy because there’s literally always something more you can do. But complaining about the racial makeup of our membership is still just meaningless virtue-signaling. It comes from the Spirit of the Age, not the Holy Spirit. The Church catholic will make disciples of all tribes and nations. As one small part of her, the LCMS will make disciples of some tribes and nations. We should praise God for that instead of joining the world’s condemnation of it.

Posted in Gospel, The Modern Church, Theology, Tradition | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m sorry for the lack of blog/Twitter activity these last couple of weeks. My wife, kids, and I finally got Covid earlier this month, and I’ve been too busy dealing with the fallout to spend much time online.  Not so much from the illness, which was pretty mild for all of us–basically a bad cold plus a loss of smell and/or taste for the adults and barely a mild cold for the children. No, most of the fallout had to do with the many and varying bureaucracies which all deal with isolation and quarantine in different ways. Some are sensible. Some are not. All of them were more burdensome than the disease was.

To be sure, Covid can be very serious for some individuals–the old, the infirm, the unhealthy, etc.  I know some of these people.  But it’s not as though we can’t make really good guesses as to which individuals need to take extra precautions beforehand. Trying to lock down everything and everyone rather than letting the majority get it and start building herd immunity has been truly foolish.

But Covid and the terrified crowds are only two of the hurdles we’ve faced in 2020.  There’s the election chaos and the constant threat of Cancel Culture looming over us.  There have been shortages of food, water, and other necessities. We’ve been through an absolutely devastating storm. We’ve suffered the unexpected death of a beloved family member.

And amidst all these major trials, there has been an unusually constant barrage of minor irritations–basically Murphy’s Law on steroids throughout the year. Have a fever and feel like staying in bed?  That’s the perfect time for your toilet tank to randomly crack right down the middle.

That’s why it’s all the more important to celebrate Thanksgiving in 2020.

We’ve suffered more this year than any year to date–this is true.  More than ever before, I’ve felt the weight of spiritual warfare and genuinely believed Satan has been out to get us. But also more than ever before, I’ve witnessed his utter failure. Our shortages were met with amazing generosity. Our devastation was met with an unwavering determination to rebuild. Our fallen loved one is now with his Savior in Paradise. My family has matured in ways I never expected. We are truly blessed.

Gratitude for those blessings is truly another blessing. Focusing on the suffering in life leads only to despair and the illusion that evil is stronger. But pausing to be grateful for the good shows us that reality is the precise opposite. The Evil One has been defeated in Christ, and by the power of God, all things–even the evil ones–cannot help but work together for the good of those who love Him. It is inevitable. And as momentarily daunting as it can be when you see the devil at work, it is eternally awe-inspiring to see the gracious hand of God in the middle of your life.

So take the time to be thankful this Thursday. No matter what your celebration may look like this year, make it a true celebration.  Spend it with as much of your family as you can, for they are your greatest blessing in this life.  If your old traditions have failed for a time, then make new ones with Christ at the center that you may all the more loudly praise God from whom all blessings flow.

May God richly bless you all in 2020 and in every year to come.

Posted in Family, Musings | Leave a comment

Only Investigation Will Restore America’s Trust in Voting

There may not yet be proof of widespread voter fraud, but there are mountains of evidence for it.  And that evidence demands an open investigation, not the thoughtless dismissal that the Left and it’s media and Silicon Valley allies would prefer.

From my latest at The Federalist:

If proof is a body of evidence that meets a certain standard, exactly which standard do we apply? This question has different answers in different contexts. In a court of law, the standard for proving a case is “preponderance of evidence” in civil cases and “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases. Scientific journals will have another standard while philosophers have still another. But exactly what standard of proof should American voters demand?

The left wants big media and big tech to be our de facto standard of proof. That’s certainly what The New York Times was proclaiming them to be on election day before they deleted their tweet.

The problem is that everyone already knows his own standards of proof operate on a sliding scale. Big media wasn’t terribly particular about their standards on Russian collusion, Brett Kavanaugh’s past, or even smirking teenagers. Neither was big tech very interested in regulating the spread of such dubious narratives.

Even now, the only thing about the election they want to investigate is whether they can blame Qanon for their faulty polls. Their business has become their politics, plain and simple. They’ve been carrying water for the left for far too long for any freethinker to consider them objective, fair, or even professional.

America doesn’t play that game anymore. The Boomers’ world in which nothing was true until you heard it on the six o’clock news is now nostalgia. Today, we get our news from a wide assortment of selected individuals and organizations that we’ve individually come to trust based on our own experience.

But since experience is so subjective, everyone’s selections vary significantly. Accordingly, there’s no real unity to be found there either. As a result, while new media has proven fantastic at accumulating and promulgating evidence, they’re ill-suited to offering broad proof because they do not have any kind of common standard.

The upshot is this: TwitterCNNGoogle, and the like can project and declare whatever winner they want, but they don’t get to choose the president. That’s never going to serve as proof to most Americans today. Big media and bit tech have been too exposed to get away with doing that anymore.

That is why this issue needs to go to the courts to be decided. They are some of the last remaining institutions to which all Americans can—in principle, at least—be held accountable.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted in Ethics, Politics | 3 Comments

Is Your Church Too White?

I’ve seen a number of individuals complain about the racial makeup of the LCMS over the past few months.  Some assert that at 98% Caucasian,  my denomination is simply too white to be an effective church body in America.  Others have gone further, flat out calling it racist. But if a congregation’s or a denomination’s racial demographics don’t match the demographics of the wider community in which it resides, is this really indicative of sin? Is it a failure of mission? Is it racism?

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is all-too-common in contemporary churches. Diversity is a big concern of the world at the moment. It will, therefore, inevitably become a big concern among worldly Christians.

To be sure, the Church catholic is for all nations, tribes, and languages. Nevertheless, no denomination or congregation is identical with the universal Church. It is not God’s Word, but rather the fashions of this age that say every particular institution must be racist if it doesn’t sufficiently resemble American diversity. If we mistakenly presume that our congregations bear such an obligation to be a random representative sample, there is a price to pay: By insisting on the random over the particular, we end up severing ourselves from both our church’s history and its posterity.

After all, if you pause to critically assess it, the expectation that either an LCMS congregation or the LCMS as a whole should be a statistically random  sample is patently absurd. LCMS congregations were not founded by random assortments of people. They were founded by people who both possessed and highly valued a specifically Lutheran heritage. Not only that, pretty much any LCMS congregation that’s 50 years old or more was founded by people with a specifically German heritage as well–just as the Synod as a whole was. It wasn’t that long ago that we were still doing services in German.

But while our sampling bias may begin at our origins, it does not end there. The new members our congregations have received over the years were no more random than their founders.

The most important group of people that a congregation receives into membership are its own children. These are the very people most Christians throughout history have personally evangelized. Far more of us have been called to be parents than, say, missionaries and church planters. And quite obviously, children are not demographically random. Sure, some spouses will be brought into the church from the community by marriage and end up diversifying our children somewhat. I, for example, may trace my ancestry back to 12th century Scotland, but I did receive both my Lutheran Heritage and some German ancestry from my mother’s side. Nevertheless, that dynamic does not cause a sudden and massive shift of the congregation’s demographics–especially if you’re only considering extremely broad racial strokes like black and white.

The next largest group brought into church membership are those evangelized or invited in the context of personal relationships. This includes the aforementioned spouses, but also friends, neighbors, relatives, coworkers, and so forth. Will this diversify the congregation to some extent? Absolutely. But our personal and professional relationships are only modestly more random than our children are. The human tendency–across cultures, ironically–is to have these kinds of relationships with people who are demographically similar to ourselves. Ever since Babel, we self-segregate to a large extent. Despite the man-made traditions of today’s woke Pharisees, most of our individual vocations don’t actually demand that we defy this human trait (though there are some exceptions). Once again, the potential for a demographic shift isn’t so profound that it utterly overwrites the old patterns with sheer randomness.

And that’s really where most new Christians come from in established American church bodies like the LCMS–through their relationships with believers in one way or another. Sure, a few people dropped by after attending your bake sale or hearing your radio ad, but not many. God bless those who plant local missionary churches and simply invite the neighborhood, but they are the blessed exception rather than the blessed norm. As a result, there is a demographic gravity to our congregations that is powerful but also benign.

So church bodies large and small are end up in a peculiar position: We offer gifts which transcend any and every demographic category we could invent, but still tend to reside within a limited selection of those categories. Both of those poles are reflected in our culture.

To be sure, the most important service the local congregation provides–Word and Sacrament ministry–transcends culture. The Gospel is for every tribe and nation. The Sacraments are means of grace for everyone. Even the liturgy should transcend the styles of local culture to a profound extent. Many of its historical elements date back well over a thousand years and have been used across countless languages and cultures. So do many of our hymns. It’s pretty hard to take Savior of the Nations, Come (written 1600 years ago by St. Ambrose of Milan) and call it an old German song. Contemporary worship is really the only style we dabble in that’s truly culturally narrow.

At the same time, the organized community that carries out the Divine Service, supports the congregation’s education, provides the venue, facilitates fellowship, and so forth is absolutely going to reflect the congregation’s cultural norms. Outsiders will not always feel comfortable within those structures, and the more different their own heritage, the less comfortable they will feel. But is that really a bad thing in and of itself? There are many different ways these tasks could be carried out, but they’re always going to be carried out in some way. And any given way is going to make more sense to some cultures than to others.

So here, the particular prevents the random. And there’s nothing nefarious about that. By-and-large, the ways that we choose should make the most sense to the people who are actually carrying out those tasks on a day-to-day basis.  In other words, they need to make sense to the non-random current membership. This will be true no matter what demographic boxes they check.

That doesn’t mean things should never change–that the LCMS should always do things the way we’ve always done them. Even the simple passage of time should change these things to some extant. The same 10 boards you had in the 1940’s may not be the best way to cover the congregation’s needs today. Robert’s Rules of Order might not be the best way run your meetings. Your phone tree may be obsolete. Your current building might be either too small or a too-big financial anchor around your neck. You may even be failing to educate your children because you mistake your cultural norms for God’s Word.

So it’s good to change and adapt to the present challenges so long as we continue to treasure the riches of God’s Word that we have received. Congregations that fail to do both of these things will die–and many are doing precisely that. Even our simple failure to adapt to the sexual revolution in a fertile way has proven the death knell of many (we are in decline primarily because we didn’t reproduce.)  So there’s plenty of room for criticism when it comes to how we preach, how we disciple, and how we live. Nevertheless, we don’t judge ourselves against worldly concerns like diversity quotas.

And one does have to ask: If you’re so cut off from your church body (both your immediate ancestors in the faith and the immediate descendants that the congregation will be welcoming) that you’re actually offended that its heritage isn’t random… is it truly a heritage that you share? After all, to claim a heritage as your own is a matter of particularity rather than randomness. If you’re expecting a random sample, then you have cut ties with your past and are no longer talking about change, but replacement.

Whether inside or outside the Church, if you wish to institute Year Zero in this way, you should actually do the hard work of building something new rather than trying to consume the work of prior generations. And if you’re doing it at the behest of the Spirit of the Age rather than God’s Word, then whatever you create won’t be a church.

Posted in Culture, The Modern Church, Tradition | 10 Comments

Life After Election Night

There’s no question in my mind that the upcoming election is important. I’m usually pretty dismissive of the “most-importantest-election-evar” rhetoric that Republicans have typically used to elect neo-cons and cowards over the past few decades. But there really is something different this time. There is outright evil at work in our politics this elections. The sheer scope of the corruption across most of our institutions, the fanatical desperation from the swamp, the open collusion between journalists, big tech, and the globalist political institutions all being brought to bear against President Trump is nothing I ever expected to see.

I reluctantly voted for President Trump 4 years ago. I’m confidently voting for him this year. I may find fault with respect to both person and policy, but contrary to what I believed then, the man is fighting for America, and he has what America needs most right now:  courage. There’s no way to stare down the barrel of challenges like violent riots, lockdowns over an exaggerated flu, terminal levels of immigration, and cancel culture without it. And the president’s courage has proven contagious among patriots.

All that said… while I anticipate President Trump’s electoral victory next week, it’s not going to resolve our problems. As I’ve written before, I believe a break-up of the United States is inevitable–and closer than most people think. As we learned over the past four years, the American left has already given up on elections as a way of resolving our differences. They never really accepted the results of the last one.  I would say that the only reason they haven’t started burning the whole thing down already is because they thought they might win this year… except that they’re already literally burning it down.

Too many progressives hate us to the extent that they are unwilling to live peacefully with us. That’s what cancel culture is all about–exiling, reeducating, or even murdering all dissenters. That hatred is so virulent that they cannot tolerate even family members holding contrary political positions–including positions that were held by virtually everyone in the world until about 5 minutes ago. We’ve all seen the repulsive video of the young woman bragging about emotionally bullying her dying father into voting her way. And as much as I’d like to call that an outlier, personal experience has taught me otherwise. The hatred of the SJW left cannot be overstated.

The election will not resolve that hatred because SJW’s only respect elections insofar as they give them what they want. They only accept appointments insofar as they get to make the selections. They’re already preparing for violence post election. The phrase “culture war” is not an exaggeration, and unfortunately, war only requires one side to fight. It is upon us whether we would risk it or not.

So where does America go from here? Broadly speaking, I see three outcomes in which American Christians and our families get to continue existing.

The first outcome is to rhetorically and culturally break the left’s morale to the point that they are no longer willing to fight the way they have been. This, I believe, is the option we should hope for. The extent to which angry leftists are prone to flipping out and nuking their own closest relationships over political setbacks suggests that it is more attainable than we might think at first blush.

But the election alone isn’t going to do it. I don’t think another Trump victory will break them anymore than it would break us if he were to lose. The extent to which SJW’s entrenched themselves in our institutions makes this an effort that will need to persist well beyond his term in office. It has to persist beyond Trump himself as well, for his status as their orange bogeyman won’t do us much good in 2024. The work of either retaking those institutions or letting them die and building SJW-resistant replacements will still need to be taken up. The only thing Trump’s victory will mean is that we’ll have a somewhat easier few years with a task of at least a generation.

The second outcome is an amicable divorce. This is the option we will probably have to settle for. If we cannot find a way to live together–as is increasingly the case–then we must live separately. It would be better to make that happen peacefully rather than violently.

These separations are already beginning naturally. Ideologically speaking, people are already fleeing enclaves of the left like California en masse. But the deeper divsions are demographic in nature. Humans have always sought to live among their own, however they happen to define “their own.” Now that multiculturalism and the largest mass migration in human history has resulted in an American Babel, the consequent division is also inevitable. So while the white progressive left prefers to tribalize along ideological grounds, many of their constituent minorities would prefer to do so along racial or religious grounds. But whichever their preference, it remains a matter of tribalization.

Given the disparate social gravities drawing America apart, division may very well be inevitable. But the work required for a peaceful division remains very much the same as the first, for the roadblock is the same: the extent to which we have allowed our institutions to be co-opted. American Christians need to develop institutions that can be trusted with the authority we delegate to them. If we fail at that, then peaceful division will be impossible simply because we will have nowhere to go.

That leaves us with our final option: Cancelling the left harder than they can cancel us. This is the option we should pray to avoid, because it will inevitably be violent. It is, unfortunately going to be very difficult to avoid because it’s become violent already. Antifa is already rioting and even straight-up murdering several Trump supporters in the streets. Bernie bros have already attempted several assassinations of conservative politicians. But anyone familiar with Mao’s Cultural Revolution will understand that this is only the tip of cancel culture’s iceberg. It will get far worse if left unopposed.

The only option worse than this last one is defeat in this war. The mask is off. We know what the social-justice left want to do with us and our families. Calling everyone who fundamentally disagrees with them a Nazi is just their way of justifying their means.

Accordingly, if it comes down to it, we may have a responsibility to fight no matter how much we may hate the idea (and I certainly do hate the idea.) But we are at a disadvantage because the social justice left is already well-organized for this kind of thing (I suspect they don’t hate the idea so much.) As long as the first two options remain attainable, we should do everything we can to avoid turning it into open warfare.

So however and whenever the election ends up being decided–whether by votes on election night, courts in December, force-of-arms in 2021, or some other terrible option–it’s not the end of the war. A victory in November only means a better position to continue the struggle. By all means, celebrate when such achievements are made. But it’s not the end of the conflict. It’s just another beginning.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Musings, Politics | 1 Comment

To Whom Are Christians Accountable for Our Votes?

To whom are we Christians, as American citizens, accountable regarding our votes this and every November?

I raise the question because I’ve seen all sorts of contentions on the subject as November approaches. The legacy media is still desperately scrambling to hang onto their past influence–demanding that no one be elected whom they do not approve. The usual would-be prophets are still demanding our attendance on the “right” side of history. And I’ve see some pretty bonkers stuff, like claiming that whites need to justify themselves if they vote differently than blacks.

But who exactly do we need to justify ourselves to when we cast our votes? In other words, under whose authority do American citizens vote?  There are answers, but they aren’t the ones we usually hear about.

God

This one is, of course, a no-brainer, but the things we take for granted are the things we’re most likely to forget, so here it is. We have been given a certain measure of authority when we vote. But all authority comes from God, and all who wield it are accountable for whether they fulfill the responsibilities that come with it.

To be sure, God does not give us a particular party or candidate to vote for each election. Rather, he calls us to excercise good judgment in a fallen world in which there are no perfect governments. Our goals is to do our best to establish a just peace in our nation. Like any parent, God knows that honest mistakes in such an endeavor are part of the cost of granting agency.

All the same, we are still accountable to him for that judgment, for he has given us wisdom and reason. If you vote in facilitation of the murder of millions of unborn children, genital mutilation for gender-confused children, riots, anti-Christian prejudice, theft, and such… well, then you need to account for why it was worth it to your Heavenly Father. Likewise, if you vote for someone who is kind of mean, relatively boorish, and might possibly be “racist” in the way that national borders are “racist”, then you will need to account for that as well. One of those is going to be harder than the other.

And don’t think any of the usual worldly slogans or virtue-signaling will avail you before the Almighty. We have been called to make sound judgments, not to parrot what the world tells us.

Our Household Authority

Beneath God Himself, He has established another authority to which Christians may need to answer for their votes: the father of their household. This question came up a few times after my article on submission. Does submission mean that wives should vote the same way as their husbands? In general, the answer to that should be yes.

The entire reason we have government in the first place is to create an environment in which households thrive. We need someplace with relative peace, trust, and responsibility in which we aren’t constantly being robbed, murdered, raped, and swindled by one-another. The authority our governmental institutions wield is effectively household authority that has been delegated en masse.

Now, in America, voting is the method by which that delegation is carried out. So in the end, voting is an exercise of household authority and therefore is a household decision rather than a personal one. Accordingly, wives should vote alongside their husbands rather than in contradiction to them–at least as long as it’s in line with God’s explicit commands, for we all must obey God rather than man. But politics is usually not a matter of gross ungodliness, but rather a matter of judgement calls (though there can be issues of open and gross evil like abortion that are different.)

And no, this isn’t supposed to look like the husband issuing a proclamation from on high which his wife silently and thoughtlessly awaits. As with all submission, the ideal is for all parties to find a way for everyone to actually be on the same page and genuinely agree on how to vote. That is what we strive for–not by endless political arguments in which we attempt to badger one-another, but by seeking to understand one-another’s concerns for the family and working together to find the best way to meet all of those concerns.

Even so, ideals are what they are, and this may or may not be possible every election. When it is not, then we must submit to the one whom God has placed in authority over the household–and he will have to account to God for the way that he directs it.

And by the way, this applies to grown children who still live with their parents as well. If your parents are still responsible for feeding, clothing, and sheltering you, then you are still under their authority in that household even if you are of voting age. And really, it just makes sense: If your lifestyle depends on their wisdom, skill, and labor in fruitfully directing their household, how can you blithely undermine them as they carry out that responsibility? When you establish a household of your own, then you too will need to exercise the responsibility and authority that they have. Until you accept responsibility, you cannot claim authority.

Previous Generations of Americans

We usually get this backwards today. When people insist that we put ourselves on the right side of history, they’re speaking of an unknown future–a speculative fiction born from their own imaginations. There’s little point in accepting such a dubious authority.

Instead, when we consider history’s judgments, we should be looking to the past. After all, our vocations as citizens did not spring up out of the ground when we were born. We did not create them ex nihilo. They were passed down to us by those who came before. There is no authority we possess which was not granted to us by our forefathers.

Accordingly, we have a responsibility to care for what they’ve left to us. While we need not do everything exactly the way they would have, we do need to respect their values and purposes so that we are guided by them. So are you voting in a way that will “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”? Do you even define those words in much the same way as our founding fathers did? If we want to kludge some kind of re-purposing of the government they left to us, then we must beware.

Nations and their governments are organic rather than mechanical, so they will naturally change over time. This is all well and good. Nevertheless, pruning branches to make room for new growth or even removing diseased limbs is one thing.  Uprooting the entire tree to cast it into the fire is another. There may be times when such drastic steps become necessary for there are times when nations and government die. But when they die at our own hands, we are accountable for that choice.

If we deny and reject our past, then we also deny and reject the very authority we inherited. Take that away by trying to institute Year Zero and we cease to be citizens voting–instead becoming nothing more than beggars squabbling with each other over crusts of bread.

So Christians, as you prepare to go to the polls in two weeks, consider yourselves as ones under authority. Use your God-given wisdom to care for this nation and her people. Search for the best way to establish a just peace in America. Respect and care for our heritage, Submit yourselves to God and anyone He may have placed in authority over you.

But don’t give into the those who try to shame you into submitting to false authorities by throwing about meaningless labels and worldly indictments. There is no perfection in politics, but sometimes there is true evil. Don’t accept false equivalencies between the two. Remember the One you serve; and forsake the prince of this world from whom you have been freed. Pray to God that you would govern your families and this nation well.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Ethics, Family, Politics | Leave a comment

St. George and the Art of Dragonslaying

About a year ago, I wrote about a very bad children’s book, The Sunflower Sword. It was a remarkably anti-masculine story, written to take little boys’ natural desire to pick up pretend swords & battle pretend dragons and neuter it before it can cause women problems.

Now, one of my sons is at that very age where every pillow hides a monster in need of a sound thrashing. And so it was time to find books that embraced the archetypal myths rather than subverting them. Thankfully, someone had recommended a beautifully illustrated retelling of Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges. And I have to say that it is marvelous in the way it takes that rough masculine desire to slay dragons and gives it a context which helps to shape that desire into virtue.

There are many points worthy of note, but it is the fight against the dragon which comprises most of the book and which my son (and I) naturally found the most compelling. As it details that battle, it also teaches lessons that go beyond myth and instead tell us about the struggles of our own lives.

It is clear from both the text and the illustrations alike that the dragon isn’t simply a dangerous foe, but an impossible one. It dwarfs St. George to the point that it’s more a part of the landscape than an opponent with which the knight shares the field of battle. What’s more, St. George’s weapons are simply not up to the task. Spear and sword alike simply glance off of the beast’s scales rather than striking true. How does a man fight such a foe?

He does not enter the battle because of some secret inner power waiting to be unlocked which will turn the tide. He does not enter the battle because he has a clever and intricate plan that is sure to lead to victory. He does not bear a magical dragon-slaying sword. Indeed, he brings absolutely nothing to the table that can overcome the Dragon’s power. But he does battle all the same. Why? Because fighting that dragon is his vocation. He was called to this task by Providence, and so he bravely engages in it with all of his might–even though such might is clearly not enough.

And that is ultimately why St. George prevails–because he fights and continues to fight with everything he has while Providence supplies what he cannot.

In the beginning, his blows neither injure the dragon nor put it in any peril. Nevertheless, George drives the dragon to both rage and fear simply because he strikes it harder than it expected and it doesn’t want to be struck again. For all its power and ferocity, the dragon doesn’t like to feel pain. It is, in effect, offended simply by the act of a mere human contending against it.

Now, that doesn’t stop George from being on the worst end of their clashes. On the first encounter, the only real injury the knight inflicts is to damage the dragon’s wing just enough that it cannot fly away. But George loses both spear and horse alike before falling to the ground scorched and near death.

But each time he falls down unable to fight any longer, it is Providence which picks up St. George’s slack–not by felling the dragon for him or passing the task to another, but by enabling him to fight and enter the impossible struggle once again. At one point, a spring of water bubbles up from the ground where he falls to cool his burning armor and flesh. Later, an apple tree drops healing dew which repels the dragon and helps George recover. Along the way, Una, the princess who has led him to this battle, prays on his behalf and her prayers are answered.

So each time George falls, he also gets back up and returns to battle with a dragon increasingly irritated by his perseverance. Victory, of course, arrives only when things are at their worst. In the end, the dragon opens its maw to finally simply swallow its tiny foe whole. But it is by that very act that George’s sword strikes true through the dragon’s palette where there were no scales to get in the way.

If this story were the latest blockbuster being reviewed by modern sci-fi fans, these kinds of plot details would be nit-picked to death as mere contrivance and convenience. The dragon should have known better than to try and eat a guy with a sword! Why didn’t it burn down the apple true with its breath? Besides, springs and trees simply don’t work that way, and any magic they might possess was never established by the author beforehand!

But such deus ex machina is part of the genius of fairy tales like these. These stories do not take place in a materialistic world bereft of destiny and providence. They take place in a world in which it is the nature of good to triumph over evil. It is only the timing, the mechanisms, and the struggle involved which are in any true doubt.

We call that “unrealistic” today. We prefer dark and gritty stories in which goodness only prevails if it can find a good enough excuse and perishes otherwise. But this preference says more about our nihilism than it does about our realism.

After all, the world in which we live really is blessed with God’s providence and directed by his sovereignty. It is a world in which the victory of good over evil is assured because Christ has won the final victory already–we are all simply awaiting its final revelation. In that respect, the fairy tale actually conforms better to the real world than contemporary “realistic” settings.

We don’t know the twists and turns our stories will take until that Last Day. We don’t know how we will suffer or how we will prevail. But destiny is real: For those who love God, all things cannot help but work together for their good. Our victory is sealed, and it is only the moment-to-moment details which are in any doubt.

In the meantime, every one of us has vocations from God. He has set us to a variety of tasks–some very broad, others very specific. We may have very little insight into how we could possibly accomplish those tasks, but we nevertheless are called to throw ourselves into them at God’s command.

I, for example, am a father. I know that God has called me to that because he has given me two wonderful sons. I know it’s my job to raise them; to train & teach them; to love, care, provide for, and protect them. I also have very little idea how I’m going to actually accomplish all of that over the next two decades. But the truth is, I don’t need to know that today. I only need to know the next step–how to love them today and how to prepare myself to love them tomorrow. And through all the ups and downs and ignorance, God has always provided what is needful.

What’s more, we are not unopposed in these vocations. We are all called by God to many different tasks, but the constant among every last one of them is struggle. Doing God’s will means being thrown into combat against impossible enemies which we are simply incapable of overcoming: the Devil, this world of which he is the prince, and our own fallen nature which makes us susceptible to him. These are constantly trying to kill us, destroy our families, and lure us away from Christ. We cannot overcome the demons, we cannot bring the world to heel, and we can hardly overpower ourselves.

But we win nonetheless. Our victory has already been provided, even if we don’t get to experience that victory moment-to-moment. And so no matter how many times we fall battered to the ground, we win simply because we continue to fight; and we continue to fight simply because that’s what God has called us to do. And like St. George’s dragon, Satan shrieks and rages over nothing more than the fact that we presumptuously take the field against him in faith. He cannot stand being opposed because of the One who has overcome him.

Most of us don’t wear swords, aren’t sent on quests by faerie queens, don’t have literal dragons to fight, and aren’t offered crowns and princesses for our troubles. Nevertheless, dragonslaying is still a relevant skill. For Christian men, conflict against evil is an inevitable part of our lives–and so is victory.

Because of that, Christian boys still need to hear stories like this. As C.S. Lewis put it, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Posted in Christian Youth, Culture, Family, Tradition | Leave a comment

Judges, Submit to Your Husbands?

I checked yesterday to see whether “wives submit to your husbands” was still the most hated Bible verse in America. It is. The feedback was mostly like vampires reacting to a cross.

I write on some pretty controversial topics on a regular basis, but nothing has brought out even a 10th of yesterday’s vitriol–not immigration, not religious freedom, not rape culture, not even Christian nationalism. No, a straightforward reading of Ephesians 5 is what did it. If you can gauge your distance to the target by how much flak you’re receiving, then Satan’s most well-defended redoubt is the hold feminism gives him on the American family. It shouldn’t be too surprising;  he has his own design for family, and he cannot endure what God ordained.

But amidst all that, there was actually one valid objection that I’ll cover briefly and one interesting question that I’ll cover at length.

The objection is that I’m not actually representing Judge Barrett’s views on submission or those of her faith group. This is absolutely true, and I never intended to suggest otherwise. I presented the straightforward Biblical instruction in Ephesians 5, which may or may not align with Judge Barrett’s personal views. As I wrote, the issue of how Americans react to submission is far bigger than Judge Barrett. To be perfectly frank, she was the occasion for writing because she’s part of the current news cycle–she wasn’t really the subject I was writing about.

So with that clarified, let’s move on to the question: If Judge Barrett must submit to her husband as to Christ, then would said husband be the de facto Supreme Court Justice if she were confirmed? I have actually answered that one before, but after nine years it’s probably worth revisiting.

If you want to understand Christian ethics on questions that involve temporal authority, then you have to understand vocation. God has called each of us to certain offices in this life–each of which comes with 1) certain responsibilities and 2) the authority to carry them out. The authority doesn’t proceed from us as individuals, but from the vocations God has given us.

What’s more, each one of us has multiple vocations. The same man could be a husband, a father, an employee, a manager, a friend, a neighbor, a citizen, and more simultaneously. We have to delineate these responsibilities so that we don’t end up treating our employees like our children, our friends like strangers, and so forth.

When we mix our vocations up, we end up abusing our authorities. For example, when a man is both a middle-manager at someone else’s company and a father, he needs to understand that it’s an abuse of his authority to hire his son for a job for which he is in no way qualified. He has to fulfill both sets of responsibilities without co-opting one authority for the sake of the other.  This is precisely why people in positions of authority recuse themselves when there’s a clear conflict of interest between their vocations.

Accordingly, it’s not really a matter of which person is in submission to whom, but of which office is in submission to which other office. For example, consider a man who is both an employee and a father. He is under his boss’s authority, but only with respect to being his employee. His boss has absolutely no business telling him how to raise his children or manage his household, and he is under no obligation to obey such instructions. In the same way, Judge Barrett is under her husband’s authority, but only with respect to being his wife and the mother of their children. He has no business telling her how to weigh in on her cases and she has no obligation to obey him in that respect.

It would be nice to leave the issue there where it’s comfortable: saying she could just ignore him when it comes to her job as a judge. But that’s not quite the end of the story. The distinction between the offices isn’t as airtight as we might like it to be. While the offices of wife and judge aren’t related in themselves, they are related because they are held by the same person, Amy Barrett. And this person is under her husband’s authority.

So what does that mean in practice? Let’s return to our example of the father/employee and his boss. As we said, the boss has no business telling his employee how to run his household. However, he does have some measure of influence over that very thing. If we’re speaking of legitimate exercises of authority, he could tell his employee that he needs to work late to finish a project. That kind of thing most certainly affects his employee’s family life.

There’s also the potential abuse of authority to consider. The boss could misuse his influence over the man’s job to coerce him into running his household a certain way. This would put the employee in a tight spot. He may be able to correct the abuse in different ways: He could quit his job or appeal to a higher authority at the company who might discipline his boss. But if he cannot find such recourse, he would remain in a tight spot and his family life could be affected. This would absolutely be evil of his boss, but the mere fact that it’s evil wouldn’t solve the issue.

So are circumstances like these a meaningful liability for Judge Barrett? Does submission mean that her husband could rule on cases by proxy? It may have taken us awhile to get there, but the answer is actually quite simple: Only if he were an immoral and abusive micro-manager. If that were truly the case, she would be well advised not to seek high office.

But is that possibility something Americans need to be especially concerned about? Not at all. The idea of submission may be strange and alien to us, but Judge Barrett and her husband are not.  She has a public record of service while she has been married. It is the same record of service according to which she is being evaluated for the higher position. If any such shenanigans by her husband were an issue now, they would have been an issue all along, and they would be apparent in her work.

So in the end, submission has absolutely no bearing on whether she is fit for the Supreme Court or on how she is evaluated for it. If she’s submissive to her husband, she should be evaluated based on her record. If she’s not submissive, she should be evaluated based on her record. And really, on the family side of things, they seem to be immensely successful, so they’ve no doubt worked out proper boundaries long ago.

The only difference submission makes is how bigoted most Americans are on the subject.

Posted in Ethics, Family, Feminism | 20 Comments

It’s Time For Americans to Get Over Their Phobia of Feminine Submission

Consider what feminine equality has offered to American couples: series of empty and short relationships comprised of hookups; marriages typified by divorce over even trivial conflicts; a war between the sexes which is becoming more savage and hurtful all the time; and men simply giving up to go their own way. In the face of all this, is the reflexive hate and terror we experience when we hear those dreaded words, “submit to your husbands” really justified? Or is it time to consider that we may have taken a wrong turn and begin looking to God’s design for a better way?

From my latest at The Federalist:

This controversy is about something bigger than the People of Praise or Barrett . Rather, it requires us to defend the most hated Bible verses in America — the very ones that trigger so many of us who grew up indoctrinated with an irrational fear of masculine authority:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24)

Contrary to the way some Christians try to dissemble, these verses mean exactly what they say. They are not controversial because they are difficult to understand, but because they are simple. The key is Paul’s comparison to the church’s submission to Christ — a comparison so important that he makes it three distinct times in three sentences.

How then do Christians submit to Christ? Not as mindless automatons, but as people with agency and intellect who align ourselves with our Lord’s purpose. We do not bury our talents, but creatively devote them to his Kingdom, according to his instruction, and with the gifts with which God has equipped us. That is precisely how wives are to submit to husbands.

That profoundly transgresses America’s feminist inclinations, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. These words from God — repeated by Paul in his letter to the Colossians and by Peter in his first epistle — are meant for the good of women and men alike. Controversial or not, the common objections against submission are less compelling than we might think — at least once we pause to consider them instead of reflexively protesting.

Read the whole thing.

 

Posted in Culture, Family, Feminism | 35 Comments

The Insidious Defense of Cuties

The Federalist doesn’t have a comments section anymore, so I probably won’t be doing my usual followup to criticism of my latest piece on the Cuties travesty.  Nevertheless, Nathan Rinne alerted me to a Quillete article by Allan Stratton defending the film that I wanted to quickly address.

Most of it is what we’re already used to. Stratton tries to tie it to QAnon, as though that’s some kind of prerequisite for opposing pedophilia (and if it is, then sign me right up.) He also uses the “just” obfuscation I mentioned, going so far as to describe it as merely a “film about four 11-year-old girls trying to win a dance competition.” In addition, there’s a fair amount of “in for a penny, in for a pound” nonsense as he passes this off as something that’s already happening everywhere. And while I’m sure it happens more than we think, if it were really so normal already, the film wouldn’t be remarkable for its content.

But the most poisonous part of his argument is the part most commonly heard: it’s actually a great movie that’s against the sexualization of children. I mentioned this angle at The Federalist, but didn’t really do it justice.

For the sake of argument, let’s go ahead and assume for the moment that this film is essentially Citizen Kane in its craftsmanship. (I’m not going to watch the thing because I don’t have to submit to being groomed in order to criticize grooming.) Now consider two of the things the very production and distribution of the film objectively does:

Cuties sexually exploits real children

The actors involved were actually induced to be filmed doing the disgusting things over which everyone is up at arms. Stratton incoherently argues that this is not the case because “They’re doing no more onscreen than girls their age do offscreen.” Of course, in contending for the film’s message, he also says that what “girls their age” are doing is condemned under the “wide consensus that the normalization of sexualized kids is wrong” which the film shares. So that argument commits suicide within two paragraphs.  No matter how much Stratton talks out of both sides of his mouth on that point (as we shall see), such behavior is either condemned or its not. If its condemned out in the wild, then its condemned in the film as well.

Stratton also makes an appeal to authority here and mentions what great care was taken during filming. He says parents, psychologists, and a even a female director(!) were on hand as they were being exploited–as though that’s supposed to demonstrate anything more than Milgram experiment psychology at work. Let’s face it: We all know precisely the way Hollywood likes to care for child actors.

Cuties normalizes the sexual exploitation of children

Stratton both inadvertently proves and deliberately participates in this one. He goes on and on about how common this kind of behavior already is and how the film is just a reflection of real life as he writes its defense. Despite acknowledging the social “consensus” that this behavior is wrong, he also contends against that consensus.

His question is essentially this:  How can something so common outrage anyone who isn’t completely naive? (This is, by the way, the same technique that the bully on the playground uses to normalize the behavior he wants. “What are you a baby? Everyone is doing it!”) But the line between a common vice and a normal vice is very subtle, and it is drawn almost entirely with public shaming and outrage. Something common becomes normal when people begin to accept it as a foregone conclusion and so they don’t bother expressing any distaste over it anymore.

This is precisely what Stratton and others are attempting to achieve, for they are targeting that same public outrage over what the film does in an attempt to expunge it. He desperately tries to pass it off as something only those people are upset over rather than what any normal person would be upset over. “What are you, a baby? Everyone is doing it!” After all, if it’s just a reflection of normal life, then normal people aren’t upset by that.

Art imitating life imitating art isn’t so much a chicken/egg paradox as it is a vicious cycle driven in part by this very film and its supporters. But it’s all an illusion because again, if it the sexual exploitation of children were really normalized already, the film wouldn’t be provoking outrage in the first place.

So even if we accept that it’s a well-made film whose intention is to make a statement against child sexualization, we must contend with the fact the film actually does both these things in service of that intention–exploiting children itself and leading to the exploitation of more by normalizing it. I mentioned at The Federalist how nonsensical this is–sexualizing children to oppose the sexualization of children. I also implied how unnecessary it is. After all, most of the art of filmmaking is a matter making it appear as though something happened when it did not. Surely any so-called creative visionary worthy of prestigious awards could find an interesting way to make their point without actually sexually exploiting children.

But it’s actually worse than this. Defending Cuties because it opposes the sexualization of children is essentially arguing that it’s ok to sexualize children so long as it’s a good movie with a noble message. In other words, exploiting children is bad, but not really bad as long as it’s done artistically and for a good cause.

That is the quintessence of good intentions paving the road to hell. Once you accept this argument, it naturally raises the question:  What else is worth sexually exploiting children? Once you agree in principle to the sale of your soul, the only remaining detail is haggling over the price. From there, discounts are only a matter of time. It won’t be long before hordes of SJW’s are telling us its ok for children to be sexually exploited for the sake of things like equality, diversity, love, and so forth. Next we’ll be called bigots for refusing to countenance it.

The slippery slope is not a fallacy; it is the bread & butter of the PLGBT movement.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Paganism | Leave a comment