Not Peace, But a Sword — Sermon on Matthew 10:34-42

Grace, mercy, and peace to you—from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is this morning’s Gospel reading.

For the last few weeks, our Gospel readings have come from the book of Matthew—from what is often called Jesus’ missionary discourse. It begins at the end of chapter 9 when Jesus tells his disciples to pray that God would send laborers into the harvest. In chapter 10, Jesus answers the very prayer he commanded, and He sends twelve of his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of heaven.

Now this was a mission specific to the Apostles at that time, for most of us haven’t been given authority to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and affliction (10:1) just as we haven’t been instructed to avoid the Gentiles at this time(10:5). But as Jesus continues to teach the twelve to prepare them for that mission, he gives instruction that does apply to the entire church throughout time and space and to the mission that is shared among each one of us.

We can see it in the way his language changes. At first the discourse is mostly made up of fairly specific “you’s” “They will deliver you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues.” “You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” But as Jesus continues—particularly starting with verse 24—we find much broader statements: “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

So it is with our Gospel reading this morning, in which Jesus tells all of us:

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother… And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Not peace, but a sword. It’s an odd way of thinking about the One we worship as the Prince of Peace—whose birth was heralded by angels proclaiming “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” For that matter, about 30 verses earlier, Jesus was telling his Apostles to give peace to those who receive them. And about 60 seconds earlier, I began this message by declaring peace to you from God. So what gives?

Well, when we speak of peace, we speak of a reconciliation or an end to hostilities between two parties. And Christ did indeed come to bring peace between God and Man. For we were enemies of God—we hated Him. Oh, most people like the idea of God well enough—an all-powerful creator who loves and cares for us when we need Him and quietly goes back to the servants quarters when we don’t. But the reality of God… that’s different: That perfect love that we in our selfishness don’t even recognize; That holiness that doesn’t budge an inch for our favorite sins no matter how much we demand He make room for them; That unerring justice under which every last one of us rightly stands condemned. That God, we’re not so fond of. That God, the natural man hates.

But the end of the story is not our hatred, but God’s love. As Paul tells us in Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” You see, despite our hatred, he took our guilt and sin upon himself and replaced it all with his perfect righteousness. And Paul goes on to say “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” No more hostility. No more guilt. No more condemnation. Just peace and abundant life in Christ given freely to everyone who believes.

But this unfathomable gift of peace between God and man is not the same thing as peace between one man and another. Despite our peace with God… or rather because of it, we who believe… now have conflict with the world. Being reconciled with God, we are now on His side against those who still hate Him the way we once did—the way we often still do. And in that sense, Jesus does not promise us peace, but rather persecution.

And this has always been the normal state of affairs for the Church. As soon as it was founded, the Church was persecuted first by the Jews and then by the Romans until Christianity was finally legalized by Emperor Constantine. From the 7th century onward, a warlord named Mohammad and his followers put the once-Christian Middle East to the sword for more than a thousand years and counting. During the Reformation, we often persecuted one another because different groups of Christians insisted on rejecting different parts of God’s word. And it continues today, as all over the world Christians face penalties, imprisonment, and even death. Though the severity of persecution may wax and wane in different times and places, it is nevertheless business as usual for the Church.

And yet, we’re somehow surprised when it starts happening in front of us—when the targets are the Christians around us or even ourselves. We’re shocked when the latest florist or baker is sued into oblivion for refusing the celebrate sodomy. We’re aghast when a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate publicly argues that accepting Jesus’s statement that those who don’t believe in him are condemned makes a person unfit for public office. It catches us off-guard when people call us bigots for nothing more than believing things that were common knowledge until about five minutes ago.

We’re surprised because most of us grew up in a rather exceptional time and place—one with extremely broad religious liberties. What’s more, it wasn’t that long ago when America could at least plausibly be called a Christian nation. It was a wonderful blessing for which we should be thankful, and within our vocation as citizens, it is a blessing that’s worth contending for. After all, we should be in the business of loving and protecting one-another. But this blessing is not the norm for the Church. And what we see beginning around us today is simply a return to form.

And so, the time has come once again when the world demands our loyalty—to prove to them that when the going gets tough we are on their side against the unsettling reality of God. What proof do they require? Well, that’s always changing. In the 3rd century, Christian citizens of Rome were obligated to obtain a certificate proving that they had made an animal sacrifice in honor of the gods for the well-being of the Empire. Today, you’re more likely to be asked to pretend that a man wearing a dress is actually a woman or that two women are married to one-another. It’s weird, sure, but not any weirder than setting a cow’s guts on fire to honor the god of thunder. The specifics change, but the world’s only real requirement is that we deny Christ and the things he has clearly taught us. The other details are circumstantial.

We’re also surprised because we still labor under the illusion that if only we mind our own business, phrase things the right way, or try hard not to offend, the world’s hatred will pass us by. But do not be deceived. You’re not going to escape this by being quiet and unassuming. Faithfulness always leaves a paper trail. Maybe it’s a comment you made at dinner. Maybe it’s a tweet or a blog post. Maybe its a donation to a Christian charity. The world isn’t going to just forget you’re there if you keep your head down. And even those who escape the notice of judges and senators may yet have to face coworkers, friends, and even beloved family members as Jesus warns us.

Neither are you going to escape it by being nice or sensitive. There is no amount of sensitivity that will save you from the world’s hatred of God. Now, don’t misunderstand: when we confess God’s word, we are to do so with gentleness and respect. Likewise, whatever enemies we make, we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Though, to be sure, gentleness and respect are not always the same thing as being nice, nor is love and goodness always the same thing as sensitivity. But however well or poorly you love your neighbor, you’re never going to be more loving than Jesus was, and he was put to death.

So there’s no escape for us, but why should we be concerned with escape? Remember who we are in Christ! Why should conquerors retreat from the field of victory? In his first epistle, Peter tells us, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” For if we suffer with our Lord, how much more will we be raised up to eternal life with Him. Oh, the world can do some cruel things to us, but the one thing the world can never do to us is defeat us, because our victory is in Christ. We have absolutely nothing to gain by being timid; but we have every reason to be bold.

So heed our Lord’s warnings. For Jesus says,

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

In other words, don’t seek the approval of the world—even when mother or father or son or daughter are counted among them. Don’t seek safety and security in this life by taking the world’s side against God and His Church. Instead, bear your cross, for this kind of suffering isn’t something we can lay aside without also laying aside Christ.

We must indeed heed these warnings, but boldness comes from laying hold of our Lord’s promises. For though Jesus warns that “Whoever finds his life will lose it” he also promises that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” No matter how hard they try, the world cannot truly take our lives because we are alive in Christ. Though we are sent into the world to die, nevertheless we shall live eternally.

And of those he sends bearing the Gospel, Jesus also promises:

Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

So who are these prophets and righteous persons, and how do we receive them? Christ goes with those he sends into the world—they bring Him with them. The Apostles brought Christ to the Roman Empire and beyond. Pastors bring Christ to their congregations. Fathers and mothers bring Christ to their children. Christians bring Christ to those around them—even those who persecute us. And we have received such people by believing the Word of God that they brought to us. After all, receiving a prophet because he is a prophet means you believed his prophecy and receiving a disciple because he is a disciple means having faith in his teacher.

And having received Christ from those he sent, Jesus now goes with us as well and we bear him to our neighbors. Oh, we may all be poor excuses for prophets, disciples, or righteous men, but the reward is borne by Christ and received by faith alone. And the world cannot take it away. So pick up the cross that’s been entrusted to you, and confess Christ boldly, for our lives rest in Him.

And may that peace of God—that peace with God—that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Culture, Politics, The Modern Church | Leave a comment

Science Is Trustworthy When It Becomes Engineering

Why do we trust science? Richard Dawkins answers in this video a friend shared on Facebook the other day. In it, Dawkins is asked how how one justifies the belief that evidence and logical reasoning are required for justified belief without circular reasoning. He interprets that as a question of how we justify our trust in the scientific method and answers “because it works.” Because planes fly, computers compute, and so forth only when they are made according to scientific principles.

There is no context given for the question or the answer, but I suspect it comes out of the epistemological realization that science is not self-authenticating. In other words, there are a lot of people who still hold to a soft logical positivism (generally the “I f-ing love science” crowd) and think that no one should ever hold any belief unless its scientifically proven. Of course, that means that this very standard for holding belief would also need to be scientifically validated, but it cannot be done by science lest it rely on circular reasoning—a self-referentially incoherent standard.

Dawkins does dodge the epistemological conundrum—his answer involves a reasoned argument (induction) and evidence to support it, so if my suspicion about context is correct, it remains circular reasoning. Nevertheless, (and I don’t say this about Dawkins very often) he does actually give a good practical answer for why science is trustworthy—provided one accepts the logical baggage that comes along with it.

We trust science because of its demonstrated ability to “work”—to manipulate the world around us and make it do what we want. This is a legitimate rationale for trusting science, but it also sets boundaries for that trust. Inasmuch as “because it works” provides the rationale for the scientific method, it also restricts the scope of its applicability to things that “work” in that same sense. Contrary to the usual rhapsodies from the adherents of scientism, this means that science cannot be an all-encompassing methodology for the universal navigation of life’s questions. There are far too many important things that fall outside of the mechanical scope of working.

Can science then tell us anything about Beauty? Not so much, as “what works” is not a primary concern in that arena. On the contrary, the bulk of our artwork could be deemed quite frivolous in terms of its functionality. Of course, one could reduce art to terms of the chemical responses to encounters with artwork that can be found in human physiology, but that would mean that the best possible work of art would be a syringe with the right cocktail of hormones and enzymes. That is not at all what people mean when they talk about beauty. This kind of mechanical thinking is a hallmark of modernism, but it amputates the humanity from our lives.

Can science tell us about truth? In a sense, but it is limited to truths about what works and what doesn’t. It can tell us how much hydrogen weighs or how it interacts with oxygen, but it cannot address the vast stretch of human life and thought that sees beyond matter and its properties.

Can science tell us about goodness? Only in terms of some of its practicality. For example, science could tell us that it is better to feed the hungry with a bowl of oatmeal than a bowl of broken glass, but only on the precondition that the scientist knows that nourishing our hungry neighbors is a good thing—a precondition that has nothing to do with “what works” and therefore cannot be supplied by science. Morality in the transcendent sense of the word does not proceed from mere mechanics.

Can science tell us about humanity? It can in some respects, because people are, in some respects, mechanical. But the social sciences are pretty soft compared to, say, physics because human behavior is so much more than just mechanical. I’ve never read a scientific study that is more informative about humanity than Anna Karenina or Hamlet.

Can science tell us about history? Again, not really. You can never say that history “works” in the sense of planes and computers and whatnot because it already happened. You cannot recreate 1517 in a laboratory to test whether your theories about the Reformation are correct. Beyond some tools for data analysis, history relies on the testimony of those who witnessed it. But this hardly means we have no historical knowledge.

Can science tell us how to govern? This takes us back to goodness and the various social sciences. It can provide some data to assist in making decisions, but it cannot supply the entire intellectual framework in which those decisions are made. It has its uses, but it is only one tool in the belt—a modest role that our soft logical positivists feel is far beneath them.

At the end of the day, the “science” for which Dawkins provides a rationale is not science in the sense that the adherents of scientism usually mean it. While I don’t think this is what he intended to say, what he is really talking about is basically engineering—the art of applying science to solve problems like how to fly, how to heal, or how to compute large amounts of data. Engineering is a wonderful thing—and not just because its my own livelihood. But engineering doesn’t answer the big questions. It cannot tell you the difference between right and wrong or ugly and beautiful. Engineering cannot tell you what your society should look like. Engineering cannot tell you where we came from, whether God exists, or whether Christ rose from the dead.  These questions are not beyond rational investigation, but science and engineering are not the only research tools.

I do trust science because it works. But when people try and make it into a weapon against disciplines like theology, history, and the humanities, “working” is no longer in the cards, and so neither is trust.

Posted in Science | 2 Comments

I Learned It By Watching You

This is not a new story, but it’s new to me. Sister Apple Sister Pig is a free children’s story (badly) written by feminist painter Mary Walling Blackburn; and like many such books, it aims at helping small children understand and accept an adult issue:  the abortion of their siblings.

The story is about a young child of indeterminate gender named Lee (who, for the sake of simplicity I will refer to with masculine pronouns.) I suppose you could say that Lee is pleasantly haunted by the ghost of his aborted older sister. As he goes about his morning exploring the yard and doing kid things, he keeps asking his dad whether his sister is in the tree, the apple, the pig, or the pond that he encounters. The father is hesitant about dipping into the issue—simply telling Lee that she can be in the apple if he wants her to be. But eventually, Lee indicates that he knows what happened, and that he’s ok with it. He understands what his parents “had to” do, and he knows that his sister is a happy ghost whom he loves.

As repugnant as radical pro-abortion activism is, it does have a tendency to inadvertently wipe all the lipstick off of that porker. Sister Apple Sister Pig really does do a wonderful job of making the issue of abortion so clear that even a child can understand it—far moreso than I suspect the author intended.

First and foremost, it very plainly acknowledges that abortion kills an innocent human being. For all the talk of the removal of blood clots, tumors, and lumps of tissue among the pro-abortion crowd, the book couldn’t possibly be any clearer about what happened: “Lee is Papa and Mama’s only child for now, although there once was a sister.” “She lived before me, but Mama couldn’t keep her. Mama says she is a ghost.” “She briefly lived in Mama.” This is not the usual narrative of a woman who chose not to become a mother, but the reality that abortion is about a woman who is already a mother choosing to kill and discard the daughter that she already has.

Secondly, it (unintentionally, I think) placards the radical selfishness at the heart of the pro-abortion movement. Curiously, the choice to abort is always phrased as what Mama and Papa “could not” do, as though it wasn’t really a choice at all (ironic coming from a movement that claims to be all about choice.) But eventually, the “good reasons to not have a sister right here right now” come out. Lee helpfully explains to Papa why he’s not sad that his sister is a ghost:

If you kept my sister, you would be tired, and sad, and mad! … Because we would be wild and loud and sometimes we would fight. Mama might be scared that she could not buy enough food for us. Mama might not have enough time to read to me, to paint with me, to play with me, to talk with me.

So why was Lee’s living sister made to become a ghost? Because she would make his parents feel tired or sad or mad. Because she would take Mama’s attention away from Lee. But a ghost sister is more convenient than a living one. While a live child makes unavoidable demands on the lives of parents and siblings alike, the ghost sister never overstays her welcome. She’s there if Lee wants her to be, but gone when he doesn’t. “She returns when I call her…if I need her,” Lee explains.  The deep cruelty at the pit of this story’s black heart is this: Lee has learned from his parents that its better that his sister die than that he should have to share with her.

Like so many abortion stories—fiction and non-fiction alike—the book is a plea for absolution without repentance, and it demonstrates just how destructive that ludicrous quest can be. “Masochists, look elsewhere,” the dedication reads. “Between these pages you will not find the ‘luxury of grief,’ culpability’s sharp sting or salty guilt.” It’s clear enough what Mama is running from, but how does she get there? The path entails taking the most innocent surviving victim of abortion—the child whose sister was murdered—and trying to forge a reconciliation with him out of the base alloy of radical selfishness. Lee holds no grudge because he understands! He loves his mama and doesn’t want her to feel bad. And he knows how bad she would feel because he has learned to be just as self-centered as she is. He’s happier with a dead sister that can make no demands on his life than a live sister with whom he would need to share his mama. It’s a stunningly ruthless rationalization with which to soothe one’s conscience.

But as as a great philosopher once wrote, “conscience has its revenge.” The time will come when people like Lee’s mama will become as helpless as the boys and girls who briefly lived within them. And I suspect that these parents will be shocked at just how quickly they’re euthanized when they begin making demands on the next generation’s lives. After all, their surviving posterity will have learned from the best.

“Mom,” Lee might someday begin as the doctor clears the air out of his syringe. “Now just isn’t a good time to have an old parent. I know that if I do, I will be tired and sad and angry. I know that I’ll have less time for my career and my girlfriend. Maybe someday when I have more time and money, I could keep you, but now just isn’t the right time.” He nods to the doctor. “Don’t worry, Mom,” he says lovingly as she struggles against her restraints, “I know you’ll be a happy ghost.”

Posted in Abortion, End of Life | Leave a comment

Why Do Witches Burn?

Blogger’s Note:  The extremely long gap between posts here is mainly due to my latest beloved son with whom I am well pleased–except when it comes to sleeping on his own.  I have not given up blogging, but my already sketchy publishing schedule will probably continue to be super-sketchy for the next few months.

If one wants to trump up the historical atrocities of Christianity, the list of go-to sins is really pretty short. The Crusades and the Inquisition generally find the top spots on most lists, and science fetishists might add the popular but largely fictionalized narrative of Galileo being executed for telling the truth. Once you get past those, the next big one is our propensity for burning witches at the stake.

We all had to read The Crucible in high school, we’re all taught to be tolerant of other religions, and we’re all horrified at the image of medieval peasants goaded by a priest into lighting some poor old woman on fire because her neighbor’s daughter was stillborn and she happened to have a wart on her nose and a bundle of dried sage hanging in her house. Accordingly, the wrongness of burning witches is basically taken for granted in the West today by Christians and non-Christians alike.

Unfortunately, some people are inadvertently working hard to change all that, but they’re not Christians—they’re witches.

It seems that various covens, orders, and other mystical groups from around the world recently organized in order to cast a “binding spell” on President Trump—preventing him from doing harm as they see it and enforcing their political ideology through magic. Supposedly, this is non-violent towards Trump (so not a hex or curse or something), although the final image of him blowing apart into ash and the author’s acknowledgment that if it works we’ll be stuck with Pence makes me a little skeptical on that front. Either way, though, the intention is to control the course of the U.S. Government through mystical powers rather than democratic rule of law.

So what does this bit of silliness have to do with the witch-hunts of the olden days? Well, like most things taken for granted, we have largely forgotten why we no longer burn witches. What exactly happened that caused the shift in the West’s sense of justice? C.S. Lewis helpfully reminds us in Mere Christianity:

But surely the reason we do not execute witches is that we do not believe there are such things. If we did—if we really thought that there were people going about who had sold themselves to the devil and received supernatural powers from him in return and were using these powers to kill their neighbours or drive them mad or bring bad weather—surely we would all agree that if anyone deserved the death penalty, then these filthy quislings did? There is no difference of moral principle here: the difference is simply about matter of fact. It may be a great advance in knowledge not to believe in witches: there is no moral advance in not executing them when you do not think they are there. You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house.

In other words, we grant accused witches an irrevocable presumption of innocence because we simply don’t believe they’re capable of doing what they claim. Even self-proclaimed witches cannot really be guilty of ruining crops and dominating wills because they cannot really do such things. But the flip-side of this is that when we watch Supernatural to see Sam and Dean gut a witch, we still cheer them on because in the context of the story, their powers (and their dangers) are real. Do witches really want people to start thinking of fiction as reality?

This fact puts those who are taking part in the ritual in a kind of double-bind. If, as I believe, this is a bunch of nonsense carried out by volunteer demon-fodder, then they simply reinforce their reputation as a bunch of self-deluded crazies harvesting eye of newt by candlelight before getting up to feed their 13 black cats. We all get a good laugh, and Trump does what Trump does, for better and worse.

But the alternative is worse for the witches. Because if this is real and efficacious, then that instead makes them a powerful mystical cabal intent on subverting legitimate governments and controlling the very destiny of the nations through their supernatural abilities. It would mean that the modern West has simply been deceived about the existence of witches, in which case, it’s only a matter of time before the muggles catch on once again and organize to defend themselves from magical tyranny. Every old story about a musclebound warrior cutting the malevolent witch in half with his broadsword in order to save the kingdom becomes an inspiration. History will repeat and the age of witch-hunts will return because people will once again believe in witches in the old sense of the word.

If witches are looking to bind something, then they might want to consider binding the kind of stupidity that voluntarily walks into a no-win scenario like that. Perhaps its wiser to just stick with positive energy and white light and whatnot.

Posted in Culture, Paganism | Leave a comment

The Alt-right’s Success in a Nutshell

Whatever you might think of the Alt-right, it’s hard to deny its risen to a surprising degree of influence in the West. You need only notice the way this past election has transformed it from something self-serious people refused to even acknowledge to a kind of bogey man being talked about in hushed tones by frightened commentators wondering whether the sun will ever rise again.

How did it happen? The Guardian unintentionally illustrates it though an anonymous piece entitled ‘Alt-right’ online poison nearly turned me into a racist. The author describes a process that begins with some simple curiosity about the motives of the opposition leading into a rabbit-hole of consuming their YouTube and Twitter content. This went on for four months before he finally snapped back to progressivism.

He paints his brief conversion as something akin to contracting an illness after exposure to a pathogen and then being cured upon eliminating that exposure. Accordingly, his experience seems to recommend quarantine as the solution: beware suggested YouTube videos, don’t follow Milo Yiannopoulos on Twitter, and so forth. The views of the alt-right are simply too virulent to tolerate.

But here’s the unintentional part: What actually happened to the author? He experienced a rare phenomenon known as intellectual curiosity and actually took a look at the arguments of his opponents—unusual in the age of the mental bubble. This lead to finding more and more arguments and critiques, and finding them rationally compelling to the point where he began to tentatively voice them to others as a way of testing them out. In contrast, his route back to progressivism was sudden shame after his wife noted that he sounded “a bit right wing” and he began leveling accusations of ‘racism’ and ‘islamophobia’ against himself.

TL;DR version: The Alt Right gave him argument while the Left gave him the feels.

The Alt Right has been successful because their only real opposition is furious name-calling. They raise shocking and impolite arguments, but the reaction is always against their audacity rather than rationally addressing the content of what they say. That’s the kind of opposition that works for a while, but eventually loses its effectiveness. The stigma of ‘racism’ is already fading away because any intellectual underpinnings it once had have eroded. Once that happens, shaming is only sufficient for corralling the weak-minded. To so many others, the Alt Right gains a certain credibility precisely because the opposition is so vapid.

So if you don’t like the alt-right and what it represents, I highly recommend dropping the “r” word altogether when offering your critique. After all, if you can’t make your case without resorting to accusations of racism (or any other form of ism/phobia) then you probably don’t have one.

Posted in Culture, Politics | 1 Comment

“Constructive Dialog” Post-Election

A friend’s Facebook post this morning made me very sad. It offered up this article from a pair of liberals reflecting on their behavior during this latest election cycle with the comment, “A thoughtful article to consider our own behavior and how we can move forward in constructive dialogue.”

It’s not a bad article—that’s not why it makes me sad. It is thoughtful. It does offer some regrets about their behavior as well as some straightforward and reasonable suggestions for liberals to engage in a reasonable discussion with their opponents on the right in an attempt to move forward together. It’s certainly a contrast with today’s more common charge from the left that the election was a victory won by racists and misogynists. What makes me sad is that it was written way too late to do any good or reverse this nation’s course towards division.

Liberal ascendancy in America has long been making our political conversation increasingly nasty—and the stops were all pulled out for this election cycle. It was not characterized by meaningful argument or dialogue, but by a cavalcade of name-calling and attempted gotcha’s. We clearly reached peak-Godwin with all the “Trump is basically Hitler” rhetoric, and as Scott Adams rightly pointed out, that’s basically saying a person would be morally justified in killing the guy and attacking his followers. Beyond the personalities, positions that differ from leftist orthodoxy continue to be met with mere charges of bigotry, hate, thisism, and thatism, while those who hold them are dismissed as some variation of “deplorables.”

The left has also gutted our so-called fourth estate. Rather than a check and balance on our political powers and the corruption they necessarily provoke, they’ve freely opted to be the public relations arm of the Democratic Party. The Wikileaks emails confirm in black and white what every conservative already knew—that the media was in the tank for Hillary. Now that so much of the fawning, favoritism, deliberately leaked debate questions, and so forth are a matter of public record, no honest person can continue to use scare quotes for the term, liberal media. My personal favorite was the reporter who wanted John Podesta’s input on what questions he should ask “Jeb” in an upcoming interview. If his job were really to interview public figures, he wouldn’t need Podesta to tell him how to do it.

Worst of all, this river of vitriol has long been flooding outside out of the banks of rhetoric. Mayors of majors cities have declared that there’s no place for Chick-fil-A restaurants in their realms because of their own civil political donations. People are being fired from their jobs and losing their livelihoods for civilly disagreeing with leftist orthodoxy—folks like Brandon Eich, Baronelle Stutzman, and others. The recently released videos from James O’Keefe catch Democratic operatives admitting to inciting violence at Trump rallies and apparently conspiring to commit voter fraud. These sorts of things cannot be dismissed as words spoken in anger—these are deliberate and substantive attacks on the opposition.

All of this has been stewing for a long time, but the left wholeheartedly embraced it during this election. They went all-in against Trump and spewed every ounce of venom that they had stored up. And it didn’t work. They still lost.

It is only now, in that context, that I’m hearing the suggestion that liberals might need to reflect on their behavior in order to work together with the conservatives they’ve just tried to exile from civil society. It’s rather telling that the article actually has to remind their readers “to periodically seek out reasonable advocates of opposing views—and listen deeply to them.” They wouldn’t have to go out of their way to find us if they had been less eliminationist in their rhetoric and actions—so sure they were chosen by the future to supplant everyone else.

So, as a “reasonable advocate of opposing views,” allow me to provide something to which the left should listen deeply. Do you know how your suggestion of constructive dialog looks now? It looks like a man who fires every round of ammunition he has at his intended victim, fails to kill him, and then, when pulling the trigger produces nothing but clicks, says, “Hey… let’s sit down and talk this out like adults.” That’s not a man who’s looking for a civil conversation. That’s a man who’s looking for another opportunity, and the right must not provide one.  The left has obliterated the kind of civic trust that serves as a prerequisite for constructive dialog.  All that’s left is finding out who is stronger.

It makes me sad because I have no doubt that some liberals are quite genuine in their desire to reconsider their actions and look for a new way forward that’s more cooperative. Unfortunately, neither do I have any doubt that the time for such measures is long past or that their voices are far too small among those whose cooperative attitudes quickly whither away when they acquire power sufficient to their goals. Sometimes, when you cross a line, you cannot go back. That the left has done so is precisely why so many conservatives opted to elect a man like Trump in the first place.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m suddenly totally on board with our president-elect anymore than I’m going to pretend I’m not relived that Clinton lost. Nevertheless, as I’ve written before, Trump, for all his flaws, is a fighter who has already achieved some important victories that conservatives have never managed. Plus, the left (and the GOP establishment) hate him as much as they hate conservatives. I think there’s a lot more potential for cooperation with Trump and his supporters than there is with the left. We should be above much of what he’s done, but that doesn’t mean we have to be above working with him.

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

The 16th Century Called…

500 years later, and the Pope still wants Lutherans to set aside doctrine for the sake of unity.

According to Fox News, the Pope met with a large group of Lutherans yesterday. The message was that Lutherans and Papists should set aside their doctrinal differences so that we can unite to help the poor and the downtrodden.

It was unclear exactly which doctrines get in the way of such an endeavor. Generally, Lutherans will work with anyone inasmuch as we agree on what it is we’re doing together. So while we would not commune with a Calvinist or pray with a Muslim, we would certainly work with people of any faith to help the poor provided we could all agree on what helping the poor looks like. For example, we couldn’t work with a political liberal who holds the all-too-common view that abortion is a means of helping the poor, but that wouldn’t apply to faithful members of the Church of Rome.

But regardless of the specifics, whenever the call to abandon divisive doctrine is raised (in contradiction to the uniform teaching of the New Testament that sound doctrine is actually kind of important,) keep the following in mind: Whenever you ask someone to set aside their doctrine for the sake of something else (let’s say unity,) you’re really just asking them to adopt your own doctrine that unity is more important than their doctrine. After all, “unity is more important than doctrine” is a doctrine. It masquerades as being doctrinally neutral, but it absentmindedly brings an opposing doctrine in through the back door. And because it’s being done absentmindedly, the opposing doctrine is usually of very poor quality. So the Pope isn’t really putting doctrine aside at all—he’s just being really bad at it.

But hey, any time the Pope would like to set aside his own doctrine by repenting of the Council of Trent, Lutherans would welcome such a move towards unity in Truth.

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment

Broadening our Arguments Against the Gender Police

Blogger’s Note:  Back in May, The Federalist published a piece I wrote on the transgender issue:  War is Peace; Freedom is Slaver; Men are Women.  This was originally a much larger piece that I spilt into two.  The wrongness of transgenderism isonly half of the story.  The other half is the inadequacy of the conservative response to the issue.  What follows is the rest of what I wrote earlier this year because, unfortunately, not much has changed.

 

We surely live in interesting times when one of America’s hot-button issues is about whether men who think they are women can use the women’s restroom. North Carolina has been the latest battleground where the LBGT Mafia has put together an alliance of big government, big business, and big entertainers to bully people into submission. Reason being, the state government had the gall to fight against Charlotte’s decision to force people to pretend they don’t know the difference between men and women when it comes to their bathrooms.

In response, many conservatives have once again taken up the rhetorical weapons of the left and framed the issue as a war on women—specifically noting a threat to women’s ability to feel safe and secure in bathrooms. I don’t want to entirely dismiss that line of argument, for it is true that policies that cater to men who think they’re women have resulted in actul harm to individual women. However, it is also unfortunate that an argument that should be in a supporting role seems to be coalescing as conservatism’s primary objection to forcing people and organizations to pretend that men are women and that women are men. Not only are the stakes bigger than that, but conservatives’ adoption of leftist styles of argument is self-defeating in the long run.

The “social justice warriors” who drive these kinds of outrage movements are not going to be dissuaded by framing this as an assault on women. Despite what they sometimes say, conservatives fail to truly believe that the shrieking segment of the left does not actually care about women. After all, most conservatives really do care, and its natural to project that onto others. But even a good “it hurts women” argument is only compelling where real concern is present. Social justice warriors only care about women as an abstraction inasmuch as “women’s issues” are bound up in their political narrative. When it comes to actual women, however, they are perfectly content to denigrate them simply for wanting to protect their children, cover up sexual assaults (sometimes of thousands of rapes) to protect multiculturalism, and kill millions of actual unborn girls to protect access to abortion.

They likewise have absolutely zero qualms about throwing women under the bus for the sake of men who think that they’re women because the transgendered are unequivocally further up in the liberal hierarchy of grievance. I’ve often heard conservatives quip that if liberals didn’t have double-standards they’d have no standards at all. It’s time to move past the quip and consider what that actually means in practice: even their own arguments have no impact on them. So there’s no sense using them on that score. The social justice warriors that now dominate liberal rhetoric use their arguments only because they are useful, not because they themselves find them compelling.

Ultimately, however, it is not the small but puffed-up cadre of social justice warriors who need to be convinced—it’s those in America’s squishy middle. By and large, they are not driven by conviction or principle from any particular ideology, but by what feels right to them at the moment.

Some moderates look at the issue and merely want to do the compassionate thing. These do have concern for women, and so conservatives’ war on women approach does bring that facet of the situation to their minds just as they hope. What conservatives forget, however, is that American social decay has reached the point where these moderates have no firm grounding in what “compassion” actually is. They’ve also swallowed—hook, line, and sinker—the left’s contention that men who think they’re women and women who think they’re men are in dire straits and their horrible suffering and persecution can only be mitigated by all of society rising up and treating them as what they think they are rather than what they actually are.

What then does it ultimately gain conservatives to remind them that women are suffering and persecuted as well? All you’ve done is convince moderates that there are two groups who need their compassion; and they will respond by wanting to be compassionate to both at the same time. They will imagine various other options like adding a third unisex bathroom to every establishment, or making all bathrooms unisex, and so forth without much thought to the practicalities and consequences of their off-the-cuff ideas. But when it comes to the options that liberals and conservatives are presenting in the current situation, the left is always going to come out on top in the end because the moderate will be thinking to themselves, “at least they’re trying.”

As long as conservatives let the left define compassion downward as “acquiescing to the subjective feelings of underprivileged minority X,” they will never be seen as compassionate nor will they be able to convince others that they can be compassionate through conservative stances. After all, feelings shift like sand, and the left is always changing the current value of X. Conservatives do, however, confirm the squishy middle in their errant belief that the left’s overall approach to compassion is on target because even conservatives appear to agree with them (and I suspect that for too many conservatives, it goes deeper than mere appearance.) When conservatives take up the left’s style of argument like this, the long-term effect is to shoot themselves in the foot and help obliterate what’s left of the things they’re trying to conserve.

Other moderates are not even trying to be compassionate, but are rather driven by the fear of being known as a something-ist, something-phobe, or some other entry in the left’s ballooning lexicon of hatred. It’s not worth it to them to resist because there is real reason to be afraid. Social justice warriors are furiously building an Orwellian nightmare in which deviation from Party orthodoxy is swiftly punished wherever it can be.

In some cases, the punishment is mere social pressure. They adopt the tactics your average schoolyard bully and shame anyone who associates with their targets (in addition to heaping scorn on them themselves.) Losing social standing isn’t the end of the world for people with conviction, but that’s not a trait moderates generally possess in abundance. The bullying can be extra frightening given its unpredictable and indiscriminate nature. For example, when summer blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron came out last year, even liberal feminist director Joss Wedon was quickly set upon by angry feminists and shamed off Twitter. His crime was the inclusion of a scene in which Black Widow actually expressed some misgivings about her inborn ability to create life having been cut out to enhance her ability to create death. How very misogynistic of him. Anything at all can set these people off (hence the proliferation of trigger warnings and safe spaces in academia where they tend to swarm.) Likewise, the demands of political correctness are constantly changing. In this manner, social justice warriors work hard to create a deliberately frightening environment in which no one and nothing is safe.

Of course, the danger has already gone beyond social pressure on this and related issues It includes things like public officials doxing their constituents for objecting to a disruptive protest or people losing their jobs for opposing controversial social movements in mundane and civil ways like making political donations. And of course, social justice warriors have succeeded in weaponizing civil rights legislation against Christians who refused to compromise their conscience and assist in the celebration of homosexual unions. These men and women have have their businesses, homes, and livelihoods attacked over alleged “harm” as trivial as $7.91. Its no great wonder that people are afraid.

When conservatives take the war on women approach, they are, in part, trying to leverage the same fear that the left takes advantage of. But it does not work terribly well because conservatives are just not all that scary. They’re generally affable people, and they don’t control the apparatus of the mainstream media that is so essential to indicting and absolving people of thoughtcrime. When a scared moderate sees a conservative threatening them with a label of misogynist and a liberal threatening them with a label of transphobic, they are going to give in to the liberal nine times out of ten.

The faults in this approach are an unfortunate demonstration of conservatism’s obsolesence. Conserving is a short-term tactic in service to keeping something that we have. And while short-term battles still need to be fought, it does nothing to address the underlying problems that lead to the left’s continued social dominance. America is way past the point where conserving alone is sufficient to establish justice and civilization. Merely maintaining women’s bathrooms is not the same as rebuilding a society that knows and embraces both men and women as distinctly essential to human nature. Conserving leftist misunderstandings of compassion will not help people understand that compassion which cuts against the grain of human nature and natural law is not really compassion at all. Conserving public fear of non-conformance to leftist tropes will not help people acquire the courage to stand up to the enemies of civilization.

This is not the work of a day, and culture cannot be rebuilt with sound-bytes. However, fighting this battle over the long haul will require both the liberty and courage to plainly speak the truth. It is precisely these two things that are most imperiled by the push to make the accommodation of subjective discomfort a matter of enforced public law rather than private choice. If a friend prefers to be called “he”, “she”, “xe,” “captain my captain,” or “Her Illustrious Majesty Maximilian Alouiscious III,” then its up to each person to decide how much of that preference they want to indulge. However, forcing that preference on society at large destroys freedom, for there is no right to feel comfortable or safe—or to feel any particular way at all. It is the left that made such subjectivity the benchmark of compassion. Conservatives should not be adopting it or conserving its momentum.

There is a place for reminding people that women are actually harmed by letting men who think they are women into women’s restrooms and locker rooms. When a bad policy causes harm, its helpful to bring the abstract issue back down to earth by talking about victims. There is even a place for bringing discomfort into the mix so long as the feeling is simultaneously grounded in something more objective. But this challenge of grounding is too often unmet, and overall, this tactic seems to represent the essence of conservative resistance to the trans mafia—as though they either know no other reasons to oppose it or cannot bring themselves to voice them. If conservatives try to hang their hat on this aspect of the issue, they will lose the cultural battle—again. There is broader human concern here than women’s comfort and safety.

Posted in Ethics, Feminism, Politics | 1 Comment

Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils is for Serfs.

Blogger’s note:  No, I haven’t given up the blog;  I’ve just been off for some paternity leave.  Blog posts should now be resuming with whatever passed for “regularity” in the past.

It will come as a surprise to no one that I’ve never been a fan of the Republican party. But for as long as I’ve been voting, there has been one argument on which Republicans have heavily leaned convince me to finally cast a ballot in favor of their candidate: you need to vote for the lesser of the two evils. Given the caliber of the candidates they regularly put forward, this plea and it’s variations (“otherwise the Democrats might win,” “a vote for a third party is a vote for the Democrats,” etc) are unsurprisingly the only electoral leg they have left to stand on.

Nevertheless, every four years this cry is raised far and wide, and the conservative faithful have dutifully lined up to hold their noses as they try to punish leftist Democrats by rewarding leftist Republicans. On the surface, pragmatism of this sort makes a kind of practical sense. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade; and when life gives the American right the quadrennial choice between a punch in the face and a kick in the butt, the least painful choice is to turn the other cheek.

But when we speak of “life” giving us things, we’re speaking in terms of fate or providence—something over which we have neither control nor responsibility. There is no fighting against it; the wise man simply accepts reality, adapts accordingly, and makes the best of it. This is the wisdom the lesser-of-two-evils crowd tries to root itself in, but is this really the sense given to us by American democracy?

When a servant receives commands from his master, he is (apart from open rebellion) bound by something over which he has neither control nor responsibility. It therefore makes sense for him to make the best of whatever he receives from his master—good or bad. It’s simply his lot in life. American citizens, however, are not servants of our government—or at least, we are servants only inasmuch as we choose to behave like servants. Our Constitution makes voters the rulers rather than the ruled. We are ultimately the ones in charge of our nation and ought to act accordingly.

This means that we are not speaking in terms of fate when it comes to voting. Americans have a measure of both control and responsibility. While a single vote is insignificant, the entire conversation of “who should you vote for” assumes some measure of control, or it wouldn’t matter who anyone votes for. And it is right to assume control, for single votes are never alone—they join together with others, even if they aren’t part of the majority. Inasmuch as they are rulers, voters have a responsibility to wield their power wisely and make good decisions. Again, even those who speak in terms of the lesser of two evils recognize this, for when they see conservatives refrain from voting for the latest Keynesian statist offered by the GOP, they treat it as a dereliction of duty.

But if this is the case, then we are the masters and the dominant political parties are our servants. When the Democrats and Republicans consistently give us candidates who blatantly take sides against liberty in many and various ways, our job as their masters is to discipline them where we can and find new servants when discipline fails. We do not simply accept what we’re given and make the best of it. If we are rulers rather than the ruled, then the pertinent question this election is not how quickly a servant should fall in line with his masters’ selected candidates, but how a wise ruler ought to choose. (And if we are instead the ruled, then voting is a meaningless ceremony anyway.)

What then of Trump? In one sense, he’s business as usual: yet another self-interested, corrupt liberal with a few token conservative positions masquerading as the conservative candidate. In the midst of it, however, there is a key difference. He really is an outsider to the two-headed globalist monster that is the sum of our two major parties. The Democrats and Republicans alike have aligned themselves against America and the liberty of her peoples. They are both our enemies. What about Trump? I certainly don’t believe Trump to be a friend to liberty or to America, but neither has he taken sides against us (yet). He is, by all appearances, on no one’s side but his own. That’s by no means the makings of a good candidate, and it certainly qualifies as damning with faint praise. However, it is a tangible difference between Trump and his predecessors in the GOP.

I still don’t support Trump and do not currently plan on voting for him come November. But neither am I #NeverTrump, and here is why:

Our political elites—both Democrats and Republicans—are actively fighting against conservatives and conservative interests. That’s not news to many of us, but if this election cycle has done nothing else, it has carved that on tablets of stone. But it’s not just the elites—it’s also our fellow citizens.  Much has changed with the advent of Social Justice Warriors who do not merely disagree and fight for their beliefs in the public square but declare that there is “no place” for anyone with a contrary opinion and therefore work hard to actively take away their opponents’ jobs, homes, and livelihoods simply for being their opponents. That has shifted a long-running political conflict into open social warfare. In the past, conservatives could work together with liberals to govern our shared nation. Our respective principles might have differed, but there was relevant overlap, and both sides still analyzed the world in terms of facts to which those principles are applied. Today’s progressives, however, no longer think in terms of fact and principle at all, but rather fact and narrative—and the narrative doesn’t simply analyze the facts but has begun to devour them. The upshot is that we can no longer reason with the left—we can only defeat them.

The question of voting for Trump is then a battlefield question, and that puts certain character issues into perspective. Is Trump a boorish man who says mean things and exploits people? Certainly, but as uncomfortable as it makes me, its not really a big concern of mine. The battlefield is no place for manners. If (figuratively) killing your foes is your goal, then the guys who are best at it are the ones out there collecting ears. The real problem is this: While (unlike most Republicans) Trump is a fighter, he fights for himself and not for us. If we continue with the warfare motif, then making Trump president is the equivalent of releasing a rabid beast onto the battlefield and hoping that it kills more on the other side than on ours.

Like it or not, there’s a time when one needs to make that kind of choice. But when I consider Trump’s priorities, his multiplicity of positions on the issues, and the way he rides the mob rather than directing it, I am not convinced that the casualties would really be in our favor. Frankly, I’m not even convinced he’ll maintain his one true distinction—opposition to our globalist elites. There is no reason to assume he won’t pursue their interests if they make it worth his while to do so. And given how many of their endorsements he’s collected, one cannot help but wonder whether that’s already the case.

So if you want to be a free American this November, don’t vote for the lesser evil. Don’t meekly accept your lot in life. Don’t worry about which liberal is going to win just so you can throw in with them to make your vote “count.” If you would be a serf, then there’s no point in going to the polls anyway. But if you would be a ruler, then be a good one and make your own judgment.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

We Don’t Trust You to Regulate Firearms

And its because you’re untrustworthy.

In what has become our new national pastime, the recent tragedy in Orlando was immediately politicized, and as such, internet, radio, and television were all inundated with nonsense in short order. It makes me wish there were some way to convert inexhaustible cognitive dissonance into renewable energy, for it seems as though a great many liberals think that an ambulatory AR-15 rifle walked into a club and killed dozens of LGBT folks because it was homeschooled by conservative Christians.

Then they turn around to demand “common sense” gun regulation to prevent any more untimely deaths and get immediately flabbergasted that anyone would resist such measures.  After all, how could anyone be so cruel, uncaring, and blinded to the suffering of others by their ideology to refuse some simple and practical rules about who can acquire guns?

So liberals and progressives, let me lay it out for you: One’s invocation of common sense invariably falls on deaf ears when one is uncommonly senseless. The left’s reactions to Orlando do not exhibit the kind of good judgment necessary for making sensible decisions about who is allowed to own which weapons.

Some of you want to ban what you call “assault” weapons. Now, that’s a rhetorical label rather than a meaningful term, but behind it is the wish to outlaw weapons whose design and purpose is primarily to kill large numbers of people at once. On its face, that sounds like a sensible reaction to someone killing a large number of innocent people at once. That is, until you demonstrate the kind of gross ignorance and hyperventilating fear that makes one incapable of sound judgment.

I generally notice liberal incompetence on matters with which they have little experience when it comes to religion—for example, the tendency of liberal reporters is to report on the pious as though they were discovering a remote tribe of hunters and gatherers for the first time. While I’m no gun aficionado, my understanding is that the same is true for firearms. When reporters, politicians, and your other decision/opinion-makers get basic facts like what gun was used, whether fully automatic and “military grade” weapons are readily available, and so forth wrong on a regular basis, they merely demonstrate an ignorance that should disqualify them from making sweeping decisions on what weapons should be available for everyone.

As for the kind of overwhelming fear and terror that drive out rational thought, Gersh Kuntzman provides the quintessential example:

I’ve shot pistols before, but never something like an AR-15. Squeeze lightly on the trigger and the resulting explosion of firepower is humbling and deafening (even with ear protection).

The recoil bruised my shoulder. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions — loud like a bomb — gave me a temporary case of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.

These are not the words of someone making a sober assessment. They are the words of someone who, as Kuntzman himself admits, “was just terrified.” He actually thinks that firing a gun a few times gave him PTSD.  Stephen Green put it well over at instapundit: “Other than the fact that Gersh Kuntzman was apparently holding the rifle incorrectly, firing it incorrectly, made an incorrect (and shameful) claim about having PTSD, was incorrect that Mateen used an AR-15 in the Orlando terror attack, and was incorrect about being able to purchase a fully automatic ‘tactical machine gun,’ this is a totally accurate piece he’s written for the Daily News.”  How are folks that wet themselves at a firing range going to make sensible decisions about which weapons are too dangerous to own?

Others of you want to keep any weapon out of the hands of dangerous people. That too sounds very sensible until we consider who you seem to deem most dangerous. Every time a Muslim slaughters a bunch of people, you fall all over yourselves to assure everyone that a religion characterized throughout its history by violent expansion is really a religion of peace. Instead, you try and find a host of bizarre ways to somehow blame the murderous actions of a gay Muslim Democrat on conservatives, Christians, and 2nd Amendment supporters. Heck, a liberal reporter just blamed the shooting on supporters of the North Carolina bathroom bill. In light of this, it is perhaps understandable that conservative Christian gun-owners think that when you want to come take guns away from dangerous crazies, you really mean us.

But its no better when we move beyond popular rhetoric into the realm of official acts. Why not use the no-fly list or the terror watch list or some other official list to enumerate who may not own a gun? Well, in addition to such lists being notorious for lacking any due process because they’re the products of unaccountable bureaucrats, too many of those bureaucrats bear the same prejudices as the typical liberal. The FBI was watching Omar Mateen, but decided he wasn’t a threat. The State Department shut down an investigation into his mosque because it “unfairly singled out Muslims.” This fails to inspire much confidence that public service will somehow improve on the left’s typical ability to make good judgment calls. From top to bottom you have folks who think that a boy’s declaration that he’s a girl really makes him a girl, but that a boy’s repeated declarations that he’s killing people on behalf of ISIS has nothing to do with why he’s killing people. We would have to be insane to let you decide which of us should be armed.

Our right to bear arms is guaranteed in the constitution because our founders wanted to put decisions about who is empowered to defend themselves and their liberties outside the purview of mobs, politicians, and bureaucrats whose interests in the matter run contrary to the interests of the American people. Every time a mass shooting happens, the over-reactive left only proves the wisdom of that decision.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment