Is Easter Really a Pagan Holiday

“Ackshually, Easter is a pagan celebration which was culturally appropriated by early Christians trying to make their religion popular!”

As Christians prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord each year, we’re often confronted with this assertion by pagan and secularist wannabe know-it-alls. But is this really the case? Or is it just another example of an old and dubious speculation masquerading as fact?

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Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 2

Theological Liberalism is very much a product of its time. Unfortunately, it projected that same characteristic onto Christianity–replacing it with an evolving, experience-based religion that rejected everything Enlightenment intellectuals found unfashionable.

In this episode, we’ll take a look at two men whose philosophies deformed academic theology in the West for generations: Georg Hegel and Freidrich Schleiermacher

Introduction to Zombie Heresies:
Theological Liberalism – Part 1:

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis:
The Federalist:


Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 1

Does Christianity need to change or die? Is it just an expression of our own religious experience which needs to evolve along with that experiences? Is the Resurrection merely an inspiring story rather than a life-giving reality?

While not as ancient as the other heresies we’ve covered, Theological Liberalism is no less deadly to those it has deceived.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies:

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis:
The Federalist:

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Finding Real Life in Quarantine

Like most Americans, my corner of the country is largely shut down at the moment due to the Chinese Virus–schools, churches, restaurants, etc. are all closed for at least a month. We’ve certainly been fortunate to be less disrupted than many families. I already work remotely, so outside of Sunday, my daily routine is mostly unaffected.  So far. School and therapy sessions have been cancelled for my kids, though, so we’ve gone from part-time homeschooling to full-time, and I’ve been taking some time off to help my wife care for them.

Of course, it’s a very different story for many other Americans. For parents whose kids are in school full-time, workers whose jobs are indefinitely on hold or even lost, people whose states of health make them vulnerable, and so forth, it’s been a much more drastic change with very real hardships. It’s nothing I would ever wish on anyone. But whatever we might wish,  it’s here all the same. And because its here, it’s worth pausing to reflect on what kind of silver linings we might ultimately find in this storm.

Like most times of trouble, a major disruption like this also an opportunity to learn to adapt to change, discover some of the fragilities of modern life, and to simply experience life outside of the routines we’ve been stuck in. Many companies are forced to experiment with emptying their traditional cubicles and allowing many workers the opportunity to work from home. Many households are forced to think further ahead when purchasing consumer goods and re-evaluate just how much of that consumption is truly necessary. Americans are forced to reconsider many aspects of globalism–open borders, free-trade, outsourced manufacturing, etc–that have made something that’s really a relatively minor illness such a game-changing pandemic. And perhaps most significantly, families need to take a long break from outsourcing their children’s education to the government, and spend more time with them–playing, teaching, and growing alongside of them.

Though my first prayer is for health, recovery, and protection for our nation, my second is that this pandemic would be an opportunity for us to step outside of some of the artificial bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. If we can get past the fear and danger that’s inherent in turmoil, it might uncover much of value that we had forgotten–the joys of family, the value of faith, and the necessity of coming together as a nation–both to cooperate in sensible precautions that inconvenience us and to move forward with courage in the face of danger. This is all a hardship, to be sure, but hardship has a habit of making us stronger people in the long run.

It’s precisely the presence of these real hardships and real opportunities that have me laughing so much at the media lately. Not because of all the ridiculous fear-mongering–that’s simply abhorrent. But I laugh when I see them frantically trying to return our minds and spirits to the same old artificial concerns that have been overshadowed by issues of greater import.

While some households are wondering whether they’ll have enough money to pay rent this month, media figures and obsolete politicians would desperately like us to be afraid that terms like “Wuhan Flu” or “Chinese Virus” are racist. It’s kind of a hard sell, though, since it’s not exactly beyond the pale for anyone to name pathogens, diseases, and conditions after their place of origin. To be sure, not everyone is going to be aware that the Zika Virus and Lyme Disease are named after specific locales or that SARS and MERS are acronyms that include South Asian and Middle Eastern respectively. Nevertheless, we all remember West Nile from a few years ago, Stockholm Syndrome is pretty firmly in the public consciousness, and we’ve been told about the Spanish Flu every 5 minutes for the last 2 months. In short, there are few people stupid enough to actually feel offense at the term, so its painfully obvious that the concern trolls are just playing shame games–at a time when people are struggling to keep their pantries full.

Other people are concerned about their aged relatives and family members with suppressed immune systems. While the Chinese virus isn’t particularly dangerous for the young and healthy, there are people close to most of us to whom it represents a very serious mortality risk. But the media can’t have you worrying about whether Grandma will still be with you by Mother’s Day. No, they want you to refocus on the *real* issue: the strain on our health-care system might make it harder for men to pretend they’re women.  But try as they might to raise the stakes by throwing “life saving surgeries” into the headline, we’re well aware that the danger to transgenders comes mainly from themselves. As we get to know our boys and girls better over the next few months, (particularly without schools trying to confuse them about their sexuality) the blatant absurdity of a supposed obligated to cut your son’s balls off because he likes the color pink is only going to be harder to ignore.

And of course, we can’t have anything without Planned Parenthood chiming in. After all, though the Guardian fears the impediment to sterile orgies [link] that the pandemic represents, our nation’s most prominent baby murderers have a greater fear: As couples find comfort and togetherness in physical intimacy during times like these, their affection runs the risk of blossoming into new life. We can’t have that, so Planned Parenthood wants to make sure there’s no baby boom resulting from this pandemic.  “Too many children” has always been the concern of those who love humanity but hate actual people. But amidst our eerily quiet streets, social isolation, and more of our grandparents being taken from us (all at a time when our birth rate is at its lowest level ever,) it’s harder to maintain the illusion that having a family is a great evil from which we need protection.

One has to find a way to laugh–even in hard times–and I laugh at things like this because they are all the last gasps of a dying worldview. Decadence is never sustainable in the face of genuine hardship, and blatant stupidity has a shorter shelf-life when danger forces us to be more practical. That’s something every nation has to face sooner or later because some form or hardship will always come knocking eventually. It’s only been such a shock to us because of the fragility of many of our economic and social systems.

So everyone: Stay safe. Be smart. Don’t despair. God is with us even in times like this–especially in times like this. By all means, mourn with those who mourn. But don’t forget to look for goodness as well. And as you pray for health and recovery, remember to pray that our perseverance through these times will build character as well.

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Men Going a Third Way – Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It is possible to convince women to back away from feminist rebellion, but like any other skill, convincing women is something that needs to be learned, practiced, and developed through patient endurance. Granted, women aren’t machines you learn how to use, and you’re never truly going to understand them. Nevertheless, they are people you get to know and learn how to behave around, so skill and learning remain relevant categories.

The “trick” (if you want to call it that) is that you have to continuously observe what works, what doesn’t, and adjust your behavior accordingly. What you mustn’t do is get so caught up in how it “should” work (or, God forbid, how women tell you it works) that you ossify yourself in the conviction that they’re just impossible to deal with. You can’t proceed under the assumption that being corrected the same way a man is needs to be is a prerequisite for women to change course.

Most women aren’t going to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and radically alter their behavior contrary to everything they’ve been taught based on an abstract argument—even an obvious one clearly rooted in God’s Word. I’m not saying we should stop proclaiming those parts of God’s Word as something which needs to be obeyed. We absolutely need to do that more and more. I’m just saying that men can’t expect doing so to be all it takes for a woman to change herself. And as you learn that, you really have to scale your expectations closer to reality.

And that’s actually my other takeaway from the kayak situation: The commenter was asking me for a way to get women to admit when they’re wrong. The truth is that my wife never did admit that she was wrong—she just stopped trying to steer. That common female refusal to admit fault is something I’d wager a lot of men struggle with. We find it infuriating because we naturally perceive it as stubborn, sinful defiance (and though I do think there’s more to it than that, I don’t think we’re entirely wrong in that assessment.) Nevertheless, while an admission of error would have been gratifying and greased the wheels of loving kindness, the reality is that we didn’t actually need it. Stopping the errant behavior was all we really needed to have a good trip, and we’re both glad we went kayaking.

So it is with feminist rebellion. Men don’t really need wives who openly reject feminism with all the fervor of the red-pilled (as wonderful and helpful as such women are.) Mostly, we just need wives who will ultimately act more and more inconsistently with feminism. Sometimes, men become so dead-set on the former, that we never really try that hard to induce the latter. In other words, we let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

It would be great if you could find a wife who calls you “Lord” as Sarah called Abraham. While every last woman will answer to God for her response to the most hated parts of his Word, expecting most of them to wholeheartedly embrace it is simply not a realistic goal for men of our era. But then, we don’t really need women to explicitly admit they’re wrong, act reasonably during arguments, cheerlead us, stay physically fit, openly acknowledge their husbands’ authority to our faces, share our passion for abstract theology or apologetics, support our political stances, eagerly try new sex acts, and so forth. Those may be great things, but they’re not in the cards for most ordinary men. You might eventually be able to swing having a couple of those things in a wife, but if you truly insist on a bunch of them from the get-go, going your own way is indeed the only option you’ll have left.

But if you are called to marriage rather than celibacy—as most of us are—then you are called to find a more realistic option that still includes what men actually need. We do need women to want to marry and have kids, spend time raising them, stop blowing up their marriages through divorce, repent of fornication, and so forth. I wouldn’t marry a woman who wasn’t convinced on things like that. That may or may not be sufficient for marital bliss, but if men can manage that, then we’ll have a future in which more can be built.

Yes, “she respects the 6th commandment” is a relatively low bar, and it’s not dream girl territory, but it is attainable. Particularly if men work more collectively in society and back one another up. Even when women aren’t learning by reason and argument, they’re still learning from proximity to the social attitudes & authorities of the contentedly unapologetic men in their lives (not the whiny ones.). Maybe you can’t convince a woman on all of those points and will need to move on—you may do that a lot. But if you’ve convinced a woman on even one essential point (and let her know the others are non-negotiable by walking away), then you’ve at least made headway for someone else. And the more women we can convince on any of those points, the more marriageable women there will be in the long run. We can do that from either inside or outside romantic relationships—as long as we don’t insist on reason & moral obligation being the only allowable ways of changing women’s behavior.

Civilization isn’t built in a day, and every incremental step towards the end of the rebellion is a step in the right direction. What’s more, each step provides a little bit of inertia that makes the next step easier. And let’s face it: There’s been just as big of a loss of marital know-how among women as there’s been among men—they need time to learn too. The catch is that ordinary men today probably aren’t going to get many of the things they want out of wedlock. And yes, it inevitably involves a not-insignificant risk of divorce, being trapped in a sexless marriage, etc. But those are risks that can be managed to varying degrees, and civilization is never built without taking risks.

Ours is merely to figure out how. And that’s not going to happen by disengaging from society and/or by having unattainable expectations. Neither will it happen if we succumb to despair or, God-forbid, if we continue to make ourselves ugly by submitting to women. We’re only going to learn by trying, failing, learning, trying again, and passing on what we’ve learned to others—hopefully our sons. We need to persevere knowing that we ourselves probably won’t live happily ever after in all the ways we’d like to, but that our children or grandchildren might. The long and short of it is that dealing with feminist rebellion will require what civilization has always required: planting trees in whose shade you’ll never live to sit.

And you know what? We really can learn to do it.

While this is the last post in the series, it’s still to be continued… by you. How are you going to nudge the young women in your church towards the pursuit of marriage? How are you going to convince your wife or girlfriend that staying home with the kids is affordable or that she could be a brilliant homeschool teacher? How are you going to backup the men in your life during their own troubles? How are you going to make yourself appealing to marriageable women? How are you going to create sensible gender roles in your corner of society? How are you going to create the kind of circumstances in which the women in your life will favorably respond to reasonable arguments? How are you going to recreate male-only spaces in society in which men can learn from and reinforce one-another on a new path? There’s an enormous mess to clean up, and there’s nothing for it but to pick a little spot and get started.

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Men Going a Third Way – Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Very often, men’s perception of female incorrigibility is entirely mistaken. On one hand, there’s women being incorrigible because feminism is a blight on mind, body, and soul that leads to fanatical selfishness and entitlement. And yes, some women really are so toxic that you just can’t deal with them. By all means, avoid those women to your utmost ability. But on the other hand, there’s women seeming incorrigible to men simply because they’re not men. Oftentimes, we don’t adequately distinguish between these two possibilities. The effective result is expecting women to briefly become godly men on their way to becoming godly women.

You may know that men and women are different, but the fact remains that everyone under 40 was indoctrinated to believe otherwise, and we will always struggle under that psychological baggage. Knowing better now doesn’t mean knowing how to navigate the differences. By way of analogy, one can know that Macs and PC’s are different but still be unable to print a document from a mac. And so, we still expect women to generally be convinced to change the same way we generally expect men to be—by things like rational argument and moral obligation.

And before anyone gets all triggered, I’m not saying that women can’t be convinced by intellectual arguments, don’t care about reason, or are too emotional to think rationally. If you consider stereotypes like that as absolute statements, they naturally aren’t accurate. I suspect most people personally know exceptions, and I myself am aware of having–primarily by reason–changed several women’s minds on controversial subjects relating to feminism. In other words, NAWALT–no surprise there. After all, stereotypes aren’t meant to be absolute statements–they’re generalizations. But to take it a step further, those stereotypes aren’t really accurate as generalizations either. To be sure, there is a reason those stereotypes exist, (and it’s not misogyny, as too many people reflexively contend) but they are nevertheless imprecise at the very least.

Humans (men and women alike) are rational creatures, but we’re not only rational creatures. There is, by design, a lot more to our consciousness than logical analysis. And this is a good thing. We absolutely need reason to both know truth and to survive, but at the same time, we shouldn’t be aiming to emulate computers or Vulcans. Reason should never be discarded, but neither can it function in a vacuum.

While some claim that reason is the only way we have of knowing, that claim is self-referentially incoherent. If reason is the only way you can know that reason is the only way you can know things, then you necessarily fall into circular reasoning—it’s unreasonable to believe this. In contrast, it’s quite reasonable to accept certain axioms, certain natural laws, certain intuitions, certain empirical data, and so forth. We feed our reason with such things to make it work, and it is entirely proper to do so as long as those things remain coherent with one-another.

Because humans are more complicated than computers, every one of us has times, moods, and mindsets in which we’re highly resistant to argument. When somebody argues for what isn’t in your interest, what’s counter-intuitive, and, yes, what triggers certain powerful emotions, you’re going to be much more skeptical at best and downright obstinate at worst. Likewise, there are other circumstances in which we’re much more open to reason. So we’re all rational on a sliding scale or sorts—and I do believe the core of that inconsistency is by God’s design (e.g consider the nature of disgust), even if the inconsistency has become terribly destructive since the Fall. (But hey, what hasn’t?)

All of this is true of both men and women alike because God made us both human. But the similarities do end eventually because God also made humans either male or female. Accordingly, there is a very real difference in precisely which times, moods, mindsets,etc tend to render women resistant to reason as compared to men. You could argue whether or not those circumstances are broader for women than for men (I think they are), but the key reality here is simply that they’re different. That’s why men and women alike both think of each other as complete ninnies from time to time. Men are absolutely terrible at being women, and women are just the worst at being men.

But these different tendencies are not actually a bad thing so long as you don’t think men and women are supposed to be equal (as we’ve all been indoctrinated to think.) Never have I been so convicted of this before I actually found myself trying to reason with toddlers. If women are designed and adapted to be more adept than men at rearing children in their youngest years, it makes sense that rationality has a somewhat different place in their consciousnesses in relation to things like intuition and social instincts.

The upshot of all this is that a whole lot of women aren’t truly incorrigible. It’s just that most modern men have become very unskilled at doing so because our forefathers—like parents giving in to a tantrum—took the easy way out. Instead of approving of women as women we began to blindly approve of them as men to try and soothe feminists’ insatiable envy of masculinity. The problem is that if you insist on equality and judge women by masculine standards, they invariably fall short. Then you’re left with only two options: Constant disappointment (MGTOW) or a weird pretense that women are actually more “masculine” than men (soy boys, gamma males, and white knights.) Ironically, it’s often a combination of the two.

And so, several generations later, we’ve lost a lot of the know-how on to deal with women as women. To be clear, I absolutely include myself in the “unskilled” category here. That is why I’m not providing a complete pre-packaged Third Way with a list of tips and an explicit how-to guide anywhere in this series (sorry to anyone who was expecting that by the end.) What I’m trying to provide here is hope—because what I can tell you is that it’s not voodoo.

Having worked in IT for as long as I have, I’ve encountered any number of people who sabotage their own ability to use technology because they treat computers as magical contrapulators which defy all laws of common sense and whose workings cannot be discerned by the uninitiated. They fail to learn to use technology precisely because they believe they cannot.

That experience is only reinforced by the rest of my life. At various times in the past, I’ve believed myself to be a terrible writer, incapable of being handy, and unable to speak publicly. I’ve overcome each of those precisely when I stopped sabotaging myself by believing such skills to be voodoo. Now, I’ve designed and built small bridges, built playgrounds, repaired electronics and vehicles, delivered sermons, given lectures, and occasionally, people even pay me to write. I’m by no means great at every one of these things, but I can get by far more than I could before.

A lot of men sabotage themselves in the same way when it comes to dealing with women. I know I have. We believe it’s impossible without being some kind of psychic or alpha male. But it doesn’t have to remain that way.

To be continued…

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Men Going a Third Way – Part 2

Part 1

So if men have to be the ones to correct feminist rebellion so that we can have functional families and maintain civilization, what do we do? I’ve spoken about ways we can improve our odds of succeeding at marriage. I’ve also written about some of the things Christian men in various stations can do to help one-another succeed. And there are a whole lot of other people who point out various aspects of Game and whatnot that can be successfully employed. We absolutely need to do those things. We should also look for even more little adjustments like that and employ them for all they’re worth because we need every advantage we can get in present circumstances.

But that still leaves the issue of actually convincing women to change course alongside of us, which is why I want to address that question the commenter posed about my kayak experience: How did we get my wife to stop steering from the front?

The truth is, it’s a pretty underwhelming answer. The guide had explained things at the beginning. I subsequently re-explained things and told her to stop steering. But what finally made the difference was that the guide, who saw what was going on, openly and bluntly told her, “He’s right; you need to knock it off.” (I can’t remember the exact words anymore, but that was the gist of it.) That was the end of the issue.

What made the difference was social pressure catalyzed by a recognized group authority on my behalf. I couldn’t convince her on my own. But at the same time, the guide might not have had much success if I hadn’t already been telling her the problem (or worse, if I had been undermining him by “honorably” taking all the blame, telling her not to worry about the instructions, and other facets of white-knighting.) It worked because we backed one-another up.

In the end, it wasn’t a reasoned argument that did the trick, though I did argue reasonably. Neither was it an appeal to legitimate authority, though I did say to trust the guide’s instructions. What tipped the scales was the prospect of her error becoming, for lack of a better term, “official” in a sense that I don’t fully understand. Women don’t seem to care that much about being wrong–but the threat of social shame or isolation (even in ways men would consider trivial) by being officially recognized as wrong in certain contexts is another matter.

That’s why husbands/boyfriends/friendzoned/etc need to show backbone to women. That’s why men in leadership positions need to support those men with backbones instead of undercutting them. And that, in turn, is why disengaging from society is so counter-productive. Going your own way isn’t going to populate either social sphere with men who are willing to do these things. (And please don’t sink into despair by thinking of “leadership position” or “recognized authority” as something grandiose and unattainable for ordinary men—we were talking about a tour guide here.)

So yeah, women instinctively seek out male approval–which is to be expected if headship and submission are part of divine ordinance in creation. While feminism of course rejects that ordinance and twists those instincts, men have played their own role in subverting the natural dynamic by promiscuously granting our approval to women in order to gain approval from them. It’s a pattern of male submission that both facilitates feminism while making ordinary men unattractive. We inherited that pattern from previous generations who responded to feminist rebellion by trying to buy off discontented women with male approval, and it’s only snowballed since because approval won through nagging isn’t really satisfying. Feminists will have to answer to God for their sins, but when they rose up, they didn’t seize power; men gave it to them. We undermined our own authority.

I know this isn’t exactly a “eureka” moment. It’s nothing that hasn’t been noticed in a billion blogs, and truthfully, it’s not really why I’m writing this. Men have been passing these kinds of ideas around the internet for awhile now. What really concerns me here is the question of why so many men who hear these ideas are disengaging from society instead of actually learning to leverage them for success. Why do they claim its impossible for them to succeed because women won’t allow it?

I think the answer is ultimately simpler than we think, and it comes back to despair. Men are having a hard time forging a new path because we’re stuck on old paths that simply don’t work no matter how hard we try. And as we bang our heads against the wall in futility, we come to believe that women are just incorrigible, and we might as well give up until that changes. But even amidst all the repugnant evil that comes from feminist women, I nevertheless think there are ways men end up doing women something of an injustice in our assessment of incorrigibility and shoot ourselves in the foot as a result.

To be continued…

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Men Going a Third Way – Part 1

Last year, I wrote a piece at the Federalist in which I illustrated submission in marriage by relating a story about kayaking. To recapitulate it here, my wife and I went to Hawaii a number of years ago and took a kayak trip upriver. Our guide made it clear that in a two-person kayak, there are distinct roles for making it work: the person in back needs to steer while the person in front needs to provide even forward momentum. I was in the back attempting to steer, but my wife was so worried that we might bump into the riverbank that she kept attempting to steer as well. In case you’ve never tried it, it’s about as difficult as you’d expect to steer a kayak when the other person is actively working against you. So we did end up bumping into the river bank a few times–and this only increased her resolve to keep trying to steer. After all, from her perspective, I wasn’t doing a good enough job so she had to steer. Eventually our guide and I convinced her to stop steering, at which point our trip upriver became much more enjoyable for everyone.

I never addressed it at the time, but there was one comment on that essay that caught my eye. A reader asked:

I want to know how you, even with help, were able to convince your wife that she was wrong to try and steer from the front and got her to listen and quit doing it. You would literally save this entire nation if you could find a way to teach us how to convince women to admit they’re wrong(when they’re actually wrong, not to gaslight them).

I bring the question up because I’ve recently been pondering the common presumption among MGTOW that Western women are simply incorrigible and impossible to deal with.

I’m not going to rehash the enormous challenges men face in our society that lead men to give up on marriage. Examples are legion, and I’ve written on the subject time and again. Male disengagement from culture is not an altogether unreasonable reaction to our current social incentives. Many men find themselves more free to pursue their personal interests without heartache and interference by despairing of women and simply going their own way.

Because of that reality, I have a great deal of sympathy for MGTOW. But here’s the thing: “The only winning move is not to play” may be a reasonable attitude to have if you’re a hedonist/existentialist, but I unfortunately encounter the same kind of despair among Christian men. Those of us who are not called to celibacy are called to marriage and family. And celibate or not, all of us are called to various work in our nation as well–serving our neighbors by building and maintaining civilization. Accordingly, it’s always bothered me to see Christian men who (correctly) believe that feminist rebellion is destroying our civilization disengage from it all under the excuse that there’s just nothing to be done until women stop rebelling. And no, not all MGTOW are like that (NAMGTOWALT?), but the despair is nevertheless very common.

That said… I don’t want to dwell on that either. Considering the challenges men face, I don’t want to heap more scorn and discouragement on the pile because there’s already plenty of that to go around. Men need encouragement instead. I only bring up the criticism briefly because too many people have embraced a false dichotomy between “go your own way” and “man up and marry those sluts.” Both of those options are grounded in despair, and so encouragement necessitates moving towards a third option.

Which leads me to the key question: If feminist rebellion is the problem, who exactly is going to correct rebellious Western women? Women sure as hell aren’t going to independently self-correct. It’s not going to happen by men disengaging either–the fantasy that men’s absence will teach women how badly they erred is both fatalistic and bitter. For one thing, the parasite’s regret at inadvertently killing its host is irrelevant to said host. For another, mere disengagement alone won’t actually cause it to happen–it’s simply passing the buck to other men further down the line.

So any way you slice it, men are going to have to correct women. Given our demographic realities, that means it’s going to be either Christian men or Muslim men. I much prefer the former because if the Muslims do it, then that will mean the West is entirely dead. That is a possible outcome, but embracing it is simply despair again, so that’s not encouragement. The mere possibility of defeat is insufficient cause for laying down arms. Accordingly, I’m going to move forward on the presumption that it’s going to be us–Christian men–who will succeed in this.

But if the task falls to us, who among us are going to carry it out? It’s not going to be our older gentlemen who succeeded in a far saner culture and can’t even truly understand the modern difficulties. It’s not going to be the hyper-attractive, high-status men who virtually can’t fail to marry and have kids if they want to. I don’t begrudge them their good fortune, but it’s of little use to the rest of us. No, if our civilization is going to be saved, it’s going to be accomplished by the ordinary men who find a way to marry and have a family in the conditions we have now.

To be continued…

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I Wish Someone Initiated Church Discipline Against Me

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
-Matthew 18:15-20

Here, we find Jesus’ dreaded words about church discipline–what many wrongly see as a harsh and unforgiving process leading up to the ultimate punishment: excommunication. Phase One of excommunication is telling the sinner his fault privately. Phase Two of excommunication is bringing other Christians into the matter. Phase Three of excommunication is bringing it before the entire church. And the terminus of the process is the final phase: treating the sinner as a pariah and expelling him from your fellowship.

In my experience, most Christians shy away from these words. After all, we quite rightly don’t want our brothers and sisters to be excommunicated. What’s more, we worry that the process might be abused by a malicious member of the congregation. We’re afraid that they might sow strife and discord in the church and rouse up a mob against a brother or sister who is either innocent or whose sin is more of a peccadillo when compared to something as severe as excommunication.

These are understandable attitudes to hold, for there is a very real gravity to Jesus’ words here. However, they are also very misguided because they reflect a lack of trust in what Christ has given us–as though he were somehow setting us up to fail. And in this lack of trust we end up completely mischaracterizing these verses. These are not the phases of excommunication at all; they are the phases of gaining our brother. If we followed them, it would lead to more peace among us–not less. This remains true even when there’s a malicious person who wants to attack a fellow believer based on falsehood.

I came to realize this because, as I vented on Twitter a few days ago, my family was recently attacked by a malicious member of my congregation. And I truly wish they had followed Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18.

To provide some background: I am the father of two boys, 3 & 5, with special needs whom my wife and I bring to church each Sunday. We don’t keep their condition a secret–we tell people who ask or who need to know. But neither do we announce it, and it isn’t obvious at a glance. Accordingly, I won’t go into further detail on the internet for the sake of their future privacy (and because we’re still working with doctors to diagnose our youngest.) However, I will say that it can be a struggle to get everyone ready to go on Sunday morning, and sometimes they can be a handful during the service–a little more noisy and restless than the average boys their age.

Nevertheless, we’re there in the front row every week because my whole family needs the Divine Service. We’re sinners, and each week, Christ delivers us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation which he won for us on the cross. The Gospel is right there for each one of us every Sunday. So while it’s difficult sometimes, we nevertheless bring them to Jesus’ feet as per his invitation. “Lord, it is good that we are here.

But not everybody thinks it’s good for us to be there. Last Friday, my wife and I received an anonymous letter in the mail (no signature, no return address, everything typed including the mailing label.)  This is what it said:

Mr & Mrs Cochran,

Are you oblivious to the fact that your family causes so much disruption, distraction, & disturbance during the Sunday morning worship service at [church name]? From being late every Sunday morning to the frequent exits and re-entries during the service to allowing your boys to ‘free reign,'[sic] these disturbances not only affect other worshipers of the congregation, but the pastor (and his sermon) as well.

You may assume that you’re being good parents by allowing your boys to do what they want during the service, but you are doing more harm to them than good. You’ll realize this soon when they grow up a bit more and you have NO control over them. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” Proverbs 13:24

How you raise your kids is YOUR business, but please be more cognizant of infringing on the rights of the rest of the congregation.

Perhaps ‘parenting classes’ with an emphasis on church etiquette?   [Note: this last line is a dig at me personally because I’m currently teaching a class for parents/families on using Luther’s Large Catechism to teach the faith in the household.]

I have no problem calling this letter malicious. It is, of course, incredibly presumptuous. We’re by no means oblivious to the disruptions, and we’re certainly not giving our kids free rein. We’ve spoken to our pastor in the past, and he assures us we are not distracting him during the sermon. The people who actually sit around us understand our situation and have all been extremely supportive. The letter was definitely not written in Christian love–concerned as it is with their own supposed rights while our family is strictly “OUR business” until it interferes with them. And considering our children’s circumstances (which they mistake for a refusal to discipline) it’s effectively telling us to go away and stop bothering the rest of the congregation.

But even so, the worst part about this letter is the anonymity, and that’s why I brought up Matthew 18. When our brother sins against us, Jesus tells us to go to them privately–not anonymously. If they had come to us to tell us our fault–even if they were as rude as they were in the letter, which few people will do in person–we actually could have had a conversation about disturbances during the service. I doubt the writer even realizes that our kids have disabilities, but if they had spoken to us, they would have immediately learned about them. They could have learned that certain conditions require different forms of discipline that they might not recognize. They could have learned that they’re not truly speaking on behalf of our pastor or the people sitting closest to us as they presume. We could have talked with them about whether it’s more distracting for us to leave and use the cry room (i.e. the exists and re-entries) or to try and settle them down in the pew. We could have learned which things bother them the most and tried to find additional ways to mitigate them. We could have worked through the situation in love together–they could have gained their brothers and sister.

And if we hadn’t listened? If we were still at odds? Well, then they’d go to the next step and approach us with others in the congregation and we could all discuss it together where cooler heads might be able to moderate the conversation–giving them an even better chance of gaining their brother. If that didn’t work, it would come before the whole church where I know we have the love & support of our pastor and many of our fellow parishioners who could speak on our behalf–and also where there may be more loving people who share the writers’ grievances who could express them in more loving and constructive ways. We all would have had an even better chance to gain our brother. And because of that love and support that we have, I know with all certainty that we would never need to be treated as Gentiles and tax collectors. It would never reach the terminus because my congregation is far far better than that.

Likewise, if they had not been anonymous, I could have gone to them privately in response to this hurtful letter they sent and told them their fault. After all, they have sinned against me and my family. I could have explained our situation to them and sought ways to alleviate their offense. I could have explained Christ’s invitation to the little children. I could have explained the purpose of the Divine Service–that we’re all there to receive Christ’s gifts, not to have a carefully crafted experience as though we were watching some kind of play. I could have told them the blessings my children receive by coming to church which the writer simply doesn’t have an opportunity to observe.

For example, the previous Sunday, my youngest son acted out because he really wanted to go check out the altar when we went up for Communion and I wouldn’t let him. He was pretty agitated at the railing, and I understand if that irritated people–it irritated me. But any irritation was beautifully redeemed that very morning. It took me a minute, but once I understood what he really wanted–and had a chance to let him know that I understood–I was presented with a great opportunity. When we got back to our pew, I told him that the altar was holy–that God made it a special place–and that because of that, we act in a special way around it. I told him what pastor and the elder and deacon were doing up their during Communion and why he couldn’t get underfoot. And then, I promised my son that I would take him up to see the altar after the service was over. So I brought him up there, and I taught him how to pause and bow before ascending the final step because it was a special place. I showed him the altar. I pointed out the cross on it and how it reminds us that Jesus died for our sins. I pointed out the chalice and explained the forgiveness that Jesus offers in his Supper. I pointed out the Bible and how God speaks to us through Holy Scriptures.

And he listened with rapt attention the whole time precisely because he was so stubborn about wanting to go up there in the first place. He’s only 3, so he doesn’t understand penal-substitutionary atonement, the real presence, or the office of the keys. But he knows that God sent his Son to die for him. He knows that because of Jesus he’s forgiven when he does bad things. He knows that our church is a special place where God cares for us. So for now… he knows that there’s something at that altar that truly matters, and he’ll grow into the rest as he matures–as long as my wife and I continue to bring him to Jesus.

Yes, the person who wrote that letter hurt me and my family, and I’ll confess that I was absolutely livid for awhile. But even so, I don’t believe they have a heart of stone. I don’t believe that all those wonderful blessings I could have shared would have been completely irrelevant to them. I don’t believe they would have persisted in stubborn ignorance. No. Call me naive if you want, but I believe I could have gained my brother. And if I couldn’t reach them myself, there’s bound to be someone in the congregation who could.

But I can’t go to them because they remained anonymous. I can’t bring others with me because they remained anonymous. So I did the only thing left:  I brought it before the church.

Each Sunday, my congregation has its own tradition of “happy, sharing moments.” Before the service begins, pastor invites anyone to stand up and share something good that happened to them or a blessing that they received. I’ll admit that it’s kind of hokey, but there’s a beauty in that hokeyness. It gives each person in the congregation a chance to stand up and share something genuine with their brothers and sisters in Christ. After my wife and I spoke about it with our pastor the day before, this is what I shared (or at least my best recollection of it, as it was off-the-cuff):

My happy sharing moment is that we’re here. My wife, my sons, and I are here. And that’s a truly happy thing. Because this is where God forgives our sins–and God knows we need that. This is where we get to hear His word and sing His praises. This is where we encounter the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is very happy and very much worth sharing.

I know that not everybody here feels that way. I know that not everyone thinks its good for us to be here because we received an anonymous letter telling us otherwise.

But it is good for us to be here because of these wonderful gifts that God gives all of us every week. Satan would prefer that this church be completely empty every Sunday because he wants to keep each one of us away from that Gospel. Because of that, it’s often a struggle for people to come here. Maybe we struggle against the weather or against an illness or against our circumstances. But we made it! Every single person in the pews this morning is a failure of Satan–and a victory of Jesus Christ. So I am happy that everyone made here this morning; because this is something worth sharing with each other.

Did I gain my brother (or sister)? I have no idea because they were anonymous. I’ll probably never know. And there’s still a part of me that thinks maybe I should have just stayed quiet and ignored it. After all, I absolutely loathe drama, and I worry that because of the anonymity, maybe I accidentally sowed dissension or distrust in the congregation, or maybe I just made the writer angry and tempted them to further sin. I really don’t know. But I made the best judgement I could and said it anyway because I love my family and have a responsibility to speak up for them. And I did it because we ought to share our blessings and burdens with one another. And I did it because some deeds that are done in darkness should be brought out into the light. And I did it because just maybe it would change someone’s mind.

And that’s why I’m writing the story here as well. For one thing, we all need to keep Matthew 18 in mind–not as a threat point, but as a way to be open with one another about our hurts and grievances. If an offense weighs heavily on you, then confront the person about it personally rather than anonymously. Hear their side and let them know yours. And if you’re not willing to do so personally–if it’s not worth the inconvenience or the awkwardness of a conversation–then it’s probably not that significant of an offense in the first place.

On top of that, I know that my family isn’t the only “distracting” one in the Church. So to every last person who struggles to come to God’s house on Sunday morning, I want to encourage you:  Come! Even if you feel embarrassed, come. Even if you’re afraid somebody is going to give you the stink-eye, come. Jesus rose from the dead. He paid for your sins. He’s really present in the Supper, and when your pastor says, “I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” forgiveness really happens for you. These things are always true no matter how anyone feels about you or how you feel about yourself–thanks be to God. And treasures like that are truly worth showing up for and bringing our kids to.

Posted in Christian Youth, Family, Gospel, The Modern Church | 10 Comments

More Deceit About Submission

I came across a rather useful proverb on Twitter recently:  “Anytime someone makes a statement no one disagrees with, you immediately know they’re actually saying something else.” It certainly came to mind as I read a blog post on submission in marriage by Keith Gregoire (husband to popular teacher Sheila Gregoire.) In it, he makes quite a show of boldly defending ground that no one is contesting:

Allowing your spouse to influence you and sharing power with your wife clearly leads to healthy marriages, but a marriage based around a husband making all the decisions without allowing his wife to influence him has an 81% failure rate.

So in short, actually listening to your wife and caring about her input enough to be influenced as you go through life together is actually a good idea that makes your marriage healthier. Well, I think we can all agree on that one. As controversial statements go, that falls somewhere between “water is wet” and “Iowa winters can be pretty cold.” Is anyone saying otherwise? Sure, the world is a big place and through the power of the internet, you can find a person who believes just about anything, but is there any significant opposition? Gregoire seems to think so:

In many parts of the Christian church, however, there is this very unhealthy philosophy that the man needs to make ALL the decisions and that the wife’s entire role is just to go along with it. To hear them talk they make it sound like a husband making a unilateral decision which the wife instantly submits to unconditionally is a more godly approach than having a mutually respectful discussion about the issue.

And along with this teaching comes the concept that the wife has no right to question the husband’s decision or to confront him if he is taking the family in a dangerous or unhealthy direction! I have actually heard teaching that if a woman were to confront her husband about a sin issue in his life, she would be herself sinning by treating him disrespectfully, so she dare not do so.

So where exactly are the many parts of the Church in which I can find teachings like this? Who exactly is he contending against? I ask because I’ve written quite a bit about Biblical submission over the years, and I think it’s fair to say that most American Christians today would consider me an extremist on the issue. Nevertheless, I’ve plainly written in support of Gregoire’s (obvious) contention that husbands should seek their wives’ input and consider it well as they lead their households. Neither have I encountered objections to it in any of the other extremists I’ve read on the subject. To be sure, there are times when a husband must resist his wife’s influence–wives aren’t any more sinless than husbands are. Nevertheless, this parody of submission that Gregoire describes as a “100-percent husband controlled marriage” is completely alien to me.

The only source he specifically mentions is Emmerson Eggerichs’ book Love & Respect. And apparently Gregoire and his wife have made it their mission to make sure everyone knows it’s “toxic.” So perhaps this post is part of their feud with Eggerichs and he’s the one forbidding husbands from allowing their wives to influence them? I haven’t read the book, so I cannot comment on its contents. However, it only took a few minutes of browsing his website to find pretty clear evidence that he’s not proclaiming a “100-percent husband-controlled marriage.” This post, for example, pretty strongly echoes Gregoire’s own (thus far uncontested) view. Accordingly, I’m rather dubious that Eggerichs is actually teaching what Gregoire describes.

So what’s Gregoire really saying here with this contention that basically nobody disagrees with? The answer can be found by analyzing his deceptive rhetoric.

The first deception, of course, is the blatant straw man that we’ve already described: this curious view that’s supposedly in many parts of the church but of which he has not named a real example. Again, I haven’t read Eggerichs’ book, but it’s pretty clear he teaches some form of submission of wives to husbands that Gregoire opposes but which nevertheless doesn’t really fall into the absurd category he creates. It’s also pretty clear that the Gregoires are from the teaching-submission-primes-women-for-abuse school of thought. It’s hard not to conclude that he’s falsely painting those who hold to the Biblical teaching as promoting his no-influence, husband-dominated marriages in an attempt to scare people away from it.

The second deception is the old “that’s just your interpretation” canard. He writes:

The idea they put forward is that their position is “the Biblical position” and everyone else is a compromiser following the “way of the world” or “man’s teaching rather than God’s.” This is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. What they are espousing is an interpretation of God’s word, not God’s word itself, but they phrase their arguments to suggest that if you disagree with them you are disagreeing with God.

From there, he goes on to recount the mostly-false story of Galileo being persecuted by the Church for teaching heliocentrism–a fable he’s apparently swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

I’ve written about this kind of “interpretation” deceit before at length, but the gist is this: Interpretation is not some kind of barrier between us and a text; its simply part of the substance of reading it. You can speak about the grammatical ambiguity of a text. You can speak about the poor reading comprehension of an individual or a community. But once you begin speaking of “interpretation” as a thing distinct from both text and reader which prevents anyone from actually reaching the text itself, then you’ve missed the mark.

People use this deception because it allows them to cast doubt on someone presenting the substance of a text without doing the hard work of actually making an argument against him. Inasmuch as a teacher’s reading comprehension of the Bible is accurate, then he is indeed teaching God’s Word. If you want to contend that it’s not accurate, then you actually have to explain from the text where his errors lie. And to be sure, we frequently need to do just that because, as Christ warned us, false teachers abound and lead many astray. Nevertheless, intellectually honest people don’t just label a view they disagree with as an “interpretation” and use that to casually dismiss it. Neither do intellectually honest people present a fable about some other time Christians have been wrong as though that somehow seals the deal. Merely presenting the possibility of error does not mean an error therefore must exist.

The third and final deception is a ubiquitous one when feminism intersects with Scripture: the conflation of power with authority. Like the critical theory which spawned it, feminism has no room in its worldview for things like ordinance or authority. Instead, it reduces all such things to disparities in power between men and women. As Gloria Steinem once put it, “Feminism starts out being very simple. It starts out being the instinct of a little child who says ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘you are not the boss of me,’ and it ends up being a worldview that questions hierarchy altogether.”

You can see this one at work in all the times Gregoire speaks of the importance of “power sharing.” You see, in the feminist mindset, all abuse must proceed from a power differential. After all, while it’s far more sensible to characterize abuse as the misuse of authority against its inherent responsibilities, feminists are effectively color-blind to authority and only see power in its place. Therefore, the feminist solution to any abuse must be to rebalance power between men and women in some manner. Accordingly, when this faulty reasoning is applied to Biblical submission in marriage, it can only conclude that wives should be wary about submitting too much lest they invite abuse by relinquishing power in the relationship. After all, relative power between two people is always a zero-sum game–one person’s gain must be another person’s loss.

This is why every feminist representation of Biblical submission is ultimately a misrepresentation. Rather than the stark black-and-white world of power, God gives a husband authority over his wife, which is a far richer and more colorful concept to work with. Unlike power, authority is always accompanied by responsibility and entitlement (and you can see that right in Ephesians 5 where husbands are instructed to self-sacrificially love their wives alongside wives’ instruction to submit.) So while any authority can be abused, every God-given authority is ordained for the good of those in its care. So teaching Biblical submission is categorically not teaching abuse because that Biblical teaching always includes the loving responsibilities for which the authority is ordained. Can the authority be misused? Of course. But if you intend to take away everything good that might be abused, your only recourse is to reduce creation to dust. After all, in our sinfulness, we can abuse every good gift that God provides.

Another key difference is that unlike power, authority is not a zero-sum game. Husbands absolutely do share authority with their wives in healthy marriages, but they do so by means of delegation. Again, this is inherent in God’s design of marriage in the first place. He created Eve to be a helpmeet for Adam as he reigned over creation. It would be awfully hard for Eve to help Adam without being given any kind of responsibilities, and she could not have been given any responsibilities without also being given the authority to carry them out. Neither could she be of much help if Adam never cared about her insights into those responsibilities. But Eve’s authority would have remained Adam’s, just as Adam’s would have remained God’s, for God is the one who told them to have dominion over the Earth. God does not lose his authority when he delegates to parents, to husbands, to civil government, and so forth. Neither do husbands lose authority when they delegate to their wives. Neither do wives lose their authority when it comes from God through their husbands.

Understanding submission in terms of authority rather than power actually defuses the selfish contention for power that characterizes so many marriages. Indeed, this is precisely what God warns Eve of when he tells her that her desire shall be for her husband but that he shall rule over him (the language for Eve desiring her husband there is the same used later on when God warns Cain that sin desires him). Whereas feminism breeds nothing but resentment because every gift by which her family gains is necessarily a woman’s loss, Biblical submission makes marital love and unity possible.

Submission is a tremendous blessing and a glorious picture of Christ and his Church. Shame on those who obscure God’s beneficence and portray it as evil–a group that includes both those abusers who do so by example and those teachers who deceitfully characterize Biblical submission as a curse. Trading Biblical marriage for a feminist counterfeit is truly selling one’s birthright for a bowl of pottage.

Posted in Family, Feminism, Law, The Modern Church | 6 Comments