Don’t Let Entitlement Devour Your Marriage

My latest article at The Federalist went up yesterday.  It’s about division of housework in marriage and the way equality corrodes marital love by breeding entitlement.  However, as happens sometimes, I went way over my word limit and the second half of the piece was cut for space.  So read that first if you haven’t, and here’s the rest of the article, in which I discuss how to tell if one’s discontentment is being caused by entitlement and what to do about it.

Feelings of discontentment about housework in a marriage can easily become tyrants when they’re put in the driver’s seat.  As I’ve discussed previously, our emotions are blind guides, and we can easily resent a person because of how we treat them rather than how they treat us.

At the same time, the feelings are what they are. When someone feels that kind of discontentment, she can’t just wish the feelings away. So in the face of persistent feelings like this, how can one discover whether she’s feeling unfairly treated due to a neglectful husband or due to her own entitlement? Well, you can’t tell from examining your feelings. You feel just as angry, overwhelmed, frantic, and desperate either way. And unless you are actually willing to go the spreadsheet route, you’re probably not going to figure it out by comparing workloads either. We all have confirmation bias, and when we’re upset, we’re all inclined to see the tasks they overlooked tasks while ignoring the ones fulfilled. As Honoré de Balzac wrote, “When women love, they forgive us everything, even our crimes; when they do not love us, they give us credit for nothing, not even for our virtues.”

Instead, you need to seriously consider whether entitlement is at the root of your feelings—whether it’s about housework or something else. So ask yourself:

Are you unable to experience gratitude?

Can you bring yourself thank your husband for what he contributes to the household? If not, do you immediately start finding excuses for why he doesn’t deserve your thanks for what he does? When you see something that you want him to do, do you ask him nicely? Do you ask him at all? Or do you instead begin conjuring reasons why you shouldn’t even have had to ask for something so simple because he already owes it to you? If gratitude is an alien concept for you, then your sense of entitlement is almost certainly an issue.

When you complain, are you being hypocritical?

Do you angrily point out something he didn’t put away that’s sitting right next to something you didn’t put away? When you pick up the empty cups from last night’s ice cream, are you upset that he didn’t throw his out even though you were only just getting around to throwing out yours yourself? Everyone finds themselves too tired to do housework some nights—yourself included. But do you get resentful when he feels that way or do you reserve that consideration only for yourself? All of us are hypocrites sometimes, but if this is happening frequently, then you can be sure that you’re not judging your husband fairly.

Do you dramatize the little things?

When he fails to put his dishes in the sink, is it like he’s telling you he hates you? Do you find yourself seething with resentment when dinner is 10 minutes late? When he does something minor wrong, do you consider it emblematic of all the times he’s done that thing or even of everything he’s done wrong? To be sure, we’re all sinners, and every husband fails from time to time. What’s more, everybody has a different list of things which bother them, and it can take time for spouses to get on the same page. But if you regularly have to inflate or aggregate his peccadilloes in order to justify the amount of offense you’re feeling, then you need to reconsider why that is.

Do you find yourself saying “I don’t care” when it comes to his feelings?

You want your husband to respect your feelings, and it’s not always natural for men to do so. Temporarily putting our feelings aside is sometimes a necessary part of our responsibilities, and so we tend to expect the same from others. But you don’t want to him to always railroad past your experience and get straight into the practical matters, and that’s all well and good.

So do you show him the same consideration? When you’re trying to communicate on an emotional level, do you find yourself dismissing his feelings while insisting that he respect yours? Do you always railroad past him on the way back to yourself? When he tells you how he feels, do you immediately tell him about the time you felt like that only it was so much worse? If so, you may be crossing the line into solipsism. And if you find yourself mocking his feelings even as you demand he respect yours, then you’ve already blithely careened over that line.

Do you reject your husband’s authority?

If you’re a Christian, when God tells you to submit to your husband as the Church submits to Christ, do you embrace that instruction or find excuses for why its different in your case? Do you accept his judgment calls or do you berate him because it’s wasn’t done exactly the way you would have done it? When you’ve said your piece and he makes a decision, do you get on board or do you passive-aggressively undermine that decision?

But even apart from Christian doctrine, if you believe you are entitled to something from your husband, then there must be a corresponding responsibility on his end. And if he has a genuine responsibility, then logically, he must also posess the authority to carry it out. If you can’t bring yourself to recognize any such authority and submit to it, then your entitlement has become unmoored from that which keeps it in check.

Have you failed to even try just being nice?

It’s an amazingly simple attitude that makes all the difference in the world. Suzanne Venker wrote an excellent article on this subject recently. She (correctly) observes that husbands feed off their wives kindness—it encourages us and energizes us to do the kind of things our wives want us to do. But even if you aren’t ready to embrace that reality, you need to at least understand that “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is a counterproductive strategy. If your approach to getting your husband to do what you believe to be his fair share consists mainly of nagging, browbeating, shaming, and general acidity, then you’re undermining your own interests. When every request for housework is either an angry demand or a passive-aggressive snipe, it’s a solid clue that your entitlement is at the root of the problem.

Do these questions describe your situation? To be sure, there are lazy people out there, which means that there are lazy husbands out there as well. If the honest answers to those questions tend towards “no”, then the husband really might need to simply pitch in more. But if you find yourself answering “yes” to these questions, the problem is likely an overgrown sense of entitlement.

That is a truly dangerous situation for husbands to be in. Our calling, our privilege, and our nature is to sacrifice ourselves for our families. But there is no slaking the thirst of unmoored entitlement, and unlike an uneven split in housework, that kind of entitlement becomes genuinely abusive. The husband who responds to it by simply giving more will not only use himself up, but do no good for his wife by doing so. Christ gave himself up for His Church, but He’s also willing to discipline her and warn her that she faces judgment when she abandons her husband. That itself is an act of sacrifice in an age when husbands & fathers are disregarded by society and constantly subject to the threat of divorce.

And if you’re a wife who sees herself in these questions, then you need to reject your own entitlement. You need to learn to be kind. You need to learn to be grateful. You need to learn to put things in perspective. And the hardest part will be that you need to do it even though you don’t feel like it. But you can fake being nice. You can make yourself say “thank you” even if you don’t feel grateful. The feelings will follow in time as you practice these skills. But for it to even be possible for you to make that kind of effort, you need to be clear in your own mind that you have sinned, and you quite simply need to repent. Stop worshiping equality and allowing it to devour your family.

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“Saving” Young Boys from Their Masculinity

The danger in criticizing children’s books is always the drove of fools who will say “It’s just a kid’s book! You’re taking it too seriously!” But the fact is, there’s a reason we read to our children, and there are reasons we choose some books as better than others. Simple it may be, but if a book is meaningful enough that we are serious about reading it to our children, then it’s also meaningful enough to examine seriously. So let’s consider a book I came across while picking out something to read to my own children.

The Sunflower Sword takes place in a land where knights and dragons are always fighting and focuses on a young boy who dreams of becoming a brave knight as well. His mother, however, forbids him from having a sword and gives him a sunflower instead. He pretends its a sword and plays happily with it for a time slaying imaginary dragons, until he encounters a real dragon. Being both unarmed and unable to escape, he desperately swings the sunflower at the dragon. And wouldn’t you know it, the dragon thinks he’s offering him a flower. So the two become great friends and have much more fun than they ever could have had fighting. And one-by-one, all the knights of the land lay down their swords in favor of sunflowers, and nobody ever fights again. The book ends as the mother looks on smiling.

So what’s the deeper meaning of this book? At it’s core, it’s about a boy who aspires to become a man as boys naturally do. Inherent in masculinity is struggle and perseverance against forces that would threaten our families and tear down what we’ve built. The place warriors and dragons hold in mythology is emblematic of that masculine struggle against evil. We need to be strong. We need to be ready to slay monsters because in this life, monsters will always be there to destroy or corrupt what we hold dear.

Women, however, have mixed feelings about this aspect of masculinity. On one hand, they’re attracted to our strength and willingness to risk combat–and this attraction exists precisely because it’s a trait they need for themselves and for their children. On the other hand, it sometimes makes them feel threatened because they know we are stronger than they are. Like Aslan, a man is not a tame lion. Despite Hollywood tropes, most men could overpower most women quite easily if we chose to actually bring our strength to bear.

What’s more, contemporary society distorts that natural tension. For one thing, our high level of civilization has produced an exceptionally safe culture in which security is taken for granted. Women have largely come to believe that their safety comes from government and society rather than from men (even the men who built and still maintain these things.) For another thing, feminism has cultivated suspicion and fear of men in most women, which magnifies that natural feeling of uncertainty about our strength. The result is an extremely unbalanced view of masculinity that results in both women and feminized men labeling it as “toxic.”

So while the boy in the book aspires to manhood, his mother forbids it. She takes away the sword, a symbol of his masculinity, and replaces it with the flower, a symbol of her femininity. At first, he’s quite awkward with this acquisition–flailing with it as though it were the sword he had really wanted in the first place. However, entirely by accident, he ends up discovering the flower’s true value: the creation of peace.

After all, just as struggle and perseverance are central to masculinity, peacemaking is central to femininity. Children are chaotic and homes are constantly subject to entropy. A mother’s role as a homemaker is to bring peace out of that chaos and create a comforting environment in which her family can dwell contentedly. This facet of femininity is precisely why women tend to become passive-aggressive when they’re upset. They want to impose their will just as much as men do, but they greatly prefer to do so without open conflict because that runs against the grain of their nature.

So when the boy accidentally gives the flower to the dragon, the two immediately realize that they were never truly enemies and become friends instead. The book specifically notes how much better their friendship is without fighting–without struggle or perseverance. You see, there was never any reason for knights and dragons to fight in the first place except that, as the book details, it had simply always been that way. It was only masculinity with its drive to struggle against evil that caused the constant fighting in their land. Once you take that away, all that’s left is peace.

And whereas the boy once aspired to be a man, because of his mother’s “help” all the men of the kingdom now aspire to be feminized boys. They rush to lay down their own swords–their own masculinity–so that they can take up the femininity which brings peace and happiness to everyone.

And the last page of the book is the capstone: when the mother (who, though surrounded by armored knights and medieval homes, is tellingly dressed as an upper-middle-class suburbanite) looks out on at all of this and smiles. The thing about children’s books is that they’re not really written for children. They’re written for the parents who buy them, the teachers who assign them, and the librarians who stock their shelves with them–all of which means they’re written primarily for women. Because of that, women’s unbalanced views about masculinity in contemporary society will inevitably become a selling point.

Many of these women–having failed to understand that the relative security and stability  they enjoy in contemporary society was actually produced by men who struggled against evil–instead believe that any remaining insecurity and instability in society only exists because of the remaining masculinity. This book gives such women a message of hope and encouragement in their foolish eschatology. One day, our society might finally become entirely peaceful. And maybe it will all start with one mother who was steadfast enough to make sure that her own boy never grows into a man.

Plenty of Christians and conservatives are starting to be concerned about the messages of children’s books when it comes to the LGBT agenda–and rightly so, though it comes rather late. The quest to normalize the disgusting is in full swing, and we need to protect our children from it now so that they can join us in combating it when they’re ready. But this agenda wasn’t created ex nihilo. We would never see the droves of people who cannot tell men from women if they weren’t already deeply confused about masculinity and femininity in the first place. It’s just as important to be on guard against the already normalized feminist indoctrination from which our confusions about gender and sexual orientation proceed.

As in most children’s books, the father is entirely absent from The Sunflower Sword. The swordless boy is solely his mother’s son, and the only masculine influence comes from the men around him who foolishly engage in meaningless conflict with the smiling dragons who only want to be our friends–a caricature of masculinity born from a feminist worldview.

Fathers, your sons cannot afford for you to be that absent from their lives. And I know that many of your wives and ex-wives make being present a struggle.  But struggle against evil is part of who we are.  Make opportunities to read with them and to think critically about what you’re reading. Given the nature of many contemporary books, be sure to look for older alternatives (e.g. the reissue of the 1918 Collier Junior Classics)  Your sons are not going to learn about being men from their mom or from contemporary media. So make sure they learn it from you.

Posted in Culture, Family, Feminism | 7 Comments

Family is the Highest Calling for Men Too

I’ve written quite a bit about prioritizing family lately. I’ve argued that the Golden Rule means having kids, that most people are called to marriage & should act accordingly, advised early marriage and the deliberate pursuit thereof for those struggling with sexual immorality, and answered numerous objections about these subjects. As you might expect, most of the pushback I’ve received has been from feminists and white knights asking how I would dare to tell women that creating new human beings and raising them in a caring home is more valuable than creating Powerpoint presentations in a cubicle farm. How unfair of me to place such a disproportionate burden of home life on women and squashing their dreams of something greater while men get to revel in the workplace!

The thing is, I never addressed any of that solely at women. Marriage and family is without a doubt the highest calling for most men and most women alike. The principle reason that pointing this out feels unfair to women is that contemporary men are much more likely to already accept it than contemporary women are–even as we pursue our careers.

It may be hard to see through the foggy lenses of feminist envy, but men don’t love their careers for career’s sake. Most of us do not see our day jobs as our higher calling. After all, as the Lemke brothers recently pointed out on The Chi Files, it’s not a higher calling if they have to pay you to do it. That’s not to say that the laborer doesn’t deserve his wages; rather, it’s an observation that even if money were no object, a person would still continue to pursue a calling that he truly considered high. If, on the other hand, he’s out the door the day he wins the lottery, then he doesn’t really see it as a higher calling.

The reason most men work and devote so much time to our careers isn’t because they’re higher callings than family, but precisely for the sake of our families whom we already know to be our higher calling. Providing material support for their family is a father’s most fundamental responsibility.  As the Apostle Paul explains, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  That’s why most of us invest so much time in our careers–to be able to carry out this responsibility well.  And given that women almost universally prefer to pair up with men who make more money than they do and are more likely to divorce husbands who make less, it seems that women also recognize this responsibility as being more fundamental for men on some level.

To be sure, everybody needs to toil to some extent in order to support themselves. Any man who doesn’t see acquiring food and shelter as a higher calling is going to have to do something to get paid. Nevertheless, supporting half a dozen people takes considerably more toil than merely supporting oneself, and men have traditionally based a great deal of their education and career choices on that fact.  We’re already seeing that when the prospect of a faithful marriage is removed from their future, the tendency is for men to disengage from all the extra work they’ve traditionally taken on.

But for men with families, if you take away the need for income, we’d still be caring for them, but our employment would look very different. I’m a software engineer by trade. It’s a good job, and I do find a measure of satisfaction in that work. But it’s ultimately for the sake of my wife and children. There are men who see programming as a higher calling–devoting their time to open source projects and the like without any compensation–but I’m not one of them. If I didn’t need to provide for my boys, I wouldn’t continue doing it. Instead, I’d be spending that free time playing with them, teaching them, and doing other things that are for them.

And yes, I do have work I value highly besides just family–and family never really takes 100% of one’s time. If I had no family, I would spend all that free time doing work I love–studying philosophy and theology, writing my reflections, analyzing life and culture in light of them, and teaching. I know that because it’s precisely what I already do in my free time–at my church, at this blog, at the Federalist, and on YouTube. I don’t have to be paid for it because I consider these things to be worthwhile for their own sake. But I do have a family, and so I spend more time writing software than I do writing social commentary. My family is unequivocally a higher calling than my writing. There would be something seriously wrong with me if I thought otherwise.

Feminists look at this ordering of priorities and decree that families are holding women back–that they are burdens rather than higher callings.  They then project that judgment onto men when they see us spending more time in the office than women.  But that evaluation couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, before we finally decided to have children, I had already left my tech career to go study theology. I had just finished seminary and was working to get into a philosophy PhD program when we chose to start a family. I was already pursuing my “higher” calling in that respect. But I deliberately chose to forgo that path and return to programming specifically so that I could provide a good home for our children. That is the explicit reason for my career–that I value my family more than accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake.

And I don’t regret that choice–my sons are absolute wonders to behold. To be sure, there are plenty of times when I have to clean up poop, break up a screaming match, or do other tasks for them that I don’t particularly enjoy. Some days, my career is more toilsome than others. And yes, I’ve got several unfinished books that will probably remain unfinished for a long time. There are times when all three of those intersect, and it really can be frustrating. Nevertheless, how can that frustration compare to two little boys spontaneously breaking into off-key round robin performances of “This is the day the Lord has made?” Philosophy is great, but how can it compare to helping to populate heaven with eternal joy?

So many women struggle with that blessed reality because joyless feminists have trained them to feel that families are a waste of their lives. But while there are a few men who place career accomplishment above all else, most of us already know that our careers aren’t our highest calling. Women would do well to learn that from us instead of envying toil that we have to be paid to do.

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Cultivating Chastity – Part 10

In this conclusion to our series, we consider some of the ways Christians sabotage themselves as they seek out marriage. Whether it’s due to worldliness, greed, a rejection of God’s designs for men and women, or despair in the face of a sinful and antagonistic culture, there are many ways in which we shoot ourselves in the foot.

But, although we all suffer defeats sometimes, it doesn’t mean we have to accept being defeated by ourselves.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q
7) Distorting Natural Law: https://youtu.be/F_JR7XpCoKg
8) Resisting Temptation: https://youtu.be/xDcW5BIrsL8
9) Pursuing Marriage: https://youtu.be/ppFZv1r__w8

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Schools Can’t Be Religiously Neutral Either

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.
-Attributed to Martin Luther

Whenever American Christians complain about the exclusion of the Bible or Jesus from our public schools, there are always a few cleverer Christians who raise a very good question in response: Do you really want public school teachers telling our kids about God?

It represents a genuinely compelling argument–and I’ll admit that it’s one I’ve made myself. First and foremost, there’s the public schools’ track records of teaching per se. It’s pretty hit or miss even when it comes to things like reading and math. It’s not like we could expect better results from teaching Christianity. But beyond that, there’s the matter of the beliefs or lack thereof of the teachers.  Do we really want teachers who hate or egregiously misunderstand the Bible to teach the Bible? Atheistic teachers? Theological liberal teachers? Muslim teachers? All in all, it does amount to a recipe for inevitable spiritual malfeasance.  Putting God back into contemporary public schools is a terrible idea.

But clever questions shouldn’t be conversation stoppers, but conversations starters. And so I’m going to ask another clever question in response:  If our only choice for the public schools is between teaching nothing about God and teaching errors about God–between teaching atheism and teaching heresy–are public schools really a good option for Christian parents in the first place?

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as religious neutrality–even in schools. At its theoretical best, you’ll be teaching the kids that God has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But in practice, it’s even worse because nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of true teaching about God, myth will inevitably take its place. And this is already well underway in our supposedly secular schools. In terms of morality, they have long been promoting gender deformity, sexual debauchery, and abortion. They teach the secular eschatology of dire prophesies that the world will end in fire in 12 years if we don’t repent. Sometimes, they’ll even have kids confess the creeds of other religions like Islam as part of required assignments. Atheistic schools could never last a long time–they will always become pagan schools in short order.

But the question doesn’t stop there either. Sure, pagan public schools are poor places for Christian children, and barring exceptional circumstances (e.g. severe disabilities that almost no private Christian schools will adapt themselves for), they’re bad choices for Christian parents. But surely that raises yet another question: are these good endeavors for Christian voters to support? Inasmuch as we have governmental influence, should we really be using it to support pagan schooling? If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then surely we wouldn’t want to maintain and support “gateways to hell” for our fellow citizens to blithely send their kids through.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christian nationalism lately–in which a Christian nation governs itself according to the wisdom provided by their faith. It seems to me that such a nation wouldn’t be choosing between atheistic public schools and heretical public schools in the first place. On the contrary, they would be choosing between Christian public schools and no public schools.  Could teaching the Bible  be less impossible than we think?  Maybe, maybe not–I remain highly skeptical about the proposition.  But if the clever question really is a show-stopper–if Christian public schools are really an impossibility–then we should be looking for ways to educate altogether apart from such schools.

American parents outsourced their roles as educators to schools.  Nothing says that role can’t be returned to us–especially in an age with the kind of educational options we have today.  Certainly, that goes for our own families first and foremost; but in the long run, we should be considering that for our nation as well.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Christian Youth, Family, Musings | 1 Comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 9

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
-1 Cor. 7:9

Though some are called to celibacy as Paul was, the vast majority of humans who have ever lived have been called by God to marriage. Last time, we considered some of the ways we can avoid some of the temptations to sexual immorality that we all face. But considering the scale of the sexual immorality that confronts us today, we need to wake up and realize that mere resistance only takes us so far. More than anything else, we need the Biblical prescription for that struggle: marriage. Unfortunately, we do not live in a culture which honors or seeks it. So it’s time to consider some of the practical ways in which Christians can defy culture in favor of Scripture and make marriage both a priority and a reality in our lives.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q
7) Distorting Natural Law: https://youtu.be/F_JR7XpCoKg
8) Resisting Temptation: https://youtu.be/xDcW5BIrsL8

Related:
Giving Marriage the Old College Try: https://thefederalist.com/2014/01/16/giving-marriage-the-old-college-try/
Most People Are Called To Marriage; It’s Not Idolatrous To Act Accordingly: https://thefederalist.com/2019/08/30/people-called-marriage-not-idolatrous-act-accordingly/
Four Myths About the Helpless Single Woman: https://thefederalist.com/2014/06/09/four-myths-about-the-helpless-single-woman/
It’s Past Time To Reconsider the Place of College: https://thefederalist.com/2014/06/20/its-past-time-to-reconsider-the-place-of-college/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Their Problem is with Nations, not Nationalism

It seems that Commonweal Magazine recently published an open letter against Christian Nationalism–or at least against Christians who are also nationalists. Unsurprisingly, given the source, much of it can simply be dismissed as “blah blah blah racism; blah blah blah Nazis; blah blah blah white supremacy.” The usual bugaboos of progressive sanctimony are on full display here and retain their usual measure of irrelevance. Nevertheless, not only do some of their points reflect confusions that extend beyond the SJW cult, they also reveal an ugly truth behind the globalists’ reaction to the rising nationalism in the West.

“2. We reject nationalism’s tendency to homogenize and narrow the church to a single ethnos. The church cannot be itself unless filled with disciples “from all nations” (panta ta ethné, Matthew 28:19). Cities, states, and nations have borders; the church never does. If the church is not ethnically plural, it is not the church, which requires a diversity of tongues out of obedience to the Lord.”

It’s hard to overstate how confused this point is. Certainly, the Church transcends nations, but how exactly does any form of nationalism change that–even Christian nationalism? If America recognizes herself as a Christian nation, does that somehow annihilate Christians in Spain or Africa or excommunicate them from the Church? Does the fact that Chinese congregations consist almost entirely of Chinese people somehow invalidate them as Christian due to insufficient ethnic diversity? If Saudi Arabia closes its borders, is there no longer a great multitude from every nation standing before the Lamb in Revelation?

Perhaps the confusion derives from mistaking Christian nationalism for a theological doctrine when it is, in fact, a political one. There’s a world of difference between saying that “America is Christian” and saying that “Christianity is American.” Only the first claim is inherent in American Christian nationalism–leaving the latter to the fever dreams of leftists and civic nationalists.

But wherever their confusion comes from, their intent to impose the borderless nature of the Church onto nations is ultimately an attempt to dissolve those nations. That is what brings us to their 4th point.

“4. We reject nationalism’s claim that the stranger, refugee, and migrant are enemies of the people. Where nationalism fears the stranger as a threat to political community, the church welcomes the stranger as necessary for full communion with God.”

Here we find a fairly typical confusion between the Two Kingdoms. The Church’s fundamental responsibility is to make disciples by baptizing and teaching what Jesus taught. Civil government’s fundamental responsibility is to establish a just peace by punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers. Those are two very different responsibilities, and so they are necessarily accompanied by different authorities–both established by God. These, in turn, require different vocations from Christians and citizens. When attacked, a Christian is to turn the other cheek. When attacked, a soldier is to fight back. When one man is both a Christian and a soldier, he is to obey God in both respects–to kill in his service as a soldier and to turn the other cheek outside of that service.

Now, it is quite true that the Church welcomes the stranger. But it is no less true that a national government must be wary of him. Neither of these truths gives way before the other. As is the case with the Christian soldier, the Christian who is also a citizen must fulfill his vocations according to the responsibilities and authorities inherent in them. When it comes to his civil vocations, it is his God-given responsibility to protect his neighbors against invasion; he has absolutely no right to set that responsibility aside.

But you’ll notice that amidst the confusion, the letter’s problem isn’t really with nationalism. After all, does an imperial government have any less of a responsibility to protect those whom God has entrusted to them? Was not Rome’s failure to defend her people from the Visigoths a true failure? Only a global government would be relieved of the responsibility of defending its borders. Of course, we used to have one of those, but it was God Himself who dissolved it and created the nations. It is precisely the persistence of this work of God which triggers their complaint.

“5. We reject the nationalist’s inclination to despair when unable to monopolize power and dominate opponents. When Christians change from majority to minority status in a given country, they should not contort their witness in order to stay in power. The church remains the church even as a political minority, even when unable to influence the government or when facing persecution.”

Initially, I found this objection to be the most curious of the bunch. This is, after all, a complaint in which they charge that American politics are becoming unchristian due to an increasing nationalism. If the authors of the statement want a perversion of the multiculturalism assigned to the Church at Pentecost to be imposed on their nation, do they not therefore want their own nation to be governed according to what they falsely believe to be Christian principles? Isn’t their attempt to paint nationalists as unchristian an attempt to leverage Christian witness in order to maintain the power of contemporary globalism? Isn’t their service as the middle guard of cancel culture an attempt to monopolize power and dominate opponents by maintaining the fiction that said opponents are akin to Nazis?

It seems like the height of hypocrisy until you realize they’re actually just projecting. It is not the nationalists who are desperate, but the globalists. This is why they’re talking about 1930’s Germany in the 2nd paragraph before admitting in the 3rd it’s not the same today, but golly gee, it sure reminds them of it. It’s why they raise the cries of “racist!” again & again and (without any Biblical warrant) mark it out as an especially grave sin. It’s why they try to swap out the Church as the Body of Christ and replace her with the “good guys” in their narrative of oppression. Globalists have had their way for so long that they have a hard time coming to terms with the prospect of a world without their ideology. Now that an alternative is beginning to bud, they are frightened. So they flail about with whatever indictments are ready at hand–and what’s closer than the demons which torment their own minds?

Here, then, is the ugly truth: The common thread in this entire confused mess isn’t merely an opposition to nationalism–a philosophy that places a higher priority on the nation than they deem proper–it’s an opposition to nations as such. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that interferes with their diversity worship. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that is responsible for defending its people from invasion. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that threatens globalism’s dominance in Western politics. Not only does this make them the enemy of every nation (including America), any self-proclaimed Christian who puts themselves in this position would do well to consider that the nations they seek to undo are the work of God.

All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
-Psalm 86:9

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Ethics, Politics | 2 Comments

Cultivating Chastity – Part 8

Now that we understand the content of sexual morality–knowing right from wrong–it’s time to turn our attention to the second aspect of virtue: the discipline and practical wisdom necessary to carry that knowledge into practice. There’s neither a quick fix nor a comprehensive flowchart to acquiring chastity. But every journey of a thousand miles begins with those first few steps, and there are a multitude of small changes we can make that will help us along the way. In this episode, we will consider some of the ways in which we can help resist some of the temptations we inevitably encounter in this life.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q
7) Distorting Natural Law: https://youtu.be/F_JR7XpCoKg

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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A Few Thoughts on Bodily Presence

One of the big difficulties when it comes to disagreements between Lutherans and Reformed is that we don’t always agree on what our disagreements are. Take the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This is a generalization, but the view I hear most often from the Reformed perspective is that the Lutheran and Reformed views are actually pretty similar. We all agree that Christ is present in the Supper, we just disagree on how he is present–the mode in which Christ is there. Lutherans say he is present bodily, Reformed say he is not, but they do affirm that he is present spiritually (though exactly what “spiritually” means seems to differ fairly significantly from one person to the next.)

Lutherans, in contrast, tend to see that same gulf as being much wider–that these two views aren’t really that similar at all. That’s why we give our own doctrine a title that no doubt seems rather pretentious to other traditions: the Real Presence. Even the very name implies that in the Lutheran view, the Reformed don’t really think Christ is present in the Supper–that mere spiritual presence is some kind of fake presence.

In a way, this divergence shouldn’t be particularly surprising. Calvin tended to be a particularly abstract thinker, whereas Luther was generally more concrete–and the traditions they left behind seem to follow the same pattern much of the time. Neither one of those ways of thinking is necessarily better than the other (I tend more towards abstraction myself,) but they each have different strengths and weaknesses in different circumstances.

In the case of the Supper, the Reformed view (again, this is a generalization, but it is what I hear most often) begins with the abstract concept of “presence.” From there, it tries to determine the most sensible way of understanding that abstract concept. It considers the finite nature of bodies, the infinite nature of God, and so forth before concluding that a spiritual mode of presence is just more sensible than a bodily mode given the abstract concepts involved. So when they come to Jesus’ words, “This is my body,” they conclude that he’s speaking figuratively. And when Lutherans maintain a belief in bodily presence, its seen as a less sensible view, but it nevertheless fits within most of the same abstract structures.

Lutherans, however, don’t start with presence in any abstract sense. Rather, when we use the word presence, it’s usually just short-hand for Jesus’ words, “This is my body.” Those words were the famous beginning and ending of Luther’s conversation with Zwingli on the subject. Before any abstractions are brought to the table at all, everything begins with those simple words of Christ: “This is my body.” Anything else we offer is merely an attempt to describe that. So when Lutherans hear the Reformed say “Christ is present, but he’s not bodily present” what we hear is essentially, “This is my body, but it’s not bodily my body.” That, of course, is nonsense–if its not bodily his body, it’s not his body–which is why we affirm our doctrine using the term “Real” Presence in implied contrast to unreal presences.

So is it all just a matter of miscommunication? Am I suggesting some postmodern “it depends on your point-of-view” solution? Not at all. As a matter of fact, it all goes back to what I said about abstract & concrete thinking each having different strengths in different circumstances.

When you’re confronted with the mysteries of God–subjects in which the infinite encounters the finite in ways that you already know are beyond human comprehension–the last thing you want to do is let your philosophy dictate what Scripture is and is not allowed to say. When, for example, Scripture tells us that 1) Jesus Christ is God and 2) Jesus Christ is man, we don’t start figuring out what those statements “really” mean by forcing them into our own metaphysical standards of what’s possible or sensible when it comes to God becoming incarnate. We don’t try to make him some kind of part god/part human hybrid (Eutychianism). We don’t try to make him two distinct beings–one god and one man–each occupying the same space (Nestorianism). We simply accept that he is God in every sense of the word and that he is also man in every sense of the word. How does that work? We don’t really know. We can describe it–as we do in the creeds–but not really define it in terms of our own categories. And if we feel like speculating about the metaphysical mechanics, we always need to do so in a way that respects both of the two concrete realities we are presented with: Christ’s full divinity and Christ’s full humanity.

We should be taking the same approach to the Supper. The very word “sacrament” means mystery. When Christ tells us that this bread is his body, given for us for the forgiveness of sins, what business do we have trying to define the mechanics of that reality–especially determining what is and is not possible for God? The Lutheran view is a simple and concrete approach that’s analogous to the orthodox position on the two natures of Christ. Scripture tells us that it’s bread and wine. Scripture tells us that it’s Christ’s body and blood. Ergo, it is really and truly both. We have no need to try to define these two realities in terms of Aristotelian metaphysics the way Rome did–much less demand adherence to such a system. And if that leaves us unable to answer the question of “how can this be?” beyond pointing to the power of God’s promises, so be it. We don’t really need to answer it. But even in the midst of that ignorance, we nevertheless know that theologians err when they try to interpret those two realities in a way that effectively denies either truth, and we’re quite right to defend those truths against error.

Posted in Lutheranism, Musings, Theology | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 7

Last time we talked about the law written on our hearts–the moral knowledge that we all possess simply by virtue of having a normal human mind. But if, on some level, we all know that sex belongs with marriage, how to we get to the kind of licentiousness we see today? In this episode, we will explore some of the popular distortions of natural law–and why they seem compelling to us.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q

Related:
Chapter 11 of As Though It Were Actually True: Christian Apologetics Primer – https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

Leave a comment