Weaponizing Public Services

Anyone paying even a little bit of attention knows that America’s public schools have been weaponized against her so-called deplorables–American posterity in general and faithful Christians in particular. That’s perhaps why the forces arrayed against us are being so open about their hostility now.

I’ve written before that all government institutions proceed from the 4th Commandment–they’re all about assisting parents in the governance of their households in one way or another. Schools are no different; in fact, they’re the most obvious example. Parents have an obligation to educate their children, and schools–public and private alike–exist to assist parents in that obligation.

Naturally, America’s virulent gaggle of progressives, statists and perverts see things differently and work hard to cut parents out of the educational loop altogether. Last fall’s electoral upset in Virginia was perhaps the most prominent example of open debate about whether children belong primarily to parents or to the state. But the same debate is going on everywhere. My own state is considering legislation on parental rights at the moment, and there are plenty of detractors who believe parents have no rights on the matter at all.

In their view, schools are not there to serve parents. They’re not even there to serve children. Schools, we are increasingly told, exist to serve the public. So instead of serving the public by assisting parents in the education of their children, schools are serving the public directly by doing whatever “the public” wants to our children.

This divorce of purpose from function is precisely what transforms our public institutions into tools of political force. The fact that somehow American families and “the public” have such radically divergent ideas about education should be really gives the progressive game away. Whether it’s “the will of the people,” “the community,” “society” or some other phrase, it has always and only referred to the desires of our would-be political elites. It’s a nefarious abstraction; and historically, it’s often been used to justify all manner of violent and tyrannical action against the actual families and individuals who make up the public.

Consider if this dynamic were applied to a much less politicized public institution: the local Fire Department. Their primary function, of course, is to save people and property from destruction by fire–that’s how they serve the public. But what if we separate purpose from function the same way progressives do in our schools? In other words, what happens if the Fire Department serves “the public” instead of helping the actual people who call 911 because their house is on fire?

Well, in that event, they would only save the people and property which the “the public” wants to be saved. When the ruling party deems certain buildings an eyesore, the Fire Department need not respond if they catch fire, for saving them wouldn’t serve “the public.” Likewise, when people trapped in a burning building are deemed deplorable, the Fire Department need not come to their rescue. After all, saving such divisive malcontents would hardly be a service to our political elites. In short, the Fire Department would cease to be a true public service, and instead become a political weapon wielded by those in power against whoever they see as an enemy.

This transformation has already happened in education. The fact that parents now need to struggle to wrest control of their school boards away from their local tyrants is proof enough of that. But it is not limited to school. Any public institution could fall prey to this, and many already have.

Law enforcement is another example that comes to mind. the police, FBI, and so forth should be serving the public by enforcing our laws. Now, unfortunately, they’re being diverted from justice to social justice. That’s why rioters are not treated according to the law, but whether they serve our elites’ agenda. That’s why shoplifting and even train robbery are now tolerated by our legal system in areas where the local ‘diversity’ is a political lever. That’s why Kyle Rittenhouse was put on trial for murder instead of his accusers for attempted murder. As much as conservatives support the police because they correctly intuit that some form of law enforcement will always be necessary, they often fail to understand how many cops and DA’s are now weaponized against them.

But then there’s the elephant in the room: our entire federal government. Its been many generations since it has divorced itself from its relatively modest list of primary functions–basically common defense, foreign policy, facilitating commerce among the states, and the like.

Not only has serving the public by means of these specific functions passed away in favor of today’s massive Federal behemoth, even those functions are now turned against Americans in favor of elite interests. Defending our borders has been supplanted by a facilitation of anti-American demographic goals. Our foreign policy is deployed to enrich corporations and promote globalism. Our currency management and other economic regulation uses ordinary Americans as consumable resources for a plethora of banksters and other special interests.

America’s federal government has been weaponized against the nation it was instituted to serve. The current administration’s continual flouting of the rule law may be more open than any previous presidency, but it has not been a friend to America for a long time.

Anyone who realizes that the term “culture war” is far more exact than generally believed needs to recognize this pattern. This kind of divorce of purpose from function is a warning. If caught early, maybe you can prevent the institution from being weaponized against you. Maybe you can even co-opt your enemy’s weapon and use it against them.

But at a bare minimum, you must at least see through the illusion of abstract public welfare and treat these institutional weapons as weapons. You wouldn’t point a loaded gun at anything you weren’t willing to destroy. Well, then why would you point a public school at your children? You wouldn’t help maintain or load your enemy’s weapons, so why would you donate to your alma mater or uncritically support the police?

And if you know your enemy’s weapons were stronger than yours, why wouldn’t improve your own arsenal? Recover salvageable institutions or build replacements. Get involved in your local communities and governments so that the lesser magistrates can assist you against the greater ones which are out to get you. And most of all, guard everything you build against this kind of co-opting by your enemies. If God is merciful enough to give America a second chance, we’d best not squander it.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

When Doctrine is Obvious, It’s Also Serious

I’ve seen the question of women’s ordination come up quite a bit recently–not so much the question of whether its permissible, but the question of whether it’s tolerable. As is often the case, I find many self-proclaimed Christians sidestepping the issue of truth to focus on the far more subjective question of importance: “Even if women’s ordination is wrong, surely there are far more important doctrines. And surely there are sincere people of good faith on both sides. Is it really such a grievous error that we should divide over it?”

Well, first of all, YES. Pretty much any reasonable way of looking at it reveals the severity to those willing to see. From an empirical perspective, every denomination of so-called Christians who ordain women is steeped in heresy and dying. From an ecclesial perspective, women disguised as pastors aren’t actually pastors anymore than wolves disguised as sheep are actually sheep; so tolerating women’s ordination is essentially a confession that pastors aren’t necessary. From a theological perspective, it requires abandoning everything God has told us about human nature and creation. From an historical perspective, it’s utterly alien to the Church as anything other than an explicitly condemned error. From a philosophical perspective, feminism is as poisonous of an ideology that’s ever existed.

I could go on, but any way you slice it, it is a grievous sin for women to pretend to be pastors and for any Christian to play along with the pretense.

Nevertheless, that particular “yes” is a hard sell for many weak and faltering Christians whom the world has burdened with a phony moral obligation to “equality.” While the Church does need to address the equality lie, part of accommodating the weaker brother is considering where to start when arguing. There are times when an appropriate halfway house on the path to realizing it’s grievous is simply realizing that it’s obvious.

What do I mean by obvious? Well, consider God’s instructions to Naaman–the Syrian general who sought to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed. Naturally, Naaman thought that was stupid–and it’s hard to blame him. Why should dunking yourself in a pathetic foreign river over and over again be in any way meaningful before God? Is washing in just the right way really that big of a deal?

But whether or not the instructions seemed absurdly trivial, they were most certainly clear. There was no room for Naaman to have a good-faith disagreement on the content of God’s instruction to him. He didn’t wonder whether six washings would have been sufficient, whether he could get away with using a different river, and so forth. His choice was simply to either reject that Word or accept it. Thanks to some good sense from his servant, Naaman ultimately chose the latter and was healed.

Women pretending to be pastors is also one of those issues which is so clear there’s simply no such thing as good-faith disagreement. Straightforward statements like “I do not permit a woman to teach and exercise authority over a man” or “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” are simply incompatible with women in the pulpit. Almost all of the actual arguments against God’s restriction proceed from the heresy of theological liberalism, and involve explicitly setting aside these parts of Scripture for being insufficiently trendy. Heresy is never in good faith.

But for those who wish to maintain at least an outward adherence to Biblical inerrancy lest they set off warning bells in their churches, there are virtually no arguments left–only invention. They’ll slander faithful women of the New Testament like Phoebe, Priscilla, and so forth as usurpers of pastoral or apostolic offices. Then, on the basis of their impious speculation, they’ll insist that God couldn’t have really meant what He had Paul write. Or they’ll dive deep into what they imagine to be the “attitudes of Christ” and use their projection to cast similar doubt on the clear words of Scripture. Those are not arguments, but obfuscations.  And they’re deliberate obfuscations at that.

The only real arena of good-faith debate on that issue is about how far God’s prohibitions on women teaching extend beyond the Pastoral office–to lectors, teachers, writers, influencers, congregational officers, and so forth. And even some of those stretch good-faith to the breaking point, for the church doesn’t need more female leadership. But any woman who tries to use these things as a camel’s nose pushing into the pastoral tent is unfit for that ministry in the first place because God’s prohibition on the pastoral office is blatantly obvious.

Whenever an issue of theology is obvious, it is also serious for the Church.  Deliberately defying God’s clear instructions is simple faithlessness. The reasons and rationalizations don’t matter. Ignorance might matter, but as soon as the ignorant are made aware of God’s instructions in context, they cease to be ignorant and must choose between obedience and defiance. While simple weakness matters in many other kinds of wrongdoing, women’s ordination is hardly a besetting sin–it’s a deliberate one. The Church can never make peace with open, obvious, and unrepentant sin–not without selling her own soul.

To be sure, just because the instruction is clear to someone doesn’t mean it makes sense to them–as was the case with Naaman. And we do need to tear down the idol of equality because it’s always more tempting to disregard a seemingly senseless instruction than one we understand and are internally motivated to keep. But even someone who doesn’t understand–or even really wishes that he could have women’s ordination–can stand firm on the simple clarity of God’s instruction.

Women’s ordination is hardly the only issue where this applies. God’s very clear prohibition on homosexuality is another issue people talk about a lot where the same reasoning applies. God’s very clear statements about Baptism is another that people don’t talk about enough–I really do worry about Baptists on this one sometimes. But no matter which parts of the Bible we happen to hate, we need to take the posture of faith seeking understanding. In other words, sometimes we have to accept God’s Word even when it seems senseless before we can come to understand just how much sense it really makes.

Posted in Feminism, Heresy, The Modern Church, Theological Liberalism, Theology | 15 Comments

Eve’s Curse

One of the most interesting things about the curse that God pronounces on Adam & Eve after the Fall is how He just doubles-down on everything He told them before the Fall.

In the beginning, when everything was still very good, God’s first instructions to mankind were to be fruitful & multiply and to take dominion over the earth. Adam was placed in authority to this end with Eve given to him as his beloved helper. And while many women complain about taking their husband’s surname today, in a perfect and sinless world, the first husband unilaterally decided on his wife’s entire name.

After the Fall, God informs the two of them that they’ll be doing exactly the same things as before, except now it’s going to hurt. Adam will still be tending the ground, but now it’s going to be toil ending in death. Eve is still going to have babies, but now it’s going to be painful.

And of course, the other clear point is that God pronounces that Adam is still in charge, but now Eve is going to resist that and try to take charge of her husband. That is what’s going on when He says “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (It’s the same phraseology God uses in the next chapter when warning Cain that sin desires to control him, but he must rule over it instead.) Once again, the original order of creation is maintained, but because of sin, it will be typified by conflict rather than unity.

And just like the never-ending thistles in my garden prove that Adam’s curse is still ongoing, feminism never stops finding novel ways to demonstrate that Eve’s curse is likewise still ruining everything.

But the most recent attempt to control men that caught my eye is an odd duck, even by modern standards. Apparently men are now sinning against women… by struggling against lust. The complaint comes from Sheila Gregoire, who has a history of pushing anti-Christian stupidity onto gullible Christians.

There’s so much wrong in so few words, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Does she imagine that lust will go away if men just stop struggling with it? Does she think shaming men for struggling against lust will somehow spare the women she considers victims of that lust? Does she think denying the obvious differences between male and female sex drives will make them go away? Does she think that her plea to respect women as whole persons but ignore their sexuality is even coherent?

But as is often the case, people aren’t really senseless even when they’re being senseless. Even if all the words and thoughts are an incoherent mess, there’s still a key–a reason they’re all being spewed out together. And as you might have already guessed, in this case, that key is Eve’s Curse. Gregoire’s related blog post (in which she says men’s claims to struggle with lust are toxic and lists the ways women are hurt by it) makes that pretty clear.

Ever since the Fall, women want to be able to control the men in their lives on some level. They know we’re stronger than them; and when trust falters to any extent, they begin to fear and want to keep themselves safe by keeping us in line. So when they hear that men are subject to this force that men themselves have difficulty managing–and it’s something that directly concerns women to boot–it seriously enflames their fear and that sinful desire for control.

Ironically, that desire seems roughly as pervasive as lust is for men. The big difference is that while most men learn how to manage their errant desire with varying degrees of success, contemporary women actively work against learning how to struggle with their own lust for control.

The Bible says older women should be teaching the younger how to be submissive to their husbands–how to restrain their sin. But the ubiquitous feminism of the Western world has older women teaching younger that its actually abusive for their husbands to rule over them as God commanded. Their sinful desire for control is deliberately fed instead of mortified.

The upshot is that Gregoire’s mess of words isn’t really an argument. It is bleating meant to do two things: 1) reestablish control over men by trying to invoke some kind of shame which will alter our behavior; and 2) alert women to circle the wagons in response to the “threat” and magnify that shame to make it more effective. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

How then ought Christians respond to such nonsense? Well, like so many of the other things I’ve addressed to far, it really depends on whether that Christian is a man or a woman.

To men, I say this:  Believe it or not, there is actually a useful takeaway form Gregoire’s nonsense: Don’t overshare with women. You don’t need to tell women about your struggle with lust. They’re not equipped to truly understand it, and their lack of understanding could lead them to some really weird places. The bizarre testimonies in her blog post are ample demonstrations of that.

I know why you’re tempted to do it anyway; you’d really appreciate women’s help in your struggle. But be realistic. God has already commanded women to do this, yet most Western women react to calls for modesty or recognition of marital duties like vampires reacting to a cross. If they aren’t even interested in obeying God, then they won’t be interested in deliberately helping you.

Even contemporary women can be convinced to be chaste, but most won’t do it for the sake of responsibility the way you would. Yes, there are exceptions–women who have been raised well and faithfully submit to God’s Word–and God bless those of you who find such precious gems. But for the most part, men need to find other approaches if they want to see women become chaste again. Remember that she’s just a woman.

So respect the weaker vessel and don’t enflame her sinful desire. Share with other men when you need to share your struggles or need support. Yes, in an age of social media, jackals will drag it before women like a carcass even when you never intended it for them. But arguing, justifying, and trying to get them to be reasonable just enflames Eve’s Curse more. You don’t owe women an explanation for your struggle with lust–only repentance if your failures in that struggle have done them serious harm.

To women, I say this: Avoid spiritual predators like Gregoire; they are the false teachers Jesus warned you about. They know they can gain status by preying on your fallen nature. It’s easy to get caught up in the antagonism the devil has created between the sexes and get your licks in for “your side.” But these false teachers are just Satan’s tools for burying you in resentment. There’s nothing enjoyable about living in bitterness towards the men in your life–especially over something as stupid as the “sin” of trying to avoid treating you improperly.

Also remember something about the various men you’ve found attractive over the years: none of them were particularly submissive. Sure, there were many times when you wished  you were able to control the behavior of a man you already found attractive. But I’d wager there were few if any times that a man you already found submissive to you was also attractive.

As a rule, male submission is fundamentally repulsive. Could you successfully shame the men in your life into submission? Maybe, maybe not. But try to remember that while there are times you want obedience from a man, you do not really want to make men obedient.

And to everyone, I say this:  It is blatantly obvious that our civilization is catastrophically broken with respect to sex. We mostly stopped reproducing, we think lifelong marriage is unrealistic, and many people can’t even tell the difference between men and women anymore. Satan has won that battle for the time-being.

But our lives go on, and so the war does as well. Now more than ever, you need to look to God’s Word to reset your overton window on the subject because you will get little more than garbage from your culture. And you’ll need to look at natural law in light of God’s word as well to recover the practical know-how.  Yes, you’re going to hate a lot of His instructions–that’s because Satan has you well-trained. But faithfulness demands that Christians become truly counter-cultural and be discipled by Jesus Christ instead.

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Feminism, Natural Law | 2 Comments

Don’t Judge Faith By Feelings

Any author knows the importance of writing for a specific audience. Social media, unfortunately, throws a wrench in that traditional wisdom as one’s words quickly spread to readers with circumstances and dispositions you either weren’t anticipating or weren’t addressing. There’s a reason you can’t even tweet a picture of the blue sky without somebody accusing you of hating clouds.

I say all of this to explain that I’m not really taking issue with James White over a recent tweet of his; it’s just that I and many other Christians who saw it on Twitter are absolutely the wrong audience for it.

This can be a great message for those beset by the kinds of worries Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount. The gentle admonishment over faithlessness is really just there to nudge us towards the glorious reality of Christ’s victory that puts our daily struggles in perspective.

Unfortunately, we live in an age of anxieties that are anything but ordinary. Many people don’t experience anxiety as a discrete feelings triggered by specific uncertainties about tomorrow; they experience it as an ever-present emotional fog attaching itself to anything & everything that’s handy. Whether that takes the form of something clinical like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or some other peculiar circumstance of modern life, it profoundly changes the way this kind of message is received.

The problem is the presumption that the message should be comforting–that it will soothe the anxieties of those who trust in Christ. But when one’s anxiety isn’t really proceeding from specific worries about the world, contemplating Christ’s ultimate victory over the world doesn’t really do anything to relieve it. When that relief fails to materialize, the gentle admonishment over faithlessness is no longer gentle and no longer helpful. Instead, it places saving faith as mutually exclusive with feelings that you cannot get rid of. And because you can’t, it effectively condemns you as a non-believer for your anxiety.

There’s a very intuitive line of thinking at work here: We’re saved by faith–trust in Christ–and feelings of anxiety are at odds with trust, so if you’re too anxious, then you must not have sufficient faith. But intuitive or not, it’s false because it’s treating faith as a feeling–specifically, the kind of feeling that can be crowded out by opposite feelings.

So for Christians in those kinds of circumstances, the message that should offer hope just gives them something new (and false) to be anxious about. Those Christians need a different message: Don’t judge your salvation by your feelings; judge it by what Christ has done for you.

Christian faith may not be hermetically sealed from our feelings, but it does transcend them. Trust in God persists even during bouts of anxiety. I, for example, suffered from some low-level background anxiety for most of my adult life. It wasn’t anything serious enough to seek a diagnosis or medication. It didn’t really interfere with my life, it was just unpleasant. But last year, I decided to try taking a thiamine supplement for an unrelated health issue. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the anxiety very suddenly and very completely disappeared a mere 2 hours after taking the first dose. It was as though it had just been cut off with a knife. Needless to say, I’m still taking the supplement–and thankfully, the anxiety never returned.

What then shall we say? Did thiamine cause me to truly trust in Christ? Did a vitamin instantly increase faith in my heart? No! It just made me feel better because I had some kind of nutritional imbalance or deficiency going on. But that also means that my anxiety was never related to faithlessness in the first place. It was just one aspect of my emotional life that existed alongside my faith the whole time.

Now, I suspect there are a lot of different reasons for the kinds of inappropriate anxiety so many people suffer from today. And let’s face it, modern psychology does not yet have a particularly good handle on these sorts of things. It can be due to nutrition like it was in my case. It could also be the result of childhood trauma. Or maybe it’s because of a neurological disorder. Or perhaps its due to one of the messed-up lifestyles that has become commonplace. Maybe it’s something that can be fixed. Maybe it’s something that can only be managed. Maybe there isn’t any help currently available.

There are a myriad of possibilities, but throughout all of them, one thing remains the same: Jesus Christ died for your sins.

Jesus was clear that Christians would have to suffer in this life. That’s not just a matter of bad things happening to us from outside, but also suffering in our own minds as well. And it’s not like we lack Biblical examples of this. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” After his miraculous victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah despaired, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And that’s not to mention entire books like Job & Lamentations. Even Christ felt abandoned on the cross as he prayed Psalm 22.

The Bible is full of people who endured the full gamut of feelings that seem opposed to faith–anxiety, doubt, despair, and so forth. Nevertheless, God brought them all through it. Not by preventing their suffering but by redeeming it. Faith can indeed move mountains, but it doesn’t solve all earthly problems in earthly ways–including disordered anxiety.

And in the final analysis, however we may feel about it at any given time, Christ still died for the sins of the whole world. If I’m feeling like a million bucks, I stand forgiven. If I’m buried in anxiety, I stand forgiven. That payment rendered for my sins never changes no matter what vitamins I take. And I can know and trust that gracious gift of Christ no matter how I may feel about it.

So if you ever wonder whether you’re saved, never look at yourself, your own feelings, or your own faith for the answer. As a sinner, you’ll always find plenty of deficiencies in all those things. Thankfully, God never told you to have faith in your own faith.

Salvation is in Christ Jesus, and that’s where we need to look–especially when we suffer from disordered emotions. After all, looking to Christ is precisely what faith is.

Posted in Gospel, The Modern Church, Theology | 2 Comments

It Will Only End When You End It

We’re once again deep into Covid’s seasonal surge despite two years of masks, jabs, mandates, and lockdowns. And again, those living among petty tyrants are subjected to a renewed push for the same masks, jabs, mandates, and lockdowns that never worked in the first place. Now, a couple of years into our 15 days to stop the spread, the cry goes up “How long, O Government?”

“Will you let us go back to normal when we reach herd immunity? Will you let us go back to normal when we receive our 8th booster? Will you let us go back to normal if we triple mask our kids? Will you let us go back to normal if we disown our unvaxxed family members? Will you let us go back to normal once we all get omicron anyway? What must we do to earn your favor?”

But none of those things will end the government’s pandemic. People imagine these possibilities because they falsely believe it’s all about safety, and so we’ll all go back to normal once things are “safe” again. But it was never safe before the pandemic; it will never be safe after the pandemic; and the response was never really about safety in the first place.

It’s about control.

Sure, there might be many different motivations behind the desire for control. Some want control because it makes them feel secure. Some want control because it makes them feel empowered. Some want control so they can force national unity where none exists. And yes, some even want control because they want to save people. But the common denominator among all these is that they all want control.

Therefore, the pandemic will continue as long as it provides control. It will end only when it no longer provides control. In other words, it will only end when enough people reject the masks, the jabs, the mandates, and the lockdowns.

And just to be crystal clear: I don’t mean when enough people disagree with the rules, complain about the rules, vote against the rules, and so forth. It will be over when people reject the rules–when they act as though those rules don’t exist. It ends when we refuse to wear the masks. It ends when we refuse to take the jabs. It ends when we refuse to enforce the mandates. It ends when we refuse to lock down. In short, it ends when enough people blatantly disobey.

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that “enough” people has to be some kind of majority. It only has to be too many people to manage. If a company can’t handle firing 10% of their employees, then 10% is sufficient to end a corporate mandate. If a store can’t handle calling security on 5% of their patrons who refuse to wear masks or show proof of vaccination when asked, then 5% is all it takes to create a non-confrontation policy. And the police? Well, there’s a reason they don’t pull anyone over if they’re only going 5 over the speed limit. Consider their growing inability to even deal with rioters and shoplifters–not a huge percentage of the population. The only reason they’ve been successful in rounding up people in places like Australia is because the Australians let them. Let’s not make the same mistake here.

And if you live in an area that truly doesn’t have enough people willing to resist? Then it’s time for you to move to a place that does. It’s only going to get worse where you are.

It’s time to face reality: Most of those who are capable of being convinced by reason and evidence alone already know that all these draconian anti-Covid measures are superstition at best and dangerous humiliation rituals at worst. Do you really think Karens are going to care about VAERS data? Will the boomers who still believe the 6 o’clock news is the Gospel truth care about the mask study you show them? Will people who even cancelled family members be persuaded by arguments about freedom and tyranny?

No. They’re frozen in place and cannot move without permission. Maybe permission comes through shame, maybe through peer pressure, maybe through seeing people get away with it, or through government finally surrendering to the ungovernable. Either way, we are the ones who need to start disobeying. Not because we’re allowed to disobey the civil authorities God has instituted, but because our God-given vocations and consciences compel us to disobey them.

That and that alone will end the pandemic. So get disobedient. Become ungovernable. Forget herd immunity. Let’s obtain herd impertinence instead and finally finish off Covid  hysteria for good.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

When Service Becomes Vainglory

As a sin becomes more ubiquitous in a culture, its appropriate name seems to become more elusive in language.  “Fornication,” for example, is an everyday sin, but not a word you hear every day in the West. “Usury” is likewise pretty much unheard of unless you read old books. Stealing our language is an important part of Satan’s work of temptation, after all. If we lack the tools to even conceptualize a trap, it becomes all the easier to fall into it.

“Vainglory” is another word that’s fallen into disuse even as we fall more and more into the sin it describes: a kind of empty and boastful self-aggrandizement. Whereas sinful pride is about puffing up your view of yourself, the vainglorious puff up their reputation among others. They covet things like honor and prestige, ultimately stealing them from their community.

It’s easy to point fingers at the world on this one. Virtue-signaling has become a national pastime. Our worship of diversity leads to fundamentally vainglorious attempts at “inclusion” and “representation.” The practicalities of elections have made vainglory a way of life for our ruling class.  Not to mention celebrity culture, which speaks for itself in this regard.

But it’s the Church which most needs to guard herself against the ubiquitous sorts of sins. The more common they are in the world, the more natural they will seem when Satan promotes them in our congregations. It’s particularly ironic that one of his favorite tactics for promoting vainglory among Christians is by twisting our regard for humility and service to others.

There are many calls to humble service in Scripture. Naturally, Christians ought to eagerly follow the example of our Lord. As Paul tells us when exhorting us to humility in Philippians 2:

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

But as always, Paul is only echoing what Christ himself taught. When James and John tried to secure a higher position than the other disciples, he says to them all in Matthew 20:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be you slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

In both cases, God’s Word explicitly instructs us to curb the sinful sort of ambition which seeks the personal glory that authority can obtain. And yet, in both cases, neither glory nor authority are excluded. Christ is exalted specifically for his humility, and every knee shall bow to him. The Apostles were likewise given profound authority in the Church and promised twelve thrones from which they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel. It would seem that there is a certain paradox with respect to humility.

The solution to that paradox lies in what both Jesus and Paul specify: service to others. As Paul says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is the point of our humility–not contempt for authority or even glory.

There are many to whom God has given authority. Nevertheless, their goal should not be obtaining the privileges of position, but rather fulfilling the responsibilities for which that position was ordained. Certainly, God is not so unjust that he won’t honor and reward the obedience of those who serve as they were commanded to serve. Nevertheless, we serve because we love God, not because we covet His rewards.

It is important for Christians to recognize both the paradox and its solution. If we do not, it becomes quite easy for Satan to twist it into vainglory. All he has to do is make our service about honoring the servant rather than fulfilling the needs for which the servant was appointed. Once he does this, Christ’s instructions towards humility ironically become stepping stones to our own glory. And it’s frighteningly easy to fall into this inversion.

I often see this happen in my own denomination when we try to make liturgical innovations to the Divine Service. As the name “Divine Service” implies, the point of coming to church on Sunday mornings is to be served by God. We hear His Word; we receive His Sacraments; we’re forgiven our sins. And, of course, we respond to these gifts in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving as a normal part of our liturgy and hymnody. Christ came to serve, and on Sunday morning, we revel in such an amazing gift. Liturgy may evolve over time, but it must always reflect that.

Now, as a matter of practicality, holding church services requires service by members of the church as well. There are pastors, organists, ushers, altar guilds, elders, acolytes, and many others who have different responsibilities in making sure things run smoothly. I’m even one of them–as an elder, I sometimes assist with serving Communion. Nevertheless, while I’m happy to serve such needs, that’s not at all why I’m there on Sunday mornings. It’s not why any of us should be there. When Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him while Martha chose to serve, Mary was the one whom Jesus commended.

But so often, our liturgical innovations are suggested not to fill any need of the congregation, but only the desires of the would-be servants. I don’t know how often I’ve heard encountered that with respect to our youth. For example, we supposedly need to add things like liturgical dance, skits, guitar solos, and the like to the middle of the divine service to give our youth a chance to “participate.” I’ve even heard that if we resist such things, we’re basically shutting them out of God’s house.

How badly this inverts both participation and service! In the Divine Service, we’ve all been invited to our King’s lavish banquet. Do we really believe that it’s better for us to be a waiter than to sit at His table and feast at His invitation? Is bussing the table more of a participation than eating what’s been prepared for us? Is that really what we want to teach our youth?

And yes, I understand that many of them find church boring–I certainly did myself when I was that age. But that wasn’t because it was boring or because I wasn’t serving (I was an usher at the time.) It was because I didn’t really understand the service and didn’t really know why I was there. That lack of understanding born from our failure to pass on our heritage is the real participation problem that needs to be resolved. Finding busy-work for our heirs just covers up the real issue.

The same inversion often happens when it comes to women participating in church. Many confessional Lutherans have a peculiar kind of complex when it comes to feminism. While they acknowledge that women are forbidden the pastoral office, they’re ashamed enough of God’s command that they feel the need to compensate for it. I’ve written before about those who claim that we need more women leaders in the church–not because their leadership is needed as a service but in order to give the servant herself a kind of status or recognition.

But that complex extends to the divine service, where we seek to have women serve as lay readers, preach children’s sermons, and basically get as close to the office of pastor as possible without crossing the line. I was involved in a discussion over women lay readers recently, and literally every reason given in support of the practice was a benefit to the lay reader herself rather than anyone else. I heard, “We need more ways for women to be involved,” which is the same fraudulent reasoning we inflict on our youth. “We need to show that women can do more than just cook and clean,” was the saddest considering what lay reading actually “proves.” After all, I already assume that able-bodied women in our congregations are capable of both reading and speaking. But I suppose one can’t expect sound reason to proceed from feminist insecurity.

But the most egregious example of inversion I experienced happened a couple decades ago while attending a faithful church on “LWML Sunday.” For my non-Lutheran readers, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is an auxiliary service organization in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. They do many different kinds of service work, but educating women and raising money for missions are some of their priorities. One of their traditional ways of fundraising was with “Mite boxes”–little cardboard boxes into which people can put their spare change and then return to the organization.

The purpose of having an LWML Sunday is to recognize and honor those who serve God in this organization. But even (or perhaps especially) as someone who had just repented and returned to the Church after lapsing during high school and college, it made me rather uncomfortable. I was there to sit a my Savior’s feet–with the eagerness of a new convert even–but all the LWML-centric liturgical alterations were distracting me from Him. The kicker was a special hymn we sang called “Amazing Mites” (sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

1. Amazing Mites are sent with prayer Here and abroad to share
With those in need, that is our aim, and always praise His name.

2. Each coin is giv’n with loving heart. In this we have a part.
What joy it is to do God’s work! From this we’ll never shirk.

3. Amazing Mites, those coins so small, When in the box they fall,
Become a force for our dear Lord And spread His Word abroad.

4. Our Mites help many in despair. They show how much we care.
They tell the news of God’s great love, And point to Heav’n above.

This was the first time I ever stopped singing a hymn mid-verse on account of conscience. Lutheran hymns run the gamut of praising God, thanking God, praying to God, and so forth. But this hymn very blatantly praises our own works rather than our Lord. I did not come to church to worship mite boxes.

Thankfully, I’ve never again heard that hymn sung–at any congregation (I did speak to my pastor about it, and it was never used there again.) But I have to admit that this first experience of LWML Sunday left a bad taste in my mouth that I’ve never really been able to get rid of. Even LWML Sunday services that are far more tasteful and which retained Christ at the center of the Divine Service inevitably put me on edge.

If we are to avoid falling into these sorts of traps, then we must be on guard against vainglory–even when we serve.  Yes, we should look forward to hearing “well done, good and faithful servant” from our Lord. And we should certainly take the time to recognize our fellow-servants who are doing good works; simple gratitude requires as much. Nevertheless, we must be on guard against inventing new works so that we may be recognized.  And we should be especially on guard against coopting the Divine Service for such purposes–the congregation isn’t a conveniently captive audience.

To that end, we ought to let the 10 Commandments guide our good works. As Luther says of them in his Large Catechism:

Here, one will find his hands full and will have enough to do to keep these commandments: meekness, patience, love towards enemies, chastity, kindness, and other such virtues and their implications. But such works are not of value and make no display in the world’s eyes. For these are not peculiar and proud works. They are not restricted to particular times, places, rites, and customs. they are common, everyday, household works that one neighbor can do for another. Therefore, they are not highly regarded.

There is no vainglory to be found in simply doing what God has given us to do. No one who diligently pursues that will ever find themselves with leftover time for inventing new works for themselves.

Posted in Culture, Ethics, Lutheranism, The Modern Church, Theology, Tradition | Leave a comment

Cultural Doggie Bag: Amazon’s Wheel of Time

I was a big fan of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books back in my youth. I can even remember imagining which actors would be best in which roles if there was ever a live-action adaptation. So when Amazon announced that it was doing precisely that, I was… well, as much dreading it as looking forward to it. Woke adaptations by people who hate source material are the order of the day. There were more than a few indications that that was precisely what Amazon was going to give us.

Even so, I could hardly refuse to check out a few episodes out of morbid curiosity, and I have watched through episode 6 at this point. So how did it turn out so far? Is it the pile of woke trash I expected?

Here’s what you need to know about Amazon’s Wheel of Time:

It’s not really an adaptation.

This is the first and most important thing to understand. The divergences between the show and the books are such that it falls squarely in the “inspired by” category. It’s roughly as faithful as any Hollywood production that’s “based on a true story.” It may borrow characters, concepts, and events from Robert Jordan’s books in order to tell its story, but it’s definitely telling its own story.

Just to be clear, this isn’t me being a purist. I’ll freely admit that if I were trying to adapt the Wheel of Time for television, I would axe at least 5 books worth of material–probably more. The series is too big and too bulky to simply transcribe it to the screen. A successful adaptation would have to change a lot.

But that’s simply not what Amazon has done with it.

If you look at it as an adaptation, you will hate this show. Likewise, if you can’t get over the fact that a true adaptation is what you really wanted but they refused to give you, then you will hate this show for not being what you wanted.

It’s not a story about the Dragon Reborn.

It’s a story about the Aes Sedai. That’s clearly what the showrunners found interesting about Jordan’s books. Nearly all of the major changes to the storyline serve the purpose of allowing the show to explore the world of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai much earlier than the books do.

And to do that, they’ve more-or-less eschewed the wider world that Jordan created. The show mentions people and places from the books, but only in passing. In fact, if you haven’t read the books, then I suspect you’ll experience the wider world as nothing more than a collection of meaningless fantasy names.

Naturally, that would make saving this abstract world a rather meaningless affair. The books are about the Dragon Reborn simultaneously destroying and saving the world. In the show, the Dragon is more of a prop or a mcguffin than anything else. The story centers on the Aes Sedai, and the main characters from the books that get the most attention are Moiraine, Egwene, Nynaeve, and Lan–the ones most connected to the White Tower. Mat, Perrin, and especially Rand are relatively sidelined.

It’s not so much woke as “millennialized.”

Before it came out, I was very worried that Amazon was going full SJW with this project. But while there are elements of this, I don’t think it’s the best explanation for what we’ve been given.

Yes, it has been forcibly diversified. I’ve written before about the folly of making the isolated backwater town of Emond’s Field (where even people from the next village over are considered outsiders) as racially diverse as New York City.  Likewise, in the most recent episode I’ve seen, they gayed up Moiraine & Siuan. (Note to nit-pickers: Yes there’s an Aes Sedai in New Spring who suggests that Moiraine & Siuan were “pillow friends” as Novices. But 1) Moiraine’s reaction is to be offended, and her internal monologue neither confirms nor denies, but merely relegates any such relationship to the past; 2) The books had a lot of situational homosexuality among the all-female Novices just as there is among prisoners–including the dissolution of those relationships when they become full Aes Sedai; and 3) Moiraine and Siuan both had exclusively male love interests as adults.)

Nevertheless, it’s not exactly preachy like genuinely woke shows are. I think the better explanation for this and other changes in the series is that they’re reimagining it according to the sensibilities of millennials is general, rather than those of SJW’s in particular. The senseless diversity is just one hallmark of this, but others are there as well.

The series is, for example, suffuse with the ridiculous emotionalism of people who never got over high school. You have violent overreactions like Rand actually drawing his sword on Moiraine & Lan when he thinks they might gentle Mat. You also have Nynaeve who is abrasive and aggressive in both mediums, but has traded constantly tugging her braid with constantly grabbing her knife. Lan, who is supposed to be over-the-top stoic, screams in grief at another Warder’s funeral. And the vaunted serenity of Aes Sedai in the books is mostly absent. Moiraine is so overtly emotional during her arranged exile by Siuan that she might as well be screaming “WE JUST F*CKED LAST NIGHT!” to the entire Hall of the Tower. That was supposed to be a secret.

Speaking of which, chastity is naturally nowhere to be seen, as is typical of modern entertainment. To be sure, the books could be somewhat licentious and did not promote sexual morality. Nevertheless, they did present a somewhat realistic world in which such ethics actually existed–especially among the Emond’s Fielders, as befits a small rural town. Perrin, Egwene, and Nyneave all deliberately waited for marriage (even if Brandon Sanderson kind of poked fun of them for it when he took over authorship after Robert Jordan’s death.) Sexual morality was overtly present in Rand’s thought processes, even if he never tried particularly hard. Mat was the only one to eschew it completely, as befits his character.

But in the first episode of the show, Egwene’s parents deliberately give Rand and their daughter privacy so they can boink at their inn. Even in a show about sorceresses, monsters, and magic, continence apparently remains too fantastical to actually exist.

The show also streamlines away any complexity that might require patience or mental effort on the part of the viewer. It’s made for the cripplingly short attention spans of young millennials.

Sometimes it’s just silly, like when Egwene sees the Amyrlin Seat and asks, “isn’t it confusing that the throne and the person sitting on it have the same name?” Not if your IQ is above room temperature, no. Other times it forces explanations where none are required. For example, Perrin can’t just be broody and Mat can’t just be roguish but good-hearted. No, the former needs to have accidentally killed his wife while the latter needs to have deadbeat parents in order to explain why they have personalities.

But, of course, the biggest victims of the streamlining are the plot and the world-building. For example, why is everyone suddenly dropping everything to go to the Eye of the World? In the books, it was because of multiple threads methodically laid down throughout many different preceding events in the story. In the TV show, it’s literally because Siuan happened to mention that she had a dream about it during pillow-talk with Moiraine. That’s it.

As I already mentioned, there’s no way to put even half of Wheel of Time’s background information into this new medium without it becoming the Exposition Show. It has to be streamlined. But rather than embracing an appropriately slow pace like that of the latest Dune movie in order to absorb the details of a living world, the show chooses to rush obliviously by from one mostly-disconnected scenario to the next.

And yet, it still manages to find time to inject novel nonsense like Nynaeve cleaning the sacred pool of Emond’s Field (whatever the hell that is.) Lan comes across a bunch of animal corpses in the shape of the Dragon’s Fang, but it has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than to provide an excuse to have yet another “ascending camera looking down at a circle” shot. The show even invents a ter’angreal that apparently allows Siuan and Moiraine to Travel. The introduction of Travelling was a huge game-changer in the books; but in the show, the two of them just use it to hook up. There is attention to detail in the sense that all sorts of little details from the books have been liberally sprinkled throughout. But there’s no attention to making these details truly integrate with one-another.

When I take all these factors together, I don’t conclude that it’s woke. I conclude that it was made for and by a generation that never quite managed to grow up. And just to be clear, I’m a millennial myself by most accounts. I may not have a high opinion of my generation (though our failure to meet the insane challenges inflicted by the Boomers is understandable), but my purpose is not to mock other millennials. I merely find it to be the best explanation for the tone of the show.

But there is one last point I need to address…

I look forward to watching it.

You’re probably surprised to read that after everything else I just related about the series. Well, I’m rather surprised to find myself writing it, but it’s true.

As I said, I did not have high hopes for the series, and I still don’t. I loathed the first episode, and the second was a disappointment (How do you manage to suck the drama and tension out of Shadar Logoth? By rushing through both the build-up and payoff, as it turns out.) Nevertheless, I keep finding myself looking forward to the next episode. It’s not because I’m hate-watching it or watching it ironically or anything. So why?

Part of it is simply because it’s visually stunning. You can tell Amazon dropped a whole lot of money into this series. The costumes, sets, and landscapes are all gorgeous. That is hands-down the series’ greatest advantage. As a fan of the books, I do genuinely enjoy seeing discrete elements of them visualized on screen–even if the whole is kind of a mess.

Another part is that I have nostalgia for talking about the series. I read most of Wheel of Time during adolescence at the dawn of the internet. Being both a nerd and an introvert, I naturally had fun discussing past books and theorizing about future ones with other fans online. Now, I find myself doing it again on this blog. It’s not something that’s going to last. As a husband and father, my life is too full to engage in any kind of fandom. Nevertheless, there is a certain nostalgic charm to dabbling in it like this from time to time.

But I think the other element is simply being able to see a Wheel of Time-ish story that’s new and unknown. In other words, seeing characters and places from the books in a story where I don’t already know what’s going to happen to them. The books had always been rather predictable–all the foreshadowing baked into the world-building made sure of that. This show, however, is too streamlined to bother with that sort of thing. And it’s so divergent that I’m not even sure whether Rand is going to be the Dragon Reborn.

In a way, the TV show’s failure to flesh out the characters and the world becomes something of an advantage in this respect. Being an empty shell means that mentally, I just fill in the gaps with the characters and backgrounds from the books anyway. That illusion isn’t the sort of thing that will last for long, but for now, it’s sort of like the gang is back together and on a different adventure.

Now, that’s not exactly high praise. And the possibility of enjoying it on those grounds lands at a peculiar intersection between 1) having been a fan of the books and 2) having made peace with the show’s severe departure from those same books. As intersections go, I suspect that’s not a particularly busy one. It’s not so much an interesting show as it is interesting to me. Others may enjoy it on different grounds, but I highly doubt Amazon’s Wheel of Time will turn out to be a hit.

But for now, I’ll continue to watch it. It’s definitely not the adaptation I wanted. And if I had actually gone in with high expectations, I suspect I’d simply hate it. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t found enjoyment despite it all.

Posted in Culture, Musings | Leave a comment

Upcoming Radio Interview

I had a great conversation with Rick Stannard of American Endeavor  recently.  We talked mainly about the intersection of family and politics, including a few of my Federalist articles (“Amid The Parent Surge, Republicans Can Either Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way” and “Conservatism Is Obsolete“). 
The interview will be airing tomorrow morning (Saturday, December 18th) on The Conservative Thought Hour from 9-10 AM EST.  You can tune in 9-10am EST at www.wengradio.com or on 98.1FM / 107.5FM / 1530AM if you live in Florida.  For now, listening live is the only way to hear it.
Posted in Family, Politics | 4 Comments

Mass Deception Without Conspiracy

One of America’s most common mistakes these days is blaming everything on conspiracies.

But I don’t mean people who are dubious about the official narratives for things like election integrity, vaccine safety, Jeffery Epstein’s death, and the like. Neither do I mean those who work to find better explanations in the face of our culture’s increasing scarcity of integrity and trust. I don’t even mean those whose explanations veer into rather fanciful territory–that sort of thing always happens in eras of massive paradigm shift like ours.

No, the mistake belongs to those who say conspiracy is the only possible explanation for coordinated mass deception and therefore conclude that coordinated mass deception cannot possibly be happening.

It’s a comforting dismissal because conspiracies just seem so unlikely. How could so many regulatory bodies, pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals, corporations, and leaders all be conspiring together to push unsafe and ineffective vaccines on the world? How could so many election officials, voting machine vendors, postal workers, etc. all conspire together to change a presidential election? How could so many media institutions on both the left and right join such a conspiracy by providing cover for them? It’s just not plausible.

But conspiracy is not the only vehicle for coordinated mass deception. It’s not even the most obvious one. But the myopic focus on conspiracy by those determined to slavishly confess the official narratives causes them to completely overlook deceptive mechanisms they’ve known since childhood.

For example, we all remember hearing The Emperor’s New Clothes at some point or another. In the fable, charlatans posing as tastemakers sell an emperor non-existent clothes rebranded as fashionable clothes that are invisible to the unsophisticated. In the end, the sycophantic tendencies of his court, his staff, and the population at large lead everyone to pretend the emperor isn’t naked. Only a little child is unpretentious enough to point out the obvious.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story about coordinated mass deception, but it’s not about a conspiracy. Instead, the deception is crowdsourced so that everyone involved is both deceiver and deceived. The only people who weren’t fooled were the con artists who started it all and the child who hadn’t been “properly socialized” yet.

Folktales like this stick with us because they teach us something about human nature–usually fallen human nature. Modernists have a long history of promulgating the myth that education is capable of raising us up above such foibles. But human nature is human nature. There’s a reason everyone’s mom had to say “if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too” as some point.

Even our lauded class of educated experts remain irrevocably human. Indeed, the fact that so many of them think themselves above mundane warnings often makes them even more vulnerable. By itself, expertise doesn’t prevent anyone from failing Aesop’s fables on a regular basis. Anyone who has actually spent time with experts knows the reality of this. (And those of us who have actually done tech support for experts cannot forget how profoundly foolish they can be.)

But the mechanisms of coordinated mass deception don’t end with the Emperor’s New Clothes or other folk wisdom. Modern psychology has also developed numerous concepts to help quantify the behavior of large groups. Most people have probably heard phrases like “mob psychology,” “herd mentality” or the like, even if they don’t know much about them.

The reality is that mobs of experts aren’t any more immune to such things than any other  kind of mob. And the advent of social media has led to the proliferation of virtual mobs even where physical or organizational proximity does not exist.

Consider some of the causes of mob mentality that WebMD describes:

You might get caught up in mob mentality for a few reasons. If disagreeing with the group poses a risk, you are more likely to stay silent. That risk can be small, like getting dirty looks, or large, like being punished.

You probably won’t conform to a group you have nothing in common with. There are several situations you may find yourself in that may make you more open to mob mentality.

  • Your group is going through a stressful situation.
  • Group leadership is intimidating or overbearing.
  • The group has a tendency to agree on every decision.
  • There is no predetermined process for decision-making.
  • The group only interacts with itself.?

Gee, does this sound familiar at all? How about their signs of mob mentality?

  • Optimism disregarding risks (feeling invulnerable)
  • Frequent rationalization of dissenting opinions
  • The belief that the group’s moral standards should apply to all people
  • Self-censorship to maintain the status quo
  • Belief in the illusion that everyone is on the same page?

Now these descriptions are certainly colloquialized for a lay audience. But for a more in-depth analysis, I’d highly recommend listening to this interview with Mattias Desmet, a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. He goes into some great detail in the way that Mass Psychosis/Mass Formation has influenced the Western response to Covid:

Social media has given us the largest crowds in human history, and our elites & experts are as subject to that as anyone else–not because they’re stupid or because they lack expertise, but simply because they remain human.

The proliferation of mechanisms for mass deception are daunting, to say the least. Just as in the fable, huge swaths of our society have become both deceived and deceivers alike. We have no business at all dismissing the possibility of coordinated mass deception on matters of public importance simply because we think conspiracies are implausible.

Now, it would be comfortable to stop there. It’s a place where I could get my point across while still implicitly denying conspiracy theory as such so that I wouldn’t be one of those people. But that wouldn’t be honest because mob mentality isn’t mutually exclusive with conspiracy.

It would be foolish to recognize the existence of crowd psychology but ignore the possibility that anyone would manipulate it. You can’t tell The Emperor’s New Clothes without mentioning the scammers who took advantage of the emperor’s vices. The ways in which human behavior is highly predictable are also avenues for manipulation. And when you look at ideas like “The Great Reset”, mob mentality simply adds means to the motive and opportunity that clearly exist already.

Does this mean you should believe every conspiracy theory you come across? Of course not. What it does mean is that you need to be open to the possibility of the Big Lie–even when it means people you’ve known and trusted might be taken in by it. The only way out of this trap is precisely what our elites actively discourage: Do your own research and make the best decisions you can when God has given you the responsibility to decide.

After all, we are no more immune to mass deception than experts are. We need to be deliberate about stepping outside the mob sometimes to evaluate arguments and evidence on their own terms–without worrying about what anyone else might say about our curiosity.

And as Christians, we already know what’s out there prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Do you think the great deceiver will fail to use all the tools at his disposal to lead us astray?

So as you research, pray for divine wisdom. Read the book of Proverbs and gain it. Find other wise men to associate with, for iron sharpens iron. And don’t let either the devil or the world lead you astray.

Posted in Musings, Politics, Science | 3 Comments

The Flotsam and Jetsam of Rights

Like equality, the West developed our concept of rights as a means of safeguarding people from their government and from one another. Rights are held in particularly high regard in America, where each and every individual’s rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were enumerated as the basis for our Declaration of Independence. And for a time, the concept was quite useful towards its purpose: directing government towards securing those rights for its citizens.

But also like equality, the concept of rights has become corrupted. American-style rights have ceased to be an effective tool we use to govern wisely and have instead become an idol we’ve compelled ourselves to serve. Rather than guarding us from abuse of authority, rights are often used as the weapons by which we are abused. Whether it’s a mother’s “right” to murder her child, a pervert’s “right” to be honored for his perversion, a sluggard’s “right” to largess from the public treasury, a thug’s “right” to riot undisturbed, or even a child’s “right” to destroy his own genitals, our rights have become the tools by which our civilization is torn down.

The problem is that over the centuries, we’ve come to understand rights in a bizarrely hyper-individualistic way. By that, I mean we conceive of rights as being so autonomous that they are essentially self-generated. We may (or may not) pay lip service to a creator who gave them, but for all intents and purposes, every individual’s rights currently exist abstracted away from anything that might humanize them: morality, appropriate relationships, and even human nature itself. The kinds of rights we think of today aren’t simply for individuals, we think they come from individuals no matter how alienated from one-another they are.

Now, that’s certainly not what our Declaration of Independence intended. It indeed specifies that these rights belong to each individual, but it ties that reality to an act of the Creator and His ordinances. But there is a key question which the Declaration of Independence doesn’t even attempt to answer: How does the Creator endow us with inalienable rights?

Two and a half centuries ago, overlooking that question didn’t pose an immediate problem because the inertia of Christendom was still at work. Most Americans implicitly understood the Creator to the the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Most accepted the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and understood them within a Biblical context. And whether the statesmen involved were personally Christian or not, most allowed these understandings to define and limit the scope of rights.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, and we are reaping the consequences. Now, it falls to us to answer the question the Founders overlooked. Rights may be for individuals, but they do not come from individuals, nor are they even possessed exclusively  by individuals–at least not in a social vacuum.

The paradox of human nature is that we are social individuals. You cannot understand humanity without understanding both aspects of that nature. Libertarians and other hyper-individualists err because they can only see the individual. Collectivists err because they can only see the group. Both of these are myopic, for they fail to see the entire picture. Accordingly, both of these points of view have twisted the concept of rights away from anything that might help us.

Part of the resulting problem is that there are two senses in which we normally use the word “rights.” One is in the sense of a specific liberty–for example, the American right to freedom of expression. This right pertains to the liberty to speak what’s on your mind without society punishing you or otherwise interfering with what you have to say–regardless of whether they like it. As their name would imply, libertarians prefer the liberty kind of right. Meanwhile, critics will generally object to the recklessness of promoting liberty without corresponding responsibilities.

The other way we use the word “rights” is in reference to entitlements–something that one person is owed by another. When people speak of a supposed right to housing or healthcare, for example, they are asserting that everyone is owed such things by virtue of being a living human being. If anyone is lacking them, then it falls on everyone else to supply it. As you might suspect from that necessity of a collective solution, these are the kinds of rights collectivists prefer. Their critics, of course, are quick to point out that such entitlements amount to the enslavement of those on whom the burden of provision ultimately falls.

The temptation is to think that these two understandings of rights are diametrically opposed. That is, after all, how libertarians and collectivists treat them. And at a glance, it does seem like liberties put us at one another’s mercy while entitlements rob us of our freedoms. But the two only seem irreconcilable because both libertarians and collectivists are myopic. Neither really sees how God establishes human rights.

The reality they both miss is that rights are neither enfleshed in individuals nor in society as a whole, but specifically in the family. That is where the paradox of human nature is resolved and liberties & entitlements are reconciled. That is where individual persons share the same flesh and blood in a natural, organic, and God-ordained way. The family is where we have liberty naturally conjoined with responsibility and entitlement without slavery. It is precisely through the appointment of parents that God has endowed individuals with rights in both senses of the word.

I’ve written before about the relationship between entitlement, responsibility, and authority. Any legitimate authority is established for a purpose–for the sake of a responsibility towards another. And that responsibility means that this other is entitled to a specific kind of treatment from said authority. Going the other direction, any true entitlement means that somebody else has a responsibility to provide it for you. But if they have this responsibility, then they must also have sufficient authority to carry it out.

If you try to have any one of these without the other two, it will be poisonous instead of beneficial. Authority without responsibility is merely abuse. Responsibility without authority is slavery. Entitlement without responsibility is a dead letter. All of this should sound very familiar to Westerners. We talk a good game about our history of rights & liberty, but abuse, slavery, and missing entitlements are becoming an ever-more accurate summary of our situation. And it’s all because of the way we’ve tried to supplant the family with the individual on one hand and the state on the other.

But the integration of authority, responsibility, and entitlement is where genuine rights come from.

As I’ve written about before, all earthly authority has its roots in the 4th Commandment: God’s appointment of parents for the sake of their children. Our precious children are entitled to our care, for God designed them to be unable to care for themselves. He gave parents this sacred responsibility, so inevitably, God has also given parents the requisite authority. Accordingly, we rightly expect children to obey their parents as God commands.

This is where we first find genuine liberties. When we speak of a liberty, we’re really talking about a kind of authority. Liberty means that God has authorized a person to use his best judgment towards specific purposes. Parents have been given such authority for the sake of their children. They get to choose how to raise, provide for, and discipline their own kids. They are authorized to claim property for their household. They are authorized to protect their children and also themselves so that their children will not be orphaned.

From beginning to end, this task requires a great deal of agency on the part of parents. There is not a single right way to raise children. There is not a single right way to manage a household. Because of God’s appointment, parents must have the liberty to choose as best as they are able because that is why God has appointed them. These are the kinds of rights that parents are endowed with.

Infants, in contrast to parents, have no liberties. They do, however, still have rights. They just exclusively take the form of entitlements. They have a right to life, to food, to protection, and so forth. But infants have no liberties because God has not given them any authority. Infants don’t even have a use for such an authority. In terms of agency, even lifting their head or rolling over is something they have to work up to.

This is not, however, a static state of affairs. As children grow, they are given liberties by their parents. Just as God authorized the parents, so also, parents authorize their children. For example, they come to possess simple forms of property–perhaps toys they can play with as they see fit, a room they can decorate as they see fit, or a bike they can ride where they see fit.

But it’s not only as they see fit; it’s also as the parents who authorized them see fit. Parents set the boundaries within which their children’s liberties can be exercised, just as God set boundaries for the parents. But while these liberties start small, good parents ensure that they grow to match their child’s growing capability and agency. And whether the parents are good or not, every child eventually becomes responsible for himself one way or another. Naturally, authority (and therefore liberty) come along for the ride.

And, of course, most children eventually grow up to become parents themselves. They are likewise appointed by God to have authority over their own household, and the cycle of rights begins again.

That is what true rights ultimately are: not some static and autonomous endowment, but an ongoing cycle of authority transforming into entitlement transforming into authority again using God-ordained family responsibilities as a medium. Meanwhile, legal rights are civilization’s attempt to recognize and organize this cycle in a messy world. We will never do this perfectly, of course, but we must at least aim at the right target.

But we haven’t.

The problem with rights in the modern West is that our various ideologies have attempted to freeze that cycle at one point or another for the sake of political expediency. Collectivists freeze rights at the stage of entitlement–infantilizing citizens in a state of permanent dependence on daddy government. But hyper-individualists are no better, for they freeze rights in a wholly abstract adulthood bereft of natural responsibilities. Today, they even going so far as to apply the adult manifestation of rights to children, who are “authorized” to change their names, go on puberty blockers, and even murder their own children behind their parents’ backs. Neither of these versions of rights are even sane, let alone practical.

Having true, inviolable, God-given personal liberties requires God-ordained relationships that involve entitlement, responsibility, and authority. Family is the fundamental way in which God has provided that. So-called individual rights abstracted away from this kind of ordinance are just squabbling people yelling “it’s my life and I’ll do what I want” as they fight each other; and collectivism is just a series of usurpers claiming to be everyone’s parent in an attempt to possess authority without responsibility.

If the West is to be saved from its own cultural diseases, our only option is to repent and return to God. And when it comes to our governments and their recognition of rights–entitlements and liberties alike–returning to God means returning to the 4th Commandment and His ordination of family.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Culture, Family, Natural Law, Politics, Tradition | 9 Comments