In The Ballad of the White Horse, Chesterton has a great line about the men who will come to threaten the West in the future, men who work “by detail of the sinning, and denial of the sin.” As Chesterton put it in another context, to be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, is the mark of decadence.
In my post yesterday, I made a play on words on a rap artist who wants to be a bad ass, and a catamite who wants an ass that is bad. This was objectionable to a few commenters, and opaque elsewhere, and so here I am, following up.
If the culture wars were a tennis game, the besetting sin of Christians in the game is that of not keeping their eye on the ball. What is at stake, what are they trying to do, and what are we trying to do?
When we engage on the subject of homosexual relations, and we say something clear and pointed, they always want us to back down, to unsay it, to qualify it. The demand for apologies is routinely used as a weapon of choice. Those on the other side want us to withdraw the substance of the whole thing, and then, because we are suitably abashed, sign ourselves up for the next available session in their tolerance camps.
Fellow Christians, who do not yet understand the game that is being played on us, want us to retract what we said for the way that we said it. We are hurting the cause. We are making heterosexuality look mean-spirited. They say this because they are tender-hearted and believe the protestations of outrage from the other side, which, in my mind, is like believing editorials written by the love child of Baghdad Bob and Tokyo Rose.
The Christians who do this are divided into two groups. One group is conscientious about following Christ, but confused about what He requires of us in His rules of engagement. The other group, usually the really indignant one, is the group that was busy paving the way for future compromises, busy helping (unwittingly) to throw magic powder on the fire, and your recent ribald comment smells like burnt marshwiggle.
The only place where I would take issue with Thabiti’s valiant response to the barrage he went through is in a related area. I know that I am Monday morning quarterbacking here, but this same point came up in my exchange with Thabiti a few months ago, and I think it bears mentioning again. In his second piece, he apologized (unnecessarily, in my view) for the way he had used the phrase “gag reflex.”
“But I do see how such a loosely defined and provocative term can be hurtful—not only to my cause, but more importantly to people. For writing in this way, I offer my sincerest apology to every reader, not just those hurt.”
Now I also want to say that the mere existence of controversy is no ground for refusing to seek forgiveness, whenever forgiveness must be sought. But the necessity of doing so must be governed by what the Bible defines as an offense, and Thabiti was guilty of no biblical offense in his first post. He was just being the man, and people didn’t like it very much. They never do. In contemporary discourse, there are few things as offensive as that.
His apology was principled, just like his first post was principled, but in the case of the apology, it just happens that I differ with the principle. But given that disagreement, what difference did it make to those advancing the cause of sodomy? None at all. They will throw whatever rocks they have available, whether it is “that man refuses to apologize, the desperado!” or it is “even he acknowledged that he went too far . . .” That is how Jonathan Merritt played it.
Now, to my line in my post. I made a play on words — not a joke — and I did it to draw attention to what we are actually talking about. Chesterton says somewhere (this is my Chesterton morning) that when we are comparing a blunt or vulgar word with a polite euphemism, the blunt word is the one that carries the moral assessment with it. That is why people in these circumstances don’t like them. They want parades in favor of “committed relationships,” and not parades celebrating anal intercourse. But that is what this is about. Right?
We want the euphemism, not because we are too delicate to hear, but because we are too cowardly to fight.
Thus it is, in our day, we can have numerous Christian men developing a swish in their walk, along with a metrosexual limp-wristedness, and coy ironies suffused throughout their lisping words, and everyone is okay with the drift. If you object to the development, you are a Pharisee, and who wants to be a Pharisee? So there we all are, lazily circling the drain. But if, looking at all this, somebody else in the Christian world comes along and says something like poofter, the moral universe suddenly rights itself, absolute moral standards come suddenly into focus, the Bible becomes the black letter Word of God, and such things must not even be named among you (Eph. 5:3). All of sudden, moral clarity, like a flashbulb went off, rebuking and blinding the legalist, and then we are all back in the dark again, trying to cop a feel.
Do not use the Pauline injunction to keep people from saying “cop a feel,” while maintaining those dimly lit conditions in the church that enable us to actually cop one.
First, to do so is the strain the gnat and swallow the camel. Second, that is not what Paul meant. Paul named that kind of sin, and the prophets did also. We need to define propriety by the Bible, cover to cover. We do not define propriety by what the laugh tracks of gay-friendly sitcoms have catechized and conditioned us to scorn.
And third, this is worldview sumo-wrestling. You are either pushing them in a direction they do not want to go, or they are pushing you. If they are pushing you in a direction you do not want to go, you cannot fix that problem by changing your mind, and finding a verse that make it okay to lose.