09 April 2015

Bearing Witness in Sodom

As of late, listening to the media makes my head spin. I often find myself not agreeing with anyone or how anyone frames the debate. This is true when it comes to economics and Ukraine but especially when it comes to this escalation regarding homosexuality.

While the Bible soundly and unabashedly condemns homosexuality I have often pointed out that the Christian Right errs in how it approaches these issues. The same can be said for abortion. The Christian response is all too often not that of prophetic witness, a message of judgment and hope, but is instead cast within a political paradigm. This distorts the message and ultimately proves more harmful as it is received with cynicism. We are presently experiencing a cultural backlash, generations of pent up frustration and anger and a marked determination to break with the past. The Christian Right is learning what it's like to be on the other end of that kind of tactical warfare and political momentum.

Christians lost the argument during the 1990's when society as a whole embraced Civil Rights. By this I mean the opposition to Civil Rights which had survived both in Christian circles and the culture through the 1980's had either died off or morphed into focusing on related economic issues. "Dog Whistle" political strategies allowed racism and opposition to Civil Rights to live on but under different forms and utilizing different language.

I'm not in any way meaning to suggest that attitude was correct but it was prevalent. The Christian Right has chosen to ignore this aspect of their genesis. In the 1980's Evangelicals reckoned Martin Luther King a false Christian if not a communist. I remember it well. By the 1990's political Christianity read the writing on the wall and realized they had better change their tune. Revisionist history ensued and is still being expanded upon and re-written. The fact that Christians should engage in this sort of thing is both troubling and revealing. The politicization of the Kingdom inverts Christian ethics on many fronts.

Christians lost the social argument over whether homosexuality is an acquired conditioned behaviour or is it something people are, an essential, intrinsic or even genetic identity. The 1990's were a time of libertine self-indulgence, triumphalism, and society as a whole seemed to be conscious of a new era. It was exciting. Expanding waistlines, Big Box stores and SUV's were but the physical manifestation of the new social ethic. Technology was advancing, the Cold War had ended and Globalism was the new economic paradigm, a means for America to access the world and spread its influence to the corners of the earth. Consumerism and all the manipulation it entails seemed to inundate society in a way never before imagined. It all played a part in how society viewed itself and the future. Much could be said about the decadence of the 1990's which found parallel and antecedent in the 1950's, 1920's and 1890's, but such a discussion would stray into the moral effects of an economic system championed by the Christian Right, and thus is a topic reckoned out of bounds.

The fact that many on the Right fail to see the 1950's as decadent is in itself spiritually interesting. I suppose when comparing it to the 1960's it seems conservative but when considers the sweeping social transformation of the 1950's and the values of the new way of life, the effect of suburbanization, wealth, technology and television in particular...that would be a mistake. The Sixties were in some ways the fruit of the Fifties and in other respects the expected reaction against it.

But we don't live in the Fifties or Sixties.

Once homosexuality could be equated with race, the die was cast. Rejecting homosexuals was akin to the racist rejection of blacks, but of course these questions are not at all the same. It is a false equation. To reject people based on race is morally detestable, bankrupt and without Scriptural warrant, but to condemn and reject certain behaviour is basic to all social ethics. The problem is, how to work this out in a socially pluralistic context? As Christians we must embrace social pluralism. Do not confuse this with theological pluralism. They are not the same though many a Sacralist and Social Monist will insist that all pluralism is immoral.

As Christians we necessarily demand a composite society. The New Testament assumes it. There will always be 'the world' and a necessary antithesis. Always a remnant we wish for societies that will tolerate diversity, otherwise we are sure to face incarceration and worse.

As a reactionary response to the social changes of the post-War period the Christian political movement has since the 1970's united its constituents. The great moment of success was the migration of white southerners from the Democratic to Republican Party. Nixon's Southern Strategy laid the foundations for the Christian Right aligning itself with the Republicans. This is not appreciated today and paints an embarrassing narrative. White voters abandoning their old Democratic Party due to Civil Rights is not something they would want to brag about today. In fact so desperate are they to erase this chapter, some of the worst of their propagandists have tried to revise the whole notion of the Southern Strategy and recast the events in different terms.

The Christian Right has made a serious attempt to eliminate any kind of formal social pluralism. Most are willing to tolerate the presence of non-Christians but they are to be silenced and have no place in the official operations, symbolism or ceremony of the nation. They are to be second-class citizens. This theology inverts New Testament ethics which necessarily demands that we as Christians are to live as second-class citizens, and that at best.

All of this has proven disastrous for both society and the Church. These actions have confused the issues so that it's very hard to talk to Christians and enable them to see that our response should be moral and vigorous but at the same time, by rejecting power, we will afford greater opportunity to be a witness to the lost. We cannot make disciples if we're threatening them with the violence of law. When the homosexuals hear that we morally condemn them, they take it as a physical and legal threat. Sad to say, they are right in thinking this. It wouldn't be the case if the Church hadn't politicized the Gospel and sacrilegiously attempted to make America a version or manifestation of the Kingdom.

All of that said, as Christians we should be more than happy to have homosexuals for neighbours or enter into business transactions with them. This is hardly the posture of most of the Christian community.

What is indeed outrageous and should be spoken against is the confusion between service and active participation. It is at this point the Homosexual Left is just as guilty in trampling the First Amendment.

A baker, florist, photographer or t-shirt maker should be happy enough to sell their products to homosexuals. That's one thing. That's what we're referring to as service. It's another for the customer to demand the business owner to not just serve or transact with them, but to actively participate in some kind of event. Does the Hindu store owner have to sell me beef? Does an African-American t-shirt maker have to print shirts for the local Klan? Of course not, but the Klan as wicked as they are have a constitutional right to free speech. We all engage in such discriminations in our business dealings and it is our right to do so. Let the Klansmen find someone else to print the shirts. Your First Amendment 'rights' don't permit you to trample the same rights extended to others.

There is a legitimate argument that freedom is about universal access versus the libertarian perception that freedom is equivalent to autonomy, but the homosexuals have crossed line. The Right declared war on them and their allies and now it's perceived as a fight to the death. They have compromised their earlier principles and now seek to destroy universal access and the pluralism that for so long was the basis of their argument. They have become like the Christian Right in their tactics. The Christian Right is reeling as they are being force-fed their own medicine.

That is something the courts need to make clear. Though I don't believe most Christians really care about pluralism or its necessary and implied establishment by the 1st Amendment, or that they even support it in principle, this is a point that I think we can be thankful for and it is discouraging and disturbing to see this point being contested. Truly on many fronts our constitutional liberties are under assault.

All sides bear fault, the conservatives no less than the liberals.

If we're not political then what is our response? It's the same as always, the Gospel of the Kingdom. Babylon's and Assyria's come and go. We pray for the peace of Babylon. As far as evil and murderous empires go, the United States though spiritually dangerous and seductive has not been as overtly hostile to Biblical Christianity as others might be. One wonders how much Biblical Christianity has ever really existed within the United States? America is more like Persia than Babylon and like both of them its day will inevitably end. One bestial hydra-head is slain only to reappear once more.

The answer is not activism and a push for legislation. Our weapons are not carnal, not the courts and teams of lawyers and lobbyists. They are but bureaucrats bearing swords. Their labours, arguments and signatures give mandates to the men with badges and guns. Using them is the equivalent of utilizing violence. Even if it's socially 'legitimate' it's not our weapon and not our calling.

Our weapon is God's Word. We bear witness and if Babylon won't change its tune, then we suffer for it... and we should praise God when it happens. This oft repeated theme in the New Testament has been completely abandoned. Philosophically it has necessarily been dropped by those who equate the Kingdom with worldly security, respectability and the power that comes with it. You can't turn the cheek. Christ's model and Spiritual Kingdom doesn't work for the politically minded who are entangled in the affairs of this life and who mind earthly things.

Instead the Christo-Americans respond with vengeance and litigation threatening to use to the violent force of law to make the other side do what they want them to do. This also is completely misunderstood.

Just the other day I was listening to a popular Dominionist and his worldview podcast. They review news stories and offer supposedly Biblical commentary. They mentioned the persecution of Christians in Africa and then made that point that unlike Islam, Christianity doesn't believe in coercion when it comes to questions of religion.

These folks are either simple, deluded or deceitful. The Orthodox Presbyterian pastor running the program is a Theonomist that pushes the works of Rushdoony from his microphone and yet apparently doesn't understand what government is. It's the sword. It's violence. Government is coercion and his civil theology is a particularly coercive form of it.

He's right as Christians we are to reject that methodology. He says it even as he spends every day working toward the opposite end and praising those who in the past have wielded the sword in the name of Christ, and have in some cases behaved not all that different than the brutal killers haunting the Islamic world. Has he been deluded? Is he deceitful and knows it and has justified it somehow? Or is he simply clueless? I honestly don't know.

We are never to respond with vengeance. That's what filing a lawsuit is. It's calling on the court to issue an edict, enforced by men with badges and guns to "make it right" for us, justice by threat of violence. Those who read Romans 13 need to read it in the context of Romans 12. Government is a necessary stop-gap, a restraining mercy for an evil age. It has nothing to do with us. If we don't agitate for the most part it will leave us be. Now when Christians take over Babylon something else happens, something very disturbing and problematic. It effectively creates a new religion.

If a business is closed, the Church should come together and support that person and help them to transition and find something else to do that will help them make ends meet.

The Christian Right has brought this down upon themselves. Refusing to be civil, agitating and seeking to subvert the law, it has backfired and now the weight of it is coming back upon them. They have destroyed the testimony of the gospel and given God's enemies occasion to blaspheme.

The Originalist reading of the US Constitution is fatally flawed and appears a desperate attempt to essentially undo 150 years of precedent. The 14th Amendment fundamentally changed the nature and role of the federal government. That was the real outcome of the Civil War. No nation can endure such a conflagration and return to status quo ante bellum. There's no way and no precedent for it.

This doesn't mean any of it is right, not the sinful rebellion of 1776 or the dual treachery of the American Civil War. It simply is. The powers that be are ordained of God. It doesn't mean He sanctions them, it simply is a comfort to us, so that we need not fret over the course of events and which Babylon is in control at the moment.

We need to challenge the theology of the Christian Right and their narrative regarding history, society, culture and law. They're wrong on almost every point.

The Conservatives under figures like Goldwater sought to undo the New Deal, and tried to tie the salient issues in with the context of the Cold War, but many who had come through the Depression appreciated FDR's programmes and benefitted from them. I think of my grandfather, an "Archie Bunker" to be sure, a bigoted conservative Baptist who did not like the changes that had occurred over his lifetime. Yet, he benefitted from the New Deal, he worked for the CCC and though he hated Johnson, he did not hate FDR. He was hardly unusual. That was a pretty typical sentiment for many conservatives of that generation who lived through the Depression and the War.

However, The Great Society proved to be the breaking point and for years conservatives could rally around the prospect of defeating it and the Civil Rights legislation that went with it.

But again Conservatives were divided over the principles. The World War II generation began to fade from the political picture in the 1990's. Today, the aim is to not just rollback the Great Society and the New Deal, but the Progressive Era and essentially the Civil War amendments. Originalism is the jurisprudent aspect and foundation of this social and political project.

And interestingly if not ironically, this fight will probably once again turn violent in time. Maybe sooner than we realize.

Christians have greatly erred in this, refusing to follow Paul's example in Philippians 3, and to eschew all pride and status, all claims of moral superiority resting in heritage and the esteem of power. For almost 40 years there has been a concentrated effort to re-establish power and to bring down vengeance on those who they perceive will destroy this Christo-American Babel. By putting a cross on top of this ideological edifice and narrative, they think it is sanctified and they have pulled most of the American Church into joining them on their quest for power and gain... that which Paul considered a loss and a detriment. They have made their self-fulfillment and aggrandizement their purpose, and they have sanctified this destructive end. That which they glory in is in fact their badge of shame. Setting their minds on earthly things they have confused the Kingdom with a kingdom that is but a work of man and destined to burn.

They have constructed a narrative that is extra-Biblical, heretical and not even remotely true to history. They have made an idol of America and have profaned the Holy Scriptures by treating the Founding Documents as semi-inspired and at the very least worthy of deutero-canonical authority. We live in Sodom but the real threat comes from the False Church and its heretical theology that is utilized to build a False Kingdom.