Sunday, October 30, 2016

Who shall change our vile body

This was part of the epistle reading for today at church, from Philippians 3:

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Just above that, the Apostle Paul has warned the Philippians against those who preach that Gentiles must be circumcised. But he doesn't sound too worried. The Philippians, unlike the Galatians, don't seem to have been inclined to follow that particular teaching.

This passage makes me think that the more I read Paul, the more I think of the "old perspective" on Paul. I gather one of the points of the "new perspective" is to avoid all this talk of "going to heaven" and talk instead about "covenant relationship." Well, there's nothing wrong with covenant relationship, but Paul was all about going to heaven, and never more so than in Philippians. In fact, one of his emphases here is that the false teachers he is warning against are too focused on this world; he wants his followers to be thinking more of the next world, the afterlife, and the second coming of Jesus.

Not that this is at all a gnostic, anti-physical emphasis. On the contrary, part of what Paul is emphasizing is that in the end we will have new bodies, like Jesus' glorious resurrection body. The phrase "vile body" is translated in more modern versions by phrases such as "lowly body" and "body of our humble state."

I don't know what all the things were that the Apostle Paul had in mind when he thought of our "vile body" or our "lowly body," but it occurs to me that one of the annoying things about being in this earthly state is the sense that one is constantly distracted and unsure precisely what one should be doing. The times when one transcends this, the times of pure focus, are (I believe) precursors of the heavenly state. So athletes and musicians when they are "in the groove" or a man sunk in reading a great book, feeling that he is really there as the action unfolds, are freed for that time period from one of the most annoying aspects of our "humble state," and especially our modern "humble state"--that never-ending twitter of the voices in the head telling you that, whatever you're doing, you should maybe be doing something else. "Distracted from distraction by distraction," as T.S. Eliot said. Only, for those of us with an overdeveloped sense of guilt, one doesn't enjoy or even really want that distraction. Instead, one feels guilty about it.

It is one of the wonders of the story of salvation that the Almighty God can and does use poor creatures like ourselves as tools in his plan. Even when not actively malicious, we are twitching little piles of worries, neuroses, sense data, conflicting impulses, and selfishness.

It might be easy to think that the problem is that we are embodied at all, that it is the body with its sensory inputs, its passions, and its desires that distracts us from a pure focus of mind and will--on God or great thoughts, for example. But that isn't true. For one thing, some of the greatest moments of focus come through the bodily senses, with music being a prime example. An insuperable theological objection to the idea that the body is the problem is the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. In our end-state, the state for which God always intended us, we will be both embodied and enjoying the beatific vision. So the problem lies not with "the body" per se, meaning any body, but with the specifics of our embodiment, with our feebleness and insufficiency in our current situation. But one day, that will all be different. Our Lord Jesus suffers from no such feebleness and insufficiency, and one day we shall be like him.

This is a very great promise. God knows our state. He remembers that we are dust. He knows what it is like for us to be fretting about conflicting duties, unsure that we are "doing the best thing," finding it difficult to rest easy and confident and to focus on the task in front of us. And he promises that part of our glorified state is that we will be saved from all of that. Our Savior Jesus Christ will return and, at the resurrection, change the body of this lowly state to make us what we were intended to be--strong, focused, confident, perfected, and loving God with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

So let us look toward heaven and await that blessed hope.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Just a coincidence, I'm sure

In some correspondence recently I was told by a camp follower of the alt-right that the c---servative word, so beloved of the alt-right, really has nothing to do with p*rnographic ideas or imagery. That's just a slur perpetrated by critics of the alt-right. Really?

Then I guess the vileness of exactly that type sent to David French is just a coincidence.

Just a coincidence, folks. Move along, nothing to see here.

All but the willfully blind know: This is the alt-right.

In the words of Gildor Inglorion to Frodo: They are servants of the Enemy. Flee them. Speak no word to them.

If you are looking for a role model of consistent, courageous, conservative culture warring, you couldn't do much better than David French himself. And guess what? He does it without needing any pointers from the vicious alt-right. All he gets from them is abuse.

God bless French and his family and keep them safe.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A toxic meme

There's always more and more badness to say about the corruption of good people by the Trump candidacy, and the most recent part of the campaign season has provided the most opportunities of all. Anybody who says, "Corruption? What corruption?" simply has his eyes closed.

I suggested the hashtags #gauntlet and #realmendontTrumptalk to protest and counteract the despicable downplaying of Trump's behavior. And that was before the most recent allegations that he has, in fact, acted as he bragged.

The meme I want to talk about in this post is particularly harmful because it represents the intrusion of vicious, misogynistic, manospherian attitudes into something more like mainstream culture. It's this one. The text goes, "If American women are so outraged at Trump's use of naughty words, who in the hell bought 80 million copies of 50 shades of grey?" I've seen it on my wall, sadly, either shared or "liked" by a friend or two. (But only a couple. I have more sensible FB friends than that, for the most part.) I've learned that it's based on a tweet by an ex-Congressman (and I gather current radio show host) whom I'd never heard of before named Joe Walsh who saw fit to add "Grow up" as a further charming injunction, presumably to all those outraged American women. I dunno, does he also think outraged American men should "grow up" and be un-bothered by Trump's despicable behavior, or just the women? I really don't want to think too much about what this tells us about what Joe Walsh thinks a grownup man is like.

There's so much to say about how bad this meme is that I don't think I can say it all. So here are just a few comments:

1) It starts off with more of that down-playing language: "Use of naughty words." Yeah, that's what it's about. Use of "naughty words." Couldn't possibly have anything to do with bragging about grabbing unwilling women by their private parts and getting away with it because one is a "star," could it? Nope. It's about "naughty words."

And by the way, if anybody you know has approvingly shared this meme, do not lie to yourself and to others by saying, "I haven't seen a single person excusing what Trump said." Yes, you have. Because this is. Downplaying the downplaying is itself a kind of downplaying. It's being the "hear no evil, see no evil, say no evil" monkeys while others sit around telling us this is no big deal and Trump isn't so bad and all men do it and blah, blah.

2) It tries to set women and men against each other, as if it's just or chiefly women who are disgusted. "If decent people are so outraged" wouldn't have started off nearly as well, would it? This furthers the idea that women just "don't understand" that "men are like this" (so it's really no big deal) and hence that women, but not men, are disgusted. Well, that's not true. A lot of men are disgusted, too. But it's standard manospherian tactics to try to pit men and women against one another.

This also indirectly furthers a despicable and destructive view of masculinity. See, it's the women who are outraged. We boys know better. David French skewers this well:

We’ve now reached the point where you must plainly lie about men and masculinity in order to justify your support for Trump. A generation of conservative efforts to persuade the culture that there’s nothing inherently “toxic” about masculinity is being undone in a matter of days because a fading reality-TV star must be carried into the White House. Now you’re only wearing your “big-boy pants” if you embrace the masculinity of campus-feminist fever dreams, where every guy is a frat boy and every fraternity runs a rape room.

3) It makes sweeping, negative, implicit generalizations about women. This, again, is standard manospheric practice. Women in general are sluts. Women in general are bad. Women in general are out to emasculate men. Just as man-hating feminists make despicable generalizations about men, manospherians (their mirror image) make despicable generalizations about women. This meme does the same. The implication is that all the women who are outraged about Trump's disgusting behavior are the same women who reveled in sado-masochistic literary p*rn. The scorn and distaste is quite evident: All you wwwwwiimmmin who are so outraged are the wwwwimmmin who were out there reading smut, right, right?

Well, no. There are plenty of women who don't read any smut and would never read that smut. And many of them are outraged about Trump's disgusting behavior.

4) It shows no concern for the actual well-being (including the spiritual well-being) as people of those women who did read that wicked piece of p*rn. Is it really better for people who read and view p*rn to come to approve of or shrug off, in real life, the practices they fantasize about? Is that what we want them to become? Is that what we demand of them? If someone (male or female) is so warped as to fantasize about degradation, should we tell him to "grow up" and accept actual degrading practices in the real world?

Would it not be better for such a person to be in a sense "inconsistent"? Certainly, it would be far, far better not to read p*rn, but the last thing we should be telling people is to harden their hearts and accept p*rn*graphic attitudes and behavior from our leaders. Maybe this event will even serve as a wakeup call. We can hope anyway.

But the desire to be snarky was just irresistible. The comment sounded clever, so Joe Walsh presumably never thought about the fact that he's more or less telling women that they should accept having the whole world turned into "50 Shades IRL" if they read the book.

This is an extremely dangerous and false notion of a fake virtue of consistency. We shouldn't actually want abortionists to be killing born babies as well. And we shouldn't actually want men and women together all to get down into the gutter and shrug their shoulders when a man runs for President who is such a slave to his own lusts that he boasts about using women he has just met as nothing other than objects for his own sexual gratification. When so-called "conservatives" are sharing a meme that calls for that kind of world, instead of opposing both p*rn and p*n*graphic culture in real life, we have a major problem.

5) The meme is sadistic. Let's open up our ears. This meme snarls at women that they deserve to be treated rough because women (generally) supposedly read and enjoyed an S & M p*rn novel. "This is what they want! So give it to 'em and see how they like it. Ha!" The snarl of combined contempt and glee is barely concealed. And if you were too deaf to hear it the first time, go back and think about it again.

And if that isn't toxic for our culture, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't tell people to harden their hearts

I like Dr. Michael Brown a lot. And he's very rightly put up a video absolutely decrying the despicable "all men talk like that" defense, particularly from Christians, of Donald Trump's despicable conduct. He throws in a few disappointing phrases about hoping that Trump has changed and what-not, which make him sound very naive, but the bulk of the video is right on the money. Dr. Brown has heard Christian men blustering that, "We all talk like that," and he is disgusted and is giving them a talking-to. I applaud that. I also applaud (in some ways) Dr. Brown's article, in the wake of this latest scandal, rightly taking to pieces the nonsense comparison between Donald Trump and King David, of all people. My only criticism of that piece is, again, the silliness of thinking for a moment that Donald Trump might yet (now) repent like David, even before the election. Brown really shouldn't be holding out hope for a Trump change of heart, especially not in the short run, but Brown's own heart and head are to a very large extent in the right place, and I do not write this column to belittle him at all.

But around the same time this piece came out in The Stream, also by Dr. Michael Brown, about the Trump tapes. It repeats a meme that I'm seeing a lot from people who either are planning to vote for Trump or, like Brown, are still making up their minds but gearing themselves up to be willing to vote for him. The way this goes is something like, "But we already knew he was like this. So this audio tape shouldn't change anything. We should already be making our decision in the full knowledge that he's sleazy."

Here are some quotes to that effect from Brown's article:
Instead, I’m writing this to ask those who once supported Trump, like my highly esteemed, Christian brother Wayne Grudem, a fellow-professor and theologian, why the video tape changed things.
My purpose in writing is to ask those who once backed Trump but do so no longer: Why the surprise at his past conduct? Weren’t his weaknesses and flaws shouting aloud to the nation over the last year via tweet and spoken word?
I never for a moment bought into the “Saint Donald” rhetoric, questioning other Christian leaders who embraced him as such. (I don’t mean to deny that he has helped people privately and has a compassionate, caring side. I simply mean that to present him as a wonderfully Christian man is to be self-deceived.)
And I understand the convictions of the NeverTrumpers, although I have never identified with this group. (I once used the hashtag in a tweet but decided not to do so again.)
My issue is with the political leaders and Christian leaders who endorsed Donald Trump and who worked to help elect him but are now distancing themselves from him in shock and dismay. Who did you think you were dealing with?


But if you’re going to endorse him, do so with your eyes wide open, or don’t endorse him at all.

But he did not renounce his past or change his public ways, because of which, the only issue with the 2005 tape should not have been the tape itself but rather how he responded to it today.
I have colleagues who believe that God is raising up Trump the way He raised up Cyrus, pointing out that Cyrus was used by the Lord although he was a pagan king who did not know the God of Israel (see Isaiah 45:1-6, and note carefully the phrase “although you do not know Me” in v. 5-6).
I have no problem with this concept at all. As the old saying goes, let God be God (in other words, let Him do what He chooses to do in His way and for His purposes). So be it. As I’ve written before, I personally hope it’s true.
But for those who are having cold feet about Trump now, I ask again: Wasn’t it clear from day one that this was the man you were endorsing?
For all of us, then, from here on in, the lesson is simple and clear: Whatever we do, let’s do it with our eyes wide open and with our trust in God alone.

Again, there are some things to commend in these passages. For example, there's the emphatic point that Trump has done nothing to show true change or repentance of heart.

One could even view this as just Brown's expression of exasperation with Dr. Grudem's recklessness in having endorsed Trump without doing due diligence. Though frankly, if that's all it is, I don't think it was worthy of publication. If we're going to talk about being forgiving, then the person we ought to be forgiving is Wayne Grudem, since he really has manned up and fully admitted that he was irresponsible. Good for him! This isn't the time to be giving him a hard time, for goodness' sake.

That's one of the first oddities about this Stream post by Brown. (After the title. But I don't blame Brown for the title. Anyone who writes for someone else's publication knows that somebody else often chooses the title.) Brown is explicitly writing to and about Grudem, yet he asks a question that Grudem has already answered. Brown wants to know why this video changed anything for Grudem. Grudem already told us that he hadn't done due diligence, hadn't seen the Howard Stern show filth that was already out there, and hadn't realized that Trump was like this. So why is Brown going on and on? Grudem admitted that he should have done his homework and should have known better. Why rub it in?

But the further oddity is the general idea, which I have seen others express more concisely and even harshly than Brown, that consistency in endorsement is very nearly an end in itself. Brown expresses it as, "If you're going to endorse him, do it with your eyes open, or don't endorse him at all," and he pretty strongly implies that, if you once really do that, you won't change your mind later.

But that way of talking and thinking is not really taking seriously the possibility that endorsing Donald Trump is objectively wrong.

Suppose, for a moment, that it is objectively wrong. If so, isn't it better for people to waver about it and to change their minds than to "endorse with their eyes wide open" and then stick to it?

Consider an analogy: Suppose that a woman has had an abortion and later regrets it because she sees pictures of aborted babies or an ultrasound. We would never tell her, "What did you think you were doing? You knew you were killing a human being! Why does this video change anything? You need to make your choices with your eyes wide open, lady, and then you won't have any reason to regret them!" That would be a terrible thing to say. The last thing we want is for women to be so fully committed to killing a baby that they are later incapable of (or unwilling to entertain the possibility of) regret and repentance. The last thing we want to do is to chide or mock a woman for changing her mind and turning back.

If you don't like that example, because it concerns what is clearly an intrinsically wrong act, consider this example of an act that lies in a grey area: Suppose that a general has ordered a military strike against a certain location and that there is some outcry that this was unethical because it was not a military target but a civilian target. The general had a lot of statistics and facts showing precisely this question, showing why this question arose, but he still chose to order the strike despite the doubts. Later, he sees pictures of the children who have died in the airstrike, precisely as predicted by the statistics he had available to him about the civilian population at that location. He is filled with remorse and offers a deep statement of grief and repentance. We should certainly not say to him, "You had the statistics in advance. You knew that it could plausibly be regarded as a non-military target. What did you think you were doing? Why do these pictures change anything? You should make your decisions with your eyes wide open or not make them at all!"

We know perfectly well that sometimes people have a notional commitment to doing a particular action but then have their minds and hearts changed by being viscerally confronted with the reality of what they have chosen. And this is not a bad thing but a good thing. It is on the many subtle interactions between conscience and the real world that our hopes for repentance often turn. We should not want it any other way. We should not want people to choose wrong things in such an "eyes wide open" way that they are then callous even when evidence emerges that makes it especially clear that this was a bad choice. That is something that the Holy Spirit can use, something our consciences cue to, something that softens our hearts. We want to be the kind of people who can repent and change course if we have indeed chosen wrong.

Does this mean that conscientious people are often on the rack, filled with misgivings about what they have done or with indecision about what they are considering doing? Yes, it does. But is that always bad? As long as we humans cannot be certain that we have done right or are headed right (which often, we can't be), it's better to be on the rack than to be given over to hardness of heart.

My concern with this response that says, "Why should this change anything?" is that it, no doubt unintentionally from Dr. Brown, encourages hardness of heart. I've seen it expressed more nastily from other people in such a way that is quite intentional: "Put on your big boy pants!" "Man up!" "You weren't endorsing this guy to be your best friend!" These sorts of expressions frankly make a virtue out of hardness of heart. I'm sure that Dr. Brown, of all people, doesn't really want to have that effect on people. But in fact, that is the effect: "Once you really realize that you're endorsing a sleazeball, it shouldn't bother you anymore or change anything when you get more and more evidence that he's a sleazeball."

But is that true? Why shouldn't it make a difference? Maybe some particular piece of sleaziness will convince the person that, after all, he shouldn't be endorsing a sleazeball.

Since Dr. Brown is respectful of the Never Trump position, he should be holding this open as a real possibility. But in that case, the fact that vividness often results in an epiphany in ethical matters answers his question. Why should this make a difference? It might just make a difference, Dr. Brown, because it makes us see reality more clearly.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

#realmendontTrumptalk #gauntlet

This will be short. I plan to write more later on the despicable defenses of Trump's behavior. But for right now let me just say that the defense that "all men talk that way" comes straight from the pit of hell.

It normalizes evil and the degradation of women and of sex. If you are a non-Christian man with relatively mediocre standards of discourse and behavior, I point you to the pithy comment of Iowahawk. If you have a higher standard of behavior and discourse, either because you are a Christian or belong to some other religion that doesn't normalize such things or because you are a noble pagan, then you will be even more disgusted, and not only because of the assault aspect.

And in both cases, you should be outraged at the shrugging claim that everybody talks like this.

In the olden days, when one man insulted another's honor or integrity, the second man challenged him to a duel. Therefore, I suggest a metaphorical challenge in response to this gross insult to all decent men. You can throw down this challenge by posting


on Facebook or Twitter.

If you want something self-explanatory, post


Or both!

Yes, you should do this even if you are (hopefully reluctantly) voting for that particular lizard.

Because real men don't Trump talk. Whoever you are, whomever you are voting for, resist the corruption that this candidacy is producing in our concept of manhood.

He Who Would Valiant Be

I was much encouraged by this hymn this morning.
He who would valiant be
'gainst all disaster,
let him in constancy
follow the Master.
There's no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.
Who so beset him round
with dismal stories
do but themselves confound
his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might;
though he with giants fight,
he will make good his right
to be a pilgrim. 
Since, Lord, thou dost defend
us with thy Spirit,
We know we at the end,
shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away!
I'll fear not what men say,
I'll labor night and day
to be a pilgrim.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Why do the heathen rage?

Sweet Cakes By Melissa has officially announced that it is closed for good, just a few days ago on the bakery's Facebook page. See here and here.

Around the same time the New York Times decided to run this story, following up on an elderly Christian couple forced out of the wedding venue and B & B business by the homosexual mafia. Do they really have the slightest genuine sympathy for them? They manage to create a sympathetic-sounding story, but it's the Times, so they'd probably run them out of business again if necessary. Nothing personal. Just a matter of business.

Meanwhile, I can get no further information about Mennonite missionary to Nicaragua Timothy Miller, about whom I wrote here. Is he still held there in limbo? We can only pray.

Psalm 2

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Psalm 37

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.
For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.
The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.
The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.
Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.