Verses 4-13 specifically. Not too difficult.
Rod Dreher, “We have been warned” at The American Conservative = http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/we-have-been-warned/. Hard to summarize. Dreher discusses some thing said recently by Baptist ethicist David Gushee of whom I have certainly heard. Gushee has shifted his position (views? stance?) on some issues including that of same sex relations and same sex marriage. Okay that happens. And that is not getting into why or on what basis. In any case Dreher interprets some of these remarks by Gushee as a kind of threat against churches that continue to hold to more traditional teaching on sexuality and marriage and gender. There are of course many comments. Some are good – including those arguing for a point of view with which I disagree. Some are pretty bad. And some question whether Gushee is really making some sort of threat. The threat is basically that more traditional churches and institutions will increasingly have less space for “neutrality of ‘mild’ discrimination” regarding same sex and transgender. Whether or not that is a threat… I think Gushee reads the direction of modern American society pretty accurately. That seems to be the trend. I remember when the slogan was “do not impose your morality on me”. Now it seems to be “you will affirm and support the sexual revolution along with same sex and transgender [being sloppy with my language for a moment] or else”. Dreher notes that churches and religious institutions do a great deal of social good and if the more aggressive wing of progressivism (secular or religious) gets their way (and they are most certainly in the process of getting their way) it will become even more difficult for churches and religious institutions. (I suspect that is part of the plan.) Paranoid nonsense. That will never happen. But they will deserve it. Am I right?
By “the issue” he means those who will ferret out suspected thought criminals, interrogate them, and force them to come clean about their bigotry. Gushee lists all the kinds of people and institutions of American life that embrace homosexuality and transgenderism and, crucially, stigmatize those who do not. It is a sobering list for those who are not on it. And he’s right. He also says that the Republican Party might still be officially on the side of moral traditionalists, but it’s plain that that stance is fast eroding (he’s right about that too). ….
The way he concludes the column makes it plain that Gushee believes this marginalization and demonization of traditional Christians to be a positive development. Read the whole thing.
He is absolutely right in his read on the situation in American society. There is no intention on the cultural left of being tolerant in victory, and never was. They are going to bounce the rubble and tell themselves that they are virtuous for doing so. This past week, I saw a Facebook comment in which a liberal said that Livingston Parish, where nearly everyone lost their home to the flood, was once the headquarters of the Louisiana KKK, so to hell with them, they deserve what they get. This is how it’s going to be with us.
Some of the comments are along those lines. To hell with them… they deserve what they get. Increasingly I am convinced this is the issue which determines whether people are friendly or tolerant or “hostile” toward Christian or other religious groups. In other words it does not matter how we live or what good we do or anything else. A Christian group can be liberal progressive liberal forward thinking progressive liberal in every way. If they stick with traditional teaching on sexuality then they will be considered bigots and enemies.
Jake Meador, “On David Gushee’s dishonesty” at Mere Orthodoxy = https://mereorthodoxy.com/persistent-dishonesty-progressive-evangelicals-religious-liberty-debates/. Yow that’s quite a title. Dreher didn’t get into critiquing Gushee much. Mainly “thanks for the warning… buddy”. Meador offers a strong critique of the piece Gushee wrote for Religion News Service. Which itself is interesting. I am not prepared to accuse(?) Religion News Service of bias (against…? what? evangelicals? traditional Christians?) but I sense a certain leaning at times. Anyways Meador focuses especially on when Gushee writes “(Religious conservatives) are organizing legal defense efforts under the guise of religious liberty, and interpreting their plight as religious persecution.” That sounds oddly familiar to what I hear from other people who complain that “we want to use ‘religious liberty’ as a cover for discrimination”. I can link to at least one very specific example that is too close to my current place of service. Part of Meador’s critique is to unpack the reality to which Gushee alludes. Which also is interesting and supports my impression that many discussions are games of rhetorical maneuvering. In other words Gushee throws a bunch of words together and people think “oh wow man that’s so true” (being a bit sloppy and dismissive for a moment) whereas Meador invites us to stop and consider the reality of which Gushee purports to be talking about. “This is what you say. Now let us look at what is actually happening. They do not seem to line up very well.” Meador demonstrates that yes as a matter of fact the government is forcing people to choose between conscience and livelihood. And that is a form of persecution. Okay not knife to the neck or bullet to the head persecution. But still this is persecution. Pretty sure the book of Hebrews is a thing.
And then Meador invites us to examine the style and rhetoric of Gushee’s piece. I have taught writing to university students and teach English Conversation regularly so am especially sensitive to this sort of thing. I am and have been a fan of Meador – even when I am not entirely persuaded. His essays are thoughtful and challenging. And here Meador shines. And to be perfectly blunt Gushee does not. One last risky point. I have heard of Gushee and have sort of followed him off and on for the last several years. And of course sometimes wonder what to make of him and where he is coming from. I am quite willing to say “you are a good and intelligent scholar with whom I happen to disagree”. This article by Meador influences my opinion of Gushee. Hopefully this quote is not too long.
The funny thing is how insistent Gushee is on using such an awful sentence style throughout the entire horror of an essay: “It turns out that you are either,” “Hide as you might, the issue will come and find you.” “The landscape is dramatically different (BUY MY BOOK).”
The only active people in Gushee’s sentences are those awful backwards bigots who deserve whatever they have coming. I mean that quite literally. Go back and reread the essay. When talking about society’s shifting attitude on sexual ethics, Gushee leans heavily on the passive voice and on sentences whose subject is itself a thing rather than any sort of rational being capable of action. We do not have “Gay rights advocates have done x,” or even “pro-LGBT advocates have won victory x.” Instead: “The issue has been forced.”
In Gushee’s world, no one is acting to promote a certain social agenda premised on redefining marriage and transforming sexual ethics into an exclusively consent-based system. It’s just happening like magic. Because #history.
For Gushee, laws passed by states and the federal government targeting religious conservatives are not the conscious choices of individuals and groups focused on promoting a new social vision for America. Rather, this is all just a passive social transformations that religious conservatives can either choose to embrace, like the enlightened converts Gushee, Evans, and Merritt already have, or choose to reject. [emphasis added]
I am glad Meador squeezed in references to Evans and Merritt. I am not a fan of Evans and until recently have not been sure what to make of Merritt. I sometimes proofread articles and occasionally dissertations and am generally hard on excessive use of the passive voice. Okay fine there are times it is necessary (for sentence and paragraph structure and/or stylistic reasons). It can and often does obscure agency. Something just… happens… and we do not want to get into the awkward questions of who is doing this.
One last point. I know many who say “aw who cares this does not really matter”. Which in my experience is a way of saying “we are in the process of taking or destroying something that matters to you and we want you to give up and let it go”. Meador cites Dreher to make the point this does matter. This matters very much. And if there are Christians who say “aw who cares get with the program” (like Gushee and Evans and Merritt and so on) we might be dealing with two distinct and possibly incompatible forms of the Christian faith. I know that sounds harsh. Even fundamentalist??? But yeah.
One cannot coherently affirm the goodness of natural, creational limits while rejecting one of the oldest and most widely affirmed examples of such limits. To affirm the moral licitness of same-sex acts seems to lead inevitably to affirming an understanding of reality that is out of step with Christian faith—a point Rod Dreher was making years ago.
[Important quote by Dreher. Did not want to quote too much.]
The fact that a huge number of people, including Gushee and his friends, absolutely refuse to see this point doesn’t change the facts of the debate. We either have a right to define our own concept of existence—in which case we should just be done with Christianity altogether—or we do not. There can be no attempt to pretend that our current social revolution is simply the natural progression of history happily moving toward climax as those awful, backwards bigots die off in its wake. Such claims are not only dishonest; they are cowardly. [emphasis added]
The part in bold is increasingly where I find myself. Which is unsettling when one is almost fifty and has committed much of his life to vocational ministry. Increasingly people seem to be saying (including people within the Christian community) “F is beyond the pale, you need to choose P”. And I sit there and think “I do not think much of P and if that it the choice you wish to force upon me then I choose N = Nothing“. And no I am not joking.
That last short paragraph. Ouch.
Erik Raymond, “The Most Dangerous Guy in Your Church—Can You Spot Him?” at Church Leaders = http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-how-to/175788-the-most-dangerous-guy-in-your-church-can-you-spot-him.html. Raymond is a pastor in Nebraska who writes regularly. He is a fairly conservative evangelical Baptist who is strongly Reformed in his theological orientation. I have mixed opinions about some of what he writes. Generally agree and sometimes think “that’s a bit much”. This article caught my attention. Raymond attempts to answer the question “who is the most dangerous person in your church?” For seventeen years I have served a congregation overflowing with outstanding people. That seems to have trouble thriving and is less than half the size (depends on how one measures that) than when we first arrived. People have moved away and have died and have left and a handful have joined. Notice I am not attempting to blame or explain. Simply observing. Like an Olympic basketball team with top professional players that seems to have trouble winning games. A business with outstanding employees whose sales continue to decline. I often wonder “why is this?” I have a few opinions. In any case Raymond argues the most dangerous person in a church is…
The apparently smart guy who is unteachable.
When I say “unteachable,” I mean that he has it all figured out. He is the classic “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I know what I believe” guy.
This is the guy who seems to have a lot of biblical knowledge. He can drop the 30 lb. words and effectively argue his point. Very often, he is quite involved and appears to have things together. However, he is dangerous because of the reason you would not think; he is unteachable.
I sometimes wonder to what extent a single person can have that much disruptive influence on a congregation. And not someone that everyone can tell is rude or mean or selfish and so on. Raymond lists a few effects such a person can have. He is “gospel eclipsing” (see how he explains that). Critical. Divisive. Joy robbing. Time wasting (he takes up the time of ministers and pastors dealing with his arguments, he “can find anything to nitpick or be critical about”). I suspect Raymond writes from experience and/or the experience of others. If Raymond is correct… and there are such “unteachable persons”… how do we respond to them and their disruptive influence? Pray for him. Minimize his influence. Watch him and the sheep (care for him). Lovingly aim to teach him. (Seriously? I thought the whole point is he is unteachable. He might want the pastor to engage him so he can straighten out the pastor.) Confront where necessary. (Rinse and repeat. Would that do any good? And that might be exactly what he or she wants.)
Ryan Anderson, “Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong” at The Daily Signal = http://dailysignal.com/2016/08/22/almost-everything-the-media-tells-you-about-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-is-wrong/. Apparently a major new report was published in The New Atlantis that reviews over 200 peer reviewed studies that document what scientific research does and does not show about sexuality and gender. Anderson quotes a helpful summary of four main points. Scientific evidence does not support that sexual orientation is an “innate biologically fixed human property”. (That right there is a big point. People are not born that way. And yet everyone “knows” that.) Does not support that “gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex”. “Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” The last one is odd but noteworthy. “Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.” How often do we hear that people suffer anguish because others disapprove? It is your fault these people become depressed and kill themselves! So stop disapproving! I would suggest even if none of these points could be established… that would not prove traditional convictions regarding sexuality and gender are wrong. But that is another argument.
The point is pretty simple. People run around believing things that scientific research does not support. Apparently that scientific research shows is probably not the case. And they run around believing and saying these things. Tell me they do not. It is all over the news media and entertainment. I hear and overhear people say these things. It is difficult not to conclude they believe such claims because they want to. Because they already have a conclusion or conviction in mind. And are not in the process of finding arguments to support that conviction or conclusion. I know some might find that a little offensive. Sorry not sorry. Notice I have not said what I think about sexuality and gender. The congregation I serve is such that I need to be careful and restrained with regard to which views I express about certain issues. I am consistent in caring about how people think. So if people run around saying and believing such things about sexuality and gender… why is that? Where do these impressions come from? What motivates people to accept and maintain them? I am not interested in blame – okay I am interesting in blaming those who spread false impressions. I do believe there are ideological forces working hard to overturn thousands of years of human wisdom and tradition in order to pave the way for something else. We are being propagandized. Am not interested in blaming people who accept and maintain impressions that scientific research does not support. I might sympathize with them.
To make excellence in biblical scholarship accessible… then note the last name on that list. And maybe one or two others.
Psalm 71:1-6 specifically. Some of the text critical notes are a little difficult to decipher. Republished from 2016-01-22 because of 14th Sunday of Pentecost (C).