Slippery Christendom, Theonomic Patriotism

The Baylys once again tightened my jaws by asserting that spirituality of the church folks don’t choose Jesus when the choice is between Jesus and the U.S. This is pretty nutty since, one, the Baylys choose the U.S. all the time when they fashion their message, rather than limiting it to what Jesus revealed; and, two, they constantly complain that spirituality of the church men won’t choose the U.S. and fight secularism, immorality, feminization. Damned if we do or don’t. That is life in a theocracy. See the Old Testament.

The BeeBees (brothers B for those who can’t remember the Brothers Gibb) take their cue this time from Doug Wilson who says rightly that American Christians need to be Christians first and give up American exceptionalism:

So when the decree comes down and we are told — as we are now being prepared to be told — that we cannot oppose same sex mirage and be good Americans, our first reply ought to be “very well then, have it your way. We shall be bad Americans.”

My citizenship, my affections, my loyalties whether national or regional, my manner of expression, my lever-action Winchester, my language, my love of pie, my Americanism . . . these are all contingent things. They are all creatures, because they are attributes of my life and existence, and I am a creature. Our nation, and all its pleasant things, is a creature. The grass withers, and the flower fades.

The purveyors of soft despotism want to arrange things so that we conform fully to their agenda, or consign ourselves to their idea of the outer darkness, which turns out to be the same kind of place as Stalin’s.

Because I think like a Christian, I don’t necessarily think it is a necessary choice at all. But it is only not necessary in a nation that is not despotic — and ours is metastasizing into despotism. So under their terms, under their rule, such a choice is mandatory — because in times of persecution, they will make it necessary — which means that I will swallow the reductio. Force me to choose between Jesus and America, and then watch me choose Jesus.

Wilson is clever but his cleverness is always tinged with hysteria — as in, we are about to be persecuted just like the early Christians were, because they would not bow to the emperor who claimed to be divine. Try to convince Wilson that Obama lacks divine pretensions and he can point to all the soft despotism that nurtures a reverence for the president akin to emperor worship (and forget all the freedoms Christians still enjoy — and for which they should not have a chip on their shoulder — that allow them to worship every Sunday and in most cases have the entire day off). It is never lines of demarcations but shades that blur from 21st-century U.S. to first century Jerusalem. A tax that is objectionable, becomes a tax that is unjust, becomes theft, becomes policy that nurtures disrespect for life, becomes murder. Forget distinctions, feel the similarities. (Or a New Mexico court ruling becomes a noose around Christians’ necks.)

The problem in part is that Wilson also traffics in an unspecified patriotism. Most of the viewers of Fox News and readers of World magazine distinguish between the U.S. as a government and America as a land, country, or people. So it is easy for Wilson to gain a following among these folks when he denounces Obamacare as sin, or Federal Treasury policy as abomination. Does he issue similar condemnations when George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan is in office? I doubt if Wilson was blogging during the Reagan years. (A quick search for Bush at his blog revealed this: “Because of the Incarnation, the bias of particularity in politics favors the anti-ideological, which is to say, it is a bias against idolatry. And that describes historic conservatism very well. At the same time, I grant that it does not describe George W. Bush’s spending habits very well — there the resemblance would be more like a pack of simians that got into an Congo merchant’s storehouse of trade gin.” Wow, the doctrine of the second person of the Trinity used to justify paleo-conservatism. What would Michael Oakeshott do?)

Most paleo-conservatives distinguish the U.S. from the national government. For them, patriotism is love of the people (Americans) who live in a particular place (the U.S.A.). Does Wilson actually look at the U.S. this way? I suspect he loves the land south of the Canadian border in a way differently from the way he might appreciate Europe or Palestine. But does he love the American people which includes a diverse lot of believers and non-believers, gays and straights, feminists and Sarah Palin? This isn’t a trick question, insinuating that Wilson hates non-Christians. It is though a question about Wilson’s love of country. Does he love America when populated only by Christians? Or can he love America when it includes idolaters (Mormons) and blasphemers (Jehovah’s Witnesses)?

The bigger problem is Wilson’s commitment to Christendom. Is Wilson willing to say of Christendom what he says of America?

My citizenship, my affections, my loyalties whether national or regional, my manner of expression, my lever-action Winchester, my language, my love of pie, my Americanism Christendom . . . these are all contingent things. They are all creatures, because they are attributes of my life and existence, and I am a creature. Our nation, and all its pleasant things, is a creature. The grass withers, and the flower fades.

In other words, is Christendom a creation or is it heaven on earth? Does Wilson violate every canon of Christian and conservative conviction by immanentizing the eschaton? It sure looks like his postmillenniaism and repeated briefs on behalf of Christendom has a lot of immanentizing going on. Then again, it’s a slippery Christendom and a libertarian theocracy he advocates (oxymoron intended).

In point of fact, Wilson does not acknowledge that Christians are aliens and strangers. His model for Christian political and cultural engagement is Christendom (minus the Crusades, papacy, Index of Books, Jewish ghettos). It is not the Israelites in exile who went along with regimes that were suffused with assertions of pagan gods and did not whine, except to long for their homeland. Nor is it the early Christians who tried to fit in and honor the emperor but refused to worship him, and suffered the consequences. (I can’t imagine Paul blogging about Nero the way Wilson or the BeeBees do about Obama.)

Of course, the image of Christians as persecuted and martyrs doesn’t play well among folks who like to hurl “sissy” as an epithet. Turning the other cheek is not a model for cultural domination or for Mere Christendom — not sure it works for cultural engagement, actually. (And Wilson and others need to be clear that turning the other cheek is not what turned around the empire — the emperor, Constantine did; go figure.) Nor did turning the other cheek inspire political revolutions like the Dutch, the English, or the American. So alienated spirituality of the church men are not only strange but pansies in the eyes of the soft theonomists. I understand the stereotyping. I’m having trouble finding the proof text.

27 thoughts on “Slippery Christendom, Theonomic Patriotism

  1. I agree with you about the hysteria and on the gay marriage issue. The USA has a long long tradition of having a diverse religious groups which had opinions outside of cultural norms and generally a pretty good record on not persecuting. Your example is a good one:

    Pumping unbacked currency into the economy is the same sin in principle as having different sets of weights and measures. It is the same sin as mixing low-grade wheat into the silo, and pretending you didn’t. It is the same sin as cutting the wine with water, and selling it as though you hadn’t.

    The Federal Reserve publishes detailed information about MZM, M1,M2 and M3 measures they help create every month. Their operations are more or less public. The notes of their meetings are semi public as are their targets. The laws that govern their behavior were passed by a representative government, and they subject to congressional oversight. Their charter to exist can be revoked at will by the congress. In what possible sense can their actions be considered a fraud against the American people? We as a society choose Fed policy, and we did so after long public debate on the merits of various financial systems. I can see many arguments for being against fiat currency. I can’t see any for considering a tyranny being opposed by some other on the American people.

    Or

    The European Union demanded that bank accounts in Cyprus take “a haircut” in exchange for the next bailout, though they are now signaling “flexibility” on the issue because their stealing appeared to be stealing to too many people. We shall see what happens. I suspect that flexibility simply means slippery. Now bank accounts used to be private property, pure and simple, but not any more — whatever happens.

    The government of Cyprus has a state bank. That state bank would have without the bankruptcy been bankrupt. During a bankruptcy some creditors get paid and others don’t. The people of Cyprus through their elected officials made choices about which creditors were going to get paid. How is that tyranny?

    The bible itself has a doctrine of jubilee which more or less demands massive wealth redistribution every 49/50 years. I’m not sure with a currency based on debt how any money would still have lawful sanction were the biblical injunctions enforced.

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  2. Fantastic critique. Wilson is a very effective rhetorician, but when one of his intellectual equals or betters hold his feet to the fire of precision and logic, he seems to be bordering on sophistry in some cases. However, in service of full disclosure, I do have to say that I make fun of my PCA pastor for having a one of those little yippee dogs and for allowing it to be named Snuggles. Does that possibly indicate latent theonomic tendencies in me?

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  3. Ash, tell me your pastor doesn’t go around in untucked pink shirts. I suppose a BeeBee might sick his manly German shepherd on the yip dog. You’re OK as long as you don’t do that.

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  4. There is a ton to chew on in this post. As mentioned before, Wilson was a factor in my joining a Reformed church, though I have largely moved on from much of his schtick. I became Reformed by way of a Calvinistic Methodist Sunday school teacher, then through Wilson 20+ years later, then through a Westmister West pastor, then through Hart, Van Drunen, Horton, et. al. Quite a ride.

    One thing that’s interesting to note about The Baylys and Wilson is the lack of historical precedent for the vision they cast. With Wilson it’s all aimed at a future, postmillennial time of Christian cultural dominance, for which Moscow serves as a training ground, much like Drax’s space station served as a training ground for the future repopulation of the earth with genetically superior people in “Moonraker” (o.k., a bit of an exaggeration).

    The Baylys are mostly just drafting off Wilson. They don’t think on his level and lack his creativity and sense of humor, but their affinities are similar.

    Wilson hedges on his postmillennialism quite a bit when he says it could all still be thousands of years away. That’s kind of being functionally amillennial.

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  5. For a few days, due to a mistake by my local cable company, I had HBO, Showtime, and Skin-a-Max (I mean Cinemax – yikes!).

    First an aside — If you are a Christian with young boys (ages 5-18) in your house and you have Cinemax, you need to get a clue. They show porn and lots of it.

    Anyway, I recorded a really interesting documentary called “Virgin Tales”:

    It was interesting on many levels. First, it was interesting that it was on Showtime. Second, it was interesting that the filmmaker played it straight 95% of the time, Third, I really liked the family and respected what they were doing, even if they were a bit hokey about it at times. Fourth, it is interesting that the dad works for the Family Research Council and yet had a really hard time articulating exactly what America’s “Christian Foundations” consist of, historically speaking. I highly recommend the documentary.

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  6. The trick is for us not to become hysterical about those who are hysterical.

    Some Christians “act as if some vast conspiracy is brewing in America over the Christian faith, with naysayers organized against Christians. They feel like they live life on the cultural margins, so they take that as their identity–they count their marginalization as their righteousness. They are not looking to Jesus as their only righteousness, and so they act from prejudice, assuming that everyone hates them, and they act in a way that confirms this.” (Crucifying Morality, p105, R. W. Glenn)
    Some of these folks read 2 Chronicles 7:14 (if my people) as if it were talking about a covenant of works with the American Empire. And then some of my pacifist friends (I claim to be a pacifist myself) agree with me that Muslims don’t care if they are being killed for Christian reasons or secular ones, well, these folks have no clue about who God is in His sovereign justice.

    They don’t know the gospel, but they do know that Christians should love their enemies and should not kill. They do know that it’s not our job (not as churches but as Christians) to make justice happen if that means seeing to it that somebody gets what’s coming to them.

    That is not only a disappointment to me, but a puzzle. People who have the same gospel have different politics, and people who have the same politics have different gospels. And I ask myself, how can they know so much about the grace of God and think the way they do about their enemies? And they ask themselves about me, how can he be so “conservative and orthodox” when it comes to gospel doctrine, and still not see the right of America to do whatever it takes to protect Israel from the Muslims?

    Doug Wilson’s version of ”libertarian theocracy” is not the same as Luther and Calvin when it comes to economics. Thank God we can believe the gospel without wanting to “conserve” that which has come about with the passing of time..

    When Christians attempt to act as God’s agents in holy war, they have confused the American nation (or Israel, or “western civilization”) with the kingdom of Christ. And it does not make things better when Christians say that they only kill for “secular” reasons. It is inconsistent with the new covenant law of Christ for citizens of the kingdom of heaven to kill for the sake of another kingdom. We can only have one master.

    Of course the magisterial Reformers (Zwingli, Calvin, Luther) said to the anabaptists—we don’t drown you for your views on water baptism but rather for your political sedition in sharing those views publicly and acting on them. And now American Christians say—we don’t kill your for being Muslim. We kill you before you can kill us, because we already know that you would kill us simply because we are Christians.

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  7. Freddy, you are the one who’s queer
    How could you do this to me?
    Why do you seek the living among the dead?

    Derek Webb, singing to Fred Phelps about graveyard protests

    “A man who cannot defend his wife and family from an attacker because he ‘equally loves’ the attacker is hardly a man. We do not respect such a person. There is a time to love and a time to hate just as there is a time for war and a time for peace. An inability to discriminate in such a matter is a sign of sickness in a man. We despise and shun those who are cowards in times of war. We have no respect for the man who cannot make sound and proper decisions in these matters. “ , one of my theonomist friends

    I Peter 1:21—“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. When He reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”

    mcmark: now the sarcasm alert:

    First of all, let us notice that Jesus never had a wife or children. If Jesus had a wife and children, then surely he would have been a queer, a fairy, or possibly effeminate, not to kill any and all sinners who might pose a threat to His family. We could not respect Jesus if He had been unwilling to kill to protect his mother.

    His inability to tell the difference between the Roman occupation and the constitutional government of Israel does call into question his idea that the true kingdom on earth comes by power and not by fighting. (John 18:36)

    Second of all, since God loves some of His enemies but not all of His enemies, we must despise the man who waits for God to justly judge enemies. In some cases, when the enemies are far away (or don’t live next door), the best way to prove one’s non-homosexuality is pre-emptive killing .

    Even though God loves some of His enemies, for us it is wise to love only those who return the love. Why put your own life at risk when someone attacks your wife, when you could own a gun and simply kill them if they need killing?

    Third of all, while it is true that Jesus ended up dying at the hands of His enemies, we need to remember that Jesus did not love all sinners but only some sinners. Even though God has from before the creation of the ages by election united to Christ SOME of His enemies, we who believe in sovereign grace don’t need to discriminate when it comes to enemies.

    Since we are not God, and only pansies wait for God to protect our wives (when we could use means and do it ourselves) or to provide vengeance (we can do that also) for our wives, it’s best simply to kill more enemies.

    This includes also of course all the enemies of Israel, and all the enemies of Israel’s servant-nation, the USA. If you want to be thought of as a man, if you want to be respected, then you will kill even women and children if they live in a country that might attack the USA.

    Even though we do not have a specific command to do that kind of thing in the new covenant, we know God did command this in the old covenant. And since there is only one God, only one gospel, only one covenant, only one church, only one circumcision, and since God has not said to stop bringing slaves into the covenant, and since God has not said to stop killing enemies, there is no need to get in a sweat about the example of the person who died on the cross for the sake of some of His enemies.

    Since our deaths would not save anybody, why should we die when we could grow a pair and act like men who love our wives in a way that does not pretend to love the wives we kill in Syria…

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  8. Hmm… I wear bright (neon) pink shirts, untucked. I have a Jack Russell, named Brandi. I do think Nevada (and Oregon, and New Jersey) are evidence of a culture (once again) turning towards persecution of the Church. No one would accuse me of (latent or otherwise) theonomy.

    Maybe I’m just mixed up?

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  9. You’re OK, Reed — Jack Russells are psycho dogs. But burn the shirt.

    Anyone notice that Jimmy Stewart (in post photo) looks like Nicholas Cage?

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  10. “So alienated spirituality of the church men are not only strange but pansies in the eyes of the soft theonomists. I understand the stereotyping. I’m having trouble finding the proof text.”

    I don’t know about the proof text, maybe, “Jesus wept.” But patriarchalism and the “He-Man woman haters club”; St. Andrew’s, continue to remind me of all those guys who participated in promise keepers because they never played sports growing up.

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  11. D.G. – Erik, maybe we can stay up late one night after the conference and watch this. Kidding, mainly.

    Erik – You bet, after we close the local bowling alley and watering holes. You’ll roll in for day 2 not having changed clothes, shaved, or slept. The conference is free so no one can ask for their money back, so it’s all good.

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  12. Sean – continue to remind me of all those guys who participated in promise keepers because they never played sports growing up.

    Erik – Nice

    Seriously, there’s something to be said for letting your kids (your boys especially) mix it up with the Hoi polloi. The world does not coddle adult men the way mom does.

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  13. Frankly, when it comes to the Culture Wars, I think that secularists have less of a problem with orthodoxy than with the universalistic view of evangelistic responsibility (and the concomitant confusion between work and worship).

    I see no sound reason why a Christian business owner should be compelled to refuse service to gay customers merely on account of the business owner’s Christian faith. Such conduct appears to arise from the revivalistic notion that we need to “take a stand” for Christ on various passing political causes.

    Most of us SOTC types have political views on the issues that are near and dear to the hearts of the BBs. What distinguishes us from the BBs is our refusal to pass off our particular views as bearing the Almighty’s endorsement. The BBs suppose that we do this merely to avoid the opprobrium generally due those who claim to speak on God’s behalf concerning various political causes. But the truth is quite to the contrary. Rather, we refuse to lay claim to such divine backing because we appreciate the holiness of God and, contra Nadab and Abihu, are loath to anoint ourselves as His prophets on all manner of issues.

    It indeed seems that it’s the BBS who love America more. Sure, they may not love its current leaders. But it is love of country, after all, that seems to drive the desire to immanentize the eschaton within our fair land.

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  14. Bobby,

    Rather, we refuse to lay claim to such divine backing because we appreciate the holiness of God

    For what it’s worth, that’s where I’m at too. Well put. Would that we appreciate the holiness of God as we ought,

    Andrew

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  15. I see no sound reason why a Christian business owner should be compelled to refuse service to gay customers merely on account of the business owner’s Christian faith. Such conduct appears to arise from the revivalistic notion that we need to “take a stand” for Christ on various passing political causes.

    Distinguish between selling somebody food or gas and catering their “wedding”.

    Likewise between hysteria and compromise/burying one’s head in the sand.

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  16. Bobby, don’t forget that our restraint to speak on heaven’s behalf where it is silent is also the function of being unconverted. So it’s cowardice and faithlessness. I just didn’t want a good impression of Gilbert Tennent to get short-shrift.

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  17. @Bob S

    Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a convenience store owner and a caterer, as long as both are offering their services to the general public. Do you suppose that they are different?

    I recently attended a wedding, where the reception was held at a small Italian restaurant down the road. I did not view the restaurant’s providing a venue for the reception as a substantive endorsement of the couple and their marriage. If you’re the minister who officiated the ceremony, then, yes, you and your church are endorsing the marriage. But the last time I checked, caterers and florists have been given no authority to approve of or deny the legitimacy of a marriage.

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  18. Let’s be blunt about it, Bobby. You don’t think that homosexual marriage is a gross violation of the natural law, much more the moral.
    IOW you assume what needs to be proved, that a homosexual “marriage” is a marriage.
    But caterers and florists are not authorized to determine that particular question? It is above their pay grade?

    Would you film a live birth abortion to fulfill a medical school contract to provide teaching videos as somebody who earns his living as a photographer?
    We all know what is legal, be it abortion or homosexuality, but that is not the question.

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