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.