Tuesday Tea-ology is up! How wonderful that, in Christ, we can be free of the debt of sin.
…or, “AOC, Theologian?”
From Christianheadlines.com, “AOC Says Religious Liberty Advocates Are ‘Weaponizing Scripture’ to ‘Justify Bigotry’ against LGBTQ Community“:
In a House Oversight Committee hearing to discuss LGBTQ rights, Ocasio-Cortez called out those who use Scripture to take away rights from gay people. She also compared religious freedom advocates to white supremacists.
“It’s very difficult to sit here and listen to arguments in the long history of this country of using Scripture and weaponizing and abusing Scripture to justify bigotry,” she said. “White supremacists have done it. Those who justified slavery did it. Those who fought against integration did it, and we’re seeing it today.
The most foundational problem in the congresswoman’s analysis is buying into the whole framework of the LGBTQ movement, in which matters of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ are treated as fundamental identity characteristics on par with race and sex. That is the great con in this whole business, which has taken in all too many people. It is only through that ruse that activists are able to regard sensible people as bigots, to put advocating religious freedom in the same category as white supremacy, and to paint their sexual revolution as a civil rights movement.
But the most interesting problem in the congresswoman’s analysis is her understanding of religion, and particularly of the Bible. For her, religion would seem to be interpreted through the lens of secular liberation ideology; good religion, true religion, is as tolerant and non-judgmental (of liberal agendas) as she is. And the Scriptures are supposed to be a benign message of tolerance. For AOC, maintaining the Bible’s view of LGBTQ+ ideology, and wanting to live consistently with it, is somehow an abuse of Scripture.
Most interestingly, the congresswoman derides the use of Scripture in promoting sexual morality as “weaponizing” Scripture.
What? Weaponizing the sword of the Spirit?
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17, NIV).
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
One cannot weaponize a sword. A sword is already a weapon. The Scriptures cut us to the heart, exposing all of our wickedness and sin. The Bible is not a feather that strokes our self-esteem. It is not a tolerant cushion that accepts and affirms us just as we are. It is a sword that cuts through all lies and convicts us of sin–greed, pride, hatred, sexual immorality, all of it. The Bible speaks of God’s holiness and our wickedness, it speaks of the wrath of God upon the ungodly, it tells us what is good for human flourishing, and it points us to the only means of forgiveness, wholeness, and life–Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The problem in American Christianity is not that we are weaponizing the sword of the Spirit, but that we are neglecting it. We take it out for our quiet time, and then put it back in its sheath, as though we could tackle our desperate social issues without it. We blunt its edges, as though our soft words were wiser than God’s pointed conviction; it must be admitted that the Bible speaks more directly and severely of sin than many a Christian–and many a pastor–is willing to do.
Christianity calls for conviction. God gave us a sword, and He expects us to wield it. The stakes are higher than whether or not religious liberty will be preserved in this nation for awhile yet. The eternal destinies of men and women are at stake.
There’s legislation that’s been under discussion for sometime and was recently introduced to the House of Representatives under the acronym FFA. FFA ostensibly stands for “Fairness for All”, but it might more accurately be given as “Freedom Freely Abdicated” or “Frankly Futile Appeasement”.
It is, in brief, an attempt at compromise between religious liberty and the sexual revolution. It offers classification of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories in civil rights legislation, in exchange for exemptions for religious institutions.
- As a rule, compromise with the sexual revolution is a bad idea. That’s because it’s a revolution, not a gentle and measured reform. It does not tolerate dissent. For the sexual revolutionaries, compromise–when accepted at all–is always a stepping stone. They see it as ‘a good first step’ in their direction, not a binding treaty.
- This particular compromise is actually surrender of the key point we’re supposedly disputing at the moment.
- To some extent, all compromise with the sexual revolution is surrender of the truth; before the sexual revolution got rolling, America had an understanding of human identity and sexuality that was an approximation of the truth in most ways. We’ve been surrendering to falsehood ever since: pornography, divorce, promiscuity, abortion, homosexuality, and so on, have each in turn been a surrender of the truth.
- What FFA offers is to effectively surrender the truth about the distinction and complementarity of the human race. God created us as man and woman, with a proper orientation of one for another. Christians maintain that we are not bigots in opposing homosexuality and transgenderism, because these are not legitimate identity categories, they are illegitimate denials of the truth about humanity. FFA offers to surrender the basis of the Christian argument, and instead merely reserve the right to be bigots.
- There appears to be no real danger of the FFA passing. Plenty of conservatives are against it, and the liberals aren’t even interested in this compromise, having much more ambitious plans. So the real thing to note is not that this legislation is gaining traction, but that far too many conservatives, many of them evangelical Christians, somehow became convinced it was a good compromise.
I know that secularism has been bulldozing its way across American society for the past sixty years, and that the sexual revolution pushes its agenda with tremendous coercive force. But slow surrender is neither a courageous response nor a promising strategy.
As I look back over American history, and the radical cultural upheaval we have seen, I am reminded of the old saying in the discipline of military history, which goes something to the effect that ‘generals are always fighting the last war.’ What it means is that it’s hard to predict how things are going to be in the future, and trying to learn from the past all too easily takes the form of preparing to meet the next challenge as though it were going to be like the last one. The result is wrong preparation, and a shock when the new challenge turns out to be truly new.
The classic example of this is the Maginot Line. After the trench warfare of WWI, the French built a massive line of fortifications against German invasion. It would have been great, if the next war had simply been a replay. As it was, WWII began with a display of unprecedented mobility, as the Germans invaded through the Low Countries and the Ardennes Forest and swiftly overcame the French. The mighty Maginot Line was obsolete, because it was built to fight the last war.
What is the relevance of this to America? It seems to me that our founders did not take adequate steps against the threats of secularism and paganism, because those threats were hardly on the horizon at the time. The threat from which our founders sought freedom was sectarian Christian persecution, the battles between Catholics and Protestants and the oppression of an official state church. So they saw the need for a separation of church and state. Very good. And, indeed, it may be fair to say that they were not fighting the last war, but the current war; all the same, they did not anticipate the next war, and the protections they laid down may prove to be something of a Maginot Line in the defense of freedom.
For a simple glance over our nation’s history makes it quite clear that they did not see the separation of church and state as incompatible with having–and pursuing–a Christian nation. They taught the Bible in Christian schools for most of our nation’s history; for example, Bible reading was still mandatory in Pennsylvania schools until a supreme court decision in 1963. Freedom of religion and the separation of church and state were designed to prevent the rise of a repressive state church, not to make room for militant secularism to suppress religion in the public square. It was assumed that the nation would be explicitly Christian in its worldview and morals.
It was assumed that the next war would look like the last war.
But what do you do when you realize you’ve been outflanked? How do you address it, when you find that your protections against oppressive religious sectarianism have proved weak against militant secularism?
I think the first step is for Christians to see clearly through the secularist charade. There is a pretended neutrality about secularism that many Christians have uncritically accepted for far too long. Secularism may oppose all religions evenly, but it does not create a space that is worldview-neutral. On the contrary, it creates a space that is either functionally atheistic or functionally pagan–perhaps an odd and contradictory admixture of both.
Don’t fall for it. The flag of neutrality is waved hard for long enough to get the Bible out of schools. Then, suddenly, the flag of neutrality disappears, and the rainbow flag of paganism is being hoisted instead. And, in their audacity, the secularist still claims this is the flag of neutrality. But we know it’s not. We should have realized that the flag of neutrality was always a false color. But better late than never.
It is clear now that the steps taken at America’s founding were insufficient to properly ground freedom against its enemies. For, make no mistake, the secular revolution, advancing primarily as a sexual revolution, is an enemy of freedom. The lawsuits against Christians trying to conduct their business as Christians continue, and will continue; but these are just early rumblings. The direction to which secularism heads is more appropriately forecast by looking at nations such as China. There are environments in which freedom may flourish, and others in which it will not. Christianity and freedom properly go hand-in-hand.
“The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights…The time has come to hear about responsibilities…America’s future depends upon her accepting and demonstrating God’s government.”
Marshall was not, I think, the first to make this pointed and poetic differentiation: Christ or chaos. But he was prescient in his application of it to American society. With increasing secularization in American society over the last seventy years, the nation has done a lot of rejecting Christ, and has experienced a good amount of chaos in return.
Chaos is, I think, what we are presently experiencing culturally. It is fairly contained at the moment, and for that we can be thankful. But we are a divided people, and the moral and psychological consequences of secularization are all too obvious. Chaos is, at present, where America has gone.
But suggesting that we return to Christ–that we put the Bible and prayer back in schools, that we repent of the hideous wickedness of abortion, etc.–is, to many, a worse alternative to chaos. Some of them suggest an alternative solution, and that is control. Whose control? Well, the government’s, of course. Give the government ever more intrusive power over the lives of the citizenry, and they will bring about a just and safe society.
We had a choice between Christ and chaos. We chose chaos. It’s not going well. So, rather than choosing Christ, a sizeable portion of the American people would prefer to bring in a third factor–control. This is the sacrifice of freedom for security.
For there is another triad to bring into the discussion: virtue, freedom, and security. These three fit well together; or, more properly, virtue allows you to have both freedom and security. The virtuous man will use his freedom responsibly for the good of others. But the unvirtuous man will use his freedom to harm others; when a society has thrown out virtue, they must choose between freedom and security–they can’t have both. Or, to return to the first triad, when a society has rejected Christ, they must choose between chaos (loss of security) or control (loss of freedom). They must have one. And it is entirely possible that the attempt will fail and that they will have both chaos and control, neither freedom nor security.
This is the dynamic that a Christian must observe around us. People feel unsafe, so they ask for more intrusive government control; they also feel their desires inhibited, so they throw off restraint and embrace chaos. Neither chaos nor control will bring flourishing; but Christ will. What America needs is not primarily education or legislation, but conversion.
It doesn’t take much reflection to observe that America today is home to many people for whom the nation’s founding principles must appear odious, even scandalous. Consider how this early line from the Declaration of Independence must read to many in our culture:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Scandal upon scandal! One offense unfolds upon another. First is the assertion that anything should be certain and universal, much less “self-evident”, a defiance of the basic relativism of the postmodern mind. Second is the generic use of the masculine pronoun, a capital offense in contemporary academia. Related (Second, Part Second?) is this concept of a ‘man’, which a fair number of our legislators and academics, and the majority of our celebrities, seem no longer very clear on.
But third–and here I wish to dwell a moment–is the real scandal. The worldview and claim of freedom in this document seems to be explicitly based in theism. And, though this sentence does not specify, I think the historical background is sufficient to assert that this theism is a monotheism of at least vaguely Christian contours.
Doctrines of God, creation, and providence are foundational to the American experiment in freedom. Upon such foundations was built a republican (small r) government that most people no longer understand, and which the Democrats (big D) are trying to dismantle because it has proven a nuisance to them lately. But those who like freedom may usefully contemplate its Christian theistic basis, and the implied danger of our growing trends towards secularism (soft atheism?), atheism, paganism, and religious pluralism.
What sort of society do we want? One where schools outlaw prayer and promote sexual immorality and an atheistic evolutionary worldview (the last two are surely related)? One where Antifa thugs beat journalists in the streets? One with increasing government control and technocratic paternalism? Or one where a responsibly free people inculcate in their children a Christian character, and live out that Christian character in love of neighbor, caring for the needy, and pursuing virtue?
If what we want is the last one, then we have to see that secularism as currently understood is not how our nation was put together, has ushered in the other isms aforementioned with their destructive tendencies, and will never produce a just and good society. The American experiment has had massive failures and hypocrisies (e.g. slavery), but it has also had measured successes. Its best hope for getting back on track is to affirm once again the foundation of responsible freedom: the one true God.
“For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2, NIV)