Category Archives: Roman Catholicism

The one true church of the Apocalypse, or the harlot of Revelation? You decide.

Those Swell-Headed American Academics

In this midst of his critique of current Roman Catholic academic “theology”, Adam deVille makes the following observation:

As someone trained in the Anglo-Canadian academic system, I note certain curiosities about Americans and academics. Americans turn degrees and “credentials” into an absurd fetish and repository for all kinds of misplaced faith. Holders of these degrees are magically assumed to have all sorts of insights and skills which, in practice, they often do not. And yet they brandish these credentials like buckler and shield to ward off an impudent Douthat, who temerariously dared to question their arguments. Their de haut en bas treatment of him reveals nothing more than their own insecurity.

That “absurd fetish” extends beyond theology; it permeates our entire élite view of society, buttressing their wish to turn this country into a mandarinate where they are the mandarins.

And, closer to topic, I hate to say it, but “Protestant theology” is, if anything, in worse shape than its Catholic and Orthodox counterpart.

T.R. Glover on Tertullian

From the end of his Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire:

By his expression of Christian ideas in the natural language of Roman thought, by his insistence on the reality of the historic Jesus and on the inevitable consequences of human conduct, by his reference of all matters of life and controversy to the will of God manifested in Nature, in inspiration and in experience, Tertullian laid Western Christendom under a great debt, never very generously acknowledged. For us it may be as profitable to go behind the writings till we find the man, and to think of the manhood, with every power and every endowment, sensibility, imagination, energy, flung with passionate enthusiasm on the side of purity and righteousness, of God and Truth; to think of the silent self-sacrifice freely and generously made for a despised cause, of a life-long readiness for martyrdom, of a spirit, unable to compromise, unable in its love of Christ to see His work undone by cowardice, indulgence and unfaith, and of a nature in all its fulness surrendered. That the Gospel could capture such a man as Tertullian, and, with all his faults of mind and temper, make of him what it did, was a measure of its power to transform the old world and a prophecy of its power to hold the modern world, too, and to make more of it as the ideas of Jesus find fuller realization and verification in every generation of Christian character and experience.

I’ve caught it from my “lefty” opponents for using Tertullian, but I make no apologies.

Should a Woman Lead the Church?

That’s a question that’s as old as Anglicanism itself, as Bossuet pointed out a long time ago in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, VII, 45-47:

Accordingly, it thence came to pass, that Henry VIII gave
the bishops power to visit their diocese with this preface: “That all jurisdiction, as well ecclesiastical as secular, proceeded from the regal power, as from the first foundation of all magistracy in all kingdoms ; that those who, till then, had exercised this power precariously, were to acknowledge it as coming from the liberality of the prince, ami give it up to him when he should think fit; and upon these grounds he gives power to such a bishop, as to the King’s vicar, to visit his diocese by the regal authority; and to promote whom he shall judge proper to holy orders, and even priesthood; and, in short, to exercise all the episcopal functions, with power to subdelegate if he thought it necessary.

Cranmer acts conformably to this dogma,—the only one
wherein the Reformation has not varied. Let us say nothing against a doctrine which destroys itself by its own enormity, and only take notice of that horrid proposition which makes the power of bishops so to flow from that of the King, that it is even revocable at his will. Cranmer was so persuaded of this royal power, that he was not ashamed, himself archbishop of Canterbury, and primate of the whole Church of England, to take out a new commission of the same from under Edward VI, though but a child, when he reformed the Church according to his own model: and of all the articles published by Henry, this was the only one he retained.

This power was carried to such a pitch in the English Reformation, that Elizabeth had some scruples about it ; and the horror men had of seeing a woman the Church’s supreme head, and the fountain of all pastoral power, whereof, by her sex, she was incapable, opened their eyes at length to see, in some measure, the excesses to which they had been carried. But we shall see, without diminishing the force, or removing the grounds of it, they did no more than just palliate the matter ; nor can Mr. Burnet, at this day, but lament to see excommunication, belonging only to the spiritual cognisance, and which ought to have been reserved for the bishop with the assistance of the clergy, by a fatal neglect given over to secular tribunals; that is, not only to Kings, but likewise to their officers;—”an error (proceeds this author) grown since into so formed a strength, that it is easier to see what is amiss, than to know how to rectify it.”

There are really two questions here, and I’ve discussed both of them in the past on this blog.  The first–and the one which Bossuet emphasises the most–is whether the secular monarch can be the head of the church, with all the powers that go with it.  Any reasonable reading of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer will show that the Church of England exists because the sovereign allows it to under his (or her) “broad seal” and that the sovereign is the “Lord and Governor” (or “Lady and Governor”) of the Church.  And, as Bossuet goes on to point out (48):

And, certainly, I do not conceive any thing can be imagined more contradictory, than to deny their Kings, on one side, the administration of the word and sacraments ; and grant them, on the other, excommunication, which, in reality, is nothing else but God’s word armed with the censure which comes from Heaven, and one of the most essential parts of the administration of the sacraments ; since, undoubtedly, the right of depriving the faithful of them can appertain to none else but those who are appointed by God to give them to the people. But the Church of England went much further, inasmuch as she has attributed to her King’s and to the secular authority, the right of making rituals and liturgies, and even of giving final judgment without further appeal, in points of faith ; that is, of that which is most essential in the administration of the sacraments ; and the most inseparably annexed to the preaching of God’s word. And as well under Henry VIII. as in the succeeding reigns, we find no ritual, no confession of faith, no liturgy, which derives not their ultimate sanction and force from the authority of the King and parliament, as the sequel will make plain. They went even to that excess, that, whereas the orthodox emperors, if formerly they made any Constitutions concerning faith, either they made them in order to put in execution Church decrees, or at least waited for the confirmation of their ordinances. In England they taught, on the contrary, “that the decrees of councils, in points of faith, were not laws, nor of any force, till they were ratified by princes;” and this was the fine idea which Cranmer gave of Church decisions in a discourse of his reported by Mr. Burnet.

This may seem a controversy of another era; however, as I have pointed out, if so motivated Parliament (now holding the sovereign’s power) could impose such things as women bishops (the idea was seriously floated during the debate) and same-sex civil marriage upon the Church of England.  That’s certainly relevant in the recent call by the Archbishop of Canterbury (who is NOT the head of the Church of England) for the Anglican Communion to come to a modus vivendi in January.  How orthodox Anglicans can expect the Church of England to stay a stable anchor for the Communion with this hanging over their head (to say nothing of the internal silliness that’s always out there) is beyond me.

Turning to women’s headship, Bossuet’s point that it took Elizabeth’s accession as the “Lady and Governor” of the church to wake up people to the reality of the monarch’s place is as amusing as it is probably true.  But it was all foreseeable: once you placed the monarch at the head of the church and allowed same to be a woman (the French did not do either) then what happened with Elizabeth was inevitable.  And it seriously weakens any argument against women being either ministers or bishops in an Anglican church.

The English Reformation is without a doubt the messiest chapter in that part of European history, and these issues are at the heart of that messiness.

An Aggie Throwback: Answer Coffeehouse Rehearsal, Forty Years Out

Another milestone on the blog: the fortieth anniversary of the recording of the Answer Coffeehouse Rehearsal in College Station, Texas.  It’s primitive in many ways but for those of us who were involved in it it’s the only recording out there.  There aren’t many Christian coffee-house recordings from the day around in general; this is one of them.

The post gives the explanation of the recordings.  It still features what is, IMHO, the best musical rendition of Isaiah 40:31 out there.

As we start yet another season in the SEC, the fruit of that ministry and others remains the best part of being an Aggie.

When Your Metairie is Wiped Out: My First Post After Hurricane Katrina

This weekend is the tenth anniversary of the Gulf Coast landing of Hurricane Katrina, which wrought so much destruction in both Louisiana and Mississippi.  I had started the predecessor format of this blog earlier that year.  Given ancestral and business interests, a disaster of this size made an impact on me, especially after visiting the place the following year.

My focus at the time was on the eternal, and that’s never a bad thing.  But the aftermath of Katrina, and the relief effort that followed, highlighted two things.  The first was the total inability of our governmental agencies to act effectively in response to this disaster.  Most of the media blame was centred on George W. Bush.  But to err is human; for a real disaster, you need a bipartisan effort, and Louisiana in particular supplied the Democrats to round things out.  The only state or federal executive to have his or her reputation come out enhanced was Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

The second was the response of the church.  In many ways, Katrina was the church’s finest hour since 9/11.  The speed at which churches and parachurch organisations responded and organised relief of all kinds amazed even those of us who were familiar with its charitable arm.  Ministries such as Operation Blessing, Operation Compassion, Mercy Chefs, God’s Pit Crew, the Southern Baptist efforts and many others rose to the occasion and, within the limitations of their resources, filled in the many gaps left by government.

People who blithely call for the revocation of churches’ tax exempt status, saying the government can take care of such things, have conveniently forgotten the lessons of Katrina.  If they succeed, they will soon see the fulfilment of their prophet Karl Marx’ dictum that history repeats itself: the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce.  How funny the next round of victims sees that is another story…

Hurricane Katrina has come and gone, and taken a good deal of the New Orleans area with it. There’s a lesson from this that dates back to the time New Orleans was founded. In Matthew we read the following parable:

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables. “The Kingdom of Heaven,” he said, “may be compared to a king who gave a banquet in honor of his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited to the banquet, but they were unwilling to come. A second time he sent some servants, with orders to say to those who had been invited ‘I have prepared my breakfast, my cattle and fat beasts are killed and everything is ready; come to the banquet.’ They, however, took no notice, but went off, one to his farm, another to his business; While the rest, seizing his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. The king, in anger, sent his troops, put those murderers to death, and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants ‘The banquet is prepared, but those who were invited were not worthy. So go to the cross-roads, and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ (Mt. 22:1-9)

In his classic Meditations on the Gospel, the French bishop Jaques Bénigne Bossuet translated the term “farm” (v. 5) with the term métairie. Residents of southern Louisiana are all too familiar with this term: today the city of Metairie, the suburb in Jefferson Parish immediately west of New Orleans, is underwater, victim of Hurricane Katrina and a broken levee. The immensity of the tragedy is beyond words.

The term métairie refers to a form of sharecropping that was practiced in New France, and the estates where it was practiced. When New Orleans was founded in 1718—just a few short years after Bossuet wrote his Meditations in old France—it was concentrated in what is now called the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter. The land surrounding it, in what is now Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, became estates to farm the rich alluvial soil.

Bossuet’s use of the term métairie is interesting, because most translations give the impression that the man who refused the invitation was going out to till his own soil. Bossuet—preacher most of his career to kings and aristocrats—takes the idea to a new level, portraying a man who will leave the hard physical labour to others while he takes in the profits.

New Orleans has always led a precarious existence. Its physical location makes for an excellent port, but the low elevation of the place—which only got worse as it expanded from the Vieux Carré, except for the area up near Lake Ponchartrain—made water removal a constant trial. Inadequate levees have been a part of the city’s woes from its founding. Tropical diseases took their tool as well. Moreover New France didn’t provide the proper hinterland to feed the city and port economically; it wasn’t until the Spanish took the city after the Seven Years’ War that this took place, and things really got going when New Orleans entered the US in 1803.

This strange combination of alternating wealth and poverty—and the uncertainty that goes with it—is what developed New Orleans’ carefree attitude towards life. The “Big Easy” was born in adversity, and many of its residents have contented themselves with drowning their cares in rum old fashioneds since the days when Bossuet’s patrons, the Kings of France, ruled the place.

Today, as then, we have may people who have ignored the invitation of God for eternal life and have gone off to their métairie or whatever other concern that they have. Between trying to keep that going they have immersed themselves in whatever pleasure—and that includes intoxicating substances a lot more potent that rum old fashioneds—that might come their way. But neither business nor pleasure can be taken into eternity, and both can be taken away in a hurry, as the residents of Metairie are being reminded of the hard way.

This life has a great deal of uncertainty. That uncertainty looks a lot different when we can view it from the perspective of eternal life. That’s especially important at times when your métairie—and Metairie itself—are wiped out.

For more on this eternal life, click here.

The Ottoman Tales XI: They’d Rather Die Christian

This ends a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

If there’s one thing to be learned about studying the Ottomans, it’s that there are many strange stories to tell.  What makes up “strange” depends upon one’s frame of reference.  In his book on Palm Beach, Laurence Leamer characterised the town’s social system as madness, but for those of us who are a product of same, is there any other way to do it?  That’s a stretch, but this last tale from the Sultan’s palace is in a league of its own.

A few years before the French Revolution,  the Algerians, the pirates par excellence of the western Mediterranean, presented the Sultan with an unusual gift: a French noblewoman by the name of Aimée Dubcuq de Rivery, whom they had captured and made a slave.  She went from the convent in France to the harem in Constantinople.

That culture shock was just the beginning of a wild ride, as only the Ottomans could offer.

Her stock went up soon when she gave birth to her son Mahmud by Sultan Abdul Hamid I, who was fond of her.  The Sultan died in 1789, succeeded by his nephew Selim.  Selim and Aimée were also fond of each other, but the world they were about to be catapulted into was anything but placid.  Back home in France the Bastille was stormed in July, igniting the French Revolution.  Faced with his own problems at home with the Janissaries, Selim organised a new army (Napoleon Bonaparte volunteered as a military adviser, but was turned down, going on to bigger things while marrying Aimée’s cousin Joséphine) and Aimée promoted things French in old Constantinople.  But Napoleon invaded Ottoman Egypt, forcing Selim to turn to the British.

The Janissaries, true to form, overthrew Selim in 1807, putting Mahmud’s half-brother Mustafa on the throne.  Bairactar Pasha revolted, and the result was that Aimée’s son Mahmud ended up as Sultan.  The Janissaries extracted concessions out of Mahmud but mother and son were secure for the moment.

With his mother’s help, Mahmud turned out to be a reformer, bringing in Western (mostly French) institutions and people in trying to modernise the country.  In the meanwhile there were successes and failures.  Mahmud, with the help of a Turkish officer named “Black Hell” managed to massacre the Janissaries and end their meddling ways.  On the other hand the Russians continued to nibble away at Ottoman territory, and Greece won its independence.

But the time came for Aimée to leave this life.  She had lived at the power centre of Islam and exercised that power when she could as the consort, friend and mother of the Caliph, the leader of Islam (well, Sunni Islam at least).  But with life slipping away, in spite of all of the Islam surrounding her (or perhaps because of it) she demanded of her son that she be given Christian last rites and die in the grace of Jesus Christ.

The highest Muslim he was, but Mahmud acceded to his mother’s request. He summoned a Greek Orthodox priest, who came to the palace and, in Mahmud’s presence he heard her confession, gave her absolution, and died in the Christian faith she was baptised in.

Today, in many of the same territories that Mahmud ruled over, we see Christians confess Jesus Christ and be martyred for that confession.  The circumstances of their passing are far different than Aimée’s, and the new caliph is not in the same league as the Ottoman sultans.  But the idea is the same: when the time for eternity comes, the real Christian wants to enter into the presence of his or her Lord and Saviour.

And this will fulfil my earnest expectation and hope that I shall have no cause for shame, but that, with unfailing courage, now as hitherto, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by my life or by my death, For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. But what if the life here in the body–if this brings me fruit from my labors? Then which to choose I cannot tell! I am sorely perplexed either way! My own desire is to depart and be with Christ, for this would be far better. But, for your sakes, it may be more needful that I should still remain here in the body. (Philippians 1:20-24)

So what about you?  Where (and with whom) do you plan to step into eternity when the time comes?

If you don’t know, or want to do better, click here

Those Undiverse Episcopalians, and Others

They talk a good game, but as a recent Pew report notes, those purveyors of same-sex marriage bomb in the racial diversity department.   Even with the choice of Presiding Bishop Curry, the Episcopal Church is whiter than–horrors–the Southern Baptist Convention!

It’s hard to blame non-white people from avoiding the Episcopal Church; in fact, it’s hard to blame anyone from avoiding it these days.

Some other observations:

  1. Although “nothing in particular” religiously is better spread out, if you’re a declared atheist or agnostic, chances are you’re white.  And that’s TEC’s (and other liberal churches) prime demographic.  It’s an uphill battle.
  2. Pentecostal churches and the Roman Catholic Church hover around the racial distribution of the population at large.  That’s one reason (I think it’s the big reason) why Pentecostal churches continue to grow and the RCC can offset their weak pastoral system and perennial “back door problem”.  My experience in the Church of God is that this church in particular doesn’t take full advantage of its racial diversity, particularly in its leadership structure, which is why the Assemblies of God are growing faster.
  3. It’s interesting that the Seventh-Day Adventist church and its errant progeny, the Watchtower, lead the pack in racial diversity.  On the other end are the Mormons, who (justifiably) struggle with this issue.
  4. It’s probably a little unfair to compare religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism because their main adherents are immigrants from non-white parts of the world.
  5. The Anglicans are actually ahead of the Episcopalians they left in the racial diversity department, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

I’m not one of those people who think that racial diversity is important for “politically correct” reasons but because a) like it or not, our population is increasingly non-white and b) non-white people are less likely to secularise (and militantly so) than their white counterparts.  It’s a simple matter of church growth.

I’ve dealt with issue re TEC before.

The Pope, Technology and Slavery

The Holy Father has once again ambushed American Catholics with Laudato Si, his encyclical on the environment and global warming.  As was the case with his earlier document on social teaching, we should not be too surprised; there is a great deal of precedent for this kind of thinking.  As R.R. Reno points out:

In this encyclical, Francis expresses strikingly anti-scientific, anti-technological, and anti-progressive sentiments. In fact, this is perhaps the most anti-modern encyclical since the Syllabus of Errors, Pius IX’s haughty 1864 dismissal of the conceits of the modern era.

Buried in the Catholic psyche is a longing for a Ptolemaic, village-centred world where the church, at the heart of things both physically and spiritually, rings out the daily cycle of Mass and prayer and orders the life of the people.  This was before Copernicus and Galileo had the bad taste to point out that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe, which didn’t sit well with the Aristotelian intelligentsia that dominated Catholicism.  The fact that post-modern progressives find a congenial ally with such a mentality speaks volumes of their own scientific level.

(For my Anglican readers: this is a little different from Rowan Williams’ rolling over and playing dead on the subject; that was so bad even a gay atheist called him out on it, as you can read here.)

In any case, Reno is right: an anti-technological bias pervades the entire document.  But is technology (and I’ll leave the scientific part for elsewhere) really that divorced from moral life?  The kerfuffle over the Confederate flag in view of the recent shootings in Charleston provides an interesting answer to this question.

There’s a lot of argument about the motivation for the Civil War: slavery, tariffs, states rights, etc.  But there’s no argument that, when the country split apart, the disparity in economic and human strength was enormous.  The South had adopted an economy that was in part a plantation system worked by slaves and a small landowner (whether they really farmed the land was a mixed bag) collection for the rest.   It was a pretty traditional set-up: slavery had been a part of human civilisation for a long time, and the small landowner had been an ideal since Biblical times.

In the North we certainly had the small landowners, but we also had a robust industrial and technological base, the rail system to go with it, and sizeable cities.  Immigration (at that point mostly German and Irish) overwhelmingly went to the North because that’s where a livelihood was to be made; Texas was a notable exception for the Germans.  (And that immigration, BTW, is where American Catholicism got it real shot in the arm, one put on steroids by Italian and Eastern European immigration after the war, also favouring the North).

Had the South seceded in the 1820’s or 1830’s, things might have been different.  But by the time South Carolina stormed out of the Union 20 December 1860, the advance of technology was such that a serious manufacturing base was becoming a major advantage in fighting what was in many ways the first modern war.

The South certainly started out with, man for man, better military leadership and better soldiers.  And the North struggled in its early years with an overly politicised system of promotion.  But once the North got its act together, generals such as Grant and Sherman brutally used the numerical, industrial and technological advantages to basically grind the South to powder.  Under these conditions the South basically came to a “gunfight without a gun”, as one SCV relative put it.  (I had ancestors on both sides of this drama; some were on the receiving end and some were on the industrial end).

Americans in particular are a) always trying to make everything into a moral cause and b) always trying to gin up everyone’s motivation, which is why motivational speakers stay busy.  But once you have motivation you must have means, and North certainly had that to win the war.  Without the North’s technological and industrial advantage the War Between the States would have ended with the states still divided and the black slaves working the plantations.

If that’s the kind of result the Holy Father wants, he’ll get it.

The Eucharist, Spiritual and Corporeal

From Bossuet’s History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches, III, 12, this gem:

For although the Eucharist, as well as the other mysteries of our salvation, had a spiritual effect for its end, it had, like the other mysteries, that which was accomplished in the body for its foundation. Jesus Christ was to be born, to die, to be spiritually risen again in the faithful ; yet he was also to be born, to die, and to rise again really, and according to the flesh. In the same manner, we were to partake spiritually of his sacrifice; yet we were also corporally to receive the flesh of his victim, and to eat of it indeed.  We were to be united spiritually to the heavenly spouse ; yet his body which he gave to us in the Eucharist, in order to a mutual possession of ours, was to be the pledge and seal, as well as the foundation of this spiritual union; and this divine marriage, as well as the ordinary ones, though in a far different way, was to unite minds by uniting bodies. To speak therefore of the spiritual union was, in reality, to explain the last end of this mystery ; but to that intent, the corporal union, on which the other was grounded, ought not to have been forgotten.

An Important Way Church Needs to Be a Safe Space

Anyone who works in a university environment these days–especially in a public university whose state support continually evaporates–has heard about the concept of “safe space”.  It’s an idea promoted by LGBT advocates where parts of the campus are designated as safe for such people to be without fear of opposition.  The problem with that is twofold.  One is that what’s a safe space for one group of people is a dangerous one for another.  The other is that campuses, with the current corporatist ethic run amok, are becoming safe spaces from independent thought of any kind.

The idea of a “safe space” per se isn’t a bad one.  Back around the turn of the millennium, while attending a meeting of the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries, I remember a speaker saying that church should be a safe place for hurting people (and that covers just about all of us) to live and move and have their being.  People being what they are, which is fallen, that’s not always easy, but the more we make it our aim the closer we can expect to reach our goal.

But it’s reasonable to ask: safe from what?  There are many dangers that we meet in this life, but with the forward march of the LGBT community there’s one thing in particular that churches need to learn in a hurry if they expect to survive intact.

In an earlier post I noted the following:

The one letter that never gets into this collection is “A” for abstinent.  The whole concept that someone would voluntarily abstain from sex for any reason is anathema to just about everybody in this deal: gay, straight, in between, you name it.  It’s particularly odious to those who, as noted earlier, define their lives by their sexual preference (and the activity that goes with it).  It’s the main driver why a) the LGBT community hates real Christianity the way it does and b) that hatred resonates with the heterosexual community.

Churches have dealt with the blow back from the sexual revolution for a long time.  They’re trying as always these days to figure out a way to “take a stand”.  It’s hard to take a stand when you don’t understand the ground you’re defending, and a little historical perspective is in order here.

Those of you who studied Greek and Roman mythology will recall that the gods and goddesses, like their human counterparts, were male and female.  They cavorted with and married each other, and when that wasn’t enough they went down and did the same with people.  That mythology was the religion of classical antiquity, which included the paganism against which prophets such as Elijah stood against.

Into this world came Yahweh, who had no consort and no equal and, strictly speaking, no gender either.  He set forth a way for Israel that dispensed with the fertility rites of the neighbours.  That didn’t sit well with neighbours like Jezebel and it didn’t go down well with Israelites like Manasseh either, but captivity and exile drove the message home.  When the time came for God’s son (also eternally generated without sex) to come into the world,  he did so by asexually conceiving him in a virgin.

By the fulness of time when Our Lord came into the world, the centuries of the wide-open sexuality that dominated the classical world was starting to wear a little thin.  Christianity triumphed in a world which had grown weary of its obsession with sex, and the genderless God brought the civilisation past a purely sexual/fertility cycle.

As in ancient Israel, that didn’t sit well with many.  The growth of secularism has been a resurgence in paganism with all the sex-obsessed business that goes with it.  It’s little wonder that one doctrine that is attacked mercilessly is the Virgin Birth: the idea that the world could be saved without sex engenders hostility in Christianity’s opponents as little else does.

But it’s not easy to deconstruct a civilisation, even when the wind is at your back.  It takes determination and people who don’t mind breaking eggs to make omelets.  That has come with the LGBT community, who are as opposed to abstinence heterosexually as they are to their own.  Acceptance of their idea ultimately is a reversion to paganism and the end of meaningful Christianity.  It’s also the end of the civilisation; a civilisation whose highest pursuit is the next hook-up isn’t going to get very far in any other way.

Christianity in the West has tried to manage the changes the best it can.  Evangelicals in particular, who claim (with some justification) a higher level of commitment, have tried to accommodate these things with stuff like “beauty pageant Christianity“.  It’s also shocking in many ways how Evangelicalism has tried to become a “waist down religion” like Mormonism.  But the game is up.

A driving force behind the transgender movement is the search for identity.  For all of the bawling about the fixed nature of human sexuality, as one Christian counsellor pointed out to me human beings are sexual: how they express that changes from person to person and even in time.  If we make the “discovery” (and that’s a duplicitous way to put it) of sexual identity the centrepiece of life, then ultimately we will have to force people to engage in a variety of sexual activities to make the discovery process experiential.  Sex is too powerful a force in human life, and the process too easily manipulated, for this process to result in anything else but a general disaster, where people’s little remaining autonomy is destroyed and adverse unintended consequences become the norm.

What churches need to be a safe space from is the idea that there is no meaningful life apart from sex. Part of that, of course, is to rid the church of child predators.  The campaign to do so in Roman Catholicism, comforting as it is and should be to the victims, has been pushed by people who, in the long run, have the opposite result on the agenda.  But another part is to present abstinence not as a void but as God’s way to getting people through a hormonally tumultuous period, and also by setting instant gratification aside to pursue life-long and eternal goals that get them beyond the next hook-up and bring enduring happiness.

That’s not going to be easy.  Evangelicals in particular like to try to edge up to the culture to “win” it.  But our culture is destructive except for those at the top (and it is for them in another way).  We need to make that clear.

It will be a costly road to take.  As noted earlier, there will be those who won’t take it.  But in the end it will be worth it.