Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Era of Intellectual Totalitarianism

It has been an interesting couple of days in the news. Yesterday treated us to the spectacle of a minor firestorm over some admittedly kind of crude comments made by a bearded guy on a reality show, a venue that is intentionally full of inane comments made by wannabe celebrities engaging in staged "reality". All fine and dandy, keep the masses fed thanks to Uncle Sam and passive thanks to the soporific drone of the TV. Just don't say the wrong thing...

It seems that one member of the A&E channel's star attraction, Duck Dynasty, was interviewed by GQ magazine (the old name Gentlemen's Quarterly being too many syllables for the average American reader to manage). The interview can be read here, please note that the "journalist" in question is pretty free and easy with the profanity, which includes taking the Lord's name in vain but apparently that is just fine and dandy with the thought police. In the middle of the interview we get some of the offending language (I will skip the discourse on the preferential status of female genitalia) in response to the question, what is sinful (I can almost visualize the "reporter" crossing his fingers hoping for this response):

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Where in the world did that nutcase come up with THAT! Oh, maybe here:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

OK so he maybe didn't nuance his statement properly for a politically correct environment. Granting that, is what he said some off the wall, crazy teaching? Not really. Phil Robertson is quite open about his sordid past and that fits nicely with what Paul said immediately afterward: And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:11). That is just straight up Gospel talk. The unrepentant homosexual, adulterer, drunkard, etc. are already under condemnation and only Christ can redeem them from an eternal hell. That is not backwoods Louisiana voodoo talk, that is the position of the church for some two thousand years.

It is not as though A&E is a bastion of sober conversation and edifying entertainment. Wander on over to the homepage of A&E and you are treated with visuals of their offerings. Along with the now ubiquitous bearded faces of Duck Dynasty there is a show called  Rodeo Girls which apparently features half naked girls wearing Daisy Dukes and string bikini tops on horseback doing rodeo stuff. Also featuring shows on the rough and tumble world of hauling called Shipping Wars, a show about different bearded Southerners shooting invasive feral pigs called American Hoggers, a country music version of American Idol called Crazy Hearts: Nashville and a few other shows of a similar level of idiocy. Arts and Entertainment indeed! Masterpiece Theater eat your heart out! So it isn't like you are getting anything edifying from your visit to that channel.

There have been a number of excellent responses to this from Albert Mohler, Russell Moore and Matt Walsh. I won't bother repeating the obvious, namely that alienating a huge audience that watches your show to placate a very small but loud moniroty that doesn't and never will watch your show is bad business and just plain stupid. I did like this from Al Mohler:

Another interesting parallel emerges with the timing of this controversy. The current issue of TIME magazine features Pope Francis I as “Person of the Year.” Within days of TIME’s declaration, Phil Robertson had been suspended from Duck Dynasty. Robertson’s suspension was caused by his statements that homosexual acts are sinful. But Pope Francis is riding a wave of glowing publicity, even as he has stated in public his agreement with all that the Roman Catholic Church teaches, including its teachings on homosexual acts.

Francis has declared himself to be a “son of the church,” and his church teaches that all homosexual acts are inherently sinful and must be seen as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered.”

But Pope Francis is on the cover of TIME magazine and Phil Robertson is on indefinite suspension. Such are the inconsistencies, confusions, and hypocrisies of our cultural moment.

Exactly. More on Jorge and his progressive rock star status at a later date. I want to keep unpacking this notion of intellectual totalitarianism.

At about the same time I was made aware of the Duck Dyynasty kerfuffle another one brewing in my home state and current neighboring state of Ohio. The Home School Legal Defense Association put out a memo on what t hey describe as the Worst-Ever Home School Law Proposed In Ohio. If passed this bill would mandate that parents be treated as felony child abusers before the state even considers allowing them to homeschool their own chidlren:

SB 248 is breathtakingly onerous in its scope. It requires all parents who homeschool to undergo a social services investigation which would ultimately determine if homeschooling would be permitted. Social workers would have to interview parents and children separately, conduct background checks and determine whether homeschooling is recommended or not. If it is not recommended, parents would have to submit to an “intervention” before further consideration of their request to homeschool.

Even worse, the law is justified based on the abuse and murder of a 14 year old boy, Teddy Foltz-Tedesco. As the HSLDA points out, social services had already been informed about the abuse and did nothing to save this child. His mother pulled him from school after authorities had been notified and did nothing. Using this tragedy where social services already failed a child as a way to give that same entity veto power over legitimate homeschooling is perverse and sickening. The sponsor of this bill, State Senator Capri Cafaro, has a promising career in politics as she has shown herself willing to use tragedy for her own political gain. More about this from Matt Walsh yet again, Politician: “Let’s treat all homeschool parents like felony child abusers”. One of the reasons we elected to not live in Ohio even though it was within driving distance of my job is the already onerous laws on homeschooling in Ohio, laws that might get a whole lot more onerous if this passes.

I doubt this will pass but it is the proverbial shot across the bow. The intent is clear. Many people in positions of power and authority simply don't trust parents to make decisions for their own children. The best way to minimize the pernicious influence of parents is to get hold of children as early as possible and keep them away from their parents as much as they can. We are entering, or perhaps more accurately well into, an era of intellectual totalitarianism. A small minority with outsized influence and a particular political agenda is rapidly making America into a police state. That may sound alarmist and a year ago I would have agreed. Today? The P.C. speech codes of the university world is bleeding out into the general culture at breakneck speed. The combination of a militarized civil police force, unimaginable levels of intrusion into the privacy of world leaders and American citizens alike thanks to the NSA and an ever louder shouting from  the minority cultural elites is pushing us to a state of totalitarianism. I know totalitarianism is a loaded, often misused, term but if the government can force parents to be treated as guilty until proven innocent, if activists for perversion can cause the suspension of a TV star from a show they don't even watch, if private employers can be made to violate their conscience in providing health care to their employees or services like baking wedding cakes I am not sure what other word suffices. We are in the midst of a seismic cultural shift where any asinine thought is protected except those that dare to speak authoritatively about Christ. When certain fundamental liberties are stripped away, nothing is safe and first in line on the chopping block are the unalterable, non-negotiable truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What does this mean for the church? It means that basic aspects of Christian witness like expressing Biblical teaching, even when clumsy or crude, or when raising up our children as we see fit, or proclaiming the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world of religious plurality where all religions get equal treatment as long as you aren't excessively serious about it, all are going to come with a cost. If you are convicted, as we are, that homeschooling is the proper way to educate your children, be prepared for the state to come after you. If you plainly and without apology tell lost sinners that their sin is an affront to God and the only hope for eternal life is in Christ, you will be censored. If your business chooses to conduct itself in a decidedly and intentionally Christian way based on your beliefs, you will be sued, shut down and perhaps imprisoned. That is the world we are rushing toward and we had better wake up. This isn't about the culture wars. Those were lost a long time ago and rightly so. This is about our witness to the world that is increasingly hostile. The days of internal squabbling over this pet doctrine and that are at an end. The days of an unlimited annuity stream of disposable income flowing to  the church are over. The church better wake up and get our priorities in line right now because the world is not going to pause to let us catch up. Caesar is no longer content to partner with the religious to maintain civil order. Gone are the days of Caesar patting the church on the head like an especially obedient lapdog. Caesar is now openly opposed to the church and we are woefully unprepared to deal with it. We better get our collective heads screwed on straight because there is only one trajectory this is taking.

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