Easter morning I attended a sunrise service at the beach. Because of the location, the general level of dress was significantly more casual than typical. Many of the men showed up in matching long-sleeve T-shirts which, though I had never seen before, I immediately knew must have been purchased by the men’s group. I knew this because the name of the church and the words “Men’s Ministry” were featured in small script at the bottom of the shirts. Far more noticeable was the shield, emblazoned with a blood-red crusader’s cross, which took up the whole front of the shirt. In large block letters down the sleeves were the words “MEN OF VALOR” in all capital letters.
I thought the words on the sleeves was tacky, but the Crusader’s shield and cross is a powerful symbol. It’s “bad ass.” And it seemed profoundly sacrilegious to see these men wearing it.
Grown men playing dress-up, pretending to valor until their wives tell them it’s time to go home, LARPing as patriarchs and defenders of the faith for a morning, like the fat guy in the outrageously fake “master funnery sergeant” uniform.
I wanted to punch them.
See, this is the same men’s group that gleefully passed around an obviously fake “letter” attacking fathers, exuberant over a chance to denigrate themselves and assure each other that, after all, their wives and children were perfectly justified in rebelling against their God-ordained leadership.
Then my anger faded, and I just felt sad.
Sad because those shirts show that those men really do want to be patriarchs, men of valor, defenders of the faith. They wouldn’t pretend to it if they didn’t value it.
Sad because they have managed to convince themselves (at least partially) that they aren’t pretenders: that “True Valor” is assisting the enemy in slicing their own neck; that defending the faith means arguing with each other over words to no profit, such as whether the communion wine becomes Christ’s blood, or is only a very powerful symbol of His blood; that being a patriarch means following the whims of their wives and children.
How can such a strong delusion even be possible?
Unfortunately, the fault lies not only with the people, but also with the priests:
And the people will be like the priest, the servant like his master, the maid like her mistress, the buyer like the seller, the lender like the borrower, the creditor like the debtor. —Isaiah 24:2 (NASB)
For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. —Isaiah 9:16 (NASB)
Consider this tweet from First Things, “America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion and Public Life:”
“We’ll make a cake for a same-sex wedding. But we’ll give every dollar from that sale to protect religious liberty.” http://t.co/SHfajLAUBo
— First Things (@firstthingsmag) April 6, 2015
Go ahead, read that link in the tweet. I’ll wait, and you need to see what it says for yourself.
If you haven’t heard of First Things, here’s the blurb from its “About” page:
First Things is published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and educational 501(c)(3) organization. The Institute was founded in 1990 by Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues to confront the ideology of secularism, which insists that the public square must be “naked,” and that faith has no place in shaping the public conversation or in shaping public policy.
That’s the claim. But then you read the article linked above, and you realize that what First Things is promoting is that when the trumpet is blown, the lyre is sounded, and you are commanded to kneel before your new god, you do just that (and then give some money away afterwords to make it all better). After all, as long as you don’t make any money off of kneeling before the image, it’s totally OK. None of that standing tall on principle and being thrown in a fiery furnace bullshit.
All those inconvenient mockings, scourgings, chains, imprisonment, stonings, being sawn in two, being put to death with the sword, being destitute, being afflicted, being ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground–the modern Christian need not go through any of that shit! Just bow to the idol, and then give some money away–it’s like buying a clean conscience, and far more convenient than actually standing on principle!
The best part is, you can even wear a shirt with a crusader’s cross on it while you bow before the golden statue! That way you’ll be sure to feel valiant while you’re kneeling before Dildolech. If you start to feel like maybe kneeling to an idol isn’t an act of spiritual valor, you can always read the newest edition of First Things, where Andrew Walker will be happy to inform you that bowing really takes more moral courage than standing up and being cast in the furnace. If you work hard enough at it, you might just be able to convince yourself that the few people you do see standing up here and there really do deserve to be thrown in the furnace. After all, a True Christian is loving, and it isn’t very loving to stand up when everyone else is kneeling is it?
No, it is you, kneeling compliantly among the masses, that is the true man of spiritual valor.
O My people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray And confuse the direction of your paths. —Isaiah 3:12 (NASB)
This was a hard post to write. The prophet and the priest should be on the same side. Yet when the priest begins to teach the people to worship strange gods, he is no longer friend, but foe. The prophet’s role is to preach to both priests and people that the mighty, and fearful, and terrible day of the Lord is at hand, and to entreat priest and people to return, and serve Him.
This is why I write. I am a watchman. I must blow the trumpet.
If the trumpet gives forth an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?
Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men!
Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!
Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”