The Day the Donald Broke the Twitter

In case you’re living under a right wing rock…

It’s been a free-for-all. My favorite tweet was this one.

Russell Moore reposted his NYTimes piece from last year.

In the middle of this the evangelical sub-conversation is Intervarsity and Twitter feeds me this.

I thought Jethani’s three points were dead on

1. Marriage has gone from an assumed belief to an essential doctrine
2. Evangelicalism is defined by parachurch ministries like InterVarsity
3. Fence sitting on gay marriage is no longer allowed

All three points were great but I’d footnote point one in that there is often an implied subpoint that I’ve made often. Among the progressive evangelicals I always get the sense that the LGBTQ accommodations are simply readjustments to traditional marriage. We will afford these accommodations (usually vague) to these special people (imagined group of non-heteros that are non-fluid and easily personally distinct from the majority hetero tribe) and everything will go “back to normal”.

This line is in massive denial from the dramatic changes in expectation and control that populate the imagined firewalled hetero world. Will Xian heteros live in Davey and Goliath land while we all make a “safe space” for the LGBTQers? Ever watch New Girl? It seems to be the every-person sex-in-the-city for the 20-teens. It’s not quite as edgy as EverydayFeminism but they’re conversant.

In the meantime everyone’s freeking out because the Donald was exposed to be a lower class Don Draper (Mad Men) with a bigger wallet and smaller hands. Do I find Donald Trump reprehensible? That isn’t new, although I must say the “in your face” nature of that video was legitimately shocking.

What is the great sin of the Donald? Is it really all the women he’s bedded or his manners?

It’s of course the casual powerful way he uses people. Is his sexual use of people isolated to sex? Isn’t he really exactly who he’s been telling us who he is? He likes winning. Too bad losers… Expect to see more of this.

I fail to see how the new sexual ethic isn’t much more that serial use of people but bolstered by better manners and more open to women being let into the game. Is that the price of admission?

For all the outrage today being poured onto the Donald by Progressive Evangelicals they have really no plan or scheme for the new sexuality they with to welcome. Their plan is about as clear as any of the Donald’s policy promises. The clearest path seems to be “we won’t judge what consenting adults do within the law. We want it to be mutual and to not have hurt feelings.” Don’t hold your breath on that “hurt feelings” part.

That brings me back to Skye’s first point, the rise of marriage and sexuality as an essential Christian doctrine.

In working through my latest thing to learn about the Reformation I came upon the tidbit that Zwingli was a priest with a concubine, not an uncommon thing. After the Reformation he took a wife. You might remember my remarks about Augustine’s concubine.

While we’re trying to change gears here on marriage we’ve very much dealing with what Charles Taylor calls “The Reform” where in the Reformation the idea was to have one speed Christianity. We’ll no longer have super-Christians who are monks and nuns doing it for us but we’ll try to get the whole society to do it right together. Luther and Calvin of course wanted to see that “doing it right” as a part of a response to salvation rather than a means of it. To be honest “one speed” was at least as messy as two speed. People are like that.

So while I enjoy reviling the Donald as much as anyone I must stop and pause before piling on too high especially with the concurrent outrage over InterVarsity. No one has really mapped out for Intervarsity,or anyone else a path to really map out the new sexuality, at least no one but the good moralists at Everyday Feminism. At least they’re being clear and not having any pretense about God and stuff like that.

Oh well. Rant off. Nothing to see here. Go back to what you were doing. pvk

Part 2

The best that I can discern of the emerging sexual ethic is as follows.

1. The morality of a sexual act or relationship is fundamentally contractual. Whatever consenting adults agree upon is normally OK. Privacy and individual freedom trumps community standards or institutional demands.
2 Consent can be jeopardized by age, disability or temporary medical impairment. Consent is also episodic and contextual.
3. Consent can also be mitigated by “power dynamics”.

I think point 1 is the primary point, as I said before I suspect consent will increasingly be a legal point in cases where civil action is required. Point 3 is increasingly important in the CRC’s evolution of Article 84 in the church order on whether someone may return to ministry after a consensual affair. If you are a CRC minister and you have an affair better have it with someone outside your congregation or sphere of influence.

It should be noted that the contractual understanding of sexual ethics is really what is beneath Trump’s statement “when you’re a star you can do anything…” Same goes for President. You see right away the tension between 1 and 3. The contractual is always beneath this kind of sex. Each party has something they want and something they are willing to give. It is fundamentally a consumer arrangement. This is at heart the opposite understanding of a Christian view of relationship, sexual or otherwise where Christ gives himself not based on what he can get from us (God has no need) but what he can give.

In a Roman Catholic context where marriage is a sacrament they have a clearer argument that marriage is an essential doctrine. The demotion of marriage by the Reformation makes Protestant churches weaker in insisting on a traditional stance. Historically, however, it should be noted that marriage as a sacrament doesn’t necessarily eliminate sex outside of it, which has become the heart of the traditional position stated today, even by progressive evangelicals who wish by extending marriage to LGBTQ partnerships to traditionalize those relationships. Roman Catholics throughout history had ways around that stance usually with concubines as seen with Augustine and Zwingli. Sex wasn’t as bit a deal as marriage because of the whole sacramental system.

The current insistance of sex within marrriage of course has Biblical support by Jesus and Paul and the basic flow of Jewish sexual norms but in this modern context, especially in a progressive on marriage then becomes fundamentally contractual in line with the three rules I noted above. Marriage is less covenantal and more consumerist.

There’s also near complete collapse of any sort of church discipline. What Trump is in trouble for is a crime of regard. He is a contractualist boasting about the fact that his wealth and power (and in his deranged opinion good looks) affords him a strong bargaining position to get what he wants. He is proven right by the three marriages. If Trump were single I can’t imagine any church discipline upon him if he associated with a church. It is simply not there. The practical posture of the church is an unwillingness to police someone’s private life regardless of all the talk that gets thrown into the current debate over “well you pick on sexual sin but you don’t pick on greed”. . Donald is king of both but of course church membership has also succumbed to the contractual, consumer ethos. People negotiate with churches like they negotiate with potential sexual partners where a version of status whether that be money, fame, attraction, determines the kind of deal you can cut and the kind of treatment you will expect.

While Trump is an ass and Jason is dead on in his analysis what is not undermined is the reality that status determines opportunity. The much proclaimed equality that is our supposed cherished ideal is a farce. The only difference between Donald, Bill and the proverbial “dirty old man” is that they have the status to get what they want. Caitlyn has the chops to be celebrated with awards but most of the trans-women I see of her age look pathetic. You are celebrated for what you can pull off.

There is no question in my mind that the culture war will polarize our institutions. Jesus of course in his culture war kept resisting that towards a third way, a way that Bill sees InterVarsity sees itself as unable to resist because of legal means. We may once again be given strong lessons in Jesus’ adage “you can’t serve God and mammon”. pvk

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Culture commentary, Saved CRCVoices Posts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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