"I came here to build a bridge."
With human identity now up for grabs and the legal and cultural nastiness surrounding such issues escalating at a disturbing pace, churches need to be prepared for what is coming.
There are three areas, related but distinct, which pastors and church people need to be aware of: the particular reasons why the issues have taken on the form and the cultural significance which they have (yes, we all know sin is responsible – but why this sin at this time in these specific ways?); the pastoral needs of those individuals subject to the kinds of sexual dysfunction being cultivated in the moral imagination of society as a whole; and the immediate and long-term legal ramifications for religious conservatives who object to the new amorality.
Confusion of the first two in particular is lethal. We must not mistake the sincere agony and lonely battles of the individuals we pastor as they seek to pursue godliness with the political culture that now reigns supreme. The latter seeks nothing less than total and thoroughgoing conformity to its amorality as a price for membership of civil society, no exceptions allowed. We cannot be sentimental about the ideology even as we must have compassion with those who fight their temptations every day. We must also be aware of how fast the law could be changing. In a week when a CNN poll indicated a majority of Americans opposed to the North Carolina ‘bathroom bill,’ we cannot assume that the plausibility framework for legal decisions will be remotely sympathetic to what – to quote Tony Esolen on the same point for the second time this week – ‘everybody believed the day before yesterday.'
In this context, some may be interested in a conference on June 8 in Bear, Delaware, sponsored by the OPC, where these three topics – the cultural, the legal, and the pastoral -- will be addressed. Speakers are myself, Randy Beck (Justice Thomas O. Marshall Chair of Constitutional Law, University of Georgia School of Law) and Tim Geiger (Executive Director of Harvest USA). The subsequent panel discussion will be chaired by Jennifer A Marshall, Vice President for Family, Community, and Opportunity and Fellow of the Heritage Foundation.
On a point of personal reflection, I find myself now in a strange position, reading, writing and speaking more on this topic than on that which I was trained to do -- sixteenth and seventeenth century history. But historical analysis is a transferable skill, to use the jargon, and these are strange times. The question, ‘If not us, then who?’ is also powerful when we face such potent socially and morally lethal developments.
It reminds me of a scene in one of my favourite films, Zulu, both for the humanly-speaking incalculable odds against us winning and for the way the permanent sexual revolution has made some of us change tack in mid-life to meet the needs of the day, a change forced upon us and not really chosen.
After the bloody battle between the massed army of the Zulu nation and the handful of British troops under siege in the mission station at Rorke’s Drift, Michael Caine’s character, Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, turns to Lieutenant Chard, played by Stanley Baker:
Bromhead: There's something else. I feel ashamed. Was that how it was for you? The first time?
Chard: The first time? You think I could stand this butcher's yard more than once.
Bromhead: I didn't know.
Chard: I came up here to build a bridge.
It turns out Chard was just what he said he was -- an engineer with no previous battle experience and no desire for any.
When it comes to surveying the carnage in this battle for human identity, I came up here to teach church history.