Friday, November 18, 2022

Too Hot to Handle: A Cautionary Tale

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

A recent article in Global Orthodox reveals Russian society and government are increasingly rejecting Western liberal ideology. One example: the Lower Chamber of Russian Parliament unanimously passed a bill banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations or preferences among Russian citizens of all ages on its first reading.

Tom: Thinking of moving to Russia anytime soon, IC?

Immanuel Can: Can I bring my snowblower?

LGBT Propaganda as War

Tom: You’ll need it, especially in Irkutsk. But here’s an illuminating quote from Vice Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy about what makes this issue so crucial for Russians. They view it as part of their ongoing war with the West:

“There is a phrase ‘hybrid warfare’, which we use all the time. This means that the battle is fought not in the battlefield alone, but also in the economic sphere, in the information space. There is a serious fight for the hearts and minds of our young people going on at this moment. So, even if you win in the battlefield, you can lose the battle for future generations.

LGBT propaganda is a weapon of attack on our foundations, values and traditions, a silent and cold-blooded killer that destroys souls.”

Powerful stuff. Combine that with this tweet about last Tuesday’s US election shared by Antemodernist:

So then, basically, American teens and twenty-somethings have become a legion of mindless Democrat robo-voters: pro-abortion, pro-LGBTQ, open borders, anti-police, etc., etc. Americans will not be voting their way out of the mess they are in, even if the Republican Party offered a genuine alternative. That suggests Tolstoy may be on to something.

The Future of Humanity

Here is Tolstoy again:

“Russia is now becoming a world outpost in the struggle against the spread of godlessness, obscurantism and perversion. We are fighting for the future of humanity in which a child should have a Mother and a Father, not parent #1 and parent #2; a future in which a boy born as a boy, grows into a man, not into a lady with bright make-up.”

Leaving aside the rah-rah Russian patriotism, is there something to what he’s saying here?

IC: There’s so much to say about this, actually. Who knew we’d start talking about the Bible and end up talking Tolstoy?

Where do we start, Tom?

Tom: Here’s where I’m at. We are used to a paradigm in which Russia is the Big Bad and the US, for all its faults, is the good guy trying to bring civilization and democratic government to the rest of the world. That’s what I grew up with and believed well into my fifties. The Russians were godless commies looking to destroy everything I thought was holy. The neocons in America were just trying to fix a crazy world as best they could. God bless ’em when they bombed yet another Arab state to ashes in the process, killing countless innocent children.

Today, I’m not so sure. I don’t think other Christians should be overconfident in their presuppositions either, especially when those assumptions came from decades of propagandizing by the mainstream US media.

Identity Blurring and Social Degradation

IC: Back to the Word, I guess. What does it say about what people today call “homosexuality”?

An aside: I hate that weasel word, “homo-sexual”. It carries with it the assumption that the activities entailed are sexual, hence normal and a legitimate alternative to heterosexuality. Given scripture, even that is far too much to grant. What scripture calls that is an abomination, as I recall. But it’s hard to know what to call that particular practice. “Sodomy” it is, so we might say “sodomites” … but that also whitewashes its whole host of other deviant activities. What it is not is an alternative to godly sexual morality. It is not an identity, a lifestyle, a community or an alternative: it is a sin. The Word is very clear on that. However, it seems we are not.

Tom: No, we are very fuzzy on that, unfortunately. Thanks for the scriptural clarity. You hate to say the Russian is right, but in this respect we have nothing to teach them. As nations in the West, we have been abominably wicked. Tolstoy again:

“They opted for beautiful slogans about tolerance and freedom, and turned away from God and His commandments, they gave up their own interests, they gave up traditional family values and accepted homosexual marriage. All this led to the blurring of European national identity and social degradation.”

How do you argue with that? The West has literally given up its own interests, its own children, its own future. So, okay, we don’t like Putin and we don’t like what we are told by our media is his aggressiveness against the poor people of the Ukraine. Fair enough. But do we have any kind of moral high ground to stand on here? I don’t think we do. Why should anybody in Russia listen to what the West has to say today? This is not the Cold War anymore.

Who Is On God’s Side?

IC, where is God in all this?

IC: Well, it’s interesting how willing the various leaders of secular nations are to claim that God is on their side.

Tom: Ain’t that the truth.

IC: The Germans famously claimed it as they marched into battle with “Gott mit uns” (God with us) emblazoned on their belt buckles and buttons. Earlier, the Swedes and the Prussians used the same slogan. The Americans claim to be “one nation under God”, and put “in God we trust” on their money. The Canadians once claimed to be God’s “dominion” and inscribed the Latin “A Mari usque ad Mare” (from sea to sea) as their official motto, repeating the claims of Psalm 72:8. And in England they proudly sing “God Save the King” as their national anthem. What does all that really mean?

I don’t see any scriptural warrant at all for saying the Russians are privileged in their relationship with God. Nor would I see any reason to believe that America or the UK is privileged in that way. Would you, Tom?

Tom: Not in the slightest. God is on God’s side, as he was in the days of Joshua. Not coincidentally, I’ve been reading in Jeremiah about the last days of Judah prior to the Babylonian exile. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was God’s chosen instrument to discipline the Jews. God told Jeremiah he had even given the beasts of the field into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, to serve him. Jeremiah knew it, and said it. Nobody else seemed to understand it, because the Chaldeans were wicked pagans. So the Jews nearly killed Jeremiah for constantly repeating the truth that God was, at least temporarily, on the side of the “bad guys”.

IC: You’re speaking of the only Gentile Old Testament author, if we can take Daniel chapter 4 at Daniel’s word.

Tom: Right. But, no, I don’t believe for a second God is on America’s side at the moment. 64 million abortions since 1973? Russia has been bad for that too, but in 2020 they were down to just over half a million from over four times that many in 2000. So they are maybe starting to wake up, or else running out of babies to murder. At very least, I can’t see much reason to prefer America to Russia at the moment. Most of the “freedoms” America purports to enjoy — at least the ones that are not outright lies — are abuses God hates and is in the process of curtailing, and those that are not are in the process of being eroded or defined away.

A Squandered Blessing

IC: Yes. Well, where does this leave us, Tom?

Tom: Incidentally, I see no evidence that God is on Russia’s side at the moment either. I will say some of the things Pyotr Tolstoy is saying are good for Russia are compatible with Christian values. And if you want God on your side, one of the necessary steps in that process is to start valuing the things he values.

IC: Absolutely. A nation can be blessed and sustained by obedience to God’s principles and by the presence of a significant number of Christians among them. That was the blessing that both Britain and America once enjoyed. But all of that they are now squandering for promiscuity, experimentation, greed, false virtues and the unbridled will to power.

Tom, it’s not safe or wise for Christians to pick a side and back it here, is it? Something more circumspect, something that depends on different terms than the world knows, and that invokes a totally different way of thinking is called for, is it not?

Tom: I don’t believe the church was called to disciple the nations, like some do. I certainly don’t think we are called to pick sides between nations. But I do believe we were called to disciple individuals, to teach them to lead transformed lives as worshipers of God and faithful servants of Christ. Obviously, we haven’t been doing anywhere near enough of that, because our Western societies are desperately sick. The neoliberal world order we live in has failed catastrophically. Financially, we are a mess, and about to get worse. Politically, we’re not even sure we’re getting the leaders we have voted for. Morally, we are a disaster. We need to acknowledge that on our knees. A rebuke like Tolstoy’s should drive us to repentance and serious, committed prayer for our own nations.

IC: I think it would really shock a lot of Americans, in particular — Canadians and Brits are mostly secular now and don’t pretend otherwise; if anything they are ahead of Americans in moral bankruptcy — to think that other nations, particularly “godless” ones like Russia, do not look at them today as the famed “beacon on a hill” or “grand experiment in freedom” that they are taught in public school to think they are, but rather as a place falling into ruin — primarily in its moral condition. The world has not looked to the US as a moral exemplar of anything for quite some time, but now, I find, most nations seem to look at the US as a demonstration of how arrogance, self-confidence, callousness and licentiousness can drive a whole nation into a moral ditch.

Tom: From city on a hill to cautionary tale.

IC: I take no delight in that. I wish it were otherwise. But the truth is, that’s what’s happening. And I suspect that thoughtful evangelicals in the States realize that’s what’s going on too.

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