Sanctified Obliviousness & More on “Gay Culture”

Grateful for all the comments and questions surrounding my post yesterday on “gay culture.” I think this is an important discussion we need to have and so I’m very grateful for the discussion. I’ve tried to answer several of the recurring questions in a couple of places already, but I may be missing some and want to try to give some general answers and pose a few additional questions here. One quick aside before diving in: I saw at least one conjectured question on the interwebs about whether the post was a response to something specific, and the answer is no. It was a post in response to the general situation we all find ourselves in.

Ok, so first of all, please note that one of my driving concerns in all of this is actually loving people who are tempted by homosexual perversion. This means listening to what homosexuals are saying, reading what they are writing. What do they mean by what they are doing? Why are they doing what they are doing? Of course, that does not mean that we hand the reins of civilization over to them. On the contrary, we are Christians, we have been given the task of taking dominion of the earth, filling it with goodness, and making it fruitful in every way. The task of discipling the nations is clear: we are to teach the nations to obey everything Jesus has commanded. But in order to do that good work of evangelism and discipleship, we must be good students of the world. And that means (in part) that we must be wise and careful students of sinners. This of course must begin in our own hearts. We must take the log out of our own eye first. We must confess our own sins first. And to be clear: that is what we as Christians must do with the sins of effeminacy and sodomy (and adultery and fornication and pornography). We are currently losing the culture war on these subjects because our eyes are full of logs. We can’t see clearly to remove any specks. But our hope and goal and prayer should be to get there. The reason God calls homosexual perversion an abomination is because it is a form of social terrorism. It’s not merely that God doesn’t like it; God hates it because of how it destroys people, families, communities, and cultures. The reason the Christian Church must cultivate a righteous anger toward this sin is because it ushers in deep confusions, massive physical and emotional scars, and leaves trails of sorrow in its wake. In our task of taking dominion and making the world fruitful in every way, sexual perversion is one of the great weeds of fruitlessness that we are commanded to uproot, beginning in our own hearts and families and churches.

Second, as I noted in my original post, there is much to be said about Bryan Lowder’s article. And that means that there is much to be said that I didn’t mention in my summary. Remember, we are Christians, and I don’t mean this in any kind of backhanded, condescending way, but that means we worship the triune God, Jesus Christ the God-man, who rules all things by the word of His power, establishing the freedom of all things to be what they were made to be. My point is that in those three brief phrases, I summarized the great and central glories of the Christian faith which hold together certain bedrock truths that no man can do the math for. I can’t do the math on the Trinity, the incarnation, or the exhaustive sovereignty of God. This doesn’t mean that truth is squishy or bendable. But it staunchly insists that two (or more) truths may exist side by side so long as there is no actual contradiction. We do not believe that God is three in one way and one in exactly the same way. That would be a contradiction. Likewise, orthodox claims about the incarnation and the sovereignty of God. So Bryan Lowder’s claim that “Gayness begins in the practice of paying attention, deeply and with great skill…” is (and should be) subject to close scrutiny. This doesn’t mean that “gay culture” therefore has a corner on the market of paying attention to details. Neither does it mean that all “paying attention” is gay. Nor does it mean that every “cultural indicator” assimilated by “gay culture” is off limits to thoughtful Christians — Ken Ham’s masterful use of the rainbow to light up his Ark Encounter would be a recent example of such cunning. As I noted in the original post: the earth is the Lord’s. It doesn’t belong to Oscar Wilde, Byran Lowder, and certainly not the Devil. My point was and remains the concern that Christians can “foolishly, naively, and sinfully opt in to gay culture.” If a colony of Muslims moved to town and began buying up land and prohibiting the sale of pork products on those properties, it’s foolish and naive to think there’s nothing to think about or concern yourself with. And I’m not saying that everyone should light their hair on fire and run around in the streets in panic if such a thing happened. The point is merely that a culture has gravity. It has a telos, a goal, an eschatology. It’s taking you and your children (and grand children) somewhere. Where is it taking us? If a new “culture” comes to town self-styled as “gay culture,” Christians should want to understand what it is: what are its goals, where is it going? And if the proponents of this “gay culture” are self-consciously cultivating certain “overzealous” obsessions with details and nuance and self-presentation, it seems very worthwhile to ask questions about that. Could Christians be tempted to that in any way?

Lastly for now, I don’t believe and didn’t say that all care for detail or nuance is gay or effeminate. As one friend pointed out, the military gives a great deal of attention to the details of warfare, including the uniforms of soldiers. What I pointed out is that there are various temptations for Christians to obsess over details at the expense of faithfulness. A soldier shining his shoes back in the bunker while a war wages in the field cannot excuse himself by saying that his senior officer takes shoe shining really seriously. No, he’s obsessing over details in order to disobey other commands. Usually we recognize that as straight up cowardice, but when that man assiduously cultivates an entire lifestyle of that sort of thing, we call it “gay” and celebrate it with flags and parades. That’s why I gave several examples of “overzealous” preoccupation with details in order to avoid fighting sin, the flesh, and the Devil. This is why I would argue that the foundational difference between godly masculine care for details and effeminate flamer culture is the difference between courage and cowardice. David was a warrior and a poet and a musician and a man after God’s own heart. I also don’t mind pointing out that he also had a very close friendship with Jonathan that Scripture only commends and leaves no hint of indecency. Scripture, we may point out, is not bashful about recounting the sexual sins of many of its heroes (including David), and therefore we have absolutely no reason to doubt that Samuel would have told us of such a thing. So then David was a trained military man, trained in the nuances (!) of hand to hand combat, commanding large armies, as well as a man of letters and the arts. But it’s not helpful to anyone to just throw David out as a counter-example and dismiss Bryan Lowder and Michel Foucault and company. Neither will it do to ignore the number of times Scripture refers to cowardly men running from battle as acting like women. That means something, and when the Bible says that “soft men” [Gk. malakoi] will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9), we need to do our homework and make sure we know what that means. That same word is used by Jesus asking the Jews about the kind of man John the Baptizer was — was he a man in “soft” clothing? Was he a soft man? Soft men live in kings palaces. They live decadent lives, full of delicacies, pleasures, concerned with the texture of their sheets. John was not a soft man; he was a faithful man, a courageous man, a bold man. And I have no doubt that he honored his mom and dad, he was gentle with children, and (despite his appearances) was not rude to his neighbors. So what’s the difference between gay obsession over details and godly masculine care for details? What is this “sanctified obliviousness” that I spoke of?

I gestured in the direction I meant by referencing Christ’s own single-minded devotion to His duty. He fixed His eyes on the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:1-2). He could not be bothered by the detractors, by the accusers, by the fussers and whiners, and most of all by the pain, by the crushing agony, by the shame of a wrongful death for sinners. How many details did Jesus have to ignore to be faithful to His Father? So many. Too many. For all the articles going around about living in an “age of distraction” with the Facebooks and Instragrams and Twitters and Blogs of the Earth, you’d think we’d be starting to understand this. Shall I help my wife with the dishes or scroll on Twitter for another three hours? Shall I hide in the bathroom and flip through Instagram or will I go out and play with my children? Will I banter on the Facebooks with my buddies or will I do the job I’m being paid by my employer to do? Will I study clothing and shoes and hair styles or confront sin in my own heart, in my children, in my workplace, in my community? Now, of course, none of these are exhaustively mutually exclusive. We can enjoy friends online and fight sin in our hearts. We can keep up with family around the globe and be diligent in our labors in our homes, at work, at school. The point is about prioritization and creational design. First, prioritization means leaving many details and nuances to the side because there aren’t enough hours in the day. You are a man made to take responsibility for those around you, to fight sin, the flesh, and the Devil, wherever you go, with a single-minded affection for Christ, His Kingdom, and His mission. Sanctified obliviousness cannot be bothered or distracted from the mission of God, the duties He lays before us, and the needs right in front of us. If your duty before God is to refinish pianos, and you work hard in that task and provide for your family and confess your sins and rebuke the sins of those around you, then you most certainly do care about certain details and nuances and you are a godly badass. But cowards hide in the stacks of nuances, never arriving at conclusions because that might require action, combat, defense, confession, sweat, blood, tears, forgiveness. Cowards hide in the details so as to not come into contact with anything solid or heavy. And this is because cowards are self-obsessed and vain. They think only or mostly of themselves, how they look, whether they seem sophisticated to the right crowds, and they spend time in the mirrors of the Facebooks and the Selfies and the prancing fashion shows of modern academia and theology. But real men live by faith. Real men lay their lives down. Real mean fight sin. Real men don’t have time for many, many things because they have a Savior to serve, sin to fight, a wife to love, children to raise, and a job to do. And death is coming soon.

And I’ll probably have to have another follow up post on the creational reality bit, but I’ll lob it out here for now. And that is: despite all the liabilities (and there are many) of trying to pin down masculinity and femininity in universal statements, there is something in the masculine makeup that tends to be focused and single-minded in general. And there is something in the feminine makeup that tends to be multifaceted and multitasking. This is why when you ask a man what he’s thinking about it’s either nothing or one thing. (Really). And when you ask a woman what she’s thinking about it’s somewhere between 50 and a gazillion things all at once. This is good and glorious. And this is why women can rightly give attention and care to details in a way that men simply can’t (at least not as well). For a man to give a great deal of attention to detail, he must simultaneously do nothing else worthwhile. This is good and glorious for him so long as that single-minded focus is directed toward the duties and responsibilities God has given him. But it is shamefully effeminate for a man to obsess with details and nuance that directly or indirectly cause him to hide from, deflect, ignore, or abdicate his duties. But a woman can bathe and dress her children, organize the pantry, do her makeup, place several orders off of Amazon, run out to the gym, call the plumber, rearranged the living room, and all before breakfast. And glory to God for that.

  1. Elizabeth August 9

    Really men can only think of one thing or nothing? Funny. I’m curious about gay men and Transgender man who lives in my family’s neighborhood. He has boobs! And painted red toes! And he’s all dolled up! I do believe this perversion is an insult to woman,and a discouragement for men….when people act like the emperor has clothes on …it’s disheartening for the christian..when our culture accepts it. This guy walks around everyday with his small dog on a leash….it seems he lives through a female vicariously….these men choose a real female they identify with and then become that particular choosing an avatar!!!

    Thank you for this thought provoking post…

  2. Will August 9

    Not sure your use of malakos when referring to John the Baptist is actually a parallel usage of the word. The use of malakos in Matthew 11:8 was an adjective and clothing was the object. We all know that malakos can refer to something just being soft. But Jesus did not say, “Do you go out to see an effeminate man?” he said, “Did you go out to see a man in soft clothing?” Those are two very different things with very different meanings. Jesus was clearly alluding to Herod Antipas in Matthew 11 (a reed was the symbol Herod used on his coins and royalty were the only ones that could afford soft clothes). His reference had nothing to do with effeminacy.

    But when Paul uses malakos in 1 Cor 6, there is a completely different connotation. There he lumps it with homosexuality (and other sexual sins) which means that we should use the second definition of the word malakos which is essentially the feminine side of a homosexual relationship. In other words, Paul is saying that one should not be in homosexual relationships either as the “giver” or the “reciever”. Roman culture generally condoned a man being the dominate partner in a homosexual relationship. Paul is saying you should not be on either side of that relationship (as the giver or the taker).

    As I commented on the other post, I do think we can expand the application a little beyond homosexual behavior proper (perhaps to include cross dressing and very girly behavior) but not too far.

    Vanity, weakness of character, cowardice, etc are all sins just not the sin of malakos.

    • Hi Will, thanks for the comments here and on the other post. The Bible says that when men are weak and cowardly they are acting like women (e.g. Jer. 50:37, 51:30). That’s the connection to “girly behavior” and malakos. I hope to write more on this soon. Blessings,

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