So there’s been another shooting. Well, that is to say, there’s been another shooting that the high priests of our land would like to use to make a point, probably several points, several sharp points in your back. There are shootings all over the world all the time. For example, over 300 people have already been shot in Chicago in 2019. This is not to make light of any of them, but simply to point out the fact that news is always selective. We don’t have time to report on, much less digest everything that happens in the world. So the news, such as it is, attempts to prioritize and select the most significant, the most important news. And in order to do this, they must have a standard to judge significance by and this is of necessity a moral ordering that shuffles and sifts the data of each day. You cannot judge what is good, bad, horrific, or monumental from a place of neutrality. Of course to honestly report on a news story, there ought to be impartiality to facts, honesty about the truth, and so on, but that commitment is itself a moral commitment to a certain standard of justice and honesty, goodness and evil. In other words, editorial decisions are always and necessarily religious in nature. There be gods in the headlines and their clerics write and chatter enthusiastically.
So there’s been another shooting, this time in New Zealand. Two mosques were targeted by (apparently) a lone Australian gunman, leaving fifty people dead and another 35-40 wounded. And the prophets and priests arrive on the scene to deliver their homilies and sermons, pronouncing, denouncing, proclaiming, declaring, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. And this really is inescapable. We are people, human beings created in God’s image, and so we naturally want to understand. We hunger for meaning. This is a built in feature, not a bug, but in our attempts to explain, to connect the dots, to answer the question “why?” we reveal our moral and religious convictions, we pay homage to our gods.
Some immediately explained the catastrophe as driven by white nationalism, others describe the disease as xenophobia, Islamaphobia, and probably homophobia. Of course technically speaking a “phobia” is a mental disorder, and there are treatments for that, but I digress… Others blamed such disparate characters as Chelsea Clinton and Donald Trump (for different reasons, we presume). The term “eco fascist” and “eco terrorist” were also thrown about as possible explanations. And others wondered quietly or out loud, as the case may be, whether the violent history and celebration of jihad within the Muslim religion could have anything to do with the shooting. The New Zealand Prime Minister immediately announced that new, tougher, and stricter gun laws would be immediately in the works, and a number of the woke prophets fell on their faces and praised her holy name.
But just notice how the explanations come flying in. And depending on your convictions some of the explanations seem reasonable and others seem outrageous. Why do people do what they do? And more specifically, why do people go on murderous shooting sprees? What is a reasonable way of explaining the causation? But in order to answer that question you have to assume or believe in a certain theory of causation, an overarching worldview that generally explains what makes people tick. These beliefs, these material circumstances, or these moral offenses cause people to go on murderous rampages. In this case, the shooter apparently wrote down why he thought he was doing what he was doing, an 87 page manifesto, but even that we are told by some was a deliberate and ironic attempt at “trolling” the media. Is this an attempt to discredit the shooter’s own self-awareness? Regardless, the many memes and celebrities named in the shooter’s manifesto appear to be an attempt to discredit some, or else an attempt to invoke a public response, catapulting the shooter/shooting into even greater notoriety. While the shooter manifesto has apparently been scrubbed from the internet, initial reports said that the alleged shooter claimed he was an admirer of everyone from Maoist China to Candace Owens. Apparently he was not a big fan of Donald Trump or Environmentalism and certainly not Muslims.
The usual food fight breaks out with these events, some decrying guns, others denouncing “thoughts and prayers,” still others doubling down on “thoughts and prayers,” others talk of buying more guys, others blame politically correct immigration policy, the meritocracy, white privilege, and still others denounce all of the “politicization” of the shooting and insist that we simply mourn with those who mourn.
But the primary point I want to make here is the fact that this shooting was politicized from jump. According to Open Doors, an online Christian persecution data base, every month, an average of “255 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage, 66 churches are attacked, 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned.” An average of 66 Christian churches are attacked every month. For example, over 30 Christians were gunned down by Muslims in Nigeria just last Tuesday. In church. And the media said what? The point is not that the Muslim lives in New Zealand don’t matter, the point is the manifest hypocrisy. The point is that we are having an alien worldview, another religion shoved down our throats.
Some stories support certain narratives better than others. The leftist/socialist narrative is the evil of Christian civilization. Many have been taught that the Roman Empire was essentially drugged into the dark ages through the superstitions of Christianity. Illiterate monks and sexually repressed priests ran a racket on the rank and file of humanity for about a thousand years, keeping them in fear of eternal damnation while living in luxury and opulence — all in the name of God — all while suppressing the creative and inquisitive Galileos of the world. And then came the Crusades, wars in the name of God, violence against Muslims, raping and pillaging in the name of God. Then came the “wars of religion,” and the industrial revolution, the old racket “reformed” into a rapacious capitalistic spirituality, penance transformed into entrepreneurship, the coffer of indulgences transfigured into the coffer of indulgence. Many have been taught to believe that the Protestant Reformation was nothing more than a peasant revolt, a slave revolt, the have-nots plundering the haves, as the wealthy monasteries of England were pillaged by the conveniently Protestant nobility. And into this sad, superstitious greed-fest arose the enlightened and benevolent Nation State, the incarnation of the will of the people, pure democracy, the revolutionary humanistic spirit surging toward the eschatological vision of a marxist utopia.
On the other hand, Biblical Christianity affirms the goodness and inescapability of social hierarchy: fathers, husbands, pastors, magistrates, judges, nobles. Biblical Christianity affirms the goodness and necessity of fixed, transcendent law and morality. Biblical Christianity roots true liberty in the spiritual freedom won for us in the sacrifice of Christ — that because of man’s moral rebellion against his Maker, man is everywhere enslaved by sin and death, and that these chains forge societal chains: debt slavery, prison slavery, chattel slavery, statist slavery, and every form of violence and coercion — the slavery of death. And for this enslaved world Christ died on a Roman cross, a formal and public execution by the political and religious principalities and powers, in order to expose the utter bankruptcy of the wisdom of man and to display the wisdom and power of God in saving sinners.
The world hated God’s Christ then, and the wicked rulers paid the first witnesses of the resurrection to lie about what they had seen. The establishment hates the gospel of Christ because it reveals every man and woman to be a sinner, a self-righteous, self-seeking liar and tyrant. We dress up our immorality and call it social justice. We whitewash our tombs, and call ourselves woke. We keep the outside of our cups clean, but we are corpses and defiled, enslaved and enslaving. But when Christ was lifted up on the cross, He became sin for the sinful in order that sinners might be justified, washed clean, and set free. Justified, forgiven, and free men and women embrace their callings in this world, serving others gladly and sacrificially, confessing their sins, forgiving others, keeping their word, working hard, caring for those in need, but they do this as the free nobility of Christ. They do this out of gratitude not by coercion. They do it because they are compelled by love and grace and joy in Christ. They love God’s law and God’s world because they love the God who made them and saved them.
And because of all of this Biblical Christianity is essentially conservative — and I’m not talking about any particular policy or position or political party — I’m talking about a particular stance in this world: the goodness and necessity of Gospel Reformation as opposed to various strains of immediatism and coercive, violent revolution. The Kingdom of God is yeast leavening the loaf, a mustard seed growing into a great tree, a small stream growing into a swelling river flowing out to the ends of the earth — it is gloriously transformative, but its power surges from the reality of regeneration — God saving sinners and filling them with His Spirit by the proclamation of the gospel, the proclamation of Christ crucified for sinners, not political activism, not lever pulling, not elections, not protests, not brute force.
The fact that the world still hates this God, this gospel, this forgiveness, this freedom, this way of Reformation is a testimony to its potency. The world still hates this Christ and conspires together against the Lord and against His Christ because His Christ is the deathblow of all humanistic power. Some hate Christ and His gospel intentionally, consciously, overtly, but for many it is only instinctive, unconscious, a subtle hatred and repulsion in bits and pieces, largely unaware of how the dots actually connect. They hate our “thoughts and prayers” and maybe they don’t really understand why they do — it seems childish and sentimental, it’s a bunch of hocus pocus, but also because it largely represents what many have been educated to see as the very cause of all the unrest and violence.
So these are the major narratives, the worldviews, the major “religions” in conflict: statism vs. Christianity. Christianity teaches that sin is the root cause of all the violence and hatred. Statism teaches that “extremist” ideologies are the cause of the violence and hatred. Related to this is a thoroughgoing materialism — everything is reducible to matter, chemicals, possessions, money, guns, sex, power. And therefore more statist education, more social services, more gun control, and ever creeping restrictions on the “cause” of all the violence: Christianity. But Christianity thrives in trenches, thrives in the graveyard. As Chesterton said, “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”
Photo by Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash
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