Wednesday, September 2, 2015

After Ashley Madison, Lots of Talk about Mercy: Men, Women, Gays (and Kim Davis), and the Strangely Disappearing Mercy Seat of the Christian Churches

I told you, didn't I, only a day or so ago that the reason godly Christian heterosexual men are succumbing to sexual temptation right now is that their women have bitten the alluring but tainted apple of uppity feminism and are no longer servicing them? And the gays: if it's about uppity women, it has to be about the gays, too, doesn't it? Those two — uppity gals and the gays — go together like tea and biscuits or hats and horse races.


Men — straight ones — have been appointed to be the moral bulwark of society, its thin blue line protecting all the rest of us weaker sorts from the sexual loucheness that our feeble postlapsarian nature craves, when we don't have some strong, upright force (read: straight men) restraining us and keeping sin at bay. Let the gays get into the mix, let them demand "rights," and Things Fall Apart.

Straight men start falling. 

As Fred Clark points out yesterday, that journalistic bastion of straight, upright American Christian (Protestant) values Christianity Today has been positively obsessed with sex of late. Now that the gays are out of the closet and marrying . . . .

Causing the straights — straight men, our thin blue line against moral annihilation — to plummet. Take the story of the "retirement" of the president of North Greenville College, a Southern Baptist two-year institution in South Carolina, earlier this year, several months after his son posted a video of his father on YouTube exposing an affair his father was having with a female staff member. 

Do you want to know what made this godly man succumb to temptation, and what's making godly men like him throughout America fall into sexual sin? It's the gays. And Goshen College. Which the Christianity Today article blames for this man's fall in what Fred Clark calls an "odd appendix," a complete non sequitur to its story about this college president, noting that Goshen and its sister school Eastern Mennonite are now refusing to discriminate against married same-sex couples.

And so of course godly men at other Christian institutions are kicking over the traces and having affairs. Why on earth would they not do so, when the gays can marry and flaunt their sassy married selves before God and everyone, at Christian institutions, with impunity?

Fred Clark:

This is why, as social conservatives have been telling us for decades now, same-sex marriage can't be thought of as a simple matter of live-and-let-live equality under the law — something that neither picks our pockets nor breaks our legs. Here is the evidence that same-sex marriage threatens to destroy every existing Christian marriage between one man and one woman. This poor college president was innocently going about his good Christian life there at North Greenville when suddenly he was swept away by the powerful current created by those same-sex marriage condoning Anabaptist liberals. They put his marriage up for "debate," you see, and now his marriage has been destroyed and it's all their fault.

And you know who else the gays (but perhaps not Goshen College) have made to stumble? Godly women who submit to the headship of their godly Christian husbands as the church submits to Christ, women like Kim Davis in Kentucky. Who's defending the sanctity of marriage against the gays after having been divorced in 1994, 2006, and 2008 . . . . Divorced three times and all of this:

She gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second. Davis worked at the clerk's office at the time of each divorce and has since remarried.

Which, as Dan Savage observes, would not be any of our business or the slightest concern to any of us, except that she and her legal advisor Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel have chosen to play the "biblical" and "sinful" cards against gay folks seeking to marry after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed their right to do so:

Kim Davis gave herself to Jesus and then Jesus sent Kim Davis a big bottle of magic Windex that allows Kim Davis to wipe her soul clean over and over again. Fornication, adultery, divorce, remarriage—all wiped clean away! And we shouldn't even be talking about Kim Davis's four marriages and three divorces because she has the magic Windex and that makes it all totally not relevant to the issue at hand—you know, those gay sinners over there. 
Um, no. Sorry, Mat Staver, but Kim Davis made "biblical" and "sinful" relevant when she refused to do her job because her bible supposedly says this about same-sex couples and her bible says that about county clerks.

I'm hearing a lot of late about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. In the wake of the Ashley Madison revelations, which have ensnared a horde of married straight men seeking extramarital flings, I'm hearing a great deal about our obligation to forgive, understand, and extend mercy. My own Catholic bishop has just released a statement encouraging his flock to pray for the poor sinners caught up in the Ashley Madison scandal, who are, as he indicates, "people of all walks of life, including members of the clergy, Church employees and volunteers in our parishes." The bishop's appeal to his flock concludes with the following injunction: "Knowing our own weakness and sinfulness, let us treat all involved with the same love and compassion that Jesus extended to sinners and those wounded by the sins of others."

This is all, of course, wonderful. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are what the gospel is all about. They are the very core of the gospel.

But you know what's strange? I can't recall having heard similar appeals for us to treat other sinners with Jesus-emulating love and compassion from the lips of those now uttering appeals to us to forgive and understand, as heterosexual men shuffle onto center stage in our cultural dramas about sin and redemption. As long as the subject has been the gays, there's been a strange dearth — from these very same lips now speaking so unctuously of our need to forgive, understand, and love — of talk about grace and mercy. In many cases, those same lips now talking about grace and mercy for straight men who have fallen have previously spoken out loudly at rallies defending "religious liberty," whose primary purpose is to strip gay people of rights afforded to all other citizens — a completely unmerciful and ungracious response to those who are gay.

And isn't that remarkable? It's almost as if the mercy seat of the Christian churches vanishes and then reappears depending on what kind of sinner happens to be approaching it, isn't it?

The graphic is Doris Ulman's "The Mourner's Bench" (1929-1930), from the Howard University Collection.

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