Spiritual Warfare, Among Other Things

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd speaks to the faithful in Columbus, Ohio, June 16, 2015. Floyd exhorted members to stand united against same-sex marriage and vows that he will never officiate a same-sex union. (Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

We may or may not have mentioned before something about bigots, victimhood, and insurrection.α

If I told you we could add the Southern Baptist Convention to the list, would you really be surprised?

Or, as Craig Schneider of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:

Declaring “spiritual warfare” on gay marriage, thousands gathered here Tuesday for the annual Southern Baptist Convention and vowed that, no matter what the Supreme Court rules this month, they will never yield on the issue.

The Baptists acknowledged that the court seems likely to legalize same-sex marriage when it rules in the next two weeks, but leaders urged the faithful to stand fast and, indeed, lead the nation in opposition.

“We are in spiritual warfare,” said convention president Rev. Ronnie Floyd. “This is not a time for Southern Baptists to stand back.”

Floyd echoed a generally defiant tone among attendees, many of them pastors, who have faced increasing criticism for their belief that the Bible declares homosexuality a sin and limits marriage to a man and a woman. At a time when society is increasingly tolerant of same-sex unions, he said, Southern Baptists must stand by their views.

“This is not the time to retreat,” said Floyd, who leads Cross Church in Arkansas. “The alarm clock is going off around the world. Now is not the time to hit the snooze button.”

And it goes on. Fuel to the “wildfire of sexual revolution” that would “move it beyond all control”. At least Dr. Floyd is honest about the connection between sexuality and control. But this is also an attempt by Southern Baptists to paint themselves as victims of gross injustice:

Many of their congregants, sensing the shifting cultural climate on gay marriage, feel defensive and afraid to publicly state their views, wary of being cast as bigots or hate-mongers.

“We understand how fully unpopular our view is, and where the culture is on this issue,” said the Rev. Bryant Wright of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in East Cobb and a former convention president. “But we must stay true to God’s word.”

Wright acknowledged the difficulty of communicating that church members are not hateful or discriminatory against gays and lesbians, though Baptists do believe they are sinners. He noted that he preaches to teens who have sex outside of marriage, people who divorce, and those who commit adultery. He loves them and hopes they find their way, he said.

Let us be clear: When you are calling for warfare of any kind, spiritual or otherwise, in response to the fact that other people have human rights, there is not really any useful way to slip the question of bigotry; nor do people believe the claim that you are not hateful or discriminatory.

Really, that part seems pretty self-evident.

What we really should attend, though, is the posture of victimhood. Lila Shapiro of Huffington Post managed to snag some time with Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:

We’re on the verge of a major ruling from the Supreme Court that many anticipate will legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. What are you predicting for this ruling?

Well, I’ve been predicting for years that the court is hell-bent on imposing same-sex marriage on all 50 states. So that’s what I’m expecting the court to do. I’ve been surprised before, and I hope I’m surprised again, but I doubt it.

No, really. No poseur victimhood there, right? Indeed, if we read closely enough, we find that the real villains here are women:

I believe the sexual revolution can’t keep its promises. I’m preparing our churches to receive the refugees from the sexual revolution. For those who ask ‘What is there other than this?’ I said this week at the meeting, there are two kinds of people who won’t be able to minister to those refugees. One is the kind of person who has been screaming in anger at those who disagree with us. The other kind is the person who has given up the Gospel and the biblical view about marriage. So we have to stand with conviction and with kindness at the same time.

I think there are cultural factors unleashed in the 1960s that have been working their way out over the past 40 or 50 years in a way that I’m not sure what would have made things different.

I think having an explanation of our theology from the very beginning, in rich, robust terms, would have been the right way to go. Many people are just ignorant of what Christians and Mormons and Orthodox Jews and Muslims believe about marriage. So for instance, when someone would say ‘Well, Christians are just going to have to get over this’ — Christians can’t get over this. It was the same argument used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries about miracles. ‘Well, in order to reach contemporary people, Christians will just have to get over virgin births and empty tombs.’ But Christians can’t just get rid of the miraculous without getting rid of Christianity. And the same thing is true of sexual ethics.

It’s always about women, isn’t it?

At its core, there are two factors driving the conservative tantrum:

• Equality is a step up for most, but a step down for the privileged.

• Ownership culture is under dire threat.

It is true that evangelical Christians are losing something in the Gay Fray. But the sleight they perceive as persecution is, functionally speaking, supremacy under the law. The Supreme Court took pains to honor this supremacy in Bowers; absent that supremacist lever, we ended up with Lawrence. This is how it goes. Equality between people does not mean everyone else is subject to Christian approval.

But ownership culture itself is something else. It exists in every assertion of civilized society, and where it intersects with sex and sexuality, the results are predictable.

We might suggest there are reasons certain sectors of the social conservative society are rupturing right now; no aspect of this paradigm can withstand proper scrutiny under just light. But it is the element that ties the Sexual Revolution to the Gay Fray. If we go back to a sometimes-recalled Golden Age, that of the Cleavers, or Ozzie and Harriet, it is important to remember that even these notions were considered corrupting of marriage; romantic marriage itself is of recent vintage. And underlying the whole question of sex and sexuality through these decades, from romantic marriage on through the Pill, careers, abortion, marital rape, rape in general, Infinite Prevention Advocacy (a.k.a. Guardians of Female Chastity), abortion, health insurance, birth control again, homosexuality, transgenderism, and even a defense of child molestation such as we have witnessed in recent weeks, is the question of Woman.

Social conservatives have been losing for decades, and redoubling their efforts. A bunch of closet cases poring over the sex lives of gay people in order to make up propaganda? Yeah, of course they were going to end up snorting meth from a gay hooker’s ass, or getting arrested in airport bathrooms, or soliciting themselves to cops in public park restrooms, or, you know, getting caught traveling with rentboys to lift their luggage. Or paying off the victims of their former predation.

And, you know, this television family. Think of the purity balls, where men drive across states with their young daughters to hole up in hotel rooms, attend a dance, and pledge to control their sex lives.

What happened in that television family is a direct result of this sort of ownership culture. Imagine the purity balls cranked up to eleven, with code words to look at your shoes in case someone dressed unsatisfactorily passes on the street. Listen to the molester blame his own mother, because, you know, she just doesn’t understand men.

For same-sex couples, what the Supreme Court is about to do leads to a better way of life. For the evangelical Christians, this isn’t just a loss of customary privilege, it is another vital blow to their way of life. The massive sex fantasy that is our most prominent iteration of ownership culture is in danger of implosion. They’re losing on nearly every front, and barely holding the line on birth control and reproductive health services. Their push for more attention and influence has brought scrutiny sufficient to shake the very foundations of their cultural structure. The raping spectre of ownership culture is as exposed to daylight as it has ever been.

Is Mr. Moore, then, desperately trying to lash another social issue onto the raft in hopes of keeping it afloat? Or is this perhaps really about keeping a societal order of dominance over women? Is this really about, as Judith Butler once put it, “safeguarding the family as the unregulated sexual property of the father”?

As Dr. Floyd and Mr. Moore rage about a loss of control, it is worth considering just what control they mean. Practically speaking, this is apparently all about the fact that women are not sexually subservient.

We could have guessed, sure. But yes, there would seem to be a reason the Gay Fray is where they’re drawing the line, and threatening war.


Image note: Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd speaks to the faithful in Columbus, Ohio, June 16, 2015. Floyd exhorted members to stand united against same-sex marriage and vows that he will never officiate a same-sex union. (Eric Albrecht/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

α Dr. James Dobson? How about Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX01)? Maybe Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)? Rick Santorum is also running for president. And, you know, Michele Bachmann ran for president four years ago. Anyone remember Sharron Angle? Don’t forget Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who carries her nine in order to stop the evil government she is a part of. Oh, right; two words: Pat Robertson. So, you know … we all clear on this part?

Schneider, Craig. “Baptists declare ‘spiritual warfare’ over gay marriage”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 16 June 2015.

Shapiro, Lila. “Russell Moore Still Thinks The Religious Right Will Win The Fight Over Gay Marriage”. The Huffington Post. 20 June 2015.

Damon, Anjeanette and David McGrath Schwartz. “Armed revolt part of Sharron Angle’s rhetoric”. Las Vegas Sun. 17 June 2010.

Benen, Steve. “Second Amendment remedies, 2014 style”. msnbc. 23 October 2014.

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