Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mapping the Swamp: Sodom and Contagion

Rembrandt, Lot & His Daughters
In this series on Sodom we have been open about our interest in applying the lessons of this doomed city to our own time; hence the notion of Sodom as "chart" of interrelated sins, the notion of Sodom as a symptom of rebellion, the connection between Sodom and immigration, and the problem of Sodom's extreme justice--all the posts in the series have proceeded with confidence that Sodom holds wisdom that we must interpret for the benefit of our needs today. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mapping the Swamp: Why was Sodom's punishment so extreme?


A young Hebrew Bible scholar responded generously with his time when I asked if I could consult him on the Sodom question. He agreed with me about the uniqueness of Sodom. Sodom is not like Jericho or Ai. God saw fit to wipe out the city with His own actions, as if He could not trust any human–even someone as faithful as Abraham–to spill Sodomite blood on himself in the process of blotting it out.

Sodom is not like Nineveh, for Nineveh repented. Sodom is not like Babylon. Even the wicked Babylon appears in scripture as a realm with some people worth saving. Consider this line from 1 Peter 5:13: “The church in Babylon, also chosen, sends you greetings, as does Mark, my son. Greet one another with a kiss.”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mapping the Swamp: Sodom and Immigration

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Hamilton Mortimer, via Wikigallery.org

In my continuing examination of Sodom's meaning to us in the 21st century, we must now turn to the very difficult convergence of immigration and sexuality as two cases both thoroughly involved with the Sodom history.

 Anyone who has been involved in Biblical debates about homosexuality is likely aware of a common rebuttal to concerns about Sodom and homosexuality, relating to some lines in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. Consider that Ezekiel wrote long after Sodom's obliteration. During the last days of Judah's embattled monarchy, he had this to say:

Mapping the Swamp: What Significance in Sodom's Rebellion in Genesis 13 and 14?

via Encyclopedia Britannica
I am going to devote several posts to Sodom, because the story of Sodom is so crucial to understanding today's Swamp. I wrote a general explanation for the key importance of Sodom yesterday. I explained that an enduring challenge with the Sodom story is that it is scattered and dispersed across scripture, even though everywhere the city's name shows up, it is clear that Sodom holds a particularly powerful importance. It is easy to oversimplify Sodom, as so many people have. On the one hand there are those who view Sodom as a purely sexual portent with no larger political meaning. On the other hand many homosexualists try to remove Sodom from its sexualized context and cast the city merely as a social-justice problem, often citing Ezekiel 16 in irresponsible ways. Many people do not draw a connection, which I believe must be drawn, between the two nations that descend from the incest following Sodom. Lot and his daughters conceive Moab and Ammon in the moments after Sodom has been destroyed and their mother has turned into a pillar of salt. Ruth is a Moabitess and a direct ancestor of King David, so I would argue that these Sodom-related genealogies matter a great deal.

The Uniqueness of Sodom

As I mentioned in yesterday's essay, both Nineveh and Babylon also portend important meanings, especially Babylon since it is the looming archetype in Revelation. Yet Sodom stands alone because of the number of times it is mentioned. It is mentioned at times by itself, whereas Gomorrah and the other "cities of the plains" seem not to be mentioned as stand-alone bywords the way Sodom is. Sodom is the only conspicuous case of one people being set apart from other peoples for complete and total annihilation, through an act of God. In many cases, for instance in the Book of Joshua, whole cities are destroyed but God uses human armies to carry out such deeds. In the case of the antediluvian reprobates, God destroys the whole world in a flood and only sets apart Noah's family for survival. 

While I would not classify my hermeneutics rigidly, I would emphasize the importance of inerrancy and sufficiency. Everything in scripture is placed there, in its structure, for an important reason. If some phenomenon is unique, then the truth it reveals to us includes the meaning behind its singularity and/or superlative role in the narrative. 

Why would Sodom occupy such a unique place in scripture? The uniqueness of Sodom has puzzled me for years, but I have a few theories. The message behind it would seem to answer a few questions that are extremely pertinent today. One question is the perplexing role of homosexuality, which seemed to explode as an issue out of nowhere in the late 1980s and now occupies an alarming percentage of political news. There is no denying that homosexuality is closely linked to Sodom, another "event" filled with uniqueness and tragic mystery. I explained in the last post some of my thoughts as to why homosexuality tends to corrupt comprehensively; it is a phenomenon that can only be perpetuated through social maneuvers that become totalitarian and encompassing. This would explain why the city most associated with rampant homosexuality is also the only city wholly obliterated by the hand of God, apart from other peoples who are spared. One could raise the caveat that Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain are also destroyed by God's hand, but the story centralizes Sodom. The particular outrages committed around Lot's house precipitate the mass destruction by fire and sulfur.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mapping the Swamp: Charting Sodom in 2018

Veronese, Lot & Daughters Fleeing Sodom
The dawn of 2018 marks twenty years since a life-changing event that changed me from obnoxiously pro-gay to staunchly pro-chastity. To draw from an overused allegory, I would like to say I fled Sodom twenty years ago. You see, on January 2, 1998, I was rushed into surgery in a Bronx hospital, about a mile from the apartment I lived in. I had a cancerous tumor that was severely malignant. Rushed into emergency operative care, I experienced a level of pain greater than anything I had ever felt prior. The vicious nurses, whose faces I will never forget, hounded me until I agreed to be discharged. They threatened to prevent my father from seeing me if I did not leave the ambulatory recovery hall and go home. I do not know why they were so determined not to admit me to the hospital for recovery, but I left. It was exceedingly cold that night and my apartment was a fifth-floor walk-up I barely reached.

I was twenty-seven years old. Up until that time in my life, I had never had any strong inkling that homosexuality was wrong. I called myself homosexual though I had known since the beginning that I felt strong attractions toward women. Membership in the gay community, even back then, brought with it certain advantages: shortcuts to jobs, fabulous if not glamorous social events, easy sex, endless wit and diversion. By 1998 I had made peace with the physical act between two men, which I never came to like very much. I used poppers and got myself extremely drunk to get through it, trying wherever possible to avoid the most unpleasant act of them all. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: Grieving the State of God's People

Jeremiah the Weeping Prophet
Currently, where I am, it is 9:38 PM on December 31, 2017. These are the last hours of the year that just closed.

So much transpired in 2017, much of which I am trying to understand by writing longer articles to be submitted to journals elsewhere. For now, on English Manif itself, I am sticking with the  theme of "Mapping the Swamp" for several months, trying to use this platform to help whoever reads this blog, in the important task of understanding the Swamp we fight. If we understand it and know how and where its parts work, we will be more effective at conquering it in 2018 or perhaps another year not long after.

For today, I want to focus on the important role of grief and lamentation. While it is New Year's Eve, I am not celebrating. I am not rejoicing. I allowed myself joy and levity for Christmas, as I called to mind the many things I need to remember about the birth of Jesus Christ. There is a role, however, for the opposite of rejoicing--for feeling the full weight of society's wrongs against Jesus Christ. For the Swamp we fight has gradually become more understandable and identifiable to me. I know now that the Swamp is really the space of absence from Jesus Christ. It is ungodliness above all that is driving the social and political corruption that we learned, in 2017, we must fight with all our power.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: Lessons from Barbara Stanwyck Movies

Stanwyck in "Crime of Passion"
To map the Swamp, you have to counteract the decades of ignorance cultivated by the Swamp elites and re-learn the cultural wisdom of past generations. With the explosion in the number of adults with college degrees, people did not become wiser citizens, as Thomas Jefferson hoped in Notes on the State of Virginia. Instead, the institutions of higher learning became enormous machines of control that tempted a small cadre of people running them; they could not resist the temptation to use their massive prestige and cultural reach in order to empower and benefit themselves and their friends.

Learning and education do not necessarily go together. If institutions are corrupted, as American higher education institutions indisputably are, education can become the opposite of learning. They can actually be stupefying; they can become systems of mental programming that do the opposite of learning. They can serve to conceal, hide, or distort truths in order to regiment students into a worldview that serves the elites. Marx understood this, as did both Freud and Foucault, not to mention Orwell and Sartre, though none of them probably realized how quickly we would see systems of education becoming systems of ignorance.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: The Burn Book

The Burn Book and the Map
Robert Oscar Lopez

To map the Swamp, you have to understand what kind of map you are drawing. While the Swamp is in some ways geographic because there are control centers in places where political power congregates, most of the Swamp's map will be more a diagram of connected circles and squares. To understand the Swamp you have to understand all the various players and positionalities.

But more importantly you have to understand what connects them.

The biggest thing holding together the various parties who predominate politically inside the Swamp is not a set of shared beliefs or customs, but rather a set of shared tactics. They do not necessarily even have common enemies. Rather, they will mobilize across divergent interest groups to mob an isolated individual if there is a quid pro quo agreement between one Swamp player and another Swamp player. 

Ten Things I Have to Remember about Serving Jesus this Christmas Season

Robert Oscar Lopez

1. When Jesus Christ was born, hundreds of years had passed since the last prophet. Generation after generation had lived with nothing but hope. People born in 270 BC had only hope that someday the LORD would come. It could very well be that all my anxieties and stresses are meaningless, and maybe my great-great-grandchildren will still be hundreds of years away from Christ's coming. Christmas reminds me that's okay. A baby in a manger changes everything.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: Understanding the Microcosm and Macrocosm

I keep waiting for Peak Madness with regards to the sexual hysteria currently poisoning our nation's minds. Sex abuse, sexual harassment, and the even vaguer issue of "sexual misconduct" have become such irrational evils in the minds of both left and right, we have seen our most basic social interactions torn apart and our language decompose into gibberish. What are we doing, exactly, when we fight for someone we don't know to be ritually stripped of his livelihood or banished from public life because of things we read about online posted from other people we do not know? Why is it that we would never feel compelled to insert ourselves so boldly if it dealt with theft, perjury, conspiracy to overthrow the government, or accessory to murder, but if someone's erogenous zones are involved, we suspend all semblance of logic and discernment?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: What Next for the Anti-Roy-Moore Right?

While there were quite a few NeverTrumps who were against Roy Moore, we should not conflate the anti-Trump right with the anti-Moore right. As I stated in an earlier post, the anti-Trump right included some people who were actually principled, and who felt Donald Trump's public record failed to meet their minimum standards for a conservative president, even in a race against Hillary Clinton. The NeverTrumps encouraged a host of stupid countermeasures, such as not voting for anyone for president, writing in something like "Ronald Reagan's ghost," voting for Evan McMullin (close your eyes and if you think long enough, you will remember who that was), or even, in the case of some far-gone cases, voting for Hillary Clinton to teach the GOP a lesson. These were, I admit, completely insane suggestions but the NeverTrumps were saved a life of penance for putting such ideas out there because as luck would have it, Donald J. Trump won. One can only imagine how excruciating life in America would be if Hillary Clinton had won, and how vicious the backlash would be against the right-wing people who would have helped to make that happen.

But that was so 2016. It is a year later now, and we have to come to terms with what happened in Alabama. The "conservatives" who fought to sink Roy Moore's candidacy, led by such figures as David French, Matt Drudge, Ross Douthat, and George Will, overlap quite a bit with the NeverTrumps but they are a completely different animal. First, I think of someone like my friend Jason who was NeverTrump but not NeverMoore--I know of quite a few principled objectors to Trump who simply did not believe the accusations against Moore and therefore did not jump on the bandwagon. Then there were some Trump supporters, like Matt Drudge and possibly Fox figures such as Jeannine Pirro and Laura Ingraham, who were behind Trump but embraced the anti-Moore agenda hook, line & sinker.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mapping the Swamp: Roy Moore, please be better than I was

In the early weeks of May, 2016, I did something I am not proud of. In fact, I feel I should confess my sin before God.

The sin I committed was cowardice.

The famous lines from Joshua ring true: "Be strong and courageous." It is okay to feel fear but wrong to let it cripple you, for a very simple reason. If you are a believer, you have to submit to Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. God will be with you if you believe. So cowardice is a lack of love for God. I was guilty of exactly that in May, 2016.