Ben Sasse: Evangelical Midwit

My sons go to public school where the parents of most children are liberal white suburban yuppies with disordered private lives. We take turns taking each-other’s children to school. One of the mothers post pictures of herself at the recent Women’s March wearing a vagina hat laced with obscenities about our president. My son will come home talking about what his classmates said about Trump, which is what their parents say about Trump. This is a hopelessly awful thing to burden children with. Nevertheless, it provides an opportunity to explain Romans 13 which says that we must honor and obey all lawful authorities appointed over us unless it means disobeying God. I get to remind my sons that we prayed for President Obama when he was president and I didn’t utter a word against him though I thought he was an enemy of most of what I believe in. I get to remind them that first century Christians prayed for Nero who threw them to the lions and burned them at the stake. I ask them, “How much worse would our rulers be if we didn’t pray for them?” I try to be a sharply-contrasting example for my children compared to these unbelieving parents who exemplify only the palace politics of an empire in its twilight and the mores of a decadent civilization.

In the fray of these politics is Evangelical midwit Ben Sasse. When he was first elected as Nebraska senator, I heard praise from him in even Reformed circles. As he emerged as a leading Never Trumper, I noted that he had done little real work in his life. His resume is a laughable example of bureaucratic non-work – of someone who prefers to be rather than do. Now that Donald Trump is president, Ben Sasse takes often to Twitter to rail against Trump. (You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong about this since I don’t have a Twitter account). How does Senator Sasse obey Romans 13 if he’s constantly failing to honor the elected president?

Aaron Renn exposes more shortcomings of the man in his excellent newsletter, “The Masculinist (#13):

Sasse does not forthrightly address any of the serious problems facing America’s youth with any proposed solutions that might get him into the slightest bit of hot water. (He did give family breakdown a mention, but did nothing with it). The kids growing up in white working class communities with rampant family breakdown, unstable employment, drugs, etc. have much bigger problems in life than learning how to travel well. Drug addicted parents are injecting babies with opioids to make them stop crying (true story). There’s one woman I know personally who had four kids by three
different fathers, two of whom were brothers. And who went though a significant stretch to drug addiction where she was completely out of the picture while her kids where raised by grandparents. Those kids face serious problems. (Two of them have already had out of wedlock children of their own, one of them already with multiple partners). Similarly, a black teenager in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood faces much bigger problems than his summer reading list.
Sasse, despite all of his pretention to moral superiority, despite his constant anti-Trump preening, despite all of his Evangelical faith, despite being a US senator, is unwilling to stand up in the public square and say unpopular things to confront the serious problems in America, ones not amenable to uncontroversial feel-good solutions like “consume less.”

Now to the meat of his post:

I was speaking with one pastor who is a national council member of the Gospel Coalition. He’s a classic neutral worlder who strongly disapproves of Trump. But he notes that the Millennials in his congregation are in effect Biblically illiterate and have a definition of God’s justice that is taken from secular leftist politics. They did not, for example, see anything at all problematic about Hillary Clinton and her views. A generation or so from now when these people are the leaders, they won’t be people keeping unpopular positions to themselves. They won’t have any unpopular positions to hide. They will be completely assimilated to the world. Only their ethics will no longer be Hillary’s, but the new fashion du jour.
Rather than a mass blowout then, Evangelicalism would thus die from a slow bleed, much as the mainlines and the Church of England did before them. Indeed, today’s Evangelicals are retracing the steps of the mainlines. The parallels with the late 19th/early 20th centuries are there and should be studied. Back then, for example, virtually all of the sophisticated intellectual and cultural types – the cultural engagers of their day – sided with the world and became today’s liberal mainlines. Many of the ones who remained orthodox, like Gresham Machen, paid a huge price for doing
so – largely inflicted by their erstwhile brethren who assimilated. As it turns out, intellectuals are very easy to co-opt with a few trinkets. It looks like it’s happening again. Almost every Evangelical institution I know is explicitly
reformulating itself around secular social gospel principles, even if they wouldn’t use those words to describe it. There will be residual beliefs in place, but over time they could dissipate to nothing. (Remember, the liberal mainlines didn’t go from A to B overnight. It was a long process. For example, earlier this year I read a book by famed early 20th century liberal preacher Henry Emerson Fosdick that contained things so reactionary that even many “conservative” pastors today would be unwilling to write them).
Practically speaking, folks like Ben Sasse might obtain great sinecures for themselves, but they will never effect any real, positive change in the world. And their attractiveness to others will dwindle over time and their Christianity will fade into the background and ultimately disappear. On the conservative side, we already see this happening in the form of JD Vance, a younger guy in the Sasse mold, but one who holds to a curiously vague Christianity. All we really know about his beliefs is that he doesn’t like rural Pentecostalism. The more liberal types are already cultural
epigones. They have nothing to offer the world that I can’t already get in a better form direct from the secular source.

How does this relate to masculinity, you might ask? Again, because embracing a loss of status, saying unpopular things that will get you in trouble – these things take balls.

Sasse is just another example of the uselessness of evangelicalism and how it’s just trending into mainstream SJW liberalism as mainline Protestantism collapsed in the early 20th century into mainstream atheism. It’s good for nothing: salt that has lost its saltiness and must be thrown out. Unless there is an immediate work of extraordinary Providence such as a new Reformation, I wouldn’t expect improvements in the Western church and therefore the West in 100 years. Control and worry about what you can such as how you raise your family and where you go to church. You control very little else.

Digital Privacy

At church this morning, I talked to a former Marine this morning who said that the intel guys used to give arrested Afghans back their flip phones after releasing them because they could activate the flip phone remotely if they knew the serial number of the phone. There is apparently a backdoor even on flip-phones with no iOS or Android, hence the need for a faraday bag.

The response from one bystander was that I was paranoid and had no expectation of privacy. I asked, “What about the 4th and 5th amendments, and if those amendments were void, what about the 1st?” I got some non-response about how everything would be sorted out by God and I should get used to persecution. I replied, “Didn’t Paul use his Roman citizenship to affect the outcome of his own persecution?” Another poor response followed about how things would get worse and worse until the day of Judgment and there was nothing we could do.

The Augustinian and Protestant belief and the teaching of Scripture is that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Man. The former is an invisible theocracy that is “not of this world” as Jesus said to Pilate with a visible component known as the Christian church. The latter – the kingdom of man – is common to all men. The rules in the common kingdom are governed by the light of nature and are also found in the second Table of the Law (Commandments 5-10). The governments of the common kingdom is as diverse as man though divinely-ordained as a matter of ordinary providence to restrain evil. As a Christian, you have obligations to both kingdoms. For this reason, you have a job working with your hands, pay taxes, and obey lawful authorities over you. The obligations of self-rule (democracy and representative republic) are greater because we’ve been given greater freedom to govern ourselves. The greater gifts comes greater responsibility. Under Nero, circumstances for first century Christians were different and Christians expected less from the government and participated less other than to obey the government as far as it meant also obeying God and paying taxes.

Thus the response of these evangelical brothers was hopelessly foolish. If the government or a big tech company is infringing on our Constitutional rights, we have obligations to work with our federal, state and local representatives in a respectful manner for change. Too many Evangelicals have a bunker mentality where they refuse to interact with government institutions other than voting or contributing to the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund. Mostly, their children do not grow up with a saving knowledge of their religion, so they aren’t keeping their obligations to God’s kingdom either. Obviously, this brand of Christianity is wholly unsuited for either God’s kingdom or man’s kingdom. Salt that has thus lost its saltiness must be thrown out.

As an aside, this got me wondering, have American Christians impeded the development of better governance throughout the world by exporting their half-baked version of Christianity which is evangelicalism? We look at Africa and wonder why so many of the peoples and governments are in such disorder, but then we’ve been shipping them the cult upon which they are building their culture for the past 100 years which, coincidentally, was period when the European colonial powers evacuated. There was a period of better evangelism in the 19th century when Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries went to Africa, but that was when it was the white man’s graveyard due to cholera other vector-borne illnesses thus it’s unclear how much high-church Anglicanism and Calvinism penetrated the Dark Continent. Prior to that, we were enslaving Africans and exporting their resources. Other parts of Africa have, of course, fallen increasingly under the Sword of Mohammed. This seems to have happened on the watch of the Western colonial powers also. It has been 60-70 years since the European powers left and I used to scoff at the idea that it was the Europeans’ fault that Africa was so chaotic, but now I think we share half the blame.

Coming back to the issue of digital privacy and a worsening world until the Parousia, I think we need MORE knowledge of digital privacy like the Chinese Christians, rather than less as the ostrich-like evangelical claimed. From what I’ve been reading about latest ChiCom persecution of Chinese Christians, Chinese Christians are are pretty tech-savvy. They used encrypted USB sticks, VPNs, and chats. They probably know when and where they can use cell phones. They probably have some way of storing cash. They might even know how to beat facial recognition by using certain types of face paint or clothing. I told my evangelical brother that we need to work with our representatives to make this type of surveillance illegal. He scoffed at this idea. I suppose that means he has a plan to deal with it if it’s ever used here? Wait, it already is. Amazon is selling facial recognition technology ubiquitously. I hope he’s prepared for persecution that the other brother claimed was inevitable, but he doesn’t even know his Bible.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from this disappointing conversation this morning, it’s that you need to surround yourself with like-minded, thinking Christians in a real church. People who can’t think critically or Biblically are not going to be much use if times get tough.