Russell and Duenes

A Garden of “Yes”

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When it comes to parenting, one thing Douglas Wilson says over and over is that a home should be “a garden of ‘yes.'” Clearly Wilson is saying this because the Garden of Eden was just such a garden. I had never really thought of the Garden of Eden in these terms before. Sure, I knew that God had provided everything that the man and woman could ever want. This is what made their disobedience to God’s command all the more heinous. God was not holding “the good stuff” back from them, as we often think he does. Indeed, God says to Adam, “You may eat of every tree of the garden,” save one. Yet notice how the devil turns this around in Genesis 3: “He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The devil has turned “you may of every tree” into “you shall eat of no trees.” He turned God’s “garden of ‘yes'” into a garden of “no.” All too often I have done the same with my home.

Somehow governmental entities assume that bland Christmas well-wishes to employees along the lines of, “Enjoy your holiday season,” or “make sure to be near your loved ones,” or “take time to enjoy yourself” are inoffensive holiday wishes. And really, who could take offense at them? Don’t they simply keep religion out of Christmas, and thus, show respect for all religious beliefs during the Christmas season. Or do they? Is a governmental agency that offers such well-wishes to its employees really being religiously neutral? Are bland secular greetings neutral? Don’t they convey something about reality, namely, that Jesus Christ, after whom Christmas is named, has nothing to do with reality? Someone asked me: “Well, how would you feel if some devout Muslim at your government office offered a holiday greeting extolling the virtues of Allah?” In truth, I would not care. I would be no more offended by such a thing than I am by secular bromides and platitudes scrubbed of every vestige of transcendence. My soul is no more injured by one over the other. Neither one is religiously-neutral, and we should stop pretending that they are. Former Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens, was wrong when he said that “the State may not promote a theological or sectarian interest.” He was wrong because the State cannot help but do so. Everything humans do or say promotes a certain theological interest, either a godward or a godless one. As God says: “[There is] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:6).

Margaret Sanger, the racist, engenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood, once said that “morality is nothing but the sum total, the net residuum, of social habits, the codification of customs . . . The only ‘immoral’ person, in any country, is he who fails to observe the current folkways.” (HT: Allan Carlson). This is the view of “morality” that comes into being once a people and nation have abandoned Jesus Christ and His gospel. The Nazi’s at Nuremberg based their legal defenses on Sanger’s view of “morality.” After all, they were simply acting according to “the current folkways” in Germany. Who were we to tell them what was wrong or right for them? Of course, Naziism was the most heinous outworking of Sanger’s view. As Allan Carlson points out, Sanger’s view has now come to rule our “morality” of sex. He presciently notes: “[S]ince ‘current folkways’ surely include the full normalization – even celebration –  of homosexuality, it is also growing ever more clear who now constitute the ‘immoral.'” How will the people of God, who see Sanger’s view for what it is, stand against its pernicious, soul-destroying consequences? What kind of Christian communities, educational systems and cultures can work as redemptive leaven in the midst of it? As Carlson says, “Christians have faced this foe before.” Perhaps we in our churches should turn to those Christians of yore to listen for the echoes of how it is they faced it, and learn to face it likewise.

I’ve been noticing the commercials with Matt Lauer promoting fatherhood, to which I say, “Amen” and may there be more where that came from. Almost anything on the fatherhood front helps. However, I’m also reminded of C.S. Lewis’ proverb: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. . . We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” I wonder if we have the courage, as a nation, and particularly, as churches, to deeply consider what makes “men without chests” and how we might develop such chests.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 4, 2014 at 9:19 am

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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