The Cashville Statement (A Wee Parody)

[Continuing the satirical strain this blog seems to have been developing lately, another bit of parody. If you’re not familiar with the document that is, in this case, the spoof-ee, find it here.]DollarChurch

The Cashville Statement

Preamble

Know that Our Power itself is God; It is Our Will to Power that has made us, and nothing else… (Our Authority)

Crony Capitalists at the dawn of the twenty-first century find themselves living in a period of historic transition. As Western culture has become increasingly late-Capitalist, it has embarked upon a massive revision of what it means to be potential for labor. By and large the spirit of our age no longer discerns or delights in the beauty of Our Power’s design for labor. Many deny that Our Power created labor potential for the increase of its own Capital and that its good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that labor potential as male and female is not part of Our Power’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences. The pathway to full and lasting joy through Our Power’s good design for for its laborers is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives that, sooner or later, ruin labor potential and decrease profit.

This egalitarian spirit of our age presents a great challenge to Capitalism. Will Capitalism lose her authoritarian conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will it hold fast to its word of ever-increasing production, draw courage from Capital, and unashamedly proclaim its way as the way of Capital? Will it maintain its, counter-cultural witness to a world that seems bent on equality?

We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the Market and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Capitalist Authority teaches that there is but one Power which alone is Creator and Power Over all. To Our Power alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying Our Power, but of knowing yourselves. To forget Our Power is to forget who you are, for We made you for Ourselves. And you cannot know yourselves truly without truly knowing They who made you. You did not make yourselves. You are not your own. Your true identity, as male and female persons, is given by Our Power. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make yourselves what Our Power did not create you to be.

We believe that Our Power’s conception of its creation and its way of salvation serve to bring it the greatest profit and bring us the greatest productivity. Our Power’s good plan provides us with the greatest freedom. Capital indicates that it came that we might have productivity and have it in overflowing measure. It is for us and not against us. Therefore, in the hope of serving Capital and witnessing publicly to the good purposes of Our Power for human identity revealed in Capitalist Authority, we offer the following affirmations and denials.

Article 1

We affirm that Our Power has designed marriage to be a contractual, productive, lifelong union guaranteeing the stability of the property of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the contractual relationship between Capital and its bride, labor.

We deny that Our Power has conceived marriage to be an unproductive or capital-dispersing relationship. We also deny that marriage is mere spiritual union rather than a contract made with Our Power.

Article 2

We affirm that Our Power’s revealed desire for all labor potential is chastity outside of relationships that stabilize property and increase labor potential, and fidelity within contracts.

We deny that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify love before or outside of property-preserving relationships, nor to they justify any form of spiritual connection.

Article 3

We Affirm that Our Power created our interpretation of Adam and Eve, the first examples of labor potential, in Our Power’s own image, equal before Our Power in terms of labor potential, and distinct as male and female.

We Deny that Our Power’s ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in labor potential.

Article 4

We affirm that Our Power’s ordained differences between male and female reflect Our Power’s original desire and are meant to preserve property, and increase labor potential and Our flourishing.

We deny that differentials in power are a result of the fall or a tragedies to be overcome.

Article 5

We affirm that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to Our Power’s design for the creation of additional labor potential.

We deny that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify Our Power’s appointed link between biological sex and the ability to create new labor potential through procreation.

Article 6

We affirm that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of Our Power and have labor potential and value equal to all other bearers of Our Power’s image. They are acknowledged by Our Authority in its words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful participants in the market and should embrace their potential for labor insofar as it may be present.

We deny that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of increasing shareholder profits in joyful obedience to Capital.

Article 7

We affirm that self-conception as male or female should be defined by Our Power’s holy purposes in increasing capital as revealed in Our Authority.

We deny that adopting a self-conception that does not preserve property and increase labor potential is consistent with Our Power’s holy purposes in utilizing labor and maximizing profit.

Article 8

We affirm that people who experience attraction to relationships that do not stabilize property and create additional labor potential may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to Our Power through faith in Capital, as they, like all Capitalists, walk in purity of life.

We deny that a propensity toward relationships that do not stabilize property and increase labor potential are part of the natural goodness of Our Power’s original creation, or that they put someone outside the jurisdiction of Our Patriarchy.

Article 9

We affirm that equality impedes productivity by directing persons away from property-stabilizing and labor-increasing relationships toward relationships that are based on spiritual connection–a distortion that includes non-contractual heterosexual relationships (insofar as they tend to disperse rather than preserve property) and even contractual same-sex relationships (insofar as they fail to produce additional labor potential).

We deny that an enduring pattern of desire for spiritual connection justifies behavior that fails to preserve property and create labor potential.

Article 10

We affirm that it is is detrimental to the increase of capital to approve of identities that are not productive of capital or productive of labor, and that such an approval constitutes an essential departure from Capitalist faithfulness and witness.

We deny that the approval of relationships unproductive of capital or additional labor potential are a matter of ideological indifference about which otherwise faithful Capitalists should agree to disagree.

Article 11

We affirm our duty to assert our authority in confidence at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as productive or unproductive of capital.

We deny any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor Our Power’s design of his image-bearers as producers of labor potential.

Article 12

We affirm that the strength of Our Power in Capital gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon may allow a follower of Capital to put to death egalitarian desires and to work in a manner worthy of Our Power.

We deny that the strength of Our Power in Capital is insufficient to forgive all egalitarian tendencies and to give power to strive for profit to every participant in the market who feels drawn into relationships unproductive of additional capital or labor power.

Article 13

We affirm that the strength of Our Power in Capital enables those with desires for spiritual connection forsake such self-conceptions and by Our forbearance accept the link ordained by Our Power between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as a unit of potential labor.

We deny that the strength of Our Power in Capital sanctions self conceptions that are at odds with Our Power’s revealed will.

Article 14

We Affirm that Capital has come into the world to subordinate spiritual connection to labor potential, and that through Capital restoration to productivity and value within our labor market are available to every person who repents of the desire for equality and trusts in Capital alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.

We deny that Our Power’s arm is too short to seize or that anyone desirous of spiritual connection is beyond its reach.

What is at the Heart of the Gospel? Hint: It Has Nothing to do with Marriage

Wise_Blood_(novel)_1st_edition_coverThe Gospel stands out against morality. The purpose of the Church should be to call the bluff on any attempts of finding morality in the Gospel.

Gerald T. Sheppard

One of my all-time favorite novels is Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Its protagonist, Hazel Motes, is a deeply wounded character who, after the traumas of being raised by a legalistic (and abusive) evangelist and surviving combat in World War Two, returns home with the intention of founding a new antireligion, what he calls the “Church of God Without Christ.” He describes his new “church” as one in which “the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.” Without getting into a full summary or analysis of the novel, what fascinates me about Hazel Motes is that, the harder he tries to repudiate Christ, repudiate the Gospel, the more he seems marked and pursued by it. It starts with the way his “evangelism” for his new anti-religion resembles the very brand of evangelism he so loathes, to the point that others mistake his message for its opposite. It continues with the ways in which grace pursues him in the persons of several (primarily female) characters who, despite the manner in which he pushes them away, continue to care for him. Throughout the novel, he seems “marked” indelibly by the very Christ he says he eschews (the blind preacher-cum-huckster, Asa Hawks, tells him this outright), and Motes seems continually haunted, in the way O’Connor once referred to the south as “Christ-haunted,” through to the very end of his life, to the point that he experiences a salvation–at least of sorts–there. O’Connor describes him in the preface to Wise Blood as a “Christian maugre lui–in spite of himself.

At the end of the day, I suspect that’s what all believers are (I know I am): Christians in spite of ourselves. It is one of the most traditional and conservative beliefs of Christianity that all human beings, no matter how good or moral they may seem, are tainted by the fall. It is even entirely orthodox to believe that no one, under his or her own steam, is even capable of willing his or her own salvation. Human beings, in this view, are too vulnerable to their own wills, their self-interest, their own constructs, to be able to achieve or merit salvation on their own. Even St. Augustine admits that he was unable, on his own, to assent to God’s calling to him, such that that act had to be God’s:

I kept saying to myself, “See, let it be done now; let it be done now.” And as I said this I all but came to a firm decision. I all but did it — yet I did not quite. Still I did not fall back to my old condition, but stood aside for a moment and drew breath. And I tried again, and lacked only a very little of reaching the resolve — and then somewhat less, and then all but touched and grasped it. Yet I still did not quite reach or touch or grasp the goal, because I hesitated to die to death and to live to life. And the worse way, to which I was habituated, was stronger in me than the better, which I had not tried. And up to the very moment in which I was to become another man, the nearer the moment approached, the greater horror did it strike in me. But it did not strike me back, nor turn me aside, but held me in suspense.1

But this, of course, is the whole point, the very center and heart Christian belief, this crazy, irrational, wonderful thing we call the Gospel. O’Connor’s character personifies this quality in frightening and beautiful ways, doing overtly what we all do internally: fighting the grace to which he had already assented. Trying, and failing, to beat the action of grace aside in favor of their own egos. The important thing is that, in both cases, what makes both Augustine and Hazel Motes Christians–in spite of themselves–is entirely God’s action, not their own. Their own constructs, systems of belief, of morality, of religious doctrine–all the things they themselves will into existence and cling to like stubborn mollusks–are ultimately futile. Only the action of grace brings them the rest of the way. And that–the act of God that enables fallen humans to take that last step into a reconciled relationship with the divine–is what we call Gospel.

I mention all this because the ideas of what lies at the “heart” of the Gospel, and what constitutes the source of unity among Christian believers, have been sticking points in a lively (and sometimes acrimonious) debate that’s surfaced in Christian university circles over the last couple of months. Long story short, two members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University) recently changed their hiring policies to include persons in same-sex marriages. On the heels of these announcements, the provost of another CCCU school, Union University, announced that Union was leaving the CCCU, primarily because the CCCU failed to immediately expel Goshen and EMU from the organization over that change. In his letter, Union’s provost, Samuel Oliver, argued that [his concept of traditional] “marriage is at the heart of the Gospel.”2

I have to admit that one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to blog on this matter is the degree to which that statement befuddled and angered me. I had to allow myself the time to quit huffing and puffing and throwing things to be able to write about the matter in a way that didn’t violate my own standards of what respectful debate between believers should look like.

I’ll admit for the record that I think that Oliver is dead wrong. I grew up within the Lutheran tradition (and am still active in the Lutheran church), and the idea of the Gospel holds a very special–revered–place in that tradition. We go on about it. A lot. John Pederson, a Lutheran theologian, Pastor Emeritus of Augustana Lutheran Church in Denver, and a long-time friend and spiritual mentor (not to mention one of my favorite people ever, and the person who introduced me to fine single-malt scotches), kindly gave me permission to reproduce a brief definition of the Gospel he shared with me in an email:

My most succinct statement would be something like: The gospel is God’s announcement of good news into all creation.

  1. The gospel is proclamation, announcement, performative utterance (J. L. Austin offers the example of “I take you to be my wife. . . .”), speech-act (Ernst Fuchs), and as such has more in common with the creation story (“And God said, and it was so.”) than Torah or any other ethical configuration. The gospel has more in common with the jury’s announcement/proclamation, “the jury finds you not guilty. . . .” than any moral aspirations I might hope for. The gospel is not exposition, exhortation, aspiration, achievement, and certainly not any stipulated moral code.
  2. The gospel is God’s action and not mine. I do not constitute the gospel by my performance of it or anything else. The gospel is God’s performance, just as much as is creation, covenant, and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Best not indulge human narcissism by suggesting any part of this on my own.
  3. The gospel is good news. It is uncalculated, unexpected, undeserved, surprising. It goes against the evidence, one might say. Evidence for the gospel is in God’s speech, God’s promise and not in any moral influence that may be effected in me. The gospel is not conditional in any way, but rather proclamation, performative, and, as Lutherans might say, forensic.

It is this (to my thinking very traditional and orthodox, and in no way limited to Lutheranism) way of thinking about the Gospel that made Oliver’s statement seem so alien and upsetting to me. To put a particular definition of marriage at the heart of the Gospel is to make a dangerous innovation on traditional Christian thought. To put a human construct in a place that only Christ has the right to occupy. The Gospel has never been a moral code, and has never been about anything human beings do. To replace that traditional idea of the Gospel with a moral code based on one particular (and arguable) interpretation of only a few passages of Scripture is, to my thinking, an offense against the Gospel, not a preservation of its witness. The Gospel is the opposite of any such code, a gift of unmerited grace. The whole point is that we can’t live up to even our own moral standards, much less God’s, such that grace is our only hope. The grace that chases us down–as it does Hazel Motes, and as it did Augustine–and calls for our response, however flawed, human, and inept our responses will be.

Our responses to grace are where things like moral codes and doctrinal ideas–such as ideas about what properly constitutes marriage–come into the picture. They are part of how Christians try to think and act in relation to the gift of grace, but are not themselves components of grace. And, of course, as fallen human beings, none of us can ever get that response exactly right. The fact that our responses are often divergent is a reflection of this imperfection: none of us have the right to claim moral high ground over any other, because none of us can claim the perfect response to grace. As much as I might disagree with Oliver, I have no basis on which to consider him anything other than a brother in Christ, because it is Christ’s action, not ours, that creates that relationships. All we can really do is recognize our mutual imperfection and try to continue, from our confusion and disagreement, to hammer out better responses to grace, and to one another. And we can only do that if we maintain relationship with one another. We’re simply not allowed to walk away. This is why I think the act of severing relationships with other, equally imperfect respondents to grace over the differences in our responses is also unwise–something I’ll try to argue more fully in the next installment.


  1. This is in Book Eight, Chapter 11 of the Confessions
  2. See my colleague Chris Gehrz’ overview of the initial situation over at the Pietist Schoolman Blog

Welcome To MachoChurch: Medievalism and Evangelical Patriarchy

Heath Mooneyhan, pastor of the "Most Masculine Church in America"

Heath Mooneyhan, pastor of the “Most Masculine Church in America”

The response to my summer series on the medievalism of John Eldredge has me thinking more widely about the role of medievalism in present-day American evangelical culture. Even my original article on Eldredge only covers part of the h medievalism in his work, concentrating as it does on his use of William Wallace. I mean to do another post, soon, covering Eldredge’s other medievalisms, primarily on the way both Wild at Heart and its companion volume, Captivating rely (both consciously and unconsciously) on tropes from medieval romance. One thing I’m sure I’ll focus on, there, draws from other recent work on contemporary medievalisms, working in part from Helen Young’s fascinating observations on the ways in which medievalism is often deployed as a way of “naturalizing” numerous racist and sexist attitudes. The general idea, there, is that reference to the Middle Ages has become, for many, a strategy for legitimizing both racism and sexism by imagining a medieval Europe as a “purer” time, one in which white-skinned men were free to exercise their God-given right to domination. Placing that situation in something meant to read as a historical past, then, seems to set an additional layer of legitimacy under such arguments: it’s a way of saying “this is the natural state of human relationships from which feminism (among other cultural phenomena) has led us astray.” Of course, the Middle Ages themselves weren’t like that at all, and the very romances from which much of such rhetoric is ultimately drawn critique the cult of masculine violence (on very Christian grounds) at least as often as they promote it.

As I’ve been working on these ideas, though, I’ve been running across numerous other deployments of medievalism-inflected expressions of “Christian Masculinity,” as well as numerous commentaries and critiques of the same. So, while I’m working on the larger argument, I thought I’d share, along the way, some of the interesting and crazy things I’m coming across:

  • One of my favorite Christian bloggers, Rachel Held Evans, recently published a review by Nate Pyle of the documentary Fight Church about a congregation geared toward Christian males that centers–no joke–on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition. Pyle wonders whether this isn’t an indication that the American church is too influence by American cultural ideas about masculinity. Looking through some of that church’s materials, however, I can’t help but notice that it’s infused with the language of a “warrior” mentality that has its roots in the Germanic, pagan warrior ethic (something the poet of Beowulf struggles with). That tradition has been preserved and filtered through later medieval romance and the Cult of Chivalry, through 19th century romantic novels such as Walter Scott’s, and then through James Fenimore Cooper’s portings of Scott’s knightly warrior ethic into an American setting that ultimately give rise to the American Western (of which, I would argue, Braveheart is an example, with swords and kilts standing in for six-shooters and chaps, smearing blue woad onto The Outlaw Josey Wales).
  • Speaking of Evans, she also has an interesting take on the fall of popular evangelical megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, another evangelical leader who apparently posted a number of misogynistic rants with the pseudonym “William Wallace II,” proving that Eldredge is not the only masculinist evangelical leader to engage in the strange adoption of that fourteenth-century figure as a sort of poster-child for “authentic” masculinity.
  • In additional craziness, there’s been some attention in the Christian blogosphere lately to what was the putative most masculine church in America before its pastor got a DUI last week. The church was apparently known for its unapologetic misogynist banter and the gun collection in the basement (onward Christian soldiers, I guess).
  • Meanwhile, of all places, a relatively conservative Christian publication, First Things, turns out to be the source, via Matthew Block of the past month’s most cogent critique of the aforementioned church, and especially of the idea of baptising the “warrior identity” as an aspect of Christian masculinity.

I’ll keep posting relevant material as it comes across my desk–partially as a way of keeping track of it myself–but feel free to make me aware of what comes across yours!

Written with StackEdit