Recently, commenter A Mom took issue with a portion of my previous article. I responded, slept on it, and then realized I would need more time…well, yes…more time, but specifically, more words. Which I have no problem with. I am not the type of person who is comfortable going “fuck it, I’ll do what I want and I don’t care what people think”.
Not that that’s a particularly bad philosophy. Aside from the sociopaths who will use it as an excuse to act as a criminal or an asshole or both, I think this perspective is a remarkable strategy to good psychological health, and a veritable flood of happiness and prosperity. If we all recognize that each one of us is of moral and existential equality to everyone else, and that this is not a function of our bank account, good hair, fast car, nationality, race, sexual orientation, or I.Q., or how much we bench, etc., etc., or, conversely, that virtue somehow resides in the personal deprivation of such attributes (e.g. I am better than you because I forgo using my God-given brain and instead “trust” God that the theological contradictions I’m taught are simply part of His mystery; or because my lifestyle is more meager it must be more humble, and is thus, ipso facto, more pleasing to God) and that this a defensible point by appealing to nothing less than utter reason, we’d all be a LOT more comfortable doing that which God intended for us to do…the entire point of our creation: being ourselves in whatever way we think best; manifested by our unfettered volition and ability to organize our environment to the promotion and validation and prosperity and satisfaction of ME as an infinite and absolute SELF.
But this is too much of a cop out in my context. Again, I don’t really have a problem with those who do not demonstrably violate other human beings and do no preach a philosophy which attempts to create metaphysical discrepancies between one person over another and also do not feel obligated to explain a fucking thing about themselves to anyone else because it is, in reality, it’s no one else’s damn business, and who genuinely live as if they don’t give a shit what you or I think. I find these people among the most honorable. And if you talk to them you will find that they generally want nothing less than to see others treated the same way: left alone to do and be what they want.
But as a blogger, I have made it my business to tell people my business. I have chosen to open up about my opinions and my philosophy and have written out a systematic defense of it for the distinct purpose of mass consumption (“mass” being loosely used, lol). There is no honor in me saying, “If you don’t like it, too bad”. That is not a reasonable request to make of any reader here. On the contrary, people who take time out of their lives to visit this site and contribute their thoughts are venerated. And part of that veneration is in the form of allowing them to question, disagree, criticize, call-out and protest anything I’ve written. If I’m not up for that, then what the fuck am I doing dumping my thoughts out on a public forum? And if I’m not willing to explain my ideas and/or methods to those who take issue with them then the more rational course of action would be to shut the hell up and keep it to myself.
Clearly, however, blogging is the very opposite of “keeping it to one’s self”.
I have chosen to make public my ideas and assumptions and my methods for expressing them. Result? I am on the hook for defending them. Period. Full stop.
Incidentally, this is why I stopped reading Brent Detwiler’s blog…because he stopped taking comments (well, that , and my uncontrollable projectile vomiting, a consequence of Brent’s relentless hypocrisy). He accuses those of us who use internet monikers of being cowards. I accuse him of the same for disabling his comments thread. If you are not willing to discuss your ideas with your readers then to me you are not worth reading. Why? Because I need to know you can defend your thinking…only then can I see how you’ve arrived at your conclusions and if they are consistent with reason.
Brent’s ideas are not, I assure you, and that’s because he concedes the exact same doctrinal premises which drive the abusive behavior of the people he pretends to disdain, and that is why he doesn’t take comments. What I think is that he is terrified of being caught in his obvious hypocrisy. And only a coward fires such accusations into a crowd and then slams the door on any responses.
By the way, if a blogger cannot tell the difference between a legitimate criticism/question and the baiting, belligerent reprobate who is exchanging physical violence for psychological (savage insults, nonsense, ludicrous accusations, diatribes) then they clearly have judgment issues, and that is something worth considering should anyone be tempted to expose themselves to that blogger’s ideas.
Now…having said that, I will risk being labeled a hypocrite and attempt to argue that on occasion, being a belligerent reprobate who baits and uses insults is effective, necessary, and even therapeutic. The ability to apply this in the right context is crucial, however…and it makes all the difference. Otherwise one loses all credibility and their message is lost in the swirl of their apparent assholery. And I’m pretty sure that is the basis for A Mom’s criticism. And if it is, she’s not wrong.
I don’t want that to happen to me. Therefore…this post. Here is the initial exchange:
A Mom said:
“I find that pointing out how ridiculous they look (pointy bald heads almost every damn one) and sound (“Calvinism IS the gospel) puts them in a more appropriate perspective. They ARE scary motherfuckers, but even more than that they are, for the most part, short little insecure men-children with precious little intellectual capacity, group-think and crowd-following proclivities, who lack even a rudimentary awareness of their own creepy-in-a-molester-kind-of-way affect.”
Had to call you out on this one, Argo. I’m not enjoying this paragraph. When you speak of physical appearance that may be purely genetic, you detract from the truth of personal responsibility & choice. Pointy bald heads & shortness of stature have NOTHING to do with it.
I adore you…but you’re not going to like this. These men, other than their height (that’s my bias…I just can’t take seriously a five foot John Piper demanding I submit to his authority; I start laughing out loud) these men are entirely responsible for their appearance and affect. They aren’t the Coneheads; They CHOOSE to shave their heads completely bald, sporting their chrome domes as luminescent as crystal; they CHOOSE their creepy, false modesty and their forced smiles and their unsettling, toothy, Cheshire Cat grins and their unctuous emotional heavy petting and their melodrama and pulpit histrionics. To me, there is a Stepford qualify to it all, and it just adds to the cultish atmosphere of the neo-Calvinist authority power grab.
But more than that, I simply don’t believe I owe these men any benefit of the doubt. I don’t assume that anything about them is innocent. Nothing. Not the way they dress, not the way they groom themselves, not the way they speak, not the way they think, not the way they relate to each other. They are vindictive, subversive, deceptive, destructive, self-serving false teachers whose determination to achieve absolute power by removing you and I from ourselves is matched only by their desire to remove God from HIS Self.They are categorical life-wreckers and I will criticize them in way that makes it plain to all who will listen that there isn’t a thing about them I take seriously.When CJ takes his head out from up his own bottom and assumes a modicum of responsibility for destroying the lives of a disturbing number of people, including at least half a dozen of God’s precious little ones, then I’ll knock off the bald jokes.Until then…he’s a doorknob with wire frames. That’s all I see.
I like your honestly & passion. I am with you in your words that call their fake out. But many are bald (by choice) or short who aren’t diabolical… who may be reading here. That’s my message. Call their deeds out, not their hairstyle or stature out. I don’t care if they are long – haired or bald, 6 foot tall or 5. It’s their actions & what they peddle that are the problem.
Before I get to the meat of the post, allow me to nitpick. There are actually very few men who are what I would call legitimately bald. Most men are more properly described as balding. Some have more or less hair than others, but, again, very few have either no hair or so little as to qualify as “naturally” bald. So, being bald in the case of most men is a choice. In other words…they shave their head like I shave my face. They aren’t really hairless, they just figure it looks better than having only a partial patch. Which…fine, each to his own. But for me, I would rather look like Jason Statham than egg head Mahaney, but whatev.
I have no problem with this. People are free to groom, or not, as they choose. Granted. Conceded. Affirmed.
But I have always thought this. This is no new revelation to me. And my general opinion on the matter has no relevant bearing on my criticism of neo-Calvinist thugs. As usual, everything must be observed and vetted according to context. For in the dissemination of ideas, it is context, context, context. In fact, I would argue that it is the failure to acknowledge context as the reference point for the efficacious and relevant meaning of any given idea which allows for what are purely cognitive concepts to be given (falsely) causal power and “life” outside of humanity, which always leads to tyranny. To say that my criticism of C.J’s baldness is commensurate with a criticism of my next door neighbor or the tractor guy at Sears is, I submit, inaccurate at best. My mockery of C.J.s blockhead is not a general derision of the entire segment of humanity which happens to be bald. In other words; it is a specific barb leveled at a specific group of people in a specific context. And within that context, especially since it is a demonstrably evil one, I do not consider anything above my derision. In that context, I believe denigration, if leveled skillfully, disrupts the plastic and pristine veneer which tyrants cloak themselves in as a hedge against just criticism and open, public investigation of their destructive ideas.
More on this in a bit.
I think my philosophy has shown that I would never simply criticize just anyone based on how they choose to dress or groom. I don’t care about that, personal style having nothing at all to do with my philosophy except to say: do whatever you want to do…I’m all about people doing what they think brings the most value to themselves. In fact, if you’ve seen my YouTube videos, you’ll notice that I, myself, keep my hair cut VERY short. It would indeed be hypocritical of me to just randomly accuse bald men of some kind of hairdo impropriety when I’m practically a crystal doorknob myself, at least for the first 48 hours after a trim.
However, as a relevant aside, I will admit that within the context of the neo-Calvinist movement there is something about head-shaving that just fucking rubs me the wrong way. Maybe its because I come from SGM and the deification of C.J. Mahaney led many, many other “leaders” in the “family of churches” (cultish terminology if there ever was any) to adopt his mannerisms (uber-affected speech pattern, herky-jerky hand gestures and body language, manic emotional eruptions), his style of dress, his tastes and, his…er, head. The percentage of bald men in SGM seemed massively disproportionate to the percentage in society in general. This to me is a full-on symptom of the sycophantic tendencies a cult like SGM engenders in their psychologically groomed devotees. And there is a creep-factor to it all that is difficult for me to explain, but nevertheless remains influential with respect to how I view the the neo-Calvinist juggernaut as a whole and the emotions that arise when I read their blogs and hear their sermons and watch their discussions on YouTube. To be clear, these public displays are nothing more than public fucking discussions on how to best propagandize the masses, murder critics, and control followers, all while pretending that they are glorifying God in process. And how oh-so humble and meek and reverent they seem, except both you and I know that the humility is a woefully thin disguise for their egregious arrogance and their absolutely limitless hatred of humanity.
And I suppose that’s what I think about every time I see these overlords getting together with their baldness and syrupy affect and their all but outright public stroking of each other and their abject dismissal of anyone else’s ideas and opinions and doctrine, and their arrogance qua false, lying humility. So, yes…in the context of the neo-Calvinist hoards, baldness evokes a disdain in me for that specific…uh, hairstyle? I know there is nothing inherently wrong with it as I witness it in general public, and it can be a downright badass look on the right person (Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers/Lawrence Fishburn in the Matrix…can I get an amen?!). Still, when I see it on a neo-Calvinist I can’t help but think, ‘Emulate evil demagogues much?’.
So, yes…that comes out sometimes in my posts.
If you’ve read this blog much, you know that snark is my style. I like to integrate this kind of mildly-offensive humor into my critiques and expositions. It’s merely another symptom of the satisfaction I get out of my polemic. It would be wrong to assume that any criticism of neo-Calvinist despots, even if it is their clothes or their verbal affect or their “hair” somehow applies to anyone and everyone. That’s a generalization I would hope people understand is not consistent with my oft-stated philosophy of the sacred autonomy of the individual. To think otherwise I’d consider an overreaction.
All of us who stand in solid opposition to human degradation should realize that these men have been totally idolized for the majority of their “professional” careers. It is not hyperbole to acknowledge that in Sovereign Grace Ministries C.J. Mahaney was (and likely still is) the epitome of the “proper Christian”. He was everything and anything any “good Christian” man would aspire to become. He was deified upon the stage, behind that pulpit where his very finger smudges were thought to reveal the epitome of man’s status as “God’s image”. His name became synonymous with God’s Will. He was considered the apogee of God’s grace; the apex of His blessing; the absolute limit of what mortal man could hope to become in this life, which disturbingly, as time went on, began to look less and less like mortal man at all and more and more like God, until the only real distinction was that one of them went on and on about how SGM was the church done to utter perfection and then constantly lied about how unworthy he thought he was to lead it…and the Other just up and left.
Why do you think the doctrinal shift from charismatic to full-blown Calvinism covered SGM as smoothly as butter covers hot bread? Because it was what C.J. WANTED! And C.J. WAS GOD to the rest of us and so no other opinions mattered. No one batted an eye. No other “leader” raised a hand and asked to take a vote, or suggested that perhaps the congregations, who after all are members (by legally binding affidavit, btw) of the “family”, and who, incidentally, front all the fucking money for the spiritual ponzi scheme which is Sovereign Grace Ministries in the first place, might be entreated to give an opinion on the matter. No one questioned CJ’s motives as he became more and more enamored with and by the Reformed “big dogs” (if…you know, your definition of “big dogs” is short and bald and whitebread (that’s for you, A Mom, ;-)). Further, nowhere in the thousand-page shit sandwich Brent Detwiler force-fed his former spiritual “covering” does he seriously question the legitimacy of or the need for such a radical doctrinal shift.
Again, this is entirely due to the fact that they worshiped (worship) C.J. Mahaney. And even his staunchest critics to this day continue to proclaim that he is a “good man”; that they are trying to “help” SGM move forward as a effective emissary of Christ, never realizing that that motherfucking ship has LONG since sailed.
This is the power these shamans have over everyone around them. It is a scary charisma that has served them very well for a long time and has elevated them to the status of “untouchable”…and I don’t mean that in the Hindu sense, but in the God-likes-me-better-than-you sense. And, truly, this is precisely what these men think of themselves.
Along with God, they have been knighted by the best and brightest of the faith and as such they can do no wrong. Remember that in almost all of Christianity’s “orthodox” thinking the epistemological assumption is that truth is a function not of learning and/or the application of reason but of pure revelation. And as such, no one knows anything except that which God divinely bestows upon him (and, naturally, women, the “cause of Adam’s fall”, are in all but the rarest circumstances entirely excluded from God’s revelatory favor), somehow giving the metaphysically totally depraved worm the “grace to perceive”. It is stating the obvious to point out that C.J. Mahaney, Mohler, Dever, Duncan, Sproul one and two, Piper, et. al. are among the epistemologically advantaged thanks to the (fake) conduit of absolute divine intervention which as I said is the only way knowledge is passed on to man. So they believe.
This lauding to the point of deification of those who we are told have been “called” by God to “lead” (own, and rule absolutely) is intentional. As it comes from the ecclesiastical authority it is neither a symptom nor a consequence. It is an active strategy. The idea that those whom God has called to finally do Christianity “right”…to take the Church to the place where God has always wanted it to go but was waiting with baited breath for the appointed time: the birth of these great men whom God has determined for such a time as this (bleah…), riding to the rescue of America on their pure white horses and holding aloft the Sword of Truth to cut the wheat from the chaff…yes, that these men are somehow untouchable and above reproach because they are for all intents and purposes God, Himself TO you and me and all of the unwashed barbarians inside and outside the church whom need compelling into right thinking…this image is purposefully perpetuated for the purposes of securing absolute control over all things spiritual and civil. We are lied to and told that to criticize the neo-Reformed “leaders” who are “standing in the stead of God” is tantamount to the rejection of God’s past prophets and Kings, even unto Christ, Himself. For as far as you are concerned, there is no distinction between your local church senior pastor and Christ. “Follow us as we follow Christ” is merely an appeal to their right to OWN you. On God’s behalf, of course. Do not be so naive as to take this to mean that somehow you are able to rightly discern whether they are actually following Christ or not. As if! What it means is that the perpetual work that Christ must do FOR you in order to maintain your salvation because you are totally depraved and thus excluded from any righteousness by which you can claim your OWN acceptance by God is actually the work, whatever it happens to be at any given moment, that they are doing. They occupy an impossible metaphysical position which demands your unwavering affirmation and devotion to their every word and whim because without them, YOU don’t exist to God. They are God to you and YOU to God. They are YOU…so as they act in this capacity, you get to live, and there is no other relevant life for you. And it is by this proxy-life you are saved. This is the root of their “kingdom keys” doctrine and why they are so fucking big on excommunication. They inherited that little blasphemy from the abominable Catholic church idea of the same name; “Saint” Augustine, as John Immel so deftly explains, being the first to systematically and absolutely sever the relationship between God and the individual child of His divine creation. And humanity has never fully recovered; which even a cursory glance at the positively abominable behavior of so many “Christians” reveals.
My point is this:
People are terrified to criticize these people for fear that God will, somehow, even in spite of the fact that their message is demonstrably evil, drop a fucking engine block on their heads as soon as the step out the front door. Or send a bear to maul them, or bring about their financial ruin, or their madness, or send them, worst of all, to gnash their teeth and wail in a lake of burning sulfur forever and ever until they beg for a finger dipped in cool water to be placed upon their tongues to ease their indescribable suffering. Congregations have been systematically bred to vaunt these despots and to consider every parameter of their personal taste and style as the paragon of wisdom, and every passing or trite opinion as some kind of divine mandate which true godliness dictates they should emulate.
And if one is too terrified to even state that CJ is not an attractive man in any capacity, which is, I would argue, objectively true, (not saying that I am, but merely pointing out that he is not) and therefore maybe purposefully pursuing a C.J.-style is not the most valuable course of action given that attracting others to us is a GOOD thing, objectively speaking…yes, if one cannot even say that CJ is rather un-fetching, and is a terrible athlete, or that it seems silly and absurd for a dust mite like John Piper to demand that women submit to him simply because he happens to have external genitalia, understanding that there is almost nothing else by which to distinguish him as a man, then how on earth can we expect people to criticize or challenge the oh-so-venerated and holy reformed DOCTRINE, which, so they lead us to believe, has been hand-delivered on stone tablets by none other than God, Himself to the lobbies of their churches. Postage paid by Sender.
They are just men!
And recognizing that they fall prey to the same kinds of physical follies, foibles, and various jokes of impish mother nature (no fashion sense, no athletic ability, a head so white and shaved so bald that an airplane could see by it to land safely in the dead of night) that the rest of us do helps those who are being abused and have been abused by their lording and lies to see that in reality they are not so special after all. I suppose it helps me to think that if God really liked them as much as they would have us believe, to the point of His specific, special, divine enlightenment of their humble little selves, all the while using this “divine calling” to demand unequivocal ownership of the masses, well…I wouldn’t think they’d look like such weasels.
This may or may not be true, but criticizing their flaws to me opens the door to criticize that which is that much more significant: their doctrine. Once people realize that, yeah, you know, CJ isn’t particularly impressive either in intellect or in physical stature and he does not make an attractive bald man (unlike, say, Patrick Stewart, who rocks it, along with the aforementioned Jackson and Fishburn) and that John Piper probably shops in the boys department, or that Al Mohler looks like he either doesn’t get enough sleep or is on drugs, or that James McDonald’s head looks like a Bartlett pear, then I submit that the allure is shaken just that much. The bloom is just a little more off the rose. The false front has been to some extent revealed. People realize that these men are not above the usual flaws that bedevil us all. It opens them up to far more substantial criticism.
I’m not arguing that I’m better looking or possess a greater fashion sense. No! I’m arguing that neither are they. I am arguing that they are NO BETTER than you or I, and if I have to remark upon their physical limitations and grooming challenges to point this out then I will. When someone tries to convince you that he is the chosen master race, I don’t care what the fucking context, racial or spiritual or what have you, the first thing that crosses my mind is: that’s high talk for someone who can’t even pick a shirt that fits, or who might make a great stunt double for Danny DeVito except for the fact that he doesn’t look powerful enough to support the make up.
But in all seriousness, pointing out the fact that our gurus have the same basic flaws and imperfections as the rest of us is wonderful with respect to destroying their mystic veneer. They are just men. And when you realize that, you realize then there is no reason to think they are somehow special, or that they can make some kind of rational claim to a special revelation which subverts or circumvents our own reason or Biblical interpretation. They possess no particularly impressive stature or intellect. They have ideas, that’s all. And not very good ones. And they are on the hook for defending them, rationally, not appealing to force or divine dispensation or fear or penis possession, just like the rest of us.
That’s my message, and promoting it is the end goal of my derision and snark.
Plus…well, isn’t it just plain fun to poke and prod the delicate sensibilities of those who take themselves so damn seriously? I thinks it’s an absolute gas.