Jesus healed people, and as someone who works in one of the healing trades, I get some comfort that he got irritated by those who just kept on coming to see him. One of the reasons we teach self care to medical students and talk boundaries to our colleagues is that we are fully aware that we are likely to call our patients, out loud, faithless, peverse, and demanding.
We are likely to say that we are exhausted. And any of those statements, though true, is a career ending move. At times that means that I retreat back up the mountain until I can control the snark, for the snark exists, and the only place it is useful is twitter. 
But we need not fear our careers being ruined. During the conference I was chairing the leftist political people kept on making political statements while praising the scientific committee for a good, scientific programme. Not seeing what they are doing, and what their assumptions were: in particular being snide about Nicky Hager and the dirty Politics “leaking” of information from the government to a blogger (Whaleoil) — using stolen emails and facebook posts.
I was silent. I’m probably in the stolen facebook posts: some years when Cam (the main whaleoil editor) was going through a bad patch we had some facebook chats. About how his illness was awful: having friends who support you via facesplat used to be one of the reasons it exists — and the main reason I still have an account.
Christ was looking to the cross. The people wanted him to stay, and heal them. He knew the cost of being healing to all the nations, and his duty.
And, as the great physician Christ is, he did his duty. As should we all.
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astonished at the majesty of God.
But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
(Luke 9:37-50 ESV)
OK… what should we do? Well, in Christ we are to see each other as radically equal. Equally broken. Equally in need of salvation. Even if we are powerful and rich in the terms of this world, by the standards of heaven our greatest and best achievements are trash. We are all dependant on the word of God. We are as little children.
There is a second application. We need to be aware that the salvation is spread widely. God cares as much for our enemies as ourselves. He cares for the Islamists, for they have children who do not know their right hand from their left, and (as Jonah reminded us) he cares for the very animals in our cities and civilisations. We are not to condemn those who do good in the name of Christ, but help them: ally with them. If this means that the reformed believers are defending the orthodox (who do not acknowledge them) or the Anabaptists the Romans (who killed them) then we are doing our duty. There is a general witness to all, called our conscience, and a second witness, the laws of nature. This allows us to call things twisted: allows us to do analysis of our society and culture, and gives us a line on which to measure our own behaviour.
Of course, none of this is acknowledged by the progressives. They want but one message, and that is that we act as they demand.
In that book, I documented that cultural progressive activists tend to consider their political opponents to be irrational, religious individuals trying to move our culture backwards. They have little respect for their political opponents. They often express concerns about the ability of religious individuals to have influence on our political system. With this sort of mindset, it is easy to perceive a motivation from Houston officials, if they are cultural progressive activists, to gather sermons and other material in an effort to “expose” the irrationality and intolerance of their political opponents. Whether the documents are relevant to the current court case may be less important to these officials than stopping the efforts of those who would take our culture backwards.
My suggestion is that it is not as much a fear of Christians as it is the fear of the socially conservative culture linked to Christians driving these subpoenas. The lack of respect cultural progressive activists have for their political opponents allow them to rationalize using the legal system to “dig up dirt” on them. In my sample, I found several individuals who did not believe that religious individuals had the right to fully participate in our political progress. A good number of respondents also articulated a belief that religious individuals are brainwashed and cultural conservative political movements have developed due to the manipulation of ignorant Christians by evil leaders. Thus the political claims in this movement are not legitimate claims by people seeking to serve their own social and material interests, but are the result of manipulation whereby they have been persuaded to vote against their own economic and social interest. When we recognize that many cultural progressive activists do not see cultural conservatives as legitimate political players in our governmental system, then the overreaching request make a great deal of sense.
I am glad I waited a day or two before submitting this blog as new information indicates that the Houston mayor is backing away from some of the requests. Since she is a lesbian who is an activist on sexuality issues, it clearly would look political bad to have her requesting sermons from conservative preachers. Indeed this does look like an incredible political faux pas, one that an experience politician would not make unless blinded by previous stereotypes of her political opponents. The type of stereotypes I discovered in my cultural progressive activists research helps explain such a mistake.
Most of the progressives think I am one of them because I have a reasonable level of academic chops. One of the things I saw in the most recent meeting (and with some pleasure) that my old university has grants and is moving to getting needed research done. I appreciated advice from colleagues from Christchurch about what I needed to do next. I’m not jealous of other’s success, I’m hungry for their results. We all stand on the work of others. The big conversation was about networks, and in those networks we do have an ability to influence others.
Well, the answer is that Christians need to take seriously the need to speak and act intelligently when dealing with non-Christians. We need to study apologetics, yes. But we also need to be good at knowing other things – practical things, academic things. We should be able to earn a living and share with others. We should be able to demonstrate sobriety, discipline and chastity. We should be able to explain rationally and evidentially all the moral beliefs that non-Christians find the most objectionable. We should have an interest in current events, economics, law, politics and foreign policy. Etc. We have to be able to out-think our rivals, and win their respect the same way that Joseph won the respect of Pharaoh, and Daniel won the respect of Nebuchadnezzar.
I think it’s interesting that Dr. George Yancey himself is an excellent example of what I am talking about. He is a full professor at the University of North Texas, and has published books with Oxford University Press. If people want to know if it is possible to be a Christian and be intelligent, this is exactly who we need to show them – and who we need to be. We should be working on this! And raising our kids to counteract these perceptions that the secular leftists have of us. Often, the secular leftists are raised in Christian homes, see the anti-intellectualism in popular Christianity firsthand, then head off to university to train as a persecutor. We have to shape up and stop this from happening. We are train our own executioners, because of our laziness, ignorance and cowardice.
My brother the knight has made one error here, OUP does and will publish trash if there is a commercial justification for doing so: it is a commercial publishing house with some connections to Oxford.
But he is correct. We need to have knowledge, we need to be honest. And that will take courage.
1. The text in other translations is “faithless and perverse generation”. The ESV uses twisted, which in this time is a better translation, for perversions are not merely sexual. I used the version I have read hundreds of times.