I follow Doug Wilson’s Blog and Mablog because I think he is a trailblazer for an approach to Christian cultural engagement that is always aggressive and often belligerent—laughter is war, as he says. I don’t understand this approach well enough to dismiss it, so I keep reading, sometimes with gritted teeth, in the hope that I will eventually come to see how Wilson and his followers justify what looks to me like gleeful mockery—of brothers as well as the world—generously larded with the kind of jesting (what Strong’s translates as “scurrilous, ribald, low jesting”) that Ephesians 5:4 exhorts Christians to avoid.
In a recent post, Cheering for the Cowpie Channel, Wilson begins as follows:
I have said before that I find Sean Hannity barely tolerable. Whenever I see him, which is rarely, Bill O’Reilly provides an ongoing trial of the purity of my sanctification. And I have only seen Glenn Beck for a few minutes in YouTube clips, but that man is clearly a histrionic specimen of the first order.
I take all that as meaning that he does not like how they do what they do. But does he like the thing that they do? In some fashion, yes. Wilson continues:
That said, and fully acknowledged at the front end, I take great pleasure in the fact that, for the first time in my adult life, we are seeing an old-fashioned political brawl, the kind that suit-and-tie Republicans could and would never initiate.
I take that as meaning that Wilson likes old-fashioned political brawling itself, just not the fact that Hannity and O’Reilly and Beck are the ones who are conducting the Republican side of it. Why not?
These cable channel men, clearly not qualified to do so, have taken up a noble task that the certified gentry of conservatism would not touch with a barge pole.
OK, so the task itself is noble, the problem is that the men who have undertaken it are not qualified to do it, while the ones who are qualified to do it have become so gentrified that they won’t dirty their hands with the task.
Of course the Obama White House is chockablock with commies. It is beyond delightful to find people willing to say so, with an audience of millions, and who lack the sophistication to know that what they are doing is just not done.
It’s not important to my point here whether or not the White House is chockablock with commies, only that Wilson thinks so. And so he is delighted that someone has had the courage to say it. I’m not sure whether it’s the audience of millions that he thinks are unsophisticated, or Hannity and O’Reilly and Beck. Perhaps both. In any case, he seems to be willing to pay the price of having unqualified, unsophisticated messengers as long as the message gets delivered.
So apparently the importance of getting the brawl underway trumps the fact that it is being instigated and pursued by people whose behavior Wilson can barely tolerate and who he thinks are unqualified to engage the other side—which I guess means that for the wrong reasons they are accidentally saying the right things, such as claiming that the White House is chockablock with commies.
But what justifies this? Aren’t Christians supposed to let their yes be yes, and their no be no, regardless of what we think the outcome should be? Is this some sort of theory of co-belligerence, where we can encourage others to engage in behavior that is distasteful and untruthful as long as the outcome is desirable and our own hands stay clean?
Wlison ends his post with a helpful analogy:
It is as though an uptown lady bought a Mao T-shirt for 500 clams at an upscale boutique somewhere, and some cornpone fresh off the farm threw a cow pie at her for doing it. Sharp intake of breath all around, right? But in the cosmic scale of values, which is more of a moral blunder? Throwing a cowpie at a clueless rich lady, or wearing a T-shirt celebrating the sociopath who murdered scores of millions of people? [Emphasis added]
So, the key to managing such situations is a keen sense of the cosmic scale of moral blunders. As long as an action taken is less of a moral blunder than the action it is responding to, it is justifiable. Or, if I read Wilson’s final sentence correctly, it is at least an action that Christians can encourage others to take, if not take for themselves:
Anyway, that’s what it is like. So set me down as cheering for the cowpie channel.
I should say at this point that I don’t mean this to be some sort of “gotcha” analysis of Wilson’s post. I mean it to be a plain reading of the post by someone who doesn’t agree at all with Wilson’s approach to engaging the culture, and who is trying to understand in more detail the source of the disagreement. I don’t doubt that Wilson and his defenders will find his thinking in this post consistent with his overall view of the Christian life. What I want to know is whether my own view, which seems to me to rule out Wilson’s approach, is somehow wrong or deficient. I’m hoping that such close reading of Wilson’s writings will eventually tell me that.