The Boys Who Wore the Gray

I saw this quote once, I can’t remember now who said it:

In the south, we know where our grandparents are buried.

That captures much of what it means to be southern. Family is important and history is important. That doesn’t mean everything in that family or that history is as is should be but it does mean you don’t cavalierly abandon either one.

This week a mob descended on a Confederate monument in Durham, NC, put a rope around it and pulled it to the ground. They then kicked it, spat on it, and cursed at it. This was not a statue of a particular person. This was not Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson, this was a statue of a generic confederate soldier and was dedicated to the memory of “the boys who wore the gray.” It was erected by those for whom the Civil War was not just a distant memory but by people who remembered the horror of that war or had relatives who did.

So who were these “boys who wore the gray” that they should be so despised and spat upon? First of all, many of them didn’t actually “wear the gray” because they were too poor to have a proper uniform. They were mostly common men who worked their farms and loved their families. And because of that they left those farms and families to fight when they believed they were in danger. They were my great, great grandfather who volunteered to fight for his state and his family, not to keep his slaves, having none. He returned from the horror of that war to marry, work hard and raise a family. They were my distant uncles one of whom lost his right hand at Cold Harbor. He too returned home and despite his handicap married, worked his farm in Clayton county and raised a family. They were my distant cousin, mortally wounded at Olustee who then languished in a hospital in Tallahassee for a month and died. They were another of my great, great grandfathers who died of disease and starvation at the federal POW camp in Elmira, NY, leaving behind a wife and children.

None of these men owned slaves. None of these men were movers and shakers defining the world in which they lived. They were simple men who worked hard, raised children and were willing to sacrifice even their lives for what they believed to be the greater good. To use a southern colloquialism, they were a darn sight better men than those who tore down that statue and spat on their memory.

And this sacrifice was repeated thousands of times across the south. Travis Archie says:

Many counties and towns (in the south) lost an entire generation of young men during the war. Some lost that generation on single battlefields within hours or even minutes. This catastrophic loss has not been replicated.

How do the ones left behind deal with that? One way is to erect memorials to those who died. That’s what happened in small towns and cities across the south after the war. This helped individuals, communities and even an entire region of the nation to heal.

The history purgers may prevail in our day. But though they remove the symbols of history from the public square, they will not change that history or remove the memories themselves. In the south, we know where our grandparents are buried.

Re-Humanizing Johnny Reb by Travis Archie

 

On the Church and Her Priorities

On the Church and Her Priorities“If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

The above quote, attributed often to Martin Luther though his authorship is questionable, is nevertheless an important one for the church in our day. If we fight yesterday’s battles, we will lose today’s.

Consider what we’ve seen in just the last few months:

And this is not an atypical few months with regard to gender and sexuality in our culture or in the church.

Over the same past few months I’ve also noticed:

  • Zero mainstream publications trying to convert teens to white supremacy.
  • Zero high profile Christians publicly waffling on whether racism is a sin.
  • Zero professing Christians aiding the implementation of government imposed segregation policies.
  • Zero churches taking action to be deliberately more inclusive of those who identify as white supremacists.
  • Zero taxpayer money allocated by Republicans or anyone else, to re-segregate the military.

So, in which of these areas does it appear the “battle rages?” On which of these topics should the church be speaking the loudest and the most often? In which area should we be concentrating the limited time and treasure the Lord has given us? On which topic should there be conferences and denominational resolutions (provided those actually accomplish something other than virtue signaling)? Which one should be called “Satanic” openly and often?

I get it, there are people who are appalled at how the church conducted herself on the issue of race in the mid-twentieth century and before; I’m one of them. Some people, I believe, like to think if they’d only been there, things would have been different they wouldn’t have refused to stand up. Now, in positions of power and influence they’re determined to make that clear. Trouble is,  it’s not Selma, 1965; it’s Sodom & Gomorrah, 2017.

If you want to prove you would have stood firm where the church faltered in the past then stand firm where she’s faltering today. Fight today’s battles, not yesterday’s. Battle reenactment is for hobbyists. Does racism still exist, yes, even when properly defined. But, to say it’s the or even an overarching problem for the church and must be given the same level of attention as the sexual revolution or something like abortion is simply not true. Confront it if you see it in a fellow believer but don’t pretend it’s larger than it is. To do so may win you attaboys from the culture but it won’t take the fight to the battle at hand.

Photo credit: Andrew Campbell Photography via Visual hunt / CC BY

Anal Sex, What you REALLY Need to Know (With no apologies to Teen Vogue)

I can’t believe I’m having to write an article with the above title. Yet, that’s were we are in America. The pro-gay lobby has so impacted the culture that a teen magazine, Teen Vogue, recently published an article called “Anal Sex: What you Need to Know” to help their young readers commit sodomy safely. The trouble is they didn’t tell them what they need to know, which is that there is no safe way to engage in this kind of behavior. I must warn you before you read further that I’m going to be blunt in this post and describe things that may be unsettling but it’s time for some of that in my opinion. For too long the discussion has been framed by those who willing to hide the ugly truth about homosexual behavior in order to promote an agenda. However, if you don’t want to read further, I’ll understand.

Let’s start with something very basic, something that needs to be said that virtually never is said: It is not possible for two men or two women to have sex. I don’t care what you’ve heard. The only option for two men or two women is sodomy. Sexual intercourse can only occur between people of the opposite sex. So the first thing you need to know about “anal sex” is that it’s not having sex. Calling it that is just another way the culture seeks to normalize homosexuality, like calling a homosexual relationship a “marriage.”

Secondly, as I said up front, there is no safe way to engage in this behavior. The lower intestinal tract is not designed to be an organ of copulation. When you force it into that role you risk damage to yourself even the very first time and you virtually ensure damage to yourself if you continue the behavior over the long term. You will damage your body if you engage in “anal sex” – it’s never safe.

John R. Diggs, Jr., M.D. wrote an article many years ago called “The Health Risks of Gay Sex” which is as true today as it was when written. Here is one of the things he says about this particular behavior:

With repeated trauma, friction and stretching, the sphincter loses its tone and its ability to maintain a tight seal. Consequently, anal intercourse leads to leakage of fecal material that can easily become chronic.

Put more simply, you can end up wearing a diaper because your rectum loses the ability to control your bowels. Doesn’t that make you want to dance around waving a rainbow flag?

Joseph Sciambra writing of his experience with homosexuality in San Francisco as a young man says as a result of anal intercourse he became plagued with painful bleeding hemorrhoids and eventually his rectum prolapsed and he bled every time he had a bowel movement. Years after he abandoned that lifestyle he still deals with the damage to his body:

Almost two decades after stopping such behavior, the most vicious joke has been on me – as today I am sometimes forced into adult protective undergarments.

Not only does it damage your body directly, anal intercourse is several times more likely than sexual intercourse to infect you with disease. The reason, again, is that this part of your body was not designed to be used this way. From Doctor Diggs:

…the intestine has only a single layer of cells separating it from highly vascular tissue, that is, blood. Therefore, any organisms that are introduced into the rectum have a much easier time establishing a foothold for infection than they would in a vagina.

As a result, anal intercourse makes one highly susceptible to a laundry list of infections:

Anal Cancer
Chlamydia trachomatis
Cryptosporidium
Giardia lamblia
Herpes simplex virus
Human immunodeficiency virus
Human papilloma virus
Isospora belli
Microsporidia
Gonorrhea
Viral hepatitis types B & C
Syphilis

Diggs points out that sexual transmission of some of these is virtually unknown in heterosexual populations. It is only when the lower intestine is used in a way for which it was not designed that you have them turning into “sexually” transmitted diseases. The danger of infection is not mitigated by using “protection” either. The stresses placed on the lower intestinal tract from this behavior can cause anal fissures, which are nothing but open doors for any infection that finds its way there whether from a partner or another source. Put bluntly, having an open wound in the area of your body where solid waste disposal takes place is a recipe for disaster.

I could go on. I suggest you read the entire piece written by Joesph Sciambra linked above as well as the article by Dr. Diggs – but I warn you, they’re not for the squeamish.

It’s time to for our culture look the sodomy they love so much in the face. If they’re going to promote it, we should insist they describe it as it is. It’s not rainbow flags and parades, it’s a doorway to pain, disease and even death in some cases and for a magazine like Teen Vogue to encourage young people to enter that world is unconscionable.

 

Photo credit: Hanbyul❤ via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Regarding Monumental Changes

Recently my wife and I visited Petersburg, Virginia to attend the wedding of a family friend. While there we were saw some of the many historical sites in that area of the country. One of the most interesting was Blandford Church and Cemetery. The cemetery has graves dating back to 1702. After the siege of Petersburg, as much as a year afterwards, there were still bodies in unmarked shallow graves or even lying in the open on the field of battle. Most were confederates as the union troops had been given proper burials. The women of Petersburg knew these men were someone’s husband, son or father and felt it unseemly for their bodies to remain this way. So, they formed the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg and began raising funds to give these men proper burials on what became known as Memorial Hill near the church. In the end, they buried or repatriated the bodies of some 30,000 confederate soldiers, many in mass graves because they could not be individually identified in the days before dog tags.

Georgia window at Blandford Church

But the most interesting aspect of the church is the windows. From 1904 to 1912, Louis Comfort Tiffany designed windows for the church, one for each southern state, to commemorate the men who gave their lives at Petersburg. It is one of the few buildings in the world where every window is a Tiffany window. The windows are works of art, each featuring a different character from the Bible and the seal of the state to which it’s dedicated. Each state also wrote an inscription to their war dead that Tiffany incorporated in the window. The window for my own state of Georgia features St. Thomas.

While touring the church, I thought of ongoing attempts across the south, most recently in New Orleans, to purge confederate history from the public square.  When seeking to remake a society in their own image, totalitarians always seek to destroy its history. This is often done by reducing history to a binary, everything associated with a particular event or time is evil and so must be destroyed whereas everything the new guard are seeking is good and must displace the old.

This happened after the French Revolution and during every communist revolution including Mao’s Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, thousands of Chinese historical sites were destroyed by the communists. I wonder how long it will be before this beautiful church is in the cross hairs of our own version of the cultural revolution?

An historic event is never about only one thing and so can rarely be classified wholesale as good or evil. And the participants in the event are never in lock-step as to their motivation for what they do. Anyone who tells you they are is either ignorant of history or seeking to manipulate you.

James Robert Farlow

My great, great grandfather, James Robert Farlow was in the 9th Georgia Light Artillery. They fought in the Chickamagua campaign in October, 1863 and saw action at the siege of Petersburg in 1865. They surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865. He owned no slaves. He was a simple man who returned from the war and went to work farming to feed his family. He once stood for alderman in College Park, GA but as far as I can tell that’s as high profile as he ever got. He passed away in 1915 at the age of 76 having raised seven children. Most of the soldiers of the confederacy were like this, probably most of the soldiers of the union as well. They were men caught up in something bigger than themselves who answered the call to fight for their state and defend their homes and families. They fought with courage and honor. Some of them returned home, many did not.

When I was in Moldova on a mission trip many years ago, I noticed every village had a monument to the soldiers of the village who gave their lives during the Second World War. The Soviet Union was gone by the time I was there and with it Communism, but the monuments remained. Because, like my great, great grandfather, these men were not fighting so much for a larger, political cause, in this case to uphold communism, but to defend their homes and families. To lump them all together as godless communists seeking to prop up Stalin and so deserving of no remembrance would be an insult to them and to those who loved them.

To remember men like this is not only right but it is honorable and those who say otherwise know not honor.

Transgenderism, Mental Illness, and the Church

I recently read a post on the issue of transgenderism that made this statement:

No objective tests can prove that the transgender condition exists. No physical examination, blood test, bone marrow test, chromosome test, or brain test will show that a person has gender dysphoria. It is a condition revealed solely by the patient’s feelings.

I agree with that wholeheartedly.

But here’s the thing – that can be said about a plethora of conditions we collectively term “mental illness.” Things like ADHD, depression, anxiety, and even things like schizophrenia are also symptom diagnosed (as opposed to diagnosed via objective medical tests). You tell the doctor or therapist what’s going on with you, they ask additional questions  or observe your behavior over time and they give you a diagnosis. There are no blood tests or other objective medical tests involved. Sometimes there are medical exams to rule out other causes, such as substance abuse, but that’s different from a positive diagnosis via medical exam.

Unfortunately, the same church who wants to refute psychology on transgenderism, has largely bought into the psychological model for many other conditions equally unprovable.

For example, why do we accept this:

“I know what the Bible says about anxiety but I have a special situation.  The doctor says my brain doesn’t function the way others’ do in this regard. This is something I can’t help, something that must be treated medically.”

But not this:

“I know what the Bible says about gender but I have a special situation. The doctor says my brain doesn’t work the way others’ do in this regard. This is something I can’t help, something that must be treated medically.”

The Bible always treats destructive behaviors and inappropriate thoughts as sin, never as diseases. For example, it talks about the sin of drunkenness, not the disease of alcoholism. Yet the disease model of sin is widely accepted in many churches today, even many conservative ones, and I believe those chickens will come home to roost with the issues gender and sexuality.

For years the church has deferred to the discipline of psychology as an alternative authority or at least a coequal authority with scripture with regard to behavior and thinking. Rather than treating problems of thinking as opportunities to point people to scripture and encourage them to renew their minds, we’ve deferred to psychologists and psychiatrists. But now, when faced with transgenderism, we want to jump off that train and say (rightly) there’s no objective evidence that something in the brain determines  gender independent of  anatomy.

If you have male anatomy and think you are a woman, you don’t have a problem with your brain, you have a problem with your thinking. You are engaging in sinful and warped thinking that needs to be brought in line with the teaching of the word of God. But because we don’t make that declaration in so many other areas, we may have our work cut out for us doing so in this one.