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By In Culture, Politics

Trump, the NFL, and Culture War

As the Christian approaches the NFL/National Anthem Controversy, the first thing we have to understand is leftism is the greatest political threat to the church today by a mile. State-worshipping nationalism is indeed a problem, especially within the church, but it is dwarfed by cultural marxism. FoxNews watching Baby Boomers are responsible for a host of our present miseries, but they aren’t going to put my family in a gulag. The people who claim my very existence as a white person is oppressive and racist seem more than wiling to. These are the people who are driven to riot when someone as tame as Ben Shapiro, a quick-witted dispenser of fairly mundane GOP talking points, arrives to speak on their universities. These are the people who will ruin the lives of bakers, florists, photographers, etc. who will not use their skills to celebrate sodomy. These are the people who demand that anyone even tangentially connected with slavery must be erased from all historical memory.

Every major corporation kowtows to these people. Including and especially sports leagues like the NFL. Do not forget that when Texas and North Carolina put forth bills to protect freedom of conscience of Christian business owners, the NFL threatened both states to pull their business. The NFL also notoriously promoted Michael Sam, the Mizzou defensive end with underwhelming football talent (as evidenced by his quick departure from the league), but unbelievable value as a propaganda tool. They are quick to banish players who are merely accused of domestic violence or sexual assault, doing away with all semblance of due process in a move that is clearly made to placate radical feminists who wish all accusations of violence against women were similarly punishable by testimony of a single witness.

Like most cultural institutions in America, universities, entertainment conglomerates like Disney (the owner of entertainment products like Lucasfilm and ESPN), news media, tech corporations like Google and Apple, the NFL is moderately left wing. They have their finger on where the zeitgeist is and have set their course just a wee bit left of that. They are not radically leftwing, for if they were, Colin Kaepernick, the Fidel-Castro-loving, pig-sock-wearing, former 49ers quarterback, who is not without enough talent to at least justify a roster spot, would still be employed. They are clearly terrified to have their organization connected to whatever the worst inanities Slate, HuffPo, Vice, and Salon can inspire that will come out of his mouth at a press conference. The NFL is clearly willing to sip some diet woke, but if they let Kaepernick come back, a fatal overdose of wokeness will get injected straight into their veins. (more…)

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By In Film, Podcast

Episode 10: A Review of the Movie Dunkirk

In this episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Pastor Andrew Isker and Sean Johnson offer a review of  “Dunkirk” – a 2017 war film written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan.

Dunkirk is set in May of 1940, when Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post described Dunkirk as uncomfortable to watch, “it never relents or relaxes. At the same time, it’s impossible to look away from it.”

Sean Johnson also offered a written review of Dunkirk for FilmFisher.

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By In Culture, Politics

The Boniface Option, Part II

The Martyrdom of Saint Boniface

After the Google Memo and the subsequent firing of its author, it has become all the more apparent that we are living in a progressive theocracy. The progressive goddess of egalitarianism was profaned by someone who seemed to be an erstwhile worshiper at one of her holiest of holies—the campus of Google, at the heart of Silicon Valley. This senior software engineer, James Damore, holds a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University, and he used documented scientific research (one of the apparently lesser prog deities) to point out biological differences between men and women as it pertains to aptitudes for programming and corporate leadership. He was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” If a Harvard Ph.D. in biology cannot have a discussion about egalitarianism, even when it is based solely on scientific evidence, what hope do any of us have?

It is with this vicious, rampaging, militant progressivism—one that has taken hold of nearly every conceivable institution—that I wrote about “the Boniface Option” earlier this summer. These people will be coming for us. We need to get ready now.

In order to be ready, the church today needs to train more Bonifaces. What are Bonifaces? Disciplined men who have seriously counted the cost of faithfully believing in Jesus Christ and are ready to hold whatever that cost is in contempt in comparison to the glory of knowing and serving Jesus Christ. They are men who are expecting the cost to come due and made the decision long ago they will pay it, no matter what it is. What will those costs be for us in the early 21st Century West? While the odds of a jihadist singling you out for execution are considerably low and state-sponsored persecution of Christians like the kind that took place under Josef Stalin is not currently taking place (but is less absurd to at least fathom happening), it is easy to conceive the kind of consequences Christians will face for faithfulness to Jesus over the next forty years.

Chief among them: being fired from your job for membership in a group that is guilty of hate speech, i.e. a biblically orthodox Christian church (“orthodox” here absolutely including biblical sexuality). We need to be making decisions now about what we will do. Are you ready to lose your job for being a Christian? Are you prepared to lose your job for being a Christian? The kind of people targeted for membership in “hate groups” will be high-earning professionals in careers where it took them a long time to establish themselves. They won’t go after experienced plumbers, welders, or skilled carpenters, at least not right away, if ever. They will first go after attorneys, physicians, executives, and any other targets with an awful lot to lose. Those Christian men who are in such positions have to decide right now if they are willing to lose their careers and status for the cause of Christ.

Men who profess their love of Christ today and their willingness to pick up their cross and die for Him need to know that Satan is not going to attack what you love second or third most. Satan knows that most Americans (including and especially American Christians) would rather die than lose their access to Mammon. Look at how many men kill themselves when their careers come crashing down and how much more because their careers never got started. Many men would literally rather die than lose their comfortable lifestyles. Christians are not immune to this spirit of the age. Martyrdom for modern, Western Christians is not death. It is being reduced from a 747 pilot to pumping septic tanks. It is going from being the C-something-O of a Fortune 500 tech company to repairing MacBooks for just above minimum wage. It is going from partner track at your law firm, to installing track lighting in rundown apartments. Martyrdom in the affluent, post-Christian West is having your class and status reduced for the sake of Christ and suffering this gladly. When these things start to happen, the world will take notice. This is the modern equivalent of being fed to wild beasts in the Coliseum. How many will recant? Once the first few heads start to roll for hate speech guilt-by-association, how many will leave their churches? If we start preparing our people for what seems like the inevitable, we’ll be ready to suffer financially and socially when that day comes.

But how do we prepare for that day? We have to have strong communities centered around renewing the covenant on the Lord’s Day. This is what books like Dreher’s The Benedict Option and Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes only begin to touch on (the latter I recommend highly—if only for Esolen’s fantastic prose!). The kind of communities that Dreher and Esolen want to establish are full of serious Christians, and this is great, but there must be something around which these communities cohere.

For Dreher and Esolen, who are Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, respectively, their books are for a “mere Christian” audience so they cannot delve too deeply into specifics about this, but my intended audience is much more narrow—Reformed and evangelical Christians. We need to be building communities that consciously understand what Lord’s Day worship is—that we are not gathering together to sing nice songs to God and hear some inspiring words every week, but re-establishing our covenant with God, being called by Him into His presence, being told by Him that He has forgiven our sins, being taught by His Word, being fed by Him, being commissioned by Him to go out into the world and disciple and teach the nations all that He has commanded. This must be the foundation for the kind of serious Christian community that will not only weather the violent tempest ahead but will rebuke the wind and waves in the name of Jesus Christ. That is the point of the covenant that it has a goal, an endpoint, a telos. No community can hold up unless it has a direction it is going.

If the communities we hope to build are just walled compounds to keep the waves of brain-eating zombies out, they won’t last, even if we are reading Civitas Dei, the Summa Theologica, and Institutes of the Christian Religion safely behind that compound’s walls. Teleology matters. Eschatology matters. Either the cultural decline in the West is the beginning of the end of time or one of a series of challenges the church has had to face throughout her history. How we answer that question will define everything we do, from our most mundane daily tasks to what we do with the totality of our lives and what direction we will lead our families in. And let me be perfectly clear, the world is not coming to an end. The church is facing a furnace of affliction. On the other side of it, she will be a bride all the more spotless and pure. Our Lord will deliver us through what is coming. We can trust His promise that He has not abandoned us, but is with us. It is He who has all power and dominion over all the nations of the earth, and He will defend His bride. It is our job to remain faithful, to persevere, and to trust He will deliver. That should be the foundation of how we live in light of what is coming. Trust Jesus and prepare for the fight.

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By In Interviews, Podcast

Episode 7, The Benedict and Boniface Options

On this episode, Steve Jeffery interviews Andrew Isker about Rod Dreher’s popular new book “The Benedict Option” and his response “The Boniface Option”. Boniface was a member of the order that Benedict founded, but after being appointed Bishop of then-pagan Germania he travelled through the region east of the Rhine preaching the gospel, destroying pagan idols and shrines, and leaving churches in their place. The pagans he converted were Pastor Isker’s ancestors. Pastor Isker argues that Boniface has some important additional lessons to compliment Dreher’s “Benedict option”.

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By In Interviews, Podcast

Episode 6, Second Interview with Douglas Wilson: Ministering the Gospel in the Trump Age

In this second interview, Kuyperian’s Andrew Isker continues this interview with Pastor Douglas Wilson (Christ Church, Moscow, ID) on the 2016 election, the rapid political and cultural transformation in America, the Alt-Right, the SJW-left, and evangelism in light it all; this is a fascinating discussion. This is the second of a two-part interview with Pastor Wilson.

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By In Interviews, Podcast

Episode 6a, Interview with Douglas Wilson: Ministering the Gospel in the Trump Age

A discussion with Pastor Douglas Wilson and Kuyperian’s Andrew Isker on the 2016 election, the rapid political and cultural transformation in America, the Alt-Right, the SJW-left, and evangelism in light it all; this is a fascinating discussion. This interview is divided into two sections. The second will be available next week.

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By In Culture, Theology

The Boniface Option

Nearly thirteen centuries ago, my ancestors, the people east of the Rhine, were tribal, pagan savages. They were not nice people.  They worshipped the Norse gods like Thor and Odin and had tattoos all over their bodies marking their devotion to him and their devotion to their tribe. Like most tribal societies, anyone who was not part of the tribe was more or less subhuman and fit for being robbed, murdered, and/or raped. They practiced human sacrifice. They weren’t all that different from ISIS today.

Into this world went a humble Benedictine monk named Winfrid. He left the cloister to become a missionary. Pope Gregory II appointed this missionary monk as bishop of then-pagan Germania and gave him a new name: Boniface. Boniface went through Germania preaching the gospel and destroying pagan idols and shrines and leaving churches in their place. The pagans he converted were my ancestors.

And to their great shrine venerated by these people Boniface went: to the Oak of Thor, where my ancestors sacrificed to their god of thunder. They believed that if anyone touched this tree, Thor would respond to this sacrilege by killing him with a bolt of lightning. Boniface, trusting that Christ had triumphed over all the demons of the prince of the power of the air, declared that he would not only just touch this tree, but he would chop it down. So word went out and many pagans gathered to watch Thor fry this foolish Christian. Instead they saw their idol fall to the earth and they were all baptized that day.

Boniface was preaching to other pagans many years later when he finally poured out his blood for Jesus Christ. A band of raiders attacked Boniface and his large group of companions. Though he and the 52 others who were with him could have resisted, the elderly missionary ordered them all to desist. At the age of 79 he received his crown of glory.

The monastic order St. Boniface came from began about two centuries before his birth and was called “the Order of Saint Benedict.” It is Saint Benedict, who, during the calamity of the collapse of the Roman Empire, formed monasteries. These monasteries became communities of Christian thought and worship which helped bring stability to Christendom.

Today, the West (and the American Empire in particular) like Rome in Benedict’s day, is in a state of slow, seemingly inexorable decline. Soft times have created soft men. So God has given us hard times. These hard times, this great decline is what the big, important book of the moment, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, was written to address. Several GBs of data have been spilled critiquing it, analyzing it, and praising it. Kuyperian Commentary’s own Sean Johnson has a review here. What I am offering is not a review or a critique. If anything it is a personal addendum. In poker terms: I see Rod Dreher’s St. Benedict and raise him St. Boniface.

To start with, if you don’t know, what is The Benedict Option? My summation of it is this: a movement to emphasize the formation of intentionally Christian communities centered around spiritual and intellectual development as opposed to massive religious right coalitions fighting the culture war on a national scale.

I don’t find this to be objectionable. Anyone can see that the church has less influence in American culture than at any point in this nation’s history. The heyday of evangelicalism, where evangelicals were a voting bloc that the creatures in Washington had to appease, is no more. In hindsight, it is easy to see what went wrong. All the capital spent on voting a man we considered “one of our own,” George W. Bush, was wasted on his disastrous tenure as president, like Heath Ledger’s Joker lighting his pyramid of cash on fire. We made our deal with the devil and lost. And even if things had gone well, we still would have lost. The Christianity that fueled the religious right was 1,000 miles wide and half an inch deep. The vast majority of our churches are the descendants of the Second Great Awakening and Charles Finney—and these are the conservative ones! There is no way that this kind of Christianity that preaches a gospel of cheap and easy vending machine grace (not to mention apathy toward and neglect of the world which Christ reigns over) could build and sustain a culture that could last centuries. So, instead of fighting quixotic national political campaigns to oppose sodomy and abortion, shifting our emphasis to building local communities of Christians where we can grow strong in theology and liturgy (and be strengthened by good theology and faithful worship) is what we ought to be doing. Doing what actually worked in the past seems right, especially when we consider the other option—continuing to do what we are currently doing with the same result—is the definition of insanity.

Therefore, if we are going to embark on forming local Christian communities in the face of the chaos of imperial decline, which I think we should, it is of the utmost importance that we have an idea of the kind of men we should be forming. We need men who would trade the cloister for confrontation. Men who would trade the relative comfort of the monastery for missions and martyrdom. We need hard men for hard times. Thor’s Oak wasn’t felled because Boniface got the pagans to like him and think he was a pretty cool guy. These people hated him and his God. Thor’s Oak was felled because of the truth—the Jesus Christ is God, Thor is not. We have to learn not to care what unbelievers, people who are going to spend eternity in hell for their hatred of God, think. We ought not to care what their opinion of us is. These are people who desperately need to hear the truth. The truth about a God-man who was murdered for speaking the truth. We have to understand, every unbeliever would have killed Jesus if they had the chance. What is sin if not attempted deicide, after all? Yet the Lord loved them and gave His life for them. As He was going through the agony of the cross at any instant with a single word He could have eviscerated those responsible for His murder. Instead, He forgave them.

We need to be forming men like Christ. We need to be forming men like Boniface. Men who boldly spoke the truth, no matter the cost. And men who sacrificially laid down their lives for their enemies when the cost came due. Love for our enemies means: 1. recognizing we have enemies. 2. telling these enemies the truth. 3. laying down our lives for them. Most evangelical cultural engagement replaces steps 1 and 2 with: 1. make no distinctions about anything 2. be winsome and try to get everyone to like you. There is only one direction an approach like this can go. Those who adopt it do so out of a mix of apathy, pragmatism, and cowardice.

Not so with the Boniface Option. This isn’t to say we have to go out of our way to be hated. Picketing the funerals of soldiers telling people “God hates fags” is despicable and obviously not the Boniface Option. But if the culture is increasingly becoming anti-Christian (it is), you won’t have to go out of your way to find enemies. Faithfully worshipping Jesus and leading a godly life will draw them to you like flies to honey. And the Thor’s Oaks they worship won’t be chopped down with pathological niceness. They will be chopped down by men who are ready to lose their careers, reputations, 401ks, etc. for faithfulness to Jesus. Men who chose what is hard because they believe their God. Men who, like their Lord, won’t break a bruised reed, but who follow a God who executes kings in the day of His wrath. The soft times of Pax Americana created soft men. It appears our Lord has given us hard times. It is time to forge hard men.

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