Grace, Restraint, Piglets, And My Friend Ashwin

I thought that a comment from my frequent critic, Ashwin, deserved highlighting. He was upset with the tone of yesterday’s “Piglets At The Teat” post, wherein I tried to offer encouragement to anyone whose pastor condemned both social services and those who made use of them as “piglets suckling at the teat” of evil government.

Here’s what Ashwin says:

“Not one of your best. I recall you liked to think of yourself as writing with “grace and restraint.” Not here you don’t.

What is the matter with you? Where does all this bile come from? There is nothing in Mr. Wilson’s writings that would justify such frothing at the mouth – unless you are more committed to a leftwing ideology than to the Gospel.” (Comments, Prevailing Winds, Dec. 14, 2009)

Golly. It’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, I didn’t mention Doug Wilson by name; it’s instructive, I think, that Ashwin was able to figure out who I was writing about. Not that it was terribly difficult, but he clearly made the connection between heavy-handed “pastoral” conduct and my reaction to it, correctly guessing from both that it was, in fact, Wilson’s words I found objectionable.

Second, I think that calling needy people, especially needy Christian people, and most pointedly needy Christian people who find themselves in desperate circumstances “piglets” is what’s woeful — not my response to it. I think that if I had called Wilson a “pig,” that would have been really wrong. I didn’t. Only one person in this situation did the ugly name-calling thing. It wasn’t me.

Third, Ashwin has in recent days described my writing as “calling down fire” on my brethren in Christ; here he asks where my “frothing at the mouth” and “bile” come from. My correspondent truly is a refined fellow, as is clear in his writing, for which I commend him. But I wouldn’t want to conclude from his description of what constitutes “frothing,” “bile,” and “calling down fire” that he’s a timid sort, less refined than brittle in reacting in horror to words that, in truth, don’t come close to the frenzied rhetoric he chastens me for.

Fourth, I can’t think of what’s “left-wing” about objecting to pastoral abuse. Lord help us if the right wing embraces inappropriate pastoral thundering as their territory.

I think that what Wilson says and writes about social services and poverty are imprudent and misdirected. If they had no effect on the witness of the Gospel or on people listening to him, I’d describe them that way. But you can’t defend people from cruelty, point them away from error, or invite them to explore a better way by tripping daintily over paths strewn with someone else’s contempt. The Church, frankly, could use a little direct language in confronting evil.

When the house is on fire, nothing good at all comes from simply tugging at your collar, wiping your brow, and asking if anyone else feels a bit warm.

2 Responses to “Grace, Restraint, Piglets, And My Friend Ashwin”

  1. Ashwin says:

    There is no indication that Mr. Wilson’s congregants are forced to listen to him under duress. Presumably there are several alternatives available to them in Moscow.

    So they must attend Mr. Wilson’s services because they like what they hear – and there is much to like. Mr. Wilson is an articulate, insightful preacher. There is much truth in what he says.

    For anyone to take offence for his congregants sake and berate the preacher for it is justified ONLY if that one has a close and loving relationship with that same preacher and congregation.

    You do not. You have repeatedly make excuses to not take communion with that congregation. You have made no secret of how odious you find Mr. Wilson.

    If you wish to really make a difference do the following: hold you peace for a year and during that year make it a point to have tea with Mr. Wilson or his family at least once a month. Talk about Christ and His Grace. At the end of that year you may be in a position to make a difference. It will also give you an opportunity to change.

    Only when you love the object of your rebukes can you write with “grace and restraint.” Learn to love Mr. Wilson. Only then may your rebuke him.

    God be with you.

  2. Through it all, Ashwin, I appreciate you and wish the very best for you at Christmas and in the New Year. Keep writing. You help keep me sharp.

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