Warlords and Witchcraft

One social media circle of Christians that’s familiar to me is the tribe of ultraconservative Reformed Roarriors. For better or worse, they’re a part of my people and my social circles through various former and ongoing social engagements over the years. And I have some sympathies for what they’re attempting to do through their cultural engagements, even if they often do it bluntly and poorly.

I’ve spoken about them as Culture Warlords and their horde of zealous Culture Warriors who bellow the war-cries, blow the Warhorns, and charge into Worldview™ Warfare. It’s an image of armed Christianity and weaponized faithfulness that’s more meaningful and central to their self-conception and brand identity than that of being a Church and Faith that’s first and foremost a culture of worship. (Read more here, here, and here.) Not that they do away with the latter. It’s just a matter of their apparent functional priorities. And it’s intensified in recent years.

I’ve talked about my brethren affectionately as cantankerous Calvinists leading the way in the defense of a gender-differentiated sex spectrum from mere complementarianism, through severe complementarianism, to roaring patriarchalism—going hand-in-hand with ever-increasing degrees of distortional performative hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity. All the while uncomfortable with potent feminine agency, uncertain what to do with it. Even how they lead the way in LARPing a particular vision of traditional life, supposedly to recapture a concept of the downfallen traditional household that favors strict domestic agency for women that tends to become juxtaposed to economic agency. It can even spawn and propagate a peculiar retrolapsarian prosperity gospel. These too have intensified in recent years.

All of this is deeply dependent upon clear conceptions and structures of robust authority and submission. And that’s something for which we can genuinely be grateful. But there’s a reactionary intensification in recent years that seems to be challenging even that.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of Yahweh,
He also has rejected you from the kingship.

– 1 Samuel 15:23

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

– Romans 13:1-2

The current cultural climate in the United States is more tense and polarized than ever as one issue after the next piles on more pressure and opportunity for conflict and outrage. American Christians have not been immune from this. The Reformed Roarriors have not been immune from this.

The Reformed Culture Warlords have long asserted God’s good design for authority and submission among superiors and inferiors for every station in every sphere of existence. But now, the Culture Warlords are revealing themselves to be all too eager to assert their (very Enlightenment American) rights and liberties against exertions of state authority, too eager to want to subvert and rebel. To loudly challenge state encroachments or state ineptitude. And to even embolden other Christians not under the ecclesiastical authority of these men to defy their pastors and other authorities. The ecclesiastical warlording of these men is starting to look like an attitude of ecclesiastical witchcraft, i.e. rebellion.

Our Lord taught his followers that if a man strikes us on our right cheek, then we should turn our heads and offer him the left cheek to hit as well. There’s a thick thread running through the fabric of scriptural instruction that we are to learn patience and submission, even to a measure of mistreatment and persecution for doing right. To not be so quick to resist and fight back. But to endure and then resist once those in authority have actually commanded us to defy God. I’m not convinced that I’m seeing that sort of patience in the present circumstances.

Maybe it turns out that it’s all less principled than it first appeared and that this is more about personalities at play. Maybe several of the Cultural Warlords are actually men who have grown accustomed to and enjoy telling everyone what to do and despise all rivals to their tribal leadership. Will there come a point when God takes away authority here?

What if God was already working to take away the worship of the American church in his displeasure at our ongoing unfaithfulness to his commandments, and we find ourselves resisting his will and doing so in his Name? Have we considered God might’ve begun the judgment in his own house?

I can’t help but connect this with the charge of eschatological ecclesiastical feminism that runs through the strain of theonomic postmillennialism at work in Reformed Roarriors. This is a movement that holds and promotes a robust patriarchalism in the liturgical life and ordering of the church. And yet there’s an impulse for the church to defy the kings of the nations like a rebellious woman. Not for the sake of some holy subversion of tyranny, but for the sake of some haughty subversion of authority. What if the underlying church-state relations turn out to be the Bride of Christ as a corporate radical feminist?

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