Society is No One: When You Have Society’s Approval

Society is no one. It is the no one who sits in judgment over an activist’s appeal. It is the nobody standing in support of a preacher’s morality. It is the no one who cares for and supports you in your personal growth. Of course, everyone together is society, and good society demands good people to make it up. Society is so much a little bit of everyone that it is very little of anyone and is a dry reed ready to splinter and stab anyone who leans on it for support. And yet, society is something.

If everyone ditched trousers in favor of kilts, “but everyone’s doing it!” would be a meaningful appeal. Although traditional clothing can have deep and significant meaning, monks with manuscripts are no match for punks with printers. Mindless manufacturing is efficient, so whatever the original pattern is, it wins. People just copy, and to a point, they don’t mean anything by it. Copying is a glandular function, not an intellectual one. When I look at pictures of old Mormon homesteaders, all I really see is a bunch of people dressed like pioneers with a surplus of wives. What everyone did covered all the bases the Mormons cared to clothe, but the ideas on the inside were what mattered, and it was for those ideas that the Mormons’ neighbors drove them out.

G. K. Chesterton said something about agreeing to live in peace with each other so we could settle the theology, and he rejected the notion of agreeing on the theology to support settling down to live together. For instance, I consider whether I have a girlfriend to be more lastingly meaningful to my spiritual life than whether women should be ordained, but I refuse to throw up my hands with a resigned “C’est la vie!” so I can get on with romance if society judges one way or the other about women’s ordination. Society says do this and do that. Society thinks this and that. Society has the intellectual depth of a bowl of dog sweat.

Now for a gay marriage reference. If gay marriage supporters say society supports them and it does not, they are liars. If gay marriage supporters say society supports them and it does, they nevertheless commit themselves to perpetual evangelism because opinions come in and out of style just as much as they think they do. If they win the externals without the conversions of hearts and minds, they are going to lose. In the push for gay marriage, as in any other thing in society, there is an A Team of thinkers somewhere doing the intellectual heavy lifting. When they die out, others will come after to continue the push, but good leaders do not keep the mob going so much as they fashion individuals out of the proletarian dust, breathing life into their hearts and minds.

I think that everyone should think the same things that I think. Even if their ways of thinking are different, they should reach the same conclusions and arrange them in the same places that I do. If I have not thought about something, I should hardly dare to call anyone to agree with my position on it. If I am wrong about something, I should hardly dare to surrender when we change the subject and I am right about the new topic. How is it possible for me to demand agreement from others while still calling upon them to do their own thinking? How can I believe in agreement, which builds society, if society is no one? The individual, the lone man or woman, has free will. Society only has momentum.

There are, from time to time, individuals who incarnate their societies’ values and interests. Kings, priests, prophets, scholars, poets, philosophers, entertainers: they live differently than all their family and friends, but they are accepted as part of society, even essential members worth the sacrifice of many lives of ordinary people. The Church has its own catalogue of exemplary people, and in some Christian traditions, they are the Saints. You know, with the capital S. Saints achieve in their lifetimes the reality toward which the Church is struggling and striving, that being union with God and the active revelation of him in every aspect of their lives. Not everyone gets to be a capital S Saint and painted into icons (or for evangelicals, have books and movies made about them), but everyone does get to choose who they will imitate. What is more, they have the choice to imitate a way of life or just drift with the dispassionate tides. Tides care about nothing. Saints care about the smallest things. Free will exists, but my free will and yours are not the only two in existence.

Call it God, call it powers and authorities in the heavenly realms, call it your mother in law’s dead hand strangling you from beyond the grave: all of these wills are working on you. References to society as some sort of authority are like references to a rickety canoe as some sort of stability. That canoe keeps us out of the water, but currents and cataracts work no matter how much we argue about where and how we should go. Society is no one, and we have free will. Society is everyone, and we have duties. “Society says” is a “shut up, stupid” against disagreement and forms a poor argument and even worse proof for anything. Society demands named individuals to stand up and be counted as examples and authorities to be cited. Society demands that something other than society should speak, because society has no will. Society has only momentum. Society is no one.

Weekly Roundup: Same Sex Marriage and Superman

For many years Joe Carter, the original proprietor of the Evangelical Outpost, would gather together the week’s most interesting stories in a series called 33 Things.  Being a bloodthirsty Capitalist, Joe has threatened to sue if we continue to use the name*, thus we continue the tradition with the entirely unoriginal title of Weekly Roundup.

This week saw the high profile Supreme Court decisions that will fundamentally alter the same sex marriage debate in America.  Mere Orthodoxy has a helpful roundup of their own, gathering many of the major reactions from across the web.

One reaction not included in the Mere-O roundup comes from Dr. Peter Jones, Professor at Westminster Seminary California and Director of truthXchange.  Dr. Jones has a sober warning for the future of the church and her witness in America.

The venerable Doug Wilson, for his part, offers words of encouragement:

The salvation that Jesus is bringing to us is not a possible salvation, or a probable one, or a likely salvation. It is an inexorable and necessary salvation. Reformation, revival, salvation, forgiveness, and a spirit of deep repentance is coming at America just like tomorrow morning is.

Speaking in broader cultural terms, Josh Bishop ponders the implications of genderless marriage for men in general, specifically for their ability to form intimate, lasting and non-erotic friendships with other men.

And John Mark Reynolds provides a bit of much needed perspective by reminding traditional Christians that we have long been the “moral minority.”

In other political news, President Obama is still using ad hominem attacks on his political opponents, again suggesting that anyone who disagrees with his alarmist views on global warming is a member of the “Flat Earth Society.”  At, Clark Judge suggests that it is Mr. Obama who embraces flat earth science…and economics.

Zach Snyder’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel, is generating a lot of controversy for its dark tone and seemingly endless action sequences, as well as its clumsy Christological references.  But what if there is much more going on beneath the surface?  Peter Lawler at Big Think suggests that the film is all about Plato.  (He then continues and deepens his discussion of the Platonic themes in Man of Steel here).

While the new Superman may be an analogy for both Jesus and Plato’s Philosopher-King, Joe Carter would like to remind us that a Kryptonian invasion would be seriously bad for the economy.

There is a popular story on BuzzFeed, Eight Foods That We Eat in The US That Are Banned in Other Countries, that makes several claims about the negative health impact of some of our everyday foods, specifically the chemicals in those foods.  A chemist reviews those claims and finds them a bit overstated. 

While postmodern secularists would say that modesty (they would call it prudishness) is opposed to free self-expression, Marc at Bad Catholic argues that modesty is all about honesty, and is in fact the very thing that enables the truest expression of the self.

And now for something completely different!


*I kid, of course.  Joe is not bloodthirsty and he would never sue us.  He is a Capitalist, though.


Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Recently, I posted a number of posts about California Proposition 8. This is an emotionally charged issue with good thoughts on both sides.  Not surprisingly, my posts sparked debate in the comment sections where a number of excellent questions were raised. Richard Hollis is one commentator who raised especially thoughtful questions. As a result of the questions raised, especially by Richard, I have decided to write my thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage from the ground up and have asked Richard to respond. Below is my essay followed by Richard’s response. Please note, when I sent Richard my essay, I had not yet added links to my sources. Richard and readers of Evangelical Outpost – thank you for your thoughtful read and consideration of this post. – Dustin Steeve.

The upcoming proposition amending the constitution in the state of California to affirm marriage gives us opportunity to pause and reflect. Since 1970, marriage has endured a series of devastating attacks. In January 1970 the Family Law Act was signed by California Governor Ronald Reagan and “no-fault divorce” was written into law. Reagan would later cite this as one of his greatest regrets. The intent of the law was to help Californians separate amicably without having to contrive reasons for obtaining a divorce. As the explosive increase in divorces since 1970 attests, the effect of the law was that it hurt marriage.

Presently, proposition 8 is giving Californians a rare opportunity to stop further tampering of marriage through law.  As we consider the proposition, reason, empirical evidence, and morality ought to inform us. Each of these has led me to the decision to affirm marriage by voting yes on proposition 8.

Continue reading Proposition 8: The Same-Sex Marriage Debate

Prop 8 Video by the Family Research Council

While speaking with people about the issue of same-sex marriage, I often hear people claim that they see no harm in voting to allow same-sex couples to marry since they, the voter, will not be affected. When I hear this, I become concerned for my fellow citizens. I become concerned because I believe they have been deceived into thinking that good work being done by our families to raise children is unimportant to our society. People have been deceived because the implications of a law normalizing same-sex marriage have largely been kept quiet. However, make no mistake, the normalizing of a poorly constructed ideology framework for the family is truly the motivation for people wanting proposition 8 to fail.

The Family Research Council has produced a great video addressing what has already happened in Massachusetts as a result of laws legalizing same-sex marriage.

I have a lot of thoughts on this issue which I will address in a later post. However, the salient facts are that, in the state of California, same-sex couples who enter into a civil-union obtain the exact same legal benefits as married heterosexual couples. In fact, some would argue that same-sex couples have more benefits especially when it comes to areas like adoption where same-sex couples often receive preferential status. In light of this, it is clear that the strategy being played out in California is akin to the one played out in Massachusetts. If proposition 8 fails, the next move that the same-sex lobby makes is into the classroom. Please watch this video and consider whether it would be good if this happened in California.

Find out what you can do to help people think well about and protect marriage.