No matter how we slice it, the first week of June, 2015 is going to be one we remember. A point we’ll reference when we explain to future generations how exactly we got “here.”
Someday, I’ll have to explain to my daughter why her daddy is considered such a close-minded pariah. The same little girl who sat on my lap while I drank this morning’s coffee on the back porch. She’ll have to know why we’re not welcomed.
And I’ll start by telling her what went wrong at Vanity Fair.
Two travelers, you see, journeyed through a town en route to a faraway homeland. As they passed through the main square, they realized the town was really better described as a perpetual carnival, with booths selling everything you could think of—sex, entertainment, comfort, power, you name it.
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And the carnival, they found, was of the year-round variety. The town was a never-ending party, a moveable feast that so celebrated the sovereign and unimpeachable “self” that it also, unfortunately, bred a culture where self-protective theft, murder, and lies were the norm.
The name of the town was “Vanity,” and its year-round festivities were called, “Vanity Fair.”
(You didn’t think I’d start off my “How we got here” speech with the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner headline in Vanity Fair, did you?)
Back to the story, borrowed from a 17th-century Englishman named John Bunyan—no relation to his mythical American namesake, Paul—in his classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
The two visitors to Bunyan’s allegorical town of Vanity Fair, named “Christian” and “Faithful,” were bombarded with sales pitches as they passed by the carnival’s booths. As they went, the peddlers mocked their sobriety and plain-clothes getups, each trying to out-do the others in luring the two trekkers to make a purchase.
Trying to walk through without making a scene, Christian and Faithful come to find out that, try as they might, they can’t simply pass through without the people of Vanity Fair causing a hubbub.
Eventually, Christian and Faithful are confronted with the inevitable demand that they either make a purchase or else: “What will you buy?”
In other words, “Toe the line. Affirm our behavior. Tell us we’re right, and that our hearts are in order. Justify our fair.”
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Bunyan, writing his book from a jail cell because he had committed the “crime” of preaching the gospel without a license, proves prophetic with Christian and Faithful’s response:
“We buy the truth.”
From that moment on, the two travelers crossed the threshold, from publicly identified weirdoes to actual enemies of civil order and society. Where Christian and Faithful were privately maligned and publicly marginalized, now they were publicly maligned and denounced as threats to the common good.
As one writer put it this week, Christian and Faithful had shifted from “Athens,” where pluralism ruled the day and Christianity could be laughed off, to “Babylon,” where the very status of belonging to God’s people makes you a villain and, eventually, an enemy of the state.
In Bunyan’s story, the public’s outrage at Christian and Faithful’s, shall we say “Christian faithfulness” incited the citizens of Vanity Fair to a riot, a sham of a trial, and an immediate death sentence for Faithful.
Why? Because, among all the commodities bought and sold there, Vanity Fair had no open booth space for truth. Truth simply wasn’t available for purchase.
The simple truth is that Vanity Fair—then and now—doesn’t deal in truth. That’s not its currency.
This explains why all the arguments in the world can’t convince the carnival’s patrons that a man is a man and a woman’s a woman. It explains why the carnival demands its visitors to disseminate the “information” of its own choosing, while fighting tooth and nail against the spread of actual information that not only could, but does—save lives.
Vanity Fair’s love affair with itself keeps it from admitting where it has erred and cost millions of lives, while at the same time perpetuating baseless accusations and fabricating numbers that lead to an exponential increase in death and human suffering.
The First Amendment isn’t strong enough stuff to keep Vanity Fair in check. Vanity Fair won’t stop there, because its roots are much deeper, its heritage much stronger.
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Not only that, but the mere insinuation by Christian and Faithful—that truth was to be prized over the ideology and idolization of the almighty self—enraged Vanity Fair. It galled the public to think that anyone might commit the unpardonable sin of failing to give hearty approval of its actions.
The people of Vanity Fair felt judged by the very idea. It reminds us of the men breaking down the door of Lot’s house, who accused him of condemning and judging them, just because he asked them to redirect their sexually charged coercion away from his guests: “This fellow has come to sojourn, and now he has become the judge!”
But as I said earlier, this will only be the beginning of the story I’ll tell my daughter when she asks how the world got whatever way it’ll get.
I’ll explain to her that, even though Faithful was publicly humiliated, beaten and killed, faithfulness wasn’t. I’ll remind her what the Prince and Savior of our homeland once told us, that even the very gates of Hell won’t withstand the invincible campaign of the Kingdom of God.
It won’t be the church that falls in the end, but Vanity Fair.
I’ll tell my little girl about the hundreds of thousands of churches, groups of churches, pregnancy help organizations, and families who have stood faithful, calmly refusing to accept any substitute for the truth.
I’ll assure—and by God’s grace, show—my daughter that, in spite of what you hear from the townsfolk, Christian and Faithful are alive and well.